Category Archives: Religion

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Christians that nobody is talking about

Palestine’s Christian population is dwindling at an alarming rate. The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere. And the reason for this is Israel.

Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective”.

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine.

There are varied estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years.

A population census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 concluded that there are 47,000 Palestinian Christians living in Palestine – with reference to the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. 98 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the West Bank – concentrated mostly in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – while the remainder, a tiny Christian community of merely 1,100 people, lives in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The demographic crisis that had afflicted the Christian community decades ago is now brewing.

For example, 70 years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was 86 percent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.

“The Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west,” the ‘Open Bethlehem’ organization said, describing the devastating impact of the wall on the Palestinian city. “With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.”

Increasingly beleaguered, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem have been driven out from their historic city in large numbers. According to the city’s mayor, Vera Baboun, as of 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped to 12 percent, merely 11,000 people.

The most optimistic estimates place the overall number of Palestinian Christians in the whole of Occupied Palestine at less than two percent.

The correlation between the shrinking Christian population in Palestine, and the Israeli occupation and apartheid should be unmistakable, as it is obvious to Palestine’s Christian and Muslim population alike.

A study conducted by Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank town of Beit Jala and published in December 2017, interviewed nearly 1,000 Palestinians, half of them Christian and the other half Muslim. One of the main goals of the research was to understand the reason behind the depleting Christian population in Palestine.

The study concluded that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” who are finding themselves in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves”.

Unfounded claims that Palestinian Christians are leaving because of religious tensions between them and their Muslim brethren are, therefore, irrelevant.

Gaza is another case in point. Only 2 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today. Years of occupation, horrific wars and an unforgiving siege can do that to a community, whose historic roots date back to two millennia.

Like Gaza’s Muslims, these Christians are cut off from the rest of the world, including the holy sites in the West Bank. Every year, Gaza’s Christians apply for permits from the Israeli military to join Easter services in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Last April, only 200 Christians were granted permits, but on the condition that they must be 55 years of age or older and that they are not allowed to visit Jerusalem.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, described the Israeli army decision as “a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom and family life”, and, rightly, accused Israel of attempting to “deepen the separation” between Gaza and the West Bank.

In fact, Israel aims at doing more than that. Separating Palestinian Christians from one another, and from their holy sites (as is the case for Muslims, as well), the Israeli government hopes to weaken the socio-cultural and spiritual connections that give Palestinians their collective identity.

Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland.

Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state in the midst of a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda.

Sadly, however, Israel has succeeded in misrepresenting the struggle in Palestine – from that of political and human rights struggle against settler colonialism – into a religious one. Equally disturbing, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the United States and elsewhere are religious Christians.

It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimized equally as their Muslim brethren, and have also played a major role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship.

Israel must not be allowed to ostracize the world’s most ancient Christian community from their ancestral land so that it may score a few points in its deeply disturbing drive for racial supremacy.

Equally important, our understanding of the legendary Palestinian ‘soumoud’ – steadfastness – and of solidarity cannot be complete without fully appreciating the centrality of Palestinian Christians to the modern Palestinian narrative and identity.

Death by a Thousand Trumps: The Logical End Point of Capitalism

The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?

— Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Ant-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1972

There is a fairly typical and recurrent notion among many Americans that Donald Trump and his administration is some sort of aberration. As if his brutal, venal, racist, and bullying nature is something new, or different from previous leaders. For those not inclined to look at the historical record; one only has to look beyond our borders to view the authoritarian personality type that Trump represents in power all over the world: Modi, Orban, Erdogan, Jinping, Duterte, and Bolsonaro being the most obvious comparisons.

Our president is not an exception but the logical culmination of a nation built on genocide, slavery, empire, and capitalism. His virulent nationalism, his racist and sexist attitudes, and unbelievably fragile ego are all undisputable proof that millions of people enjoy, tolerate, or acquiesce to his behavior. Liberal pieties and paeans towards restoring normalcy don’t move the needle for most center-left voters either, as it is at least tacitly/subconsciously understood that after Trump and Brexit there is no going back towards “liberal democratic” rule. A threshold has been crossed.

Trump and his billionaire cronies are simply doing what capitalists do best: doling out more death and destruction, which many US citizens are all too comfortable eliding; except for the understandable shock and anger over the most outrageous travesties, such as the burning of the Amazon or children in concentration camps on our southern border. Even then, there is no programmatic analysis of what caused the problem (capitalism and empire) and very little visionary leadership with any social power or pop-cultural relevancy to propose realistic solutions.

It’s crucial to look outside the borders of the US to see how capital really operates. Western multinationals pay foreign governments to murder, ethnically cleanse, pillage, rape, and despoil entire nations and natural habitats. US transnational corporations as well as federal funding for various authoritarian regimes (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) pay for their militaries, private security forces, death squads, proxy terrorists and spies, as well as corporate espionage.

For these reasons and many more it cannot be considered hyperbole to call the USA a fascist state. For those unconvinced, I suggest reading Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay  “Ur-Fascism” to understand why. Henry Giroux uses the term “neoliberal fascism” and his recent book American Nightmare, which I reviewed for New York Journal of Books, spells out in detail the deepening spirals of violence and ignorance American society is succumbing to.

The near total focus on purely domestic policies in mainstream media and by our politicians is excruciating, maddening, and cringe-inducing. The constant domestic policy myopia contradicts any statements that liberals and conservatives actually understand, or have genuine interest or empathy for foreign causes or solidarity with those in need around the globe.

One only has to find old news programs, for example, from the fifties through the eighties to remember that news media for all its flaws then was much more informed and nuanced about international relations compared to today. Dissidents, counterculture figures, communists, and radicals appeared regularly on TV talk shows and were generally encouraged or at least tolerated by liberal establishment journalists, whereas today there is a huge zero. Foreign wars and overseas events were covered more extensively.

There’s no doubt many liberals earnestly want Trump gone for his racist border policy and global warming denialism, among other issues. Yet, of course, much of the outrage revolves around the pseudo-moralizing, a way of saying: “He doesn’t represent us, the good-hearted progressive people in the USA.”

A petty, corrupt, racist, chauvinistic, violent grifter is exactly the type of person to represent the United States. It needs to be said, and repeated, over and over.

There are tens of millions of mini-Trumps all over the nation, exploiting, killing, jailing, and materially and mentally impoverishing working people. Here’s something to ponder. How many US citizens would support kicking out all undocumented immigrants in our country? Almost certainly the number is in the millions, if not tens of millions of people.

Where do US citizens think this is all leading towards? Have we not been locked in a death spiral, circling the drain for centuries, and have our leaders not plundered, murdered, enslaved, and ruthlessly exploited fellow humans, nature, and resources at a horrifying and increasing rate? Even further back, isn’t this where Western civilization has been headed towards for 6,000 years: a system based on brutal and authoritarian hierarchies propped up by organized religion, barbaric racism and tribalism, imperial delusions of grandeur, and myths about a world full of limitless resources?

Also, the ruling classes have been getting more ignorant, more venal, less philanthropic, and less empathetic. There are studies that can confirm this: for instance, through measuring emotional intelligence (EQ), it has been found that in corporate firms, positions above middle management show a dramatic drop in EQ. Of course, we know most CEOs and corporate owners are borderline if not full-blown psychopathic or sociopathic. The ownership of our nation are perfectly willing and able to exploit workers, cut benefits, destroy public programs, ignore the poor and minorities, and breed mass alienation at a level unseen since the Gilded Age.

There are about 585 billionaires in the US, about 175,000 people with over 25 million in total (0.05% of the population), 1.4 million individuals with wealth over 5 million (0.42% of the population), and it’s estimated there are about 12 million millionaires in the US (about 3.6% of the population). They are on the other side of a class divide that is widening more every year.

The 2016 election clearly showed white voters turned out in droves for Trump, but what mostly went unmentioned is that for all voters making over 50k a year, the edge also went to Trump, 49% to Clinton’s 47%. So much for the idea that those with wealth are part of a enlightened and tolerant “meritocracy” as our corporate overlords and their media puppets like to constantly remind us: rather, those with just a little bit of money, unconsciously or not, use their vote to crush the lower classes through Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs and trade wars, etc.

Umberto Eco also points this out: he correctly demonstrates that one of the features of fascism is an “appeal to the frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”. Erich Fromm also mentions this phenomenon at length in his classic Escape from Freedom.

The insatiable desires of the elites and the economic leverage the “Global North” holds further absolutely dirt-cheap prices for all manners of consumer goods, by externalizing the costs onto faraway nations, the environment, and the poor who inhabit nearby industrial or manufacturing sites, and other “sacrifice zones”.

This accounts for the burgeoning phenomena of the worker as an “independent contractor”, a model touted by Silicon Valley and venture capitalists. The new model is to cut as many benefits as possible and use low-wage service work or the threat of falling into this precariat as leverage to squeeze as much work and productivity as possible out of what remains of the middle class.

Small businesses which serviced the rich in previous eras are now forced to compete more fiercely or die, and thus compelled into deflationary business models with price wars, etc.; while the large-sector service corporations effectively have monopolies and can force workers to accept low pay due to the reserve army of labor.

Perhaps soon, the majority of the rich will be forced to acquiesce due to popular demand on issues such as free college or universal health care. Yet, they will never, ever choose voluntarily to surrender their basic model of economic power or to restructure corporate America. Freedom without economic equality is impossible. The majority of us are relegated to a form of serfdom, with no prospects for democracy in the economy and the workplace.

Another point worth mentioning is that reform is never going to happen in time through legislative and judicial means. The amount of hoops to jump through, in our constitution and in the legislature, to structurally change the system will take way too long, sap momentum, and destroy any movement based in electoral politics however good the intent.

Requiring any mass movement to follow every legalistic framework for change is just another form of elitism: forcing the multitude to advance at the glacial pace of the legal system is simply an authoritarian call for law and order to cement unjust property rights. Any form of reformist policies will be denied by appealing to the status quo of existing laws, and their deluded obsession with following corrupt legal procedures and bureaucratic red-tape written by corporations and lobbyists. Rather, citizen assemblies, general strikes, direct action, and public referenda should be used as much as possible to counter the dirty tricks of the elites.

