Category Archives: Opinion

Present Perverse Priorities Will Undermine the UN Even Further!

The news came a few days ago: “UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned member states that the organization is facing “troubling funding issues as a result of delayed dues payments that will force reductions in non-staff costs.”

But who really cares? Any Trump tweet or football result is more important to our media and politicians. The members of the UN still give the world’s military about 340 times more than the UN for its core budget.

You often hear people raising doubts about the  “the United Nations” and most people then think of the skyscraper in New York as “the UN”.

But there is no “UN” independent of what the 193 member states decide to make of it. That was already pointed out by its first Secretary-General, Norwegian Trygve Lie, in the late 1940s: The UN will never be stronger or better than the member states want it to be.

That is the essential – and in some sense also existential – truth about the world’s potentially most important and visionary organisation.

A second truth is that the UN is not, at least not predominantly, the power house in New York (which, in passing, ought to be moved out of the US given the decade-long contempt for the UN Charter shown by that member). The real UN is the family of UN agencies that do good around the world every day and without which the world would be a much worse place.

A third truth is that a few predominantly Western states – the U.S. in particular – have done their utmost at least since the 1990 wars in Yugoslavia (and some would say since Korea and Vietnam) to undermine and marginalise the world organisation.

Those and many other member states violate the UN Charter’s Article 1 which states that peace shall be established by peaceful means on a daily basis, misuse the organisation – the Five Permanent Members in particular with their nuclear weapons and repeated violations of international law. Think of all the wars fought since Yugoslavia without a UN Security Council mandate but have destroyed countries, peoples, economies and cultures.

And the UN too.

If they could, they would love to get rid of the UN once and for all. Because it is based on a Charter that is the most Gandhian governments have ever signed. Back in time, that is, when governments and peoples knew what war was and therefore stated in the Charter’s Preamble that war shall be abolished as a socially acceptable institution – to boil it down to essentials.

And where are we then today?

Well, did you hear any of these states – the UN Security Council members in particular – insist on the point that large, robust UN peacekeeping missions should be established in, say, Libya, Syria or Ukraine? No, it is Russia and the US that keep the “peace” in Syria, right? The truth is that the US has done nothing there but to support various other militant countries and terrorist organisations and to build some 15-20 bases there. The UN wouldn’t have done any of that!

And while Russia (and Iran) have certainly had a relatively positive influence on the Syrian battlefields fighting terrorism, it is still warfare and not peacemaking. And peace – mind you – is not the same as a war dying down.

Self-appointed peacekeeping countries that are happy to have demolished the finest global organisation on earth are now doing – with nothing but tragic results – what the UN could have done much better had the world’s governments wanted it to and had they built on the accumulated UN experience since 1945.

Rampant militarism, nationalism, interventionism and anti-intellectualism among national “security” elites and political decision-makers – even in historically peaceful and humane countries such as my native Denmark – for decades have fought a war on peace and thus – perfectly logically – on the UN.

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When Srebrenica happened and know-nothing people blamed it all on “the Serbs” and “the UN”, who bothered to investigate how the member states deliberately blurred mandates and caused mission creep? How leading NATO countries’ military strike projects (the stupid “peace enforcement” doctrine) was devastating for the UN peace-keeping?

Who in the media asked politicians in all leading UN member states why they dispatched far too few peacekeepers – and how countries had provided the UN peacekeeping missions in Yugoslavia with less than 5% of what the UN peacekeepers estimated to be a minimum at the time to prevent things like Srebrenica from happening in the five other “safe” zones?

The then top UN Commander Lars-Erik Wahlgren required 32,000 peacekeepers from the world community and got 1200 Turks to Bosnia. That is 3,75% of what was needed!

So yes! And how easy – just blame it all on the UN!

Start wars wherever you please and then call in the UN to break its neck on one Mission Impossible after the other. In the end, it will be finished as the peace organisation it is and was meant to be. (At the time I argued that the UN S-G ought to have a right to say when members want to set up a UN mission to look good: If that is all you member states give us here at the UN, we refuse to set up the mission!)

Had anybody bothered to investigate the UN’s situation, they would have found that members avoided paying their dues so that the UN was de facto bankrupt when Srebrenica happened and would then be sure to fail. Such investigative journalism would have required more free media and research and it would have prevented all fingers being pointed at “the Serbs” (whose leader, Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, had been called the mastermind of the massacre but was freed in two verdicts by the Hague Tribunal ten years after he died in his cell).

Another story not to be told? To cover up NATO countries’ remarkable ignorance coupled with a series of more or less law-violating efforts which all amounted to one thing: Peace prevention!

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And then the news came a few days ago: “UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned member states that the organization is facing “troubling” funding issues as a result of delayed dues payments that will force reductions in non-staff costs.”

Here is a longer, very good background from The Guardian. To quote: “Letter sent to member states by António Guterres reveals $139m deficit in core budget…Guterres told member states that the UN’s core budget was in the red more deeply and earlier in its financial year than it had ever previously experienced…”

And then you may think: But the UN is also very expensive, isn’t it?

No, it is extremely cheap!

Read this paragraph in The Guardian article carefully: “The UN general assembly budget committee agreed in December on a $5.4bn core UN budget for 2018-19, which US ambassador Nikki Haley said was a cut of $285m from 2016-17. UN peacekeeping is funded separately.”

112 of the 193 members have paid their dues. OK. Some are unable to. OK. But then there is the United States of America paying 22% of that UN budget. Ask why others let it dominate the world institution instead of paying more themselves so the U.S. cannot dominate.

So we arrive at the terrible truth about war and peace budgets in our crisis-ridden world: The UN member states, pooling all their resources to provide the world’s most important organisation for peace, human rights, development etc. with a decent core budget, cannot find a little more than US$ 5 billion!

What do the same member states spend on their military, on warfare, death and destruction? About US$ 1700 billion!! Of which the United States alone around 700. And did we ever hear of a war stopping because of “funding issues”, delayed payments or forced military staff reductions?

In summary: 340 times more is spent on “security” and war than on the world’s best, common peace organisation’s core budget!

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Until the world begins to seriously question the Present Perverse Priorities (PPP) and change them fast as hell – what hope would you see for humanity’s future?

Watch your prime time TV news tonight. Read the best newspapers you know of. Listen to the debate in your parliament – or to your next dinner table conversation. And write to me if you hear anyone bringing up this world priority issue with urgency and passion or states that she/he will lift a finger to change those PPP in concrete, radical ways.

No matter how many reforms the UN needs – and yes it does – it is the member states that prevent them from being implemented.

Tell you what?

No matter how weak the UN is made by these narrowminded, warfighting states and their elites, the UN – its Charter, its idea, its professional and committed staff (I have met hundreds of them, civilian and military, around the world and admire them greatly) – will have my 110% support. And dare you to demolish it further before humanity has something new and much much better to switch to.

As long as the war on peace is on, the UN will not change – not unless we finally make it the organisation for “We, the peoples” and kick out “Them, the governments.”

Pay your dues! Increase them at least 100% within the next five year.

Or your talk about a better world is empty and opportunistic cynicism.

Stand by the UN, its norms and Charter! And do it now!

Bizarro Zionism: Zionists Call Human Rights Supporters Racist

What to call someone who claims to oppose racism, except for that directed against Palestinians?

Judge someone by what they have done and continue to do. Consider the source. These thoughts ran through my mind as I struggled to write about Bernie Farber’s standing among some Left/liberals.

After Israel recently solidified its apartheid regime, a Facebook friend posted an opinion by illustrious pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim titled “Today, I Am Ashamed to Be an Israeli.” While expressing opposition to its recent entrenchment of Jewish supremacism, the story effectively denied the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by claiming, “the founding fathers of the State of Israel who signed the Declaration [of independence] considered the principle of equality as the bedrock of the society they were building.”

More than this sop to colonial history, my leftist Facebook friend’s post piqued my ire because it highlighted that the article came from Farber, who worked at the now defunct Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) between 1984 and 2011. In response to my complaint about citing the former CJC CEO approvingly, Farber wrote, “I will continue to work for mutual understanding and do my best to see all sides. You will of course see what you wish from your one-sided pedestal and be critical of anyone who remains a progressive Zionist which I am.”

From the “pedestal” on which I observe Farber, I see an individual who has repeatedly labelled supporters of Palestinian rights as racist. After the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario) passed a 2009 motion in support of the Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement Farber claimed, “anti-semitism is once again amongst us.” For Farber the resolution was “bigoted and discriminatory and anti-Jewish” because only one country was targeted. “The sole target is Jews, is Israel,” he said.

In a 2010 letter to the Toronto Star denouncing Israeli Apartheid Week CJC’s CEO wrote, “Anything that promotes the destruction, demonization and delegitimization of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is inherently anti-Semitic. To falsely accuse Israel, and by extension the vast majority of the world’s Jews who support the Jewish state, of ‘apartheid,’ is a form of anti-Semitic bullying.”

When the Israeli military killed 1,400 Palestinians (including 345 children) over 22 days in 2008-09 Farber denounced those protesting the slaughter across the country for their purported “vile, disgusting, hateful rhetoric of the kind that should be absolutely frightening to Canadians.” Further stoking anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment, he labeled the protests “uncivil, un-Canadian, that demonize Jews and Israelis.” Farber called on the police to investigate the burning of an Israeli flag and a small number of individuals with signs deemed “pro-Hamas” or comparing Israel’s actions to the Nazis.

In 2003 Farber lobbied for noted Islamophobe and anti-Palestinian activist Daniel Pipes to speak at York University. “It would have set a very, very unacceptable precedent to cancel it because of students who didn’t like or what he had to say,” said the then executive director of CJC Ontario. In 1996 Pipes asserted that Islam “would seem to have nothing functional to offer” and six years earlier said: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene … All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” The year before speaking at York University Pipes launched Campus Watch, which created “dossiers” on professors and academic institutions viewed as critical of Israel and more recently, wrote a piece titled “How 99 Percent of ‘Palestine Refugees’ Are Fake.”

Farber certainly didn’t support Pipes as a principled defender of free speech. In fact, Farber repeatedly promoted hate speech restrictions and a few years later the CJC pressured the York administration against holding an academic conference entitled Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace. Farber also applauded the Stephen Harper government’s 2009 move to block former British MP George Galloway from speaking in Canada, writing: “George Galloway enables terrorism.”

