Category Archives: Movies

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

When an Alien is Our Brother, Son, Friend

I think that most of us instinctively avoid people with mental illness.

I think in many ways what my films are about is that search for my grandpa’s dentures: for that humanizing narrative that bridges the gap between “us” and “them” to arrive at a “we.”
—Brian Lindstrom, documentarian

I first had my real run-in’s with “the law,” in Tucson, Arizona. Pima County Sheriff’s deputies in three vehicles were chasing me on my Bultaco 360cc, as I was cutting through dirt roads and gullies as a 15-year-old unlicensed motocrosser. The mayhem those deputies created, going after me as if I was a mass murderer.

It took six months and probably a few snitches at my high school before the knock on the classroom door of my physics class when the vice principal and two deputies greeted me. The two weaponized cops, in the hallway, handcuffed me and walked me away.

I was charged with driving a motorcycle without a license, along with 18 moving violations.

All of the charges were dropped, as my mother was well-connected to both Tucson Police Department captains and the chief of police, as well as a senator in the Arizona legislature.

Bottom line was the deputies were humiliated, over a one-year period, by my smart-ass ripping up the desert and eluding them. Without evidence that I was actually the one on the Bultaco each time I eluded them, the judge threw the cases out the window while admonishing me to wear a helmet and get a license.

It didn’t take much longer in my life to have more interfaces with cops, as I became the police reporter for both the college daily in Tucson and eventually several dailies and weeklies in Southern Arizona along the US-Mexico border.

My first real live reporter’s story on a cop shooting was when I had to cover a killing of a person with bipolar effective disorder who was in distress near Ajo, Arizona. A mother calls 911 about her son, a Vietnam veteran, drinking a lot and standing in their fenced yard talking to and yelling at ghosts. He had a six-inch Buck knife, and a tall boy PBR in the other hand. Deputy skids to a stop, comes out of the patrol car, pulls his gun, and while in a shoot-to-kill stance, mind you, on the other side of the clear demarcation of the property line to the son and mother’s double-wide trailer and shed set up, he shouts at the man to put the knife down and lay on the 120 degree desert ground with fingers laced and around his head.

The mother pleads to the cop to just back off, to not yell; her son yells back, cussing out this dude, telling him, “Don’t you come onto our property or I’ll stick you.” One thing leads to another, the distressed man charges, while still in his yard, the four-foot high fence between the police official and him. The deputy yells stop, and the Vietnam veteran tells him to fuck off and get away.

At the property line, on his family’s side of the line, the veteran waves his beer and his knife. Fifteen seconds later, the cop fires three rounds, pumping metal into the 42-year-old’s chest.

That was my first foray into investigating police policies around distressed and mentally deranged and emotionally flagging citizens.

One way to end the mental health crisis is to “shoot them out of existence” said one asshole El Paso deputy to me off the record.

Jump cut almost four decades later: Portland, Oregon. Pearl District. Daytime. Man who is deathly afraid of police is confronted by cops, runs away, is subdued, and in less than 120 minutes from the point of confrontation and while in police custody, said perpetrator is dead.

Watching Brian Lindstrom’s Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, I am reminded of my forty plus years in and around cops, with mentally distressed clients, as a social worker with homeless and re-entry and veteran clients, and as a teacher in many alternative high school programs, community college, prisons, with military students, and with adults living with developmental disabilities.

I viewed the five year old film with homeless veterans and their family members in Beaverton, Oregon. Three in the audience (including me) had heard of the James Chasse case of Portland Police slamming to the pavement a skinny 42-year-old while also kicking him, applying a Taser, and hogtying the man with schizophrenia and letting him turn ashen gray while standing around sipping Starbucks.

Lindstrom’s film is powerful on many levels, notwithstanding the filmmaker’s ability to ply through the historical record to humanize this interesting and buoyant son who was known around Portland for many years. The quintessential peeling back of the biographical onion peel is what’s compelling about the filmmaker’s approach.

Here, a quote Lindstrom, lifted from a 2013 Portland Mercury interview:

With Alien Boy, our main goal was to honor Jim and really to kind of restore the depth and dimension to Jim’s life. We wanted to restore his humanity and depth. When he died his whole existence was reduced to this headline, 42 Year Old Man with Schizophrenia Dies in Police Custody, and that’s just such a desolate interpretation of his life. Actually, it’s really just an interpretation of his death not of his life. So we painstakingly researched his life, and found friends, family, his old girlfriend, his neighbors, all these people that could talk about him and give him the kind of fullness he deserved. He lived a life of hardship. He was dealt a hard hand but he played it well. He had a lot of integrity and drive. He built a meaningful life and we really wanted to show that in the film.

Mr. Chasse was living in an SRO (subsidized single room occupancy apartment) in downtown Portland, with his own little space from where he positioned his life to survive the voices and the hardships a schizophrenic lives through attempting to be accepted and left alone as an atypical in a neuro-normal and highly judgmental world.

The promontory idea my audience participants who viewed the film expressed was how a person who lives their life disheveled and as a loner with obvious atypical clothing and demeanor can end up at the blunt end of the macho and violent world of a police force. What is really compelling are the eyewitnesses to the event – people who did not know James at the time of the brutal and misanthropic and cavalier way he was meted out injustice – and the stake they had in reviving the 42-year-old’s humanity.

As is the case in all these incidents of police brutality, overreach, and killing, the victims are rarely treated as sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, uncle and aunts, friends and neighbors. They are un-people, aliens, reduced to their prior run-ins with the law, their rap sheets, their mental states, and their resistance.

Lindstrom takes this case, and builds a life, and in the process of reportage, he is able to elicit the emotive power of those of us bearing witness to injustice, a crime against humanity, and any warped expression of the human condition vis-à-vis a cliquish and many times felonious police force. Bearing witness, we as the documentary’s viewers are compelled to see a man, Jim, whose origins are a boy, a child, a son, a boyfriend, a character in the community, and a citizen of not only Portland, Oregon, but of the world.

Image result for james chasse jr

Image result for james chasse jr

James Chasse, Jr., was a fixture in the early punk rock scene in Portland, and Lindstrom allows a kaleidoscope of memories to enter the milieu of his film. One might expect the fury of the chase, or the fear of a dark alley and known crack dealer’s crib. In the case of James Chasse, Jr., he was minding his business in his grimy state in an upscale part of Portland. That was his crime.

“I think we’re used to viewing a lot of police tragedies that are unfortunate one-time decisions about pulling a trigger,” Lindstrom says. “What’s so disturbing about this [case] is that the film reveals this cascade of deceits, omissions, and lies that lead to this terrible death, which was preventable.”

Alien Boy premiered in February 2013 at the Portland International Film Festival after six years of production. The architectonics of the film peers back into our own souls – many of us have experienced videotaped depositions, court documents, and witness interviews up close. September 17, 2006 police approached Chasse, believing he was behaving suspiciously. Herein lies the universal truth of community police forces – if you run away, you most probably will be maimed or injured by officers.

In the case of Jim, he ended up with two dozen breaks on 16 ribs. The policemen signed a waiver denying the EMT unit authority to send him to a hospital.

I’ve seen this shit in Guatemala, in Mexico, in El Paso and Spokane – a hog-tied and writhing-in-pain screaming suspect thrown in a cell, whereupon the person stops breathing or has a seizure, and then slow-to-respond jailers and deputies load the suspect into a police vehicle headed for a hospital. Jim’s level of pain was captured on video and audio, and the viewer sees the brutality of group think in the jailer-cop mindset as people stand around inside the Multnomah County Detention Center as the dying Jim Jim went white and cyanic.

Jim was dumped in a squad car where the cop who pounded him to the pavement drove him to Providence Medical Center. He died in transit, a few minutes away from the emergency room.

This film does not hearken back to some episode of Law and Order, and instead we get a wonderful and human portrait of not an alien, but a life of a man who was a seeker of art as musician, writer, and cartoonist.

Here’s the rub – men and women can live lives of dignity and worth even with mental illness and the so-called hearing voices effects of schizoid disorders. They have friends, they believe in things, they are many times artists, and they can be creative and have meaningful relationships. Lindstrom calls Jim Jim “an amazing success story … a beautiful, sensitive, fragile-yet-resilient nature.”

As a practitioner in the social services world, I have worked with hundreds of people who are looked upon by mainstream society as broken, damaged, suspect and unworthy of all the rights embedded in a democracy, part and parcel what it means to be a citizen. I’ve had clients who lived in the same subsidized apartment building Chasse lived in. This world of neuro-atypical people living in our communities is a success story when social services and the full suite of programs come in and help people like James Chasse function in the world.

Jim Jim was part of our world, and given that, we have a responsibility to honor and respect the individual. Our versus his, or us versus them, are not paradigms in 21st Century USA, and Brian Lindstrom plays out that criticism through the people he interviewed and the narrative flow of his powerful film. Unfortunately, police departments, jailers and prison authorities, and now ICE against undocumented immigrants believe that the men and women with the weapons, military gear and new super powers to harass citizens are the “us” and we are the “they.” For people with developmental, psychological and intellectual disabilities, they are at the bottom rung of “humanity” in the minds of many street-level cops.

Lindstrom has spent years confronting the stories of people he says “society kind of puts an X through.” When the audience finishes a film like Alien Boy, we come away as better people in that same collective community, many times with a greater sense of empathy.

For some, it’s not a cakewalk as this filmmaker is challenged to “expose some grit and grace, that otherwise you might not know was there, in the people you may walk by every day.”

The filmmaking involved many sealed documents and gag orders since the city and police bureau were being sued by the Chasse family. “It was an exercise in faith,” he says. “We would just show up and do the work and hope that a way would be revealed.” The floodgates of evidence opened in 2010 when the Chasse family settled for $1.6 million from the City of Portland.

The viewers last week in the homeless veteran shelter where I work asked if things had changed, and some in the audience answered:

“Hell, no. The Portland police have gotten worse. They attack protesters against ICE detention camps. They give me no evidence that they know how to deal with people in mental health crises.”

A bit of a Lindstrom’s biographical underpinning points to a Portland kid who was thinking all the time about stories he wanted to tell, and he came to the conclusion that it was film as a medium to express those narratives.

Lindstrom was the first member of his family to attend college, paying for this education at both University of Oregon and then Lewis & Clark University by working summers at a salmon cannery in Cordova, Alaska. A linchpin to Brian’s transformation into believing he would be a filmmaker occurred when communications professor Stuart Kaplan screened Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 documentary, Harvest of Shame, about the hard lives American migrant farmworkers faced producing America’s food.

“Brian was really captivated by that, and thought that that’s the kind of thing he would like to do,” Kaplan says. “Documentaries that could bring about social change.”

After graduating from Lewis & Clark, Lindstrom got into Columbia University’s film directing program, where he produced educational videos for the New York City Department of Transportation. His thesis films included a short drama adapted from a Charles Baxter short story and a five-minute documentary about the famous schoolyard basketball player Earl “The Goat” Manigault.