The main strivings of the members of our government, Democrat or Republican, are for power, money, and fame: they are not any substantially or qualitatively different from Trump in this respect. Their warped, huge, and fragile egos have convinced themselves that they really are the right people for the job, regardless of their obvious corrupt nature, lack of knowledge, and moral failings. Rather than being devoted to public service, their actions imply that they view themselves as doing the public a favor by simply existing and choosing to run for office to provide us with an “enlightened” political class, rather than those scary “populists”.

There is an unacknowledged anti-democratic strain in US society which insists every public policy position must be run by an expert, a technocrat, despite all evidence suggesting these professional-managerial class types (personified by Obama, his reign marking the apotheosis, the high-water mark of meritocratic and liberal democratic ideology) are craven, corrupt sycophants beholden to the power elite.

Apparently there are about 5 million people in the US who hold clearance to view classified material. There are about 1.3 million military and about 700,000 police officers. So that’s 7 million right there which constitute the national security state. The 21st century Praetorian Guard, if you will. If you count the defense corporations, fossil fuel multinationals, and various conglomerates which profit off the destruction and exploitation of workers and the environment, and all the sub-contractors which rely on the largesse (trough) of defense, fossil fuel, and other anti-life industries, that’s a few more million easily.

What I’m getting at is dislodging Trump, or any figurehead president, is small potatoes, because there are at least 10-30 million Americans with a shitload of guns and money who do not want to see any — and I mean any — fundamental progressive changes. Without a mass base advocating for socialist and revolutionary democratic policies, there is nothing the ruling classes won’t do to protect their privileges.

Forget an imbecile like Trump. The power elite would rather re-animate the corpse of Genghis Khan than have Bernie Sanders or anyone left of him in charge. Believe that. They would rather use the power of capital flight and take their money to Swiss bank accounts or the Cayman Islands and bankrupt our entire country than see any socialist in power. Bank on it. Forget elections as the exclusive means towards dismantling the power structure. Only mass movements in the streets can fight the barbarism we are confronted with.

Chakras, Subtle Bodies and the Aura

It’s a modest apartment in Newport where I sit with Susan Swift to go over “quite the life” as any listener might say about this feisty, spiritual and articulate, world-traveling woman.

The hitching post Susan and I tie our respective philosophical steeds on is “philosophy” and “fate,” although we could have brought in a whole team of other steeds to pull the conversation toward all spiritual directions.

“I know what is mine to do,” the 73-year-old Swift states early on in our talk. Since her life here on the coast — Five Rivers first — not only started in 1972 as a search for environmental justice, she also fell into a what would be a life-long walkabout as a student of karma, Dharma and the meaning of interconnected “souls.”

Before the Central Coast mountains, Waldport, Seal Rock and Newport, Susan was living the Southern California lifestyle in Compton.

The Alsea basin seems worlds away from her birthplace of Inglewood. Quickly, though, she and her husband and a whole slew of residents became embroiled in cloak and dagger drama, rising to the level of the US Forest Service spraying chemicals on their land, Dow Chemical and their lawyers attempting to wear down citizens’ groups, bugged telephones, and various sundry nefarious things unfolding in a seemingly isolated rural community.

One of Susan’s cohorts has already been featured in my column Deep Dive — Carol Van Strum. For more information on those battles with toxics, bad science and broken promises by officials breaking the rule of protecting public health, safety and welfare, read Oregon Coast TODAY, “A Real-Life Toxic Avenger.”

Sometimes a young life lived produces an amazingly detailed and complex life, for sure. However, in the end, when a journalist runs into a person like Swift, with seven-plus decades under her belt, a series of floodgates open up.

Toxins, Dirty Water, Building Family

Sure, Citizens Against Toxic Sprays is a big part of her foundation, 45 years ago when she was living in the woods, in a teepee and a small shack with Calvin Parker, husband number two (one of three, but who’s counting), and her son Joe Lund from a previous marriage.

C.A.T.S. was created with the organizing skills of Susan and others in the rural community, propelled by fear — the debilitating, permanent and deadly harm being perpetrated by officials and for-profit companies upon adults, children, pets, penned animals, wildlife and drinking water through herbicide spraying.

There’s plenty of newspaper copy and radio clips on Susan’s life out here, her singing, putting on events for the legal battle against the chemical companies and their spraying ways; her work on the Lincoln County Planning Commission and other issues tied to public health. She’s been featured in a November 23, 1980 article in Salem’s Statesman Journal.

What anchors much of what I see while talking with Susan (and in reporting on the people of this area) is best captured in one short passage from that article about Susan written by Kristine Rosemary with the Statesman Journal:

Now, to make any sense of the art of diplomacy as practiced in the hidden rural valleys and insulated towns of the Oregon Coast Range, you must consider this: It is a place of overlapping generations of emigrants, each with its own notions of how to live with the land. Rain and shards of Chinese-looking mists blow into those hollows in a thrashing wind. And writhing vines of domestic blackberry gone feral make a slow triumph of thorns. The children of homesteaders who came to farm these fertile valleys were joined 50 years after, by a second wave of urban exiles.

An emblematic quote and a microcosm of what this Oregon Coast now faces with population influxes, lack of affordable housing, more pollution to contend with, climate change and shifting economic, cultural and generational baselines. What is left out even in this Statesman Journal’s prescient description is what’s not included so many times in countless articles — who was here first.

The Siuslaw and Kuitsh people began settling the coast more than 9,000 years ago. They have probably lived in the same locations for hundreds of generations.

Who knows if that paper mill, hotel or housing development was built on an ancient significant site? Or on top of sacred burial grounds, or over summer root-picking fields or a shaman’s spiritual place?

Coast as Healing Center

Susan Swift, RN, formerly known as Mrs. Parker, Swedish massage therapist, is keenly aware of Native American history as her daughter, Autumn Rayne, is part Cheyenne. What has been germinated from those early days in Five Rivers, then in Waldport, and then to the Valley and even Portland, is a determined septuagenarian who has lived on a wildlife refuge in India, ended up in Egypt on a spiritual journey and has met the Dali Lama.

There are stories layered onto life lessons, like shoots on an old fig tree. Her past, Susan says, is her journey forward. She’s helped Mo and her husband (of the Oregon Coast’s famed seafood and chowder restaurants, Mo’s) get through the last days of their lives as their in-home certified care taker. She’s played guitar and sang with husband number three — musician and instrument maker, and she’s chased elephants out of her garden of succulents.

Iterations of her life include head of the Lincoln County Planning Commission, nursing school, working at a mental health unit in Portland, and now writing, which she’s recently pursued in a memoir workshop at the senior center.

The coast is the healing breath she takes with her wherever she ventures. Susan believes she has past lives (that we all do) to account for and to make amends with, as well as to understand in order to carry forth on a pathway to enlightenment. Ironically, Susan Swift says her gift of energy empathy and nursing came at a young age: “I first learned my hands could take away pain when I was 10 years old.”

Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.

— Thích Nh?t H?nh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

Do what you love because the universe will support you. Speak and say what you want.

Be specific. Then get out of the way and let the universe take care of the details.

— Susan Swift, July 8, 2019

She laughs because her prayers for a partner were answered, but she wasn’t specific enough — “I didn’t mention that partner should be on the same continent.” That spiritual partner was living in India.

She went to India for a workshop with 45 people from 15 countries. That’s where she met this tall, dark handsome Reiki master. “He was raised Muslim, and I was raised Christian, and we came to the same spiritual place, looking for the same spiritual answers.” That was in 2005. She returned to the USA and had a spiritual awakening with him over the years — sharing emails, letters, phone calls.

“In 2010, I retired, closed up the Vancouver house, put everything I owned into my son’s house in Covington, Washington.” She spent a total of four years in India, on a wildlife refuge: Mudamalli Wildlife Refuge in Tamil Nadu. Her partner was Nijamudeen. Susan was “totally embraced by this huge Muslim family.”

Her travails get complicated as Susan courses back and forth through her own chronological history and these many points of enlightenment in her 73 years. She has a thousand stories floating around her cranium. I fill pages and pages of notes.

How she got to India, with her healing touch on a dog that had been attacked by a black panther, covers all levels of spiritual and geographical ground. She went to Egypt in 2003 on a prayer for peace journey with 250 people from 25 nations. She talks excitedly about going down the Nile and to a resort on the Red Sea. She talks about the guides and hotel charges playing the song, “Imagine” by John Lennon, wherever they went since the tour’s theme was taken from the songwriter’s famous piece.

The trip was part of a far-reaching international push to get George W. Bush and his administration to hold off on a violent attack on Iraq, to instead follow international players’ plans to get Saddam Hussein to agree to step down with loads of money.

“I told an Egyptian woman that this was my first use of a passport as an American, and I was ashamed and told her I couldn’t handle it. She held me and told me calmly: ‘America is the world’s great hope for democracy and freedoms. We understand that your president was appointed by the court and wasn’t elected by the people of your country.’”

The Enlightened Being is Really Inside Our “self”

Now rewind to 1982, and Susan Parker is headed for Seaside, to catch a talk by the Dali Llama concerning China’s latest offer to return Tibet to China. “It was quite an entourage. I was at the greeting line. Oh my gosh, there I was telling the Dali Llama I was so honored and most joyful about his visit, with my sandalwood mala in my hand. He leaned in and bonked third eyes with me.”

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A life is not always marked out with milestones set forth in an organized and clear path, but for the sake of brevity, it might be wise to follow our Central Coast resident using a timeline to get through some of her dynamic, compelling life chapters.

She grew up in a working-class family in Compton, and as stated earlier, she knew she had healing hands as a youngster placing them on her mom’s two ruptured spinal discs. The young Susan wanted to be outside playing baseball, “but my hands seemed to know what to do with the muscle spasms the size of my fists.”

Those healing hands more than five decades later would take care of a large tumor on Nami (Namaste), the Basenji dog in India she adopted, and used her healing words to help Gemmee, who has his shoulder gashed after it had outrun a black panther. “Nami never barked, just commented about everything in this yodeling song.”