After Adbusters juxtaposed photos of the World War II Warsaw Ghetto with images of Gaza, Farber penned a National Post op-ed titled “Selling anti-Semitism in the book stores”. It urged people to complain to stores selling the Vancouver-based magazine and a week later Shoppers Drug Mart told Adbusters it would no longer sell its magazine.

Aligning himself with Doug and Rob Ford, in 2010 Farber called on Toronto Pride to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from its parade. In an over-the-top Toronto Star opinion piece he (co)wrote, “you’ve got to hand it to the organizers of Toronto’s annual gay pride parade. With their cowardly volte face in allowing Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) to march, organizers have pulled off the PR nightmare hat-trick: bowing to the bullying of political correctness; violating their own core philosophy by readmitting a group rooted in hate and demonization; and shifting media focus off their main objective.”

As executive director of CJC Ontario Farber joined US Jewish groups’ campaign to suppress the 1998 publication of A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth, which was a rebuttal of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s widely distributed Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. The Norman Finkelstein-led project included an expanded version of an article by Ruth Bettina Birn, chief historian for Canada’s Nazi war crimes unit. Farber claimed that Birn was lending her name to Finkelstein’s “anti-Israel outbursts“, which were “an insult” to Jews. The CJC tried to intimidate the longstanding Nazi hunter through her government employer.

In another attempt to punish those in any way associated with Finkelstein, Farber threatened to take the York Region education board to the human-rights commission if it did not dismiss a Palestinian-Canadian from its race relations committee. Farber was angry that Bader Abu Zahra distributed a review of Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering at a teachers’ conference to discuss including “Holocaust and Anti-racist education in History, English and Social Science courses.”

When former Assembly of First Nations (AFN) head David Ahenakew made anti-Semitic comments in 2002 Farber (correctly) criticized them. But he also used Ahenakew’s abhorrent comments to smear Palestine solidarity activists. Alluding to the September 2002 protest against Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University and support for the second Palestinian intifada, Farber claimed Ahenakew “felt comfortable at the time to say what he’s been thinking for a long time.” Farber then used Ahenakew’s anti-Semitic comments to push AFN leaders to support a state stealing indigenous Palestinians’ land. As part of AFN/CJC rapprochement Grand Chief Phil Fontaine participated in a CJC organize tour to Israel.

Farber attacked the United Church of Canada for supporting Palestinian rights and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). “It almost sends shivers down our spine that the United Church of Canada won’t speak out against documents which on their face are anti-Semitic,” said Farber, regarding a number of Palestine solidarity resolutions submitted to its 2009 national meeting. Amidst an aggressive campaign targeting the United Church, the CJC head opined, “that a mainstream Christian faith group would provide funding to create an anti-Zionist, and anti-Jewish group is absolutely astounding.”

Farber has repeatedly denigrated IJV, which supports the Palestinian civil society’s call to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel. He called IJV a “small, radical rump group”, “a rump on the edge of Jewish society”, a “fringe group” that spews “vile, anti-Zionist” rhetoric, “a minuscule, fringe group” that backs the “anti-Semitic” claim that Israel practices apartheid, etc.

At the same time that he disparaged IJV, Farber gave political cover to the Jewish Defence League (JDL), which recruited in Jewish high schools and participated in Toronto’s Annual Israel Walk. According to Andy Lehrer, JDL head Meir Weinstein spoke glowingly of Farber. After being asked to do so for years, Farber finally distanced himself and the CJC from the JDL in 2011. Highlighting the tension between those who back its anti-Palestinian posture, but oppose the JDL’s alliances with fascist/white supremacist organizations, Farber denounced the group after it rallied in support of Britain’s extremist English Defence League.

In response to my posting some of the above information on Facebook Farber complained that, “I haven’t worked at the CJC for over 7 years. And you have no idea of my work since then.” While Farber is no longer a leading proponent of the idea that expressing support for Palestinians is “anti-Semitism”, now challenges some of the Islamophobia he previously stoked and is offside with the JDL, it would be a stretch to say he’s broken from his CJC past. In 2015 Farber’s Mosaic Institute co-hosted an event with the Consulate of Israel in Toronto and last year he supported the exclusion of IJV and the United Jewish People’s Order from an Ontario anti-Semitism committee he co-led. In February Farber was a spokesperson for a JSpace Canada press release calling on the NDP convention to oppose a resolution that called for boycotting products from illegal Israeli settlements.

Despite this anti-Palestinian activity, many left/liberals partner with him. Alt weekly Toronto Now regularly publishes Farber’s articles; anti-racist journalist/activist Desmond Cole spoke with him at a recent forum put on by Farber’s Mosaic Institute; Judy Rebick, Sandy Hudson, Jerry Dias and others co-authored an op-ed with Farber calling on “Progressive Voters To Rally Around Andrea Horwath”; A slew of individuals have supported the new Farber-chaired Canadian Anti-Hate Network; the Treyf podcast interviewed him twice last year; the Torontoist quoted him in an article titled “Toronto’s Jewish Left is Alive and Well and Resisting Extremism.”

Of course, one could argue there is nothing wrong with interviewing someone you disagree with, partnering on an issue even if you differ on other subjects or citing a former pro-Israel activist to highlight that country’s eroding support.

But, ask yourself this: Would a pro-union publication give voice to a prominent union-basher? And if that union-basher claimed to have changed, wouldn’t the pro-union publication question him/her about the reasons for the change and their current opinion regarding unions?

It seems to me that supporters of Palestinian rights must, at a minimum, ask Farber similar questions before giving him voice as a “progressive” and “anti-racist”.

When an Alien is Our Brother, Son, Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for james chasse jr

Image result for james chasse jr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Lindstrom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PH: Why do you make documentaries?

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

Under a Blood Moon

U.S. imperial actions in Vietnam and elsewhere are often described as reflecting “national interests,” “national security,” or “national defense.” Endless U.S. wars and regime changes, however, actually represent the class interests of the powerful who own and govern the country.
— John Marciano, “Lessons from the Vietnam War,” Monthly Review, December 1, 2016

The Bretton Woods institutions are like arsonists, lighting new social fires, then waiting for the NGOs and local communities to play firefighter.
— Eric Toussaint, (Your Money or Your Life:
 The Tyranny of Global Finance, June 1, 2005)

We found the weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. We found biological laboratories.
— President George W. Bush, May 29, 2003

There is no evidence to confirm that [US-supported El Salvador] government forces systematically massacred civilians in the [El Mozote] operations zone.
— Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders, February 8, 1982

Today here in Norway, it is expected that this will go down as the hottest day in Norwegian history. It is also the day of the Blood Moon lunar eclipse. Somehow this seems fitting, in a sort of mytho-poetic way. For I can’t shake the sense of apocalyptic dread that permeates life everywhere today. I suppose it might have to do with the historic-level wild fires near the arctic circle, or the dozen major floods that are happening on every single continent, or the methane bubbles that are growing weekly across Siberia and the Arctic. Or just the drought that has hit my home state of California, as well as the previously inviolate countryside of Norway.

The U.S. government continues to occupy itself with the matters of Imperialist aggression (which, besides, you know, killing people, contributes something like 40% of the world’s pollution). And with the endless, necessary, selling of the mythology of freedom and democracy that is so important to sustain the fantasy lives of its citizens. So, to just sort of track semi randomly the madness that is gripping the Empire today, we can start with the fact that most of Trump’s cabinet are Dominionist Evangelical Christians. I don’t think most people, at least most of those not brainwashed by Christianity, realize just how barking mad the Dominionists are. Pence is one, Pompeo is one, DeVos and Kudlow and Carson are also such. Think about that. This label covers a variety of belief systems, but in the U.S. these are the legatees of the surge of Christian Nationalism that started in the 70s (really, there are two branches of Dominionism, that of the late R.J. Rushdoony, and the 7 Mountains brand favored by Ted Cruz and others).

Pompeo and John Bolton are the two most significant advisors to Donald Trump. Both men are what in conventional terms could be described as unstable and perhaps suffering from one or another personality disorder (antisocial personality disorder, or APD, is no doubt accurately assigned to Bolton). But these are the obvious examples. Trump is the cartoon bad guy writ large, in primary colors (including hair) and he invites such hatred because part of his schtick is to troll the public. And his own administration, for that matter. (And its funny how suddenly liberals are aghast because he insulted the Queen of England — or rather “broke protocal.” I mean seriously who gives a fuck. That old racist harpy long ago deserved to work stacking boxes in a WalMart warehouse, but I digress).

No, the deeper madness that has taken hold is found in the educated classes, actually. I wrote before about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and her rather obvious intellectual bankruptcy as well as her disingenuous presentation of self. And yet, leftists continue to defend her and plead to give her a chance and how she is part of some mythic insurgency in the Democratic Party. Now most of these writers, those I am thinking about, spent the last couple years deriding the DNC, attacking the criminal record of Hillary Clinton. And yet, now there is a sort of mushy appeal to consider the Democratic Party in any calculus for building a movement toward change. No longer do I hear the word communism, and I only hear socialism when it is hyphenated with Democratic (Democratic-Socialist). What happened? Well, part of what happened is the rise of the marketing left. The entrepreneur left. Or the branded left. The capitalist left. All of these terms apply. In other words, these people are no longer (and probably never were) in any way the opposition. The magazines of these entrepreneurs (Sunkara and Jacobin, which Nick Beams amusingly called the ‘the house journal for the middle class pseudo-left milieu, in particular the Democratic Socialists of America’) found a niche sort-of-left market demographic and capitalized (sic) on it. This is the place one reads of strategic alliances but never reads of the positives of communism. Or the likes of Charles Davis, a puerile fascist masquerading as pseudo left. I mean he is sort of the fake, fake left.

