Category Archives: Opinion

Russia warns Bolton: “Monroe Doctrine” Remarks are Insulting to Latin America

What is the ‘Monroe Doctrine’? In brief, it is a document which defines the entire Western Hemisphere as a ‘backyard’ of the United States. It ‘philosophically’ justifies Washington’s neo-colonialism, and the most barbaric coups it has been triggering, as well as covered and open interventions in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.

And now, National Security Advisor John Bolton, is using this term in connection with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, outraging those who are opposing the US foreign policy in the region. What he means is clear, although it is never pronounced as bluntly as that: Countries in the Western Hemisphere should never be allowed to go socialist, and they should be prevented from disobeying Western dictates.

In Doha, Qatar, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, expressed his outrage over Bolton’s evoking of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ now, when the West is doing all in its power to overthrow the democratically elected left-wing government of Venezuela:

The theory and the practice of “backyards” is generally insulting…

Sergei Lavrov also added that:

Since 1945, when the UN was founded, the international law is being regulated by this universal and the most legitimate organization.

This is, obviously, not how the United States sees the world. Maybe it never even considered such an approach.

*****

But back to the ‘notorious’ Monroe Doctrine.

Surprisingly, it was not always intended to intimidate and brutalize independent and progressive Latin American nations.

According to the definition of the United States Department of State:

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

So, in theory at least, this policy was supposed to be putting the brakes on European colonialist expansionism. This may sound almost unbelievable now.

How very unfortunate that it has evolved into one of the most unscrupulous tools of oppression in modern history!

Contradictory to its original meaning, the United States used the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in order to overthrow basically all patriotic, progressive and left-wing governments in the Western Hemisphere; governments that resisted the selfish geo-political interests of Washington, or the interests of US corporations, including the infamous United Fruit Company which was notorious for treating virtually all Central American countries as if they were its private plantations.

Then during the Cold War, US foreign policy towards Latin America was built on the belief that the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ should be invoked in order to prevent the spread of Soviet-backed Communism in the region.

What followed is well known: massacres in Central America, brutal coups and fascist dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and elsewhere; tens of thousands of men, women and children ‘disappeared’. Death squads murdering, raping and torturing everywhere, from Guatemala and Salvador to Argentina and Chile.

The fight for US hegemony was basically and cynically named as a ‘fight for democracy’. Slavery was defined as ‘freedom’. The ‘Monroe Doctrine’ became synonymous with Plan Condor, with monstrous torture chambers and with people being thrown alive into the sea from helicopters.

*****

Now the Trump administration is re-deploying those old and fatal Cold War warriors, elevating them to high positions, the same people who were murdering, plotting and cheering assassins. The list reads like a “Wanted for Genocide” catalogue: Elliott Abrams, Michael Pompeo and yes: John Bolton.

These individuals are, of course, unapologetic.

Just recently, John Bolton declared:

In this administration we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’. This is a country in our hemisphere and it’s been the objective of American presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely Democratic hemisphere.

He was talking about Venezuela, of course.

And so, the almost 200 year old ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has been revitalized; put to deadly work once again.

As reported by the Daily Star:

Mr. Bolton said the Donald Trump administration was “not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’,” when asked why it was targeting Venezuela while maintaining close alliances with tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia. The doctrine, dating back to the 1820s, denoted the Western hemisphere as a zone of US influence.

It is clear that this time, what Mr. Bolton envisions under the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has nothing in common with the fight against European colonialism. It is a bellicose ‘modern-day’ interpretation of the doctrine: the justification for Western imperialism all over the Hemisphere. And perhaps all over the world.

Sergei Lavrov correctly defined Bolton’s remarks as ‘insulting’. They are also deadly. As they are indicative of what Western foreign policy may soon become, or has already become: an unapologetic and uncompromising return to the harshest form of expansionism.

What the US tried to avert (perhaps) some 200 years ago, it at some point joined, and then ‘perfected’. Now, it is trying to bring it to an absolute extreme.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

To Bag or Not to Bag

We’re probably not the first time there’s been a civilization in the universe,” states Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and the author of Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth.

The idea that we’re destroying the planet gives us way too much credit. Certainly, we’re pushing the earth into a new era. If we look at the history of the biosphere, the history of life on earth, in the long run, the earth is just going to pick that up and do what is interesting for it. It will run new evolutionary experiments. We, on the other hand, may not be a part of that experiment. Source.

Damn, and I was just going to rattle on about why I am not making it to the Newport City Council meeting in an hour (6 pm, 4/15/2019) to see if the wise mayor and council vote for a single-use plastic bag ban. I have rallied around the ban for many more reasons than the negative effects of this throwaway bag on marine life, fish, reefs and the aesthetic value of not having a bag for groceries wafting high in the Sitka spruces around here.

I’m thinking a puny single-use plastic bag ban is the inch-worm step toward having a shitload of real conversations, action plans and paradigm shifts in how communities will attempt to weather the impending huge negative effects of climate change, food shortages, high cost of energy, pollution, lack of housing (affordable) and the lack of worthy employment, education, retirement, palliative care, and rehab.

If we can’t restrict one plastic item in the scheme of all the junk thrown at us by corporations and their chemical purveyors, then how are we going to have conversations about forcing all corporations to stop mindless over-production of junk and put an end to their Capitalism on Steroids of planned material-product obsolescence so they can continue to sell-sell-sell? How are we going to stop capitalism in its tracks, which is the ONLY solution to climate change, predatory wealth, and the resulting externalities of more and more pollution, toxins, wars, and death? That’s the only way to battle against what we have now, in 2019 as 410 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase, ocean acidification continues to rise, and hypoxia and mindless-endless wars continue to spread; wars and war making/prepping/staging sucking an amazing 52 cents of each tax dollar thrown at war material/war profiteers/war enablers/ war side businesses?

Broken schools systems, broken lives, and broken spirits, in a country that calls itself Christian and then supports the most irreligious, blasphemous devil-loving man/woman/LBGTQ-hating, racist and sexist and imbalanced human shadow called Trump. All of those seven deadly sins he has dripping from his Big Mac lubricated jowl.

The reality is there is no simple approach to anything these days — to even getting to first base in regard to community participatory thinking in order to make way at rolling up our sleeves to begin to solve problem after problem created by that perverted business principle (sic) that any of the Fortune 1000 and all the sycophants embrace (all solvable). And the unintended and intended consequences of our individual, family, group and national/global decisions need to be weighed ahead of the game. The tipping points, the feedback loops, and lag time and tragedy of the commons and the overshoot of everything capitalism does for profit with no regard to humankind, wildlife, air, water, food, soil, aesthetics and so on, this is what we need to be working on, not all the flippant shit we express in our collective capitalist angst and superficial consumerism.

I am also colliding with some heady stuff, tied to the Great Filter, while teaching some dirt-poor children in this rural county and working on imbecilic plastic bag bans (when we should be banning all plastics and go back to a world where we do things in bulk — think reusable containers, streamlining packaging and working with the finite planet. These juxtapositions are the thing of my morning first cup of coffee:

Humanity seems to have a bright future, i.e., a non-trivial chance of expanding to fill the universe with lasting life. But the fact that space near us seems dead now tells us that any given piece of dead matter faces an astronomically low chance of begating such a future. There thus exists a great filter between death and expanding lasting life, and humanity faces the ominous question: how far along this filter are we?

Combining standard stories of biologists, astronomers, physicists, and social scientists would lead us to expect a much smaller filter than we observe. Thus one of these stories must be wrong. To find out who is wrong, and to inform our choices, we should study and reconsider all these areas. For example, we should seek evidence of extraterrestrials, such as via signals, fossils, or astronomy. But contrary to common expectations, evidence of extraterrestrials is likely bad (though valuable) news. The easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.

[…]

Finally, we would do well to keep a in mind a few unusual aspects of this Great Filter puzzle. First, let us keep in mind the interdisciplinary nature of the this puzzle. While it may comforting for each discipline to claim that the Filter must surely lie in some other discipline of (in their eyes) lessor repute, such claims should surely be backed up by detailed analysis using our best understanding of that discipline. It will no more do for astronomers to simply claim, without further supporting analysis, that people will lose their tendency to colonize, than it would do for biologists to simply declare that astronomers could not possibly know that the universe is as big as they claim.

Second, we must be wary of the “God of the Gaps” phenomena, where miracles are attributed to whatever we don’t understand. Contrary to the famous drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost, here we are tempted to conclude that the keys must lie in whatever dark corners we have not searched, rather than face the unpleasant conclusion that the keys may be forever lost.

Finally, we should remember that the Great Filter is so very large that it is not enough to just find some improbable steps; they must be improbable enough. Even if life only evolves once per galaxy, that still leaves the problem of explaining the rest of the filter: why we haven’t seen an explosion arriving here from any other galaxies in our past universe? And if we can’t find the Great Filter in our past, we’ll have to fear it in our future. —  Robin Hanson

How can we not question the scheme of things, big and small and unknown . . . and the observable now and the predictable future in our collective predictive consciousnesses? Really, though, the crux of this blog is about how quickly words become, now, in 2019, the tools of incarceration and damnation by the powers. Words that repeat themselves and end up on the precipice of propaganda time, with realities only set for the marketers, billionaires and political class. Just look now at Julian Assange. We are all Julian Assange! That is, those of us who write, we all are Assange. Those of us who publish. And who report!

The big question today and from hereon is: How might I end up erased or un-personed, because I espouse anti-Imperialism and anti-Americanism and anti-Capitalism ideals, or posit a much more aggressive revolutionary zealotry or even ask for people to face fascism with chaos/disruption/ physical force against the powers that be. Rejecting to jobs, rejecting payments, fines, levies, fees, prosecutions, mortgages, indoctrination, taxes, mandates, tolls; or invalidating popular propaganda and its evil twin, marketing, well, that in itself is violence against the state, the corporation, the old-new global or community or group order.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilization”. The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast. — John Pilger 

Now, this mental state I am shaking out of is tied to the big picture/small picture thing, and while the plastic bag ban I have written about here recently in the past, and those few little bits that have been published in the local newspaper, well well, life does go on in terms of the big big scale!

Experts Paint Sobering Potential for Sea Change 

No Ordinary Fish Monger — page 1

Students Grapple with Plastics — page 4

Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags in the US.

This is how democracy doesn’t work — going to a small town city council, rural county locale,  trying to wade through the ineptitude of our representative government. Many in the city councils around the country get paid squat. Many are using it —  political service/disservice — to make connections, both business and political, which is the same Hydra in fact. Much on that later, too! Many small town council members are attempting to do some good for the community, don’t get me wrong. But the solutions are still mired in the fantasies of economic growth unchecked, a green light to the business community, and a belief that everyone in the USA can pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps and find his or her 40 acres and a mule — or in modern parlance, his or her own 2500 square foot rancher on 1.5 acres with 2.3 children and 2.7 vehicles in the 3 car garage while managing a string of drive-through coffee stands! Or variations on that theme!

Environmental concerns are just postcard thinking by the masses, that majority of people who have not yet suffered the fence-line communities’ environmental (pollution) racism.

