Category Archives: Hunger

The Plight of Refugees and Migrant Workers under Covid

In a world where nationalism and social division is increasing, bigotry growing, are the words refugee, asylum seeker, migrant worker, derogatory labels triggering prejudice and intolerance? Such terms create an image of ‘the other’, separate and different, strengthening tribalism, feeding suspicion, our common humanity denied.

Under the shadow of Covid-19 those living on the margins of society have been further isolated; the refugees and migrants of the world, those displaced internally or in a foreign land, people living in war zones, and the migrant workers in the Gulf States, India, Singapore and elsewhere.

Refugees/migrants and migrant workers are among those most at risk from Covd-19, the economic impact of the pandemic as well as xenophobic abuse linked to the virus. Migrant workers (who universally have few or no labor rights) from Qatar to India have been discriminated against, discarded and ignored. Migrants, particularly those of Chinese or Japanese appearance in the US and elsewhere subjected to violence and abuse, and in refugee camps across Europe and the Middle East, including Gaza, thousands have been left in unsafe camps without medical support.

Homeless, hungry and at risk

Even before the pandemic erupted, to be a refugee, migrant, or migrant worker was commonly to be mistrusted, marginalized and in danger. Whether working as a maid in one of the Gulf States, an internal migrant worker in their homeland or living inside an overcrowded refugee camp these men, women and children are amongst the most vulnerable people in the world. In Europe, where thousands of refugees (many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are packed into camps, their lives already swamped by uncertainty, the fear of the virus hangs heavy. Lacking sanitation and essential services these overcrowded tarpaulin cities are unsafe; the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, for example, was designed to accommodate 2,840, but now has 19,000 people; 40% are under 18, self-harming and attempted suicides are widespread. Compounding the heightened risks Covid has created, since July 2019 asylum seekers throughout Greece no longer have free access to the healthcare system, other than emergency support.

Meanwhile, in countries with large populations of migrant workers Covid-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic is adding additional layers of suffering to already arduous lives, not just of workers, but the families migrant workers support. According to the UN, round 800 million people globally are supported by funds sent home by migrant workers. Families depend on such payments to pay rent and buy food; when this flow stops, as is the case for many now, poverty and the risk of starvation is made more acute. The World Bank is warning of huge drops in global remittance payments of around 20%, resulting from the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic, which they say has impacted on migrant communities particularly hard.

In the Gulf States, which depend on millions of workers from Africa and Southeast Asia, Covid-19 is intensifying discrimination and increasing abuse against migrant domestic workers, including abrupt termination of their contracts. In Kuwait suicide among migrant workers has surged; Saudi Arabia has deported thousands of Ethiopian workers (A total of 2,968 migrants were returned in the first 10 days of April, UN state), without any medical screening, which the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Ethiopia said, is “likely to exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 to the region and beyond.” And in Lebanon (where the majority of migrant workers are Ethiopian) and elsewhere across the region, lower income families unable to cover salaries, cover food costs or provide accommodation have laid off domestic staff; resulting in migrant workers being at high risk of forced labor, including prostitution.

Worse still is the case of freelance (‘live out’) workers, whose work has stopped, leaving them with no income, no food and nowhere to go. In Qatar, (one of the richest countries in the world, with over two million migrant workers) which has one of the highest rates of infections per capita, many of those suffering from the disease are migrant workers. Foreign workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines are being laid off or remain unpaid, as the economic impact of the virus hits. Some domestic workers (women) have been made destitute. In Singapore, widely thought to have responded well to the pandemic, migrant workers, employed mainly in the construction industry, were thrown to the wolves. And in India following the hasty decision by Prime Minister Mahendra Modi to lock the country down on 25th March, (giving people four hours warning!) tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of internal migrants working in cities were forced by their landlords to vacate their homes and had no choice but to head back to their native village. Without funds and with transportation suspended, huge numbers were forced to walk the hundreds or thousands of miles home.

Homeless, hungry and at risk of contracting coronavirus, migrant workers were ignored by the Modi regime. Reacting to this wholesale neglect, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing and on extreme poverty said (4th June), “we are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant laborers, especially those who belong to marginalized minorities and lower castes…..the Government has failed to address their dire humanitarian situation and further exacerbated their vulnerability with police brutality [which is commonplace in India] and by failing to stop their stigmatization as ‘virus carriers’.”

Contemporary Slavery

Covid-19 has highlighted a raft of social inequalities and destructive practices throughout the world. As such issues float to the murky surface of human affairs an opportunity presents itself for reform, for changes in attitudes and practices.

There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of employment rights for migrant workers throughout the world, with migrant workers receiving the same protections as native employees, including access to health care, limits on the hours of work, rates of pay, days off etc.

The Kafala System is used throughout the Gulf States, where the UN estimates there to be “35 million international migrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Jordan and Lebanon, of whom 31 per cent were women.” Under Kafala a migrant worker, many of whom are domestic staff and therefore out of sight, cannot resign if an employer is abusive, the work exploitative or the conditions unacceptable. Amnesty International relates, that it “ties the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer.” The system enables employers to essentially own workers, giving them total control of workers’ movements. This legitimization of modern-day slavery must be brought to an end immediately.

Refugees and migrants are human beings fleeing violent conflict (are often traumatized), persecution and economic hardship. The journey into an unknown future is often treacherous, always uncertain. In the vacuum left by governments and regional authorities like the EU, that should be processing asylum applications in designated centers and offering safe passage, criminal gangs control migration routes and methods of travel, which are unsafe and extortionately expensive. Deaths are commonplace, abuse and exploitation widespread. If they survive the dangers and arrive in their destination country, all too often they are viewed with distrust and antagonism, instead of being warmly welcomed. They are pushed into the shadows, the margins of society, offered little or no state support and made to feel unwanted.

This must change; all should be embraced, not only those with skills in short supply.  The idea of judging who can and cannot enter a country based on some discriminatory points system related to national need (the Australian way – a country with a shameful immigration record), as the UK government is proposing, reduces human beings to commodities, some of which are more valuable on the ‘open market of immigration’ than others – and is completely abhorrent.

Deal with the causes of migration, help construct a world at peace by cooperating, sharing and building relationships; reject competition and nationalism in favor of unity and tolerance and see a dramatic fall in the numbers of people forced to leave their homeland, whether in search of safety or opportunity.

Yemen: A Torrent of Suffering in a Time of Siege

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”  When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

— Bertolt Brecht, “When evil-doing comes like falling rain” [Wenn die Untat kommt, wie der Regen fällt] (1935), trans. John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 247

 In war-torn Yemen, the crimes pile up. Children who bear no responsibility for governance or warfare endure the punishment. In 2018, UNICEF said the war made Yemen a living hell for children. By the year’s end, Save the Children reported 85,000 children under age five had already died from starvation since the war escalated in 2015. By the end of 2020, it is expected that 23,500 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at immediate risk of death.

Cataclysmic conditions afflict Yemen as people try to cope with rampant diseases, the spread of COVID-19, flooding, literal swarms of locusts, rising displacement, destroyed infrastructure and a collapsed economy. Yet war rages, bombs continue to fall, and desperation fuels more crimes.

The highest-paying jobs available to many Yemeni men and boys require a willingness to kill and maim one another, by joining militias or armed groups which seemingly never run out of weapons. Nor does the Saudi-Led Coalition  which kills and maims civilians; instead, it deters relief shipments and destroys crucial infrastructure with weapons it imports from Western countries.

The aerial attacks displace traumatized survivors into swelling, often lethal, refugee camps. Amid the wreckage of factories, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation facilities, schools and hospitals, Yemenis search in vain for employment and, increasingly, for food and water. The Saudi-Led-Coalition’s blockade, also enabled by Western training and weapons, makes it impossible for Yemenis to restore a functioning economy.