Back to the Land on the Lam

Back to how she ended up in Five Rivers — she was with Calvin Parker, a Northern Montana Cheyenne she met in Pasadena. He was a sergeant in the US Army, about to be sent to Vietnam. He ended up AWOL, and the couple moved to Five Rivers where his sister was living in an old school house.

They lived in a 15-by-30, cold-water shack heated by a wood-burning-stove. “During this time, I was dreaming of a dark-haired, light-eyed girl.” (which eventually was their daughter, Autumn Rayne)

Susan ended up taking minutes for the local school committee. She found an old mimeograph machine and put together the Five Rivers Run-off Community Newsletter, stuffing flyers into mailboxes. That’s when she took notice of the herbicides issue popping up in editorials inside the Newport News Times.

“I hadn’t gone to school at that point, but I created a health form survey, passing it out door to door, all the way from Highway 34 to the mill. So many miscarriages, tumors and cancers were reported.” That was 1974, and Susan Swift shakes her head as she tells me that a scientist from OSU still advocates there is nothing wrong with 2,4,5-T.

This community of mostly women fighting the forest service and prevailing conservative strains of science worked together to build their adopted family on many levels. Susan laughs again recalling she was living in a teepee with two kids before getting her first place in Waldport. She was a single mom with a three- and 11-year-old. “They were exposed to musicians and artists coming and going all the time.” Joseph Lund graduated from Waldport High in 1985, and did the first video yearbook for the school.

She became an EMT-in-training for the Waldport Ambulance, graduating as the first woman to drive the ambulance. She ended working at a spa in Yachats. In 1978 she was lecturing at Lane Community College teaching different classes on the health effects of herbicide exposure, chemical releases in forestry and the dioxin molecule, diagramming it on the board, showing students how it worked.

She moved into her first house in Seal Rock, and put out her first shingle, “Susan Parker, LMT,” above a Waldport barbershop. The place became a center for healing. Transpersonal healing, encounters with lives, and more would begin to charge her life and encompass her interests.

“No matter what you believe, doing things out of compassion for others is as healing as we can get.”

She moved to Newport in the 1980s, at this point managing the Ocean Food Co-op. She was one of the spearheads to create an Oceana board of directors, hire a paid bookkeeper and charge a $10 yearly fee.

She met Husband Number Three at an open mic session at a local bar and eatery in Waldport. He was a guitarist and “amazingly gifted instrument maker.”

“I bought a guitar for twenty-five dollars cash and twenty-five in food stamps. I taught myself guitar and sang the songs I wanted to sing . . . positive ones. That’s when he said, ‘I like your voice.’” The marriage lasted one and a half years, but they are still friends.

With a belief in past lives, Susan takes many things both in stride and contextualized through transpersonal psychology, but she also has both feet in the waters of transglobal spirituality and multiple contexts for enlightenment and “godliness.”

Healing & Being in the Right Place Spiritually

Fate, she calls it, or her life’s proscribed journey points. She even ended up getting the finances for nursing school after working hard to take care of Mo (Mohava Niemi) who she was with until Mo died in 1992, as well as taking care of Mo’s spouse, Dutch Niemi, until he too passed on.

Dutch (he was a Finnish fisherman) had always wanted to send a child in need to college, but instead after Susan’s healing ways and hearing all the people taking care of his medical needs tell Susan she was a born natural for RN school, Dutch came through. “Dutch said he wanted to help me. That $9,000 helped me pay off bills and made it possible to go to nursing school.”

She worked for Dutch on weekends while she was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. That healing and spiritual medical caretaking continued after nursing school graduation. She worked for a Portland neurosurgeon for three years, and she worked with the Oregon State Mental Hospital Portland campus as the lead nurse for six.

Her first nursing job was at Corvallis Manor, but she also took her caring hands and gifted spirit of empathy to a group home for developmentally disabled adults, Portland’s Eliot House.

“I treated every patient as a precious soul.”

While there was a 20-year absence from Lincoln County between 1994 and 2014, the draw to this area has been strong. She has joined up with Lincoln County Community Rights which just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its successful effort to ban aerial spraying in Lincoln County.

She’s done some driving for Yaquina Cab, shuttling people to and from the hospital. In this interview, Susan and I gravitate back to her story and her natural gifts — her abilities to organize and to start things, and her deep well of beliefs around alternative healing, energy fields on the body, and reincarnation.

These are book-level ideas, sculpted around a life still in the making, but one lived complexly and with mindfulness: with the added hues and tones of adventure, unique healing and death and dying situations painted in. One can hope she will see the light and eventually put down in writing a life well-lived, one where young and old might learn new (or old) meditative and mediation practices.

In our vapid celebrity culture, which is obsessed with putting the limelight on the rich, famous, or infamous, an authentic woman’s gritty and universal story should be compelling, to say the least.

“We have a choice everyday how we think. What you focus on, expands. We can choose how to go through this life. We need to just get out of our own way and begin living.”

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How Israel’s Religious Right is Now in the Driving Seat

The real fight in Israel’s re-run election next month is not between the right wing and a so-called “centre-left” but between two rival camps within the nationalist right, according to analysts.

The outcome may prove a moment of truth for the shrinking secular right as it comes up once again against an ever-more powerful camp that fuses religion with ultra-nationalism.

Will the secular right emerge with enough political weight to act as a power-broker in the post-election negotiations, or can the religious right form a government without any support from the secular parties? That is what the election will determine.

An earlier election in April, which failed to produce a decisive result between these two camps, nonetheless confirmed the right’s absolute dominance. The Zionist centre-left parties, including the founding Labor party, were routed, securing between them just 10 seats in the 120-member parliament.

Netanyahu, the interim prime minister, was forced to stage new elections, on 17 September, after April’s ballot left him unable to rope together secular and religious parties on the right.

To secure a majority in parliament, he needed to include the five seats of the anti-religious Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman eventually pulled out of coalition talks, saying he was not prepared to sit in a government with two parties effectively run by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. This time, he has indicated he won’t sit with any of the religious parties.

Vehicle for protest

Much of the rest of the secular right has deserted Netanyahu’s Likud party. At the last election, they mostly found a political home in the new Blue and White party, led by a former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz.

Polls suggest Lieberman may also attract a larger share of these voters after his recent stand-off with Netanyahu. He has demanded an exclusively secular right-wing government, comprising Likud, Blue and White, and his own Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Blue and White has presented itself chiefly as a vehicle for protest against Netanyahu. They oppose a decade of governments in which he has allowed the religious right to play an increasingly assertive role, and the ever-deepening corruption scandals he has been embroiled in. Netanyahu is expected to be charged with fraud and breach of trust in the immediate wake of next month’s election.

Blue and White has been misleadingly labelled as centrist by some observers. But it tied with Netanyahu’s Likud, at 35 seats each, in April by appealing to a largely secular strain of right-wing nationalism that three decades ago was the domain of the Likud party.

Now Netanyahu and the religious right hope to work in tandem to secure between them a narrow majority of seats to form a government without relying on the secular right-wing parties of either Lieberman or Gantz.

A more polarised Israel

Yossi Gurvitz, an Israeli journalist and researcher on religious extremism, said the rise of the religious right was an indication of wider shifts in Israeli society.

“Israel is getting more religious, and its religious parties are getting more extreme, while much of what’s left of Israeli society is becoming more militantly secular in response,” he told Middle East Eye. “Israel is polarising, and each side is increasingly intolerant of the other.”

The secular camp, however, has been playing a less significant role with each passing government.

Menachem Klein, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, said he doubted whether it was still possible for a secular government to be established without including some of the religious parties.

“It would be a nightmare,” he told MEE. “Any move, whether allowing transport on Shabbat, dismantling settlements or talking to the Palestinian leadership would face an enormous social backlash if it was made without the sanction of the religious factions.”

‘Chosen people’

A poll of Israeli Jews last year by the liberal Haaretz newspaper highlighted Israeli society’s growing religiosity, which closely aligns with the rise of ultra-nationalism.

Some 54 percent of the Jewish public expressed a belief in God, with that figure rising to 78 percent among those describing themselves as on the right.

An overwhelming majority of right-wing Israelis – 79 percent – view Jews as the chosen people, and a similar number, 74 percent, believe Israel exists by divine promise.

Younger voters are markedly more religious than their grandparents – 64 percent compared to 22 percent. Exactly half of young Israelis reject the scientific theory of evolution, and 58 percent believe in life after death. Haaretz noted a clear correlation between Israeli youth’s growing religiosity and their embrace of right-wing views.

“If you think Israel is religious, conservative and hawkish enough as it is, wait for the fundamentalist theocracy that’s lurking around the corner,” the paper’s analyst Chemi Shalev concluded.

Rallying the right

How Israel’s coming election plays out will depend on how successful Netanyahu is in rallying religious voters to the polling booth, either for Likud or for a handful of more overtly religious parties.

The religious right itself is characterised by three main blocs. All believe that the occupied territories belong exclusively to the Jewish people, and are united in their unabashed support for the settlements and the entrenchment of the occupation.

Political differences relate chiefly to matters of how quickly and brazenly the occupied territories should be annexed and how the Palestinian population there should be dealt with.

More significant than ideological differences, however, are the varied religious constituencies that each bloc represents.

Netanyahu’s Likud party is the largest, and draws primarily on the support of religious traditionalists – Israeli Jews who are generally observant and socially conservative.

Likud, Gurvitz noted, has moved more firmly into the religious camp since 2005 when its then-leader, Ariel Sharon, pulled the last remaining settlers out of Gaza. A backlash from the settlers effectively forced Sharon and his supporters out of Likud to create a short-lived secular faction called Kadima.

“What was left behind in Likud was the hard right,” he said. “The party has been moving ever further to the right under Netanyahu.”

Since then, the settlers and their allies have come to dominate Likud’s internal committees, meaning none of its parliamentary candidates wish to risk alienating them, according to Gurvitz.