Q. What are some people that inspire you?

A. The work of W E B Dubois has inspired me a lot. He was not only a famous sociologist but also someone who could be called a ‘change agent’. He was not only a good social theorist but also very interested in the application of his work. I saw his work to be directly relevant to influencing the life of ordinary people. His work made me believe that research, policy, and practice must go hand-in-hand.

Q. How is climate change a social and environmental justice issue?

A. Climate change is the number one problem of the 21st century. We sometimes forget that climate change is much more than simply parts per million (of greenhouse gas emissions). It is an equity issue. It effects some people directly. The most peculiar aspect of climate change is that the populations that contribute least to the problem of climate change are most likely to feel its impacts. Such disproportionality makes it a serious social justice issue.

Climate change is also a very complex issue to solve. It is a global issue, a national issue, and a local issue—all at the same time. At the local level, the population at the front line of the impacts of climate change are also at risk to other things. For example, usually the most susceptible to climate change-related impacts are those with greater food and water insecurity.

Hence, climate change intersects with vulnerable populations not only after a disaster but also before a disaster. Because of the complexity and uniqueness of the climate change crisis, we cannot continue to plan (climate mitigation and adaptation) for it using the tools of the past. I think that from a planning perspective, we cannot assume that a uniform plan can work for all in terms of ensuring social justice. Planning has to be sensitive to the fact that communities and nations have different levels of wealth, health, and education. The goal for planning should be to build community resilience and provide an opportunity for people to bounce back both before and after a catastrophic event.  — Robert D. Bullard,  the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. He is often described as the father of environmental justice.

Look, I cut my teeth on environmentalism, and yes, we have disaster after disaster happening to ecosystems — wild, as in marine, and with homo sapiens, as in the average Joe and Jane, Lupe and Lorenzo! I put the human element in with the wild element, and, yes, there are huge issues tied to capitalism, population at 7.5 billion, corporate complicity (and its driving of other sell-outs and Faustian Bargain adherents) in driving the ecological crisis. There is no argument from me to say that the 2,700 billionaires (and their families) and the 36,000,000 millionaires (and their families) do not deserve the power they have buggered the world for nor the majority of their loot because it’s been at the expense of families, men and women and children, and entire communities, entire regions, entire countries, entire species. If I say lock them up, then, well, what a better solution than what the 36,002,700 super rich and their thugs and sycophants and Little Big Eichmann’s have had in store for us, the 80 percent, and the ecosystems destroyed by each and every cargo ship unleashed to the world.

But, we also are a rapacious species, self-deluded into thinking we are above the rest of the animal kingdom, and that it’s winner takes all. That attitude is not the attitude of the majority of peoples. Yet, those people, those civil societies, those battlers for agriculture and water rights —  to hold their land as bio-intensive and organic components of the ecosystems around them —  they are battling overlords and societies that depend on perpetual growth: perpetual growth in profits, in interest rates, in population rates and replacement rates for each passing generation.

The unborn and the old and the ones who want to stay poor but completely able and subsistence centered   on their own land can’t even get past the evil of the corporation and the government unregulators working with the thugs:

Glyphosate is the base chemical component for some 750 different brands of pesticides worldwide, in addition to Monsanto-Bayer’s Roundup. Glyphosate residues have been found in tap water, orange juice, children’s urine, breast milk, chips, snacks, beer, wine, cereals, eggs, oatmeal, wheat products, and most conventional foods tested. It’s everywhere, in brief.

In a long-term animal study by French scientists under Gilles Eric Seralini, Michael Antoniou and associates, it was demonstrated that even ultra-low levels of glyphosate herbicides cause non-alcoholic liver disease. The levels the rats were exposed to, per kg of body weight, were far lower than what is allowed in our food supply. According to the Mayo Clinic, today, after four decades or more pervasive use of glyphosate pesticides, 100 million, or 1 out of 3 Americans now have liver disease. These diagnoses are in some as young as 8 years old. (read old interview of great scientist exposing GMOs and Monsanto, who is now deceased,  conducted by yours truly here!)

I always feel as if a little bit of hope can creep up on me and assist me in my own sanity in the insanity that is now. Sure, everything that changes stays the same. Maybe, but much on that later. The fact this glyphosate story is just one of millions demonstrating there is no great filter running this society, though many believe we as a species will eventually get to speeds approaching FTL — faster than light — to help us explore, move away, become celestial pilgrims again and again!

Hope is like knowing sugar is bad-bad-bad for you, for the entire human physiology, the entire system of the homo sapiens regulating immune system, creating inflammation, gut issues, brain “fog,” and more. Not glucose for the body as the body breaks down veggie and fruit fructose to feed the brain.

Yet, we go out and eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup or down a soda or shot of whiskey. It’s all bad-bad-bad, but we have hope that just one scoop of Ben and Jerry’s or one margarita or that Lucky Charms binge is just a passing phase.

Wrong! Addiction and feedback loops and hungry insulin rushing through the body looking to eat. And, alas, comes the single-use plastic bag ban. We want those reusable ones, those cotton ones, and, well, the bag ban — single use ones, that is (actually the single use wimpy bags are used as garbage liners and poop scoop receptacles, so they are actually disposable bags with a second use-reuse-repurpose tag) — seems like a win-win.

But, there are life cycle assessments, and the jury is pretty much in, out there — you have to look at the consequences of one action creating another action or one product taken out of the consumer stream but replaced by other products.

Life cycle assessments and embedded energy . . . and that fact that when you chew that mango on the Oregon Coast, consider how many miles it traveled from where it came; how many machines sowed it and harvested it; how many pesticides and inputs “protected” it and grew it; how much oil was used to build the transportation system that moved it and all the equipment to grow and harvest it; and how many more miles were expended to take it from point a to point b, and then to points c and d, as well as how much packaging after processing was used to bring that mango to you at the local 7-11 as dried sulfur-gassed chews ready to be trucked to the vendor selling them at the beach kiosk?

Life cycle analysis. Maybe we need to do the same life cycle (destroying) analysis of products. Or the life cycle enslavement cycle of freaky thinker like Mister 9-9-6 man or Elon Musk!

Image result for 996 culture Musk

One of China’s richest men has been criticized for endorsing the controversial culture of 12-hour workdays in the country’s red-hot tech industry, saying employees who worked longer hours will get the “rewards of hard work.”

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA), has spoken out on social media in recent days in support of the Chinese work practice known as “996.” The number refers to working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week and is said to be common among the country’s big technology companies and start-ups.

Image result for 996 culture

“If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem,” Ma said in a blog post Sunday on Chinese social media site Weibo. “If you don’t like [your work], every minute is torture,” he added.

Ma’s comments prompted criticism from Chinese social media users.

“Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, (or) the children who need company?” wrote a Weibo user with the online moniker stupidcan123, in response to Ma’s post. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children” because of a lack of time, they added

“It has become harder and harder to raise money recently,” Zhao said in his brightly decorated office located in a fancy Beijing office building. “I’m under a lot of pressure. Sometimes I’m awake from around 2 am to dawn and can’t stop thinking about my company’s future.”

Eric Tao, founder and chief executive of Beijing-based random video chat company Holla, feels the same pain as Musk and Zhao. “As CEO of the company, I can’t under-perform this week and make it up by outperforming next week. It doesn’t work that way,” he said, adding that he works about 12 hours a day, so not as many as Musk.

In the scheme of things, 996 or 797 — 7 am to 9 pm 7 days a week — is what will (is) burning up the planet. Busy bees, these slave masters are. What are their billions made doing for society.

I know I know — a plastic bag ban is a drop in the proverbial pond.

I sent this email below to the mayor and council to circumvent going to a meeting an hour away (one-way) from where I live. Also, to circumvent the hard stares directed at me, as I am the only one who doesn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance and I am one of the few who doesn’t take off my hat for councils and judges, inside or outside.  I am not afraid to visibly emote or enunciate my concerns when I hear something said. You know, I also do not like the constraints of gaveling fools looking down on us and three-minute time minutes for public comments per citizen.

I also do not see the plastic bag ban as a win-win, since we have allowed the plastics and toxins and oil industries and other industries to dictate what we do, think, believe, purchase and invest in . . . with the dirty bidding of the elected officials behold to them.

Carrying Grocery Bags

Date: Monday, April 15, 2019 – 6:00 PM
TO: Council Chambers, Newport City Hall, 169 SW Coast Highway

Dear Council –

First, I have to say our form of shallow participatory democracy is not working when we have to spend so much time on a simple single-use plastic bag ban.

This may be an elected form of representational democracy, but the reality is you all do not have the collective IQ to drill down on much. We the people, for the people, by the people actually should be working daily and at night to determine how communities thrive, or survive or mitigate what many scientists and journalists like myself call the privatization of the external negative costs to the community, including air, water, soil, ecosystems, human and non-human health.

Corporations reap the profits but we the taxpayer and the tens of thousands of human communities and the ecological ones to boot pay for the clean-up and negative outcomes of rapacious capitalism.

Our collective IQ exponentially outshines those collectively of all the CEOs of those companies like Exxon or Georgia Pacific or Weyerhaeuser or Raytheon or Google or Wells Fargo, et al. The problem is in places like Newport, where livable jobs are scarce for the average person working in service jobs and warehouse and blue collar employment, families sometimes have to have five jobs between both parents to make ends meet.

Coming to City Hall for a Council meeting is both difficult and disconnected to their lives.

So, back to not just a low hanging fruit, one that is right there between your feet:

The average bag you pick up at the grocery store, or carry your takeout in, has a lifespan of about 12 minutes.

When discarded, they clog sewage and storm drains, entangle and kill an estimated 100,000 marine mammals every year, and degenerate into toxic microplastics that fester in our oceans and landfills for up to 1,000 years.

Despite this, shoppers collectively use around 1 trillion billion single-use plastic bags every year. That’s 300 bags per person, per year, for every single person on Earth — or enough to circle the globe 8,600 times.

One trillion plastic bags – single use – are used, equating to 2 million per minute.

Now how is the average child from a family of parents barely getting to each new paycheck before an eviction or foreclosure notice going to wrap their heads around JUST single-use plastic bag consumption?

How will we have conversations about the incredible and perverse ways corporations have fed them and their parents on habitual overuse of plastics in everything?

A bag ban is a micro-start to the bigger conversations around ocean acidification (CO2 release from fossil fuels – plastics are fossil fuels – cement factories, cutting down and burning forests) and fisheries depletion and microplastics inside their own children’s gut, blood and feces.

We are the throwaway society we all embrace and decry because corporations profit from that lack of durability.

The ban is just a small start to the conversation which we need to start attacking the external pain and pollution and quickening of global warming we have to have now. Do we change our habits significantly when we have almost no choice in the matter since corporations control legislatures, federal agencies, local communities’ will and will power and narratives?

No, we have to demand a new system of production, resource exploitation, and citizen consumption.

Good luck tonight. LCA’s are deeper ways to look at all our consumption habits and the goods and services we demand as a very consumerist-centered society. That’s life-cycle assessments!