Even foreign aid can become punitive. In March, 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) decided to suspend most aid for Yemenis living in areas controlled by the Houthis.

Scott Paul, who leads Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy advocacy, strongly criticized this callous decision to compound the misery imposed on vulnerable people in Yemen. “In future years,” he wrote, “scholars will study USAID’s suspension as a paradigmatic example of a donor’s exploitation and misuse of humanitarian principles.”

As the evil-doing in Yemen comes “like falling rain,” so do the cries of “Stop!” from millions of people all over the world. Here’s some of what’s been happening:

  • U.S. legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance to Saudi Arabia and its allies. But President Trump vetoed the bill in 2019.
  • Canada’s legislators declared a moratorium on weapon sales to the Saudis. But the Canadian government has resumed selling weapons to the Saudis, claiming the moratorium only pertained to the creation of new contracts, not existing ones.
  • The United Kingdom suspended military sales to Saudi Arabia because of human rights violations, but the UK’s international trade secretary nevertheless resumed weapon sales saying the 516 charges of Saudi human rights violations are all isolated incidents and don’t present a pattern of abuse.
  • French NGOs and human rights advocates urged their government to scale back on weapon sales to the Saudi-Led coalition, but reports on 2019 weapon sales revealed the French government sold 1.4 billion Euros worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
  • British campaigners opposing weapon transfers to the Saudi-Led Coalition have exposed how the British Navy gave the Saudi Navy training in tactics essential to the devastating Yemen blockade.
  • In Canada, Spain, France and Italy, laborers opposed to the ongoing war refused to load weapons onto ships sailing to Saudi Arabia. Rights groups track the passage of trains and ships carrying these weapons.

On top of all this, reports produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the International Commission of the Red Cross repeatedly expose the Saudi-Led Coalition’s human rights violations.

Yet this international outcry clamoring for an end to the war is still being drowned out by the voices of military contractors with well-paid lobbyists plying powerful elites in Western governments. Their concern is simply for the profits to be reaped and the competitive sales to be scored.

In 2019 Lockheed Martin’s total sales reached nearly 60 billion dollars, the best year on record for the world’s largest “defense” contractor. Before stepping down as CEO, Marillyn Hewson predicted demand from the Pentagon and U.S. allies would generate an uptake between $6.2 billion and $6.4 billion in net earnings for the company in 2020 sales.

Hewson’s words, spoken calmly, drown out the cries of Yemeni children whose bodies were torn apart by just one of Lockheed Martin’s bombs.

In August of 2018, bombs manufactured by Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin fell on Yemen like summer rain. On August 9, 2018, a missile blasted a school bus in Yemen, killing forty children and injuring many others.

Photos showed badly injured children still carrying UNICEF blue backpacks, given to them that morning as gifts. Other photos showed surviving children helping prepare graves for their schoolmates. One  photo showed a piece of the bomb protruding from the wreckage with the number MK82 clearly stamped on it. That number on the shrapnel helped identify Lockheed Martin as the manufacturer.

The psychological damage being inflicted on these children is incalculable. “My son is really hurt from the inside,” said a parent whose child was severely wounded by the bombing. “We try to talk to him to feel better and we can’t stop ourselves from crying.”

The cries against war in Yemen also fall like rain and whatever thunder accompanies the rain is distant, summer thunder. Yet, if we cooperate with war-making elites, the most horrible storms will be unleashed. We must learn — and quickly — to make a torrent of our mingled cries and, as the prophet Amos demanded, ‘let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Some of the 40 blue backpacks worn in a protest in New York city against the war in Yemen. Each backpack was accompanied by a sign with the name and age of a child killed on a school bus in Dahyan, northern Yemen, on August 9, 2018, in a Saudi/UAE airstrike. (Photo: CODEPINK)

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine.

Moore’s Planet of the Humans: More Misanthropic than Malthus

In reverential tones with ominous background music, director of Planet of the Humans Jeff Gibbs intones about “the most terrifying realization I ever had.” Gibbs instructs us, “Every expert I talked to wanted to bring my attention to the same underlying problem.” It is “not the elephant but the herd of elephants in the room,” Prof. Nina Jablonski warns. “The underlying problem,” the movie earnestly preaches is that “there are too many human beings.”

Planet of the Humans is produced and promoted by Michael Moore and is free online. The underlying message of the movie, critiquing the green energy movement, is about the existential threat of human overpopulation. “Without seeing a major die-off in population, there is no turning back,” is anthropologist Steven Churchill’s gloomy prognostication.

This truly draconian deduction makes the “zero population growth” (ZPG) folks look like baby boom boosters. Seminal overpopulation theorist Thomas Malthus, who opposed the English Poor Laws because they relieved human suffering, would be by comparison a humanitarian. (Spoiler alert: the movie does not prescribe any particular means of achieving the die-off.)

Prof. Churchill presents a cautionary tale in the movie: “Species hit the population wall and then they crash. It is a common story in biology. If it happens to us, it is the natural order of things.” As a professional conservation biologist, I can attest that not a single one of the 1,540 species on the US Endangered Species list got there because their populations indiscreetly boomed and then crashed. The cautionary tale is really a fictional tale, not a common story and not the natural order of things.

Paradox of Our Times

An uncritically favorable review of the movie by a self-described “pal” of the director comments, “The bottom line is that there are too many Clever Apes, consuming too much; too rapidly. And ALL efforts on addressing the climate costs are reduced to illusions/delusions designed to keep our over-sized human footprint.”

So, are we humans using too much, too fast as the movie warns? The answer is apparently not everybody. Some 24,600 of us die every day from starvation in a world where there are food surpluses and more than enough food to feed everyone. Likewise, 3,000 children die every day from preventable malaria. And 10,000 fellow human beings die every day because they are denied publicly funded healthcare.

To put these numbers into context, the peak world daily death toll for the coronavirus pandemic was 10,520 on April 26. The current world daily death toll, as of this writing, is 5,728. That is, the magnitude of preventable starvation is over four times the current death rate for COVID-19.

An anti-viral vaccine is not yet available to protect from COVID-19, but a square meal is all that is needed to cure the malady of starvation. And there is no impediment from international property rights in sharing bread.

These dreadful statistics on existing world hunger are, in relative terms, the good news. The UN World Food Program most recently reports that the coronavirus crisis could double the number of people suffering acute hunger. “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread,” said Dr. Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program. “It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge.”

Especially hard hit are the countries in the crosshairs of US imperialism, including a third of humanity subject to unilateral coercive measures by the US – so called, sanctions. For example, the UN World Food Program reports, “the needs in Syria have never been greater”; likewise for Yemen. These people are suffering from imperialism not, as the movie contends, from overpopulation.

Obscured by overpopulation ideology, which monomaniacally focuses on over-consumption, the movie fails to recognize the existence of monumental under-consumption for the majority of the world’s population. The paradox of our times is that we live in an era, for the first time in human history, when the technical means to end poverty are in place. The means of production have advanced so that human needs can be met. At the same time, the relations of production are such that these needs are not met. Gross over-consumption and acute under-consumption are two sides of the same coin.

Left out of the “every expert” interviewed in Planet of the Humans are authorities such as Eric Holt-Gimenez, former director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy. His research indicates, “We already grow enough food for 10 billion people – and still can’t end hunger. Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity.” The world’s population is currently 7.8 billion. The 10 billion people that Holt-Gimenez refers to is what the UN Population Division projects as the leveling out number, which is projected to occur by the end of this century.

Clearly more than simple human demographics are at play with the paradox of starvation amidst plenty, especially considering Holt-Gimenez’s finding: “For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth.” That story is omitted by the misanthropic Planet of the Humans.

Too Many People?