Politics of the rabbis

The second bloc comprises two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, which look to their respective chief rabbis for political direction. Between them they won 16 seats in April.

The main difference between the two relates to ethnicity. United Torah Judaism represents the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community, whose recent ancestry is traced to Europe. Shas, meanwhile, represents the Mizrahim, Jews whose families hailed mostly from the Arab world.

Shas, observed Gurvitz, has blended its rigid belief in divine law with nationalism more easily than UTJ because of its long-held anti-Arab positions. A section of its followers serve in the army. Some also work, unlike most Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox men, who devote themselves to studying the Torah.

The UTJ, by contrast, has adapted more slowly. Historically, it was anti-Zionist, rejecting the secular institutions of an Israeli state – including the army and the courts – until the Messiah arrived to build God’s kingdom.

But over the past two decades, its leaders too have gradually, though more reluctantly, moved into the nationalist fold.

That change, according to Gurvitz, has happened because, given the ultra-Orthodox public’s high birth rates, many have been forced to seek cheap housing solutions in the settlements.

“As they move into the settlements, their politics shift further rightwards,” said Gurvitz. “Nowadays they give their leaders hell if they don’t stick fast to ultra-nationalistic positions, or if they try to cut deals with parties outside the right.”

Gurvitz added: “This means the ultra-Orthodox parties are today effectively in the bag for Netanyahu.”

Orders from God

The third bloc comprises various small far-right parties representing what are known in Israel as the national-religious camp – those who subscribe to the ideology of the settler community.

Gurvitz estimates the camp numbers close to one million – or about one in seven of Israel’s Jewish population. About half live in the settlements of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The majority are religious, but not all of them.

The camp has proved fractious, but its three main parties established an electoral coalition last week called United Right, which polls currently suggest may win up to 14 seats.

The oldest of the parties is Jewish Home, whose new leader is Rafael Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli army and currently serving as Netanyahu’s interim education minister.

Peretz has caused controversy recently by referring to a trend of American Jews marrying non-Jews as a “second Holocaust” and by speaking out in favour of gay conversion therapy, claiming to have performed it himself successfully in the past.

The second party, Tkuma, is led by Bezalel Smotrich, currently the transport minister. After being appointed, he declared that he took his orders from God, not Netanyahu.

Smotrich has in the past called for a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinian children who throw stones, and demanded segregated maternity wards to prevent Israeli and Palestinian citizens mixing. He has also described himself as a “proud homophobe”.

Both Peretz and Smotrich were due to deliver speeches this week at a ceremony honouring Yitzchak Ginsburgh. The controversial rabbi has praised the King’s Torah, a notorious handbook that sanctions the murder of Palestinian children, and has previously lauded Baruch Goldstein, who massacred dozens of Palestinians in a Hebron mosque in 1994.

Gaza’s ‘little snakes’

The third party in the coalition, New Right, which broke from Jewish Home late last year, narrowly failed to pass the electoral threshold in April, costing Netanyahu his victory.

Now led by Ayelet Shaked, a secular politician, New Right downplays the role of Jewish religious law. It has tried to appeal to secular, nationalistic Jews by adopting a more tolerant stance on identity issues, such as gay rights and feminism.

Shaked, who previously served as justice minister, has been outspoken in rejecting liberal democratic values, however, calling them “utopian”. She has said: “Zionism should not – and will not – bow before a system of individual rights interpreted universally.”

During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, she also declared that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy”, and appeared to approve of the slaughter of Gaza’s civilians, calling for Palestinian mothers to be killed to stop them giving birth to “little snakes”.

Three smaller national-religious parties are outside the United Right coalition and, barring last-minute changes, are not expected to make it into the parliament.

Noam is a backlash party from within the national-religious camp to the social liberalism of Shaked’s New Right, demanding a “normative” Jewish family life.

Jewish Power comprises the unrepentant remnants of the virulently anti-Arab Kach party, led by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, that was outlawed in Israel in the 1990s.

And the libertarian-nationalist Zehut party, led by Moshe Feiglin, an exile from Likud, demands full annexation of the West Bank.

State agencies infiltrated

Gurvitz observed that the three main national-religious factions all place a strong emphasis on military service, and have focused on getting settlers into senior roles inside the army.

Rather than rejecting the state’s secular institutions, as the ultra-Orthodox tend to do, the settler parties have been working hard to infiltrate and gradually take them over, with some success in the case of the police, the courts, the education system and even the ruling Likud party.

They view themselves as in a culture war, trying to infuse Israel with a stronger Jewish identity.

The three parties have minor differences over their approaches to annexation of the West Bank, likely the biggest issue facing the next parliament.

Shaked’s New Right and Peretz’s Jewish Home demand formal annexation of most of the West Bank, denying Palestinians there equal rights and imposing apartheid-style rule over them.

Since Donald Trump became US President, Likud has moved closer to openly adopting this as its policy.

Smotrich, meanwhile, would prefer to annex the entire West Bank and has been more explicit in suggesting it would be necessary to ethnic cleanse Palestinians as part of that annexation process.

Courts intimidated

Paradoxically, two of the three religious-dominated blocs are led by secular politicians: Likud by Netanyahu, and the coalition of settler parties by Shaked.

Shaked’s leadership role is the more surprising given that national-religious rabbis have pushed to remove women from public life.

However, Shaked has won support from influential figures such as Avichai Rontski, a former army chief rabbi. He has approved partnerships with nationalist secular politicians, calling them “religious in the broad sense of the word”.

Analysts noted that Shaked has won a dominant role in the political leadership of the national-religious public, over the rabbis’ objections, for two reasons.

First, she proved to be a very effective justice minister for the settlers in Netanyahu’s last government. She intimidated the courts and promoted a large number of conservative religious judges, including to the supreme court.

Equally importantly, noted Gurvitz, she changed the justice ministry’s position on settlement “outposts”, built in violation of a settlement freeze agreed by Israel in the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s.

Traditionally, justice ministry officials accepted – at least in public – that these 100 or so outposts were illegal and that they should be dismantled when the army or the government viewed the time as right.

But officials under Shaked changed tack, arguing to the courts that the outposts were in essence legal, but had been created with administrative irregularities that needed correcting. The Regularisation Law formalised this approach, clearing the way to future annexation of much of the West Bank.

Nationalism as ‘a bridge’

Second, Klein pointed out, Shaked was seen as a bridge between the religious and secular nationalist right that could maximise its electoral vote.

The complexity on the right, he said, was caused by the fact that “Jewish” identity had both religious and ethnic components.

“For some people their Jewish nationalism is based on theology and religious observance. For others, like Shaked and Netanyahu, their nationalism derives from an idea of Jewish peoplehood, without a religious element. You can find both types supporting Likud and the national-religious bloc.

“The ‘peoplehood nationalists’ are not interested in universal values. They think the Jewish people are special, and that they have extra rights as Jews. Any religious sentiments they harbour are subservient to this idea of peoplehood,” he said.

Polls have shown Shaked to be remarkably popular among religious nationalists, coming out way ahead of her rivals.

For all three parties to pass the electoral threshold and avoid wasting votes, Klein observed, they needed to unite.

In fact, to maximise votes for the religious right and avoid needing Lieberman’s seats, Netanyahu pushed hard to get the openly anti-Arab party Jewish Power into the United Right coalition – without success.

Klein noted that Netanyahu preferred working with the religious over the secular right. In the run-up to the election, all the religious parties have been keen to pledge allegiance to a Netanyahu government.

“They are very easy partners for Netanyahu,” he said. “Give them a few ministries and some budgets for their community and they will get behind whatever he wants to do.”

‘Difficult dance’ for votes

Shaked and Netanyahu are politically similar. Shaked worked as Netanyahu’s bureau chief back in 2006, and a short time later brought in Naftali Bennett, her current partner in New Right. Both left four years later after a personal falling out with Netanyahu.

The Israeli media widely reported Shaked’s efforts to return to Likud before the September election. Netanyahu rebuffed her. That may be in part because he fears she could be a major challenger for his Likud crown were she to gain a foothold.

Gurvitz observed that Netanyahu was involved in a “difficult dance” with the settler parties for votes.

“He needs their votes to ensure he can form a government, but he doesn’t want them so strong that they can dictate terms to him,” he said.

Gurvitz believed that, with the United Right now certain to pass the threshold, Netanyahu would seek to steal votes from them in the final stages of the election, as he has done before.

The fact that Likud and the United Right compete for largely the same pool of voters had fuelled even more extremist positions on the right, he added.

“The national-religious parties need to offer more extreme policies to distinguish themselves from Likud, otherwise they will lose votes to Netanyahu,” he said.

“But that then encourages Netanyahu to take more extreme positions to ensure he doesn’t look less nationalist than his rivals. It ends up creating a spiral of extremism.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

On the Persistence of Religion

We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 1922

Recently I received an angry note about the persistence of religion in the modern world as proof of the world’s ongoing irrationality in response to some of my comments in my lately published article “The Metaphysics of Revolution.”

I found the response interesting on many levels.

Firstly, the level of anger.

The emotional quality of some atheists’ responses to religion remind me of the worst characteristics of religious fanatics: intolerance, hatred, invective, and a blind desire for collective uniformity.

Why all the rancor if reason is on your side?

Calmly make your argument (as many indeed do, such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) and let that be your most potent, deliberative weapon.

After all, I thought emotional appeals are for religious people?

Clearly, for some, personal history and psychological trauma have a defining role to play in their world-view regarding religion (and other matters as well).

Full disclosure, here. I do not consider myself a religious person, but I am sympathetic to those who profess religious inclinations so long as they do not impinge on other people’s freedoms and beliefs. You can believe in whom you want to, but don’t tell me to whom I should bow down to.

With that said, I think the persistence of religion is, contrary to its vociferous detractors, at its a base a mildly rational one. What do I mean by that?