This is no small matter. You all are lowly representatives of the small city of Newport who will have to deal with these facts when looking at other plastics and other products used in the city. Life-cycle assessments and embedded energy and the amount of calories of energy (fossil fuel burning) to get food from farm to plate are big issues you might not think affect city council business but they will!

Vote for the plastic bag ban, but then be ready for bigger fish to fry, to use a pun that is probably not so funny these days.

I teach youth here in the Lincoln County school district. I write social-cultural-environmental-economic-media justice issues.

I continue to study (and was a leader in) true sustainability discourse, planning and education.

While I support the plastic bag ban, I am smart enough to look at the leakage of bans toward other uses of plastic to make up the bin and garbage can liner issue — yes, more plastic bags of heavier gauge will be purchased to offset that 12-minute single use bag.

Ponder how complicated the world is now that we have given the rights to clear-cut forests, dump toxins in river systems, emit pollutants in small and large communities’ air systems, and limit affordable housing to the purveyors of profit without social-environmental-cultural-racial considerations.

Even knowing all of the so-called ins and outs and positives and negatives tied to a city-wide ban on single use plastic bags, we have to show some mettle and begin to start the larger conversations on how what we get from corporations actually determines our futures and the futures of more than just seven generations out – about 140 years into the future!

Not easy reading:Bag leakage: The effect of disposable carryout bag regulations on unregulated bags/i.e.  Life Cycle Analysis of Single Use Plastic Bags.

Sincerely, Paul Haeder, Otis, Oregon –

P.S. — committed to not adding to the road congestion and air pollution of my round-trip to Newport even in my 46 mpg 20 year old car by staying put this evening! (ahh, even knowing the energy footprint of typing on a computer and using an email system is significant unto itself!)

Kenya has the strictest plastic bag ban of all. The punishment for breaking the law is up to four years in jail or fines up to $40,000. Rwanda has a strict policy as well.

Here’s the leakage:

This means that 28.5 percent of the plastic reduction from DCB policies is lost due to consumption shifting towards unregulated trash bags. The results also provide a lower bound for the reuse of plastic carryout bags, with 12–22% of plastic carryout bags reused as trash bags pre-regulation. In other words, a substantial proportion of carryout bags were already reused in a way that avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag.

If carbon footprint was the only metric of environmental success, the results in this paper suggest DCB policies are having an adverse effect, especially if we consider the effect on paper carryout bag use. However, if the unmeasured benefits with respect to marine debris, toxicity, and wildlife are great enough, they could outweigh the greenhouse gas costs.

LCAs of plastic, paper, and reusable carryout bags have been shown to be sensitive to assumptions made about the weight and number of trash bags displaced by the secondary use of plastic carryout bag, with the reuse of plastic carryout bags as bin liners substantially improving their environmental performance (Mattila et al., 2011). According to a UK Environmental Agency (2011) study, a shopper needs to reuse a cotton carryout bag 131 times to have the same global warming potential (measured in kilograms of CO2 equivalent) as plastic carryout bags with zero reuse, while that same cotton bag needs to be reused 327 times if all plastic carryout bags are reused as bin liners.

And, of course, plastic bags are a major threat:

The United Nations Environmental Programme (2014) estimates the environmental damage to marine ecosystems of plastic litter is $13 billion per year. This estimate includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism as well as time spent cleaning up beaches. While plastic bags and films represent only 2.2% of the total waste stream (CA Senate Rules Committee, 2014), plastic carryout bags and other plastic bags are the eighth and sixth most common item found in coastal cleanups. Once in waterways, plastic bags do not biodegrade, but instead break into smaller pieces, which can be consumed by fish, turtles, and whales that mistake them for food. A survey of experts, representing 19 fields of study, rank plastic bags and plastic utensils as the fourth severest threat to sea turtles, birds, and marine animals in terms of entanglement, ingestions, and contamination (Wilcox et al., 2016).

I’ll be posting an earth day, Earth Day, article soon, since that’s 4/22/2019. All the intricacies of just how screwed the planet it and how screwed 80 percent of us are in the immediate future. Screwed if we continue business as usual and coming up with the same asinine solutions to solve bigger and more complex problems  —

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

So minor good news is that Newport, on a vote of 5 to 2, passed the plastic bag ban!

NEWPORT — The City of Newport became the eighth city in Oregon Monday night to pass a plastic bag ban ordinance, outlawing single-use plastic bags often used at grocery stores and community events to carry out purchases. The council vote was 5-2 in favor.

If I Had a Hacker

After Julian Assange’s arrest and the resulting explosion of the internet last weekend, I attempt to pick up some of the pieces.

This past week has been one of those weeks when the internet seemed to explode, as it does every so often. Analyzing the patterns in which the rubble hit the ground after the blast, there is an overwhelming sense of mass confusion. Questions and condemnations are everywhere. Who does he really work for? What are his real interests? Who wants to extradite him, and why?

In one moldy crevice of the internet we have people convinced that he couldn’t possibly be a rapist, he was set up, the women are crisis actors. In another fetid corner are those loudly proclaiming that because he may be guilty of these accusations, who cares if he’s extradited to the US for entirely other reasons?

And then, in still another myopic little hole, the loyal Democrats, convinced that anyone who calls out Hillary Clinton as an imperialist stooge of Goldman Sachs must therefore be working for both Putin and Trump. And, therefore, so what if Julian Assange is thrown to the wolves in Alexandria, Virginia, along with Chelsea Manning?

I get the powerful sense that people don’t know what to believe. When faced with a situation where there are many different interests involved, putting forward different perspectives for their own particular reasons, there is a tendency for people to retreat into irrational little corners and shout obscenities at anyone who tries to talk to them.

It is, however, through the opposite of this kind of retreat and shout mentality where we can begin to understand the world around us. It’s imperative that you first turn off your TV. With talk radio or talk TV like Fox or MSNBC, all you get is repetition of positions, rather than analysis of real information. But repetitive propaganda of a liberal, conservative, fascist, socialist, or other nature is not what we need. To understand the world, you need more information, not less — a broader array of angles from which to view the same situation, not more ways to beat a dead horse.

Cutting to the chase, Julian Assange is wanted by the forces of empire in Washington, DC, both Democratic and Republican, because he helped expose US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This is no longer a suspicion, but we can now say since his arrest in London it is a fact. Whatever he thinks of the relative pros and cons of the two ruling parties in the US, however he has treated people on an interpersonal basis, whether or not his organization has accepted donations from the right or wrong people now or historically — while all of these questions are certainly relevant broadly, they are not relevant to the basic reason why the US has been trying to resuscitate the moribund Espionage Act of 1920 to go after whistle-blowers and journalists — or, in the case of Julian Assange, whistle-blower/journalists.

Chelsea Manning got 35 years. Her future at this point is very uncertain. There is no reason to suspect that the Justice Department will be seeking any less of a punishment in their case against Assange, which is being pursued for the exact same so-called crimes — the crime of exposing war crimes. This is why Julian Assange should be defended.

Between Yes and No, Heaven and Earth with Albert Camus on a Spring Morning

To give up beauty and the sensual happiness that comes with it and devote one’s self exclusively to unhappiness requires a nobility I lack. However, after all, nothing is true that compels us to make it exclusive.  Isolated beauty ends in grimaces, solitary justice in oppression.  Anyone who seeks to serve the one to the exclusion of the other serves no one, not even himself, and in the end is doubly the servant of injustice.  A day comes when, because we have been inflexible, nothing amazes us anymore, everything is known, and our life is spent in starting again.  It is a time of exile, dry lives, dead souls.  To come back to life, we need grace, a homeland, or to forget ourselves.  On certain mornings, as we turn a corner, an exquisite dew falls on our heart and then vanishes.  But the freshness lingers, and this, always, is what the heart needs.  I had to come back once again.

— Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa, 1954

For a writer to fight injustice to the exclusion of creating beauty and living passionately contradicts the deepest desires of the human heart.  Albert Camus taught us this.  The love of life must inform the rebel’s resistance to injustice.  “It seems to me that the writer must be fully aware of the dramas of his time,” he writes, “and that he must take sides every time he can and knows how to do so.”  But his refusal, his no, does not imply a renunciation but an affirmation, a yes, to the joy and grandeur of life that is everyone’s birthright.

This is the difficult way of true art – the rebel writer’s way – the tension that the writer must live with as he shuttles back and forth between one’s heart’s desires and his commitment to resist evil.  What is the point of fighting for a better world if one does not live as if that world were here now, and one’s living and writing were the revelation of that reality.  Camus somewhere said something to the effect that it is not your writings that I like, it is your writing.  He knew that we are always on the way, and our wayfaring should prefigure the enigma of our arrivals.

It is spring as I write and I am thinking of Camus when that exquisite dew fell on his heart that early morning. No doubt Albert felt a bit of heaven.  I’m feeling it now.  Spring, the time of the resurrection of the living dead.  All around new life bursts and blooms in wild array. A mountain stream races down the hillside, shouting its joy that the earth’s new warmth has freed it at last from its frozen sleep.  In the trees all around the birds have returned and sing exultantly of their homecoming.  Almost before our eyes the flowers push their way up to the light.  They have had enough of the underground, hungrily seeking the sun.  It is a beautiful dawn, and I can smell it.  I feel as though I have awoken from a long and deep sleep.  The morning star welcomed me. The sun rose majestically. And across my window three early flies jitterbug in the first light.  The whole earth is conspiring to explode with life and it is asking for our assent.

But dare the living-dead awaken?  Shall we say yes to this paradise?

“This day you will be with me in paradise.”  That’s what a man, convicted of crimes against the state and dying fast, once said.  Like most memorable statements, it is open to various interpretations.  But suppose, instead of offering one, we assume the existence of paradise, and ask a question that lurks unspoken and forbidden in every heart.

For there are some questions so obvious that we refuse to ask them for fear of having to answer.  To be asked such questions seems an impertinence, an insult to our intelligence, and an assault on our integrity.   Don’t be ridiculous, we think, though we don’t laugh.  Isn’t it obvious, we vaguely mutter, secretly knowing it is nothing of the sort.  We are caught off-guard, something we don’t do to ourselves.  Even our dreams escape us.  We prefer to live in the clouds.

But let’s be daring for once.  Let’s put aside all our usual lies and evasions and not be afraid of the truth.  Let’s ask ourselves a few very simple and annoying questions, the kind children ask their tongue-tied parents, and let’s not squirm away from answering.

What images of death do we live with?

Or, to put it another way, if you believe in life after death, what image of heaven do you entertain?  Not what do you think heaven is, but what do you desire it to be?  If you object and say you don’t believe in life after death, the question is still valid.  For we are, of course , here playing a game of the imagination.  You need only make believe, for the hell of it, that there is life after death. Or life before.

What would you like it to be?  Imagine.  What would you like this life to be?  Maybe that’s the real question.

The trouble with being born, of course, is that we are guaranteed to die and be aware of it most of our lives.  When it comes to dying, we have no choice; death is our fate and against it freedom is a meaningless word.  Living is another matter, though it is not something we generally give much thought, for we can choose not to live when breath is still ours.  We are free to wait lovingly for annihilation by patiently enduring our lives, or we can commit quick suicide.

