What’s in Trump’s “Deal of the Century”? The Answers are in Plain Sight

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much-delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 1990s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE: “He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE. “So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed. “If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 1990s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 1990s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said. “The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 1990s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled on those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE. “The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

• First published in Middle East Eye

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Dark Precedents: Matteo Salvini, the MV Tampa and Refugees

In August 2001, Australia’s dour Prime Minister John Howard demonstrated to the world what his country’s elite soldiers could do. Desperate, close to starvation and having been rescued at sea from the Palapa I in the Indian Ocean, refugees and asylum seekers on the Norwegian vessel, the MV Tampa, were greeted by the “crack” troops of the Special Air Services.

A bitter, politicised standoff ensued.  The Norwegian vessel had initially made its way to the Indonesian port of Merak, but then turned towards the Australian territory of Christmas Island.  Howard, being the political animal he was, had to concoct a crisis to distract.  The politics of fear had a better convertibility rate than the politics of hope.

Australian authorities rebuked and threatened the container ship’s captain, claiming that if Rinnan refused to change course from entering Australia’s territorial sea, he would be liable to prosecution for people smuggling.  The vessel was refused docking at Christmas Island.  As was remarked a few years later by Mary Crock in the Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, “The stand taken by Australia in August 2001 set a precedent that, if followed by other refugee receiving countries, could only worsen the already deplorable problems facing asylum seekers in the world today.”

And so it has transpired. Italy’s response to the migrant rescue ship, MV Aquarius, eerily evoked the Tampa and its captain’s plight.  The charity ship, carrying some 629 African refugees, found all Italian ports closed to it under the express orders of Matteo Salvini, who has debuted in stormy fashion as Italy’s new deputy prime minister and minister for the interior.

Salvini had, at first instance, pressed Malta to accept the human cargo, but only got an offer of assistance with air evacuations.  “The good God,” he bitterly surmised, “put Malta closer to Africa than Sicily.”  The result was initial diplomatic inertia, followed by growing humanitarian crisis, and a Spanish offer to accept the vessel.

The situation clearly, as it did in the case of the Tampa, was calculated for maximum political bruising.  One of Salvini’s many political hats is federal secretary of the populist Lega party, which capitalised, along with the Five Star Movement, on the shambles of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s failure to form a government in May.  The nature of that calculation was made clearer by the uneventful rescue of 937 refugees off the Libyan coast who were taken to Catania in Sicily by the Italian warship, the Diciotti on Tuesday. Little fuss arose from that engagement.

The target seemed to be the French-based non-governmental organisation SOS Méditerranée, who so happens to own the Aquarius.  The implication here is the Salvini camp are none too pleased with those rescue organisations they accuse of feeding a people smuggling racket.

Again, this very sentiment accords with Australia’s manic obsession in breaking what is termed by all major parties to be a “market model” that ignores humanity for profit.  In categorising such activity with an accountant’s sensibility, it becomes easier to dispose of the human subjects in a more cavalier manner.

The sentiments expressed by the newly emboldened Italian authorities do not merely speak volumes to a change of heart which, given the boatloads of irregular arrivals in the wake of Libya’s collapse in 2011, was bound to happen.  They point to a disintegration of a common front regarding the rescue and processing of asylum seekers and refugees, a general fracturing of the European approach to a problem that has been all too disparate in responses.

Over the last few years, the number of arrivals fell but this has been occasioned by patchwork interventions by such countries as Greece, which has in its place a questionable agreement with Ankara to keep a lid on arrivals from Syria. Italy has much the same with Libya, courtesy of a 2017 memorandum of understanding hammered out by Marco Minniti ostensibly in the field of security and cooperation to stem illegal immigration.  Salvini lay, in due course, in not-so-quiet incubation, becoming a vocal representative of a front suspicious of intentions in Brussels and northern European states.

Righteous France, fuming at Italy’s conduct, has done its bit to keep pathways to its territory with Italy shut.  Ditto Austria.  Other states such as Spain and Malta have preferred indifference, leading to the assertion by Salvini that his country has become the “refugee camp of Europe”.

For the interior minister, the Australian “stop the boats” mantra is something like a godsend, a note of clarity in the humanitarian murkiness.  He has also admired the firm-fisted approach of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who supplied Salvini with ample electoral ammunition on the refugee crisis in Europe, not to mention those bleeding, yet stingy hearts in Brussels.

The Tampa platform has become something of an inspiration to a range of European politicians, be it Germany’s Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer, and Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, not to mention Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.  They form a collective of hardening irritables who are taking the issue of regulating refugees away from the centralised assumptions of the EU polity.

The Italian government’s plans on the issue of irregular migration refocus interest in evaluating asylum applications in countries of origin or transit, stemming migrant flows at external borders, targeting international trafficking utilising the assistance of other EU states, and establishing (Australian politicians would delight in this) detention centres in all of Italy’s 20 regions. The standout feature here is abolishing the Dublin Regulation obliging countries on the border of the EU – and in this, Italy is most prone – to host arrivals.

Had the warnings and urgings of the previous Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni been heeded, notably on the sharing of the housing and processing burdens across other countries, the spectacle of a rebuffed Aquarius may well have been averted.  EU complicity in this debacle is unquestionable and it is not merely refugees who need rescuing, but the European Project itself, which will require a Good Samaritan to storm in with vision and purpose.  To save one may well save the other.

Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice

What are the political implications of meeting the established human right for everyone to enjoy an adequate standard of living? In short, it necessitates a redistribution of wealth and resources on an unprecedented scale, which is why activists should resurrect the United Nations’ radical vision for achieving Article 25. 

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most translated and celebrated documents in the world, marking its 70th anniversary this year. But relatively few people are aware of the significance of its 25th Article, which proclaims the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living—including food, housing, healthcare, social services and basic financial security. As our campaign group Share The World’s Resources (STWR) has long proposed, it is high time that activists for global justice reclaim the vision that is spelled out in those few simple sentences. For in order to implement Article 25 into a set of binding, enforceable obligations through domestic and international laws, the implications are potentially revolutionary.

Since the Universal Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, the United Nations never promised to do anything more than “promote” and “encourage respect for” human rights, without explicit legal force. The Universal Declaration may form part of so-called binding customary international law, laying out a value-based framework that can be used to exert moral pressure on governments who violate any of its articles. But in the past 70 years, no government has seriously attempted to adapt its behaviour in line with the Declaration’s far-reaching requirements.