Brian Lindstrom

He’s connected to the NW Film School, and he’s worked with one of my old stomping grounds, Central City Concern, a Portland nonprofit that provides housing, health care, and addiction-treatment services. The fruit of his labor includes Kicking, a half-hour documentary that follows three drug addicts through the medically supervised detox process at Central City’s Hooper Detox Center, and then Finding Normal, about CCC’s Mentor program, where recovering drug addicts get housing and a peer mentor to bust the cycle of addiction, sobriety, relapse.

Today, Lindstrom works intently on other projects while also spending time with his two children and wife, writer Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir, Wild, which was turned into a Hollywood film.

My quick mini-interview of Alien Boy‘s Brian Lindstrom:

Paul Haeder: What’s the lesson you take away in 2018 after making the film Alien Boy, and after the screenings, the interviews, the passage of time from that 2006 killing?

Brian Lindstrom: We need to do more to support and protect people dealing with mental illness. I naively thought, way back in 2013 when we were finishing Alien Boy, that the Justice Dept. would come in and make everything better. That hasn’t happened. I want to think the opening of Unity is a step in the right direction and takes pressure off of PPB in terms of dealing with people in mental health crises, but evidently there are some issues at Unity that need to be worked out. I want to be clear that just because I’m advocating for anything that takes the burden off of PPB dealing with people with mental illness, I am in no way condoning or excusing what the PPB did to James Chasse. What is clear to me is that we have to figure out a way to support and protect people with mental illness so that PPB isn’t the defacto mental health services provider.

PH: You make documentaries. What influence do you want these films to have on audiences? The old conundrum is as artists who cover social/environmental/cultural/community injustices we get both the 35,000 foot perspective and the two inch POV, yet in the back of our minds we say, “Shit nothing has changed … in fact, it’s worse.” Riff with this in terms specifically with how you see not only PPB dealing with people they come in contact with living with mental health diagnoses, but writ large in the USA?

BL: I have a confession to make. If I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t make films for audiences. I make them for the people in the film. It is my small way of honoring them. That doesn’t mean I don’t delve into dark areas or that I ignore that person’s struggles. I’m much more concerned with trying to achieve an honest depiction of that person’s life than I am with any potential audience reaction.

PH: Why do you focus on the subject matter you have thus chosen in your documentarian body of work?

BL: It chooses me. I don’t know how else to explain it.

PH: Which story that hasn’t been told but for which you would like to see be told by anyone, or you yourself?

BL: Hmm… So many. I will go with the first that comes to mind: I’ve always wanted to make a documentary about an adult overcoming illiteracy.

PH: What advice do you give young or nascent filmmakers who want to make a difference and tell those stories that might spark a difference in our world?

BL: Grab a camera and go for it. Learn to get out of the way of the story.

PH: Anything you learned in the making of Alien Boy that you have just come to grips with?

BL: We must keep fighting for those whom life has dealt a hard hand.

PH: Why do you make documentaries?

BL: The camera is a bridge of sorts that allows me to get to know people I otherwise might never get to meet. I’m forever grateful for the brave people who have let me tell their story.

On Board British Airways: “Enjoy” Anti-Soviet Propaganda and Glorification of Churchill

BA Looks Great — From the Outside

First of all, the British Airways is not in the league of airlines such as Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific. Many of its intercontinental planes are old and unkempt; monitors are only bit bigger than a pack of cigarettes, and the selection of films thoroughly pathetic for a ‘global carrier’ – just a mainstream diet of Hollywood and British blockbusters.

While almost all first-rate airlines like Qatar Airways, Emirates, Thai, Singapore, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, but even KLM, Air France and Lufthansa, are offering cutting-edge films from Iran, China, Russia, Argentina, India and all other corners of the world, British Airways remains arrogantly and unapologetically US/UK-centric. Judging from the selection of its films, who would ever think that Great Britain used to colonize almost half of the world, and to this day is still meddling in the affairs of dozens of countries worldwide?

The BA’s selection of films, TV programs and news could only be described as shockingly dogmatic. That is, of course, expected from and fitting for the national airline of the country that acts as the chief propaganda producer and supplier for the entire West.

Judging by the selection of the ‘entertainment’ offered on UK and US carriers, it appears that both the UK and US are ‘scared of the world’, consequently trying to ‘protect’ their citizens and guests from ‘dangerous influences’ flowing out of Russia, China, Latin America, Iran and other countries with the best cinema in the world.

*****

On my 12 hour flight in BA’s ‘premium economy’, from Bangkok to London Heathrow, two British films caught my attention: The Death of Stalin and Darkest Hour.

I watched them both, first amused, then horrified, and by the end simply outraged.

The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin, directed by Armando Iannucci (a BBC and HBO veteran), is simply a filthy, garbage, bad, bad movie. BA’s brief introduction of the film is seasoned with the usual vulgar, lowest grade of contemporary British propaganda, which lately is so common in the mainstream UK media and even inside the British Parliament: “the horrors of Soviet Russia”, or the, “horrific insanity of life during the Great Terror”.

BA Magazine and Stalin

Seriously, is this the kind of language one would expect to encounter on the pages of a flagship airline magazine which is promoting a movie?

As for the film, it simply vulgarizes one of the most complex figures of the 20th century, while simultaneously smearing everything about one of the most important countries in the history of mankind – the Soviet Union – which stood and fought, for decades, against Western colonialism and imperialism.

It is supposed to be a comedy, or perhaps a parody, but it absolutely doesn’t work; it is not funny at all. And it is clear that the film was made ‘to order’ (who gave the order can only be guessed), precisely during this time when the British regime is on a bizarre offensive, discrediting, attacking and provoking everything Russian and Soviet.

The British anti-Communist and anti-Russian propaganda has always been there, and it has always been effective and toxic. But it has never been brought to such an extreme; to this low and pathetic level.

Perhaps this film is part of those millions of dollars and pounds that both the US and UK regimes have pledged to spend on fighting the truth that, lately, has been pouring out from non-Western media sources.

It is worth noting (and readers can easily check it on the YouTube and elsewhere) that Soviet propaganda and its anti-Western counter-propaganda never sank as low as what is now being produced by the desperate and frustrated Western indoctrinators – Soviet propaganda at least had some artistic style and quality.

Now to the second film that I managed to watch on the tiny screen of my Bangkok to London flight: Darkest Hour (directed by Joe Wright). This is yet another film about Winston Churchill, a man responsible for the terror that the British Empire unleashed in various parts of the world, a mass murderer responsible for the tens of millions of human lives lost as a result of Western colonialism. Here, BA’s synopsis talks about, a “leader at a pivotal point in WWII…”

What discipline, what blindness it takes, to maintain that Winston Churchill was just a ‘war hero’, not also a racist, bigot and a criminal. In British pro-Churchill, nationalist propaganda (including countless films produced on the topic), not a word is uttered about the dark, even monstrous side of the man. Nothing about the gassing of people, about triggering famines that took millions of human lives in India and elsewhere, nothing about the brutality he unleashed in Africa. Not the slightest of hesitation or a sign of soul-searching can be detected!

It is simply unbelievable how indoctrinated, how intellectually obedient the British public has become. And the more it is, the more it actually dares to preach to the entire world, defending and even unceremoniously spreading its ‘values’.

So many films have been made in the West about Churchill and his stand against Nazi Germany. While not even one has ever been produced, even of recent, about Stalin and his monumental effort to mobilize his enormous country, effort that actually saved the world from the monstrous forces of fascism.

Could it all be as a result of the new Cold War unleashed by London and Washington? Or should that war be, perhaps, called the First Ideological World War – a war that could easily bear a subtitle such as: ‘the West against the rest of the Planet’?

To find out, fly British Airways. You will have to endure the tiny and outdated video screens, but at least you will get a glimpse of the latest propaganda ‘art work’ brought to you by the Empire. Enjoy!

• First published by New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Creative Juices in a Time of Commodification, Watered Down Drivel, Nothingness of American Fiction

The autumn of the patriarch, man, thinking hard about Marquez’s book, thinking back in lamentation bursts, going back in time when I met him at the University of Texas at Austin, and how he spoke to me as a young person, hopeful that I would be something as unique as he was, using what I told him was my West Texas/Chihuahua “magic realism,” founded on what I learned from his One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Those were the days, man — Kurt Vonnegut and Denis Levertov, Annie Dillard and Tim O’Brien, Robert Bly and Leslie Marmon Silko.  So much more in the verdant garden of my youth.

…as he discovered in the course of his uncountable years that a lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth…

…the day shit is worth money, poor people will be born without an asshole

Gabriel García Márquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch

El Paso, Gateway to the Jornada del Muerto

It was a lie, really, belief — young, in my twenties, teaching English, working my ass off in graduate school, odd jobs in Juarez, lots of poetry readings, art shows, radical border rights militancy. In and out of dream, really, living in El Paso, in an old apartment complex that used to be a bordello Pancho Villa reportedly frequented, then turned into a TB sanitarium. I thought I would have been set up like some great American novelist, or ensconced in tenure playing the MFA game, or just a vagabond with a one hit, the one-hit wonder of it all. By thirty.

Long in the tooth, 61 coming barreling down next month. So many connected and fragmented thoughts, and a few dozen novels inside, despair, natural revulsion of Oprah or clique NYC publishing world, and fear of the Hollywoodization of every thought sputtering out of the masses. Here’s a weird scene: I vividly remember the peas and mashed potatoes Cormac McCarthy pushed around on his plate at a cafeteria in El Paso. Man, he was beginning to take words and his spare punctuation big, from the hollers of Tennessee, the muse of Faulkner’s Mississippi hardscrabble set in motion; now in Paseo del Norte, hiding out (sort of) looking for beat-up West Texas seclusion and novel inspiration. It was a brief hello, and on the surface he looked like insurance salesman or appliance store owner. I asked him if he’d come on board by showing show up to one of the undergraduate classes I was teaching at the university (UT-El Paso).

In a nutshell (mesquite bean) McCarthy basically said he didn’t do those things, things like throwing in for students, guiding aspiring writers, messing with his own art with others.

I saw Cormac (The Road, All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian) on a fat lazy chair on the Oprah Show talking to her in her giddiness about his punctuation – or lack thereof. Literary genius?

A Country Not for Old Men — Re-Birth Inside Transitions

How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Unfolding dementia at a young age? The shit I did and saw and believed, no Hollywood or any-Wood writer or director could dream of, script in, or even hang with me living it. This is not some blowhard release, or a “wow look at my experience now that I am turning 61 on February 6, the same day just another nemesis of mine, Ronald Reagan, was born” admonition. This is the reality of a Marxist living and working in “their house,” putting on those scrubs of their trades – English faculty, environmentalist, budding-aspiring novelist, photographer, newspaper journalist. No big laments, for sure, as my luck of the spin on the globe where I was borne probably has given so many incalculable advantages. Guaranteed, most consumers of story – book readers – are looking for simplicity in language, stories set in the love and hate, death and fear that encapsulates American writers, including McCarthy.