We don’t have to live, but we must die.  In our bitterness we may curse the fact that we find ourselves alive in the world; we didn’t ask for it.  This is obviously true and equally meaningless. Once we find ourselves alive, death is our destiny, like it or not.  Whether life is a living hell for us or just a dull plod through the years – a “hanging in there,” in those unconsciously evocative words – we hold in our hearts, however buried, images of what we would like life to be like if it were eternal.

That is, we all live with images of paradise, no matter how beclouded or unarticulated they may be.

Now, as I wander out in the early morning lulled by birdsong, I wonder what these images consist of.  What, in our hearts’ desires, do we yearn to become?  What heavens do we wish to inhabit?

For we are now in the school of imagination, what John Keats called the vale of soul-making, and must, like children everywhere, answer the following: Imagine paradise, on earth or in heaven, and describe it in as few or as many words as you wish.  For future reference, learn your answer by heart.

Camus wrote:

Yes, nothing prevents me from dreaming, in the very hour of exile, since at least I know this, with sure and certain knowledge: a man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the details of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

Yes, to open our hearts.  It is naïve, but not stupid.  It is disturbing.  It is surely easy to hide behind the word mystery, or cynically to reply that the world is what it is, a far cry from paradise, nor will it ever be, here or in some supposed hereafter, any different.  The former is the believer’s dodge, the latter the skeptical “realist’s” way of begging the question.  Both are phony.

Only as we become as little children can we enter into the kingdom of heavenly imagination, and it is the fear of ridicule, our own and others,’ that bars the gate.  It is obvious that what happens after death is a mystery.  Why we come and why we go is something that we’ll never know, all beliefs to the contrary.  We live by pure faith, though, as Thoreau noted, we are determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it.  Which we can’t, ultimately.  Knowledge fails.  And anyway, what we know and what we want are not the same thing.  The images of paradise we hold don’t illuminate death in the slightest; they do, however, enlighten our lives.  After all, it is living that is within our power.  We live in possibility.  If we wish to pursue the ideal images of our heart’s desires, we must first make manifest what they are.

What do you want?  I know it is not easy living with a deep but dark longing.  Perhaps it is the fear of disappointment that keeps us in the dark.  Why, when the whole earth rises toward the light, do we shrink back in fear?  Does beauty crush us?

I remember leaving my mother’s house to go to the hospital where my dear father had just died. It was 5:30 AM on the first of May. Stepping outside, the birdsong and flowering bushes illuminated by the rising sun staggered me. How could this be: life and death in one hour, one moment.  Where now was my father as his son walked through a garden of delight?  Where was that man whom I had kissed a few hours before?

What do I want?

Albert, you wondered too when you created your alter-ego Jacques Cormery in your novel, The First Man, and placed him at his father’s grave site.  It was just a novel, as they say, but you were there and said:

All that was left was this anguished heart, eager to live, rebelling against the deadly order of the world that had been with him for forty years, and still struggling against the wall that separated him from the secret of all life, wanting to go farther, to go beyond, and to discover, discover before dying, discover at last in order to be, just once to be, for a single second, but forever.

Just once and one time only.  Isn’t that it?  No reruns.  No playbacks.  One life.  Eternal.

Then what?

Perhaps our greatest fear is to passionately want something from life and death, “to go beyond” with Albert, to ask for something independent of society’s and others’ wishes, and to dare intuit it into existence.  Society drones: Don’t dare feel it, don’t dare say it, don’t ask for too much.  Narrow it all down, life is much too much, narrow it all down.

Sometimes I think that because so many people have meekly accepted this dictum that they are unconsciously in love with death, assuming that all their problems and the anguish of being placed between yes and no, heaven and earth will then cease.  Oftentimes I think that we are living in the age of nihilism that Nietzsche predicted long ago, a time in which the will to nothingness is most clearly expressed in the sterile pursuit and embrace of things, a “paradise” of consumer goods at the expense of livingness.

“I cling like a miser to the freedom that disappears as soon as there is an excess of things,” writes Camus, grasping in a few words a key link between a just and unjust world where most people are subjected to violence and degradation at the hands of the wealthy and powerful who seek to devour the earth.

Ah, but here we are walking in the spring sunshine, the time for resurrection and for truth.  The whole earth is rising beneath our feet. We can feel it.  The trees are budding forth and leaving toward the stars.  We can see them. We can smell the earth warming in the rising sun.  Perhaps like Camus, the spring smells seize us by the throat, and we find ourselves delirious with love and desire as “the gods speak in the sun and the scent of absinthe leaves,” as we wander through a reborn world.

So why don’t we say what we truly want?  Can we even imagine it?  Or is what we want so pathetic – more things, more money, anything to boost our egos and impress others, improve our appearances, elevate our social standing – that to admit it reveals the hollowness of our lives?  Are our desires so vague and culturally constricted that they must be repressed lest they make us realize how spiritually dead we are when all around us resurrection calls us to awaken to new life?

Suppose rather than hiding behind the lies and evasions that we use to divorce ourselves from the tree of life, we dare to speak from the indivisible root of truth and desire, or true desire, the eternal tree.  For to live truly and to die is to create out of that planting a full flowering, an exposed existence rooted in the earth and reaching to the stars.  Then, heaven will be our destiny, for it will proceed from our passions and usher in a glorious spring.

And yet, as Camus knew, our little imaginary heavens can lull us to sleep when world events call to us to rise up and say no.  Yes, but no, too.  Desire needs will to renew the world.  The lover who luxuriates in the spring sap rising must be a rebel.  “But the true life is present in the heart of this dichotomy….Life is this dichotomy itself,” he tells us.

To live authentically is to live between yes and no.

Dostoevsky, who shared with Camus the belief that we must rebel to save the world, had Karamazov rightly say that if all are not saved, what good is the salvation of only one?

To which he added: “Life is a paradise and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it.”

So it seems on this morning in spring as resurrection fills the air.  And even though this feeling will fade, Camus is right that its freshness will linger, an exquisite reminder of why we must rebel joyously.

You are right, Albert, “We must simultaneously serve suffering and beauty.”

The Price of Participating in Society is the Sacrifice of Privacy and Self

In what is arguably one of the most craven opportunistic moves by a business/media group to increase its circulation/profitability, on 10 April the New York Times (NYT) embarked on what it describes as its Privacy Project. A day later on 11 April, no doubt with the NYT’s foreknowledge of what was to come thanks to an unofficial US government tip, Ecuador revoked Julian Assange’s (Wikileaks founder) asylum in its UK Embassy and fed him to the British Police dogs eagerly awaiting to arrest him and dump him in jail.

In May 2017 I wrote that Assange was doomed from the get-go to be arrested and handed over to the US Government and that it would only be a matter of time before Edward Snowden befell a similar fate.

Chelsea Manning’s leaked information made WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, a household name. It also made them permanent enemies of the US State. In 2010, Assange released a video that he called Collateral Murder. The video shows an airstrike in which Iraqi journalists are killed. Other releases based on Manning’s leak were known as the Afghan Diary and Iraq War Logs. The diplomatic cables exposed some of the silly machinations of the US State Department and the over classification of documents.

Meanwhile, mainstream media (MSM) outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post feasted on the leaks and gave them prominent coverage daily, even as they excoriated Assange and his merry band of leakers. The MSM believes that WikiLeaks is not “real” journalism even as they used the classified material Assange provided to bolster their subscription numbers. Aren’t they accessories to Assange’s crime? Apparently they are not.

Assange has been living for the past five years under diplomatic protection in the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom. He has been accused of rape in Sweden and, if he leaves the embassy, would be arrested by UK authorities and, ultimately, end up in the USA. To make matters worse, now he is a target of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director.

Pompeo once praised WikiLeaks. Whatever data he has seen that made him go ballistic can’t be good for Assange, obviously. [Former] Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions over at the Justice Department has hinted that an arrest warrant is in the works.

He will never get a get out of jail card and is trapped in Ecuador’s Embassy in London. The trip from the UK to Sweden to the USA would be swift if he capitulates. ‘It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,’ [then] CIA director Mike Pompeo said at a May event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. ‘Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value and he relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous: He’s a fraud.’

Assange continues to dig a hole for himself with the CIA Vault leaks even as he enlightens us all, apparently, about the machinations of governments around the world.

Hello Clipper

The New York Times Privacy Project’s mission statement is essentially a rehash of a privacy and encryption issue that began on 16 April 1993 over the National Security Agency’s proposal to embed a Clipper Chip in the nation’s communications networks and nascent Internet/World Wide Web (WWW). The chip would have allowed NSA and US Law Enforcement Agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation to easily access foreign and domestic public communications. The proposal was the brainchild of President Bill Clinton’s administration but a wide awake American public and anti-Clipper Chip groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) opposed the technology and by 1996 the US government gave up on the technology.

There is grave doubt whether the American public or pro-Assange interest groups have the voice and staying power of those like the EFF that a couple of decades ago opposed the Clipper Chip.

According to the New York Times project mission statement:

The boundaries of privacy are in dispute, and its future is in doubt. Citizens, politicians and business leaders are asking if societies are making the wisest tradeoffs. The Times is embarking on this months long project to explore the technology and where it’s taking us, and to convene debate about how it can best help realize human potential.

Privacy in Dispute? Convene a debate? You’re Kidding!

Only those in cryogenic freeze or in solitary confinement for the past couple of decades would not know that privacy is already dead, a quaint relic from a time long since past. In today’s world, the price of participating in society is the sacrifice of privacy and self. It is not so much that technology is the culprit, it’s that a networked world, whether through stories told around a campfire that are passed on in an oral tradition, or instantly via Facebook/Twitter, appears to be a necessary human craving. Wanting to belong to something or some group, to be able to identify with an ideology or fad is apparently irresistible.

What do you really have to trade with your fellow human beings other than your deepest secrets, knowledge and individuality?

Humans are merrily merging with machines or rather the software and interfaces that allow textual and vision immersion, and the light speed acquisition of knowledge that the networked world provides. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution be damned. Who needs it? The government or marketplace will always find a workaround to that relic of a bygone era.

All of this seems preordained by some Universal Machine God. We bow our heads whilst on the mobile device. The Internet/WWW is a sort of public confessional where there is no mediating priest to talk to God for you. It is straight talk with the Public God who dispenses likes or dislikes like the number of prayers a priest tells you to recite to regain a clean soul. And the Internet/WWW is a vengeful God with a long memory. Past sins from youth, or once though well hidden, find their way onto the network with punishment meted out by a hash tag with a name linked to it.

Sickness of the Future

The NYT Privacy Project, or even my musings here, are not necessary to understand future diseases at work right now in 2019. For a better description of that we can turn to a short story written by Chinese Sci-Fi writer Chen Qiufan titled “A History of Future Illnesses.” The story is located in the book Broken Stars, Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation (Ken Liu translator).

Technology allows ritual to become an indivisible part of everyday life. Its implanted into you and becomes part of your genetic heritage to be passed on to your children and they children multiplying and mutating, more vigorous that its host. You cannot control the impulse to refresh the page. Information explosion brings anxiety but can fill your husk of a soul. Every fifteen seconds you move the mouse, open your social networking profile, browse the comments, retweet and reblog, close the page, and do it all over again fifteen seconds later. You cant stop.