When in the movie Richard Heinberg, author of The End of Growth, says “There are too many human beings, using too much, too fast,” he is right about some people. We have too many super-rich, though you wouldn’t know that from watching the movie.

The wealthiest 1% of the population own over half of all household wealth in the world. From a global warming point of view, the richest 10% are responsible for almost half of total lifestyle consumption emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest 50% are responsible for only about 10% of the total lifestyle consumption emissions.

A similarly inequitable pattern, ignored by the movie, is evident when comparing the wealthy developed countries to the rest of the world. Per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the more developed countries are around three times higher than the world average. The developed countries are the ones most responsible and least at risk from global warming. The poorest nations contribute less than 1% of total world greenhouse gas emissions.

While the US unjustly calls upon the poor nations of the world to assume a level of responsibility for combatting global warming, which would impede their development, the rich nations of the world have been both the beneficiaries and the cause of today’s excessive greenhouse gas production.

The United States stands out in terms of global warming in three respects: greatest historical contributor of greenhouse gasses, among the highest per capita greenhouse gas producers of the more populous countries, and the highest oil producer.

The rich nations, with the US as most prominent, have a “climate debt” to pay off, because it is their military and their industry which has disproportionately caused global warming. For all the angst and indignation expressed in Planet of the Humans about the environment, not a murmur is heard about climate justice.

Climate Science and Overpopulation Ideology

The climate movement, so roundly criticized in the movie, is based on science, while the overpopulation ideology espoused in the movie is not. The climate movement can scientifically demonstrate, when human-caused global warming began. But the overpopulation ideologues cannot say what date overpopulation began. As Karl Marx demonstrated in his critique of Thomas Malthus 200 years ago, the overpopulation ideologues theorize the planet was always overpopulated.

The climate scientists can demonstrate a relationship between concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and global warming. The overpopulation ideologues cannot demonstrate a scientific relationship between population and resource consumption because they ignore the issues of concentration of wealth and unequal distribution.

The climate scientists can quantify a level of greenhouse gasses which is desirable to prevent catastrophic global warming. In fact, the leading US climate movement group, 350.org, takes its name from that scientific finding. In contrast, the overpopulation ideologues can give no optimal number of humans other than the prejudicial declaration “there’s too many of them.” And by “them,” they implicitly mean people that are not like them and their friends.

Time to Fix the Population Fixation

Planet of the Humans savages the green energy movement for its collusion with capitalists, yet the movie fails to make the next logical step of indicting the capitalist system’s inherent imperative for endless growth while generating inequalities. Instead, movie director Jeff Gibbs blames overpopulation, concluding: “We must accept that our human presence is already far beyond sustainability.”

Fortunately, there is a growing understanding that his is not the right “fix.” According to a commendable recent issue of the Sierra Club magazine, it is “time to fix the population fixation.”

The problem is not the fertility of women but over-consumption and the outsized contribution of the wealthiest few, found in the wealthiest nations, to the climate catastrophe. Birth rates go down when human needs are met and women are afforded reproductive freedom. Planet of the Humans director Gibbs is right that there are some things truly “terrifying” going on (e.g., nuclear annihilation), but it is not due to that most human act of procreation.

Corona Tyranny and Death by Famine

By the end of 2020 more people will have died from hunger, despair and suicide than from the corona disease. We, the world, is facing a famine-pandemic of biblical proportions. This real pandemic will overtake the fake COVID-19 pandemic by a long shot. The hunger pandemic reminds of the movie the Hunger Games, as it is premised on similar circumstances of a dominant few commanding who can eat and who will die – by competition.

This hunger pandemic will be under-reported or not reported at all in the mainstream media. In fact, it has started already. In the west the attention focuses on the chaos created by the privatized for-profit mismanagement of the health system. It slowly brings to light the gross manipulation in the US of COVID-19 infections and death rates – how hospitals are encouraged to declare deaths as COVID19-deaths – for every COVID19 death-certificate the hospital receives a US$13,000 “subsidy”, and if the patient dies on a ventilator, the “bonus” amounts to US$ 39,000.

In real life, poor people cannot live under confinement, under lockdown. Not only have many or most already lost their meager living quarters because they can no longer pay the rent – but they need to scrape together in the outside world whatever they can find to feed their families and themselves. They have to go out and work for food and if there is no work, no income – they may resort to ransacking supermarkets in the city or farms in the country side. Food to sustain life is essential. Taking the opportunity to buy food away from people is sheer and outright murder.

Every child who dies from famine in the world – is a murder

– Jean Ziegler, former UN-Rapporteur on Food in Africa.

Yes, the diabolical Masters of Darkness, who invented and launched this COVID-19 pandemic, are nothing less than murderers. Mass-murderers, that is. They are committing mass genocide on a worldwide scale in proportions unknown in recent history of human kind. And this to dominate a world under a New World Order, aiming at a massively reduced world population.

The self-imposed new rulers decide who will live and who will die. Their self-promoting do-gooder agenda – à la Bill Gates and Co. – professes to reduce world poverty; yes, by killing the poor, by, for example, tainted toxic vaccinations, rendering African women infertile. (The Gates Foundation with support of WHO and UNICEF have a track record of doing so in Kenya and elsewhere, see here  Kenya carried out a massive tetanus vaccination program, sponsored by WHO and UNICEF); or letting the “under-developed”, the already destitute, die by famine – preventing them from access to sufficient food and drinking water. Privatizing water, privatizing even emergency food supplies is a crime that leads exactly to this: lack of access due to unaffordable pricing.

Should this not be enough, “Lock Step” has other solutions to enhance starvation. HAARP can help. HAARP (HAARP = High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) has been perfected and weaponized. According to US Air Force document AF 2025 Final Report, weather modification can be used defensively and offensively; i.e., to create droughts or floods, both of which have the potential of destroying crops – destroying the livelihood of the poor.

And if that is not enough, the 2010 Rockefeller Report also foresees food rationing, selectively, of course, as we are talking about eugenics. Let’s not forget Henry Kissinger’s infamous words he uttered in 1970: “Who controls the food supply controls the people – the quote goes on saying, “Who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.”  ((See also: “The Farce and Diabolical Agenda of a Universal Lockdown“, Global Research, April 27, 2020.))

A recent Facebook entry (name and location not revealed for personal protection) reads as follows:

….. In the poorer country, where I live, the entire village is on lockdown since March 16. Here the people having nothing to eat…… The wife of my main worker was raped and beaten to death. She was of Chinese descent. In spite of not being allowed to go outside, the people were starving and rampaged walking miles from farm to farm destroying everything. I have lost my entire livestock, fruits, vegetables. The houses were burned and the vehicles, tools etc. stolen. I am bankrupt with nobody around who can give money to rebuild. My workers cannot be paid. Their families are also starving. More malnutrition and undernourishment which will lead to a higher starvation rate or death from other diseases. How many will commit suicide through landing on the streets completely impoverished? – How many died in India trying to walk literally up to thousands of miles to get back home in the hope of finding refuge, after all public transportation was shut down and all had to go into lockdown. I am sure that these numbers will be a lot higher than the number who have died from the virus as well as will increase the numbers for those dying of next year’s flue due to a weakened immune system.

And as an afterthought ….

Maybe the elite are planning depopulation. It sure looks like it.

This happened somewhere in the Global South. But the example is representative for much of the Global South, and developing countries in general. And probably much worse is to come, as we are seeing so far only a tiny tip of the iceberg.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that worldwide unemployment is reaching never-seen mammoth proportions, that about half of the world’s workforce – 1.6 billion people -may be out of work. That means no income to pay for shelter, food, medication. It means starvation and death. For millions. Especially in the Global South which has basically no social safety nets. People are left to themselves.

