Category Archives: Japan

From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture

Food and environment campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has just produced the report ‘Shockingly high levels of weedkiller found in popular breakfast cereals marketed for British children’. In this 68-page document, she draws from new research in the UK that mirrors findings from the US about the dangerous levels of glyphosate found in food, especially products aimed at children (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedicide Roundup). Readers can access this report here (which contains all relevant references).

Mason begins by reporting on research that significant levels of weedkiller were found in 43 out of 45 popular breakfast cereals marketed to US children. Glyphosate was detected in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats and snack bars.

Tests revealed glyphosate was present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products that were sampled by the Environmental Working Group, a public health organisation. Nearly three in four of the products exceeded what the EWG classes safe for children to consume. Products with some of the highest levels of glyphosate include granola, oats and snack bars made by leading industry names Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills, which makes Cheerios.

Back in April, internal emails obtained from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that scientists had found glyphosate on a wide range of commonly consumed food, to the point that they were finding it difficult to identify a food without the chemical on it. In response to these findings, however, The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that there was no indication that the claims related to products sold outside the US.

In view of this statement by the Guardian, Mason was involved in sending samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing.

After testing the samples which were sent, Dr Fagan, the institute’s director, said:

The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people). (Access the Certificate of Analysis here.)

Just as concerning were results for two ‘organic’ products from the US that were also tested at the time: granola had some glyphosate in it and ‘organic’ rolled oats had even higher levels of the chemical.

Mason argues that the fact such high levels of glyphosate have been found in cereals in Britain should ring alarm bells across Europe, especially as the distribution of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in agricultural top soils of the European Union is widespread.

A question of power

As in her previous documents, Mason describes how regulators in the EU and the UK relicensed Roundup for the benefit of the industry-backed Glyphosate Task Force. Even more alarming is that, on the back of Brexit, she notes that a US-UK trade deal could result in the introduction of Roundup ready GM crops in the UK. Indeed, high-level plans for cementing this deal are afoot.

Mason offers worrying data about the increasing use of biocides, especially glyphosate, as well as the subsequent destruction of the global environment due to their use. As usual, she produces a very data-rich report which draws on many sources, including official reports and peer-reviewed papers.

Of course, there is a strong focus on Monsanto. Aside from the use of glyphosate, she also documents the impact of the company’s presence in Wales, where she lives, with regard to the dumping of toxic chemicals (PCBs) from its manufacturing site there between 1949 and 1979, the effects of which persist and still plague the population and the environment.

Mason asks: “Monsanto has been bought up by Bayer, so the Monsanto name has disappeared but where are the Monsanto executives hiding?”

She is aware, of course, that such figures don’t have to hide anywhere. The company ‘got away with it’ in Wales. And its recent crop of executives received huge ‘golden handshakes’ after the Bayer deal despite them having perpetuated a degenerative model of industrial agriculture. A model that has only secured legitimacy by virtue of the power of the global agritech lobby to lock in a bogus narrative of success, as outlined in the report ‘From Uniformity to Diversity’ by The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

As that report notes, locking farmers into corporate-dependent treadmills, state support of (export) commodity cropping via subsidies and the discounting of the massive health, environment and social costs of industrial agriculture ensures that model prevails and makes it appear successful. If you base your food regime on short-term thinking and a reductionist yield-output paradigm and define success within narrow confines, then the model is a sure-fire winner – for corporate growth (profit) if little else.

Without being able to externalise the health, social and environmental costs of its actions and products, this model would not be viable for the corporations involved. Widening the parameters to properly evaluate ‘success’ entails asking the industry questions that it finds very difficult to gloss over, not least what has been the cost of input-(biocide)dependent yields of commodities in terms of pollution, health, local food security and caloric production, nutrition per acre, water tables, soil quality and structure and new pests and disease pressures?

Why have African countries been turned from food exporters to food importers? Why is land in South America being used for Roundup Ready crops to feed the appetite for meat in rich countries, while peasant farmers who grew food for themselves and local communities have been displaced?

And what are the effects on once thriving rural communities; on birds, insects and biodiversity in general; on the climate as a result of chemical inputs and soil degradation; and what have been the effects of shifting towards globalised production chains, especially in terms of transportation and fossil fuel consumption?

The global food regime degrades public health and the environment, and it has narrowed the range of crops grown, resulting in increasingly monolithic, nutrient-deficient diets. Yet the powerful industry lobby calls for more deregulation and more techno-fixes like GMOs to ‘feed the world’. This is in spite of the fact that hunger and malnutrition are political: these phenomena are in large part the outcome of a global capitalist food regime that, with help from IMF/World Bank geopolitical lending strategies and WTO rules, has undermined food security for vast sections of the global population by creating a system that by its very nature drives inequality, injustice and creates food deficit areas.

Moving to a more sustainable model of agriculture based on localisation, food sovereignty and agroecology calls for a different world view. Proponents of industrial agriculture are resistant to this because it would harm what has become a highly profitable system based on the capture of political, research and media institutions.

And this is where we return to Rosemary Mason. If there is an overriding theme within her work over the years, it is corruption at high levels which facilitate much of the above. For instance, she notes the determination of the UK government, working hand in glove with global agribusiness, to ensure certain biocide products remain on the market and to help major corporations avoid any culpability for their health- and environment-damaging practices and chemicals.

Mason and various whistleblowers and writers have over the years described how these corporations have become institutionally embedded within high-profile public bodies and scientific research policy initiatives. Regulatory delinquency, institutionalised corruption and complete disregard for the health and well-being of the public is the order of the day.

GMOs and a post-Brexit deal with the US

If the UK is about to introduce GM crops into its fields on the back of a post-Brexit deal with the Trump administration, then it should take heed of what the ex-director of J.R. Simplot and team leader at Monsanto Dr Caius Rommens says in his new book:

The main problem about the current process for deregulation of GMO crops is that it is based on an evaluation of data provided by the developers of GMO crops. There is a conflict of interest. I propose that the safety of GMO crops is assessed by an independent group of scientists trained at identifying unintended effects.

This former high-level Monsanto researcher of potatoes now acknowledges that genetic engineers had limited insight into the effects of their experiments. Genetic engineering passes off the inherent uncertainty, unintended consequences and imprecision of its endeavours as unquestionable certainty. And the USDA accepts industry information and reassurances.

After finding that most GMO varieties of potatoes that he was involved in developing were stunted, chlorotic, mutated or sterile, and many of them died quickly, Rommens renounced his genetic engineering career and wrote a book about his experiences, ‘Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs’.

In an interview with GMWatch, Rommens is asked why regulators in the US, Canada and Japan, which have approved these potatoes, are ignoring these aspects.

Rommens responds:

The standard tests needed to ensure regulatory approval are not set up to identify unintended effects. They are meant to confirm the safety of a GM crop, not to question their safety. None of the issues I address in my book were considered by the regulatory agencies.

A damning indictment of regulatory delinquency based on ‘don’t look, don’t find’. GMOs have nonetheless become the mainstay of US agriculture. Now the industry is rubbing its hands in anticipation of Brexit, which would pry the UK from the EU and its precautionary principle-based regulation of GMOs.

The push to open up Britain to globalisation in the 1980s ushered in a free-for-all for global capital to determine the future direction of a deregulated UK. Three decades down the line, the consequences are clear for food, agriculture, democracy and public health. The worrying thing is that thanks to Brexit, it could be the case that even worse is yet to come!

Remarks by Shinzo Abe to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, by Shinzō Abe

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I have been accorded the privilege of continuing to serve as Japan's helmsman for the next three years. As I address the General Assembly today for the sixth consecutive year, I do so with a feeling of renewed resolve. In the three years to come, I will do my very best to strengthen the free trade system. I will likewise do everything in my power to clear the postwar structure from Northeast Asia. Serving as a flag bearer for free trade In my view, the (...)

Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk

Central bankers are now aggressively playing the stock market. To say they are buying up the planet may be an exaggeration, but they could. They can create money at will, and they have declared their “independence” from government. They have become rogue players in a game of their own.

Excluding institutions such as Blackrock and Vanguard, which are composed of multiple investors, the largest single players in global equity markets are now thought to be central banks themselves. An estimated 30 to 40 central banks are invested in the stock market, either directly or through their investment vehicles (sovereign wealth funds). According to David Haggith on Zero Hedge:

Central banks buying stocks are effectively nationalizing US corporations just to maintain the illusion that their “recovery” plan is working . . . . At first, their novel entry into the stock market was only intended to rescue imperiled corporations, such as General Motors during the first plunge into the Great Recession, but recently their efforts have shifted to propping up the entire stock market via major purchases of the most healthy companies on the market.

The US Federal Reserve, which bailed out General Motors in a rescue operation in 2009, was prohibited from lending to individual companies under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010; and it is legally barred from owning equities. It parks its reserves instead in bonds and other government-backed securities. But other countries have different rules, and today central banks are buying individual stocks as investments, with a preference for big tech stocks like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Those are the stocks that dominate the market, and central banks are bidding them up aggressively. Markets, including the US stock market, are thus literally being rigged by foreign central banks.