And invariably these new non-Marxist and anti-communist leftists will quote and include those western educated voices in matters of foreign policy ( on Syria in particular). They will claim these Syrian voices, who speak English with perfect vowels, are the voices of the people. And they will always find a way to damn with faint praise the Bolivarian Revolution, and they will be anti-Castro and anti-the late Colonel Gadaffi. Most take a mulligan on Milosevic, even at this late date when literally all the propaganda has been debunked. They will use the term thug for any number of revolutionary leaders in the 3rd world. Think Maduro or Kim Jong Un, or Mugabe or Ortega. They call it is realism or something. It is the illusion of fairness. It is the subject position of the educated bourgeoisie. Now, never mind the failings or not of these leaders, their real crimes in the eyes of the West (like Iran) is their independence. And rarely is much thought given to the forces assembled against these independent countries. (think the embargo of five or six decades against Cuba, or the what was done to crush the Sandinistas, the dismantling of the former Yugoslavia, the sanctions against Iran). Remember, too, the U.S. targeted Syria thirty some years ago and that hasn’t changed.

I think in earlier times, a time before the internet, when news was not nearly instantaneous, one relied on certain principles, a certain ideological experience (I was accused this week of being blinded by my ideology, when in fact I think my ideology allows me to see more clearly, but I digress) that meant one knew who had the power, one knew that such power is almost always used to preserve privilege, and hence one would be inclined to side with those who had no power. Regardless. But it is also the tendency, today, to imagine a level playing field – a field that exists in one’s own cultural landscape. And this is what I am coming to call the new Orientalism. When I think back to Vietnam and how those of us who resisted and protested that Imperialist war, there was no question of tweezing apart if Ho Chi Minh was nice. I suspect he kind, but not probably nice, but that was not the issue. The issue was the United States and its massive military killing machine against a largely peasant population. And the opposition to the war had deep working class roots, and it was a resistance that began with a refusal to support any U.S. Imperialist aggression.

The domestic antiwar movement was the largest in U.S. history, and the October 1969 Moratorium Against the War alone was the greatest single antiwar protest ever recorded in this country. The movement was deepened and strengthened by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), that in January 1966 issued a public statement against the war—a courageous dissent that nearly bankrupted it financially. SNCC called U.S. involvement “racist and imperialist.”
— John Marciano

Artists and poets travelled the country giving free readings and offering support for draft resisters. Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, W.S. Merwin… even Robert Lowell, were creating work that was organically political, and not simply agit prop. They were doing what artists traditionally do, they were engaging in the world around them, and with the people around them, and with the life of planet. They weren’t selling anything. Not even a T-shirt.

Now, this branded left of today, or the anti-dialectical left, is also acutely anti-Maoist and anti-Stalinist. And again, my experience suggests the core of this ideological grouping are white men under or about 40, and University educated. And they are the exemplars, too, of this new Orientalism. And this Orientalism tends to enclose a particular strain of racism. Jay Tharappel wrote over at Big Russ News last week: “Racism is not just a tool of capital to divide labour (which is the dominant definition of the term among first–world Left); it is also an ideological weapon employed primarily by empires to shape how their citizens think about other nations in accordance with their geopolitical strategy.” These New Orientalist Leftists are also, as I say, rabidly anti-Stalinist and anti-Maoist; and this is less because they possess any real historical knowledge but because the caricature of the evil totalitarian despot is a necessary figure in their personal anti-communist imaginary.

President Barack Obama made his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president in July, 2009, speaking in Accra, Ghana. Despite a decades-long trail of broken promises to Africa on aid and development, Obama’s speech in Accra was marked by finger-wagging and reprimands, and an insistence that African nations’ own “mismanagement” and “lack of democracy” are to blame for their economic and social problems.
— Lee Wengref (International Socialist Review, #103)

Nations that establish their dominance can afford to be more liberal especially if they’re not threatened by more powerful enemies, whereas countries that find themselves actively fending off aggression by more powerful enemies do not have the luxury of adhering to ‘liberal’ standards premised on a privileged place in global affairs.
— Dan Tharappel

When liberals and New Orientalists (branded left, anti-communist left etc) look to find that neutrality of argument, the one that suggests just because I don’t like U.S. and NATO wars doesn’t mean I have to like Assad (Castro, Maduro, Ortega, Milosevic et al). They are assuming their privileged state of existence is outside all critiques. Any country colonized by one of the European powers automatically inherited bureaucratic and administrative structures and a political apparatus (including European policing). Syria inherited the French colonial structures for the most part. Such burdens constitute a psychic wound, a kind of mythic burden of both guilt and rage. But if those western educated sources with the posh vowels are consistent with NGO testimony and reports (western based and funded) such as Amnesty International, then this serves as evidence of third world savagery. The history of Hill & Knowlton, or any of the other Madison Avenue firms the State Department employs is simply ignored. It is literally tossed into the black hole of Western amnesia. If one cites the even very recent perfidy of western media and NGOs one is usually called a conspiracy theorist. I’ve been so called for citing things the CIA actually admits and brags about.

In 1998 the U.S. Air Force document, titled Information Operations, states that “Information Operations are applied across the range of military operations, from peacekeeping to full conflict … it is important to emphasize that the Information warfare is a formula that is implemented in all Air Force activities, from peace to war in order to enable the effective execution of all tasks.… The execution of information operations in the aeronautical, space and cyberspace across all aspects of the conflict “(note the use of” doublespeak “[or” dual language “, in the context of the terms” peace “and” military operations “). [sic]
— from the Yellow Brick Road Free Blog

And of course this leads to items such as this
… and this.

In a quite constant way, Orientalism depends for its strategy on this flexible positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand.
— Edward Said

The looming environmental catastrophe, or multiple catastrophes, are impossible to calculate in effect. But clearly there are going to be enormous changes to how the wasteful west, the privileged white world, lives. The current dementia or hallucinatory fever that is gripping the U.S. has far less to do with Donald Trump (though it does, in a sense, have to do with Putin and Russia, but I will return to that) than it does with the degraded state of daily life for nearly everyone that lives within it. And that includes the very wealthy, who I maintain are just as miserable, only they have far better coping mechanisms available to them. The sheer sense of despair that cuts across all western societies today is visible and palpable, and the new homeless camps on the edges of EVERY big city in America, are the symbol of the dying society. And yet, this predatory nation of slave owning Presidents, a nation that is the only in history to use nuclear weapons, this country of mass incarceration and provable indelible racism, still seems to attract those claiming they want to change it.

Liberals are, of course, always going to side with authority. Always will look to preserve the status quo. They are most comfortable, really, with open displays of fascist symbolism and style. I know few liberals who do not secretly admire or find Mussolini attractive. For such fascist leaders are very similar to the protagonists Hollywood turns out. Of late, I’ve noticed, a sharp uptick in heroes fashioned after Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs — the lone genius who goes off and discovers the solutions to everything. Never are they seen at work with countless colleagues, or vast armies of researchers working in near anonymity. No, it is the Zuck/Mussolini figure that does it alone. And these figures are always allowed to be vain, rude, selfish and destructive. And most often reactionary. Genius is forgiven. It is a very attractive fantasy for the western bourgeoisie today. It also suggests these figures are hard at work solving global warming for example. Solving all those things that can’t be faced. But this new ‘branded left’ — the New Orientalists, the anti-communists under the age of forty five, are also attracted to power. And they find positions that are not greatly different than an HRC supporter (or Bernie, or Elizabeth Warren et al). Its the old lets hold their feet to the fire fantasy. As I think on it, there is rather a lot of fantasy taking place on all levels and at all rungs of contemporary society. Which is probably why such emphasis is put on being realistic. Which reminds me that today the public intellectual is either a Jordan Peterson (for the Jr College student or under grad at some directional state University) or Stephen Pinker (for the post grad from more expensive schools). To think only a few decades back Gore Vidal and James Baldwin appeared with regularity on TV opinion shows. As an aside, there is so much ludicrously wrong with Pinker that time and space prevent a full listing. But one observation regarding his claim that violence is in decline and that mankind has never known such a sustained peace. Now he arrives at this absurdity by simply ignoring the violence visited upon the global south. Post-1945 he figures the big “civilized” states aren’t at war. And that’s all that counts. Pinker and Peterson both are new Orientalists.

As Ed Herman and David Peterson wrote,

Pinker completely ignores the phenomenon of structural violence, or the kind of violence that is ‘built into the structure’ of social relations, and ‘shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances,’ in Johan Galtung’s famous rendering. On a planet with more than 7 billion people facing mounting ecological pressures, the increasingly savage global class war of the 1% against the other 99, and the ‘endemic undernutrition and deprivation’ that afflicts billions of people even in ‘normal’ times—to extend Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze’s writings on India to the world as a whole—takes a toll every day that overshadows the violence of war.

Pinker, by the by, teaches at Harvard. Something I find rather fitting and revealing regards the state of intellectual discourse today.

Fanon, of course, said,  “…decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.”

And today the structural violence is finding new avenues of expression. I wrote a while back about the rise of a new antisemitism. In one way much of that antisemitism is found in structural relationships. Just as racism is, though perhaps to a lesser degree (for white black racism remains steadfastly overt and concrete). Those homeless encampments also are testimony to the alienation of modern western society. For these are the camps of the newly poor. And it has been an opening of the flood gates of penury for much of what was once working class America. And these are people without protection, either from government, unions (which largely dont exist anymore) or extended family.

When the USSR collapsed another sort of symbol disappeared. For it was the USSR that fought for the independence of African nations. They fought against colonial rule. The US fought for the colonizer. They supported the apartheid state. And they would today, too, which is what many Africans instinctively know. Across the poorest regions of the planet the figures of Mao and Fidel and Stalin are symbols of hope, not tyranny.

So the rabid insane demonizing of Putin is both an extension of a cold war comfort zone, and simply the furious irrational tantrum of the DNC. But to be clear, the Bush and Putin bromance came to an end when Obama took office. That was the real sea change in US-Russia relations. And it marked the serious infiltration of Hollywood by the Clinton mafia. Obama was the errand boy for the deep state, for the CIA and state department, but also the NSA, and certainly for Wall Street and the even bigger finance that controls Wall Street. Now, tracking the logic and movement of this change is too complex for this post, but what is germane here is that Obama’s pivot to Asia included a pivot against Russia. For no matter how one feels about Putin, the historic role of the Russian people matters greatly. It matters because Russia has always defied Western diktats, and because Russians themselves, as a culture, a society, tend toward a sensibility of independence. And because as Andre Vltchek pointed out, they look white, the look normal, but they are in fact different. And it feels as if they are closer to Roma than to Americans. They have the same streak of absolute indifference to our opinion of them. In a sense they are closer to much North African culture, too, funny as that sounds. One thing they are not is British or French or American. There is a real split in cultural character between the European colonizing culture and that of Russia, the Islamic world, and Africa.