The New York Times (NYT) reports (1 May 2020) that in the US millions of unemployed go uncounted, as the system cannot cope with the influx of claims. Add these millions to the already reported more than 27 million unemployed, the tally becomes astronomical. The same NYT concludes that the millions who have risen out of poverty since the turn of the century, are likely to fall back into destitution along with millions more.

Dying of famine – mostly in the Global South, but not exclusively – is an atrocious death for millions, maybe hundreds of millions. Dying in the gutters of mega-cities, forgotten by society, by the authorities, too weak to even beg, infested with parasites due to lack of hygiene – rotting away alive. This is already happening today in many metropolises, even without the corona disaster. These people are not picked up by any statistics. They are non-people. Period.

Imagine such situations in large cities as well as in rural areas, under plan “Lock Step” (Rockefeller, Kissinger, Gates et al), the death toll would be orders of magnitude higher.

The current lockdown brings everything to halt. Practically worldwide. The longer it lasts the more devastating the social and economic impact will be. Irretrievable. Not only production of goods, services and food comes to a halt, but vital supply chains to bring products from A to B, are interrupted. Workers are not allowed to work. Security. For your own protection. The virus, the invisible enemy, could hit you. It could kill you and your loved-ones too. Fear-Fear-Fear – that’s the moto that works best.  It works so well that people start screaming – gimmi, gimmi, gimmi- gimmi a vaccine! – which brings a happy grin on Bill Gates’ face. As he sees the billions rolling and his power rising.

Bill Gates, along with WHO he bought, will become famous. They will save the world from new pandemics – never mind, their side effects – 7 billion people vaccinated (Bill Gates’ wet dream) and nobody has time to care or report about side effects, no matter how deadly they may be. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) may be slated for the Peace Nobel Prize and, who knows, Bill Gates may become one of the next Presidents of the dying empire. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate reward for the world?

Meanwhile the rather cold-blooded IMF maintains its awfully unrealistic prediction of a slight “economic contraction” of the world economy of a mere 3% in 2020, and a slight growth in the second half of 2021. The IMF’s approach to world economics and human development to social crisis, is fully monetized and lacks any compassion, and thus, becomes utterly irrelevant in the age of corona. Institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, mere extensions of the US treasury, they are passé in the face of an economic collapse for which they are also, in part, responsible.

What they should do – perhaps IMF and WB combined – is call for a capital increase of up to 4 trillion SDRs (as was suggested by some of the IMF Board Members) and use the funds as a special debt relieve fund, a “Debt Jubilee Fund” for Global South Nations. Handed out as grants. This would allow these nations to get back on their feet, back to their sovereign national monetary and economic policies, recovering their internal economy, with a national currency, public banking and a government-owned central bank, creating jobs and internal autonomy in food, health and education.

Why is this not happening? It would require a change in their constitution and a redistribution of voting rights according to new economic strength of nations. China would become a much more important player with a more important share and decision-making role. Of course, that’s what the US does not want to happen. But the unwillingness to adapt to new realities makes these institutions irrelevant to the point that they should and might fade away.

Interestingly, though, two of the three economic projection scenarios of the IMF, foresee another pandemic, or a new wave of the old pandemic in 2021. What does the IMF know that we don’t?

Juxtaposed to the insensitive approach of the global financial institutions and the globalized private banking system, the World Food Program warns (25 April 2020) that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause “famines of biblical proportions”; that without urgent action and funding, hundreds of millions of people will face starvation and millions could die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As it is, every year about 9 million people die from famine in the world.

The WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, told the UN Security Council that in addition to the threat to health posed by the virus, the world faces “multiple famines within a few short months,” which could result in 300,000 deaths per day—a “hunger pandemic.”

Beasley added that even before the outbreak, the world was “facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II” this year due to many factors. He cited the wars in Syria and Yemen, the crisis in South Sudan and locust swarms across East Africa. He said that coupled with the coronavirus outbreak, famine threatened about three dozen nations.

According to the WFP’s “2020 Global Report on Food Crises” released Monday (20 April ),135 million people around the world were already threatened with starvation. Beasley said that as the virus spreads, “an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people.”

The famine pandemic is further exacerbated by the ongoing refugee crisis – which is also a catastrophe of misery – hunger, disease, lack of shelter, total lack of hygiene in most of the refugee camps.

Professor Jean Ziegler, Sociologist (Universities Geneva and Sorbonne, Paris), Vice-President of the UN Human Rights Committee, recently visited the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos. He described a situation where 24,000 refugees are cramped into military barracks that were built for 2,800 soldiers, live under calamitous circumstances – lack of potable water, insufficient and often inedible food, clogged and much too few stinking toilets…. diseases no end. COVID19 would just be a sideline.

These people who fled Europe-and-western-caused warzones, destroyed livelihoods are being pushed back by the very European Union, as most countries do not want to host them and give them a chance for a new life. This atrocious xenophobic behavior of Europe is against Human Rights all EU countries signed and against internal EU rules. They are a sad reminder of what Europe really is – a conglomerate of countries with a history of hundreds of years of colonization, of merciless exploitation, plundering and raping of the Global South.

This abjectly atrocious characteristic, shamelessly continuing to this day, seems to have become an integral part of the European DNA. These wars and conflicts are willfully US-NATO made, for power, greed – to maintain the US military industrial complex alive and profitable – and as a stepping stone towards total world hegemony.

The refugees emanating from these conflict zones, their fate and famine will be added to those starving from the also man-imposed corona crisis. The death toll from sheer hunger and famine-related causes, may become astronomical by the end of 2020, way-way outweighing and dwarfing the doctored and manipulated COVID-19 figures.

Is there hope? Yes, there is hope, as long as we live. The world has to wake up. Seven billion people under lockdown — wake up! Realize what is happening to you, all under false pretenses to control humanity, to digitize and robotize your very lives. What better way to do this than under the pretext of locking you away “for your own safety”?  Defy these rules, stand up against these invisible omni-powerful self-appointed rulers, who only have the power, we, the People, give them, or allow them to take from us. Because all they have is money, and corrupted media that spread fear and more fear to keep locking you down.

My final words: follow you heart. Open your heart to love and beyond your five given and media-manipulated senses and enter a higher consciousness. Get out of FEAR, get out of the lockdown, stand up for your rights, for your freedom. Because freedom and liberty cannot be bought with money, nor trampled by the media. They are inherently within us all. If enough of us open our hearts to LOVE, to an all-englobing love, we will overcome this small psychopathic elite.

Covid-19: The Rich, the Poor, the “Other”

‘We’re all in this together,’ chant the duplicitous politicians, meaning the Covid-19 pandemic. The official language around the crisis is consistently hypocritical and disingenuous; – ‘trite and misleading’ is how the BBC described the UK government’s slimy rhetoric. World-wide the script is much the same – ‘we’re at war…. we’re fighting an invisible enemy and we will prevail together,’ and soon, very soon, we will come out of this and get back to ‘normal’ — God forbid. For most people in Western nations ‘normal’ is stressful, full of uncertainty, exhausting; for the hundreds of millions living in dire poverty or stifling economic insecurity in developing countries, it is a kind of agony in which simply surviving constitutes living, and for the planet, ‘normal’ equates to wholesale vandalism. Spare us what constitutes present-day ‘normal’, let normal be re-imagined, let it evolve to become something humane and just.

Covid-19 is a “health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare and it’s a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.” The impact and consequences of the pandemic (for health and the economy) are much worse for the poorest sections of society and could devastate developing nations. It is making social inequality even more acute and while many communities are uniting, where a coordinated political response is called for, divisions predominate.