The result, as noted in a January 2017 article on Zero Hedge, is that central bankers, “who create fiat money out of thin air and for whom ‘acquisition cost’ is a meaningless term, are increasingly nationalizing the equity capital markets.” At least they would be nationalizing equities, if they were actually “national” central banks. But the Swiss National Bank, the biggest single player in this game, is 48% privately owned; and most central banks have declared their independence from their governments. They march to the drums not of government but of big international banks.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the 2008 collapse, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury secretaries Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson wrote in a September 7 New York Times op-ed that the Fed’s tools needed to be broadened to allow it to fight the next anticipated economic crisis, including allowing it to prop up the stock market by buying individual stocks. To investors, propping up the stock market may seem like a good thing; but what happens when the central banks decide to sell?  The Fed’s massive $4 trillion economic support is now being taken away, and other central banks are expected to follow. Their US and global holdings are so large that their withdrawal from the market could trigger another global recession. That means when and how the economy will collapse is now in the hands of central bankers.

Moving Goal Posts

The two most aggressive central bank players in the equity markets are the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Japan.  The goal of the Bank of Japan, which now owns 75% of Japanese exchange-traded funds, is evidently to stimulate growth and defy longstanding expectations of deflation. But the Swiss National Bank is acting more like a hedge fund, snatching up individual stocks because “that is where the money is.” About 20% of the SNB’s reserves are in equities, and more than half of that is in US equities. The SNB’s goal is said to be to counteract the global demand for Swiss francs, which has been driving up the value of the national currency, making it hard for Swiss companies to compete in international trade. The SNB does this by buying up other currencies, and it needs to put them somewhere, so it is putting the money in stocks.

That is a reasonable explanation for the SNB’s actions, but some critics suspect other motives. Switzerland is home to the Bank for International Settlements, the “central bankers’ bank” in Basel, where central bankers meet regularly behind closed doors. Dr. Carroll Quigley, a Georgetown history professor who claimed to be the historian of the international bankers, wrote of this institution in Tragedy and Hope in 1966:

[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.  This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.  The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.

The key to their success, said Quigley, was that they would control and manipulate the money system of a nation while letting it appear to be controlled by the government. The economic and political systems of nations would be controlled not by citizens but by bankers, for the benefit of bankers. The goal was to establish an independent (privately owned or controlled) central bank in every country. Today, that goal has largely been achieved.

In a paper presented at the 14th Rhodes Forum in Greece in October 2016, Dr. Richard Werner, Director of International Development at the University of Southampton in the UK, argued that central banks have managed to achieve total independence from government and total lack of accountability to the people, and that they are now in the process of consolidating their powers. They control markets by creating bubbles, busts, and economic chaos. He pointed to the European Central Bank, which was modeled on the disastrous earlier German central bank, the Reichsbank. The Reichsbank created deflation, hyperinflation, and the chaos that helped bring Adolf Hitler to power. The problem with the Reichsbank, says Werner, was its excessive independence and its lack of accountability to German institutions and Parliament. The founders of post-war Germany changed the new central bank’s status by significantly curtailing its independence. Werner writes, “The Bundesbank was made accountable and subordinated to Parliament, as one would expect in a democracy. It became probably the world’s most successful central bank.”

But today’s central banks, he says, are following the disastrous Reichsbank model, involving an unprecedented concentration of power without accountability. Central banks are not held responsible for their massive policy mistakes and reckless creation of boom-bust cycles, banking crises and large-scale unemployment. Youth unemployment now exceeds 50 percent in Spain and Greece. Many central banks remain in private hands, including not only the Swiss National Bank but the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Italian, Greek and South African central banks.

Banks and Central Banks Should Be Made Public Utilities

Werner’s proposed solution to this dangerous situation is to bypass both the central banks and the big international banks and decentralize power by creating and supporting local not-for-profit public banks. Ultimately, he envisions a system of local public money issued by local authorities as receipts for services rendered to the local community. Legally, he notes, 97 percent of the money supply is already just private company credit, which can be created by any company, with or without a banking license. Governments should stop issuing government bonds, he says, and instead fund their public sector credit needs through domestic banks that create money on their books (as all banks have the power to do). These banks could offer more competitive rates than the bond markets and could stimulate the local economy with injections of new money. They could also put the big bond underwriting firms that feed on the national debt out of business.

Abolishing the central banks is one possibility, but if they were recaptured as public utilities, they could serve some useful purposes. A central bank dedicated to the service of the public could act as an unlimited source of liquidity for a system of public banks, eliminating bank runs since the central bank cannot go bankrupt. It could also fix the looming problem of an    unrepayable federal debt, and it could generate “quantitative easing for the people,” which could be used to fund infrastructure, low-interest loans to cities and states, and other public services.

The ability to nationalize companies by buying them with money created on the central bank’s books could also be a useful public tool. The next time the megabanks collapse, rather than bailing them out they could be nationalized and their debts paid off with central bank-generated money. There are other possibilities. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts argues that we should also nationalize the media and the armaments industry. Researchers at the Democracy Collaborative have suggested nationalizing the large fossil fuel companies by simply purchasing them with Fed-generated funds. In a September 2018 policy paper titled “Taking Climate Action to the Next Level,” the researchers wrote, “This action might represent our best chance to gain time and unlock a rapid but orderly energy transition, where wealth and benefits are no longer centralized in growth-oriented, undemocratic, and ethically dubious corporations, such as ExxonMobil and Chevron.”

Critics will say this would result in hyperinflation, but an argument can be made that it wouldn’t. That argument will have to wait for another article, but the point here is that massive central bank interventions that were thought to be impossible in the 20th century are now being implemented in the 21st, and they are being done by independent central banks controlled by an international banking cartel. It is time to curb central bank independence. If their powerful tools are going to be put to work, it should be in the service of the public and the economy.

• First published on Truthdig.com.

The Long March to Post-Capitalist Transition: Pan-Africanist Perspectives

The following talk was given by Ameth Lô in a French-language panel, “L’aurore de notre libération,” in Montreal on May 20, 2018, at “The Great Transition: Preparing a World Beyond Capitalism.”

*****

The centenary of the October 1917 Russian revolution, a world-shaking historic event, was an occasion for celebration throughout the world.

Many diverse interpretations are advanced as to its success in achieving a radical transformation of society, both in terms of its history and its overall impact. Nonetheless, there is no denying that this event altered forever the course of history.

For Black peoples, this revolution arrived just over a century after the victory in Haiti in 1804. That event was the first massive and successful revolt of Black slaves, and an important step toward the long-overdue abolition of slavery worldwide.

The establishment of the first Black republic in the Northern Hemisphere emerged from an extended process of resistance to oppression, marked by massive slave revolts on the plantations of Jamaica, Brazil, and elsewhere. Even today, Haiti continues to pay the price for its audacity and steadfastness, for which it has never been forgiven by proponents of the slave system. This dramatic breakthrough later contributed to achievement of a collective consciousness among Blacks.

Indeed, these events demonstrated that freedom comes only through struggle. That is how Blacks laid the foundations for pan-Africanism throughout the African diaspora. Brought to the fore by figures such as the great Marcus Mosiah Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, Edward Blyden, and many others, this movement was linked to the struggles of workers and oppressed peoples across Europe and beyond, which culminated in two historic revolutions:

  • The French Revolution of 1789.
  • The Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917.

During this process two historic currents, the international Communist movement and pan-Africanism, established strong ties, forged through suffering and resistance. This is not to deny that there were occasional conflicts, resulting from the exigencies of episodic struggles and underlying strategy.

In what follows, we will attempt to illustrate how these two currents, which evolved almost simultaneously over the course of almost a century, became interrelated. This inquiry will reveal a perspective for a transition toward a world with increased justice and greater capacity to assure the survival of the human species and of our planet – in a word, a better world, free from the system of domination that victimizes Black peoples around the world. Most of oppressed peoples live in countries at the periphery of the world capitalist system, but they also are present as layers of common people in the metropolitan countries.

Communism and Pan-Africanism: A Zigzag Relationship

Let us note first of all that Pan-Africanism emerged within the African diaspora, that is, outside the continent. The dire conditions faced by Black peoples during several centuries of slavery provided a fertile ground for emergent revolts. These uprisings in turn gave rise to Pan-Africanism as an ideological tool for the liberation of oppressed Black peoples. It should be noted that millions of Blacks worked for hundreds of years without any form of payment – that is, for nothing. This servitude made possible the industrial revolution and the acceleration of capitalism’s development as a global system, spreading out from its initial strongholds in Europe and North America.

The international Communist movement, from its foundation in 1919, was committed to struggle on behalf of the oppressed and exploited worldwide. It thus took note of the conditions of Black peoples and solidarized with their struggles, not only in the African continent but also in countries like the United States where racial segregation was at its peak from 1920 to 1924. Brief passages in the Communist International archives take note of the struggles carried out by Blacks not only in the diaspora but in countries subjected to colonial domination in Africa. The Communist movement’s statement on African liberation, adopted in 1922, was markedly pan-Africanist in inspiration. Indeed it was written by Black delegates who were strongly influenced by the movement led by Marcus Garvey.