You no longer talk to people in real life. Air has lost its role as the medium for transmitting voice. You sit in a ring, your eyes glued to the latest mobile device in your hand as though worshiping the talisman of some ancient god. Your thoughts now flow into virtual platforms at the tips of your fingers. You are auguring, laughing flustering joking. But reality around you is a silent desert.

You cannot free yourself from the control of artificial environments. Ritual is omnipresent. It is no longer restricted to sacrifice, sermon, mass, concert, or game performed on a central stage where the classical unities hold. Ritual itself is evolving, turning into distributed cloud computing, evenly spread out to every nook and cranny of your daily life. Sensors know everything and regulate the temperature, humidity, air currents and light around you; adjust your heart rate, hormonal balance, sexual arousal, mood. Artificial intelligence is a god: your think it is there for your welfare bringing you new opportunities, but you’ve become the egg in the incubator, the marionette attached to wires. Every second of every minute of every day, you are the sacrifice that completes the unending grand ritual. You are the ritual.

Radical thinkers obsess wove how to withdraw from all this. The power of ritual comes from repetition, not its content. Day after day, the repetition of poses and movements gradually seeps into the depth of consciousness like a hard drive’s read-write-head repeatedly tracing the patterns of an idea, until the idea becomes indistinguishable from free will itself…Romantic love is ritual’s most loyal consumer along with patriotism. The radicals try to imitate the Luddites of old [but]…the only thing that can be done is nothing.

Stop that Gucci and Prada Talk: Chinese and Russian People want to live too!!

I hear this again and again, whenever I speak in the West:

“What kind of Communism is that in China? In all big cities, they have Prada and Gucci in every major department store.”

Western leftists are obsessed with this topic. They do not even realize how ridiculous, how racist their arguments actually are!

China, with some 6,000 years long history, 1.3 billion inhabitants and the second largest economy in the world, has almost eradicated extreme poverty in the cities, and in the countryside. For the first time in modern history, people are moving from the urban centers to the villages. The great Ecological Civilization effort is demonstrating to the world how to save the environment, and the planet. The country is firmly back with its brilliant model of “Communism with the Chinese characteristics”. Its foreign policy is more and more internationalist.

But the more progressive, independent-minded and kind to its people China becomes, the more it is attacked and antagonized by the West. The more is its Communist model scrutinized, under the microscope.

By the Right, by the racists and imperialists naturally, but by the Left?

The problem is that the Western Left subscribes to exceptionalism almost as much as the Right.

It demands purity, great sacrifice and austerity from countries like China and Russia.

As I have already described in many of my essays and books, including Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, there is hardly anything pure left in London or Paris. Hardly anyone is ready to commit to anything ideological, especially to the revolutionary struggle. Sacrifice or austerity is totally foreign to Europeans or North Americans, no matter on what side of the political spectrum they stand.

But the Chinese and Russians are expected to behave like saints.

Actually, the entire planet is supposed to stop consuming, driving expensive cars, wearing designer shoes and bags, and if possible, to stop travelling.

All these privileges are reserved for Westerners, and for the elites in ‘client’ states.

It is never pronounced like this, in one breath. But that is what the Western left-wing intellectuals with their outdated and rejected by the entire world ‘anarcho-syndicalist logic’, really want to push down the throats of all non-Western people.

And I say: such twisted logic is insulting, even disgusting.

For centuries, the West has been robbing and looting everything in all corners of the world.

Designer boots is what the British and French ‘gentlemen’ were kicking ‘un-people’ with, in their crotches and their buttocks. Designer clothes were worn by the first and second generations of those refined European ladies in North America, while the native population was being exterminated, and slaves were laboring and getting raped on the plantations.

I don’t want Westerners to talk about fashion and who has the right to be ‘obsessed with it’. I sincerely believe that Europeans and North Americans have absolutely no right to judge anybody, or to ‘advise’ people anywhere in the world, on how to live, what to wear and consume.

*****

Chinese people, as well as Russian people, work extremely hard. They work much harder than most people anywhere in Germany or France. Unlike Westerners, they do not loot. They do not exploit anyone.

If they make money and want to spend it the way they want, it is not the business of Western hypocrites to protest.

No matter what the half-hearted ‘austerity’ measures the Europeans and North Americans take (like turning the lights off in their toilets, or using half a tank to flush their toilets), the plunder that their countries are continuing to perpetrate, and the privileges that their entire societies enjoy, are overwhelming and unprecedented. And, yes, Europeans recycle a few sheets of paper, while their multi-nationals grab and privatize entire aquifers in South America.

China and Russia are already doing all they can to save the world and the environment from the deadly Western imperialism. If they work for it, their citizens have the full right to buy the latest mobile phones or elegant pair of shoes. If they want to travel to Thailand or to Turkey for vacation, that’s perfectly fine. It does not make them more or any less Communist or internationalist.*****

*****

But that is not what they think in the West.

You see, those ‘comrades’ in France or US or UK actually demand that everyone listens to their definitions about what the Left is, and what is not; or what Communist or capitalist is.

The great cultures of China or Russia cannot be trusted to decide how they define themselves. The definition has to be outlined on some couch in London, or in a bar in New York, or at a Euro-centric university. It has to be some ‘traditional Marxist’ or anarcho-syndicalist who is expected to put their stamp of approval on and tell those ‘savages’ who they really are.

The West may be obsessed with ‘political correctness’, but it is as racist as ever. Racist and fundamentalist, it has to be added.

*****

I have a proposal to make: if the West is so concerned about Chinese and Russian citizens wanting to drive decent cars and to wear elegant clothes, why don’t they push for an end to the production of these items in their own end: in France, Italy, the United States. Their countries would lose millions of jobs, but if they are so principled, then, why not? Why don’t they themselves dress in rags?

But seriously, why don’t they, themselves, build that ‘real and pure’ Communism?

So far, all they, the Western ‘left’, have done was to change colors like chameleons; they betrayed both socialism and Communism, and ended up doing absolutely nothing, instead of fighting, just the constant criticism of others who are actually busy trying to build a much better world.

You know, we are tired of being tutored and advised by them. I have had enough of hearing, in those luxury villas in North America and Europe, over expensive drinks and while being comfortably seated in those plush chairs and sofas, how the Chinese, Russians and Vietnamese people should give up aiming for the latest mobile phones and designer clothes. I am sick of those bizarre statements coming from anarcho-syndicalists who are living in luxury marina compounds somewhere in New England, that “China is not really Communist because it has a few billionaires”.

Periodically, I come to the West to speak, to open my films or to launch my books. I get invited to ‘those places of high abstract morality’ in the evenings, inevitably. Places where dogs have better lives than citizens of the neo-colonized African or Asian countries. It is always the same tune.

And this time, I have had enough.

We don’t need advice, thank you. And we are smart enough to know and to define who we are.

The Western ‘left’ should take care of its own problems. They have lost on their own continents, in their own countries. Presently, they don’t have one single figure that could inspire the world. All they do is to bark at the true revolutionaries, and at the countries where both Communism and Socialism are firmly in power. They bark because they have nothing important to say. They bark because they have no guts to fight. They bark because they will never get elected, and they actually have no strength to govern. They bark, because, I believe, they actually don’t like true Communists and socialists at all; those who are facing the real world, real issues, and real enemies.

Communism and Socialism have won elsewhere, in several places in Asia and Latin America, even in the Middle East. People there fought bravely. Despite the Western left, not because of it, they won.

We have already determined that the pompous self-centered exceptionalism of the West is similar to religious fanaticism. The Western Left is no exception.

They don’t only want us to be ‘pure’, they want us poor, humiliated and submissive. This way they can pity us, and constantly pretend that they are trying to save us (not for our own sake, but for their own).

Unfortunately for them, we do not need their charity. We are winning. Anyone who is not blind can clearly see that China and Russia are standing tall and marching forward. And other independent-minded countries are winning as well.

We know precisely who we are – no need for advice. And what we are will not be threatened if our women and men wear designer clothes, or drive good cars. In fact, claiming otherwise is appallingly patronizing; it is racist rubbish.

Denmark’s PM Admires a Killing Soldier’s Simplistic View of Good and Evil

Denmark’s PM admires a killing soldier’s simplistic view of good and evil

It’s Friday, April 5, 2019, at 9 PM. An entertaining talk show, Skavlan. A dialogue between a prime minister and a special forces soldier who has no regret having kicked in doors and “killed a lot” in Afghanistan.

He justifies himself by the most primitive and long-ago debunked theory about Good and Evil in this world. And then the listening prime minister expresses his admiration.

Something roamed around in my mind hours after the event and I had to check: Did he really say what I think I heard?

It made me think about theories and worldviews on which political decisions can be founded. About the general, normalized fascination of war and killing, and about the soldier as hero and the victim as invisible, non-existent.

It made me think about the sophisticated, almost imperceptible, media methods by which perpetrators of law violations and war crimes are turned (and turn themselves) into victims and perform smoothly as part of a Friday night’s entertainment program.

And, finally, how a similar conversation about alternatives – about nonviolent peace-making – would appear irrelevant, unthinkable. There is no peace discourse today. War is peace given our “Zeitgeist”.

As far as I know, nobody has publicly expressed the view that this conversation was disturbing. I find that highly disturbing. Too.

Setting the stage and sitting on the stage

I had seen that the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, would participate in the serious and entertaining Swedish Television talk show Skavlan.

The Norwegian journalist, Fredrik Skavlan, is the host and interviewer. He is super professional, a good listener, makes people feel good and he has obviously done his research homework before meeting his, mostly famous, guests face-to-face. He lets them talk and does not see it as his task to challenge them, at least not politically.

According to Skavlan’s Facebook page, the talk show is one of Europe’s largest with around 2 million viewers per show.

Danish Prime Minister, Løkke Rasmussen listens to Ant Middleton in the Skavlan program


The Danish prime minister, Løkke Rasmussen, is responsible for Denmark’s recent bombings in both Iraq and Syria. His party isn’t new to warfare. His party colleague, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was the Danish PM responsible for Denmark’s role as an occupying power in Iraq 2003-2007.

Fogh Rasmussen (they are not related) was then rewarded for this participation in aggression on a sovereign state without any UN mandate and became NATO’s Secretary-General.

In that role, he will be remembered for leading the Alliance’s destruction of Libya in 2011. There was a UN mandate about setting up a No-Fly Zone but not for the destruction of large parts of the country and the killing of its leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Well, no guilt by association intended, but I had no expectations that Løkke Rasmussen that would say anything independent-minded, meaningful or critical about war as such.

Another participant in this program was Ant (Anthony) Middleton, a British Special Forces soldier who – evidently – is proud of having kicked in lots of doors in Afghanistan and killed a lot of people seemingly without the slightest remorse (see below).

Ant Middleton – who smiled a lot during the conversation


A quick search of the net tells that Anthony Middleton is a celebrity thanks to having been Chief Instructor for British Channel 4’s hit show ‘SAS : Who Dares Wins’. SAS stand for the Special Air Service of the British Army and the program slogan – Who Dares Wins – is also the slogan of SAS.