Anyone looking at my life seems like an antithetical process of literary creativity, and I am anything but what the average consumer of books wants as an author, but the kernel of what ends up on the page comes from the weight of tides and blurry sunsets and all the storms and heatwaves in between. Sweating through visions, and the hard ache of failure after failure, and the unbearable, sometimes, of witnessing the perversions of the world. We have to take stock in all of that messy emotional landscape. Being out of work this time around – sacked October 26 – and hunting for the crumbs of the capitalists is a process of bleary thinking, emotions lost in an oil slick of the leaky boat listing on the ocean of our discontent.

My birth: San Pedro, California, for my first six months in air, and then, the Azores, thanks to enlisted Air Force father. A real epigenetic reckoning, my first four years on the Portuguese islands, all that sea, those ocean chasms, earthquakes, the white-washed Catholic puritanism, the old fishers and young kids, the poverty and the USA using strips of land for Air Force machinations. I had a local woman – Maria Gloria de la Sauza — taking care of me and my sister, and we went to her family’s place on religious occasions, those memories hard-wired forever. Trapped in some dreams even half a century lived.

The festival of the bread each Saturday, the masses, the fishermen bringing in their hauls. Barracuda caught with piano wire. The weeping candles in black moldy chapels. The priests and the military men. Poverty, bellies protruding, rust, cobblestone roads, potato fields, hacking tuberculosis, heavy hips, skinny men, children like hermit crabs scampering about, the unbelievable heaven in that blue sky and the black ink of the Pacific. Nine hundred miles from Lisbon.

Exactly the spring of my existence – aunties and uncles in Germany and Scotland and England. I remember those trips over the sea, prop planes, the absolutely magical motion of Douglas DC-7’s flying the friendly skies of Pan Am and Eastern Airlines. Imagine, four years old, and one of the four prop engines catching on fire as we were coming back to the Azores. Imagine a time, 1961, when the spring of a child lasted with the touch of fingers on the pages of books, in the hard breathing of hikes, walking, outside until dusk, rain without umbrellas, seas and beaches beckoning youth without the paranoia of the 21st century.

Early Light, Early Seedling Growth

I am treading water here, in the night off the coast of Scotland, maybe, I can only imagine the reader says. It’s night, near Dundee, in a cove near Abroath. Around 1963. Real people expecting a five-year-old to swim, not panic, and see the world from the tide in and out.

Spring for the child as I headed to Maryland, and then, Paris, France, as my Air Force father went US Army, a warrant officer pip on his shoulders, and, a family of four in Saint Germain en-Laye, living with other families from other countries as part of that SHAPE — Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Vietnam War, the French and Yanks, the old WW II tunnels, chateaus as movie theaters, the Algerians living in the sub-basement, languages, competitive teens, and I flittered through those times young, visiting the old ones. Always around adults.

Fast forwarding to 2018, from, oh, say 1986 El Paso, then to Merida, Yucatan, and then hitchhiking to Panama, or, say, to 1992 when I decided to go to Vietnam to push the pulse of the American lie out of my system. At any point in the sinew strength of my late teens, through to 2001, the lies were compounding quickly, as I was given to confidence and pushed-up hope as part of the barrier reef or those malpais lava flows near Warm Springs, New Mexico keeping me from succeeding as I had imagined.

I had a New York agent, man, Jack Ryan (what a name, uh?) and he was old school, as the drafts of those books I wrote – five – came back to me stinking of Pall Malls and filled up with chicken scratch edits and comments. He was a tireless worker, and for me, he was more than just a fan. He had a deep regard for my writing. He too was up against the vagaries of Vassar and Brown University publishing house readers and the market of books, tied to the little swath of being New York hip to the incantations of literary fiction.

What a long row to hoe, and, alas, one book, a collection of short stories, thematically tied together by the Vietnam War tangentially, well, he had a big bite, finally, from Picador Press an imprint of MacMillan. I almost got the book sold – Eyes Wide Open: Vietnam Memories. The deal was a committee of five, Ryan said, had the voting role in a thumbs up or down vote on the book. The publisher of Picador Press said he wanted the book, but he was voted down, three to two, not in favor of going with the project.

The reader has to understand that the publisher accepted the manuscript, essentially saying he was all for publishing it. We lived on that arc of that humanity for a few weeks, but then Jack Ryan got the news that the book project went south.

New York Literary World Gone Sour

I know, I know, again, in the scheme of things globally this is not big deal. Rejection from literary circles. A dime a dozen. We’ve been told as writers that it’s luck, being in the right manuscript pile, or knowing a friend of a friend of a friendly editor; or to just pull yourself up by your boot straps and DIY and self-publish and manage a web site and e-commerce account. Compared to the daily struggle of the Pacific Nation Kiribati, for example, which is disappearing quickly as sea level rises, I get it about “counting my lucky stars.” I always come at the world from that foundation – woe is me can’t cut it in a world of absolutely insane suffering and perverted wholesale abuse on a massive scale. But from the bowels of an artist already way outside the mainstream looking to get a book (or several) schlepped by editors at New York publishers, put into their ubiquitous mainstream fiction or literary fiction categories, well, every disappointment is magnified.

Get this, though – I’m going on age 61, and the last time I attempted hawking a novel was 2001, when I ended up moving from El Paso to Spokane. Odd feeling indeed, in 2001, giving up the quest. I still wrote/write, still published/publish, but not books.

It (book in hand) came pretty darn close, and if you put me into an internet search, “Paul Haeder and Reimagining Sanity,” you’ll get a project that “almost” turned into a book. Well, it’s a book, in pdf form, but not on Amazon’s top 1 million list. We have to Fast Forward from 2001 in Spokane to 2015 on the outskirts of Vancouver. I was contacted by a publisher to write a book based on my musings and comments tied to my work at Dissident Voice, this political on-line magazine going on 18 years.

Heady stuff, the book jack recommendations:

Paul brings out a certain raw, emotional side to his subjects and issues. You never can predict what he is going to ask, and his ability to cut right to the point makes his writing an unpredictable thrill ride to the heart and the truth.
―Bart Mihailovich, environmental writer and advocate

Try reading him … with no allegiances to the elites and powerful. If you need a house call for quick intellectual triage, pick up a book of Haeder’s and dive deep into its layers. At the other end of the journey, you will be baptized in a new wonder of showing no fear, fearing no one.
― Charles Orloski is a working class poet living in Taylor, Pennsylvania, who writes regularly for the Hollywood Progressive and other venues

Haeder’s topic is always the world, and Haeder is the filter through which the world has to pass: rhythmic outburst, lyric language, howling at the moon. When other authors have forgotten to be outraged by the outrageous, Haeder has been a North Star who says, “You gotta look at this! You won’t believe…” and fill in here the absurd and unimaginable bullshit of the universe.
― Michael Strelow, author of Henry, A Novel of Beer and Love in the West; and The Greening of Ben Brown. Kesey is his non-fiction book. Upcoming novel is The Moby-Dick Blues.

Paul Haeder does not have a politically correct bone in his body nor is he willing to rent any! A book by Paul will bring reaction from readers, pro and con, but you can bet that it will be a book people will read with interest.
― Angie Tibbs, Dissident Voice, Senior Editor

It’s a hell of a publishing house that went belly up after just three years, but a dozen or more years the dream of the publisher, Kermit Heartsong:

Tayenlane Publishing
Reimagining Sanity: Voices Outside the Echo Chamber

The belly was exposed by the publisher’s distributor – you have to get these books put into book shows, wholesale book distribution points. The distributors (more and more middlemen) can cut a jugular on a small publishing house, and that’s what happened to Tayen Lane Press. But before the plug was pulled, Kermit the publisher solicited me back in 2015, and I was at/in/on a really bad place: going through a divorce, out of the Vancouver house we had just purchased, away from foster twin boys, and my dog left with my soon-to-be ex. I ended up in a doublewide trailer (no complaints about mobile homes) with a bipolar out-of-work heavy equipment operator, who was flipping out half the time, from euphoria to suicidal tendencies. I was working as a substitute PK12 teacher in several rural school districts, and this fellow I will call Rylee, was drinking all day, sleeping around with two or three women, and the place was heated with a wood-burning stove.

Another roommate was brought on, and a stinky bulldog with flatulence (don’t they all have this problem?) and leaky orifices (ditto) was also part of the mix, and the roommate’s always-present girlfriend.

Man, bonfires out on his five acres until 2 a.m. Beer and tequila and all-night pyres and yelling and moaning about life, as Rylee and the other roommate moved around all this slash from a tree clearing project with the younger roommate’s fully appointed excavator. Drunk, loud, 24/7 cigarette smoking, and I was pounding away at this manuscript, teaching kids and wondering where the hell I’d be in five months.

After two months, I had to sneak out on a Sunday, filling my van with my shit and just skipping out so a confrontation between me and between Rylee didn’t take place. I wanted to kick his ass, but that sort of pile-driver attitude would have gotten me, I believe, handcuffed and charged with assault, a job killer in the fields of education and then a new job as social worker for vulnerable populations.

Reimagining Insanity or Sanity – More Voices

Okay, so I have this anti-memoir going over at LA Progressive, titled, Terminal Velocity: Man Lost of Tribe. That’s thirty-eight up in that series – pieces all over the place, most tied to commentary on the state of the world, the state of my sanity, of my self in a world of pain. Make that 39, since this one now goes up as such. Plenty of railing against the machine, and plenty of angst and polemics.

I have this conversation all the time – some people say they’d cut a finger off to read my stuff, to see my name up on some marquee, my books turned into movies. Some want to see me elevated, and then, most people I run into could care less about lives lived and still being lived, that is, lives unaccomplished or partially gelled. Most people are not interested in struggle, struggling people and the ones who either never got the brass ring or flubbed it on the last merry-go-round. This is a time of celebrity infatuation, and no matter which side of the thin political line they stand, young and old care more and more about what’s in Twitter-land or on Facebook.

We are all navel gazers, now that Amazon Fascism Publishing has everyone set up as a budding multi-book best seller.

Shit, everyone’s a writer, isn’t it so, and everyone is a movie maker, star, and prognosticator and hero or heroine in his or her own mind. Plus, the sheer number of books published, remaindered, cut up and used for insulation, it’s way beyond what the mind can fathom.

Whether a life half resolved is interesting or not, or whether anyone cares about the hustle of living and beating out books and trying to hawk them, those are questions that run through many of our minds.

Lee Marvin and A New Dirty Dozen 

I have this screenplay, Just a Coupla’ Chancers. Set in Arizona,1980s. I wrote it while being a reporter in Southern Arizona for a small conglomerate of newspapers. My byline was in the Bisbee Daily Review among other publications.