In the years that followed, however, this principled position was subject to several mutations, caused by contradictions internal to the socialist movement. In addition, the difficulties were aggravated by complications imposed on national liberation movements in the Cold War context, where conflicts both between and within alliances often took priority over ideologically principled positions with respect to unconditional support for the struggles of colonial peoples for self-determination. These struggles continued throughout the rise of fascism in Europe, grew more intense in the 1930s, and found expression in the anti-colonial wars and the defeat of Apartheid in Africa. The outcome of these wars played a central role in dismantling colonial structures and heralding a period of decolonisation.

During this development, a crucial role was played by the large number of Africans that took part in freeing Europe from Hitler’s claws. Conscript soldiers from across all of West Africa were organized in the Tirailleurs sénégalais (Senegalese Sharpshooters). Their courage and their decisive contribution has never received its proper reward. Quite to the contrary, and upon their discharge form service, when these soldiers at the end of 1944, asked to receive their demobilization payment, the French colonial authorities on December 1, massacred dozens –  hundreds  of these protesters. This crime took place at the Thiaroye camp a few miles from Dakar, capital of Senegal, and is known today as “the massacre of Thiaroye.”

Cold War, National Liberation Movements, and Internationalist Solidarity

Among the precursors of the pan-Africanist movement was George Padmore, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who came to the United States as a young student. He quickly joined the U.S. Communist Party and played a significant role in the international Communist Movement, where he worked for the goals of pan-Africanism. Assigned as a revolutionary cadre to work in the Soviet Union and Germany, he nonetheless cut his ties with this movement in 1934. Profound disagreements had arisen with regard to the decolonization of Africa, still under the yoke of the old colonial empires, above all those of Britain, France, and Portugal.

During the 1930s and after, the Communist movement sought to align its course regarding decolonization with its own interests in terms of positioning itself in the contest under way among the Western powers. This process convinced progressive pan-Africanists of the need to take their distance from the Communist movement, achieve autonomy of thought and action, and steer their course in conformity with the interests of oppressed Black peoples. In a word, they had to rely above all, on their own strength.

This is the context that led Padmore, who had enjoyed a measure of success in keeping the colonial question on the agenda of the Communist movement, to leave it in 1934 and return to Britain. There he met C.L.R. James, his childhood friend, who was quite active both in Trotskyist circles and in the Black community in London.

In 1936, Italy invaded Ethiopia, which along with Liberia was the only African country that had succeeded until that point at avoiding colonization. The Italian attack had great symbolic significance. It alerted the African diaspora within Europe to the need not only to mobilize against this invasion but also to hasten the organization of nationalist movements with a pan-Africanist outlook in order to speed the end of colonialization.

The Black students in Europe were already active during this period and were laying the foundations for “returning to their roots” – that is, of going back to Africa in both the cultural and political sense for the liberation of their peoples. Among the more prominent currents was the FEANF (Federation of Students from French-Speaking Black Africa). In Portugal, there were students that united around the “Case Africa,” among whom were the majority of leaders who organized and directed national liberation struggles in the then-Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde (Eduardo Mondlane, Agostinho Neto, Amilcar Cabral).

In Britain, this current was based on figures linked to a structure called IASB (International African Service Bureau), among whom were C.L.R. James; Ras Makonen of British Guyana; Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya; Kwame Nkrumah, father of Ghana’s independence, whom James had introduced to Padmore; and others.

The outbreak of World War 2 led to a breach between the pan-Africanists and the Communist movement. The official line advanced by Moscow from 1941 was to support the war against the Nazi forces and to postpone anticolonial struggles until a later date. Ironically, the Soviet Union had been diplomatically aligned with Germany from 1939 until 1941. Obviously, this approach could not win favour among the pan-Africanists, given that almost all the African colonies were under the yoke not of Germany but of the countries that Moscow now viewed as its allies against Hitler.

Once again, the specific conditions in which the struggle developed globally made clear to the pan-Africanists the path to follow and the need to retain a degree of autonomy, seeking to base the liberation struggle on their own forces, without closing the door to forms of internationalist solidarity that were truly disinterested.

Somewhat later, after the end of World War 2, close and deep ties with internationalist solidarity movement were re-established to support the African peoples in the struggle against colonialism’s last bastions in Africa. Che Guevara’s revolutionary mission in the Congo (1965) fell short of success, as did his expedition to Bolivia (1966-67). Yet these setbacks did not dissuade Cuba from remaining true to its ardent desire to support Africa in its moments of peril.

This tradition also found expression some years later in Cuba’s close collaboration with Burkina Faso during the short revolutionary experience led by Thomas Sankara and his comrades between 1984 and 1987.

The historic battle of Cuito Cuanavale (1987-88), in which Cuban soldiers fought side by side with guerrillas of liberation movements in Southern Africa, succeeded in routing the army of the racist apartheid system in South Africa. This victory opened the road to Namibian independence, freedom for Nelson Mandela, and South Africa’s first multiracial elections in 1994.

South Africa’s racist regime, backed by consistent support from the Western imperialist powers of Europe and by the USA, then posed a mortal danger to the African peoples. The victory in Angola constituted an initial decisive step toward removing this danger. Yet despite this victory’s importance, it did not end the struggle, given that the power of large-scale capital in South Africa has not been ended and still controls the decisive sectors of its economy.

Cuba demonstrated to the world its celebrated generosity, despite its limited resources and vulnerability as a state under siege by imperialism. Cuba thus brought back to life, a half-century after the fact, the initial vision of internationalist solidarity that prevailed in the first years of the international Communist movement after the triumph of the Bolshevik revolution.

During those years, prominent progressive activists and pan-Africanists such as Lamine Senghor (Senegal), Guarang Kouyaté (Mali), and Messali Hadj (Algeria) took part in the Brussels congress of the Anti-Imperialist League (1927), whose honorary president was the celebrated scientist Albert Einstein and which spoke in the name of all the colonial peoples oppressed by imperialism. The congress already prefigured, in embryonic form, the movement of non-aligned countries that was launched by the Bandung conference in 1955. The Non-Aligned Movement brought together the most prominent leaders of dozens of African and Asian countries, including Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Soekarno (Indonesia) and Zhou Enlai (China). The gathering marked a decisive step in the decolonization of the Global South.

It must be noted, however, that during this entire period of anticolonial struggle by national liberation movements in Africa, they suffered from the impact of ideological rivalries within the Communist movement. Sometimes liberation movements acted as mouthpieces for this or that Communist current. Nationalist, pan-Africanist, and progressive movements in Africa became fragmented along the lines of cleavage that then prevailed in the so-called socialist camp. These currents failed to overcome their differences and to unite their scattered forces in a massive movement capable of undertaking the sweeping decolonization needed to make possible the transition from a colonial state to an independent state. Even today, the aftermath of these divisions represents a continuing barrier to the urgent unification of forces in a united front capable of countering imperialism’s aggressive restructuring and responding to present-day challenges.

Left-wing forces in Latin America have succeeded in creating such united fronts. This surely should convince pan-Africanists and progressives of the need to overcome the wounds inflicted by past divisions. A new era in the struggles of our peoples must be opened up by forces that transcend the limits of the neo-colonial states. The fact that many activists span both these two historic movements can be an asset in unifying the existing pan-Africanist and socialist nuclei. Such a reorganization is a basic precondition in advancing toward new horizons of progress and – why not? – a post-capitalist transition.

But what is the present state of the pan-Africanist movement and of the socialist and communist forces in Africa and in the diaspora?

The Left and the Pan-Africanist Movement: Their Present Reality

Before addressing the prospects for such a transition, we must first carefully assess the present state of pan-Africanist and socialist forces. The torch of resistance in Africa to the capitalist system and its expansion was carried for a time by the national liberation movements in southern Africa and the former Portuguese colonies. Here we saw promising attempts at a radical transformation beyond the limits of the neo-colonial state. They were disrupted, however, by murderous destabilization organized by imperialism acting through local agents. Samora Machel in Mozambique, Amilcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau, Steven Bantu Biko and Chris Hani in South Africa, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo – all were cut down by imperialism. This halted temporarily every effort at radical transformation. The systematic assassination of every anti-imperialist leader created a vacuum, a lull that has lasted several decades.

During this period capitalism’s great financial institutions recovered their vigor and, little by little, dismantled all the gains that had been achieved through the sacrifices of courageous patriots loyal to the ideals of pan-Africanism and socialism. The only exception to this extended lull was the leap forward registered by progressive forces led by Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement in Grenada (1979) and Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso (1984). Ultimately, the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) further disoriented and finished off forces already weakened by internal disputes regarding ideological positioning and by the inadequacy of their roots among the popular masses of Africa.

Nonetheless, the South African Communist Party, one of the oldest on the continent, succeeded in playing an important role in destroying the Apartheid system (1994) and in forging a fruitful partnership with nationalist forces (the ANC) and the workers’ movement organized in strong unions such as COSATU (Congress of South-African Trade Unions).

The present state of the pan-Africanist and socialist forces – enormously fragmented into still embryonic nuclei – is not favourable for the emergence of a movement capable of mounting a serious challenge to present-day imperialism. New struggles have arisen; popular revolts have broken out that overturned the regimes of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Tunisia and of Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso.