In other words, this is Channel 4’s contribution to promotes SAS whose activities around the world are basically top classified and probably not always lawful, noble or moral.

He is in the limelight thanks to just having published his autobiography and at the moment is on the “Mind Over Muscle Tour” around Britain.1

You’ll be able to see the sequence with Ant Middleton and the Danish PM (in English) here until October 2, 2019.

And with this, the stage is set.

The conversation

Now listen to the conversation which I have written down sentence by sentence from the program. Because the program is not available after October 2, I have written the essential passages here. Thus, 4:30 minutes into the clip:

“Skavlan to Middleton: How many have you killed?

Middleton: I’ve taken a lot of lives but what I do remember is not necessarily the people I have killed because – I’m the first man in, I’ve done three tours in Afghanistan and I am kicking down doors on a daily basis, we’re hunting down Taliban commanders. It’s – you know, the list goes on.

But what I do remember is not pulling the trigger. What people must remember is that my job is to conserve life, to save life. I only take life when there is a level of evil that’s been surpassed or I am in an immediate threat or my pals are in immediate danger to life. But what I do remember is being there and I could have taken a shot and every time it just wasn’t right, I took my finger off the trigger. Those are the times I do remember.

Skavlan: Do you think about the fact that you’ve killed a lot of people that is someone’s father, you’re a father of five yourself?

Middleton: No, no, not at all. Like I said, there is goodness and there is evil in this world. I’m a good man and I know that. And, as I said, if you surpass a certain threshold of evil, you do not deserve to be walking this planet, and that’s how I saw it. I never saw it – again it was never personal. I never saw it as this was someone’s… you know…Listen! If you live by the sword, you must expect to die by the sword. You know, it’s again… taking extreme ownership of yourself, holding yourself accountable.

Skavlan: But of course, there are casualties that are less guilty of being evil. Have you experienced that?

Middleton: (Pausing)…. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of conflict. It’s part and parcel of being in a combat zone. And don’t get me wrong, there are bullies with weapons out there.

Skavlan then turns to the Danish PM: You’re the man behind the desk. Because the war he’s talking about is our war too, or has been. I wonder how you reflect on that, how hard a decision to send someone – you mentioned it before Ant came in.

Løkke Rasmussen (speaking to Middleton, not Skavlan): Well, first of all, I admire your attitude. And I totally agree with the way you distinguish between good and evil. But, you know, this is for real and as I mentioned earlier on, we have had 43 casualties in Afghanistan and I have been writing all those letters myself, and each time I have done so, I have felt the — (can’t seem to find the words) — it’s very personal. It’s not just for fun.

Middleton: We train our whole life to do that. I wanted that fight at the highest order. I trained my whole career to fight and when it came, it’s like you allow me to do my job. You know, there is the other side, of course there is the other side and it’s traumatic but…

Skavlan to Middleton: But you are sent by someone behind a desk that you never met?

Middleton: Yes but if they didn’t send me, they would not be allowing me to do my job and….

Løkke Rasmussen: Yes, and I realise that and without going into details, I have been in situations where our Special Forces have asked permission to do something on the ground where we have made the assessment that this would not happen…

Middleton: (smiling) I understand that…

Løkke Rasmussen: And when I have met those people later on and on a more private basis, they have actually been more or less angry with me: Why didn’t you approve? Why did you not give your permission? So…

Skavlan to Middleton: This is the situation you’ve been in…?

Middleton: Yeah, and if you did not use us, you would have just as much up war as if you didn’t. I suppose you can’t get it right?! I love my job. I prioritize it over my family and my children. I am not proud of that but I did it. I was waiting for that call. I wanted to be the first man through that door. You know, use me! You’ve spent millions on training me…

Skavlan: You were 16 when you joined the army. What was the push factor and what was the pull factor?

Middleton: I joined the army because I was a very self-sufficient young man, you know, who always wanted to stand on my own two feet. I always wanted to do my own thing and I always loved the challenge.

I’m an extreme doer. And, you know, I’m not an intellectual, I’m not a bookworm. I do, do, do… and 9 out of 10, I’ve failed and learned from that, so the military was just appealing and to get away, do my own thing, get a roof over my head, be fed, and you know the little bit of money I got I could start to build my life the way I wanted to. It wasn’t ”I’m going in and have this amazing career in the Special Forces.

It was, like you know, it was me as a youngster, let me stand on my own two feet, let me hold myself accountable for my life and see where it takes me. And the stepping stones… I’m good at what I have done and I love extreme soldiering, you know I was a para, then a Marine, then a sniper, then an (intelligence?) operator and the natural progression was into the United Kingdom’s Special Forces.”

What is actually stated here?

  1. There is good and evil in this world. The two are separated and the good people are on one side, the evil people on the other. It does not occur to Middleton, or the Danish PM, that there could be good and evil people on both sides. Or that each individual actor could have good and evil sides – that can be activated depending, for instance, on what the person experiences from the outside.
  2. Evil does not have to be defined, but it can be graduated. Over a certain level, it is right to not only try to stop the evildoer but to kill him. Over that level, the evildoer does not have a right to walk on earth.
  3. The judge that decides when that level is reached, is – he himself, the killer. So, it’s about the killer who does good and does justice by eradicating evil.
  4. Evil and good are qualities of human beings, not for example of situations, structures, or history and traumas.
  5. Although Middleton admits, indeed has no problems talking about, that he has killed a lot, he says that he knows he is a good person. And that goodness does not include any consideration for the humanity of the one he kills; it’s irrelevant to the argument and the deed whether the opponent is a father of children like Middleton himself is.
  6. Middleton mentions no particular, say ideological, reason for his participation in warfare, but emphasizes more than once during the program that he couldn’t wait to get off to Afghanistan, do what he was trained for; he doesn’t want to be stopped in carrying out his killing mission and – essentially – it is all about him doing his own thing, as he says, and loving the challenge.
  7. What is not stated is things like these: having a problem with having killed a lot; a sense of regret, guilt feeling or a wish for forgiveness or reconciliation. This assumption is backed up by the fact that, postwar, he has gone into public activities and entertainment media in which his military experiences come to good use. He has, to put it crudely, become a hero, a celebrity mass killer actor and lecturer.

Why is this really disturbing?

Probably, Middleton is only unique because of the almost charming, smiling and totally emotionless ways he is coping with his killing. Few, if any, go through such situations and kill a lot without having to cope with the fact that, in spite of all, they took life.

When returning from the killing fields, many feel alienated, feel that nobody understand what they have been through (which is true), and sooner or later, take to drugs, alcohol, or the radical way out – committing suicide. Very few become celebrity stars with huge audiences.

One may find Middleton’s witness account and his obvious denial of any wrongdoing rather disturbing. I do – but on the other hand, I have been working in war zones and met perpetrators as well as victims. Few have the moral fiber to go through years of psycho-social soul-searching and healing and ask forgiveness.

Most veterans are also hidden away, are never integrated in society and if they are received as heroes when coming home that status fades before dawn. Governments and societies usually don’t want to be reminded of such things.

No, I must admit that what disturbs me – for real, to quote him – is that PM Løkke Rasmussen’s bluntly admires Middleton’s attitude and also totally agrees with the good/evil dichotomy.

Løkke Rasmussen probably has less need for a psychological cover-up than has Middleton. But he anyhow subscribes to a theory that is as outdated and simplifying in the extreme and which has been academically debunked decades ago.

It’s also a theory which – when applied in the political realm – is sheer colonialist/racist: We (white/men/Westerners/Christians) are good people, those we kill – particularly abroad and particularly in Muslim countries – are evil: they are less white, mostly men but morally weaker, inferior, non-Westerners and Islam(ists). (Note that the word Christian-ist doesn’t exist – for a reason: Christianity shall not be connected with terrorism; Islam borders on – or is – terrorism; an evil religion. Thus Islamists.

If a prime minister knew as little about theories and concepts in fields such as economy, social welfare, or ideology – s/he would be facing a barrage of criticism. And there would be commentators and editorial writers who would shout at him: How can you say such things?!

Now it is only about war and peace, about “primitive” Afghans and those out there who threaten our ways of life. And it is about Denmark’s blindly loyal US-framed foreign and security politics and in those fields no special, scholarly competence is needed.

One thing is that such a conversation can take place in public, based on a stone-age theory, in the year 2019. Quite another is that it happens in front of tens of thousands of viewers and no one raises and eyebrow. I find that disturbing, very very disturbing.

It speaks volumes about the pervasive peace and conflict illiteracy of our culture and our times. It speaks volumes about the military and other hardline monopoly on the politically correct thinking about war and peace. And what sort of primitive thinking underlies everything called war, never challenged in the mainstream media and no longer even by the so-called Left.

It ought not be possible for educated people to speak on television the way prime minister Løkke Rasmussen and special forces soldier Middleton did and not causing an outcry.

The perpetrator as victim

In programs like Skavlan and in virtually all programs with news about events in the world, we never see simultaneously the perpetrator of violence with the victim of violence.

In this edition of Skavlan, we saw two different perpetrators of violence – the victims – those deserving to be killed – were not represented and had no voice. The conflict in Afghanistan was given no background except the implicit one: it’s filled with evil people and we have a right to find them, kick in their doors and kill them. They should not walk on this earth.

Ant Middleton did not seem to feel pity for himself. But, in the exchange with Løkke Rasmussen, he seems to see himself as a potential victim, namely if he had not been sent and had not been allowed to perform his killing job. If someone in the audience had shouted “You are not as good a man as you think you are” – he would probably have felt like a victim.

Løkke Rasmussen, the man behind the desk who gives orders and sends Danes into warzones, quickly avoids Skavlan’s questions and starts talking about how hard it is for him to personally write those letters to the families of Danish young boys who have been killed.

He may not be aware of it but his answer comes across as “Look how difficult my situation is!” – and he even states in as some kind of self-defence that war is “for real” and “not for fun.”

Their more or less explicit appeal for sympathy, for us empathising with them and their good intentions – well, does not touch me in the slightest. They could, at any moment in the past, have decided to stop being perpetrators of violence. Stopped being directly and indirectly responsible for taking lives. They made their choice.

Imagine instead: “I’ve raped a lot”

Imagine this conversation was not about war and peace. Imagine it was about rape, pedophilia, or inappropriate male behaviour vis-a-vis women – topical issues today and issues where there is a considerable political correctness and ever narrowing comfort zones.

Imagine an individual sitting in an entertainment TV program – but meaningful, serious such – and stating without flinching that he has no regrets about the boys and girls and female colleagues he had molested or raped and that he doesn’t even remember them.

Imagine that he also considered himself a good man and thought that those he had molested did somehow not deserve to walk in this planet. And you found out that, afterwards, this ‘good’ man had become a celebrity in the entertainment and lecturing world.

An intellectual counter argument to this imagined parallel example could surely be: But the teacher and his victims were not in conflict, it was not a mortally dangerous confrontation of “you or me”. And I’d say – “true, fair enough – but!”