While civil and political rights have enjoyed an increasing degree of implementation throughout the world, the historical record on economic and social rights is far less sanguine. This is forcefully illustrated by the UN’s current Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston. In his first report submitted to the Human Rights Council, he argued that economic and social rights are marginalised in most contexts, without proper legal recognition and accountability mechanisms in place. Indeed, he even questioned the extent to which States treat them as human rights at all, and not just desirable long-term goals.

Even many of the States that enjoy the world’s highest living standards have disregarded proposals to recognise these rights in legislative or constitutional form. Most of all, the United States has persistently rejected the idea that economic and social rights are full-fledged human rights, in the sense of “rights” that might be amenable to any method of enforcement. It is the only developed country to insist that, in effect, its government has no obligation to safeguard the rights of citizens to jobs, housing, education and an adequate standard of living.

In their defence, governments may point out the historical progress made in reducing extreme poverty across the world, which has generally been achieved without adopting a strategy based on the full recognition of economic and social rights. But the extent to which these rights remain unmet for millions of people today is unconscionable from any kind of moral perspective. Consider that more than 60 percent of the world population struggles to live on less than $5 per day, an amount which the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has considered the minimum daily income which could reasonably be regarded as fulfilling the right to “a standard of living adequate for… health and well-being”, as stipulated in Article 25.

The International Labour Organisation of the United Nations also estimates that only 27 percent of people worldwide have access to comprehensive social security systems, despite almost every government recognising the fundamental right to social security, as also enshrined in Article 25. The fact that many thousands of people continue to die each day from poverty-related causes, while the number of chronically undernourished people increases once again, is an affront to the very idea that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living.

Even in the most affluent nations, millions of people lack access to the financial system, struggle to pay for food or utilities and die prematurely. Across the European Union, for example, one in four people are experiencing income poverty, severe material deprivation and/or social exclusion. There is no country which has secured fundamental socioeconomic rights for the entire population, including the generous welfare states of Scandinavia that are also being gradually eroded by market-driven policies.

Such facts demonstrate how far we have strayed from realising the modest aspiration expressed in Article 25. The challenge is well recognised by civil society groups that advocate for a new direction in economic policymaking, beginning with a reversal of the austerity measures that are now expected to affect nearly 80 percent of the global population within a couple of years.

Rendering Article 25 into a truly “indivisible”, “inalienable” and “universal” human right would also mean, inter alia, reforming unfair tax policies that undermine the capacity of countries to invest in universal social protection systems. It would mean rolling back the wave of commercialisation that is increasingly entering the health sector and other essential public services, with extremely negative consequences for human wellbeing. It would also demand regulatory oversight to hold the out-of-control finance sector to account, as well as domestic legislative action in support of a living wage and core labour rights.

In short, implementing Article 25 would call for a redistribution of wealth, power and income on an unprecedented scale within and between every society, in contradistinction to the prevailing economic ideology of our time—an ideology that falsely views economic and social rights as inimical to “wealth creation”, “economic growth” and “international competitiveness”.

This only serves to underline the enormous political implications of achieving Article 25. For it is clear that rich countries prefer to extract wealth from the global South, rather than share their wealth in any meaningful way through a redistribution of resources. Yet we know the resources are available, if government priorities are fundamentally reoriented towards safeguarding the basic needs of all peoples everywhere.

To be sure, just a fraction of the amount spent on a recent US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, estimated at over $110 billion, would be enough to lift everyone above the extreme poverty line as defined by the World Bank. If concerted action was taken by the international community to phase out tax havens and prevent tax dodging by large corporations, then developing countries could recover trillions of dollars each year for human rights protection and spending on public services.

Fulfilling the common people’s dream of “freedom from fear and want”, therefore, is not about merely upscaling aid as a form of charity; it is about the kind of systemic transformations that are necessary for everyone to enjoy dignified lives in more equal societies with economic justice.

These are just some of the reasons why the human rights of Article 25, however simply worded and unassuming, hold the potential to revolutionise the unfair structures and rules of our unequal world. Because if those rights are vociferously advocated by enough of the world’s people, there is no estimating the political transformations that would unfold. That is why STWR calls on global activists to jointly herald Article 25 through massive and continual demonstrations in all countries, as set out in our flagship publication.

The UN Charter famously invokes “We the Peoples”, but it is up to us to resurrect the UN’s founding ideal of promoting social progress and better standards of life for everyone in the world. It is high time we seized upon Article 25 and reclaimed its stipulations as “a law of the will of the people”, until governments finally begin to take seriously the full realisation of their pledge set forth in the Universal Declaration.

Author’s Note:  A longer version of this article with references is available at www.sharing.org

State of the Climate: It’s Alarming!

Stuart Scott of Climate Matters.TV recently interviewed Dr. Peter Wadhams, emeritus professor, Polar Ocean Physics, Cambridge University and author of the acclaimed highly recommended: A Farewell To Ice (Oxford University Press, 2017).

In response to the question “what’s your assessment of the state of the climate,” Dr. Wadhams replied:

Well, first of all, what I see is an acceleration of global warming because, for instance, the rate of rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is unprecedented. Not only are we not reducing emissions to the point where CO2 is stabilized, but the CO2 level is rising exponentially; it’s going faster than its ever gone before… and then there’s the extreme weather events, which certainly have hit people in Europe….

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) concern about CO2 is decisive:

Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.

One hundred times anything is big.

That is an unprecedented rate of growth with profound and nasty negative consequences for temperature, climate, ecosystems, and species on land and in the oceans, nothing good. In fact, it could unexpectedly turn ugly to an extreme; a dour fact few people want to face. Further to that point, nobody believes the worst case, but that’s why society is always blindsided by catastrophes.

Significantly, and extremely important for the optics of climate change, the commencement/start of disastrous climate change happens where nobody lives (nobody sees it), for example, the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland, Himalayan glaciers (headwaters for major rivers), Andes’s glaciers (headwaters for major rivers), the oceans, Patagonia. Nobody lives where climate change is most pronounced and clearly evident. Hence and therefore, it is difficult for people to accept, realize, and deal with the impending danger hidden away from society, until it is too late.