So Putin becomes this, on the one hand, slightly camp figure, barechested on horseback, but also surgically intelligent former KGB agent. Putin feels too smart for Americans, I think. I mean what-the-fuck, who-the-fuck-does-he-think-he-is? Few world leaders project intelligence. Castro did, but he, alas, is gone now. Commandante Marcos is smart. And your average liberal will try to explain that Obama was smart, Harvard Law Review and whatever. (Harvard where that Pinker guy teaches, right?). But its not the same smart. Its another varietal of smart, another sort that grows under other conditions. Obama did not project more than a kind of detached wonky intelligence. Intelligence but without a soul.

Meanwhile, I see where Tony Blair (speaking of not so smart) was just gifted with ten gajillion dollars or pounds or something by Mohammed Bin Salman, the presumptive next king of Saudi Arabia. Billions, as a gift, from the man who launched a merciless pointless genocide against Yemen. And Tony, ever the good Christian, accepted giddy with gratitude. The obscenity of the United States and UK today depresses me, I have to say. I see nothing good that comes out of trying to reform a ruthless profiteering death infected party of rich and the very rich and their courtiers. The Democratic Party should not even be mentioned when the discussion turns to change. Not even mentioned, let alone praised for anything. The Democratic Party, as noted before, are drawing candidates primarily from the intelligence community and the military. Remember that. For those erstwhile leftists, those who side with NATO and the U.S. against any third world ruler, ANY of them, are collaborators really. That is how I look upon them. If, as an example, Lula da Silva functioned as a sort of ersatz collaborator, for a time, I tend to forgive him more than I would Angela Merkel. Or Theresa May. For da Silva was leader of the world’s largest former colony. And the scars of the colonial period are always visible even today. And besides that, those arraigned against him are the same neo aristocrat fascists massed against Maduro. Against Bolivia, too. The real threat to mankind is the american establishment.

The other thing worth asking is if, as we know, the U.S. CIA black budget is in excess of fifty billion dollars a year, what is that being spent on? And one has to wonder if infiltrating the left is not something of a priority. I would submit it is. So these publications of the pseudo left (now routinely mentioned in articles by CNN and at the NY Times) must have connections. And when other supposed radical voices take up the cause of the Democratic Party, one has to wonder. When they suddenly starting citing, as an authority, the findings of NGO reports or the data collected by front groups… it gives one pause.

Ben Rhodes (Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications under Obama) has a memoir out, and in it is a paragraph he wrote, regarding the speeches at Fidel Castro’s funeral. He writes, “For the next several hours the global left was heard from in speech after speech. The message was tired, out of date. Africans talking about the struggle to shake off colonialism. Latin Americans honouring the Cuban people and their resistance to Empire in the North.” So you see, this is the Democratic Party. Even mentioning colonialism is soooo five minutes ago.

The Soviet Union was the only Great Power whose stand conformed to our people’s will and desire. That is why the Soviet Union was the only Great Power which has all along been supporting the Congolese people’s struggle. I should like to convey the heartfelt gratitude of the entire Congolese people to the Soviet people and to Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchov personally for your country’s timely and great moral support to the young Republic of the Congo in its struggle against the imperialists and colonialists. I should also like to thank the Soviet Union for the assistance in food which it is extending to the Congo.
— Patrice Lumumba, July 28, 1960. (Interview).

Compassion is So Out of Fashion

On 24 July 2018, a young woman single-handedly prevented the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker out of Sweden by buying a ticket for his flight and refusing to sit down so that the airplane could take off. Her noble and courageous act brought tears to my eyes after the recent months’ terrible developments in the insane, obsessive, surreal European conflict over refugees and immigration.

Like my adopted country Germany, Sweden is allowing far-right racists and xenophobic nationalists and neo-Nazis to drive its agenda on immigration and asylum law. Once a country with a noble policy of providing safety to refugees fleeing persecution and human rights atrocities, Sweden’s government – like that of Germany – is now running scared as far-right anti-immigration parties grow ever stronger. And the older established parties are running not away from the wall-builder vote, but straight toward it and into the open arms of the nationalists, islamophobes, and incipient fascists. The “centrist” strategy for preventing racists and panic-stricken right-wingers from taking control of Europe: to adopt the same policies the governing self-described centrists claim to oppose.

And it is not only right-wingers and nationalists who have decided that the Global North must ratchet up its wall-building, who are falling prey to the flood of anecdotal and hysterical reports of rapes and murders carried out by refugees and immigrants. A great many of those refugees and immigrants – just coincidentally, of course – happen to be Muslims, and islamophobia is now a socially-acceptable form of discrimination among many who once flew the flag of tolerance. While there have been a handful of such actual crimes committed by immigrants, this small number of horrific acts is receiving the laser-focus treatment in the national mainstream press here in Germany, in stark contrast to the amount of attention given to the vast number of attacks on immigrants and refugees committed by racist neo-Nazi thugs and their sympathizers. Those anti-immigrant crimes are mentioned by the presstitutes occasionally in a dry, statistical manner. But the same government and corporate media that devote much of their feverish coverage to the growth of racist political parties which are deemed a “danger to democracy” are far less interested in talking about such violence committed by Germans, and I suspect that in Sweden the same thing is happening.

In recent weeks I have parted cyber-company with several people who consider themselves “progressive” or part of the Left, who nonetheless cannot find it in their hearts to come to terms with the personal circumstances of desperate people who are fleeing violence at home, the circumstances of people who see no future in their native lands, who risk drowning and imprisonment and subject themselves to racist discriminatory contempt, often with their children in tow, in the attempt to have better lives or to simply survive. It has become clear to most of us that all of the noble words about “fighting the causes of migration”, posited as an alternative to allowing a steady influx of refugees from violence and starvation and No-Future-Disease into the Global North from now on, are mostly fantasy. Even if the political will to truly make major changes in the Global South existed on a broad scale in the USA and Europe – which it does not, it is confined to the small and shrinking part of those populations which is willing to view refugees and migrants as people with just as much right to a decent life as those born here in the privileged part of the planet – the obstacles to any such effective programs are huge and probably insurmountable in the amount of time we have left before major collapse renders all of these debates utterly obsolete.

And most of us know that, at least instinctively. That causes fear among the vast majority of those of us who are comfortable, whether we are more or less politically conscious. Thus the growing fondness on wide swathes of the self-identified Left for nation-states and strongly-policed borders. For many of us, the mass-immigration scenario is where compassion ends. We may accept the fact that planetary doom is a done deal, but most of us appear to be determined to go down with our privileges intact.

In my life this is one-third of the Triple Whammy, although all three parts are, in fact, intimately related.

Although a slew of new scientific reports on rapidly accelerating global warming, on the already mind-blowing extent of plastic- and microplastics pollution in oceans, soils, the food chain and living creatures, on ocean acidification, and more speak an unmistakable language of No Future, most of us cannot get our minds around that, or we find it just too terrifying to contemplate. Instead, we push that highly probable reality out of our minds as “alarmism”, “gloom and doom”, “negativism” or whatever. However, those of us who see the issue as pretty much settled cannot do that. And every single day, many of us in that latter category are stunned once again to observe the fact that most of our fellow humans appear to intend to live out humanity’s end in the pretense that it is not even happening. I cannot possibly make it clear to you how that dichotomy stuns and numbs me and tears my insides out right through my brain.

Simultaneously (second part of the Triple Whammy), we are forced to watch as much of the worldwide attention that should be dedicated to our omnicidal self-destruction – whether one thinks it can be prevented, or agrees with me that it is now too late — is lavished on various “enemies” in classic manipulative programs of Us-Versus-Them distraction to support the mad and murderous strategies of those same deadly entities who have already made a ruin of half the Middle East and much of the Hindu Kush and North Africa and Ukraine, entities who earlier sabotaged the USSR’s economy in a targeted program carried out over a century, but continue to cast its largest remnant, the nation which saved us all from Hitler, as the Mother of All Evils. It is a spectacle worthy of Josef Goebbels, and untold millions who once seemed at least reasonably intelligent have swallowed the bait.

We are not allowed the dubious luxury of properly mourning life on Earth as it is wiped out before our eyes.

Instead, we are forced to watch as most of humanity denies the existence of this end-time with increasingly inhumane, paranoid, angst-ridden behavior which makes a mockery of all that we claim to value and believe in. Which brings us to Whammy Three: the Death of Compassion.

Those among us who would wish for a spiritual and awakened consciousness of all the things we are losing, even if it may possibly be our grandchildren who first experience the full force of that loss and destruction, are apparently doomed to bitter and fatal disappointment.

Unless benevolent extraterrestrial aliens show up right on cue a la “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to show us the error of our ways and save us from ourselves, it seems that humanity and much of life on this planet will slowly, gradually meet its end in a frenzy of Demonization of the Other, of war and brutality and scapegoating of the weakest and most defenseless among us. Other scenarios are possible; a number of things whether natural or nuclear might speed up the process radically.

But we can pretty much rule out the Happy Ending.

Education and the Mental Health Epidemic

Across the western world June is exam time; in Britain, written tests taken in halls of silence and tension have triggered a mini-epidemic of anxiety rooted conditions. Pupils have reported mental exhaustion, panic attacks, crying, nosebleeds, sleepless nights, hair loss and outbreaks of acne.

Over the past 25 years, depression and anxiety amongst teenagers in the UK has increased by 70%. This pattern is repeated across the developed world, and is the result of a cocktail of pressures, pressures that result in 10% of under 18-year-olds in America being dependent on mental health medication.

In parts of Asia things are just as bad or worse: the pressure to achieve high marks in exams in Hong Kong is driving some students to suicide: “71 students took their lives between 2013 and 2016,” reports The South China Morning Post. In Singapore, which produces children who excel in standardized tests, an 11-year-old jumped to his death from the 17th floor of an apartment building in 2016 because he was afraid to tell his parents his exam results. The inquest heard that the boy’s parents relentlessly pushed him to achieve at school: his mother would cane him for every mark he received under 70%. In 2015 a record 27 suicides were reported amongst children between 10 and 19, which was double the previous year’s total.