Well, it might all boil down to a frequent childhood question: Why is there something rather than nothing? Modern physicists will tell you that it has something to do with a “negative quantum vacuum” and “an infinity of parallel multiple universes.” Ok, sounds cool. But at the same time, if true, it is a concept that can only be fully grasped by a handful of people on the planet. Which curious fact sets them up as a kind of a new class of priests interestingly enough. They possess the ultimate truths which they proclaim in relatively easy to understand images for the general public. At the very least, this goes against the trend of the democratization of religion in the Western tradition (at least since the advent of Protestantism)

So we have a new naturalistic priesthood who can offer us scientific explanations that do not require any type of metaphysics. Fine and good. Yet, however, the very nature of science is expansive and ever changing, so what is believed today might very well not be believed tomorrow. Furthermore, what we believe in science can only be as good as what we can in some way perceive and test and convincingly confirm. Is it not therefore conceivable, scientifically, that a myriad of unknown unknowns have existed during the vast time since the supposed big bang? Unknowns that, if known, would lead to vastly different ultimate explanations than the ones we entertain currently? The recent discovery of “dark matter” and “dark energy” might be a relevant case in point. Furthermore, since we cannot go back 12 billion years to the beginning of time and space can we ever really be sure that the events which our current models describe took place as we think they did. We will, probably, never be able to perform that experiment (My apologies to CERN).

Thus, there are many naturalistic reasons that may give us pause as to the ultimate knowability of all that is. Science can and will explain many things, but in the end and by scientific necessity will all its theorizing about ultimate origins only serve as a possible, and forever necessarily partial explanation for all that is? And I can hear a true scientist say to that: It’s as good as you’ll ever get, live with it!

The problem is, of course, that the human being (for good and for evil) is endowed with a fertile imagination and (if he or she is lucky) a rich emotive life. The universe and ourselves seem to cast for many a mystical aura. This, of course, can be explained away by evolutionary psychology. But the logical reasoning behind it cannot be dismissed so easily. For as was just argued, science may forever be doomed to offer only theoretical explanations for fundamental questions. In other words, the child’s question of why there is something rather than nothing may forever be out of definitive, scientific reach. This scientific predicament leaves the door open to dreaming. Human dreaming about divinity, epiphany, and mystical teleology of all kinds. Yes this is certainly unscientific, but it fulfills a human need to answer childlike questions. And while we could soberly and severely say with Wittgenstein that: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent; such a resolution to the problem will not do for the vast majority of mankind. Man abhors silence. He will hear the universe speak, even if the output is insoluble riddles.

And perhaps most importantly, science cannot offer us values, reasons to live. Only religion and philosophy can do that. And, yes, science can help to enlighten both but it can never make of its facts and experiments a universe of value, beauty, and love; indeed by its very nature and practice it is not allowed to speak the words “good” and “evil.” It is thus both the morally creative faculty of humankind tied to its aptitude for wondrous imagination that I think will guarantee the survival of religion, or at least the religious instinct, for sometime to come.

God, Guns and Video Games

The din struck by videos of the gaming variety; its forced causal link (always alleged, never proved) to altering conduct, continues its relentless march across the discussion forums in the United States and beyond.  The almost casual butcheries – actual, not as opposed to digital – have gone on unabated, the next extremist taking a murderous shot at his role in history – and everybody else.  Now it is the white supremacists who are sharing top billing with previous jihadi enthusiasts, a concession on the part of law enforcement authorities that there might be something to say about using the word “terrorist” in an ecumenical sense.

The August 3 shootings at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, left over 30 dead and 53 injured.  The profiles of the shooters were subjected to a less than thorough dissection.  A twenty-one-year old Patrick Crusius had allegedly driven from Dallas-Fort Worth to El Paso in the hope of targeting Mexican immigrants.  For Connor Betts, motives seemed sketchy, though he was noted for having a Twitter account showing much support for Antifa and an interest in “exploring violent ideologies”.  Much is being made of his drug addled state at the time of the shootings.

The taking of sides over the whole calculus of violence took place in a matter of hours.  For those insisting on gun control, lax rules enabling the easy acquisition of weapons of mass lethality were fundamental, with Texas taking the lead.  Racism and xenophobia were also blamed.

For gun worshippers, the culprits were violent celluloid, naughty video games, hideous media.  Even as the casualty lists were being compiled, Fox News host Jon Scott  suggested that the El Paso shooter was merely another youth raised on a diet of violent video games that might propel him to take to guns.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick speculated that the killings were the bloody realisations of a video game, a desire on the part of the shooter to “be a super soldier, for his Call of Duty game.”  But there was a bit more to that: God’s banishment from society, the one and only deity being cast out for most of the week, unable to exert His moral authority.  “As long as we continue to only praise God and look at God on a Sunday morning and kick him out of the town square in our schools the other six days of the week, what do we expect?”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures that video games dehumanized participants, turning them into insentient zombies.  “We’ve watched studies show what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos and how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

President Donald Trump, as he did in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parklands, Florida, lamented the “glorification of violence in our society”, which included “the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.  It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.”

The president also had room for that old straw man Fake News which “has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.  News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!”

Some common ground is found in commentary suggesting that Gamergate holds the toxic key – at least when it comes to understanding white nationalist trigger happy types. Founded in a campaign of coordinated harassment in 2014 against female video game designers and gaming critics, the Gamergaters migrated from the 4chan image-based website to 8chan.  (4chan had tired of the harassing troupe.)  Evan Urquhart duly stretches the bow in his Slate contribution.  “This subculture of Gamergaters, who erroneously believe themselves to be the only true gamers in the world in a world of phonies, is what made the culture of 8chan what it is.  It was violent then, it it’s more violent now.”

If only it were that simple: the moving image would be banned; the provocative print would be stored away in inaccessible troves; online forums would be banished.  But as tens of millions of humans happily engage with such matter without incident on a daily basis, the prosecution is left floundering on this point.

In the 1950s, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham pushily decided that comic books were needlessly imperilling readers (perhaps viewers is more appropriate?).  His methodologically unsound Seduction of the Innocent remains a suitable bit of canonical drivel, stirring the agitated, not least of all his claim that the gay subtext of the Batman stories was harmful to youths.  It led to a panic that saw the creation of the Comics Code Authority and the eventual demise of EC Comics.

Since then, there has been a smattering of work on the gaming-violence causation business.  The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ran a study in 2013 featuring participants engaged in playing violent or non-violent video games over 20 minutes per day over 3 days.  “As expected, aggressive behaviour and hostile expectations increased over days for violent game players, but not for nonviolent video game players, and the increase in aggressive behaviour was partially due to hostile expectations.”  That same year, another study published in Aggressive Behaviour found an exception: participants surveyed sowed that violence with a “prosocial motive (i.e. protecting a friend and furthering his nonviolent goals) were found to show lower short-term aggression”.

Research published this year by Andrew K. Przybylski of Oxford University and Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University, arguably gives us one of the most thorough bodies of work to date.  It surveyed 1,004 British 14-15-year-olds on gaming habits and behaviour, along with an equal number of carers.  “There was no evidence for a critical tipping point relating violent game engagement to aggressive behaviour.”  According to co-author Weinstein, “Our finding suggest that researcher biases might have influenced previous studies on this topic, and have distorted our understanding of the effects of video games.”

Even judges have opined from upon high on the issue, with the late Antonin Scalia observing in the 2011 case of Brown v Entertainment Merchant Association that psychological research studies, at least those being relied upon in that case, “do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning).”  The studies only showed “at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and miniscule real-world effects”.

This does not prevent the prosecution from having a good stab at the futile.  Dozens of countries have access to violent games and do not see gamers running amok massacring all and sundry.  The issue is deeper, and the deeper part is what is problematic.  In this, progressives and conservatives find testy, shallow consensus, if in slightly different ways.  The video gamers are being accused of producing a star fashioned in ghoulish, murderous reality.

Women We Are Fighting For

There are stories that are unrelated to the news, but can explain much better than many combat reports, why people like me are fighting against the Empire and imperialism, with such determination and vehemence. Not all stories are ‘big’ or ‘heroic’; not all include famous people or iconic struggles. Not all take place on battlefields.

But they ‘humanize’ the struggle.

Once in a while, I like to share such stories with my readers. As I will do right now.

Because without them, frankly, nothing really makes sense.

*****

It was a hot, humid night in Jakarta; a megapolis with the worst pollution on earth, and with some of the most monstrous contrasts on our planet. A literally sinking city, constructed against the people; fragmented, serving only the few hundred thousand extremely rich (most of them accumulating wealth through corruption and theft), while condemning millions of struggling individuals to a slow death.

For the ruthless Indonesian elites and their Western handlers, the poor of Jakarta (the great majority of city dwellers) simply do not exist. They live in crammed slums, called kampungs – literally translated as villages. Kampungs fill huge spaces between the skyscrapers, malls, and mostly empty five-star hotels. Individuals living there consume very little, and therefore matter close to nothing. Even their number is underplayed in the official statistics.

One night, my small film crew and I were driving though the Klender neighborhood in East Jakarta; a poor, religious and monotonous part of the city.

Re-editing my big film about Indonesia after the US-sponsored military coup of 1965, an event which I often describe as an “Intellectual Hiroshima”, I had to again spend a few days in Jakarta, collecting latest footage, filming contrasts between the people and feudal elites.

We were all tired. Traffic jams have brought the city to an almost permanent gridlock. The pollution is unbearable. Life has come to a standstill. As planned by the regime, no one seemed to be thinking. Nothing seemed to be working.

We were driving past Klender train station a few minutes after midnight.

There were two young women standing by the side of the road. One of them caught my eye. She was clearly a prostitute, or a ‘sex-worker’, as they would call her in the West. But in reality, no, she was not a ‘worker’; not her. Just an abused, tired women.

I liked her face. Hers was an honest, good face. And after all that nonsense I heard during the day, after all that ‘feel good’ crap, I needed to hear something real, honest.

“Stop!” I shouted at my driver. He stepped on the brakes, then backed up a few meters.

“I want to talk to her,” I explained. Then to her: “I want to talk to you.”

She did not find my request strange. She nodded. After years of moving all around the world, while documenting the state of our humanity, I have developed certain instincts. I can tell from the faces of people, whether they have a story to tell; and whether they have the desire to speak. She did, both.