Today’s discussions are about individuals feeling hurt, disturbed. The use of violence is limited to individuals and, as we all know, easily ends up on the front page of, say, New York Times, particularly if the involved parties are exactly that – famous, celebrities. It’s usually not about what I would call a worse offence, namely killing.

Warfare, in sharp contrast, is about a system of organised killing – mass killing of people “we” have no relations to. Strangers.

In the case of Afghanistan, it’s about the world’s militarily strongest countries that have fought a war in a small country for now 18 years. It about thousands of lives – if not in some cases and over time – millions of lives lost and whole societies destroyed.

It’s a system managed by huge state powers and profit-seeking corporations, think tanks and more – what President Eisenhower warned the Americans and the world about as far back as 1961.

And it is a cultural phenomenon: It’s about fighting those you look down upon, those who are morally or otherwise perceived as inferior, unworthy, living at a lower civilisational level than “we”.

Wars and killing in other lands are based on such assumptions – on demonization and de-humanization of entire nations and religions. And on the Middleton/Løkke Rasmussen “theory” that they are all evil out there and we have a right to be in their country, kick in thousands of poor people’s doors and kill this evil scum of the earth because we are good people.

Both types – the close personal and far anonymous, collective mass violence – deserves to be problematized. But he more people and media focus on the close personal hurt and harm, the less energy is left for addressing the larger world’s.

Or imagine this from a this thought-provoking angle…

Imagine Mr. Middleton had kicked in tons of doors in houses belonging to Jews, say in illegal settlement areas on occupied territory, and had “killed a lot” of Jews showing no regrets, just doing his job?

Imagine a Danish prime minister stating thoughtlessly that he admired such action and totally agreed with the theory that evil Jews deserved to be killed and not walk on this planet.

In lieu of a conclusion: The new militarism that we need to talk about in informed, intelligent ways

Over the last few decades, war has become so integrated into and intertwined with civil society that it has become normal, acceptable and legitimate. That’s what militarism is about.

Militarism was once about flags, parades, uniforms and song, it was about arming men (since then, weapon systems are manned and then made increasingly un-manned like drones). It was about some kind of rule-based dueling and honour. No more so!

Today’s militarism is about the melting into one the civil and the military spheres of society: the civilianization of the military and a militarization of the civil society. Civil society permeated by the ethos of killing, killing of them – the inferior – Evils in order to preserve us, the superior Goods. Killing for good.

I may be wrong. I have studied these things the last 45 years and there is, I gladly admit, a lot of books I have not read and many conflict and war zones I have not worked in. Be this as it may:

If you think I am wrong, let’s do what is still possible: Dialogue and learn from each other! Write your comments below, stimulate others to join that vitally important debate. But please…

Do not tell me that there is not something wrong deep down, that we are not far out, when such values, ethics and worldviews as those presented by two public figures in Skavlan do not raise eyebrows and provoke debates.

Do not tell me that we have kept decency and humanity intact and that we do right when we discuss individual cases of violence and remain, simultaneously, totally ignorant and illiterate about our own system of mass killing and the assumptions and theories that underpin them.

And, please, if the issue of globalised violence and war – as well as lost opportunities to make the world more peaceful and safe for all before it is too late – is not worth a wide and much more informed global conversation, tell me what is.

  1. Learn more about him on his homepage and on Wikipedia.

BUI: Born Under the Influence

Some of it is physical, but there’s more than muscle and mass to consider.  Men seem to perceive, process, and react differently than women.  A biological base to our differences is obvious, as is the likely interplay of socialization.  It’s not necessarily a negative: male specialization has been integral to the survival of our species.  Physical strength, aggression, and audacious behavior have enabled males to nurture and protect tribal identity, while concurrently spreading their half of the genetic seed.  But it’s not always a positive either: male aggression and perilous behavior can also be lethal to tribe, family, and self, especially in today’s world where masculinity is combined with modern technology.

Male boldness is visible and well documented.  4,833 people have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest (thru 2018).  288 have died in the attempt.  89% of the climbers were male and they comprised 96% of all deaths.  In 2017, Alex Honnold scaled the 3,000 foot shear face of Yosemite’s El Capitan alone, without aid of ropes or safety gear.  He’s made similar vertical climbs at other imposing cliff sites (as of this writing, he’s still alive).  At least 31 wingsuit BASE jumpers plummeted to their deaths in 2016; apparently all were male.  These risk takers are (or were) all brave, though not necessarily heroic individuals.  Their feats were performed not to escape or disable danger, but to experience it.  Such flirtations with death pose immense self risk, but little danger to others.  The same cannot be said for all male inclination towards audacious behavior.

We (males) capriciously put lives at risk, including our own, for no apparent survival benefit.  Often our displays are acts of aggression, and they’re not always just angry reactions.  Sometimes our behavior is planned; sometimes it’s simply bizarre and beyond rational explanation.  It’s not quite monopolized; females too, are seen to exhibit such behavior, but not nearly to the extent observed in males.

Males commit 70% to 90% of all murders.  Men perpetrate about 98% of all mass killings and constitute at least 90% of all modern day serial killers.  In domestic settings, 80% of spousal murders are committed by men, and in the workplace, males account for 97% of all rampage style killings.  The propensity towards violence and instability is clearly evident.  Less visible are some underlying neurological conditions that might give biological evidence to male associated instability. Men are three times more likely to be born with ADHD.  There are also several neurological diseases that display earlier and more severely in males: OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are three following that pattern.  Later in life, males are twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  None of these conditions are twined to a misanthropic nature, but they do indicate the presence of neurological instabilities that are closely associated with males.  That these recognized expressions exist provides reason to suspect the existence of other less conspicuous volatilities; predispositions that trigger some of our male associated acts of violence.

What Lies Beneath?

Brain Wave (by Poul Anderson) was a 1953 science fiction novel that posited the earth finally passing out of a stellar radiation field that had dampened cognitive function for eons.  Suddenly, every earthly animal with neurological activity became five times more conscious.  Humans, along with all animal species, were no longer cognitively suppressed (leading to human/non-human ethical complications).  Could something in that fiction be relevant to our nonfictional reality?  We like to think of ourselves as being completely aware, with an unimpeded rational thought process.  Maybe we’re not really so free and unimpeded.  Maybe evolution (rather than cosmic radiation) has bent us towards behavior patterns of which we take little notice.  We (males) have a shown proclivity to exhibit risky, bizarre, and violent behavior, yet are inclined to see ourselves as being completely cool and rational: “I’m totally okay” (even when it’s clear that some of us aren’t).

It might be comparable to alcohol.  In the history of the world, has any man in any bar, ever felt unable to drive home safely after two drinks?  We look around and observe others who are clearly inebriated and pose danger on the road, but see ourselves as completely unimpaired.  We might shake our head when another with five or eight drinks loudly declares himself still fit to drive; we ourselves have had two, yet clearly have it all together.  We’re under the influence, but don’t admit or even feel it.  We might drive home a thousand times without a mishap, but the two drinks have sent alcohol to our brain and have made our travel less certain.

Our male propensity for risk and violence is like that: we’re all at least “two drinks” along, but feel sober (and those further along than just two are equally confident).  Individually we think we pose no danger, but in fact have always been under the influence.  We’ve never known sobriety; two drinks minimum is our only plane of reference; our condition feels normal and unimpaired.  It’s not always a fixed plane; our level of impairment is multiplied by external events: humiliation, a terminated relationship, substance abuse, loss of employment, financial setback, etc.  From whatever baseline, we jump ahead and are suddenly more than just two drinks under and are no longer even close to “okay”.  We’re in a heightened state of flux and not quite predictable.  After an eruption, it’s not uncommon to hear: “He didn’t seem like the type.” or “I didn’t see it coming.”

So there’s a biological “drunkenness” that leaves males more inclined to exhibit risky, aggressive, and even misanthropic behavior with little pause for reflection.  It’s not the boldness, but various expressions of violence that arouse concern, especially in this era of lethal weaponry when an individual gone amok can reek havoc on so many.  When it happens, the easily available weapon of choice is usually a gun.

It took sober minded mothers (MADD) to arouse awareness and activate meaningful DUI regulation.  Recently, it’s activist children (Parkside) trying to motivate the nation to meaningful confrontation of another glaring danger: the proliferation of guns.  There’s something telling in that it took our mothers to awaken us to the drinking/driving/death reality, and it’s now taking children to shake us from the stupor of a nation’s infatuation with guns.

So Many Guns

We’ve a long history with guns. They’ve been present through all of U.S. history and the prior European conquest of America.  In some form or another, hand held guns have killed for more than 500 years.  That’s a lot of years, but just a blip on the historical time line of humans killing one another; guns have simply made the process more efficient and impersonal.  As with other human innovations, firearm refinements have come incrementally.  Bit by bit, they’ve morphed into incredible deadly machines.  Guns of today have visual resemblance (triggers and barrels) to early predecessors; beyond that, the similarities fade.  It’s now “rate of fire” per second rather than “rate of fire” per minute. While the lethal power of our weaponry has continuously advanced, human nature hasn’t.  Our mental/emotional soundness is as fragile (or inebriated) today as it was ten thousand years ago; we’ve armed our Stone Age mindset with 21st century killing machines.

Throw a dart at the calendar.  The gun statistics (U.S.) for that one single day will likely include the following: 135 gun related incidents, 37 murders (7 children), and 63 injuries.  Mention of a particular mass shooting will probably be old news, because one happens about every 30 hours.  Nearly everyone of these gun related acts of violence will be perpetrated by a male.

Gun ownership appears ubiquitous and nearly religious (“a god-given right”).  The U.S. adult population (15 & above) is roughly 265 million.  There are approximately 310 million civilian owned firearms in the USA.  That’s more than enough to arm every adult (except that 3% of all gun owners own 50% of the guns).  At least 39% of adult males claim to own guns, while female gun ownership is pegged at 22%.  About 42% of all homes have at least one gun present.

So Little Need

It’s a bizarre reality: so many guns and so little need.  Law enforcement has a need (much of it to deal with the 310 million civilian guns in circulation).  Some ranchers, farmers, and rural dwellers can claim a legitimate need for livestock protection and pest control.  Far on the fringes, there might still be some for whom a gun is needed to provide food and protection.  For the vast majority, though, that time has long past.  We have no survival need to hunt; shooting animals has become little more than a traditional exercise or an entertainment venue.  Most gun ownership for protection is delusional; the presence of a gun actually increases the likelihood of both personal and household victimization.  Why then, the infatuation?  At least a few reasons present themselves: tradition, machismo, fear, and NRA/weapons industry marketing.  We (especially males) have been targeted by gun makers, and our BUI mentality provides an easy mark.  The NRA’s marketing campaigns have always nurtured ego enhancement through conflation of gun ownership and ideals of strength, independence, and patriotism.  Invariably, the Second Amendment is called upon to portray weapon ownership as an expression of patriotic fervor.  Posing private gun ownership as protection from tyranny or foreign invasion is obsolete by about a century.  It’s now little more than a “two drink” fantasy; a passionate hustle aimed at those of us under the influence.