Suicide or attempted suicide is a raw scream revealing the internal agony a child is living with; pain that he/she feels suffocated by, and unable to openly acknowledge. In most cases children don’t kill themselves, they just become ill, some, chronically. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that neuropsychiatric conditions are the primary cause of disability in under 25-year-olds worldwide and says that globally between 10% and 20% “of children and adolescents experience mental disorders,” feeding what are often long-term conditions. Research shows that 75% of all mental health issues begin before a person reaches 18, with 50% taking root before age 15.

Engines of conformity

There are various interconnected reasons for this mental health epidemic; the burden to conform and the relentless pressure to succeed are primary causes and are present throughout institutionalized education. For many young people education has become a bi-word for competition and anxiety, school or university a place where uniformity is demanded and individuality denied: a hostile place in which pressure and stress dominate.

Despite the best efforts of teachers, many of whom are doing wonderful work, the goal of academic institutions in many countries has been reduced to passing exams and achieving good-to-high grades. This is anathema to what education ought to be. At the heart of education should be the aim of creating happy human beings free from fear. This requires establishing environments that allow an individual to discover innate talents, to explore him/herself and slowly, perhaps clumsily, give expression to that; a stimulating, nurturing space where mistakes can be made, failure allowed, independent thinking fostered and responsibility for society and the natural environment engendered.

Like all aspects of contemporary life, education has been tainted by the values of a particular approach to life, a materialistic methodology that fosters negative tendencies instead of feeding the good and liberating the spirit. Competition is encouraged instead of cooperation, placing people in opposition to one another, cultivating division instead of unity. Individual success is championed at the expense of group well-being and life is reduced to a battleground ruled by desire and the pursuit of pleasure.

The focus within this paradigm of misery is on material success and the accumulation of status and things. Hedonism is sold as the source of all happiness, feeding perpetual discontent. It is an extremely narrow approach to life that denies mystery and wonder, pours cynicism on the miraculous and attempts to crush self-investigation and silence opposition.

Whilst the majority of humanity suffer and struggle to live healthy fulfilling lives within this mode of living, there are those who, economically at least, profit handsomely. As a result, and failing to recognize that they too are trapped, they do everything to maintain it; they are the wealthy and powerful, the ‘ruling elite’. Money begets power and political influence under the pervading paradigm; such influence is used to shape (and draft) government policies that strengthen systems, which maintain the existing unhealthy order.

To uphold the status quo, freedom of thought and true individuality is curtailed, social conformity insisted upon. The major tools of conditioning are the media, which is commonly owned by corporations or controlled by governments, organized religion, and education. The policies of schools and colleges are set by central government, and, consistent with the pervasive ideology politicians ensure that conformity and competition are built into the working methodology.

Students are set in competition with one another, with established standards and with themselves, and are regularly forced to sit written examinations to evaluate how much they can remember or know, about any particular subject. Taking exams dictates the passage of a child’s education and establishes the benchmark against which young people are judged, and by extension often judge themselves. Using tests as a way of assessing a person’s ability and knowledge is archaic; sitting exams exerts colossal pressure, and although some may be able to cope and ‘do well’ the majority feel suffocated.

In Britain, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) relates that in 2016/17 Childline delivered “3,135 counseling sessions on exam stress – a rise of 11% over the past 2 years.” Children aged between 12 and 18 reported that exam stress was causing “depression and anxiety, panic attacks, low-self-esteem, self harming and suicidal thoughts.” This pattern is common in many developed and developing countries, where ideologically-driven corporate governments obsessed with trade, continue to pursue methods, that are, by design, detrimental to the well being of children.

Instead of policies rooted in competition, cooperation and sharing need to be encouraged in all aspects of education and standardized exams consigned to the past. The educational environment needs to be one in which children are encouraged to support each other, to share their own particular gifts with the group and build a sense of social responsibility. Many teachers naturally employ such inclusive methods, but working within divisive systems, which promote individual success, conformity and competition, their efforts are often frustrated.

An Alternative way

A more enlightened approach to education is found in Finland. Here, children don’t start school until they are seven, there is no streaming or selection in schools, so children of varying abilities work side by side, no homework is set, school holidays are long and there is only one standardized test, administered in the final year of high school. The result is happier children than in countries where testing, homework, selection and competition reign supreme. Not only are children happier (according to the World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world), they achieve higher academic marks than students in many other countries; according to The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) organized annually by the OECD, Finland ranks fourth for reading and 5th for Math in the world; 93% of students graduate from High School, compared to 78% in Canada and 75% in America.

Teachers in Finland are well qualified – all have a Master’s Degree – and are highly valued. They are not dictated to by misguided politicians who come and go, but are trusted to do their job independently, and the country has a long-term approach to education policy, which “means plans remain in place for a significant amount of time, giving them a chance to work, ” says Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers.

An education system is part of a society’s overall approach to living. As well as being a happy place to live and having a relaxed attitude to education, Finland has some of the lowest levels of wealth and income inequality in the world and the highest level of community trust. In contrast, Britain, USA, Singapore and Hong Kong have some of the highest levels of inequality. The Finland education system is inseparable from the culture, which it serves. Saku Tuominen, director of the HundrEd project says that Finland has “a ‘socially cohesive’, equitable and efficient society, and it gets a consistently reliable school system to match.”

Systems of education built around the ideals of the market that use competition, selection and examinations are contributing to a collective atmosphere of division, injustice and anxiety. Such methodologies need to be fundamentally changed, replaced by creative environments in which children and young adults can simply be, without pressure to achieve or become anything in particular. In such an atmosphere, true intelligence, which is beyond the limitations of knowledge, can flower.

Education vs. The Passions that Rule Our Lives

I pulled two items a few days ago from my filing cabinets — call them “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.” They are separated by a span of 30 years. They are two dots directly connected by a long and more or less horizontal straight line. There is no arc. Thing 1 coming up after this.

My cabinets house a vast “diary of a mad optimist.” Yes, for the cynics, I am an optimist. Mad — at a lot of things for sure — but always hopeful. Being a realist too, I have been hopeful, if not expectant, that thinking, listening, and writing carefully to unpack and face, unfiltered by any lens, the implications of what we thought we “knew,” and then behaving accordingly, might give humanity not just a better chance of keeping themselves alive but justify the effort. I thought such things would make life more worth living than doing this.

After feeling pains in our eyes, we announce with “humanitarian” pride that we are bothered by “the optics,” the sight, mind you—of refugee children torn from their mother’s arms, screaming and crying, as they are held in chain-link cages and sent to Wisconsin while the mothers are deported to the hell they fled. The sight is what bothers us. The reality, if we can arrange to not see it, not so much—especially after we build that big, beautiful Wall to block the view. And because it sounds “deep” that “perception is more important than reality,” we believe it—and believe it “strongly” because it “worked” for a Barbie doll in stilettos—my god! She is rich! She won! And read her awesome book: The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Life and Work. My, what strength! By all appearances, no weakness there! A true winner, living the American Dream!

Whatever we can get ourselves to believe, and believe strongly, and say “with strength,” we believe we must therefore know—at least think we know—and can all the more easily get others to believe we know. When we speak with strength, those who believe perception trumps reality will surely feel we know, for winning their credulity is all that matters, for when we have their vote, and soon their money, we’ve got just about everything. And we can don a jacket that reads on the back for the world (not the wearer) to see: “I really don’t care. Do you?” Then, jet off to “see” in a show of concern the sufferings of little children.  But …

What if all my library cards amount to a Royal Flush, and trump, in reality, the Trump Card whose face value I assess in this essay as being worthy of a flush, bigly? What if, despite perception, the more important reality should be this: The principal occupation of 98% of the human brain is to frantically shop around (or rummage about) for a new pair of shades for the remaining 2% of it: blackout blinds for the feint-of-heart, the scared, the scarred, the scalawag, the xenophobe, the autocrat, and the comfortably ignorant bigot alike. With such a sunscreen to block all light on anything that may hurt the eyes outside the private temple of the Church of Self, one’s body can be gainfully employed, Duty-Free of taxing responsibility. No photos! No video! No fake journalists! CNN: you are the worst! The press is the Enemy of the People. Thus one can then do their job, any job, he or she would, in their shade, be “humbled, honored, and privileged” to execute: From managing a cigarette factory, speaking for a President, dismantling the EPA, scheduling trains to Auschwitz, or acting as head of ICE. If asked, “But is the job you are doing humane?” He or she may stutter … uh … and stutter more … uh … until they find the Romans 13 roller shade and their voice: “What kind of insulting question is that? I believe it’s the law. My job is to enforce the law, and, by God, if we are going to have a country, we need laws, I am going to enforce the laws. That is what I am going to do.”

Thus even Aristophanes knew how a sausage vender could rise to a Tyrant’s Everest on his own petards with the help of banners, hats, and the throngs who do not read books because propaganda and beer are more … exciting and relaxing for basking in the schadenfreude. The Greeks knew this: Beware the man who would sell you anything—from an AR-15 to Fentanyl, from steaks to vodka, from a degree from his own university to a MAGA hat made in China, from a condo —- to himself as a candidate to command the power of a military and economy unknown in the history of humanity. Who is this sausage vender? How would it be wrong to answer: A bankrupt casino mafia don in elf’s clothing and golf shoes, a man rich enough to buy a porn’s star’s body (while his wife gives birth to his son) and then believe he could buy her silence because he believes when you’re rich, you can do anything, even grab a country by the pussy. As the Greeks might say: A man who would sell you anything is a man who would do so because he has already sold out of everything worth having: his own soul.

Sometimes, in my heart-sick desperation, I fear that nearly half of America has bowed to the psychopath we have collectively created in our own image, needful to relieve ourselves of the burden of our own guilt, from the weight of our daily responsibility: to bear the pain or shame of the thoughtful brain, of “thinking what we do.” Because Knowledge entails the Responsibility its possession thrusts upon us, in our weakness and fear we have sought an out and forked over our brains and consciousness to the perception of a stronger and more brazen man’s Will to Power. Obviously he knows better what to do than I! We have bought the hook that a wealthy man is a “successful” man, that a successful man is a “smart man,” that a smart man is a wise man and is thus a “true leader” of people, and that such a man cannot be bought—nor already sold out. We believe that a man without shame has nothing to be ashamed of, and in his shameless presence find our refreshment. We have bought that hook because he has sold it to us—in the abject poverty of our critical intelligence.