Essentially, the million-dollar question therefore is whether this unparalleled occurrence of abnormally rapid CO2 growth, on steroids, triggers tipping points of significant unstoppable catastrophic events that ravage the biosphere. Regrettably, there are no backups; there’s only one biosphere!

For sure, paleoclimatic history is filled with examples of horrific consequences. After all, there have already been five major extinction events. We are the sixth; it’s just a matter of time.

The first five extinctions: (1) Ordovician 444 million years ago (“mya”), 86% species gone; (2) Devonian 375 mya, 75% species lost; (3) Permian, 251 mya, 96% species lost; (4) Triassic, 200 mya, 80% species lost; (5) Cretaceous, 66 mya, 76% species lost; (6) Today — unknown so far, except for unlucky insects.

Already, extinction-type numbers of 40% to 90% losses have hit insect abundance throughout the world (maybe chemicals at work), which is extremely concerning as insects do well without humans but humans don’t survive without insects. This one fact alone is a big-time wake-up call, like Fright Night on Elm Street.

Still, in light of the unprecedented rapid rate of CO2, as of today, nobody has experienced the likely outcome. Thus, a new era of climate change is commencing with uncertain consequences but horrid telltale signals extend far and wide.

Firstly, it’s important to distinguish the significant impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as a heat-trapping GHG, as for example, the paleoclimate record of millions of years ago shows CO2 at 400 ppm (parts per million) temps 5° to 10° warmer than today and sea level 75 feet higher than today. Whereas, in stark contrast to that scenario, 20,000 years ago CO2 was at 200 ppm, and sea level was 400 feet lower. It was the last Ice Age, the late Pleistocene Epoch.1

It wasn’t until a decade ago that science first discovered methodologies to effectively look back 20 million years to see the paleoclimate record, as reported in a paper by Aradhna Tripati, UCLA dept. of Earth and Space Sciences:

During the Middle Miocene (the time period approximately 14 to 20 million years ago), carbon dioxide levels were sustained at about 400 parts per million, which is about where we are today. Globally, temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, a huge amount.2

Clearly, when CO2 is too high, similar to today at 410 ppm (Mauna Loa data), temps go up followed by rising sea levels. Conversely, when CO2 is too low, everything freezes up.

All of which begs the question of why CO2 at 410 ppm today doesn’t bring on sea level rise 75 feet higher, similar to the event in the paleoclimate record. In point of fact, it might do that, in time, but the answer as of today has everything to do with the exponential rate of CO2 growth versus a much slower rate of CO2 growth millennia ago. Today’s exponential rapid increase within only 200-years is a flash of geologic time.  As such, temps need time to catch up with the rapid rate of CO2 growth. Therefore, a latency effect is at work, which implies an ominous darkness, very dark indeed, hovering over the future.

According to Dr. James Hansen:

The rate of human-made change of atmospheric CO2 amount is now several orders of magnitude greater than slow geological changes.3

Furthermore, supposing there are lingering doubts about the direct relationship between excessive amounts of atmospheric CO2 and global warming, Venus’s atmosphere is 95% CO2; temperature is 872°F, enough to melt lead. Case closed!

Today’s temperatures are a function of yesteryear’s CO2. Therefore, future temperature rise is haunted by the buildup of today’s CO2, as it emits into the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates, now at 3 ppm per annum versus only 1 ppm per annum only 45 years ago. CO2 emissions are “hell-bent for leather” ever since the Great Acceleration post WWII hit the biosphere like a bolt of lighting, putting human footprint boldly onto nature’s course for the first time ever. Nowadays, it’s a “human-derived climate,” plain and simple.

The negative consequences are far-reaching but start in regions of the planet where nobody lives, nobody sees or hears or senses, for example:

(1) Disappearance of Arctic ice is hugely negative for weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere (already happening), as well as threatening to kick into gear runaway global warming as methane hydrates frozen over eons gets released, heating up the planet, thus burning off agriculture;

(2) Arctic warming feedback amplifies additional rapid melting of Greenland, which has already “knocked the socks off” climate scientists when its entire surface turning to slush for the first time in geologic history;

(3) The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is starting to disintegrate with three massive ice shelf collapses since 1995, including a trillion ton iceberg, a dangerous tipping point already at hand; as such, Miami Beach raises streets by 2-3 feet.

(4) Coral reefs are collapsing, especially the Great Barrier Reef (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World) losing one-half its coral in 2016-17 due to global warming; the reef is home to thousands of species;

(5) Thermohaline (ocean circulation patterns) are slowing, endangering Europe with loss of its remarkably temperate climate.

(6) Release of marine methane hydrates (20-xs more powerful than CO2), especially in the shallow East Siberian Arctic Sea threatens the start of runaway global warming (RGW), whacking global crops; already U.S./Soviet joint expeditions discovered one-half-mile-wide zones of methane bubbling to surface spewing into the atmosphere;

(7) Depletion of ocean oxygen and the most rapid acidification in millennia, threatening the base of the marine food chain;

(8) Back-to-back-to-back (three) serious droughts hit the Amazon rainforest, the planet’s lungs, within only a few years; this is unprecedented and extraordinarily dangerous for multiple surrounding ecosystems. Global warming redirects rainfall away.

(9) Northern Hemispheric permafrost melting rampantly and deadly dangerous, as it now competes with human-caused GHG emissions, which was scientifically measured for two years in Alaska. This is an absolute “first” and suggestive of a major tipping point reversing from a massive carbon sink into a massive carbon emitter in competition with human CO2 emissions.

Those samplings of active tipping points have either gone over the edge or close to it. But once amplified over the top, no turning back, hands-free disaster, no more anthropogenic influence required for negative consequences, inevitably leading to big trouble.

Meanwhile, opinions of climate scientists run the gamut from belief that humanity is (a) on death’s doorstep, within a decade at most, as the ice-free Arctic exposes massive methane (CH4) stored in ice hydrates, triggering massive global warming, decimating agriculture, upending the planet into a dystopian world of infighting over essential food and water or (b) dangerous tipping points will be deferred well into the current century; so not to worry as human ingenuity will prevail over time or (c) climate deniers  totally discount anthropogenic global warming; humanity’s fate is in God’s hands and/or, in the hands of charlatan politicians, “guiding lights to nowhere” other than dystopia, assuredly guaranteed.