Simple stuff, a redneck cowboy along the border dealing with more and more incursions – crossers – into his state and country and on his property. Well, he is hard-bitten, but he finds a heart in the story. Salvadorans dead in the desert, their coyotes or smugglers long gone.

The main character has to make a decision: three children, 8, 12, 15, make it to his property. They are the only survivors, and, well, to make a screenplay short, the coyotes are looking for them, and the rancher has to hide them and then smuggle them away. He’s got the border patrol, local authorities, the crime bosses involved in smuggling, his family and the three siblings’ uncle looking for them and going after him.

This was based on some reporting I did around real people who perished in the desert, right where I was set as a beat reporter. I ended up having a few drinks with Lee Marvin in Tucson, and, after some time, I got his address up in the foothills of the Catalinas. Man, we played tennis, I had lemonade, and I met his wife, and, Lee took the screenplay.

I’ve written about that story, meeting and drinking with the Dirty Dozen’s Colonel, before pitching the story. He ended up dying early, and suddenly, and I ended up going to his widow wondering how I might help, and inquiring about the screenplay, of course. She told me Lee was interested in the main part, as I thought he would. She told me he respected the script, from a young guy, resonated with him — seemed pretty set in reality. Poignant, too.

I’ve written a short story, fiction, about that moment in time, fictionalizing some of the stuff.

Desperados and I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges

Lo and behold, here I am, desperate, held to a standard at 61, going to interview after interview trying to muscle out another four or five years working hard in the land of usury and death capital. I just pulled out three dusty manuscripts, three novels, one of which was my graduate thesis I defended.

I’m scrambling now working to get some energy back and rework one of them. This is a story again based on someone real, a woman who had been looking for both silver and treasure in the Caballo Mountains near Hot Springs, now Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

I spent hours with her in her small apartment in downtown El Paso, and she was in her 80s then, in 1987. She was obsessed with silver and that cache of stolen gold and other treasures from the Spanish. I even took her up the mountain, on crazy dirt roads, looking for something, reading her map, but never finding the remnants of the mine she had been working on for more than 50 years, on her own.

I have a discredited reporter ending up in the story. Someone who answered an advertisement in the El Paso Times from a woman looking for a ghost writer to get her story in print. The real woman was even hip to the possibility of her story spanning 80 decades turned into a movie.

Her life was amazing, having grown up in Mexico City in a middle-class family, her father a mid-level bureaucrat and politician. When she was 14, she met a 29-year-old millionaire from San Francisco. He had documents and map and some bibles. He was a frozen food magnate, and he was looking for someone to translate the Latin and the Spanish.

He met my protagonist, and the young woman – turning 15 – heard the stories of silver and gold, heard this millionaire’s gold lust.

Rebecca was 16 when she married him, and they ended up back in San Francisco, and then her new husband took her out into the middle of nothingness in New Mexico, overlooking Elephant Butte, and there she learned how to be a miner’s wife, living with hardened men, learning how her new husband had been bitten by the silver-gold-treasure bug.

Six years into it, they had hit a few lines of silver. Seven years into their mining, a wall collapsed in the mine and took down Rebecca’s husband. He lingered in a hospital bed for eight weeks. His final wish was for her to continue looking for the famed treasure and silver.

For fifty years, Rebecca looked for the cache. She ended up teaching Spanish to high schoolers, and every summer she got the supplies and the few men she trusted to head on up to the mountains.

That’s how she spent her summers, for fifty years, until she hit 75. I met her when she was 82.

Now my book, Woman of the Mountain, has my reporter, a former college football star teaching community college journalism classes. I have a sheriff who has been hiding his homosexuality all his life. I have an old Mexican miner whose father once was on Rebecca’s mining team.

I take the reader back to Mexico City, into the mountains, into Rebecca’s life, and the short time with my African American journalist. The mountain speaks, and the story revolves around her disappearance, and the search for her. My journalist was the last one to see her. The miner ends up missing.

It’s literary fiction, and, well, the story is certainly compelling for today’s reader, and it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to imagine the book turned into a screenplay/movie. Selma Hayek, Tommy Lee Jones, Denzel Washington.

In one sense, non-fiction is stranger than fiction, and those months I spent with Rebecca, hearing her stories, and that time in the mountains with her (she was hacking and coughing, and I thought she was going to die), and subsequent times in the mountains on my own with a decent pistol and Winchester lever action, well, I wrote the book, draft after draft, and sent it out to Jack Ryan, the East Coast agent.

It’s funny the parallel of looking for caches of Spanish gems and artwork and gold, and my own quest to make something of myself in the world of fiction. Shit, my master’s thesis adviser, James Crumley (The Last Good Kiss & Dancing Bear) had a lot of faith in me. I was the go-to guy, newspaper journalist, dive master, a guy in his thirties who went to Mexico and Central America. A guy who did some shady things with my Mexican counterparts. Something wild in me, Crumley could tell. He ended up back in Missoula, Montana, fired from the University of Texas for things unbecoming a writing teacher (or that’s what they said . . . you know, drinking, some lines of coke, partying with students).

So, here’s this book. Staring at me as I finish this article. Big fat old 430-page manuscript. I touch the pages and it’s as if 30 years melt away, the light brighter above me here in Estacada, Oregon, than anytime thus far, more than 1,600 miles away from the center of my writing life, in West Texas,  El Paso, Merida, Yucatan . . . Chihuahua.

Yet that old rush is like morphine inside the spleen, and the imagination, mine, races like the old days of Mexico, West Texas, stories, tequila and coke and all-night sessions talking about story, and sometimes craft.

Crumley’s dead . . . some of my friends, dead . . . Jack Ryan, dead, and the artist friends, many are dead . . . Rebecca dead, wave after wave of memory like the aura borealis in my head, pulsating in dream, and now, as I take this manuscript and look at the pages, I am ready for one more push, one more bite of a dream to get something going, just another chancer, me, believing in some magic, like Ornette Coleman and Charlie Hayden playing away into the night.

Her story, Rebecca’s, will be the same this time around, but the plot and action and sequence will be different. What do 31 years do to a creative world, a novel, one based on some real hard things I heard and saw, but morphed into the dream of a storyteller giving paint and hue to the black and white memory of people?

I know I’ll open up with the jail cell, and the lines from Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Huston, Dobbs, Curtain and Howard in the Treasure of Sierra Madre. I know I will shift points of view, and go back and forth in time and place. I know this story — mine, Rebecca’s, the mountain’s —  has never been told, never been written, and I push ahead now, treading water, standing on the line of creativity and marketing, looking for an agent, and in between despair and fear.

When you have something to say and a way of saying it, there is so much to lose. Like a welterweight picking up gloves after 20 years out of the ring.

In a scene later made famous by the movie version of Treasure of Sierra Madre, the prospectors run into a group of shady-looking, heavily-armed Mexicans, who they suspect are bandits.

Indeed, the Mexicans are bandits and the meeting ends up in a gunfight. But just before the shooting starts, the leader of the bandits tells the prospectors that they are federales — the local “mounted police.”

Dobbs says skeptically of that claim: “If you are the police, where are your badges?”

In B. Traven’s book, the bandit leader replies angrily (and colorfully):

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabron and ching’ tu madre!”

Email me, Paul K. Haeder, @  haederpaul (at) gmail (dot) com if you have an agent or director in mind, don’t you know! Really!

The Weinstein (Company) Effect: Only Women Need Apply

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good

— Nina Simone, Feeling Good, 1965

The idiocy of our times – those tick-tick-tock-tock empty cranial caverns of the American collective delusion – have us clear thinkers and revolutionaries at heart on the ropes. How do we even sleep walk through the carnival that is Facebook, Saturday Night Live, endless Black Fridays, malls and movies, the spectacle that is un-news and the infantile capacity of adults from Ellen to Trump, from Rachel to Tom Friedman, from MSM punks to you-name-it-still-employed economist to control vast hundreds of millions – check that, billions – of destinies.

Looting the tax coffers, hollowing out the middle class, rampant perpetual poverty and indebtedness, chronic illness, crashing climate, and a shit-storm of a planet now that we all think Capitalism is the only solution to death.

We fiddle with holiday deals while holocaust looms, and we sit, kneel, genuflect, roll over, lie down and plead in our hog-tied American way. Bombs from the suburbs lifted into space with the deadly drone god while Southern California burns, Phoenix evaporates, and both ends of the country flop around like lice-plagued GMO fish on the sinking deck.

Prognostication, this is the daily bread, by the millions – blogs, WoP, WSJ, NYT, endless on-line mutterings of the controlled opposition. We have become Pokémon dealers, shuffling the next culling of the economy, or placing bets on the insanity plea of Trump and Company, hoping for black rain and Sunday bloody Sunday.

This is the time of Botox broadcasters, the male and female versions of the same plastic people, there, in their million dollar flats at night, conjuring up more of the same silly and insane narratives about things they know nothing about. They ply their trade like traveling prostitutes, selling their bits of Cellophane wisdom and glowing manicured selves like jesters, clowns. The more they try and sound Ivy League and display Driveling Room Temperature IQ, the more difficult it is to understand them.

The elite is not some gang of point-one One Percenters. They are in the several millions, count, sixty million of them in the USA, held together with the thieving accountants and hired hands of the legal-illegal class. They are wannabe’s and blue collar millionaires, two doctor heads of households, high end business owners, the traders of guns, pharmaceuticals, laws and other lies.

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.

— US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Yet, we have to listen endlessly to the We Are the Ninety-nine, which is the absurdity of double-think. One percent isn’t holding up the house of cards. The minions, and the mighty masses supporting these titans of industry and billionaires, they are the Twenty-Solid (& Hard) Percent, in their glory, libertarians and thieves and unwilling to be the blood coming from their proverbial onion hearts.

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in relatively few hands. As of 2013, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 36.7% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 52.2%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 89%, leaving only 11% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.8%

I dance through this mumbo-jumbo Hollywood and Single-Screen-Scroll-after-Scroll mush we call culture, and I hurdle over the Eichmann’s, big and small, and I end up in the same place I started more than 45 years ago – all thieves and charlatans, but with that big all-you-can-eat American cafeteria grin, the lives set in drive through coffee, grease and drugs delivery.

This country, ripe for the taking, after genocide after genocide, and then the War is a Racket turned into America is the King Pin, the Biggest Racket of them All. Blue blood in her circulatory system, ever the slave-trading mindset, dredged in Puritanical and Crypto-Zionism.

Promised Land is the Disney Effect, and chosen people come and go, as the drive-in’s turn to weeds and the ever-present huckster and PT Barnum and Lying Lynching Legal class rule over the entire mess, over all of the stars and tycoons. Beady-eyed money changers, and those sniveling ones making markets out of nothing, the very steps we take, breaths we exhale, lives we shed.