The pursuit of knowledge is a too-difficult proposition, for as knowledge grows in complexity and relevance, so does its burden on our sleep and behavior. Faith instead will do, and by calling it “knowledge by faith” we turn the trick of unloading our brain to lighten our step, and thus we go … sailing. I am sorry to say that, among others, certainly the “evangelicals” (“knowing by faith” their “prosperity gospel”) have, in their bliss-born ignorance, rendered themselves blind to the implications of what they have done. They have bowed to a liar, a thief, a clown, and offered to him, this Golden Cow, the last shard of their souls as a burnt offering.

May I say I saw this was coming, knew this was coming, and have suffered every moment since a certain student’s essay was handed to me and the year it took me to unpack the blackened box of its ashen implications.

Let me close these opening remarks with this. Three minutes ago I was sent this message from a dear friend: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work. But neither are you free to abandon it.” (The Talmud)

To my friend: Yes, Laura. That is my work, my life. In that light, I stand until I cannot, and I will say and do what I must, as we each must find our place to make the big picture more bearable to look upon.

Thing #1:

These are my old notes on a fellow teacher’s assignment, a sample student essay, and my own written response after reading it.

*****

[Journal Entry: October 29, 1989]

A colleague of mine, when teaching his Writing 101 classes, has made a regular practice of having each of his students, college freshmen and sophomores, write an essay on the subject of “The Three Passions that Rule My Life.” The inspirational model of the assignment is Bertrand Russell’s prologue to his three-volume autobiography (the first volume of which was published in 1967):

What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy─ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness─that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I have sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upwards toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

The students of Writing 101 were to read these words, and with all due thought and consideration, pen their own. More than a year ago [ed. note: the winter of 1988], Julian showed me a few repre­sent­ative samples of these student essays (with their authors’ names appropriately and carefully inked out), suspecting that I might find their words of some interest. This is what one young male (in his early twenties) had to say:

The Easy Life

I want a successful life, a life of ease with only a few thorns, a life of leisure with little pain. In light of this I have created many more passions such as a search for education, a desire for wealth, and a need for health.

I seek an education to earn money with. An easy life starts with hard days at school. Some may get lucky and win the lottery while others may be happy living off low wages but I want the most money for my abilities. An education will not increase my intelli­gence but it will improve the chances of employment in a high paying position that is not only easy on the body but also challenging to the mind.

I desire wealth because it will buy me a better life. People often say money cannot buy happiness, but I will be happy when I have the money to buy everything I want. I can only be content in a big house full of spicy food and comfortable furnishings, a garage with a nice new car and expensive snow skis.

I need to be healthy to live a better life. I want to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor. All the money in the world would do me no good if I were not vigorous enough to spend it. I want to be in good shape while spending my money, instead of spending it on an expensive sick bed or giving it away to some doctor who can spend it on something more gratifying.

Perhaps those of us who are not teachers, and not acquainted with the thoughts of contemporary college students, might read this as satire, black humor or clever jest, for the alternative is nearly impossible to believe. How is it possible for this human being to put into words the substance of his own soul and not cringe at the picture he has painted of himself? How can he not shudder at the cold vacuum at the heart of this narcissistic portrait of utter self-absorption? How can Russell’s words fall, without resonance, indeed, without effect, upon his ears?

How? Because not once in this student’s career has he been challenged, compelled to examine his own beliefs and values. Not once has he been asked to spell out the logical implications and presuppositions of his own words, least of all on the printed page. He has been allowed to grow and flourish (or merely get older), protected from perceiving the material, social, and ethical consequences of his own thoughts and behavior. He has been taught self-esteem, at the expense of self-consciousness. His beliefs and feelings have been “respected,” and have festered, unexamined, unanalyzed, uncriticized by teachers who have been trained to do everything except challenge him to open his mind to his fellow human beings and to the world that gave him birth and now sustains his life.

Pictured here, in this student’s essay, is a man, a child, no, a worm, whose first words are “I want,” and who then proceeds to equate a successful life, which he “wants,” with “a life of ease,” which he also wants, while remaining utterly incapable of seeing the contradiction. Here is a person whose first passion is the avoidance of pain. And whose pain? His own. He feels no other. Here is a human who seeks, above all, leisure for himself. He mentions no friends or family, perhaps because he has none, or perhaps because he takes them for granted and does not notice; nor does he mention the rest of humanity, perhaps because he doesn’t wish to draw attention to the reality that his leisure is a function of other people’s labor.

Being pragmatic, he seeks devices by which he might achieve his leisure. The first device he finds is money. He would consider himself “lucky” to win the lottery, but, being a realist, is aware that this is improbable. An education seems a better bet. An education for him is a tool with which he intends to “get money.” Other tools would do, but they could get him into trouble, if not jail, jeopardizing his dream of future leisure. And if education didn’t work as a tool to get money, it would not be relevant to any of his concerns, for learning about the world, past and present, outside the periphery of his own flesh, is merely his contingent instrument for acquiring the easy life.

In his view, the easy life begins unfortunately with hard days at school, empty days devoid of the excitement of finding profound answers to his questions, for he has no questions, least of all questions his school could ever answer, or even help to answer. Education will increase his chances of obtaining a high paying “position” (a job does not interest him). He believes this because this is what his parents and teachers have told him. They have told him that he must pay attention in school because what he is being taught might one day be of use to him. Thus he has learned that what is not of use to him is not worthy of his attention.

The position he seeks in life is not only easy on the body but challenging to the mind. Challenges to the mind, he has heard, are good things. Challenges to his body are things with which he is more familiar and finds them difficult, and now knows he does not want them. It does not occur to him to suspect that challenges to the mind might be equally difficult and therefore incompatible with the easy life he values most. This possibility would be a challenge to his mind, and no doubt he has failed, for that reason, to consider it.

Being a doctor is of no value, except insofar as it enables one to buy hard goods and real estate. The services of a doctor mean nothing, for if our young man should become ill and need them, he would have to “give money away” to him, “some doctor” who would take that money and spend it on something more grati­fying. This would be a bad thing, for giving money away and getting no self-gratification in return would be tantamount to an act of generosity. He wants his health, therefore, lest he be deprived of the pleasures of spending money, and be made jealous of doctors who would take his money, buy nice new cars, expensive snow skis, and houses full of spicy food.

But should he ever go to school to become a doctor himself, it would be, of course, to obtain the most money for his abilities, chief of which would be the ability to do anything for a buck, including performing the super-human task of enduring at least 10 years of medical training for an occupation he disdains as unworthy of being paid.

This man desires wealth because it will buy him a better life. Better lives, for this person, are on a par with commodi­ties purchased, rather than worlds constructed by our own human hands, minds, and hearts.

This man will be happy when he has the money to buy everything he wants. His wants and needs are fused as one in his mind. And money, instead of being a medium of exchange of value for value, is merely the incarnation, the material embodiment of the power by which he will have others produce what he will consume.

He can only be content in a big house, built by the labor of others who have accepted those challenges to the body which he has rejected, a house full of spicy foods─foods planted, cultivated, harvested, processed, cooked, and served by the efforts of others, spicy food to satiate his sensitive and discriminating Epicurean palate. It will be a house full of comfortable furnishings obtained by money, instead of work. In his house, he must have a garage with a nice new car and expensive snow skis. The car must be new, rather than functional and efficient, else the wrong message might be conveyed to the neighbors who he believes, perhaps rightly, share his aspir­ations. The skis must be “expensive,” else his peers will be unimpressed. His house will be full, full of everything─except other human beings. For here is the human being whose concern for future generations has utterly terminated with not merely his own, but himself.

Our student, an archetype of the late twentieth century, has written little, but implied much in the interstices of his words. Our student, it seems, has not yet discovered the mirror into which he could gaze upon the face of his own soul. Should the day arrive when he finds it, he shall hear, with Russell, the cries of pain of a soul in famine, reverberating in his heart, and we too shall suffer with him, and be sorry for him. Yet he lives, for now, making a mockery of what human life should be.

Entreaty to Dismantle a Genocidal Empire

Celebrate July 4! Raise the colorful red, white and blue flag, the sight of which turns the stomachs of tens of millions of innocent people overseas, who lost loved ones, mass murdered in their own countries, often as not, in their very own homes, by American GIs ‘serving’ the good old USA.

On the fourth, sing loudly the Stars and Stripes National Anthem, which sends chills down the spine of most families in Vietnam and Iraq who heard that melody as played by American military bands during the long bloody genocidal US occupation of their homelands.

On the 4th, sing proudly, ‘God Bless America,’ and chuckle over Obama’s family pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who in 2007 was seen over and over again on TV crying out, “No, no, God Damn America for her crimes against humanity!”

On July 4th, 2018, keep your faith in the CIA and don’t believe candidate Congressman Dr. Ron Paul MD, seen on prime time coverage of the 2012 GOP presidential debates stating calmly: “All the invasions and bombings by the US overseas, beginning with Korea, were illegal, unconstitutional and a horrific loss of human lives.”

While watching and cheering the men and women of the military parading on the Fourth of July, as they are expected to do, try to forget that a renegade former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark wrote and repeats: “US foreign policy is the greatest crime since World War Two.”

And now we turn away from Americans celebrating the birth of their nation and away from their fellow First Worlders in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We turn instead to offer a cautionary to the six billion men, women and children of that Majority Humanity that is condescendingly labeled the Third World or Developing World – a world still targeted for genocidal plunder by the banks, armies, secret services and media of the First World.

Majority humanity must not wait for Americans to free themselves from the deception, egoism, ignorance and violence that is seeded and psyoped into the minds of Americans as children to justify killing tens of millions of poor to ‘protect US interests overseas,’ Wall Street’s criminal interests, the predatory investments of the powerfully wealthy. All the genocides — African Slaves, Native Americans, Mexicans, Filipinos and Chinese before 20th century were followed by US-bankrolled WWI and WWII genocides and has continued to engulf most nations previously under European or American military colonial occupation through today’s US-NATO-UN genocide in the Middle East pale by comparison to the end of life on Earth, being anticipated as an unfortunate risk during a meticulously planned nuclear World War III.