Essentially, nobody accepts, or wants to believe, worst case scenarios such as an extinction event, even though early warning signs of impending extinction are wide open for all to see, assuming they look in the right places, but nobody lives where the red warning lights and bells and whistles and loud sirens blare other than an occasional expeditionary scientist, who is belittled, humiliated, and badgered by America’s current political ruling class.

The idiom “Nero fiddles as Rome burns” arises anew, with an exclamation point.

Postscript:

The world is going to experience global warming, and until we see its bad side I am afraid we are not going to do what we need to do.

— Wally Broecker, Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, accredited with coining the term “global warming” based upon a 1975 paper “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”

  1. NASA.
  2. Stuart Wolpert, “Last Time Carbon Dioxide Levels Were This High: 15 Million Years Ago”, Scientists Report, UCLA News, October 8, 2009.
  3. James E. Hansen, “Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change”, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute, NY, 2011.

Herd-Mediocrity and The Meta-Narrative of Bourgeois-Capitalism

The Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is committed to mediocrity. In fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism celebrates it. Everywhere the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism reigns supreme, mediocrity follows, due to the fact mediocrity is the order and the criterion of any type of hierarchy founded on the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Indeed, as Nietzsche states, under such rubric “one and all [is] adjusted…to the most dubious mediocrity”.1, as the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism concerns itself, foremost, with the propagation, the celebration, and the production of mediocrity, in and across, the stratums of everyday life and socio-economic existence. The reason is due the fact that mediocrity is most profitable and the most obdurate socio-economic substance any socio-economic formation or narrative can fashion for itself.  Meaning, mediocrity increases capitalist profit and the chances of duration, longevity, and resilience, pertaining to any ruling power.

Mediocrity is a congealed, unyielding, mass of citizens, intolerant to social change, novelty and liberty in the sense that mediocrity wants its own suppression, enslavement, and homogenization, which any ruling power can readily accommodate easily. Mediocrity is a herd, according to Nietzsche:

It is a bulbous mass stringently against [differences] of all kinds. [That is,] conservative…par excellence, slow to adopt, reluctant to let go, and [highly] enduring in the midst of …tremendous change and mixture of elements. Mediocrity [is]… consolidated and solidified [around a grounding] truth. [Its herd is always mediocre and solid.2

In this regard, for Nietzsche, herd-mediocrity is “inertia…[where] the middle… is considered the highest and most valuable”3 in the sense that this middle-of-the-road “herd mentality is forever directed towards stand still and [its] preservation”.4 And, due to this fact, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is dead-set on manufacturing, maintaining, and celebrating mediocrity of all types and kinds in its attempt to preserve and profit from its totalitarian supremacy.

Moreover, mediocrity of all types and kinds is where capital accumulates in the greatest number, as mediocrity is the dictatorial center, the average median and middle, which houses the greatest number of generic people, thus, the greatest sum of potential capital; i.e., surplus value. Mediocrity is profitable. It is the most generic and the most average; therefore, mediocrity, atop of being obdurate and unyielding to any type of change, is also the biggest reservoir of untapped capitalist profit, hence, the increasing emphasis and focus by bourgeois-state-capitalism, on averages, medians, and generic middles etc., that is, the dictatorship of the middle and/or the dictatorship of mediocrity. For example:

In its effort to maximize profit and its supremacy, the logic of capitalism ever-increasingly propels itself towards the lowest common denominator, [in search of maximum profit], where capital, authority and legitimacy is most robust, concentrated and abundant, namely where the majority resides. This means that all types of commodities are increasingly trite, pointless, disposable and/or identical. Whether politically and/or economically, all commodities are increasingly purged of substance, rareness, spirit and/or individuality so as to mimic the average stereotypes of the median majority. The lowest common denominator, located in the most basic average general median, is the most profitable, the most powerful and the most fixed position with the parameters of [bourgeois-state-capitalism].5

Consequently, mediocrity is the most inflexible form and profitable form the general-population can be fashioned into. And, this is exactly what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, which is imprinted upon all the stratums of everyday life, does and/or attempts to do, at all times and in all spaces in and across of the capitalist-system. As a result, mediocrity personified, exterminates heterogeneity, plurality, and diversity, through maudlin, sappy, popular tastes and generic ways of life, which, in fanatic fashion hunt, trap, and asphyxiate, all that is truly different, novel, heterogeneous, plural and post-modern. The goal of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is to produce, disseminate, and propagate, endless rounds, stops and starts, of fashionable mediocrity; i.e., profitable mediocrity, which can again breed ever-new rounds of profitable mediocrity, ad nauseam.

Profitability breeds profitability. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. And, mediocrity can only see, believe, and understand its own kind, namely, universal mediocrity as “herd-[mediocrity] seeks [only] to preserve one type…itself”6, and more importantly, it “hates those who detach themselves [from it]…[and thus it] turns the hatred of the all…against them”.7 Therefore, mediocrity only celebrates its own kind in a sort of lame over-excessive jubilation, such is what the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism does, or attempts to do, through its omnipresent spectacle, showered onto the general-population and the art-world. The point is to captivate and manufacture herd-mediocrity long enough in order to siphon capitalist profits out of this herd-mediocrity, all the while placing these capitalist profits into the hands of a state-finance-corporate-aristocracy.

Consequently, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism “presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than ‘that which appears is good [and] that which is good, appears”.8 This omnipresent positivity is then channeled into capitalist consumption whereupon commodities connected to the herd-majority, and a sense of belonging to this herd-majority, are designed to embody this omnipresent positivity, which is manufactured by the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism through its controlling media-outlets, star-personalities and incessant, bourgeois-propaganda.  Hence, the primary reason why the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism has to be smashed, deconstructed, and fragmented beyond recognition since the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism endlessly promotes mediocrity ad nauseam, namely, a type of bourgeois-capitalism mediocrity, which ultimately, stifles innovation, creativity, plurality, heterogeneity and the flourishing of post-modernism. Namely, the progress, plurality and diversity stemming from all the independent micro-narratives interweaving the island-pockets of post-modernity, dotting the capitalist-system.