We emptied the front seat for her, next to the driver. She got in. Jakarta is a dangerous city, especially for women. But she did not seem to be frightened. She trusted me, as I trusted her.

“My name is Andre,” I said. “I am a filmmaker, and this is my team”.

“My name is Risna,” she answered and smiled.

“I want to hear your story,” I said.

“OK,” she said.

“Do you mind if I film?”

“Go ahead. I don’t mind.”

I put my GH5 over my knee, turned on the little light on the ceiling of the car, and pressed the “Record” button.

Just like that. No coaching, no preparation. And then it happened. She spoke. Clearly. Bitterly. Honestly.

*****

“It was four of us,” she began, softly:

Four children. Little ones. Two boys and two girls. Our father, a pious religious man, used to use all of us. He had sex with us, with males and females. By then our mother was gone. He wanted to get married for the second time. To a young woman. But he had no money. And so, he began pimping all of us, for cash, so he could save enough, to start his new family. All four of us… you know; we all failed in life. At seven, I often slept on the streets. My siblings are all dysfunctional. I got married, had children, but my husband left me. I’m thirty years old now. I do this to support my children, and my brothers and sister.

Trains kept passing-by. Loud express trains, rushing to far away cities: Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya.

“I couldn’t talk to anybody. Here, it is always woman’s fault. No matter what happens, it is woman’s fault.”

I was frozen in my seat.

“This is my story.”

“And now?” I could not think about anything else to ask.

“Now I am speaking to you.”

I stopped the car in the middle of the night. I wanted to hear a story of a woman who was working by the side of the road. And that is precisely what I got: she described to me, briefly, her life.

She did it in a simple, touchingly naïve, pure way. There was nothing unnatural in her voice.

She spoke for herself, and for millions of Indonesian women like her, too.

I cared about her, but did not know how to express it, what to say.

We spoke for a bit, about the terrible fate of women in Indonesia. About the hypocrisy of this society. But it was well after midnight, and she had to earn her living. I had to let her go.

“You will be in my film, together with your former President Gus Dur, and the greatest writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer.”

She nodded, in a matter of fact way.

“What do you dream about?”

And that’s when her eyes filled with tears:

“I want to raise my children as a good mother; from honest work.”

I looked at the monitor of my camera. 8 minutes and few seconds had passed since I began recording. One human life, in a summary. One complex, broken human life. I bowed to her. Shook her hand. Thanked her.

“Do you have hope?”

She looked at me, deep into my eyes. Then she nodded.

“Yes!”

*****

At night, I couldn’t sleep.

I knew all about what she was talking about. My friend who works for the UNDP once explained to me, that Indonesia has one of the highest child abandonment rates in the world. And also, one of the highest amounts of sexual child abuse cases, particularly inside families; committed by family members. All these topics are taboo, and no ‘official’ study can be produced, as most women are only willing to speak ‘off the record’.

In Indonesia, after 1965, everything collapsed; was destroyed. But this downfall, and almost nothing related to it, can be discussed openly. Here, the fear of truth is omnipresent, and I will soon address this shocking issue in one of my upcoming essays.

*****

In 1979, when the pro-US Somoza’s regime collapsed and the Sandinistas took over the devastated Nicaragua, my friend, an American poet and translator, happened to be in Managua.

He was very young and confused.

He understood, theoretically, the greatness of the revolution. But he was still lacking examples.

Then, one afternoon, he saw a bus. A beat-up public bus, slowly moving towards the center of the city, while sun was setting down, behind the hills.

He told me the story, a long time ago, in New York, as I was ready to depart for Peru, to cover the so-called Dirty War:

It was the end of the week. The bus was full of girls; young women from slums. Some were barefoot. But they were dressed in their best. They were travelling to the center of the capital, to dance!

The voice of my friend broke. He was overwhelmed by his memories.

Do you understand? Before, they only went to the rich parts of the city in order to serve, to be humiliated, used; to labor for the rich. Now, they were going to those clubs that only a week ago were frequented exclusively by ‘gringos’ and local elites. They were going to dance. It was their country, suddenly. It was their city. They were free. The country belonged to them.

“This is when I understood,” he concluded, “that the revolution was right. Not because I studied Marxism, not because of some theory. But because these girls from the poor neighborhoods of Managua had suddenly gained the right to dance. They gained their right to exist; to be alive!”

*****

In Cuba, they say: “Everyone dances, or no one dances!”

Covering the world, documenting wars, conflicts, but also revolutions, I often encounter women like Risna.

Whenever countries collapse, whenever they are destroyed by savage capitalism, by religious extremism, or by subservience to imperialist powers, women suffer the most. It is almost the rule.

Most of them suffer in silence, as even their voices are being muted.

The more oppressive, regressive society gets, the more subjugated are its women.

Their humiliation, repression, suffering gets glorified as virtue. While rape, molestation, and submission are hushed up, never discussed. In countries such as Indonesia, if a woman protests and speaks about her fate, she gets ridiculed, discredited, or even thrown into prison, as has happened recently, on several well-publicized occasions.

Western hypocrisy is obvious: while everyone there is obsessed with ‘political correctness’, London, Washington and Paris are glorifying, supporting and even producing regimes which treat women worse than animals.

*****

Risna deserves to be in one of those proverbial buses which are taking women to the once exclusive clubs, so they can dance. In a rough translation of the metaphor: ‘so they could become the owners of their own fate, of their cities, and their country’.

Women like her are the women we are fighting for.

Their stories are our stories. Be they in Managua, Jakarta, Kampala, or Mumbai.

They are as significant as those stories from the war zones near Syrian Idlib, or Afghanistan, or Libya.

Not to tell such stories would convert us, revolutionary writers, into liars.

Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Difference between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive

The difference between liberalism and progressivism is ideological.

Historically, liberalism started with John Locke, whose philosophy was superbly summarized, explained, and referenced to its sources, here; but the following will instead quote directly from those sources:

Locke (as the commentator said) “praises money as probably no one prior and after him,” because Locke’s 1689 Second Treatise on Government, Sections 49 & 50, asserted that only by means of money, “Man will begin presently to enlarge his Possessions” and thereby start to get beyond the crudest agriculturally based economy. Locke then said in Sec. 124 that “The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.” In other words: money enables wealth to grow, and government exists in order to protect wealth, not to serve nor protect people. Lord Acton, writing in 1877, criticized Locke’s philosophy because Locke’s “notion of liberty involves nothing more spiritual than the security of property, and is consistent with slavery and persecution.” That was the case about Locke because Locke’s philosophy wouldn’t have won any aristocratic sponsors at all, and would therefore simply have failed utterly and become lost to history, if it didn’t allow slavery, and — even more basically — allow unequal rights that depend upon the possession (and especially upon the inheritance) of wealth, and that generates respecting the wealthy (especially the hereditary wealthy) more than the poor (and with slaves being at the absolute bottom). Locke’s philosophy was affirmative toward the existing class-hierarchy, a property-based hierarchy. However, Lord Acton had, himself, been passionately committed to America’s slaveholding southern states’ Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, because he believed more in the principle of local or home rule (as opposed to federal rule) than he opposed “slavery and persecution” (such as against slaves).

So: the entire aristocracy, except for the outright conservatives (which were the vast majority) amongst them, were hypocrites, and liberalism is based upon that hypocrisy, nothing which is internally consistent. Since it’s unadulterated hypocrisy, it is sloppy thinking, and it is this because otherwise it would be simply “Might makes right” — pure conservatism — unadorned with any pretenses to decency, and to equality of rights irrespective of wealth. In other words: Locke offered the aristocracy a way to consider themselves to be decent people no matter how bad they might actually be, and his intellectual offering to them required a lot of intellectual sloppiness. This is liberalism, at its very outset, and right up till today. It is stupid, but the super-rich consider it to be acceptable, and so some of them sponsor it, which enabled it to become a “classic.”

By contrast, progressivism is a total and unequivocal rejection of conservatism. It doesn’t respect wealth and the wealthy, nor does it despise the poor. It instead admires goodness which seeks no recompense or public honor therefore, but instead springs from as wide a compassion as possible (without regard to an individual’s race, creed, or ethnicity). And it despises greed, and rejects outright the “Greed is good” philosophy (a philosophy that’s consistent with both liberalism and conservatism; so, progressivism repudiates both). And it accords no honor to winning, and no shame to losing. The progressive (like anyone) wants to win, but only for a good cause, as “good” is accorded without any favoritism toward any individual or group or individuals, nor disfavoring of others, but purely with equal rights for all, to freedom and happiness and fulfillment.

Because progressives are committed to the good, they do passionately support the good against the evil; and, to them, the “good” are progressives, and the “evil” are proponents of might-makes-right. This is what progressivism is all about — the difference between progressivism and conservatism. By contrast with those polar-opposite ideologies, liberalism is merely in-between. It is every shade of gray, because it compromises between good and evil. As some liberals like to say, it is “nuanced.”

Might-makes-right — the very core of conservatism — is automatically favoring the rich against the poor, because, in the real world, money is power and the poor are therefore the weakest class of all. Locke’s First Treatise on Government, “Book I. Ch. XI. Who Heir?” (Sec. 107) goes even further into its conservative tradition of might-makes-right. It asserts that “the author” of the Bible (his God) is “affirming that the assignment of civil power is by divine institution, … so that no consideration, no act or art of man, can divert it from that person, to whom, by this divine right, it is assigned.” Liberalism not only accepts hereditary rule, but it rejects any sort of democracy, because, for a liberal, accountability is only to The Almighty, not to any mortal nor public of mortals. Thus, the founder of liberalism, Locke, said there that “it would be as much sacrilege for any one to be king, who was not Adam’s heir, as it would have been amongst the Jews,” because the will of The Almighty is eternal, and applies not merely in the past.