Will we see the emergence of new leaderships capable of doing the necessary to build political movements sufficiently prepared, organizationally and ideologically, to face the dangers posed today? That task remains to be accomplished. In the meantime, the absence of vanguard movements sufficiently rooted in the masses could well explain in part the inability of the various popular revolts mentioned above to grow over into full-fledged revolutions.

The Sankara experience: A model for our future.

During the period following the national liberation movements, the revolution in Burkina Faso stands out as the most relevant case of an attempt to break away from the colonial/capitalist system. This revolution drew its strength from both its anti-imperialist orientation and its deeply pan-Africanist inspiration.

Burkina Faso is a small country of the West-African Sahel, characterized by extreme poverty. It is wedged into a region often afflicted by periods of drought that drive its population to emigrate into Ivory Coast and other countries. For many years, Burkina Faso was mired in political upheavals stemming from the fierce struggles among elites for control over the state apparatus and the personal enrichment that it brings.

From the moment of revolution on August 4th 1983, when Thomas Sankara became president, the revolutionary leader and his comrades showed their colours through their solidarity with all struggles of oppressed masses around the world (Palestine, Western Sahara, etc.). They invited the people of Burkina Faso (the Burkinabé) to roll up their sleeves in building a foundation for endogenous and autonomous development, relying on their own efforts.

Although the revolution lasted only four years, it continues to provide a model to all youth in Africa and the world over who seek a better world, one based on humanism and solidarity, in a contest against imperialist dominance sustained by military or economic coercion and by devastating neoliberal policies that enable the masters of global financial capital to control the world.

The central goal of the Burkinabé alternative lies in meeting the needs of the African masses impoverished by decades of the punitive IMF’s “structural adjustment programs,” which imposes continual payments of so-called debt to sinister “funding agencies.”

Oftentimes, any project of revolutionary transformation encounters major obstacles. Nonetheless, many projects spearheaded by Sankara were not only accomplished, but qualitatively changed the Burkinabé population’s conditions of existence. With the help of Cuban volunteers and within the space of a few months, more than 2.5 million children were inoculated against the infectious diseases that plague the very young. Access to education more than doubled and increased to 22% from 10% in three years. During the same period, intensive efforts were made to counter desertification by planting ten million trees.

The event that had the greatest impact on consciousness was the institution of “Women’s Wednesdays,” in which men carried out women’s traditional household tasks. This initiative helped modify popular modes of thought previously shaped by traditional beliefs. It sought to make men more aware of the difficult conditions that women had to contend with every day in order to enable the family to live in decent conditions. Without such a change in thinking, the revolution cannot possibly embrace the population, since almost half of it now lives in conditions of servitude.

Many dikes were constructed to retain water, enabling the rural population to cultivate their land throughout the year and thereby increase their income. Ouagadougou, the capital, was transformed through the construction of new revolutionary housing developments and by an ambitious program to upgrade slum areas that had formerly been virtual ghettos. As regards culture, the emergence of people’s theatre and cinema made it possible to rally the population for the tasks of national reconstruction.

This promising experience had a tragic conclusion: the assassination of Sankara and the end of the revolution in October, 1987. This outcome should lead us to reflect more deeply on the type of organizational framework needed to carry such a radical project for the transformation of African societies to a successful conclusion.

In our view, there is no way around the necessity of building a broad progressive alliance, based on the project of an alternative society carrying out a radical transformation of a capitalist and/or neo-colonial society. To achieve this goal, we must break with the dogmatic positions that often obstruct efforts for consensus around what is essential. By unduly exaggerating such minor and/or secondary contradictions, such dogmatism contributes to undermining worthy initiatives, as in Burkina Faso and Grenada.

In addition, a systematic struggle is required against the elitism of petty bourgeois groupings made up of an intelligentsia cut off from the masses and popular culture, groupings that wallow in theoretical battles disconnected from concerns of the population. Finally, although every social experience has aspects that are universal, we must break with mimicry – the desire to impose such specific experiences on a social environment with its own historical reality.

For this reason, the present renewal of the pan-Africanist movement both within the continent and in the African diasporas can fulfill its great potential only if it unifies the task of rallying pan-African forces once more through popular struggles around the challenges faced by the popular masses, such as ongoing land seizures, economic partnership agreements, sovereign control of the currency, and resistance to heightened militarism and economic degradation driven by climate change.

Toward a Post-Capitalist Transition? Tasks and Perspectives

One hundred years after the Bolshevik revolution and fifty years after the end of colonialism in the formal sense, we still face the challenges of bringing a new world into being and making the transition to a post-capitalist society.

With the stagnation of the anti-imperialist movement in the south, free-market ideologists seized on the brief lull in radical struggles to declare and present neo-liberalism as the final victory of capitalism. Yet the inherent contradictions of the capitalist mode of production are still intact and continue to pose the same fundamental questions that will determine whether or not humanity survives. This period is characterized by a rapid deterioration of our ecological system and a deepening of disparities among different social layers – both within countries and at a global level; both within the countries of the South and in the advanced centres of the capitalist system.

Just as Karl Marx predicted, the capitalist mode of production has reached its limits and has today become a barrier to human development. Far from liberating working people by qualitatively reducing their hours of work, advanced robotization is pushing millions of proletarians into the army of the unemployed and the ranks of the lumpen proletariat.

Africa, whose fate is so central for pan-Africanism and for the world, is currently witnessing the massive seizure of the continent’s natural resources. This pillage is sustained by increased militarization, including through the presence of dozens of foreign military bases, which serve to protect the geostrategic interests of the imperialist powers. The post-colonial state’s very nature testifies to the fact that the process of independence remains incomplete. Added to this are questions of collective survival posed by so-called jihadist movements that, in fact, are all too often a creation by the very forces that claim to be combating them.

In reality, the instigators of the present organized pseudo-chaos act as “pyromaniac firemen” – ready to seize on sinister forces crouching in the shadows and press them into action. In this way, the imperialist forces seeking a new mode of domination, strive to make themselves indispensable on the continent in order to attain unfettered control of the continent’s immense energy resources. Countries of the “triad” – Western Europe, North America, and Japan – are dependent on their ongoing ability to draw on these resources almost without payment in order to maintain their countries’ standard of living.

In the Caribbean, the diasporic African population experiences a dependence on foreign food that grows day by day as a result of climate change, rising sea levels, and salination of their soils. Meanwhile, their economy is controlled by an outward-oriented tourist industry, foreign banks, and cruise ship companies. Added to that, agreements for unequal partnership with the European Union still prevent the emergence of local industry capable of competing with foreign multinationals.

U.S. imperialism has renewed its aggressive expansion with the goal of increasing the isolation of the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) through a well-orchestrated strategy of encirclement. Meanwhile, imperialism extends its tentacles in Africa by installing a host of military bases (AFRICOM plus French, German, Turkish, and Chinese bases). All this underlines the urgency of mounting a credible alternative that can lead the world to think in terms of going beyond present-day capitalist society. Even though weakened by the emergence of new blocs, the monopoly enjoyed by the Triad is not going to collapse in its own right.

On the other hand, during the past century, the world has achieved significant advances in scientific knowledge that, if oriented to the urgent needs of humanity’s majority, will enable us to realize the advent of a new society, capable of transforming the world of work and, consequently, of the social relations that arise from the division of labour. However, despite the potential for a qualitative transformation, present technological progress – and above all the present revolution regarding tools such as artificial intelligence – bears within it seeds that could produce quite the opposite effect. These tools could be focused above all on achieving increased and permanent control of citizens through cyber-surveillance and manipulation, minimization of productive labour, concentration on financial speculation, and the like. This control is exerted not only in the physical but also in the mental domain in order to stifle any thought of questioning the established order.

In sum, the nature of social life in the post-capitalist era will be determined in large measure by the way in which these recent technological advances are utilized.

It is thus imperative for both socialists and pan-Africanists to reconnect with the traditions of radical struggle on a transnational level for the emergence of a new society. We need to reconnect with viable forms of transnational solidarity in order to promote the class struggle of oppressed layers of the population. This course requires that the Eurocentric Left recognize that such deep-going shifts in the international relationship of forces will involve a lowering of the standard of living in the richest countries. These living conditions have been made possible only through the systematic pillage of resources from the countries of the South and from Africa in particular. Is the new Left prepared for such an eventuality? The future will tell.

On the other hand, these struggles will necessarily take new forms, given the capacity of the capitalist system to assure its survival through continual adjustment. Sources seeking an alternative must therefore also display the same capacity for adaptation in developing the tactics and strategies needed to attain their goals.

For Africa and the Caribbean, such a transition should involve a deepening of pan-Africanism, which must pose again the urgency of decisive steps toward creation of a federal state – a federation of Africa and its diaspora – which alone can counter the dynamic of domination that draws strength from the fragmentation of our peoples. The weak neo-colonial states into which they are now divided are equally incapable, individually, of assuring their own survival or of exercising the flexibility needed to negotiate in sovereign fashion how their country is inserted into the world system. Such a federation will also offer the sisters and brothers of the African diaspora in the Northern countries a chance to go back to their roots in Africa, if they so desire. Their contribution will be decisive in terms of their daily experience as an oppressed Black minority in the countries of Europe and North America.