Nations, none more so than America, have become increasingly introverted, putting their own needs first. To the surprise of nobody, President Trump has refused to cooperate with international bodies and has completely failed to show any global leadership. He repeatedly downplayed the threat from Covid-19, and then, (like other countries – the UK for example, where the government has met the crisis with serial incompetency) failed to initiate testing and contact tracing early enough, banned flights from the EU overnight without discussing it with any European government, and among other alleged underhand acts, Die Walt reports the President “offered large sums of money” to get exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a German company…[and] to move its research wing to the United States and develop the vaccine “for the U.S. only.”” His nationalistic approach has made cooperation impossible; calls by the G7 to form a Global Taskforce were ignored. As the German magazine Die Spiegel says, “it appears that the coronavirus is destroying the last vestiges of a world order.” The EU as a body that could fill the leadership vacuum created by Trump’s ineptitude and arrogance has also been found wanting.

Social divisions, who cares?

Alongside the crippling impact of long term austerity on public services (including health care), the pandemic is exposing the stark levels of social division that exist throughout the world; in developing countries we need a different more extreme term to describe the gaping chasm between the rich or comfortable, in India or Nigeria say, and those that have little or nothing – social apartheid perhaps.

Around half the world’s population is under some kind of government lockdown; restrictions forcing people to stay at home and to limit social contact impact on everyone, but the effect of such laws vary enormously depending on an individual or family’s circumstances. Over and above the fact that all are constrained, and to varying degrees at risk of contamination, there is little or no shared experience between the rich, well-off, comfortable and those struggling to get by, or those who cannot manage. Not now anymore than there was before Covid, not within developed nations, awash with social divisions based on hereditary privilege, wealth/income inequality and racial/gender discrimination, or globally between the rich ex-colonial industrialized masters and the poor, under-resourced and un-prepared – Sub Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, regions where the greatest concentration of poor people are to be found, many of whom live in crowded slums, and where the weakest health systems exist.

Everywhere in the world the cushioned and comfortable are more or less, insulated, both from pandemic inconvenience and to a degree from the coming economic tsunami. Annoyed at the disruption the virus brings perhaps, but without any real financial worries and a life of relative ease, their ‘normal’ is fine thank you very much, the ‘lockdown’ more akin to an extended holiday than an imprisonment. Yes, confinement may be irritating, but the children have their own rooms, plenty of toys, devices and games, and there’s probably a garden to romp in, more expansive grounds in some cases, so less need to go into public places. The rest, the majority, are confined to small flats, tower blocks or houses with no outside space and limited light; overcrowding is a major issue in many countries with families of five or six living in inadequate properties. Then there are the men, women and children who, for one reason or another, don’t have a home – ‘the homeless’. And the world’s refugees, hundreds of thousands of people living in tents in densely populated camps where social distancing is impossible and health care, where there is any at all, is rudimentary.

The divisions in our world are stark and the coming economic crash, which will perhaps prove fatal, will further accentuate them; inequality is at unprecedented levels, within countries, and between regions; concentrations of wealth and with it power, become more intense and narrow year on year; social injustice is rampant: in fact, within the current socio-economic order there is no social justice at all. And without social justice there will never be peace.

But who cares about such things? Beyond the everyday acts of community kindness and warmth evoked by Covid, who cares if there’s social justice and peace or not? Beyond the charity worker or the good neighbor, the idealist, the man and woman who share a common pain, who really cares?  Does the politician in his corner office or country retreat truly care? Does corporate man/woman? ‘Yes, they would answer, of course I/we care, look we give money to charity, provide employment and try to trade ethically’ but while they may sing the song of sincerity, such ‘caring’ is always conditional, limited, ideologically constrained. If caring means loss of any kind – less profit or less privilege, less influence, less status, less comfort, ‘caring’ and those in need of care are sacrificed. If ‘caring’ means sharing what I want for myself or my family with those who I don’t know, those that have less, nothing maybe, if caring involves self-sacrifice of any kind, if it inconveniences at all, do they, do we, care? If caring is limited is it caring or is it simply selfishness loosely wrapped in a cloak of generosity?

And when ‘caring’, unconditional and spontaneous, is consigned to the shadows and an atmosphere of selfishness and greed is fed and nourished the gaping chasm in society and between nations continues to fester and grow; rancid it is, ugly and violent.

Why are some rich and others poor (nations and people), why are some privileged and most not, why are there such huge divisions? Yes, the socio-economic and political systems are unjust, designed to perpetuate rather than eradicate division, and they must be changed, but more important is the ground from which the systems grow, the Mind of Mankind, the collective consciousness that allows such dysfunctional, cruel modes of living to come into being and to be maintained. This polluted spring must be purged of all poisons (selfishness, tribal nationalism, ambition, greed, etc.) so that ‘caring’ for the other, serving the needs of the other, putting the ‘other’ first, becomes the natural inclination, the driving impulse for action. As the teacher, Maitreya has said (message number 52), “the problems of mankind are real but solvable…take your brother’s need as the measure for your action and solve the problems of the world.” It’s so simple; all that is required is a shift in attitude, a reorientation away from self-centered thinking and activity, and recognition that ‘the other’ is oneself. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic melt down will be the trigger for such a seismic, but essential, change in the way we live.

Stop Tightening the Thumb Screws: A Humanitarian Message

Protester’s sign decries sanctions, “a silent war” (Photo Credit: Campaign for Peace and Democracy, 2013)

U.S. sanctions against Iran, cruelly strengthened in March of 2018, continue a collective punishment of extremely vulnerable people. Presently, the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy severely undermines Iranian efforts to cope with the ravages of COVID-19, causing hardship and tragedy while contributing to the global spread of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif urged member states of the UN to end the United States’ unconscionable and lethal economic warfare.

Addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif detailed how U.S. economic sanctions prevent Iranians from importing necessary medicine and medical equipment.

For over two years, while the U.S. bullied other countries to refrain from purchasing Iranian oil, Iranians have coped with crippling economic decline.

The devastated economy and worsening coronavirus outbreak now drive migrants and refugees, who number in the millions, back to Afghanistan at dramatically increased rates.

In the past two weeks alone, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran, increasing the likelihood that cases of coronavirus will surge in Afghanistan. Decades of war, including U.S. invasion and occupation, have decimated Afghanistan’s health care and food distribution systems.

Jawad Zarif asks the UN to prevent the use of hunger and disease as a weapon of war. His letter demonstrates the  wreckage caused by many decades of United States imperialism and suggests revolutionary steps toward dismantling the United States war machine.

During the United States’ 1991 “Desert Storm” war against Iraq, I was part of the Gulf Peace Team, – at first, living at in a “peace camp” set up near the Iraq-Saudi border and later, following our removal by Iraqi troops, in a Baghdad hotel which formerly housed many journalists. Finding an abandoned typewriter, we melted a candle onto its rim, (the U.S. had destroyed Iraq’s electrical stations, and most of the hotel rooms were pitch black). We compensated for an absent typewriter ribbon by placing a sheet of red carbon paper over our stationery. When Iraqi authorities realized we managed to type our document, they asked if we would type their letter to the Secretary General of the UN. (Iraq was so beleaguered even cabinet level officials lacked typewriter ribbons.) The letter to Javier Perez de Cuellar implored the UN to prevent the U.S. from bombing a road between Iraq and Jordan, the only way out for refugees and the only way in for humanitarian relief. Devastated by bombing and already bereft of supplies, Iraq was, in 1991, only one year into a deadly sanctions regime that lasted for thirteen years before the U.S. began its full-scale invasion and occupation in 2003. Now, in 2020, Iraqis still suffering from impoverishment, displacement and war earnestly want the U.S. to practice self-distancing and leave their country.