When America’s Founders refused even so much as to mention any god, and opened the U.S. Constitution with “We, the people of the United States, … do ordain and establish this Constitution,” it was an authentic break away from the past, because they were repudiating not only conservatism but liberalism, and were actually starting progressivism. They were doing this because accountability here was being ordained, in this new country — via its Constitution — to be accountability to the mortals, the public; and not to any The Almighty, at all. They chose to do this — break radically from the past. That act, from them, the U.S. Constitution, gave birth to progressivism — not merey to a new country. This Constitution served as the American Scripture, except that unlike any religious one, it included provisions for its own subsequent amendment, via the public’s representatives. Unlike any religious Scripture, it allowed itself to become improved. That, too (allowance for improvement), is a basic feature of progressivism, which contrasts starkly against conservatism (which relies instead upon some immutable Scripture).

Because a progressive favors equally the rights of all, and rejects unconditionally the supremacy of any nation above any other, a fundamental principle of progressivism is an utter rejection of imperialism (against which America’s Founders had waged their own Revolutionary War), and of any invasion of one country by another which has not become, nor been reasonably considered to pose a danger to become, invaded by that other, which it has invaded. During the War of 1812, Americans waged war to defend their largely democratic republic against imperial Britain’s invasion to re-seize this land. The imperialists committed aggression against Americans, after having lost the Revolutionary War to them. Consequently, for example: America, which since 1898 has itself unprovokedly invaded and sought to vassalize and exploit, more countries than any other nation, is perhaps the most conservative country, at least since around 1900. Today’s U.S. is, in this sense, profoundly anti-progressive and anti-American, because it has become the most imperialistic nation in the world, having taken the place of England, and of France, and of Spain, and of Germany, and of Portugal, and of Japan, and of Italy. America’s Constitution has now become overthrown. America today is ruled by ideological enemies of America’s Founders. Today’s America is unAmerican, in that deepest of all senses.

Consequently, to be a progressive in today’s America is to be ideologically rather isolated, alone with the Founders, in this now extremist conservative society, so alien to its own Constitution. It’s to be at a severe disadvantage, in this society. But, to a progressive, there is no assumption that the good shall be rewarded and that the evil shall be punished. There is a hope for that, but no expectation of it. Consequently, the progressive is a progressive not for personal gain but purely to do justice in the world. Recognizing that the world’s norm is profoundly unjust, a progressive seeks especially to aid the good against the evil, irrespective of the consequences to oneself.

Obviously, therefore, far more liberals than progressives exist. It’s not profitable to be progressive, but it is good to be progressive — and that’s a progressive’s main concern.

It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a liberal and a progressive. One reason that’s so difficult for so many people to do is that many liberals are ‘progressives’ in sheeps’ clothing — fakes — and the biggest policy-area where this is the case is in foreign policies, because whereas average voters know that politicians who fight against lowering their medical costs are bad, they don’t know (nor even care) nearly so much about international affairs. Here is a typical example of a ‘progressive‘ who is also a neoconservative (though garbing it in ‘progressive’ arguments). He favors “a democracy promotion agenda” like other liberals did in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc. He doesn’t even so much as question that the Cold War was about ideology instead of about expanding the American empire. (How can anybody question that it wasn’t, after this? Is he really so ignorant? Or is the explanation something worse? He’s sufficiently ‘well-educated‘ so that it’s something worse. To put it as kindly as possible: he knows on which side his bread is buttered, and he cares more about that than he cares about truth and honesty.)

Locke, having been a liberal instead of a pure conservative, would not approve of today’s America, because by his basing his ethic upon property (wealth), he acknowledged the extreme evilness of conquest. Thus, “Book II. Ch. XVI. Of Conquest” in his Second Treatise on Government, states (Sec. 176):

That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man’s right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think, that robbers and pirates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master; or that men are bound by promises, which unlawful force extorts from them. Should a robber break into my house, and with a dagger at my throat make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title, by his sword, has an unjust conqueror, who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders.

So: today’s U.S.A. stands condemned even in that compromised work, the foundation of liberalism. It stands condemned because John Locke wasn’t a pure conservative — in that passage, he clearly condemned might-makes-right, which he said pertained “in this world,” meaning not in the world of The Almighty, in a supposed afterlife, where power, supposedly, does reflect virtue.

By contrast, a progressive makes no assumption that power reflects virtue anywhere. The only reason for a progressive to be virtuous is to be virtuous — and not according to any ‘The Almighty’, but instead recognizing, from the progressive’s experience of this world, that if this world does reflect, in any sense, the will of ‘The Almighty’, then that Almighty is anything but virtuous — certainly not virtuous, at all. It’s not a progressive world — not at all. To be a progressive is to accept this fact, instead of to be deluded that there is some reward in ‘an afterlife’, because a progressive doesn’t expect to be rewarded for virtue, but, more likely, to be punished for it. (Consider whistleblowers as progressives, and almost all of them are punished for it.) To do something for a reward is commerce; it’s no political ideology, at all. So, again: there are very few progressives. Progressivism is no church which aims to increase the size of its flock (thereby compromising so much as to become worthless, even if it was not so before). Success is not its guidestar. Truth is. That’s what guides a progressive’s conscience. Thus, too, there is no progressive myth. None. A progressive accepts and recognizes history, but no myth. By contrast, a liberal, such as Locke, bases his ‘case’ upon whatever myth he chooses.

*****

PS, responding to a critic: A reader of this has objected: “Progressives are flawed human beings like everybody else. Yet Zuesse converts them into morally pristine übermenchen with all other human motivations outside of his progressive ideals being invalid. BTW, so Progressives never seek to maximize their economic well-being? They never game the system? They are never arrogant and self-serving? They never ignore the laws of unintended consequences? The laws of conflicting objectives don’t apply to them? I’d like to see a follow-on SCF article that critiques Zuesse’s claim to Progressism’s claim to outright and absolute moral supremacy. And then let the readers compare and contrast.” What he described there are liberals, not progressives. The title of this article is “The Difference Between Being a Liberal and Being a Progressive.” He missed its point. However, of course all people “are flawed human beings.” That’s just a cliché. And, of course, within the bounds of decency, progressives do “seek to maximize their economic well-being.” But all of his objection ignores the article’s argument and evidence. As regards evidence, here is more.

  • Originally posted at strategic-culture.org.
  • See also “What Is Progressivism?
  • When Warriors become Saints

    As I sit on the small balcony on the top floor of an old house in the working class neighborhood of Alfama in Lisbon, Portugal, it is early evening, the time for wine and voices wafting on the fragrant breeze through the twisting cobble-stoned streets.  The National Pantheon (Panteao Nacional) stares me in the face.  I stare back, and then look up to the heavens and to the cross that is silhouetted against the blue sky.  It crowns the Pantheon’s massive dome.  On its façade stand three statues, only one of which I can see clearly.  She is Santa Engracia, a Christian martyr from before the period when the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized and legitimatized Christianity, transforming the cross into a sword. It was her church before the state found it acceptable to convert it into a space to glorify its secular saints and its military and political prowess.

    Rome never dies, although it falls in different guises but is resurrected by the human urge to dominate others.  The savage complicity between church and state perdures through the ages.

    Wherever you go, the monuments and statues glorifying humanity’s violent history are always presented as a form of liberation. Tourist attractions. Generals, princes, and kings atop horses, brandishing swords and guns, “grace” squares and monuments as a reminder to the common folk of who is looking down on them and to whom they should look up, or look out.  Yet even when they do show obeisance to their “masters” who rule them from the heights, the commoners are left out of the spoils of empire, and if they object, they are taken out without hesitation.

    On a clothesline outside the windows of the house across the street where a woman peeks out, the pants and underwear humbly sway to a different tune, a sad Fado moan that seems to ask: What has happened?  Has it always been like this?

    I am tempted to tell the underwear it has but realize its job is to cover-up, not expose the truth.

    Rilke, a German language poet of most delicate sensibilities, asked from one of his castle abodes provided by one of his many rich lady friends:

    Who, if I cried out, would hear me

    Among the angels’ hierarchies?
    And even if one of them
    Pressed me against his heart
    I would be consumed in that
    overwhelming existence.

    But down below, the omnipresent graffiti on the walls is a bit less circumspect.  It shouts: Fuck the elites! (Translation provided)

    The old poor murmur their prayers and the angry young spray their rage on every canvas they can find.  Both seek hope outside the museums and mausoleums erected by the wealthy to glorify themselves.

    And fate answers: It’s the same old story, a fight for love and glory.  Those seeking glory, the rich elites, the powerful with the guns in all the countries across the planet, with a few exceptions, smash the lovers and the humble people as they struggle to keep faith and hope alive. Who will liberate them?

    Who among the elites will hold the arm of the old Portuguese woman on the one crutch as she teeters on her struggle up the steep hill to the little grocery store?  “Orbrigada – Deus te abinҫoe” is her response to a stranger, whose heart aches.

    Here in Lisbon there is a famous tourist attraction, Castelo De S. Jorge, a massive hilltop castle and fortress overlooking the city.  Built by the Moors in the eleventh century, it was conquered by Dom Afonso Henriques, who became the first king of Portugal, and began what is so nobly described as “its golden age as a home for the royalty.”  Royals are always noble, and castles and mythic saint/soldiers like St. George intimate friends.  It is a marriage made in hell.

    The Spaniard, Ignatius of Loyola, was a soldier seriously wounded in war at the age of thirty.  He subsequently underwent a religious conversion. He founded the Jesuit order eighteen years later and was sainted in 1556, sixty-six years after his death.  Having been educated by the Jesuits, I vividly recall the motto of my Jesuit high school that adorns the school seal, Deo et Patriae, a not so subtle reminder of how my priorities should be linked.  I have failed that test, just as I failed a freshman mathematics exam, probably because I couldn’t figure out what two plus two equaled, since I was reading Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground at the time and might have thought it was five because I believed I was free and not what Ignatius urged Jesuits to be – “as if a dead body” in obedience to the Pope.