All other approaches are illusory and incapable of seriously challenging the alliance of the bourgeoisie in imperialist countries, sustained by their multinationals, with the African elites charged with managing these pseudo-states. The masses are held hostage by the comprador elites, acting as a supplementary force and a buffer between the dominant forces of world capitalism and the popular classes engaged in struggle.

The outcome of these struggles is far from settled. We face a transition in which advances will be made at a varying tempo, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. But this tempo can only arise from the capacity of peoples in struggle to manage their development. If one thing is certain, it is what was said a few decades ago by the former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara: “Freedom comes only through struggle.” So Aluta Continua! The Struggle Continues.

Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Destructive Lifestyles

Throughout the world heat waves, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires have caused widespread havoc, lives have been lost, homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined.

Unprecedented levels of heat have been recorded in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) record cold May temperatures were registered in “northeastern Canada and the northern Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Greenland.” Global temperatures for the first five months of the year were the highest on record for a La Niña year; higher temperatures, “lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves causing adverse environmental impacts.”

These extreme weather patterns are the ferocious signs and sights of climate change in 2018, and, because so little is being done to tackle the causes, year on year they become more and more intense. Planet Earth is becoming a world in which the extreme becomes the expected, the disastrous the everyday.

How bad must it get?

The year began with the coldest first week of January on record for numerous cities in eastern America; freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall swept across Europe in March as the “Beast From the East” hit. Britain was severely affected, with up to three feet of snow in some areas and temperatures down to minus 10ºC.

Floods have affected East Africa killing dozens of people, tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, dust storms killed hundreds in India, and Pakistan had an intense heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40ºC. Heavy rains and 70 mph winds in Bangladesh caused landslides, deaths and injuries. California had the largest wild fires ever recorded, and down under, Australia is becoming the ‘Land of Drought’ according to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

A heat wave of unprecedented temperatures scorched Europe and Japan, where 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures were recorded, 30 people died and thousands needed medical treatment for heat related conditions. A month earlier Japan had some of the worst floods in its history, more than 200 people lost their lives and almost 2 million people were evacuated; the Caribbean is bracing itself for this year’s hurricane season, while “still recovering from last year’s devastation,” which, the UNFCC say, was “the costliest on record”.

The list of extreme weather events across the word is endless; extremes that are increasingly normal as the impact of man-made climate change become more and more apparent, and yet little is being done to address the primary causes. How bad does it have to become before substantive action is taken to reverse the terrible damage we are doing to the natural world?

The mechanics of climate change

Climate change is being triggered by global warming; Global warming, described by NASA as “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature…primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels” occurs, “when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.” This happens when so-called greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), being the three main culprits) clog the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere. This leads to a range of effects: The planet overall becomes warmer (average ground temperature rises), causing “extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts” to become more frequent; glaciers in the Arctic region melt sending huge quantities of water into the ocean, which raises the sea level, oceans are made warmer and expand, further contributing to rising levels. As the sea level rises land is flooded, cities, towns and villages are threatened, lives lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart, people displaced.

Man-made greenhouse gases (GGE) are produced by a range of sectors and activities: Animal agriculture produces the largest amount (18% of the total according to the UN, other sources put the figure much higher), followed by electricity and heat production, transportation and industry – all through burning fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas. GGEs have been increasing since the industrial revolution, leading to a rise in global ground temperatures, which to date has reached about 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures continue to increase at around 0.17ºC per decade.

One degree doesn’t sound like much but, as the extreme weather events show, the effect of this modest rise on the climate is huge, the consequences far reaching, potentially catastrophic.

In 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached and signed by every country in the world; under President Trump America has since pulled out. Hailed as historic, its central aim is to keep global rises in temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even if these rather optimistic targets are met, a recent study by an international team of scientists writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests, “there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.” The BBC report that the group believe 2ºC of warming “could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces [forests, oceans and land] – that currently protect us – into our enemies…As the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse.”

If this occurs they forecast the climate stabilizing at “a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today.” This would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable. In order to avoid this nightmare scenario the authors make clear that “a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behavior and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” This requires a major shift in human attitudes.

Unhealthy destructive lifestyle

Climate Change and the environmental disaster in its various colors is the result of human activity and complacency; we have poisoned the oceans, rivers and streams, cleared 85% of the world’s tropical rainforests, mainly for livestock, and are turning healthy land into desert; we are filling the air we breathe with toxins, creating dead zones in the oceans and causing the eradication of species at an unprecedented rate. Collectively we seem to have no respect or love for the natural environment and whilst some people are acting responsibly, the majority fails to see the connection between lifestyle and disaster and appear content to treat the planet like a giant rubbish tip.

The natural order has been thrown into disarray by the widespread adoption of a selfish, destructive way of life: A particular lifestyle, or collection of related ‘lifestyle choices’, are responsible for the production of man-made greenhouse gases that are triggering the extreme weather patterns we are seeing all around the world.

Hedonism and consumerism sit at the heart of the unhealthy mode of living that is driving the catastrophe and making us ill; mankind’s relentless consumption of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed, combined with an animal-based diet (common to 97% of the global population), has created a cocktail of chaos within the natural world, bringing about the greatest crisis in the history of mankind. It is a materialistic lifestyle that the global economy, and by extension the corporate state depends on and ceaselessly promotes. This is why, despite the intense urgency of the environmental issue, we hear little on mainstream media and virtually nothing from governments, who are more concerned with economic growth and petty domestic politics than the stability and health of the planet.

The harmony of the natural world has been thrown into chaos by the same approach to life that has separated us one from another, and fuelled internal conflict resulting in a global mental health epidemic. In all areas, where there should be unity and right relationship we see enmity, discord and disease. Restoring the planet to health and creating a world in which human beings can live healthy peaceful lives are inextricably linked. Both require a fundamental change in values, a shift away from divisive modes of living built on competition and greed to inclusive ways in which social/environmental responsibility is cultivated and embraced.

Such ideas are not new and are frequently championed, but the prevailing socio-economic ideology actively works to suppress such principles, and powerfully promotes values of division and selfishness. Despite this widespread conditioning, an unstoppable current of change can be seen sweeping the world; social responsibility is growing apace, and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance and sharing – are increasingly influencing the minds of men and women everywhere.

To galvanize this global movement a major public education program should be undertaken by governments and schools to increase awareness of climate change and lifestyle and create a sense of urgency and engagement. Change can be slow, but these are extraordinary times, and there is a growing recognition that if we unite all things are possible. If not, if we continue in the selfish, greedy, divisive ways of the past, the weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable, the air and waterways will become more toxic, loss of life will increase and the associated environmental ills will deepen. The choice is ours.

Hashima: Brutal History and the Most Haunted Island on Earth

Do you want to see perhaps the spookiest island on earth – Hashima (also known as Gunkanjima – the Battleship Island) – which is located just 30 minutes by speedboat from the historic Japanese port city of Nagasaki? Now you can. Just book online, pay the equivalent of US$40, and then hop on one of those shiny sleek vessels belonging to Gunkanjima Concierge or to some other company.

Gunkunjima – Battleship Island

Do it, and you will see the island which looks like an abandoned monstrous wreck; like a sunken and haunted ship.

You will sail around it. You will even be able to disembark and walk a few hundred meters on a fenced path. Guides/minders will let you take a few snapshots.

But that is all. No stepping left or right off the path. No going ahead of the group. No lagging behind. And please, no ‘provocative’ questions!

The guides are well trained to ‘entertain you’, to tell you just how ‘haunted’ the island is and how ‘vibrant’ it used to be in the past.

Sugary smiles never leave their faces.

But were you to defy their written and unwritten rules, they’d immediately jump and appear next to you. They would even loudly scold you. Suddenly they’d become very rude.

What are they afraid of? What are they hiding? What really took place on this island?

The true horrors of the past will never be conveyed to you. It is all about WWII, and Japan is still in denial.

A Japanese tour guide (designated for the Japanese-speaking visitors) as well as a carefully prepared electronic recording for the English speakers, will recount countless details about the island’s geography and uncontroversial chapters of history, but close to nothing about the terror of the slave labor which the Korean and Chinese people were forced into during World War II.

*****

On 6 July 2015, The Guardian reported:

Unesco has decided to grant world heritage status to more than 20 old industrial sites in Japan after officials from the country agreed to acknowledge that some of them used Korean forced labourers before and during the second world war.

The 23 Meiji period (1868-1912) sites include coalmines and shipyards that Japan says contributed to its transformation from feudalism into a successful modern economy.

South Korea, however, had opposed the application for world heritage status unless clear reference was made to the use of an estimated 60,000 labourers forced to work at seven of the sites, including the island coalmine Gunkanjima, during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

Opposition was also expressed by China (PRC).

The issue of forced labor and Tokyo’s stubborn rejection to acknowledge it, delayed the inscription of the sites by UNESCO. However, in 2015, Japan yielded, and its delegation to UNESCO declared:

Japan is prepared to take measures that allow an understanding that there were a large number of Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites.

The sites, including the notorious Hashima/Gunkanjima, eventually gained world heritage status. In exchange, both South Korea and China expected Japan to highlight the suffering of their people during the occupation and WWII. The sites where forced laborers used to be held, were supposed to carry clearly marked and detailed explanations. But as in so many other cases related to its dark history, Japan did close to nothing to keep its side of the bargain. With the world heritage status, it got what it wanted, but gave almost nothing in return.