There will be blood is the banker’s credo now, backed by Smith and Wesson and plethora of rockets bursting in air from every corner of the White Man’s/Christian/Jewish world.

Cops and coaches, captains and CEOs, we know their kind, and no matter which XX or XY you attempt to rationalize into the madness of Capitalism, no matter which Gender or Identity serves the point-one One Percent class, the project is all cornered and flayed because Capitalism is the breeder of the heathens, the reckless and ruthless, the smiling and sincerely elitist crew.

Yet, we hear endless drivel now about Groping A and Groping B, the slithering tongues of these Capitalists on steroids and amyl nitrate and human growth hormones and T-cells, and lubricated eggs from virgin sturgeon. These people in the center of that millionaire goo, in that trade of body and soul for the spin around the rotunda or jaunt down Sunset Boulevard, no matter which Charlie Rose or Dustin Hoffman or Sean Penn you end up with in the same room or office or court of law, unfortunately, they are all the same, groping or masturbating or climaxing or exhibitionisming or peeping tomming or S & M-ing, no matter how you run with them, these elites will eventually get under your skin like pin worms and chiggers.

We’ll be seeing the fallout now of the alleged perversions and sexual overtures and manipulations and cajoling and assaults and rapes, wherever they go with those gag rule clauses after the payoffs and silence money.

Just out on this day of infamy, Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, stories on John Travolta, one of the richest guys in Hollywood with 5 planes and jets, and his own runway in Florida. This is the microcosm of what Americans are, what they watch, what they believe.

Imagine he and his wife, Kelly Preston, living their multimillionaire tax-evading, money-sheltering, cash-gouging lives. So, old John (the Italian-American actor) is accused of attacking masseuses, and he is now in the pig wash slurry of more scandal, as his movie on John Gotti is being dropped (by Lionsgate) because of the allegations swirling around old John (Travolta) attacking guys coming to his hotel rooms for massages (professional):

Mafia leader Gotti was brought to trial multiple times throughout the 1980s, only to be acquitted.

Travolta, 63, plays Gotti in multiple stages of his life, including when he finally went to prison in 1992.

Gotti died of throat cancer, while still incarcerated, in 2002.

Last month Travolta was named in a criminal complaint by a 21-year-old masseur who accused the actor of sexual battery that reportedly took place in 2000.

According to the bombshell police report, the masseur alleged that Travolta groped his bare buttocks and indecently exposed himself during a deep body massage at the LaQuinta Hotel in Palm Springs, California.

During the alleged incident, Travolta, 63, also made lewd remarks about gay fantasies while at the hotel’s spa facility around 1:30 am on February 15, 2000.

The masseur reported the incident to the Palm Springs Sheriff’s Department.

Officer Mark Peters went to the hotel to speak with Travolta, who had already checked out by the time he arrived.

This isn’t the first time Travolta has been accused of misconduct while getting a massage.

In 2012, Travolta was sued over accusations that he tried to have sex with a male masseur during a therapy session at the luxury Beverly Hills Hotel.

Okorie Okorcha, the lawyer representing the masseur said: ‘My client is afraid of John Travolta’.

He added: ‘Mr. Travolta made very explicit threats against my client, which are contained in the lawsuit.

‘Specifically, John Travolta told my client that Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect favors in return for sexual activity.

‘Let’s face it, John Travolta is an extremely powerful man, and my client absolutely felt threatened by Mr. Travolta. My client was sexually assaulted by Mr. Travolta and he needs to be held accountable for his actions.’

Read more:

I bring this most recent case up to illustrate the insane and perverse and surreal aspect of American society, and the money made by talent-less actors who are in bizarre relationships with spouses (arranged marriage with Preston per Scientology), who have the lives of the rich and famous all bundled up in their wacko ways. Do we want to sit through two hours of Gotti, at $12 a pop per movie ticket? Do we have no common sense in this country? The poor and the rich are the mad crowd, the spectacle now conjoined as aberrations of humanity.

Travolta, a deacon in the Scientology cult. Do Americans boycott these people, these companies, these ideas, these death by a thousand cuts philosophies and this repressive un-culture to our own humanity?

Boys will be boys, and then some. How many men have made the news for their alleged crimes of groping, harassing, cajoling, blackmailing?

How many rabbis are speaking out against the large amount of Jewish men caught up in the allegations? How many preachers and priests are speaking up? What about the school teachers, and those university faculty? Mothers? Daughters? Aunts? Any Trump family out there willing to go out on a limb? Where is that ethical code humanity universally has to live with to make sure we do no harm?

Golden Rule, Seven Sins of Gandhi ?

On October 22, 1925, Gandhi published a list he called the Seven Social Sins in his weekly newspaper Young India.

Politics without principles
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Knowledge without character
Commerce without morality
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice

The list sprung from a correspondence that Gandhi had with someone only identified as a “fair friend.” He published the list without commentary save for the following line: “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Unlike the Catholic Church’s list, Gandhi’s list is expressly focused on the conduct of the individual in society. Gandhi preached non-violence and interdependence and every single one of these sins are examples of selfishness winning out over the common good.

It’s also a list that, if fully absorbed, will make the folks over at the US Chamber of Commerce and Ayn Rand Institute itch. After all, “Wealth without work,” is a pretty accurate description of America’s 1%. (Investments ain’t work. Ask Thomas Piketty.) “Commerce without morality” sounds a lot like every single oil company out there and “knowledge without character” describes half the hacks on cable news. “Politics without principles” describes the other half.

In 1947, Gandhi gave his fifth grandson, Arun Gandhi, a slip of paper with this same list on it, saying that it contained “the seven blunders that human society commits, and that cause all the violence.” The next day, Arun returned to his home in South Africa. Three months later, Gandhi was shot to death by a Hindu extremist.

The law of reciprocity, and where does that fall on American culture, whether through the lens of millionaire men or millionaire women?

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive form).

One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).

What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form).

The Golden Rule differs from the maxim of reciprocity captured in do ut des—”I give so that you will give in return”—and is rather a unilateral moral commitment to the well-being of the other without the expectation of anything in return.

The fall-out in this dog-eat-dog, one man/woman for him or herself stolen land, which is the undertow of predatory capitalism, unfortunately, is all (unduly so) on the shoulders of all men – fathers and uncles, teachers and social workers, sons and uncles, all of us, righteous and far from any capitalist usury mindset, divorced from the take-take-take that is America, seemingly embraced by every boy or girl, man or woman, all intersexuals and transsexuals.

The voyeurism, titillation, exhibitionism, proclivities toward gender and self debasement, and the ejaculatory and phallus aims of those tainted elites, and not so elite, are tied to the usury, exploitative and downright greed in every human or business transaction in Capitalism. Men, alas, the patriarchy, are all tied up with what we in America have become along all gender and sexual identities: paranoid, exceptionalist, supremacist, imperial and self-important, warring, and supercilious, superficial and shallow.  It’s an epigenetic cause and effect relationship, inside the DNA code of most red-blooded Americans, gay, straight, lesbian, trans-sexual, and what have you!

Scam, flimflam, extort, fine, levy, tax, fee-fee-fee, and then, we steal from our futures, bankrupt our own retirements, rip off generations yet born, dredge the lake for that last caviar-producing fish, and we put it all out there in Google-land, Selfie the Entire Disaster, go on Twitter Tizzies, and then ask for more, and order it all on Amazon, trucked to the door and drone-delivered to the balcony.

Funny, how conservative guys like Paul Craig Roberts see this next spasm of looting with the Republicans throwing down their true colors and the Pelosi-Schumer schemers in the Big D club yawning about their protected investments/millionaire and yammering about Russia, here at Counterpunch:

What we are witnessing is the complete looting of America and the entirety of the West.  While the Western World collapses, the insouciant, submissive people sit there sucking their thumbs while they are being ruined.

Nothing is left of the West except looters at work.

This tax bill is an abomination, an act of brutal plunder.  Its sponsors should be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, if not hung from a lamp post.

If we really break this down, really, what is that tar and feather routine? Imagine, a real world where we aren’t going to take it anymore, one where the tar is 200 degrees and the feathers are all knife sharp and hardened. Imagine the dunking of those thieves-murderers in vats of their fossil fuel gunk, near boiling temperature.

I wonder if that’s what Craig Roberts is asking for?

And, then, really, what does it mean to be hung on a lamp post? The old ways put the tarred and feathered tied to a lamp post, but hung evokes a lynching. Is that what this staid and conservative Paul Craig Roberts is asking for?

Hmm, a call to action, violence?

The reality is Americans love their thug royalty, all the Bushes and Clintons and Obamas and the endless Kennedys and now the Trumps. This country not only tars and feathers dissidents, but we’re strung up to dry on the vine. I have lost jobs for speaking out, for advocating as a teacher or journalist or social worker. I write about this all the time, and many places I’ve called my work place were havens for women, me being in the super minority. I have no bended knee and favoritism for the female side of capitalism, like many now are gaggling about.

I have been face to face with ameliorating, middling, and in many cases malfeasance prone supervisors and HR directors with the XX gene, and I am not about to go on a tirade of reverse stupidity and count all men as Harvey Weinsteins or John Conyers.

We are living up to our collective reputation as mushy thinkers, in this next Tweeting for the Highest Scream for grope x, y and z. Untethered bathrobes, full-on kisses, and all the other pathetic pranks and sexist fun (sic) these leaders of the free world engage in. But . . . .

Bombing the world, gutting the world, and possibly stealing all the world’s things, and we talk about Al Franken the Bumbler.

Imagine now, a few days ago, that parading multimillionaire, mutilating man, Obama, calling for more women to be elected to office. “. . . because men seem to be having some problems these days.” In all his neoliberal, girl child killing, female wedding party murdering, undocumented woman deporting glee, he sits on the pile of manure that is American retro-thinking and makes these declarations worthy of the nonsense that overrules everything in this country.

Hollande treats Obama to three-star French cuisine

This is Obama at a private event in Paris on Saturday, and he, of course, was referring to the sexual misconduct allegations made against many high-profile men he golfs with, rubs elbows with, hobnobs for.  Here, this is a must read, his eleventh-grade wisdom and drearily daft psychology:

“Not to generalize but women seem to have a better capacity than men do, partly because of their socialization.”

Here he is, commenting on the plethora of misdeeds and worse of the great elite class, those champions of perversion like Weinstein or the Franken fellow or Alabama Crimson Tide Moore and Company. This is in Paris, speaking to his elites, arranged by a network of communications professionals known as the Les Napoleons. Millionaires, and many of them perverted on many levels.

You think one of these boys and girls club acolytes have a bone of humanism left?

Listening to wise scriptures, austerity, sacrifice, respectful faith, social welfare, forgiveness, purity of intent, compassion, truth and self-control—are the ten wealth of character (self). O king aim for these, may you be steadfast in these qualities. These are the basis of prosperity and rightful living. These are highest attainable things. All worlds are balanced on dharma, dharma encompasses ways to prosperity as well. O King, dharma is the best quality to have, wealth the medium and desire (kāma) the lowest. Hence, (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.

— Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9

This is 21st Century Google Man, Obama, at his best and most hypocritical, somehow declaring that I as a man should not run for local office or be involved in social change at the political level because of a few perverts making the Twitter feeds? He declares men seemingly have a few problems, and so, this wise American Murder Incorporated CEO (ex) is asking me to stand down as a male and wait for the female leaders, because women have a better grasp on socialization? What the hell does that mean? Where do these Gollum characters come from, this Barak and his Michelle and the millions of shekels shoved into their pockets for their mere existences, for a few hiccuped words ghost-written into Number One Best Seller Hardbacks?

The socialization of women like Madeline Albright, Chancellor Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Janet Reno, and, well, the reader can generate his-her-their own list. Socialization of these fine ladies shine a light on their incredible lightness of goodness? This is side-mouth, PC, identity politics talk.

These are loopy times, and we’ve been in them for decades, really, since Eisenhauer, as undertow after riptide produced the death of integrity, the death of common thinking, the inability of the American trite and superficial man and woman to advance to a level of sophistication or deep thinking or even wisdom or common sage sense.

Image result for Obama with Goldman Sachs

Look at these fellows and women running the world into the ground while they stash-stash-stash away retirement money enough to feed the world 50 billion times over.  Look at how they are not us and they indeed want us prostrate and afraid and on the run and now in their goofy show of faux integrity. All for one, one for all women.

Image result for Obama with Goldman Sachs

Here’s a run down of some of those so-so better socialized women Obama is calling on. I need not go into their dirty deeds, their recklessness, their thieving and in many cases direct connection to murdering thousands and structurally and violently assaulting millions and millions more. That other gender Obama is asking for help from, the female persuasion, is now front and center the only gender to be socially and structurally ready for service to the country, as Obama blurts out during one of his Point One Percent Meetings in France . . .  because men seem to be having some problems these days.

Madeleine Albright  Condoleezza Rice Hillary Clinton .

Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security

Margaret Spellings Secretary of Education

Betsy DeVos  Secretary of Education

Susan E. Rice, Loretta E. Lynch, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes (Bush Women)

Samantha Power? (Wow, what a bastion of integrity . . . I had to throw that in).

More rah-rah bullshit from mainstream propaganda:

Forbes USA Most Powerful Women

Fortune’s Most Powerful Women

And, the following from other lists, imagine, the power they wield, and because they are women, according to Barak Obama’s calculus, are stalwarts of humanity! Merkel, May, Gates, Trump — bastions of integrity!

Angela Merkel is still the most powerful woman in the world.

The German Chancellor has held the top spot on the Forbes Most Powerful Women List for seven consecutive years, and 12 years in total. Another prominent political leader, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, ranked second. It is her first time appearing on Forbes‘s annual list.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the highest-ranking American woman, taking the third spot. Seven of the world’s 10 most powerful women are American, according to the Forbes list.

Forbes determines its ranking by evaluating four categories: money — which covers net worth, company revenues, assets under management or GDP — media presence, influence and impact.

Of the 100 women on the list, nearly half are from the United States. Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to and daughter of President Donald Trump.

Here’s the David Letterman Countdown, Top Ten. Gates Foundation, Facebook, GM, YouTube, Fidelity Investments, IMF, Bank, IBM. Just think of those companies, and how unjust, how predatory, and how destructive they are, but with women in higher up positions and even as CEOs, well, according to Obama, we all can sleep better tonight now that women are at the helm!

  1. Angela Merkel: Chancellor, Germany
  2. Theresa May: Prime Minister, U.K.
  3. Melinda Gates: Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S.
  4. Sheryl Sandberg: COO, Facebook, U.S.
  5. Mary Barra: CEO, General Motors, U.S.
  6. Susan Wojcicki: CEO, YouTube, U.S.
  7. Abigail Johnson: CEO, Fidelity Investments, U.S.
  8. Christine Lagarde: Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, U.S.
  9. Ana Patricia Botín: Chair, Santander Group, Banco Santander, Spain
  10. Ginni Rometty: CEO, IBM, U.S.

Here, an interesting list, with, of course, a few amazing human beings lumped into the superficial and super-rich — Addams, Aquino, Carson, Curie, Mead, Parks, Wolff. But it’s Time Magazine, so we know what that means (run by a woman, or has she been replaced?)

Jane Addams (1860-1935)

Corazon Aquino (1933-2009)

Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

Coco Chanel (1883-1971)

Julia Child (1912-2004)

Hillary Clinton (1947-Present)

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Aretha Franklin (1942-Present)

Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)

Estée Lauder (1908-2004)

Madonna (1958-Present)

Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

Golda Meir (1898-1978)

Angela Merkel (1954-Present)

Sandra Day O’Connor (1930-Present)

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Jiang Qing (1914-1991)

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Gloria Steinem (1934-Present)

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Martha Stewart (1941-Present)

Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Margaret Thatcher (1925-Present)

Oprah Winfrey (1954-Present)

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Most Powerful Women According to Fortune Magazine, 2010!

Highest paid, take a look at that loot, again, as Obama proclaims, why not have them all (women) run the senate, congress, Supreme Court and the Executive Branch?

See the source image

Carol Bartz, Yahoo, $47.2 million
Safra Catz, Oracle, $36.4 million
Carrie Cox, Schering-Plough, $23 million
Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft Foods, $22.1 million
Wellington Denahan-Norris, Annaly Capital Management, $21.6 million
Pamela Patsley, Moneygram International, $17.9 million
Susan Ivey, Reynolds American, $16.2 million
Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics, $15.8 million
Carol Meyrowitz, TJX Companies, $14.8 million
Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo, $14.2 million
Angela Braly, WellPoint, $13.1 million
Brenda Barnes, Sara Lee, $11.5 million
Linda Chen, Wynn Resorts, $11.2 million
Patricia Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland, $11.0 million
Kim Sinatra, Wynn Resorts, $10.5 million
Mary Callahan Erdoes, JPMorgan Chase, $10.4 million
Nancy Wysenski, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, $10.2 million
Jackwyn Nemerov, Polo Ralph Lauren, $10.1 million
Ursula Burns, Xerox, $9.9 million
Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $9.7 m
Ann Livermore, Hewlett-Packard, $9.7 million
Doreen Toben, Verizon Communications, $9.2 million
Katherine Krill, AnnTaylor Stores, $9.1 million
Kathryn Fagan, Annaly Capital Management, $8.6 million
Ellen Kullman, DuPont, $8.3 million

You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.

— Nina Simone

See the source image

Note 1:  Give it to the New York Daily News to call this “the Weinstein Effect as Sexual McCarthyism”;

Note 2:  In case the reader thinks I am just stuck on this satirical look at the fading empire, USA, I have been hard at work fighting the good fight against my own wrongful termination, at the hands of majority’s worth of females from both the former non-profit I worked at and triggered by Planned Parenthood: “Falling into the Planned Parenthood Gardasil Snake Pit“.

Gun Truth

We have a gun lust. Guns make us (especially men) feel empowered, even when we are mostly weak. Guns make small men feel they are someone to be reckoned with — and I’m not referring to physical stature. Guns give impotent (sexually or existentially) men vitality and make them feel formidable.

Contemporary America makes legions of us feel inconsequential, insignificant and powerless; but we saw Dirty Harry, Lethal Weapon, Rambo, Die Hard, etc., back in the day. The big heroes with the big box office solved their problems and got the girl or righted the wrongs or avenged the injustices with guns — big guns. And this example still inspires us today. Even if we’re beset by nothing more than being asked to live up to our own ideals. We desperately want to be heroes — but how can we do that if others have suffered due to our sense of entitlement for decades?

YIPPIE KI YAY, MOTHER-F_CKER! Gun in hand, we’re suddenly fierce. WE’RE GONNA TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK! Anybody who don’t look like us or believe like us is the disease and we’re the cure. Women who scorn us or insult us or reject us — they’re enemies, practically criminals, ’cause we’re good, god-fearin’ red-blooded American, billy-badasses—if they don’t want us, desire us, need us, there’s something wrong with them — not us. Right?!

Persons of color who don’t drop whatever they’re doing and grovel at our feet, obey our every command? THEY DIE and we face no consequences because WHO ARE THEY to question our authority, our badge, our flag, our anthem, our privilege?

People who protest against the ridiculous lies we hold dear, call out our hypocrisy, our inanity — GO AHEAD, MAKE OUR DAY. We’ll show up at voting booths with guns. We’ll show up at town halls with guns. We’ll show up at the Home Depot with guns. We’ll show up at schools with guns. We’ll show up at churches with guns.

It is intensely sad that we feel guns empower us. It is perversely sad that we think guns reinforce our manhood. But what’s really sad, really pathetic and really telling is that so many of us are really only dangerous with a gun.

We are intellectually meek. We are imaginatively bankrupt. We are inexcusably ignorant. We’re a sad, dangerous gaggle of spoiled, misinformed children. But give us the girl, the good jobs, the bigger houses, the golf course and the perpetual, unchallenged right to feel good about ourselves . . . and we’ll leave you alone.

The Simulacra Democracy

… a nation in which 87 percent of eighteen- to twenty-four year olds (according to a 2002 National Geographic Society/Roper Poll survey) cannot locate Iran or Iraq on a world map and 11 percent cannot locate the United States (!) is not merely “intellectually sluggish.” It would be more accurate to call it moronic, capable of being fooled into believing anything …

—Morris Berman, The Twilight of American Culture, June 28 2001

I cannot remember U.S. culture ever being quite so compromised by ruling class control. Hollywood turns out one jingoistic and militaristic and racist film and TV show after another. Corporate news is completely controlled by the same forces that run Hollywood. It is the complete capitulation of the liberal class to the interests of the increasingly fascistic U.S. elite. And this didn’t start with Donald Trump. Certainly in its current incarnation it goes back at least to Bill Clinton, and really it goes back to the end of WW2. The ideological trajectory was formed under the Dulles brothers and military industrial complex — representing U.S. business interests and exhibiting a demand for global hegemony. But once the Soviet Union collapsed, the project was accelerated and intensified.

Another starting point might well be the 1960 Bay of Pigs fiasco, or the 1961 CIA (and MI6) assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Or Kennedy’s 1962 speech at American University calling for the end of Pax Americana. We know what happened to Kennedy soon after that. Pick any of these incidents. But it was the fall of the U.S.S.R. that signaled to the governing class, the proprietor class, that the last real obstacle to global domination had been removed. In the interim one finds the Iran/Contra affair, and the invasion of Iraq. The real and the symbolic meaning of the Soviet Union is forgotten today, I think. Its meaning for the developing world, especially.