Those of us in the belly of the beast so to speak, await with great anticipation the voices that will arise from the presently economically enchained and militarily threatened Majority Humanity in a future multi-polar world in which Chinese civilization will arise to sane influence in all areas of power.

But the good people of the still plundered world, must not wait until the emergence of sanity to speak out, because the immanent danger is already upon us all, and don’t expect relief from anyone in the dominating and plundering First World.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who helped write both major American civil rights acts, wrote an intense forward to the book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans, who used the Freedom of Information Act to document the many times Americans have threatened to use their nuclear weapons:

Ramsey Clark wrote:

No nation or individual can be permitted to possess the power to destroy the world. An imperative need is for an informed and active public struggling for its right to survive.

The government of Americans means to have its way through the use and threatened to use of superior force. It will lie. It will deceive. It will kill. It will escalate the threat and use of force to the highest level it dares. It will bluff, dangerous as that can be.  It will do whatever is must to dominate. It does this in the face of the fact that its very preparation for a nuclear war may destroy all life. American war planners busily devised strategies for crippling the Soviet Union with revealing names like BROILER, FROLIC, SIZZLE, SHAKEDOWN, DROPSHOT, and VULTURE. The number of Soviet targets to be destroyed grew in number from 20 cities in December 1945 to 200 cities in 1949 and to 3261 total targets by 1957. The number of times the use of nuclear weapons has been contemplated by Americans is unbearable.

An imperative need is for an informed and active public struggling for its right to survive.

Attorney Clark, wrote the above in 1986.

Planet Earth and its population is in more danger today from insane Americans for the thirty-two years of public silence in the much aggrieved but too silent, but saner, ‘Third World.’

May Ramsey Clark’s entreaty find some Third World activists’ response before it is too late.

World Cup Soccer Host Targeted by US Nuclear Missiles

Imagine if before each match of the World Cup that the FIFA World Soccer Federation made an appeal over the loudspeaker asking all the fans in the name of the future of soccer to tell officials of their government to demand Americans stop threatening the future of the World Cup with nuclear war.

Excitement! Exhilaration! The World Cup! Star footballers and tens of thousands of soccer fans from around the world in Moscow! Who, while in Moscow for the World Cup, is going to remember that Moscow is a prime target for multiple nuclear missile delivery systems constantly poised for near instant launch? Probably few, if any. We imagine the World Cup represents a time out from nuclear worry, but for the nukes aimed at Moscow, there is no time out. Moscow remains targeted for nuclear annihilation, as it has for more than 70 years.

Within a few years of committing war crimes beyond description by atom bombing the civilian population of two Japanese cities in 1945, Americans were threatening the Soviet Union, Korea, China and Vietnam with nuclear attack at various times until 1960. That was when the Soviets acquired their own nuclear weapons. Then the era of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) began. During this period of shaky safety for all of us, ever more powerful nukes and delivery systems were created threatening all life on Earth with a horrible death.

Why are there no demands that Americans stop targeting Russia and China with nuclear tipped missiles that would murder millions upon millions of people, destroy the earth’s atmosphere, and bring death to even more millions outside the countries targeted?

Why are there no demands that Americans explain just why they are doing this? Institutions of higher learning in Europe and the United States have simply accepted the status quo of planning for nuclear war with lip service for a weak and formal opposition to the nuclear programing of Americans. For some time now it is first strike or preemptive strike that is almost openly discussed in televised discussions, but there is little public interest in why nuclear war planning games are continually played by military leaders and military ‘experts,’ played always with the possible or probable end to life on earth as only a side issue of lesser importance than who shall win a nuclear war itself.

Why is there no spokesperson for the Third World asking by what right do Americans threaten all of Africa, all of Latin America, all of Asia with a possible horror of extinction as they prepare for nuclear war against Russia and China? Americans would have no credible response to such a severely condemning question.

Diplomats of all nations seem to have a gentlemen’s agreement not to complain. You’d think such long-term insanity would bring forth someone of distinction, some famous person to lead and awaken a public demand for an end to American threats of a first or preemptive strike. On 27 July 2017, a news headline read, “US Admiral Would ‘Nuke China Next Week’ if Trump Ordered It.” Imagine! Out of the blue, the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet boasts about ‘nuking’ China!1 The Chinese said nothing. Even though China has been cooperating with US economic sanctions against its neighbor and fellow communist North Korea, Americans designate China as an enemy. What about the rest of us.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark wrote an angry forward for the book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans, by astrophysicist Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelord. He used the Freedom of Information Act to documented the many times Americans have threatened to use their nuclear weapons.

Ramsey Clark wrote:

The consistent underlying psychology of the United States, which has held the lead in nuclear war capability capacity throughout these 40 [now 70] years, should be understandable to anyone who is ever known a violent neighborhood bully. The government of Americans means to have its way through the use and threatened to use of superior force. It will lie. It will deceive. It will kill. It will escalate the threat and use of force to the highest level it dares. It will bluff, dangerous as that can be. It will do whatever is must to dominate. It does this in the face of the fact that its very preparation for a nuclear war may destroy all life. American war planners busily devised strategies for crippling the Soviet Union with revealing names like BROILER, FROLIC, SIZZLE, SHAKEDOWN, DROPSHOT, and VULTURE. The number of Soviet targets to be destroyed grew in number from 20 cities in December 1945 to 200 cities in 1949 and to 3261 total targets by 1957. The number of times the use of nuclear weapons has been contemplated by Americans is unbearable.

What is to be said of leaders with the mental acuity and moral perceptions revealed by these disclosed words and deeds? They are at best enemies of life without understanding. Psychologically, they disconnect all feeling for the beauty of the planet – a rose, an impala in motion, a baby’s hand, a Confucian analect, a Bach cantata, a parable of Jesus, pilgrims bathing in the Ganges, a crowd watching a soccer game in Rio, the subway in Moscow, the skyline in Manhattan. They cannot think or feel about the human meaning of what they do.

A single Trident II submarine can inflict more death than all prior wars in history. Twenty-four missiles, launched while submerged, each with seventeen independently targeted, maneuverable nuclear warheads five times more powerful than the atom bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, can travel 5,000 nautical miles to strike within 300 feet of 408 predetermined targets. Nuclear winter might follow even if no other weapons are used.
No nation or individual can be permitted to possess the power to destroy the world. An imperative need is for an informed and active public struggling for its right to survive.

Why is there no demand that Americans destroy their nuclear weapons which threaten everyone? [This demand would seem to apply equally to all nuclear-armed nations, not just the USA — DV Ed]

In the days just before the World Cup began, there was Western media frenzy over a hyped-up nuclear confrontation between the USA and North Korea. Cosmic insanity! A tiny nation of twenty-five million has its citizens of all ages punished with cruel economic sanctions by the United Nations because it finally has a few nuclear weapons as a deterrent, after having been threatened for years with nuclear destruction. Meanwhile the United States of Americans, which once destroyed every North Korea city and town with napalm and bombs before threatening to use atomic bombs, constantly threatens to use its tens of thousands of nuclear tipped missiles in wars that could end life on Earth. There is never even a polite request for Americans to destroy their vast nuclear arsenal of apocalyptic proportions!

Suppose before each match of the World Cup an announcement was made over the public address system to the effect that the FIFA World Soccer Federation was asking all the fans in the name of the future of soccer to ask officials of their government at all levels to demand that the United States of Americans stop threatening the future of the World Cup with nuclear war, and that FIFA had asked its former Player of the Year Award winner ‘King’ George Weah, who is the current elected President of Liberia and a United Nations Good Will Ambassador, to lead FIFA fans in this effort to end US threats to the future of the World Cup. If this happened, to be sure, many soccer greats, who already had been political and social activists would also lead the fans and the world public in this effort.

Revolutionary Diego Maradona, among the greatest living soccer stars, would draw an awesome amount of dormant anti-Yankee feelings in the world. Maradona once said on President Hugo Chavez’s TV program, “I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength.” Fidel Castro said, “Diego Maradona is a great friend and noble too.” Maradona has a portrait of Fidel tattooed on his left leg and one of fellow Argentine Che Guevara on his right arm. He attended Venezuelan President Maduro’s final campaign rally in Caracas, signing footballs and kicking them to the crowd. Diego is really outspoken. He told Pope Paul II to sell the Vatican’s gold ceilings and help the poor.2

There must be hundreds or thousands of professional soccer league players around the world, who would speak out in favor of putting an end to the frightening nuclear blackmail of Americans. Italian striker Cristiano Lucarelli is an open supporter of communism and staunch admirer of Che Guevara.3 Javier Zanetti is FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages project in Argentina, and declares his support for the Mexican Zapatista rebels.4

Politically neutral players would tend to follow FIFA’s call to rally against nuclear war planning as well, and FIFA’s call to soccer fans would awaken the fans of other sports as well, and then celebrities such a movie stars, musicians and other performing artists, and so on. It is so logical a demand. Western media would try to slander the overseas public awakening as anti-American and try to put the blame on Russia and China, but everyone knows the US was first to make, use, and threaten to use again nuclear bombs. CIA-fed corporate entertainment-news conglomerates would fail to stop a world wide movement expecting the US to stand down its nuclear attack force and negotiate it out of existence.

In the coming multi-polar world with China leading, the shift of world economic power to the East and South will bring an end to hegemony by today’s nuclear giant USA. We know not how and from where a “an informed and active public struggling for its right to survive” will arise and bring safety and sanity to humanity and planet Earth, but it will, and its not all that improbable that athletic sports stars aware of a heightened social responsibility for their roll model prestige, might well be in the forefront of inciting a public awareness of its power to successfully confront an increasingly desperate USA empire in decline.

  1. Newsweek, 27 July 2017.
  2. Eurosport, 14 September 2014.
  3. Andrea Scanzi, “Lucarelli, il goleador rossoche i compagni non amano più,” La Stampa, 2 January 2011.
  4. “Zapatista rebels woo Inter Milan,” BBC News, 11 May 2005.