Gunkunjima

*****

In May, I spent three days in Nagasaki, visiting my friend, a leading left-wing Australian historian, Geoffrey Gunn.

For many years, I have been coming to this city, searching for answers to a myriad of questions related to Japan’s and Asia’s complex past.

The past of Nagasaki has it all: great old Japanese culture, Christians and their prosecution, the Dutch traders and their settlement, a vibrant Chinese minority. Nagasaki was always one of the most ‘open’ cities in Japan, by choice or by force. But also, this is where the military ships were built, where many slave laborers were brought to from the occupied territories, and this is also where the second A-bomb was exploded by the U.S. at the end of WWII.

Seen from the roof of the imposing Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, the bay of the city is still dotted with WWII ‘relics’. Near the water, there is a huge crane, another fragment of an industrial UNESCO world heritage site. The crane belongs to the Mitsubishi shipyards, which have been, for long decades, producing and repairing Japan’s military vessels.

“Officially, Japan does not have a military,” I said, sarcastically. “But look, it is in possession of these huge battleships, docked at the other side of the bay.”

“You are lucky. They just arrived here,” said Geoff. “These docks played an extremely important role in the past. Gunkanjima mines also belonged to Mitsubishi. They were excavating coal there, and then building some of the largest battleships here, in Nagasaki.”

For the rest of the evening we discussed the bizarre refusal of the Japanese governments and public to acknowledge the past. Even now, more than 70 years after the end of the war, these issues are taboo: the genocide committed against the Chinese people, and the terrible crimes against the Koreans.

Often, when the past is mentioned, the famously polite Japanese people suddenly become defensive, even aggressive.

*****

In 2015, Japan began literally blackmailing UNESCO, temporarily withdrawing its payment dues, after the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Agency listed the 1937 Nanjing Massacre documents in its “Memory of the World” program. The funds were eventually released, but the message was sent, clearly and patently.

This stubborn refusal to deal with the horrors of the past is bringing Japan closer and closer to the deadly embrace of the West, particularly the United States, and further and further away from potentially friendly relations with the rest of north Asia, particularly China.

After WWII, the so-called Tokyo Trial supervised by the US (also known as The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE)) was clearly designed to punish just a few (28) individuals, while preserving the Japanese industrial, business and political system in its original form, so it could serve the interests of the West. After the trial, Japan was allowed to rebuild and to join the West in its aggressive policy towards the Asia Pacific. It played a significant role in the brutal Korean War, during which the West massacred millions of Korean citizens.

“Modern Japan has no foreign policy,” I was once told by the Irish academic and political analyst David McNeal, who is based in Tokyo. “It is strictly following the U.S. dictate. The same goes for the media coverage of the international events.”

David has no illusions about the Japanese take on its history:

They are rewriting text books; they skip through WWII, dedicating to it only eight pages… Nationalism is rising… There is so much self-censorship in Japanese media, now. And the government is issuing ‘guidelines’, the so-called ‘Orange Book’, for instance: how to treat anything that is ‘contagious’… or anything related to history. There are instructions to writers and translators. For instance: ‘never use words like Nanking Massacre, except when you quote foreign experts’. Or ‘Yasukuni Shrine – never use word “controversial” in connection to it.’ We cannot write about ‘sexual slaves’ from WWII.

The more ignorant about its past Japan gets, the more it seems to strongly dislike its former victims – China and Korea. According to a Pew Research Center poll (2017), 83% of the Japanese people have an unfavorable view of China. Korea does not fare much better. Both countries (PRC and ROK) are now clearly leaving Japan behind, when it comes to the economy and in the case of South Korea, the standard of living. The reaction of Tokyo: moving closer and closer towards the West, while adopting an increasingly aggressive policy towards two communist nations: China and North Korea.

*****

But back to the Battleship Island… You pay, and you get onboard. Right from the beginning, even before the vessel departs from Nagasaki, you get bombarded by outrageous propaganda: about that “samurai spirit” of Japan and the entire Nagasaki area.

There is continuous control, right from the start. You get up from your seat, and immediately someone approaches you: “Where are you going? Do you want to change seat? No, you cannot sit here…” Guides (or call them minders) sound extremely rude: their English is primitive, while their obsession with all sorts of rules and regulations is fundamentalist.

An old dude who is here clearly in order to play the role of the main propagandist, is continuously clarifying things into the microphone. His voice is amplified, and his performance soon turns into an annoying and uninterrupted flow of verbal diarrhea. There is no space for reflection – no time to feel and to pause or let alone to ask some serious questions.

Whenever he stops, some cheaply-made video begins playing on the screen. Then advertisements of Kirin Beer are beamed.

The yacht is sailing towards the place that held thousands of people as slave laborers, where many died, where women were turned into sexual slaves. But the circus goes on. No reflection and no repentance.

On the island, I refuse to follow the group. I lag behind, trying to avoid loud noise and the herd of people. Of course, I soon get confronted by two “guides”, trying to push me back towards the flock.

I ignore them, keep filming.

They become aggressive. One shouts: “This is Japan. Follow our rules!”

I keep filming.

I did not come here to be loved. The reason for my journey was simple: to determine whether the Japanese government sticks to the deal it made with UNESCO, Korea and China – whether it marks and commemorates the sites where forced laborers were pushed into an inhuman existence and work, and where some of them, died.

I found nothing of that kind: no information, no commemoration!

Back in Nagasaki, I asked for brochures explaining the past. There were no such brochures. The organizers of the island visits had no idea what I was asking about.

In a small exhibition in Nagasaki — crimes against Korean and Chinese people

Later, the next day, professor Gunn took me to a small private museum managed by local Koreans, commemorating the terror which Japan committed against the Korean and Chinese people.

Japanese crimes against Korean and Chinese people

At least this is where the truth about ‘the most haunted island’ on Earth can be found. If one could find that tiny museum…

Gunkanjima – a ghost island which resembles, at least from a distance, a mighty destroyer; an island dotted with tall buildings now lacking windows and doors. An island where thousands of miners used to go down into deep shafts, some voluntarily, some by force. An island – Gunkanjima – where many people used to live, and many died. A place so mysterious and so unique, beautiful in its own way, but also both symbolic and horrifying.

*****

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Satanic Nature of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Ahab is forever Ahab, man.  This whole act’s immutably decreed.  ‘Twas rehearsed by thee and me billion years before this ocean rolled.  Fool!  I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders.

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint…But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

— C. S. Lewis, author’s preface, 1962, The Screwtape Letters

American history can only accurately be described as the story of demonic possession, however you choose to understand that phrase.  Maybe radical “evil” will suffice.  But right from the start the American colonizers were involved in massive killing because they considered themselves divinely blessed and guided, a chosen people whose mission would come to be called “manifest destiny.”  Nothing stood in the way of this divine calling, which involved the need to enslave and kill millions and millions of innocent people that continues down to today.  “Others” have always been expendable since they have stood in the way of the imperial march ordained by the American god. This includes all the wars waged based on lies and false flag operations. It is not a secret, although most Americans, if they are aware of it, prefer to see it as a series of aberrations carried out by “bad apples.”  Or something from the past.

Our best writers and prophets have told us the truth: Thoreau, Twain, William James, MLK, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, et al.: we are a nation of killers of the innocent.  We are conscienceless.  We are brutal.  We are in the grip of evil forces.

The English writer D. H. Lawrence said it perfectly in 1923, “The American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.  It has never yet melted.”  It still hasn’t.

This August 6, 1945 file photo shows the destruction from the explosion of an atomic bomb in Hiroshima Japan AP-Photo-File

 

August 10, 1945: Arrow marks the spot where the atomic bomb hit in Nagasaki. Photo by AP

When on August 6 and 9, 1945 the United States killed 200-300 thousand innocent Japanese civilians with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they did so intentionally.  It was an act of sinister state terrorism, unprecedented by the nature of the weapons but not by the slaughter. The American terror bombings of Japanese cities that preceded the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – led by the infamous Major General Curtis LeMay – were also intentionally aimed at Japanese civilians and killed hundreds of thousands of them.

Is there an American artist’s painting of Tokyo destroyed by the firebombing to go next to Picasso’s Guernica, where estimates of the dead range between 800 and 1,600?  In Tokyo alone more than 100,000 Japanese civilians were burnt to death by cluster bombs of napalm.  All this killing was intentional. I repeat: Intentional.  Is that not radical evil?  Demonic?  Only five Japanese cities were spared such bombing.

The atomic bombings were an intentional holocaust, not to end the war, as the historical record amply demonstrates, but to send a message to the Soviet Union that we could do to them what we did to the residents of Japan.  President Truman made certain that the Japanese willingness to surrender in May 1945 was made unacceptable because he and his Secretary-of-State James Byrnes  wanted to use the atomic bombs – “as quickly as possible to ‘show results’” in Byrnes’ words – to send a message to the Soviet Union.  So “the Good War” was ended in the Pacific with the “good guys” killing hundreds of thousands Japanese civilians to make a point to the “bad guys,” who have been demonized ever since.  Russia phobia is nothing new.

Satan always wears the other’s face.