The next conscious trial balloon was Clinton’s attack on the former Yugoslavia. A test run for expanding NATO. And it worked. The propaganda machine has never been as successful as it was when it demonized the Serbs and Milosevic. Then came 9/11. And the well honed PR machine spewed an endless barrage of hyper patriotic rhetoric and disinformation. American exceptionalism was given full credibility. And remember Colin Powell and his cartoon visual teaching aids at the UN? Nobody was going to argue. Certainly not the white liberal class. And Hollywood upped its game in churning out military fantasies. And in just churning out fantasies. A genre that lent itself to obvious neo-colonial messages. By 2007, when Barack Obama announces he will run for President, the master narrative for America was firmly entrenched. The biggest hit from Hollywood in this period is Avatar (2009), a neo-colonial fable that fit seamlessly with Obama’s reconquest of Africa.

Dan Glazebrook recently wrote:

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China surpassed the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second, because Gaddafi was elected President of the African Union. The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. Whilst Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The US response was to increase base building, upgrade AFRICOM, and then murder Gaddafi. Hollywood hits from this period include The Hurt Locker and The Dark Knight. Meanwhile domestically Obama was giving the OK for militarizing of police departments across the country. On another front….Danny Haiphong wrote

What isn’t discussed often enough is how Obama has worked tirelessly to protect and fulfill the interests of the corporate healthcare system. In 2009, he collaborated with the monopoly health insurance industry and its pharmaceutical counterparts to repress the demand for single payer healthcare. The conditions at the time appeared ripe for a single payer system. Popular discontent with Republican Party rule was at its highest point. A relatively organized movement for single payer care was represented by organizations such as Healthcare Now. The Democratic Party possessed a majority in both the House and Senate.

Obama came to power as Wall Street went into meltdown, 2008. But instead of hope and change we got almost 5 trillion dollars moving to the top 1% of the financial elite. Poverty increased every year under Obama, as did inequality. Social Network came out in 2010 and Wolf of Wall Street in 2013. Both were big hits. The message from Hollywood never changed. And part of that message is that wealth is its own justification and a symbol of virtue. Hollywood, and U.S. liberals just naturally gravitate toward the rich.

Obama attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. And it is perhaps that last venture that will prove to be his most significant. Arming, training, and coordinating the Saudi aggression (and now that has escalated to boots on the ground) against the helpless Yemen has resulted in the largest humanitarian catastrophe in five decades.

The U.S. now has all but formally criminalized dissent, especially if that dissent is aimed at Israel.

None of this is to create exact corollaries between political action and studio product. But rather that the overriding message of Hollywood in both film and TV is to validate U.S. exceptionalism. And to hedge criticism with faint token protest. But its not just Hollywood, its theatre and fiction and all the rest of the arts. The erasure of the working class is the most pronounced truth in American culture today. There are no Clifford Odets (a high school drop out) anymore; they have been replaced by a steady stream of well groomed compliant MFA grads. Mostly from elite and expensive schools. Hemingway and James Baldwin were not college grads, nor was Tennessee Williams, the son of a traveling shoe salesman. Even more recent authors such as Thomas Pynchon were college drop outs (to join the Navy) but the point is that today mass culture is carefully controlled. Dreiser was a college drop out, and Twain was a typesetters apprentice. Others like Faulkner, went to University, but also worked. In Faulkner’s case as a postman. Same profession as Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski. Stephen Crane and Hemingway worked as journalists, when that was a honorable profession.

The decision makers in mass culture are mostly firmly entrenched in the Democratic Party ethos (witness stuff like House of Cards, Madame Secretary, or Veep). If one only gets one’s news from MSNBC or FOX or CNN then one will take away mostly pure propaganda. Rachel Maddow has a career based on craven parroting of DNC approved talking points and conclusions. Bill Maher, whose show is on HBO, is of late pimping for war. Sunday news talk shows do not invite radical voices, not ever. Michael Parenti isn’t on those shows, Ajamu Baraka or Glen Ford, not Mike Whitney or Ed Curtin or Dan Glazebrook or Stephen Gowans. No, but there are plenty of retired generals and politicians. This is a media that exerts absolute control of message.

The loss of the working class, of class diversity, has been a far bigger blow to the health of the culture than anything else. One might argue that culture has always been, in the modern era, a province of the bourgeoisie, and that’s true. But there is still a rather pronounced change that has taken place. But Americans are discouraged from thinking in terms of class. They see individualism and identity. Get me more women directors they cry….which would give us more versions of Zero Dark Thirty, I guess. Gender equality matters, something every single socialist country in history has emphasized. Something Chavez saw fit to write into the Bolivarian constitution on day one. Chavez, who liberal avatar Bernie Sanders dismissed as a “dead communist dictator”. Chavez, who feminist avatar Hillary Clinton worked overtime to oust from power.

People are shocked…shocked I say…that US soldiers are killed in Niger. Darn that Donald Trump. When it is pointed out that it was Obama who sent troops there in his pivot to Africa, one is met with blank stares. The concern over U.S. soldiers dying is simply mind numbing in its hypocrisy and blinkered exceptionalism. I mean just count the numbers of dead civilians due to U.S. drone strikes from just one year. Pick any year you like.

Under Obama, the US African Command (AFRICOM) has penetrated every African country but Zimbabwe and Eritrea. AFRICOM has locked African nations into military subservience. In 2014, the US conducted 674 military operations in Africa. According to a recent Freedom of Information Act request by Intercept, the US currently has Special Forces deployed in more than twenty African nations.

— Danny Haiphong, “The Destruction of Libya and the US Military Invasion of Africa“, August 18, 2016

People are terrified today lest they be called conspiracy theorists. No single pejorative term has exercised such disproportionate power. There is a subterranean subject position associated with this, too. A masculine identity that connects with the presentation of those accepting of the official version of things. It is ‘no nonsense, mature, and sort of tough guy’ pose. Only weak and muddled (feminine you see!) would bother to question official narratives of…well, anything. It is staggering, really, why so few ask why is it OK to assassinate people without due process? Why is it whistleblowers, truth tellers, are being locked away and shunned? Why are there 900 plus US military bases around the world. Why, given the growing poverty in the U.S., do we need an updated nuclear arsenal that will cost trillions? In fact, why is the defense budget over 4 billion a day? The liberal educated class seem not to ask such questions. Let alone ask is the U.S. arming takfiri jihadists in Syria? Most of what people call conspiracy is just perfectly reasonable skepticism. Given a history that includes COINTELPRO, Operation Northwoods, Gladio, MKUltra, and Operation AJAX. This is also relevant in terms of the coming war on *fake news*. An idea put forward by Obama and now in enthusiastic Orwellian operation by Facebook, YouTube, and Google. In the U.K. Theresa May proudly announces the government SHOULD control what one can see on the internet. Censorship is pitched as protection.

And then we come to NATO and Europe. Why does NATO even exist one might ask? I mean the USSR doesn’t exist anymore. Well, the answer has been under construction for a few years now, and that answer is the extraordinary anti Putin propaganda of the U.S. The “Russian Threat” is now an accepted trope in public discourse. Or the anti Iranian disinformation. In fact, Iran is far more democratic and less a global threat (actually its NO global threat) than U.S. boon allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. Which brings us back to Yemen. The utter destruction of Yemen, poorest Arab country in the world, and now one with the largest Cholera outbreak in history, posed no threat to ANYONE. Certainly not to the United States. Are we to believe the House of Saud is worth supporting? They behead homosexuals and witches in Saudi Arabia. The leader of KSA is a 32 year old psychopath named Mohammed Bin Salman. Someone please explain the U.S. support for this country?

Or Venezuela. The U.S. has waged various campaigns against this sovereign nation for over a decade now. A democracy. But a disobedient one. Where is the outcry? When people are going on about Harvey Weinstein, a troglodyte movie producer that literally everyone knew was a serial abuser, I wonder that the women of Venezuela seem not to count. Or of Libya, or Haiti, or Puerto Rico, or hell, the women of Houston right now. Poor women. Ah, but that is class again. Now perhaps the Weinstein affair will yield good results and some form of collective protection and maybe even unionizing will take place to limit the power of rich white men. I doubt it, but maybe. Still, given that the liberal class today applaud the idea of making it OK for women to bomb defenseless villages in Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen, just like men, and given that most of these horrified by Weinstein were and are solidly behind Hillary Clinton and the DNC, and laud adulation on figures like Maddie Albright, it seems hard to imagine.

Sexual abuse and violence in the U.S. is as old as the country. America’s patriarchal culture long legitimized sexual abuse and violence toward women — and children — whether conducted at the workplace, at home, a nightclub or on a deserted street. During the nation’s earliest days, the custom of sexual abuse and violence was legitimized through the notion of “chastisement.” This was a feature of Anglo-American common law that recognized the husband as master of “his” household and, thus, permitted him to subject “his” wife to corporal punishment, including rape, so long as he did not inflict permanent injury upon her. Sexual abuse was institutionalized in the rape of African and later African-American female slaves. As the legal scholar Adrienne Davis notes, “U.S. slavery compelled enslaved black women to labor in three markets – productive, reproductive, and slavery – crucial to the political economy.

— David Rosen, Male Sexual Violence: As American as Cherry Pie, October 20, 2017

One need only note the sexual violence that takes place in the U.S. military (See Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War). But that is not the military you see in this season’s TV shows such as SEAL Team or Valor or The Brave. The current Tom Cruise film American Made is a sort of comedy about Barry Seal who worked as a pilot for the CIA, and with various cartels in South America. Yeah, nothing funnier than squashing a socialist government like in Nicaragua. There is not a single Spanish speaking character who is not either a drunk, a sadist, or just incompetent. This stunningly racist revisionism was called “jaunty and bouncy” by the Hollywood Reporter.

The liberal class will always side with the status quo. Always. They do not care if the status quo is fascist. And it suits them much more to lay out bromides about male abuse of women, as long as this doesn’t mean having to untangle the complexity of women in unfamiliar non tourist visited nations like Yemen or Libya or Honduras. Just like the fact that U.S. domestic police departments murdered over a thousand black men in 2015. And continue to do so, along with increasing numbers of black women. That’s just not a jaunty bouncy story, I guess. Obama has never been comfortable talking about or to black people. He did manage to scold Colin Kaepernick recently though, about the pain he, Kaepernick, might be causing. The pain of white billionaire sports team owners I guess. The Uncle Tomism of what Glen Ford called black misleadership has never been greater. And that’s another crime we can lay, largely, at the feet of Barack Obama.

The U.S. House voted unanimously to sanction Iran and North Korea, an absurdity and a crime, and yet one that barely registered on the media Richter scale. What has Iran or North Korea ever done to hurt anyone in the United States? It is Saudi Arabia and Israel that fear a democratic nation like Iran and the influence they wield in the region. Iran is accused of fomenting instability but evidence is never given. Russia is said to control U.S. public opinion, but evidence is never given. The U.S. doesn’t even bother to really try and make claims about Venzeuela, because it’s just part of inherited wisdom that they are *bad*. Like Castro was bad, like Gadaffi, like Aristide, like anyone exhibiting independence. The world according to media entertainment is made up of bad guys and good guys. Mike Pompeo, head of the CIA, recently stated that his agency would become a “much more vicious agency” in fighting its enemies. Its actually hard to imagine what that might look like given CIA history. More vicious than rendition, drone killing and black site torture? Remember it was the U.S. and its School of the Americas that trained those death squads in Central America. Hollywood makes comedies about this.