The Radical Derelict: Giving Up the Work Ethic for Peace

The same relentless energy driving a toddler in its Terrible Twos still drives that voice in my head. However, when I see a toddler, I know I’m in the presence of a genius, albeit a naïve one. It’s not the size of the intellect, but the velocity of learning that describes its intelligence. I, on the other hand, tend to move in well-worn circles, constrained by prejudice and vested interest. I’ve learned to “circle the wagons”, so to speak, around particular conclusions.

Essentially, I’m what happens when a toddler’s unstoppable urge to learn gets diverted into supporting a predatory status quo. Open-ended learning gets replaced by a narrowing framework of instruction as the driving force; and a dawning sense of some innate order or intelligence in the world gets short-circuited by dependence on authority and by conformity to the culture’s creeds and isms.

I don’t feel like a conformist or very obedient. But the creeds and conformities that constrain my perceptions are difficult to notice from inside the ism itself, such as white or male privilege. But even these patterns are easier to notice than the more subtle ruts that limit my sense of reality itself, and which prevent a more ecstatic realization of my shape-shifting place in this miracle of a living earth.

These subtle creeds constrict the flow of meaning, making me weaker and dumber than I might otherwise be. The main culprit is “the creed of error avoidance”. A toddler is certainly no role model, but there’s a quality in that beginner’s mind that was thrown out with the bathwater: A toddler doesn’t know error as something to avoid, something “bad.” To a toddler, error is a friend. Everything is unknown, and every mistake is a clue to wider and more inclusive worlds.

Some training is necessary, of course. But if training becomes a pathway to approval, a proscribed path forms, which separates an autocratic right from wrong. Then a prejudice against error becomes internalized, turning error into a boogeyman. This cripples an exploratory spirit (a playful, Trickster’s spirit). And the child begins to fear its own errant probing of the world, and no longer trusts its own intelligence. And this develops into an oppositional or warlike relationship to its own now “unruly” thoughts, which leads to that voice in the head, which is constantly working to maintain an impression of correctness.

In other words, as an adult I’ve been taught to resist error by breaking awareness into fragments, and escaping into the delusion of being the better angel, who can look back at its dim-witted past from an improved distance. As if I were superior to my own immediate past. And these internal revolutions occur in quick succession, like a dog chasing its tail.

And this means that when I encounter my own white-privileged thinking, for instance, I don’t learn; I retreat from this fault by way of clever, dissociative feelings of guilt, or by denial and self-condemnation (as if “I” were the victim of these bad thoughts).

In other words, I lose that essential ingredient of learning: The ability to be edified and bemused by my own stupidity.

Questioning the Work Ethic

I’m claiming that this little quarrelsome dynamo of error avoidance is the engine propelling awareness down ever-narrower and more practical paths, which makes a person susceptible to darker indoctrinations.

Cut off from that rapscallion love of error and mystery (cut off from learning), faith is placed in authorities, ideals and dogmatic certitudes, (in training). Attention shifts from a mysterious reality that is constantly erring from expectations, to the smaller fictions of an idealized Self — whether rebellious or conformist — which needs to be constantly preserved from failure and doubt.

And this anxiety-driven Self inevitably seeks refuge in the larger and more confident ego of an organization, whether it’s the nation or the corporation (or some reactionary group crushed by this pyramidal caste system). And it’s this dynamic that lends a vicious spin to the macro-level hurricanes destroying the world. In the upper reaches of this economic pyramid system, among CEOs and presidents, that dynamo is magnified. Their private desperation for status becomes the desperation of empire. But on all levels of the pyramid it trains dutiful soldiers for what Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism”. And the work ethic is one of the main pillars of that totalitarian system.

In other words, most people like to complain about their jobs, but I’m trying to complain about this whole workaday world (this blinkered trek down some career path towards a diabolically mundane vision of the earth as a grab-bag of minerals, and life as a frantic search for status and distraction). It’s hard to complain about something that all-encompassing.

But that’s probably because something this overwhelming begins to look “only natural”. And adults like to pretend they’re serious enough to face reality and not drift off into Utopian fantasies. However, the workaday world is also a fantasy: not a fact of nature, but an artefact of indoctrination. And an inability to question (and bitch at) this dumbed-down way of life is collusion.

The Work Ethic as a Pillar of Inverted Totalitarianism

Joining the workforce requires being subjugated to a regimental authority. Here a bear-sized human potential gets stuffed into the parakeet’s cage of a job. What I get in exchange for this reduction in human potential is money, yes, but also something equally fictitious: status, a cripplingly small façade of identity.

This façade inevitably generates a repressed frustration, which some metabolize as an urge to push the work ethic on everyone else, transforming the ethic into a moralizing judgment against “derelicts” who refuse to sing communal hymns to the harness. And I think this betrays a fear and resentment of the cage-free human being, and a refusal to face my own caged spirit.

Mind you, I’m not criticizing work itself. I work hard if someone needs my help or if there are finite tasks that need doing. But the time clock represents an obligation to the pyramid itself. It claims that my life belongs to an organization from at least 9 to 5. And if I allow my life to be metered in this way I’m essentially agreeing that my time and energy can be owned and directed at the system’s discretion, which is a form of slavery.

After all, these work contracts aren’t presented in good faith. It’s either sign or starve. And I have more pressing responsibilities to the real economy of earth than the responsibilities imposed on me by a company or nation.

Nevertheless, I know it’s hard to distinguish an honest desire to do well at any given task, or a need to work three jobs to provide for a family, from a true believer’s devotion to duty, which goes beyond those necessities, becoming a duty to the lifeless momentum of work itself.

And I know it’s also difficult to distinguish doing something I love from the passion of a workaholic who loves a particular task with devotional blinders. For instance, scientists working on weaponry obviously enjoy analyzing the problems they encounter. But this “love” emerges from a blinkered vision that can only produce what the system itself can monetize. That is, these creative endeavors emerge from an infantilized mind that goes where it’s directed and enjoys the entitled status of not having to think too widely about the consequences of what it loves to do.

To Hell with Morality

Frankly, I often do feel a “moral duty” to support this economic way of life. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome. It restricts my freedom to think or act outside the interests of the status quo. I become reflexively hostile to the idea that I (or especially Others) could ever be trusted to live unrestrained by economic necessities (as if this mad culture’s coercions and controls do anything more than agitate a human spirit already starved of love and learning).

Sometimes I assume it’s beyond my pay grade to question the shape of a system that runs my life. Stay practical, nose to the grindstone. In this way, the work ethic masks a deeper laziness, or reluctance to face the ambiguity, uncertainty, and “error” of myself; a reluctance to do the “real work” of giving up the façade of identity and status that represents my collusion with this way of life.

What Activates Maturation?

I collude in this destructive pyramid system the moment my unruly energy gets tricked into the circular pursuit of status; or as long as it turns constantly towards distraction and escape. Then I become the system’s battery pack, a dynamo in pursuit of an ever more idealized and fetishized commodity of Self.

This dynamo is the desire to avoid error. It embodies a predatory system’s perfect ideal, which rejects what it means to be human. Life, after all, is inseparable from error, mutation. Without it, the maturation process stalls, and the human becomes a monstrous child. Learning requires the freedom to go wrong and not compound the error with circular systems of control. Intelligence (greater maturity) can only be activated by encountering the uncontrolled and the unknown.

And I feel this directly, because in the absence of that subtle enslavement to an economic authority (after my own internalized slave-drivers of guilt and status-seeking have been laughed off), I rediscover a freedom from circular thinking; and relearn how to drift and stumble into a world that resembles a kaleidoscope of cascading visions of order.

And this exploration of order inevitably leads to a clarity about what really needs to be done (as opposed to what I need to do in order to succeed in this pyramid system). And this real need requires no ethic. The self-organizing intelligence of the world is primarily a widening and deepening realization of responsibility to life itself. And this realization trumps duty and morality.

But this responsibility isn’t heavy with moral seriousness. There’s joy in discovering this responsibility and connection. The whole workaday world was built on a false conflation of adulthood with seriousness and striving for perfection. But a “perfect conclusion” would mean the ending of learning. That is, when playing stops, so does learning. Maturation doesn’t mean outgrowing being playful, errant and mischievous. It simply means learning to play in ever more subtle fields.

And by denigrating profound play, society suffers the consequences of leisure, which is little more than a gaudy parole from the everlasting chain of workdays. But if I’m not trained to oppose my errors, then perception is freed from a Literal or dogmatic tendency to pin the world down, becoming entirely metaphoric. And then the uncertainty I was trained to fear and resist becomes something beautiful and inviting.1

A Dereliction of Duty

There’s a spot of dialogue in the movie version of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row that I love. The natural leader of the bums, Mack, is baffled by the earnest efforts of Doc, the proprietor of the Western Biological Laboratory:

Dock: I got a problem, Mack. How am I going to light them?
Mack: Light what?
Dock: The octopi. Octopi are afraid of light. How can I light them without scaring them?
Mack (with bewildered exasperation): Why don’t you just give up?

Mack is no role model. And despite Doc’s genuine love of learning, thwarted ambition burns a sad hole in him too. But Steinbeck wasn’t writing a moral fable about becoming better angels. He was writing a love story about real people, who will always be diamonds in the rough.

Look, if I can’t love the Mack in me (or the Doc), then I’ll keep striving to “overcome” myself, and denigrating the derelict and the failure in me, and never moving into wider fields of play.

This is contrary to every subtle creed I’ve been taught, but I need to trust my own intelligence here: Learning (maturing) isn’t a path to perfection, but a surrender to an ever more daring honesty. This is only possible when I stop throwing out the bum with the bathwater.

And that means giving up the whole destructive dynamo of self-condemnation and self-promotion that has corralled human energy and attention; giving up that morality of the competitive pyramid; and rediscovering the same broad view Steinbeck had, or that most people have in the presence of a toddler. Only then is it possible to see how deeply you and I have been made sick by work and war.

And then it’s possible to recognize diamonds of wisdom in what is childish, and the spirit of rebellion in a derelict. Because for all his faults, Mack knows something: the battle with ourselves, and even for ourselves, for status and admiration, is worth giving up. Mack is on to something here. Something big.

  1. See the essay “What Is Real?”