Are we now living in a watershed time? An unstoppable, deadly virus ignores any borders the U.S. tries to reinforce or redraw. The United States military-industrial complex, with its massive arsenals and cruel capacity for siege, isn’t relevant to “security” needs. Why should the U.S., at this crucial juncture, approach other countries with threat and force and presume a right to preserve global inequities? Such arrogance doesn’t even ensure security for the United States military. If the U.S. further isolates and batters Iran, conditions will worsen in Afghanistan and United States troops stationed there will ultimately be at risk. The simple observation, “We are all part of one another,” becomes acutely evident.

It’s helpful to think of guidance from past leaders who faced wars and pandemics. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-19, coupled with the atrocities of World War I,  killed 50 million worldwide, 675,000 in the U.S. Thousands of female nurses were on the “front lines,” delivering health care. Among them were black nurses who not only risked their lives to practice the works of mercy but also fought discrimination and racism in their determination to serve. These brave women arduously paved a way for the first 18 black nurses to serve in the Army Nurse Corps and they provided “a small turning point in the continuing movement for health equity.”

In the spring of 1919, Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton witnessed the effects of sanctions against Germany imposed by Allied forces after World War I. They observed “critical shortages of food, soap and medical supplies” and wrote indignantly about how children were being punished with starvation for “the sins of statesmen.”

Starvation continued even after the blockade was finally lifted that summer with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Hamilton and Addams reported how the flu epidemic, exacerbated in its spread by starvation and post-war devastation, in turn disrupted the food supply. The two women argued a policy of sensible food distribution was necessary for both  humanitarian and strategic reasons. “What was to be gained by starving more children?” bewildered German parents asked them.

Jonathan Whitall directs Humanitarian Analysis for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders. His most recent analysis poses agonizing questions:

How are you supposed to wash your hands regularly if you have no running water or soap? How are you supposed to implement ‘social distancing’ if you live in a slum or a refugee or containment camp? How are you supposed to stay at home if your work pays by the hour and requires you to show up? How are you supposed to stop crossing borders if you are fleeing from war? How are you supposed to get tested for #COVID19 if the health system is privatized and you can’t afford it? How are those with pre-existing health conditions supposed to take extra precautions when they already can’t even access the treatment they need?

I expect many people worldwide, during the spread of COVID – 19,  are thinking hard about the glaring, deadly inequalities in our societies, wonder how best to extend proverbial hands of friendship to people in need while urged to accept isolation and social distancing. One way to help others survive is to insist the United States lift sanctions against Iran and instead support acts of practical care. Jointly confront the coronavirus while constructing a humane future for the world without wasting  time or resources on the continuation of brutal wars.

Systemic Cruelty

When bailiffs broke down his door on the 20th June 2018 they found Errol Graham emaciated and dead. He weighed just four and a half stone (28.5kg). There was no food in the flat except for two tins of fish that were four years out of date, no gas or electricity supply. He was 57, lived alone in Nottingham, England and due to severe anxiety had little or no contact with family or friends. Unable to work he relied on state benefits to pay his rent, cover the bills and feed himself, benefits that were stopped when Graham did not attend a capability for work assessment. It was an isolated, painful life that ended tragically.

The conclusions of an inquest into the death of Errol Graham published last week, suggested “the removal of benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), despite his long history of mental health problems, may have contributed to his death,” The Guardian reported. His daughter-in-law, Alison Turner, went further, blaming the DWP for his death; saying, “he would still be alive. He’d be ill but he’d still be alive.”

This dreadful story took place in Britain, but it, or something like it, could happen anywhere in the world. It is but one of countless examples of institutionalized cruelty and systemic brutality, the greatest example of which is perhaps starvation and food insecurity in a world of plenty.

We have created a world in which the structures, systems and institutions are, by design, devoid of compassion, promoting suspicion and division; unkind policies flow from governments concerned solely with financial development and international dominance. False values are relentlessly promoted and crude methods of motivating people (i.e. competition and desire) to do what the architects of the machine want them to do are employed.

Growing selfishness

This hostile approach to living has infiltrated all areas, including schools and the home; parents, fearful for their child’s future in a brittle world, are more concerned than ever with academic achievement – believing success in this area will somehow enable their offspring to build secure lives for themselves – than with the cultivation of social responsibility. This conditioning into selfishness is borne out by various empirical studies; The Observer reports that, “psychologists find that kids born after 1995 are just as likely as their predecessors to believe that other people experiencing difficulty should be helped—but they feel less personal responsibility to take action themselves. For example, they are less likely to donate to charity, or even to express an interest in doing so.”

In addition to growing levels of selfishness and social isolation a widespread result of systemic cruelty coupled with intense competition – in the workplace, in schools and colleges and in the social arena – is psychological fear on a massive scale; ‘the world’ as currently constituted is seen to be a frightening place, indeed without the resources (physical, mental, family friends and financial) required to live – to ‘face the day’, pay the rent and feed oneself etc.—it is a frightening place.

Institutions and government agencies are regarded as threatening bodies of control; employees are constrained by procedure, drilled in rules and regulations denying flexibility crushing the humane, forming division. Once division is present the distance between procedural enforcement to impatience, and verbal insults to violence, is a good deal less than might be imagined; once an image of ‘the other’ is built and the threshold of self control, decency and mutual respect has been crossed all manner of abuse becomes possible.

For those on the margins of society – those with mental health illnesses; minorities; people who are uneducated or don’t speak the language well; men and women like Errol Graham, and there are many such, dealing with unforgiving inflexible forms of bureaucracy, corporations and bodies of control, is impossible, it literally makes them ill. As a result they retreat, hide away, are unable to follow the suffocating dictates and relentless demands, are overwhelmed by official letters, marketing emails and text messages. Frightened they simply stop responding, refuse to open letters, turn to drugs/alcohol, or some other addicted form of escape. To some the urge to ‘give up’ becomes irresistible and suicide holds out the promise, true or false, of release.

On a larger scale it is systemic cruelty that allows one billion or so people to live in absolute poverty, most of who are in South-East Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa. Merely surviving another day in a world that is threatening to crush them totally, is the aim of life; ‘God’ then is a loaf of bread, a bowl of rice, a cup of drinking water. That such injustice and needless suffering exists in a world that is more connected than ever, is aware, more or less, of the problems and has the resources to end them is shameful and inhumane.

When we build systems rooted in injustice and division, devoid of all kindness and compassion, we encourage selfishness, suspicion and fear; and where there is fear there will be anger, and with anger comes conflict – within and without. Mankind is not this dispassionate machine, certainly not just this, and arguably not this at all. But intolerant ways of living beget discrimination and hate, violence triggers violence, hate fuels hate; this much at least we must have learned. And yet the systemic methodology that is feeding division persists, becomes louder, uglier, more extreme. It must end.

Institutionalized cruelty stifles humanity’s natural tendency towards expressions of kindness, concern for others, tolerance of difference and cooperation. All of which are extolled as moral virtues throughout the world, all of which allow a person to feel at ease with themselves and happy. And when a person is relaxed they can think more clearly, more creatively; kindness then becomes a facilitator of intelligence.

Social harmony, whether within a family unit, a school, workplace or a city rests on a series of interrelated pillars; trust is key, sharing helps cultivate trust and in a healthy social setting would be the natural way of things; forgiveness is another essential ingredient, as is tolerance. All of these principles of goodness flow from love – not sentimental emotional pink love, but that vibrant creative force beyond thought that animates all that is good. As the existing systems crystallize and become more extreme, it is upon a foundation of love and compassion that the new modes of living must be built.

King Tides and Who’s King of the Hill?

I’m watching the Pacific heave up a king tide in the tiny town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. Houses right above the beach line are now soaked, their back and front yards littered with driftwood, logs and tree stumps.