The birth of our nation occurred in the flint-lock musket era of small arms development.  It was state of the art technology that required 20 seconds of practiced reloading time.  A skilled and calm soldier (or civilian) could fire up to three rounds a minute, if aiming time was minimal.  Armies were without airplanes, tanks, helicopters, missiles, etc.  Aside from rather bulky cannons, soldiers armed with muskets provided the essence of battlefield might.  Anyone with tradable goods or financial means could acquire a musket and be as well armed as any soldier in any army.  The Second Amendment of 1791 provided the authorization for a state to reach an armed equivalency to federal or foreign armies (protection from tyranny): “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  In 1791, “well-regulated Militias” were today’s National Guards, and armed equivalency required only muskets.

Second Amendment Fog

The Second Amendment is now cited as providing the Constitutional right of all citizens to own virtually any type of hand weapon.  They’re no longer “three shots per minute” muskets; with today’s modern machines, a semi-automatic rifle enthusiast can easily fire 60 deadly bullets in a minute (without aid of a “bump stock”).  However incredible the fire power, our armed citizens lack equivalency to National Guard troops, the U.S. military, or supposed foreign invaders.  In whatever imagined standoff, automated rifles would provide but token resistance to the array of weaponry available to state supported military forces.  Citizens armed with modern rifles afford no significant protection from tyranny; they have meaningful significance only to the non-military victims they’ve come to target.

The NRA and arms industry is undeterred by that reality; they continue to market weaponry as the patriotic expression of constitutional rights.  The ad campaigns have evolved and spiraled into themselves: guns for patriotism, guns for sport, guns for self enhancement, and guns to protect against people with guns.  The circle of death is complete: with a population already saturated with weapons, gun ownership is now promoted as necessary protection against the success of previous marketing campaigns (imagine the tobacco industry promoting active cigarette consumption as protection against second hand smoke).

Dire Straits

Our situation needs acknowledgement: born under the influence and guns all around.  The statistics are undeniable; we (males) are prone to acts of audacious behavior that are often violent and even misanthropic.  It’s obvious we need some separation from the weapons that magnify the repercussions of our instability.  It’s a need resisted; we’re under the influence, yet sure of our clarity.  We look about and all is normal.

It’s normal; we accept forty thousand gun deaths a year through murder and suicide.  It’s normal; we accept the marketing and political manipulation.  It’s normal because we provide the votes.  It’s normal because we purchase the guns.  It’s normal because we’re under the influence.

A Passage Through

If meaningful regulation is ever to occur, it will likely come through those least under the influence: female activists and legislators.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did it in 1980 (but faced less resistance).  Perhaps the recent influx of female representation in the legislative body will be the catalyst to sustained effort.  There are some positive signs: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), revival of industry accountability, the curbing of bump stocks.  To be meaningful and lasting, true gun regulation will necessitate actual reduction of weapons in circulation; both number and type.  True regulation will remove the most egregious weapons that make mass killings easy, and will attempt to keep guns from the hands of those demonstrably under the influence.

The industry, its political sycophants, and those most under the influence will howl about loss of freedom, liberty, and constitutional rights.  It’s obfuscation; the only thing truly lost will be a quick and easy route to murder and mass killings.  Even if erring on the side of caution, nothing more than this will occur: accessibility to a machine whose sole function is to kill will be lost to one deemed most likely to use it.  The “loss” is really a freedom gained.  It would allow for passage through a dangerous period of instability: someone under the influence will not become a murderer, and those who might have died will still be alive.  Regulation means only that and nothing more (when under the influence, it’s easy to feel otherwise).

• Photo can be viewed here

A World Divided by Ideologies

Six-year-old Kate was playing with her younger brother, each had a Frisbee, which they threw as far as they could. After each round of throws Kate declared that she had ‘won’, having thrown the Frisbee further than her three-year-old sibling. She was the ‘winner’, and by extension, Richard was the loser. They were not playing together any longer, they were competing; Kate had been conditioned into the ideology of competition, presumably by school and her peers, perhaps her parents, and her brother, whether he likes it or not, would shortly join her.

Some years ago the Max-Planck Institute in Germany conducted an experiment with a group of toddlers; the children were placed in a room with adults, the adults dropped something and the children were encouraged to pick it up for them. This they happily did, working collectively. Then a reward was introduced and given to the child who handed the item to the adult. The group work immediately broke down, harmony was shattered and the children began fighting over the item to be retrieved. Their behavior had been corrupted – conditioned by motive; the effect was social division and conflict.

We have all been the victims of such sociological/psychological conditioning, some more, some less. Conditioned images of oneself and of others are unconsciously built up, attachment to content made firm. Far from creating the security we yearn for, attachment to the construct ensures fear is maintained. Instead of allowing ourselves to be, we have become something – someone: we belong to a nation, and share in its values; its history and traditions become ours, as do its enemies. We are Brazilian, French, British, American, etc.; successful, middle class, or unsuccessful and poor; white or non-white; a colonizer or the colonized; strong or weak, ideologically inclined – Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, socialist, capitalist, and so on. The image of ‘me’ in contrast to the ‘you’ is formed, the ‘us’ against ‘them’ takes root; my country versus your country, my political party against yours, my God versus your God, my opinions versus yours and so on, and on, and on.

Attachment to the image is strong, defense of its beliefs and ideals fierce. From this narrow, conditioned center thoughts emerge and actions proceed, creating multiple divisions and disharmony, endless wars and violent conflict. The Jew stands in opposition to the Arab, the Hindu to the Muslim, the socialist to the capitalist. Italy competes with Japan, the British with the French, America with everyone, etc., etc. The result is a divided world of fragmented fearful human beings in conflict with themselves.

This is not philosophy, it is the very fabric of our lives, the animating impulses that form the type of society in which we live; a global society that is more divided than ever, and therefore in great conflict, for where there is division there is conflict. Societies within countries are divided, regions are divided, groups within communities, individuals within households/families.

A poll surveying attitudes in 28 countries by Ipsos Mori in 2018 found that 76% of people believe their country is divided (80% in America), and almost 60% percent think it is more divided today than it was a decade ago. Europeans are the most likely to think divisions have grown; “77% of people in Spain say their country is more divided now than 10 years ago, followed by Sweden, Germany, Britain and Italy (all 73%).”

The President of Ipsos Public Affairs, Cliff Young, says this sense of division is a “symptom of these times…there has been a decline in trust in traditional institutions and a rise in the belief that the system is broken…Citizens in general no longer believe that governments, politicians and other institutions can deliver on their promises.” This is certainly a factor; the current systems are completely inadequate to the needs and nature of the times and are feeders of division. They are inherently unjust, are built on divisive principles and are in a state of terminal decline. Many people recognize this and are calling for fundamental change, but because of entrenched resistance from those that benefit from the system it is being artificially kept afloat. This cannot last.

Tolerance and Unity

The various expressions of division are plain to see. They abound in the economic, political, social and religious spheres and impact on everyone. Political parties of all colors are retreating more deeply into their own ideology; within parties splinter groups are widespread, cooperation between parties rare. Stark economic division manifested as inequality of wealth, income and influence underpins and is a form of unprecedented social injustice. Without fundamental systemic change such economic divisions will deepen – wealth will become even more concentrated and with it political influence – allowing the spiral of injustice and social division to be perpetuated, and with it conflict and a plethora of social ills.

With strengthening divisions and hardening extremes, tolerance is weakened, societies become less compassionate, more judgmental, and mental illness increases. The Ipso Mori poll found that 40% of people believe their particular country has become less tolerant in the last ten years. Divisions occur in parallel with, and are in large part the result of, competition, together with the dual mechanisms of reward and punishment and the attachment to ‘isms’ of all kinds. Divisions create an environment of suspicion and fear, which the survey confirmed, revealing that only 18% of people claimed to trust groups with different political views, a mere 16% trust immigrants and wealthier people. Nobody trusts politicians, no matter what badge they wear.

In order to break down divisions and inculcate ways of living that unify people and build right relationships, a new collective atmosphere needs to be created and different values inculcated. Crucially this requires changing the economic system, which lies at the heart of many of our interrelated problems. As currently designed it is completely divisive; based on competition and endless consumption, nations, regions, cities, businesses and individuals are set in opposition to one another. A kinder more just model needs to be introduced based on the principle of sharing with the aim of meeting the needs of all and saving the planet, which under the present approach is regarded as a storehouse of resources to be exploited by mankind, rather than an integrated living organism to be respected and cared for. The field of institutional education is perhaps the next single most important area in which changes could and should be made. Competition, reward and punishment and conformity characterize the education policies of most governments, policies that are all anathema to real education.

The responsibility to create a unified harmonious world rests with us all. We can all think and act in an inclusive tolerant manner, but it is governments that have the power to make policy changes and introduce systemic reform. Although it is not possible to legislate unity and social harmony into being, it is possible, as the current methodology demonstrates, to exacerbate notions of separation by designing systems based on divisive principles.

Unity is our inherent state; remove those elements that cause division and aggravate intolerance, encourage modes of living that work towards mutual understanding and bring people together, and unity will naturally and spontaneously come into being.

Biden, Bernie, and the Bomb

Will 2019 go down in history as the year of insanity?  Has hyper hysteria taken over the entire country? Is it no longer possible to make our way through the hazy maze of Political Correctness?  Have we gotten to the point where guns are legal but an innocent hug can get you indicted?

Consider this: Thousands are protesting a simple touch on the shoulder, while no one is protesting the nuclear stockpile of weapons that endangers the entire planet.

The political smear campaign against Joe Biden is in high gear. Think about the amount of ink that has been wasted by the Press on this non issue.  Meanwhile people are dying. Kids are being kidnapped on the border by our government. This will go down in history as a major Crime Against Humanity. Thousands of children have been lost and can not be reunited with their families.  Our health care system is in crisis.  Bridges and roads are collapsing.  Poverty and homelessness are increasing.  But forget all that – Joe Biden touched someone’s shoulders. There may be many reasons for not voting for Biden, but his compassion, affection, and empathy should increase his vote count.

An attitude about hugging and touching others is often the result of culture.  VP Biden is from Scranton, Pennsylvania.  That is the heart of coal country. People who grew up there have different social norms of acceptability.  They come from a tough, hard working stock. Most are second generation Americans… often the children or grandchildren of coal miners. They hug in the grocery store, the post office, the bank.  The only people there who shake hands are the bankers.

Politicians often give hugs. I have received many hugs from Bernie.  Hugging might be the best thing that politicians ever do for the citizens.

Let’s get a grip.  There is a big difference between ‘touching’ and ‘abuse’.  Those who feel that their space has been violated should have compassion for those who never receive a hug, or even a touch. They need to reboot their moral compass.  They probably need more hugs.

Science has proven the value of a hug. Remember, more than fifty years ago there were studies about infants and failure to thrive. Now some hospitals have cuddlers in their NICU.   Patients in nursing homes do much better when given a few hugs per day.

Teachers are now reporting that they never touch a child. They are afraid of false accusations.  Years ago, young students who were having a bad day, often received a gentle hug from a thoughtful teacher. Now we have succeeded in removing compassion and humanity even from the classroom.

And please consider this: Maybe Van Gogh would have lived longer if he had just received a hug that day. How many suicides could be prevented with a just a simple hug?