According to Nietzsche, meta-narratives lack verity and grounding truth. They are imposed onto the world so as to make sense of it, a meta-narrative “decides the character of appearance, [namely] reality”.9 However, for Nietzsche, there is “no limit to ways in which the world can be interpreted”10, because as Nietzsche states, “underneath it all…there is no grand unity…[all] is perspectival appearance, whose origin lies in us. To this extent…the denial of …a truthful world, [or] being, is…the only way of thinking”.11 The reason is due to the fact any meta-narrative lacks universal validity in the sense that any meta-narrative is an illusory manifestation of the will to power in its attempt to establish and impose its own despotic dominion on the world.

According to Nietzsche, “it is our needs that interpret the world…[that is] our lust to rule”12, which imposes meaning and sense onto the world. And, out of this will to power, meta-narratives like the Enlightenment and bourgeois-capitalism have developed and encroached upon western civilizations in a authoritarian manner. They have been utilized to build despotic dominions, both conceptual and material, pertaining to how the general-population thinks and acts within society.  Without meta-narratives, according to Nietzsche:

An infinite plurality of perspectives [awaits]…[as] there are not facts, [or truths, to hold us]. Everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive [and a matter of] our opinion. What man things is nothing but what he himself has imported into them… [via his or her] will to power.13

In effect, for Nietzsche, plurality, flux, incommensurability, and partial incomprehensibility is the underlying human condition in the sense that humans can never possess a complete comprehension and mastery over reality, phenomena and/or situations. They understand only partially from the finite limits of their positional perspectives, which are forever fleeting, due to the inherent flux and existential anarchy of existence. All that meta-narratives do is impose a one-dimensional interpretation on events and phenomena, impeding plurality, heterogeneity, and the flourishing of post-modernism so as to flatter a totalitarian point of view, that is, an arbitrary/artificial meta-narrative designed to monopolize interpretation, power and knowledge.

For Nietzsche, such overarching perspectives, like the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, are designed to cultivate converts, namely, a herd of followers. Meta-narratives, like bourgeois-capitalism, require converts; i.e., believers, in order to establish their despotic dominion over reality. As a result, these converts are forced to exercise a certain level of self-denial and deception, on others and themselves, in order to manifest the plausibility and effect of truth, pertaining to the illusory universal verity of the ruling meta-narrative, in this case, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

For Nietzsche, any “truth is…the consequence of an illusion”10, derived from its particular perspective; i.e., narrative, and believers must learn to deny their internal disbelief and impose the “artificially built chimera”14, both on themselves and others, which in essence, is all that a meta-narrative is, namely, a chimera. That is, a perspective arbitrarily and artificially imposed and applied to the world and reality, which is inherently without universal verity, other than, “as a tool of power [exercised by] the will to power”.15 Subsequently, the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is but an arbitrary/artificial conglomeration of wills to power, forming one giant will to power, designed to despotically impose an arbitrary/artificial order on the variability of phenomena, reality and socio-economic existence, devoid of any verity other than the accumulation and monopolization of power in the hands of a select few.

Moreover, according to Nietzsche, “for every age and every new type of [society] …new truths…[new] delusions,…new values”16 are enunciated, for which the general-population must learn to abide by and accept as timeless verities. It is in this regard that the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism transforms the general-population into an obedient, docile, herd-mediocrity, reflecting its bogus verities and baseless beliefs. Initially, “the program of [bourgeois-capitalist] Enlightenment…was the disenchantment of the world; the dissolution of myths and the substitution of knowledge for fancy. [Yet] knowledge, which is power, knows no obstacles [and has resulted] in the enslavement of men [and] compliance with the world’s rulers”.17 As a result, the Enlightenment, through its meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, cunningly continues to exercise totalitarian control and domination over mankind, which is forced to increasingly accept and internalize a false, one-dimensional, abbreviated world-view imposed upon it. Herd-mediocrity is a product of this imposition and enslavement.

Indeed, once established, according to Nietzsche, “the herd…consolidates its mediocrity and always goes against everything new and exceptional. The power of the herd [and its] institutions,…[is meant to] grind the unique into uniformity and turn it into herd”.18 Herd-mediocrity is the essential substance and reason for the longevity of bourgeois-capitalism and its ever-accumulating profits. It provides the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy of bourgeois-capitalism with a bottomless reservoir of available and exploitable, capitalist profits while simultaneously providing the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism with an endless procession of religious, capitalist converts, ready to sing its praises. It is in this regard that, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, “in service of the present age, [the] Enlightenment [has] become [the] wholesale deception of the masses”.19 Through its cherished meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the Enlightenment turns “the evolution of the machine…into…the machinery of domination…[wherefore] technical and social tendencies, [now] interwoven, converge in the total schematization of men”.20 And, the end result is mediocrity, profitable-mediocrity, the most treasured output of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, that is, herd-mediocrity.

The meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism is a machine, an ideational comprehensive framework, both material and conceptual, where all questions, problems and/or situations have their black and white answers/interpretations, yes and no procedures, where, all social-ills have their easy-fix solutions and scapegoats. And once, ingrained and programmed into the general-population, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism wreaks havoc in and across the everyday life of the workforce/population, grinding it down into an ironclad herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, which can only serve capitalist profitability and bourgeois-capitalism-authority, all the while leaving the workforce/population confused, dumbfounded, brainwashed and/or socially embittered.

Notwithstanding, the consolidated red-thread weaving this herd uniformity, mentality, and mediocrity, is the red-thread of the Enlightenment, that is, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, whose underlying “prime directive is forever to maximize the accumulation and extraction of …capital, by any means necessary…as soon as possible”.21 Consequently, herd-mediocrity is the primary product of the red-thread, that is, bourgeois-capitalism, not the other way around. In fact, without the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, the herd becomes post-modern, plural, poly-rational, and fully heterogeneous, devoid of bourgeois sensibilities, tastes and/or any overarching bourgeois status quo. When post-modernism reaches its nth degree, post-modernism will as well reach the pinnacle of its development, maturity, diversity, plurality and heterogeneity, which can only mean the total deconstruction of bourgeois-capitalism. Without the red-thread of bourgeois-capitalism, total insurrection, and the realization of full-fledge post-modernism, pure, simple, and unadulterated, devoid of any overarching authority and/or unified logic, other than, the poly-logic of multiplicity, plurality, heterogeneity, and pragmatic egalitarianism, whereupon all decision-making-authority is shared in relative equal measure.