And water. The power of that expanding ocean and the rising tides lend pause for any sane person realizing that this yearly cyclical event is a premonition: what I am seeing now is going to be the new normal. Everything shifts with one-three-nine feet of ocean rise in the next 20-30-50-100 years. The winds are pushing up more sea spray, and the entire scene is both amazingly beautiful and dangerous to the future of my town, a million towns across the globe.

That “normal” is no more beaches, or, that is, until the ocean takes out homes and front and back yards to sweep away more of the land to deposit beach materials to create beaches.

The idea of humanity is to deploy hard mitigation techniques to fight the tide of rising oceans — dikes, boulders, trillions of tons of earth, cement, sea wall, diversion conduits, stilts, bloated and expensive channeling and walling off wetlands.  You know, more and more busy bees, busy ants trying to push back on the forces of nature. Then there is retreat and abandonment. Obviously, we see how well retreat works when so many investments in capitalism are tied around the real estate and infrastructure of so many of their industries and businesses being so close to the impending ocean inundation. Forgot about abandonment for a long while, as we can see for obvious reasons beach community after beach community rebuilding after powerful hurricanes, that will look like rain storms under the impending new normal of heating ocean currents, etc.

There are other ways to plan for a world without ice, but we are an insane species who have let overlords control every blinking, swallowing, thinking, defecating, urinating, masticating, breathing, bleating, REM-ing moment of our lives. We have been so brainwashed and colluded and controlled that we can’t think even though we should and are capable of fixing the mitigation plans. Retrenchment is out of the question when it comes to capitalism, USA all the way, arrogance, and war making against people, planet, species. Ecosocialism!

Unless we change the conversation. Unless we get people to start thinking about and talking about and working for a viable alternative to the market-driven collapse of civilization. Our job, as ecosocialists is to put forward a practical plan to slam the brakes on emissions, an emergency response to the climate emergency. This plan has to begin with brutal honesty:

We can’t have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet.

We can’t suppress emissions without closing down companies.

We need to socialize those companies, nationalize them, buy them out and take them into public hands so we can phase them out or retrench them.

If we close down/retrench industries then society must provide new low- or no-carbon jobs for all those displaced workers and at comparable wages and conditions.

We have to replace our anarchic market economy with a largely, though not entirely, planned economy, a bottom-up democratically planned economy.

The environmental, social and economic problems we face cannot be solved individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize and restructure our economies and redeploy labor and resources to those ends. In other words, if humanity is to save itself, we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with some form of democratic eco-socialism.

Yeah, I know, we didn’t all sign up for the pollution, the massive surveillance, the penury, the ecosystems destruction, the addictions promoged and promulgated by consumerism, the predilections of greed, the gentrification, McDonaldization, Walmartization, Facebook-Google-IZATION of our worlds, for sure. But all of that didn’t just happen, since this country has a DNA-warp which allows for almost complete deification of the rich and the powerful and the controlling. Celebrity cultism doesn’t even scratch the surface of how colonized the Western mind has become.

Yep, we were sleeping when all the psy-ops, info-wars, algorithmic predictive shit came barreling into our lives. And complicit in the entire colonization of our minds, bodies, hearts, souls, futures and fates by a Brave New World corporate SOP and a big brother government.

Wet, Wild, Unpredictable

I’m talking to a few people who are here in Waldport photographing with phones the king tide phenomenon, and they dance back and forth out of the surge of high tide and the sneaker waves pummeling parking lots, cars and yards.

Some say, “Well, this is man’s doing. Or it will be more and more each decade. Amazing we think we are the highest forms of life in our universe.”

Yes. this is a direct quote from one of the bystanders who also told me she plants as many trees on her five acres, and she sees the little town of Waldport sort of vanishing in the coming decades because she knows there is no will of the people to work together to move it, or to put in hard barriers, which in the end won’t do that much.

Oh, those 7 R’s: retrench, retreat, regroup, reorganize, reassess, reinvent, revive.

In my slow (by many of my friends’ standards) life here, I am faced with a lot of time to write, a lot of people who are precarious, faced with poverty and with people who end up in my column for a little rag on the coast. Some of those pieces end up in Dissident Voice.

Not exactly tinged with revolution and Marxism and anarchy and ecosocialism and hard left zeal to at least give a decent run at this perverse society of exploitative and predatory capitalism, the columns are my emotional and intellectual Prozac, man, insulating me for a few nanoseconds from the madness of this world and the reimagining of my own sanity. I’ve got a friend out there who sees the scientists and others I feature in this rag of a column as sell outs, as reasons for the many precipitates  the communities and the cultures within those communities are failing.

Scientists and capitalism, an old pairing that has done wonderfully destructive things to people, planet, ecosystems big and small. And I get it, really, as I plod through slipstream after slipstream. Man, I am on the thin ice of aging (63 next month) and being made anachronistic daily by my idiotic dream of still getting something out there on some mainstream best sellers or notable list for my brand of literary fiction.

Reimagining Sanity - Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (Paperback): Paul Haeder

I daily have fights on various channels and in person about how people like us, like me, give zero to society.

What great invention or engineering feat have you done? What contribution to the good of humanity have you done? I bet everything you do — including typing your idiocy on your computer — is the result of engineers and technologists and doers. Take your poor ass liberal teaching (indoctrination) and Podunk writing (who the hell reads your irrelevant stuff?) and crawl back to your tie-dyed, smoked out Oregon. Another libtard/turd . . . Living in Oregon? ‘Nuff said!

This is the hard-wired brain of many Americans — and the so-called left and the wavering liberals are part and parcel part of that mindset because so many in my lifetime have denigrated my brand of revolution, perspective and analysis as way too extreme or radical. Irrelevant. Utopian. Impossible. Foolish. Something along those lines, as tempered as the above quote really is since most people I run into who label me commie, socialist and libtard are threatening my life, want my expulsion from love-it-or-leave-it-in-a-coffin USA. It gets worse what these pigs of capitalism and red-white-blue Military Industrial Complex say to me on-line and sometimes in person.

They are here to wear us down . . . 

Nothing works, it seems. Each big, small, tiny, gargantuan community is flooded with takers, and the leavers of the world, the givers, are not only out-gunned, but the entire fabric of capitalism and consumer culture and this military-might-makes-right society is flooded with those Yankees.

Begging for a countywide warming shelter, no free clinics, no dentists, reckless law enforcement hobbling the poor with more violations and court dates and jail time. The RV-with-Jeep-in-tow-and-vacation-home America against the very people who do the oil changes, the plumbing fixes the burger flipping, the road . . . .

Have a beer and celebrate when the video of Saddam’s neck is snapped by a rope. Celebrate with tailgaters when Osama bin Laden’s supposed dead body is sealed up in body bags  by those magnificent SEALs.

Despair is easy in this country, with the wide gape of peering into the belly of the beast, which is really us, US, USA.

I work as a substitute teacher and also work for a national non-profit that has designed this anti-poverty program around social capital and unconditional cash transfers. I am daily struggling to see how my two books that are coming out will make a drop in any bucket, and I am plagued with the fear of lifelong bad decisions, with a general anxiety disorder, and my own form of collective Stockholm Syndrome just daily slogging along in this messed up culture, society and country.

Let me reframe here — Any creative artist who is revolutionary and communist in purpose is going to be whacked hard in this competitive, superficial, predatory, hard-boiled, violent, usury-drawn country. Every single monetary interchange and human exchange is filled with duality after duality. Contradictions. Counter-intuitive thinking. Equivocation. Rationalization.

Daily it’s as if I have to fight very hard to stave off the insanity from surfacing, or at least battening down all those mental duress points from congealing. Daily, I have to quell the anger. Daily, I have to resort to looking toward some spiritual  formula to stay sane, pacific, and within the constraints of the social contracts laid out to keep me from going ballistic.