    The so-called rational ones have brought the earth to the point of extinction with their instrumental rationality and their diseased souls.  We are living in the Crystal Palace that Dostoevsky so mocked long before the crystal turned digital. One plus zero may equal one in such a glass house, but such counting will not protect us from the whirlwind we have conjured from the smart man’s equation of E=mc

    Only a spiritual equivalent will save us, as James Douglass has so eloquently argued in his slim but powerful book, Lightning East to West: Jesus, Gandhi, and the Nuclear Age, where, taking up Gandhi’s suggestion, he argues that there is a spiritual equivalent to Einstein’s law of physical change that we must discover that will allow for a radical transformation of society and the world.  Douglass’s country is the world.

    I, however, am reminded of a very different Jesuit-trained American (one among many), who has passed the American indoctrination exam “admirably” and who has worked assiduously for God and country and followed that American motto of “In God We Trust” when he recently led the CIA in its holy wars under President Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner – John Brennan. Was his excuse he was just following orders, “as if a dead body”?

    I think the dead children in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and so many other places he helped to destroy would not buy that excuse. Yet Fordham University thought to honor him.  Is this what the Jesuit motto means: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem (for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity)?

    Has Fordham ever heard of the Nuremberg Trials?

    In the men’s room of St. George’s Castle, there is a wall dispenser selling M&Ms.  Imperialism and colonialism take many forms.

    It is hard to say what’s new since humanity’s savage history just rolls along.  The technology changes, but people do not. Spray paint is about 75 years old, about the same age as nuclear weapons, both products of WW II.  One leads to “Fuck the elites,” while the other says, “We are the elites and see what we can do to the Japanese.”

    War spurs technological development like nothing else, and as the brilliant French social thinker Paul Virilio has shown with his war model, “history progresses at the speed of its weapons systems.” Modern societies, with increased technological speed, the administration of fear (terror), and digital gadgetry, are engaged in a battle for people’s minds through technological perception management.  Virilio makes it clear, following on the work of his fellow countryman Jacques Ellul, that built into the technology is the “integral accident,” by which he means that every new technology creates its own potential “accident.”

    While most people welcome new technology because they have been conditioned to think only in scientific and positivistic terms, they fail to see the price to be paid.  The nuclear bomb, nicknamed “The Gadget” by its one-dimensional, sick scientific inventors, is an accident waiting to happen, unless human madness first leads to its intended use once again.

    Or unless we can first discover the spiritual power to eliminate what we have created.

    Now we have what Virilio calls the “information bomb,” the glut of information that overloads people’s ability to think clearly or to concentrate, but a boom to the elites who think they are in full control of people’s minds and the technology they promote.

    On the ramparts of Castelo De S. Jorge, the tourists snap photo after photo with their cell phones, failing to realize that these memories they are “shooting” from the heights where canons once shot the infidels, have imprisoned them in a dungeon as deep and dark as the one in the castle below their feet.

    Visiting castles, like so many trips into the past, can awaken one to the truth of human history or put one to sleep.  It is usually the latter.

    The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gassett, who lived here in Lisbon for a year after fleeing Franco’s Spain, said it best:

    The only genuine ideas are the ideas of the shipwrecked.  All the rest is rhetoric, farce.

    We are all shipwrecked now, not just the Portuguese sailors long lost at sea never to return to home despite the lament of the Fado singers.

    If we are to make this earth our home again, we had better learn to sing a different tune.  If not, we will be eliminated by accident or intent, and no one will be singing for our return.  It is a harsh truth, but quite simple.

    In the Foz district of Porto, Portugal on the Atlantic, in the park and on the beaches, children play and laugh and the music of their voices rises into the air to remind me that they are our hope on this dark and tempestuous sea on which we are shipwrecked, hoping to find our way home.

    Dostoevsky said it well: “The soul is healed by being with children.”

    Can we hear their voices, singing?

    Never Again: What about the Palestinians?

    concentration camp: a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc., especially any of the camps established by the Nazis prior to and during World War II for the confinement and persecution of prisoners.1

    The people seeking a new life in the United States are mainly an ethnic group commonly referred to as Latinos. Many of these migrants/asylum seekers are being fenced in detention centers with decidedly spartan conditions. Ergo, the affixation of the term concentration camp to the ICE detention centers seems unassailable according to dictionary definition. As to why Dictionary.com would inexplicably state “especially” Nazi camps is puzzling given that the Brits set up concentration camps during the Boer War at the end of the 19th century and the United States broke treaties and interred Indigenous peoples. In fact, many countries, Canada included, operated concentration camps contemporaneously with or prior to Nazi Germany.

    To argue about which camps are/were concentration camps and which camps are/were most horrible is nugatory. To be explicit, all concentration camps are an abomination, including the ICE detention centers filled with outside-the-US arrivals.

    On 18 July, the Real News’s Mark Steiner interviewed Molly Amster of Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) about “Jews across the country” organizing and protesting the detention of the people entering the US.

    That is commendable. Equally commendable are the other people who identify just as people and not a particular religious, gender, ethnic affiliation and who demonstrate and speak out against injustices.

    A fundamental principle of respect for human rights must be freedom of movement. National borders impinge on such a right. Everyone is a human being. For a nation to deny other human beings2 onto what it claims is its territory is fundamentally a rejection of the humanity of the Other; but more fundamentally, at its core, it is an overt denial of the rejecting nation’s own adherence to humanitarian principles.

    This video, though, hints at a possible wider ethnocentrism. One might wonder why identify as “Jews United for Justice” and not “People United for Justice” or on a national level as “Americans United for Justice”?

    At first blink, people concerned about the hideous treatment of those held in ICE detention centers will praise these Jews for their courage to protest. Because as one JUFJ protestor exhorts his cohort in the TRNN video, “We are calling on our people to put their bodies on the line to stop ICE.” (emphasis added)

    Our people? Does that mean other people, non-Jews, are not invited to join and “put their bodies on the line”? JUFJ informed me by email that non-Jews are welcome to join their organization.

    Never Again

    Absolutely, never again should one group of humans treat another group of humans inhumanely. Hence, anyone who identifies as a human and who believes in human rights should stand up for human rights applied to all humans.

    On the homepage of Jews United for Justice is a slogan: “THINK JEWISHLY. ACT LOCALLY.” What does “Think Jewishly” mean? Do Zionist Jews think Jewishly? Do the rabbis think Jewishly? Does Benjamin Netanyahu think Jewishly? Does Noam Chomsky think Jewishly? Why not “Think humanely?” It is quite clear in its meaning: think like a human by showing compassion for other humans.

    Rebecca Ennen of JUFJ replied:

    For us, ‘Think Jewishly’ means that we’re driven, individually and organizationally, by a variety of Jewish traditions, identities, values, and commitments, as diverse as the range of people in our community. We draw on those traditions and values to motivate our local action and we show up proudly as Jews and a Jewish community. Obviously, ‘thinking Jewishly’ means different things to different people and we welcome the creativity and vitality this brings. For some (non-exhaustive!) examples of the Jewish that motivate our community, see pages 5-6 of our 2018 strategic plan (https://jufj.org/strategic-plan/), co-created by our leaders.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with identifying with a group as long as the group one affiliates with does not discriminate against or denigrate out-group people, and as long as the in-group acts according to moral principles. The principles laid out in the strategic plan of JUFJ come across as well-intentioned.

    So JUFJ acts on principle by demonstrating against the ICE detentions of non-Americans.

    What about the Palestinians?

    I asked, “I know your slogan is ‘Think Jewishly. Act Locally,’ but has Jews United for Justice a stated position regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, especially in light of the ‘Never again’ (which I agree with) spoken at the demos against ICE detentions? If not, shouldn’t Jews United for Justice press the US government on this issue because it is deeply an American issue as well?”

    Ennen replied:

    JUFJ works at the local and state level in DC and Maryland on issues of racial, economic, and social justice. People in our community have a very wide range of views on the issues of Palestine and Israel, and many of our community members also take part in a wide range of other organizations that work on those issues.

    For me, Ennen completely skirted the occupation of Palestine issue. Among the Jewish Values listed on page 5 of the strategic plan is “Emancipation from Oppression.” The occupation of historical Palestine is rooted in racism towards the indigenous people of Palestine. Professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “Contempt for the Arab population is deeply rooted in Zionist thought.”3 Chomsky is also clear that one should above all agitate against the violence of one’s own state.4 However, JUFJ identify overtly as Jews and not as Americans. Acting locally seems to provide an out for JUFJ. But at the local level, the JUFJ could, for example, pledge support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, or oppose the US government’s embassy move to Jerusalem in violation of UNGA 181, or oppose the US billions of dollars going to support an apartheid state.

    Similar things happening

    Molly Amster of JUFJ seems unaware of the atrocities being committed against Palestinians by Jews. Amster said of the ICE raids, “But to see these things happening that we actually really never thought would happen again to another group of people, and seeing it be so similar — the messages of other, the messages of, you know, these are not only other, but not human.” (emphasis added)

    How can an otherwise informed Jew be unaware of state-sanctioned Jewish settler encroachment upon more and more Palestinian territory, destroying Palestinian agriculture, poisoning the water, etc.? About the illegal separation wall, much of it built on the Palestinian land? About the tens of thousands of Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel since 1967?5 About the intentional, indiscriminate killing of Palestinians?

    Conclusion

    These similar things have been happening ever since the drive to form a Jewish state in historical Palestine. By all means stand up and speak up for the humans arriving at the US border. But when Jews are mute about war crimes committed by a group that also identify as Jews, by a people living in the Jewish state, then it appears as if the good deeds performed under the same group affiliation serves as propagandistic and as a distraction from the occupation and horrific oppression heaped on the Other.

    If you are opposed to oppression, then the principled stand is to oppose all oppression; especially, one has a duty to oppose oppression carried out in the name of a group one chooses to affiliate with.

    1. Dictionary.com
    2. There are certainly grounds for keeping certain individuals outside a society such as a record of having committed dangerous crimes.
    3. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Pluto Press, 1999): 481.
    4. “My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences.” In Noam Chomsky, On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (South End Press, 1987).
    5. “Israel is the only government in the entire world that detains children through military courts with a near 100 percent conviction rate.” See Whitney Webb, “50,000 Palestinian Children Imprisoned by Israeli Kangaroo Courts Since 1967,” Mint Press News, 29 April 2019.