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols, Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1990) p. 75.
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 461.
  3. Ibid, p. 159.
  4. Ibid, p. 162.
  5. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016).
  6. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 161-162.
  7. Ibid, p. 157.
  8. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983) p. 12.
  9. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) p. 149.
  10. Ibid, p. 326.
  11. Ibid, pp. 13-15.
  12. Ibid, pp. 267-269.
  13. Ibid, pp. 327-328.
  14. Ibid, p. 302.
  15. Ibid, p. 266-267.
  16. Ibid, pp. 461-462.
  17. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) pp. 3-4.
  18. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967) pp. 461-462.
  19. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 2000) p. 42.
  20. Ibid, p. 35.
  21. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural- Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016.).

PSYWAR and Cultural Rights

Are you sure you’re still American?

Well, of course, you’re not some patriotic sucker welling up or jumping up for cheesy Pavlovian cues of ersatz self-worth and belonging, like anthems or flags. Let’s just say you wound up on this land mass under US government control. What’s so American about that?

You can outlive your state-imposed identity. It’s always been that way. Back in the last dark ages, at some point, the peoples of the Mosel-Saar confluence ceased to be Romans and turned into Burghers of Trier. No one noticed at the time. Decades after Augusta Treverorum dropped back behind the frontier into Germany or Gaul, usurpers and invaders would say and do Roman-sounding things to seem legit, provincial swells would speak in paratactic pidgin Latin to show off. No one knew yet what they had become. Eventually, though, it dawns on you: Guntchram Boso has invaded your home and taken you hostage, the King just set your house on fire to free you, and you see that life has overwhelmed the Roman niceties of your thought. Gregory of Tours may chronicle it in his stilted Latin, but you know you’re not a Roman anymore.

We’re encouraged to ruminate about The Spirit of America, but it’s really quite cut-and-dried. Back in 1951 CIA PSYWAR apparatchiks roped in DoD’s freewheeling propagandists and set up a committee to create American culture once and for all. They wrote the Ur-text of American values, that timeless affirmation of American freedom, PSB D-33/2. They classified it secret so you would think you thought it up yourself. A lone sane misfit on the committee asked, “How [can] a government interpose with a wide doctrinal system of its own without taking on the color of totalitarianism?” Then, suspecting that the nuances of rhetorical questions might escape our cultural nomenklatura, he gave them the answer: “That is just about as totalitarian as one can get.” Cultural containment was to counter the threat of your human right to freedom of expression.

So are you sure you’re still American? Oh sure, people still plaster flags inexplicably here and there. The war machine still has its hooks in you, officials of its police state menace you, extracting tax for more and more weapons you don’t want. You may even know people who repeat what they’re told by NPR, or read state organs like the New York Times or Post, or quote TV. But the ground is insensibly shifting beneath your feet.

State-sanctioned discourse obsesses about the fitness of individuals for high office while shying from the institutional impunity that guarantees state crime. The US government sinks to late-Roman depths of predation on the powerless, and falls into the dynamic that Tacitus first noted: as the state becomes more arbitrary and sadistic, factional struggle intensifies – the stakes rise because winners can destroy the losers. Our latest petty civil war pits partisans of CIA’s anointed figurehead Clinton against the mafiya-backed interloper Trump, a minor money-launderer for CIA. And what’s it got to do with you? The no-holds-barred conflict plays out in a civic vacuum: Which industries will hijack crucial functions of the state for gain? That’s the only thing at issue. In response, we seek identities that make us more than victims of a kleptocratic state. The human right of self-determination has come home.

Now again, just as it happened anciently, the outside world is breaking in. The President of the European Union came out and said it: “At this point, we have to replace the United States.” But gradual change is even harder to discern when the onslaught from without is not violent barbarism but civilization and peace. Your country shares a common standard for achievement with the rest of the world. In the customary international law of the UDHR, which is US state and federal common law, everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community. Your community includes the outside world. Everyone wants you to enjoy your rights, especially state enemies Russia, China, and Iran – everyone but the US government currently in power. Your human rights would be the death of this regime.

This is no obscure historic process. It’s the outside world’s law. In law the US government has forfeited its sovereignty with crimes against humanity and peace, invoking the world’s Responsibility to Protect or “R2P.” The international community must curb US government incitement of grave crimes. Their first recourse is Pillar 2: encourage, build capacity, assist – despite what you might have heard here behind the Iron Curtain, R2P isn’t all about dropping bombs. Assistance comes from all quarters: from development agencies, cooperative diplomacy of UN member nations, regional treaty parties, or the public worldwide. Developed regions help less-developed countries like our own. Intergovernmental bodies work with domestic human rights defenders at confidential or public suasion, education, or training. They must restore the things the US government has ruined: “rule of law, a competent and independent judiciary… human rights, robust civil society, an independent press and a political culture that favors tolerance, dialogue and mobility over the rigidities and injustices of identity politics.”1 The outside world will renew and propagate basic civic skills such as mediation, dialogue, dispute resolution, and development without predation. All have atrophied under US state repression. This is no extraordinary effort. Governments go off the rails all the time, and the world knows what to do.

Your government senses this assistance as an existential threat and attacks it ferociously as fake news, foreign interference, propaganda, even aggression. That is the origin of this panicked state and corporate censorship. But the queasy confusion of this atavistic state blinds it to much of what is happening. Human rights do not fit recognized rituals of state-sanctioned party politics, so they escape official public notice. Human rights advocates invisibly undermine repressive US ideology.

Human rights education is the law: US state and federal common law, UDHR Article 26(2). The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has instituted an educational program. The dominant class in the US learns it, as they must, to function in the wider world, from the International Baccalaureate (IB) or elite institutions.2 Universities and non-governmental organizations propagate it independently. In the ‘New Planet’ exercise, grade school students skip the institutional rote of traditional civics and apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, constituting new nations for themselves. The American Friends Service Committee in Washington, DC teaches human rights to local youth and turns them loose on Congress to exercise those rights, eliciting highly educational blank looks from the legislature that ratified them.