Many Baby Boomers like to say they grew up with the bomb.  They are lucky. They grew up.  They got to be scared.  They got to hide under their desks and wax nostalgic about it.  Do you remember dog tags?  Those 1950s and 1960s?  The scary movies?

The children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who died under our bombs on August 6 and 9, 1945 didn’t get to grow up.  They couldn’t hide.  They just went under. To be accurate: we put them under. Or they were left to smolder for decades in pain and then die.  But that it was necessary to save American lives is the lie. It’s always about American lives, as if the owners of the country actually cared about them.  But to tender hearts and innocent minds, it’s a magic incantation.  Poor us!

Fat Man, Little Boy – how the words echo down the years to the now fat Americans who grew up in the 1950s and who think like little boys and girls about their country’s demonic nature.  Innocence – it is wonderful!  We are different now. “We are great because we are good,” that’s what Hillary Clinton told us.  The Libyans can attest to that.  We are exceptional, special.  The next election will prove we can defeat Mr. Pumpkin Head and restore America to its “core values.”

Perhaps you think I am cynical.  But understanding true evil is not child’s play.  It seems beyond the grasp of most Americans who need their illusions.  Evil is real.  There is simply no way to understand the savage nature of American history without seeing its demonic nature.  How else can we redeem ourselves at this late date, possessed as we are by delusions of our own God-blessed goodness?

But average Americans play at innocence.  They excite themselves at the thought that with the next election the nation will be “restored” to the right course.  Of course, there never was a right course, unless might makes right, which has always been the way of America’s rulers.  Today Trump is viewed by so many as an aberration.  He is far from it.  He’s straight out of a Twain short story.  He’s Vaudeville. He’s Melville’s confidence man.  He’s us. Did it ever occur to those who are fixated on him that if those who own and run the country wanted him gone, he’d be gone in an instant?  He can tweet and tweet idiotically, endlessly send out messages that he will contradict the next day, but as long as he protects the super-rich, accepts Israel’s control of him, and allows the CIA-military-industrial complex to do its world-wide killing and looting of the treasury, he will be allowed to entertain and excite the public – to get them worked up in a lather in pseudo-debates.  And to make this more entertaining, he will be opposed by the “sane” Democratic opposition, whose intentions are as benign as an assassin’s smile.

Look back as far as you can to past U.S. presidents, the figureheads who “act under orders” (whose orders?), as did Ahab in his lust to kill the “evil” great white whale, and what do you see?  You see servile killers in the grip of a sinister power.  You see hyenas with polished faces. You see pasteboard masks.  On the one occasion when one of these presidents dared to follow his conscience and rejected the devil’s pact that is the presidency’s killer-in-chief role, he – JFK – had his brains blown out in public view.  An evil empire thrives on shedding blood, and it enforces its will through demonic messages.  Resist and there will be blood on the streets, blood on the tracks, blood in your face.

Despite this, President Kennedy’s witness, his turn from cold warrior to an apostle of peace, remains to inspire a ray of hope in these dark days. As recounted by James Douglass in his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable, Kennedy agreed to a meeting in May 1962 with a group of Quakers who had been demonstrating outside the While House for total disarmament.  They urged him to move in that direction.  Kennedy was sympathetic to their position.  He said he wished it were easy to do so from the top down, but that he was being pressured by the Pentagon and others to never do that, although he had given a speech urging “a peace race” together with the Soviet Union. He told the Quakers it would have to come from below.  According to the Quakers, JFK listened intently to their points, and before they left said with a smile, “You believe in redemption, don’t you?”  Soon Kennedy was shaken to his core by the Cuban missile crisis when the world teetered on the brink of extinction and his insane military and “intelligence” advisers urged him to wage a nuclear war.  Not long after, he took a sharp top-down turn toward peace despite their fierce opposition, a turn so dramatic over the next year that it led to his martyrdom.  And he knew it would.  He knew it would.

So hope is not all lost.  There are great souls like JFK to inspire us. Their examples flash here and there. But to even begin to hope to change the future, a confrontation with our demonic past (and present) is first necessary, a descent into the dark truth that is terrifying in its implications.  False innocence must be abandoned.  Carl Jung, in “On the Psychology of the Unconscious,” addressed this with the words:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses – and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true. Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware.

How can one describe men who would intentionally slaughter so many innocent people?  American history is rife with such examples up to the present day.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. – the list is very long.  Savage wars carried out by men and women who own and run the country, and who try to buy the souls of regular people to join them in their pact with the devil, to acquiesce to their ongoing wicked deeds.  Such monstrous evil was never more evident than on August 6 and 9, 1945.

Unless we enter into deep contemplation of the evil that was released into the world with those bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are lost in a living hell without escape.  And we will pay.  Nemesis always demands retribution.  We have gradually been accepting rule by those for whom the killing of innocents is child’s play, and we have been masquerading as innocent and good children for whom the truth is too much to bear.  “Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one,” Screwtape the devil tells his nephew, Wormwood, a devil in training, “the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”  That’s the road we’ve been traveling.

The projection of evil onto others works only so long.  We must reclaim our shadows and withdraw our projections.  Only the fate of the world depends on it.

Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism.  While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe.  The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul.  This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.”  There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)

1500 Rakan Statues of Mount Nokogiri

People sometimes ask me what religion Japanese people practice.  I usually end up saying that Japanese people aren’t very religious at all.  But paradoxically, if you go to Japan, you encounter huge shrines at tourists’ spots and there are numerous smaller ones across the country in many forms.  You visit a Japanese household, you might also find a shrine, a box shaped prayer spot, called butsudan.

There certainly are indications that Japanese society is bound together, to a certain extent, with beliefs, values and norms deriving from variations of Buddhism and Shintoism.

To me, who grew up in Japan, it is natural to perceive such a traditional framework as a cohesive layer that can be loosely described as sort of “religious”.  It guides traditional ceremonies and rituals of life, death and spiritual, and it contributes to world views of the Japanese people in varying degrees.

However, it should also be noted that this framework really does not address fundamental existential questions for the Japanese people today. In other words, people would go along with the customary rituals as long as they facilitate their social interactions and obligations; however, as soon as they impede their material necessity, they can be set aside. Japanese society is extremely secular and the grip of the socioeconomic hierarchy over its people is very firm.  After all, Japan has played a crucial role as an economic power in the western hegemony for generations after it was incorporated into the order of the American empire.

Our trip to Mount Nokogiri, however, has shown me how the abstract notion of traditional Japan has many layers that are deeply conflicting and it has had tumultuous aspects as we examine it in historical contexts.

Mount Nokogiri is located in Boso Peninsula, Chiba.  As you can see on a map it is relatively close to Tokyo.  My wife and I visited the area once before we had our kids.  I loved seeing rakan statues (stone carved arhat statues) along the path during our hike.  To me they appeared as expressions of lives emanating from the area which had been regarded as sacred for many centuries.

This time, we decided to stay for a couple of nights at a nearby seaside city, Tateyama. The inn we picked had a nice view of the water and hot spring baths.  Since my mother couldn’t take the mountain hike, I wanted her stay to be nice as well.  It was a few rustic train stops away to Mount Nokogiri.

I really liked riding the rural trains in the area.  Going a few hours south from Yachiyo city into the Peninsula made the scenery much greener and it was fascinating to observe a glimpse of country life as we passed fields cultivated with various crops, a house sitting among trees without a discernible way to get there, huge hawks flying over us and the water visibly getting cleaner as we got closer to our destination.

The hike was magnificently wonderful.  It was a bit strenuous for me, with numerous steps. But I’ve never felt a physical exercise to be so refreshing, so invigorating and so satisfying (in fact, it inspired me to start exercising again when I came back to the States).

My son found a Tamamushi (jewel beetle).

 

Nokogiri means saw blade.  The jagged appearance of the mountain stems from its history being a prominent stone quarry.

 

30 meter tall stone carved Buddhist goddess.

 

A Stone observatory called “Hell Peek” sticks out into the air. Terrifying!

 

Mount Nokogiri is also a home for the largest stone carved Buddha in Japan (31 meter tall).

I took many pictures of the small statues as we walked.  If you look at the statues carefully, you will notice that the necks of them have traces of reattachment.  Those statues were all violently destroyed once during the haibutsukishaku movement.  As the rule of the Tokugawa shogun family ended in 1868, the new government, aspiring to be one of the imperial powers of the time, embarked on drastic reforms.  One of them was a separation of Buddhism and Shintoism.  Shintoism was elevated as a national religion while Buddhism was regarded as a part of the old power. There was a strong momentum to see the power of Buddhist entities as an abusive and corrupt part of the past.  The accounts from the time certainly indicate that the deeds of the Buddhist class did reflect such descriptions.  The result was an emergence of a large scale destructive movement across the country against anything Buddhist.  As to Shintoism, it eventually ended up as the backbone of imperial Japan, propping up the Japanese emperor as a living god, prompting a direct collision with the US imperial plan over the hegemonic rule of Asia.  The inhumane momentum of destruction and atrocity took many lives in Asian countries.  In the name of the living god the Japanese colonizers sent young lives as suicide bombers.  The colonizers of the US dropped nuclear bombs on two cities full of people in order to declare its hegemonic superiority against enemies and allies alike.