In any event nobody in Hollywood complains. Just as none of the actresses assaulted by Weinstein (and countless others) said anything lest they lose career opportunities. Just as nobody complains about the racism and demonizing of Muslims or Serbs or North Koreans or Russians lest they not get the job. Coercion is silent and a given. It is also absolute. Most actors and directors simply don’t think about it, and most know little beyond what they hear on corporate news or read in the NYTimes. But I understand. People have to eat, have to feed their families. The real problem is that power is ever more consolidated. Distribution of films is monopolized. And for most Americans, foreign policy remains a giant black hole about which they know very little. Tell someone Milosovic was actually a good guy and they will laugh at you (this still happens on the left, too, rather depressingly). Tell them Russia is not threatening the U.S., or Europe, and they will laugh at you. Try to explain what Imperialism is and means, and you get that bored look of irritation. A good rule of thumb is if the U.S. targets a country or leader, then its worth questioning the western generated propagated propaganda in mainstream media about said country or leader (think Syria, Gadaffi, Aristide, Milosovic, Iran, North Korea). The U.S. does not go after countries who welcome western capital.

One of the things I’ve noticed about Hollywood film is the extraordinary amount of self pity from most characters. Self pity, entitlement, and sarcasm. The people who produce and make film and TV today, by and large, tacitly censor themselves. Some don’t have to, of course. But there is a general group think at work. And it extends to the way characters are written. The problems of affluent white people is the template here. Few examine the wider world, and mostly when they do it is seen as a world of threat and menace. An uncivilized place in need of guidance from the civilized white West (The Lost City of Z comes to mind, which made all the approved anti colonial notes while still creating a colonial narrative anyway).

But it is even more narrow than that. Everything resembles a studio; political discussions, even if they take place in outer space, resemble studio executives discussing opening weekend profits, or Neilson ratings. And since Hollywood itself ever more resembles Wall Street, or some corporate headquarters, that is increasingly what the world looks like. It is a profound loss of imagination. Westerns look and sound the same as melodramas set in Santa Monica or New York. Fantasy worlds resemble corporate headquarters or corporate motivational weekends. It is a world created by writers under thirty, largely, and certainly under forty. These are worlds created by people who themselves know very little of the world. They know even less about having to work for a living.

The entire universe of film is absent any class awareness. History is simplified the better to appeal to a wider audience. Everything feels and sounds the same. And it is stultifying. There are films and TV from Europe, even from the U.K. that have merit, have heterogeneous sensibilities, but not from Hollywood. Like White House press conferences, the idea is to stay on message. Black characters sound white (or are given caricature *black* dialect and dialogue), brown characters sound white (or are given caricature barrio dialects), and Muslims sound dangerous and devious. Asians seem lifted from Fu Manchu serials or Charlie Chan. Strange when I hear people make fun of ethnic cliches from the 1940s, because it is really no different today (and check the recent TV incarnation of the venerable Star Trek franchise where the Klingon villains are very dark, live in dark spaceships and utter a guttural invented language all of which suggests something oddly racist and like nothing so much as colonial portraits of savages from darkest Africa).

Fixation on Trump’s crimes distracts from a system in which crime is a built-in factor. Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. They are only the figureheads that carry water for the system. And the system is the property of the ruling class. People vote as if it crucially matters, and they vote for who they *like*. Not for policy because mostly they have no idea of policy. Trump is an obvious target, but that’s the problem in a sense. America didn’t become racist and violent overnight. The forces of social unrest have been building for decades. Trump was inevitable. His lack of basic literacy mirrors the nation he nominally heads, and his vulgarity mirrors the vulgarity of America, as does his misogyny and racism. The same advisors are in place and if Hillary had won, those openly fascist thugs applauding Trump would still be committing hate crimes. Has Trump empowered them? To a degree, yes. But an HRC win would likely have provided motivation of a different sort and the same violence would be taking place.

You cannot sustain, as a country, this level of inequality. And as more super hurricanes descend on us, as the bio-sphere collapses, none of this may end up mattering. There is something disturbing, actually, about the relentless attacks on Trump. It’s like beating up a special needs kid. Where was this hatred and outrage before? I mean Trump’s America, a term I hear a lot, is just America. We have over 2 million people in prison in the U.S. Far and away leaders in the world. Infant mortality, however, puts the U.S. between 26th and 51st, depending on who is counting. There is no Universal Heath Care, no union protection for workers, no maternity leave, no free education. What is there to feel so special about, exactly? Trump was very popular on his moronic reality TV show. I’m guessing more than few now outraged by this buffoonish reactionary watched that show. I mean it did last fifteen years I believe. Who did they think he was?

There is nothing wrong with identifying the crimes of Trump’s administration. But there is something deeply wrong in not recognizing it as a continuation of prevailing policy. Yes, it is worse in many areas. The environment for one. But then again, 47% of the world’s pollution is caused by the military. And the U.S. has a military bigger than the next ten largest militaries in the world. And every president since the first Bush has increased the military budget. The nightmare did not begin with the swearing in of Donald Trump. But nobody *likes* him. They *liked* Obama. And that is why he was able to do so much harm. Trump is dangerous not because of what he thinks (he mostly doesn’t) but because of his ignorance and weakness (and fear). And that weakness generated his welcoming hand to the Pentagon. Foreign policy is really in the hands of a man nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’. One cannot blame this catastrophic situation on one man. This is the creation of American history.

The Choreography of Human Dignity: Blade Runner 2049 and World War Z

The acceptance of violence in cinema today has become the norm. In almost every genre of cinema (even in comedies [Kick Ass] and musicals [Sweeney Todd]) today extreme violence can crop up at some point during the movie. Some film genres are based on violence: horror, war, westerns, crime, terror.

This is especially true of science fiction and zombie movies where ‘replicants’ (androids/robots) are executed (‘retired’) and zombies are mowed down with machine guns. And because replicants (Blade Runner 2049) and zombies (World War Z) are not ‘human’ then the representation of any form of violence can be used to ‘take them out’. In both films the replicants and zombies are in revolt globally. If we were to argue that both films were symbolic representations of contemporary global issues then we could explain this depiction of the revolting masses as symbolic of elite anxieties regarding the ever growing masses of slum dwellers and refugees in the world today.

​Blade Runner 2049

It is believed that 863 million people live in slums and around 65 million people live in refugee camps. We live in a global system which has created these problems but is not able to resolve them. Moreover, these numbers are constantly increasing and no state or international organisation has been able to reverse the figures, hence the anxiety.In Blade Runner 2049 the fear is that the replicants could start reproducing themselves and overrun the planet and in World War Z masses of zombies have already started to take over the world. In both films the overriding concern is how to stop them. In Blade Runner 2049 a replicant’s child must be found and destroyed and in World War Z the discovery is made that inoculation with a pathogen causes the zombies to ignore the humans.

​Sweeney Todd

The use of violence to destroy the replicants and zombies is depicted in very graphic scenes. We are being  familiarised with regular violent scenes of ‘people’ being killed with machine guns, shot point blank in the head, knifed in the heart or executed on the spot. We do not question the morality of such actions because they are ‘androids’, ‘robots’,  ‘zombies’, etc. However, when such behaviour is shown in films where humans are depicted, do we question it? Do we think about issues of human dignity, justice before the law, the Geneva Conventions, the abolition of capital punishment? Are we becoming like the mob who shouts ‘take him out’?In film-making the movement of actors before the camera is called ‘blocking’. This comes from theatre where small blocks were used to work out the positions of each actor on stage.

Blocking means working out the the details of each actor’s moves during filming of each scene. Actors must learn the choreography of hand to hand combat (slaps and punches) and how to work with a gun to look authentic and realistic. The huge increase in realistic violent scenes in cinema has had its physical toll on actors accruing injuries in combat scenes, an increase in stunt actors and ever more realistic computer graphics.

​World War Z

On a symbolic level the human body is becoming more objectified as a dehumanised punch bag, while on a philosophical level there is a move away from humanism to an apocalyptic ‘posthuman’ view. We are becoming less and less shocked at the sight of torture, pumping blood, bones sticking out, severed limbs, massive gashes in the body, knife wounds and multiple bleeding bullet holes.It wasn’t always like this. In the 1930s Hollywood adopted the self-imposed Hays Code (officially the Motion Picture Production Code) which set out guidelines on what could be depicted in films. While the code covered many aspects of society especially in relation to crime, nudity and religion, it also recommended that ‘special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated’ such as: ‘Arson’, ‘The use of firearms’, ‘Brutality and possible gruesomeness’, ‘Technique of committing murder by whatever method’, ‘Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime’ and ‘Rape or attempted rape’.

While some may laugh at the prudery and censorship of cinema during those times (which had been rejected by the early 1960s), others see a more human era when violence was implied rather than graphically depicted.

​Kick Ass

The issues at stake here, though, are not the problems of censorship or prudery but the depiction and role of violence in cinema. Cui bono? In society who benefits from the constant portrayal of interhuman and internecine violence in the movies? Cinema has a mass popular base and therefore will influence attitudes in society as people watch and discuss films they see in theatres and on television. Cinema is also extremely costly to make and therefore its content is highly constrained by the type of subject matter elites wish to be viewed. It is often said that the director gets first cut and the producers determine the rest.It is also known that elites foment controversy to keep the people fighting with each other as a form of divide and rule. By recycling controversies in different forms again and again elites create as many divisions as possible that prevent people uniting as one, and, more importantly, uniting against them. In cinema we constantly see people individually and in groups at each others throats arguing and fighting or facing each other off in various types of gun battles.

Fortunately, cinema also has a tradition of film making which revolves around working class unity and solidarity. This comes down to individual writers and directors with a social consciousness who over the years have made films that explored the lives and struggles of ordinary people. Filmmakers themselves are aware of the potential for decline of a film industry without a code of ethics, where anything goes. In recent years the president of the Union of Cinematographers of Russia, film director Nikita Mikhalkov, initiated the creation of an ethics charter for the film industry there. The code would be a voluntary, self-regulation of the industry. It is interesting to note that in the United States the Golden Age of Hollywood coincided with the time of the Hays Code.

In the discussion about violence in the cinema part of the debate revolves around just and unjust violence. However, one may ask if the depiction of extreme violence in the revenge of the oppressed is reason enough for the acceptability of its portrayal? Even here the dignity of the human being implies that the ethical imperative is to move away from the horror of extreme violence for the possibility of the creation of a genuinely civilised future.