International civil society promotes human rights education directly. Human rights tribunals teach a new politics: public indictment of state derelictions by human rights chapter and verse. In Philadelphia, local officials and activists from the human rights hotbed Penn worked with a UN special rapporteur to expose government abuses. In Arizona two local organizations, Puente Human Rights Movement and the Border Network for Human Rights, conducted a tribunal in Phoenix under the auspices of the US Human Rights Network. The tribunals applied formal training in human rights. They showed how we can go over the government’s head to the wider world. Citizens learned how to supplant futile four-year electoral cycles with different and more efficacious cycles: expert international review in terms of comprehensive world-class standards for state performance. Instead of trusting US statist propaganda, we work from documented fact.3

Certain segments of US society are particularly sensitive to the outside world’s engagement. Local and especially provincial society is not so brainwashed with US statist dogma. International NGOs work with the public to infiltrate human rights standards from below. The bottom-up “power building” of the National Economic and Social Rights Inititiative (NESRI) renews concerns traditionally confined to stereotyped factions like labor and the left. NESRI grounds longstanding popular demands in world-standard legal guarantees. Local activists work with municipal officials to write human rights into law. The People’s Decade of Human Rights Education (PDHRE) an international organization, lets the public learn by doing, by establishing human rights cities. In the US, the effect is to propagate human rights in a decentralized manner that circumvents central government suppression. The US Human Rights Network links these cities domestically. PDHRE integrates them worldwide. UPR-INFO draws domestic civil society into the concerted international pressure of the Universal Periodic Review. New connections based on human rights standards moderate US isolation and counter state indoctrination. Citizens teach governments human rights and rule of law.

Black advocacy draws on the internationalist history of W.E.B. Dubois, William Patterson, and the We Charge Genocide indictment, as well as the collaborative human rights advocacy of Martin King and Malcolm X. With those traditions Ajamu Baraka seeded two organizations, the US Human Rights Network and the Black Alliance for Peace. The US Human Rights Network draws the public into the international review process of human rights treaty bodies, charter bodies, and special procedures. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) undercuts nationalist manipulation and isolation with international solidarity. BAP attacks US statist culture at its root, opposing diversion of our resources from economic rights to instruments of state repression. BAP poses the most subversive question: Why you have to pay to get your teeth fixed, but you get fighter jets and cops in tanks for free.

Indigenous peoples have autonomy, national identity, and influential human rights defenders in UN special procedures. The poor have developed a culture of grit and ingenuity to survive repression. Where these strengths intersect, Cheri Honkala has assembled a subversive force. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) confounds political stereotypes. They want more than narrow technocratic benefits or programs. They want the comprehensive standards of human rights law. The campaign asserts our human right to food and housing with housing takeovers, food distribution, and urban farming. It complements cheeky public assembly of Clintonvilles and fart-ins with economic-predation truth commissions on African and Latin American models. With negligible financial resources and under corrupt and arbitrary police harassment, PPEHRC hosted a US tributary of the World Social Forum on American Street, Philadelphia’s most downtrodden slum. The World Social Forum is a conduit of unconstrained civil innovation from around the world, an invasive species of political action based on solidarity and human rights.

The Green Party plays a unique role in publicizing these movements. The Greens ran Ralph Nader, who defined the overarching threat of globalization as “subordination of human rights… to the imperatives of global trade and investment.” Jill Stein, Nader’s successor, has become an impresario of human rights advocacy, giving Honkala and Baraka a public platform to expose state suppression and attacks on domestic human rights. In world-standard human rights, Greens offer an alternative to US electoral rituals of inbuilt futility.

The two state-sanctioned parties highlight the Green’s non-electoral results with their confused denunciation. Democrats attack the Greens as spoilers, and in the same breath deride their negligible share of the vote. With gingerly racist xenophobia, Democrats attempted to defuse the subversive import of Baraka’s human rights platform by labeling him solely with the focus-grouped byword ‘weird.’ Democrats charge treachery when Greens join Republicans in litigating electoral manipulation that is domestic, not Russian, and provable, not fabricated. In panic over looming electoral failure, both parties corruptly restrict Green access to the ballot and arrest Greens when they show up to debate.

By straying from the two official party cattle chutes, Greens expose the Democrats’ role in absorbing, dissipating, and forcibly suppressing real reform. By showcasing human rights defenders, Greens perform an educational role. With mischievous public solidarity in international forums, Stein twits statist Red-scare hysteria. The spectacle confounds party loyalists who dimly sense that getting elected has nothing to do with Green subversion. It suggests the unthinkable: that there’s more to civil society than rigged electoral politics. The Green vice-presidential candidates have organizations independent of any party. After the electoral burlesque their supporters get back to work, implementing human rights.

When it all takes hold, what then? What have we become? The overreaching US state is undermined by internationalism from above and below. State-imposed American culture is superseded by a new culture built on human rights and rule of law. No more passive rooting for periodic electoral pageants. Instead, our four-year cycles revolve around independent review of US state duties.

No more taking one of two permitted sides, Dem or GOP, and being force-fed with their predetermined platform. Instead of having party platforms crammed down your throat, you can feed testimony of state derelictions directly into binding recommendations. Unlike the US duopoly parties, human rights review procedures want to know what you think. Treaty bodies and charter bodies actively incorporate our grievances into their public shaming of the state. The US Human Rights Network, formally incorporated into UN consultation procedures, acts as a liaison. In 2014 local US activists worked with the Human Rights Committee to pin down government evasions, feeding panel experts damning information on trial-and-error use of poisons for lethal injection. In a tightening series of inescapable public questions, US citizens confronted state sadism more directly than ever before. US activists worked hand-in-glove with the Committee Against Torture to expose criminalization of the homeless, effectively voiding inhuman and degrading local laws. Citizens’ input to human rights review exposed US psychological torture of dissidents with solitary confinement, and compelled reforms. The Sentencing Project bypassed toothless US anti-discrimination law and held the government to world standards in the most public forum on earth.

No more tolerance for partisan finger-pointing. Instead, the state as a whole stands or falls by the same legal standards regardless of the faction in power. Instead of joining autocratic state-controlled parties, we form organizations of our own to disgrace the government’s failures in front of the whole world. We bring this mechanism home as a National Human Rights Institution, and expert international oversight keeps it free of government subversion. We take this mechanism in hand with ad hoc public tribunals and truth commissions backed by international experts and institutions.

No more government propaganda siccing us like trained dogs on an endless succession of ridiculous enemies. Instead we pursue our own rights and freedoms as we choose. Or we rally round other human victims of overreaching states. Palestinians against their occupiers? Syrians against their foreign-backed invaders? Latin Americans against US government coups? Okinawans and Koreans against their US military occupation? Maybe all of these and more. We decide as human rights defenders based on our own understanding of human rights and rule of law. In turn the population of the world unites with us against the violent kleptocrats in power, demanding all our rights. No more central government preemption of our rights. Instead, our core human rights, written into law in our own town. We see to it ourselves with the whole world looking on.