Today the Buddihist legacy in the Mount Nokogiri area is regarded as a significant cultural asset.  The beautiful trails are well maintained, so are the shrines and statues for many visitors.  It was breathtaking to encounter spectacular views throughout our walk.  The weight of the historical layers also compounded the profound orchestration of the natural elements. The moss covered expressions of the aged statues — sad, tormented, resigned, angered, struggling, peaceful and fulfilled — were voices from the past beautifully sublimated within the harmony of nature and people.

As we were waiting for our bus back home, a man at a tiny local restaurant insisted that we take a look at an underground imperial Japanese fortress in Tateyama.  Although we couldn’t extend our trip for it, according to him, a mile-long tunnel dug during WW2  is something you must not miss if you were in the area.  He also mentioned that the entire Mount Nokogiri was a huge military fortress during the war.  To the imperial Japan, the area, situated at the entrance to Tokyo Bay, was the last defense on the ground protecting Tokyo against the invading US forces.

Famed sculptor Isamu Noguchi said that time can heal stones in describing his stone carving process.  Time can certainly give us a thrust of objectivity while natural elements can provide a layer of harmony, presenting a new way to understand what unfolds before us.  Mount Nokogiri certainly stood as a sacred ground before me.  The overwhelming sense of awe generously erased the scars of human atrocity.

However, it has also made me aware of myself as a captive of our time.  Tateyama’s imperial Japanese base is now a base for the Japanese self-defense force.  The corporate media is eerily silent about the fortification of islands around Okinawa, which lies at the tip of the archipelago and houses an American military base. Japanese regulations have been changed to allow a Japanese “self-defense force,” ostensibly to operate as a part of the western force against China. Those shifts coincide with the US pacific policy to counter China as an emerging economic power. And more urgently, I couldn’t help being reminded of inhumane atrocities of our time–bombing campaign against people, suicide bombing, underground fortress, destruction of environment and cultural heritage and so on and so forth are all elements emerging from the western colonial wars being waged against the Middle East and elsewhere today.

Have we learned anything from the past?  Our ability to see our history and events embedded in it, weaving the flow of time and space, as a unified front, as a collective part of our identity, allow us to tolerate pains of atrocity, allow us to reconcile, allow us to rebuild and allow us to be.  But we do know that the significant portions of the sufferings and deaths are endured by those who are powerless.  How could we allow ourselves to let the momentum of time swallow so many of our fellow humans?  Why are we tolerating colonial destabilization of “other people’s”?  How could we close our eyes as we encounter people sleeping on streets or losing their lives because they can’t afford to be healthy?  Why can’t we focus our hope for renewal for the people who have and will suffer the most?  How could we recognize the fact that our willingness to tolerate the hierarchy of money and violence, as the shape of our species, inflicts pain against “others” and against ourselves at the same time, forcing ourselves to expect nuclear missile attacks instead of reaching out for sharing and peace?

Every time I hear people say that for things to get better, things have to get much worse, I think of what happened in Fukushima.  Three nuclear meltdowns have not woken up the people.  The nuclear industrial complex of Japan is firmly embedded within the war economy of the empire.

This is not the time for conflict. This is the time we need each other to see what has become of us.  Let there be braveness, determination and steadfastness in renouncing the cannibalistic momentum of self-destruction.  The sacred power of nature will always embrace us no matter how we will do.

The Burning Hot Planet

A recent UK newspaper headline read “The World’s On Fire,” which is literally true as extraordinary continent-wide wildfires consume the planet, accompanied by unbearable, insufferable, oppressive heat. Europe, North America, Japan, and North Africa are all experiencing unprecedented scorching heat.

All of which begs the question of when anthropogenic, or human-caused, global warming will be recognized as a reality by America, the second biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHG).

Don’t look for confirmation from the Trump administration, the U.S. Senate or House, the leadership of America (ahem). They are all deniers, and thus have blocked any and all efforts of an American “Marshall Plan” for renewable energy.

The reality is that NASA warned the Senate about human-caused global warming way back in 1988. Thirty years later, the planet burns and America’s government has accomplished next to nothing, a big fat zero! In fact, the U.S. government is rolling back some regulations that slow down CO2 emissions. So, the USA is now onside with global warming, an advocate, all-in for more GHGs stoking more heat.

In sharp contrast to America, resourceful Germany is known as “the world’s first major renewable energy economy.”  Over the first six months of 2018, “Germany produces enough renewable energy to power the country’s households for an entire year”. 1

And, canny China has committed more funding (about $150B) to renewables over the past year than the EU and U.S. combined. As the U.S. looks to coal, China invests in renewable energy. China’s National Energy Administration ordered local governments to give priority access to renewable power generators.2

Heat and fire: People hospitalized; People dying. In Japan alone 80 are dead from a pounding heat wave and 30,000+ hospitalized from heat stroke… oh, only 30,000, which number increases by the hour! Kumagaya 106F; Tokyo 104F.

Stifling heat engulfs the planet. Is this what global warming looks like? If not, then just imagine what the real thing looks like!

Nobody has made an official proclamation about the wherefores or causes of planetary heat, but one has to wonder whether anthropogenic global warming is the vicious monster standing behind the curtain. After all, there’s nobody assigned to officially announce the impact of human-influenced global warming, but it sure feels like it!

Temps like 120F in Chino, California are far, far above normal. And, how about 124F in Quargla, Africa? Or, even more bizarre yet, 74 heat wave deaths in Quebec, way up north.

It is indisputable that the planet is not handling the heat very well, but is it the planet’s fault? Did an angry, upset, abused, never loved Mother Earth wake up one day and decide to burn-up? Doubtful.

More likely, some outside force like Homo sapiens (which is Latin for “wise man”) pushed emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) too far for far too long.

In fact, the science is absolutely 100% clear: It’s indisputable that, over time, GHGs blanket the atmosphere and act like an oven… imagine that!

BBC science editor David Shukman says the striking feature of today’s multiple heat waves happening at the same time is the jet stream. It is meandering in gigantic wacky loops, thus altering climate throughout the Northern Hemisphere as it stalls for long periods of time, trapping zones of high pressure, cloudless, windless, extremely hot zones.

Interestingly enough, for some years now climate scientists have warned that global warming is impacting the Arctic 2-3xs faster than the planet as a whole, which, in turn, throws off normal well-defined spinning jet streams at 39,000 feet into wacky deep prolonged loops that alter weather patterns throughout the hemisphere. Take a guess as to what’s happening now….

Answer: In an article in New Scientist, “Warming Arctic Could Be Behind Heatwave Sweeping Northern Hemisphere,” July 24th,  according to the UK Meteorological Office:

The heatwave across much of the northern hemisphere could continue for weeks, and possibly even months. And, accelerated warming in the Arctic compared to the rest of the planet could be a key contributor.

The Danger Zone

According to Arctic News, “Can We Weather The Danger Zone?”, July 1, 2018:

Earth may have long crossed the 1.5°C guardrail set at the Paris Agreement (2015).

Further to the point, the Danger Zone was likely surpassed as early as 2014 based upon NASA data adjusted to reflect the preindustrial baseline, air temps, and Arctic temps (not in agreement with mainstream science).

And, more distressing yet, according to the same Arctic News story:

The world may also be crossing the higher 2°C guardrail later this year, while temperatures threaten to keep rising dramatically beyond that point.

What? According to the IPCC and the Paris Agreement 2015, countries “voluntarily” (oh, well) agreed to hold back GHGs to prevent exceeding the dreaded 2°C guardrail until 2100, and hopefully beyond. Wow! It’s not even 2020 yet. Is global warming 80 years ahead of schedule?

The Arctic News article suspiciously reads like the onset of runaway global warming. To confirm that suspicion, Arctic News claims (and here’s where it gets kinda scary crazy):

…much carbon is stored in large and vulnerable pools that have until now been kept stable by low temperatures. The threat is that rapid temperature rise will hit vulnerable carbon pools hard, making them release huge amounts of greenhouse gases, further contributing to the acceleration of the temperature rise.

Does that describe Runaway Global Warming? Answer: Yes!

Examples of massive carbon pools: Permafrost – 900 Gt; High-Latitude Peatlands – 400 Gt; Tropical Peatlands 100 Gt; Methane Hydrates 10,000 Gt, and more (one gigaton is equivalent to one-billion metric tons or equivalent to 100,000,000 elephants).

Unfortunately, those massive carbon pools are exposed to unbelievable hot temps recorded at the farthest northern reaches, for example, 92.3°F on the Siberian coastline of the Arctic Ocean, which is permafrost country and methane hydrate territory. Oh really, Miami Beach temps in Siberia?

Maybe the U.S. should alter its climate change/global warming stance re: (1) the Paris ’15 Agreement by joining ASAP and (2) cancel the interminable Republican (mostly) denial about human-caused global warming, or more formally known as: “The Great American Global Warming School of Denial,” nowadays propagated by Trump and minions, especially as runaway global warming appears to be at an incipient stage, or maybe worse.

On the other hand, when is too late too late?

But, then again, thinking more about it: DO SOMETHING!

  1. The Independent, July 2, 2018.
  2. The Global Energiewende, Energy Transition, May 21, 2018.