And yet . . . . I also work with people in complete struggle against all aspects of capitalism — shitty jobs, low pay rates; shitty vehicles or vapid public transportation; shitty local culture for people with no money, or no places for children to gather without throwing in dollars for the ride; shitty schools for their kids; shitty housing situations; shitty social capital and community resources; shitty backgrounds; shitty family dynamics; shitty physical and mental health; shitty credit scores; shitty prospects; shitty people controlling their shitty lives; shitty air and water.

Then, it’s up against this backdrop of drive-in fast-food culture, in this homogenization of every mile of roadside attraction country. Little things like — Did you know that the 7-11 corporation is directly responsible for all those bodegas and cool little family holes in the wall in places like New York going belly up? Colonization, like cancer . . . page from the playbook of Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, the lot of them. Flipping 7-11 “convenience” stores flooding neighborhoods using economies of scale and the power of billions to push out the mom and pop’s, the little guy or gal. Rents go out the roof, and that’s it, RIP small town/big town America.

Yet . . . but . . . however . . . hold on a minute! Many of these people living under shitty circumstances can muster some sense of positive daily outlook. Sure, many have false hope, and many believe that hype and propaganda of the American Dream, that anyone can be a millionaire — forgetting that there is-will be-was always a million suckers born every minute in this stolen land.

Given that, though, my whole life has been compelled to understand that survivable character in these people — how they can get a can of sardines and believe they have caviar. You know, the old lemons made into lemonade axiom.

That’s what the new short story collection coming out, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, galvanizes in the 17 short stories: the will to survive, and not always thrive. Like that coyote chewing leg out of trap to limp on three legs to still live another day and another. Three-legged Americans, these characters in this collection are all somehow tied to the Vietnam War, plagued by their own survival or someone close to them. It’s not thematic, and each story is a stand-alone. I didn’t even try and thread this or that juxtaposition to make the collection super cohesive or interlinked. Alas, though the book is a stand-alone in that all the stories have that atmospheric and gritty demarcation between failure and giving up and just going on, moving ahead . . . no matter the circumstances of past, present or future.

In that sense WOE is an American book, like the wide scope of American literature. That’s Wide Open Eyes from Cirque Press, available, gulp, on Amazon, my arch nemesis. There will be a review of the book here soon. Looking at maybe four sales from my DV crowd. Oh well.

That little detail is like death by a thousand cuts, and, coming around the bend to 63 years old, I am having a difficult time having my principles stick. Everything about Amazon, about Bezos, about the people who plan the company from coder to software and logistics engineer, who develop AI and flood the world with the non-competitive shit that is the company, I despise . . . and yet, here we are, Year of the Rat, 2020, and I have just given over my soul in a Faustian Bargain to Amazon hawking my book with their bloody cut of the deal.

Checking out isn’t an option, and the fight is now for the little guy and gal, the child, the wordless old man with Parkinson’s, the bent over old lady checking items at the Safeway. There may be MAGA in some of those struggling souls, and that’s a whole other deal. For now, though, what is this country, and what is the ordinary man-woman-child?

Country as an idea, country as something that doesn’t exist, country as something continually changing because of outside forces. Country as a word from the enemy, meaning the empire. — Roque Dalton, Salvadoran poet

Joseph Campbell (“The Power of Myth”) quote roiling around my busy mind:  I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.

Hunger Games: Food Abundance and Twisted Truths 

The world already produces enough food to feed 10 million people but over two billion are experiencing micronutrient deficiencies (of which 821 million were classed as chronically undernourished in 2018). However, supporters of genetic engineering (GE) crops continually push the narrative that GE technology is required if we are to feed the world and properly support farmers.

First of all, it must be stressed that there is already sufficient evidence to question the efficacy of GE crops; however, despite this, conventional options and innovations that outperform GE crops are in danger of being sidelined in a rush by powerful, publicly unaccountable private interests like the Gates Foundation to facilitate the introduction of GE into global agriculture; crops whose main ‘added value’ is the financial rewards accrued by the corporations behind them.

Secondly, even if we are to accept that at some stage GE can supplement conventional practices, we must acknowledge that from the outset of the GMO project, the sidelining of serious concerns about the technology has occurred and despite industry claims to the contrary, there is no scientific consensus on the health impacts of GE crops.

Both the Cartagena Protocol and Codex share a precautionary approach to GE crops and foods, in that they agree that GE differs from conventional breeding. There is sufficient reason to hold back on commercialising GE crops and to subject each GMO to independent, transparent environmental, social, economic and health impact evaluations.

To evaluate the pro-GMO lobby’s rhetoric that GE is needed to ‘feed the world’, we first need to understand the dynamics of a globalized food system that fuels hunger and malnutrition against a backdrop of food overproduction. As Andrew Smolski describes it: capitalism’s production of ‘hunger in abundance’.

Over the last 50 years, we have seen the consolidation of an emerging global food regime based on agro-export mono-cropping (often with non-food commodities taking up prime agricultural land) and linked to sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF ‘structural adjustment’ directives. The outcomes have included a displacement of a food-producing peasantry, the consolidation of Western agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries from food self-sufficiency into food deficit areas.

As long as these dynamics persist and food injustice remains an inherent feature of the global food regime, the rhetoric of GM being necessary for feeding the world is merely ideology and bluster. Furthermore, if we continue to regard food as a commodity in a globalized capitalist food system, we shall continue to see the comprehensive contamination of food with sugar, bad fats, synthetic additives, GMOs and pesticides and rising rates of diseases and serious health conditions, including surges in obesity, diabetes and cancer incidence, but no let-up in the under-nutrition of those too poor to join in the over-consumption.

Looking at India as an example, although it continues to do poorly in world hunger rankings, the country has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured there is enough food available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruit and cotton.

Farmers, therefore, produce enough food. It stands to reason that hunger and malnutrition result from other factors (such as inadequate food distribution, inequality and poverty). It is again a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance. The country even continues to export food while millions remain hungry.

While the pro-GMO lobby says GE will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income, this too is misleading as it again ignores crucial political and economic contexts; with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress.

India’s farmers are not experiencing hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies, years of neglect and a deliberate strategy to displace smallholder agriculture at the behest of the World Bank and predatory global agri-food corporations. It’s for good reason that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen.

And yet, the pro-GMO lobby wastes no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy.

Agroecological principles

Many of the traditional practices of small farmers are now recognised as sophisticated and appropriate for high-productive, sustainable agriculture. These practices involve an integrated low-input systems approach to agriculture that emphasises, among other things, local food security and sovereignty, diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability, climate resilience and good soil structure. Agroecology represents a shift away from the reductionist yield-output industrial paradigm, which results in enormous pressures on health and the environment.

A recent FAO high-level report called for agroecology and smallholder farmers to be prioritised and invested in to achieve global sustainable food security. Smallholder (non-GMO) farming using low-input methods tends to be more productive in total output than large-scale industrial farms and can be more profitable and resilient to climate change.

Despite the fact that globally industrial agriculture grabs 80 per cent of subsidies and 90 per cent of research funds, smallholder agriculture plays a major role in feeding the world. At the same time, these massive subsidies and funds support a system that is only made profitable because agri-food oligopolies externalize the massive health, social and environmental costs of their operations.

These corporations leverage their financial clout, lobby networks, funded science and political influence to cement a ‘thick legitimacy’ among policy makers for their vision of agriculture. In turn,  World Bank ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ directives, the World Trade Organization ‘agreement on agriculture’ and trade related intellectual property rights help secure their interests.

In the meantime, supporters of GMO agriculture continue to display a willful ignorance of the structure of the food system which produces the very problem it claims it can resolve. The pro-GMO scientific lobby arrogantly pushes its ideological agenda while ignoring the root causes of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and denigrating genuine solutions centred on food sovereignty.