Yet human rights can only be the skeleton of a culture. There’s much more to cultures that develop organically over time. The government tries to reduce cultural rights to non-discrimination. But free cultural development is acknowledged in Article 1 of the ICESCR, one of the core human rights covenants that the government withholds from us.

CIA hijacked your culture long ago. They published a thousand books. In accord with the classified American values of PSB D-33/2 they set up a front called the Congress for Cultural Freedom. They paid off American PEN. They infiltrated spooks into The Kenyon Review and The Partisan Review and bought up the copies that we didn’t want. George Plimpton promoted the eye-glazing ritual war of football as a spindle-shanked figure of fun, and with the Partisan Review he browbeat you into pretending to like books full of boring navel-gazing pap. Lots of little complicated Henry James emotions, that’s the ticket. Or else some sensory impressions arranged just so in that stolid stupid Hemingway monotone drone. The Partisan Review published seminal Eric Auerbach work on realism – but only the chapter on passive observers Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert, not the one on Zola, because CIA realism stops short of people resolving to get rid of the bosses. CIA drilled soporific interiority into handpicked eggheads at Iowa and subsidiary academic bureaus, taking great care to avoid ideas or anything about the world. Because if you think wrong, you might become a radical or commie.

It wasn’t just a matter of picking favorites. The State Department pulled Melville and Thoreau off its shelves at US Information Agency showcases worldwide – the American renaissance turned out to be too Bolshy. Active suppression of unauthorized culture fell to J. Edgar Hoover, chief of CIA’s secret police. FBI cultural policemen persecuted lots of dissidents: Norman Mailer, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright, Dashiel Hammett, Lilian Hellman. They even spied on their exemplary harmless bore, Hemingway. In the epitome of selfless public service, the man immortalized by Nixon’s affectionate epithet as that old cocksucker went so far as to interdict publication of Spartacus, chilling the film’s gayest scenes along with its beefy pinko slaves.

They ruined everything. Admit it, you too have been tricked into standing in front of the large paintings of Jackson Pollack, that bad draftsman and boisterous drunk, anointed by CIA because he couldn’t draw socialist workers. Or sitting still for all those stupid movies they rewrote. One must have a heart of stone to watch the cinematic death of Todd Beamer without laughing. “Let’s roll!” he cries, as the doomed frequent flyers roll a lunch cart presumably stocked with tasty rolls. Face it, you got your most revered cultural touchstones from nun-rapers, torturers, drug-smugglers, assassins, and the pimps who raided Boys Town to blackmail perverted VIPs. CIA knuckle-draggers taught you everything you know.4

CIA’s persistent problem was that these sensitive imaginative types tend to be loose cannons. Wealthy zoomer Robert Lowell wouldn’t fight in World War II and wrote oblique disarmament Samizdat5 to stay out of trouble. When horny masher Arthur Koestler got locked up by fascists, surmising where the CIA money is he wrote about communists doing it to him instead. We got Darkness at Noon. Did CIA make him put in all that cloying Jesusy treacle? Maybe it went to his head. The poor lamb fell from favor by writing one too many books, to wit, The Thirteenth Tribe, when he pointed out that Zionism appeals to a pseudo-nation who are Yehudi only in the elastic sense in which we’re all more or less Irish when it’s time to get drunk on Saint Paddy’s day. Mutatis mutandis, Hadassah is fake ethnicity like the Knights of Columbus, only instead of cheap drinks at the sodality bar, the main club perk is you get to exterminate indigenous Palestinians. Even when their writers were securely on the take, CIA struggled to squelch stray insights of that sort.

ICCPR Article 19 mandates the artistic and investigative freedom needed for cultures to develop. It is a breach of our cultural rights when communities or peoples balk at war and commercial predation, and the government brutalizes them into reverting. The light touch of snobbery was seen to be unsuitable when the public at large started to think for themselves. The counterculture arose spontaneously when US state authorities and doctrines discredited themselves. The state mobilized to crush that efflorescence. The government forthrightly massacred dissident students at Kent State and Jackson State. More discreetly, the government undertook to associate political causes with drugs and criminalize the drugs. The government made intricate attempts to infiltrate counterculture and divert its peace demands to quietist passivity or off-putting satanic misbehavior. The government killed Martin King and Malcolm X to repress their shared human-rights aspirations as its informers displaced African Liberation Day6 with the fake African mumbo-jumbo of Kwanzaa. CIA poisoned popular culture when it threatened to escape state control. Contemporary observers saw it clearly, but the government human-rights blackout ensured they didn’t know their cultural rights.7

When we start again, thinking for ourselves, what will our culture be? No one will emit excruciating verse like “fiery spear-shaft of American song,” that’s for sure.8 We don’t know what our culture is. We’ve never been free of US state violence and fear. We can’t know what it’s like without indoctrination and state-censored dogma. We’ve never had education to promote full development of the human personality, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and peace, as the law requires. We’ve never lived in a state that will not torture you or kill you if you don’t watch what you say. All we can expect is less regimentation and more variety, in a country where livelihoods and means of life are ours by right, when we’re not made to scrabble or crawl or contend for them. When we’re not forced to propitiate a jury-rigged predator economy or starve, we’ll do what’s important to us. Who knows what that will be? It will be better than now, that’s all we know.

When all that has begun to happen, then you’re not an American any more. Congratulations, you’re a human. You’ve got all your human rights.

  1. Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, (A/63/677), p. 20.
  2. Finally, some Glasnost for us. After decades of awkward silence when you could educate yourself to the teeth and never hear the words “human rights,” students can now actually study them at respectable institutions including Barnard, Trinity College or Chicago. That makes it harder for CIA to puff up your patriotic self-importance with “American studies,” or soften you up for Zionist genocide with “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
  3. As human rights defenders we’ll go directly to the facts that CIA’s captive media screen from us: treaty body documents, charter body recommendations, and the proceedings from which they are drawn.
  4. Movies, books, art, history, philosophy, religion, you name it, CIA fingered all your food for thought. Saunders, Bennett, and Greg Barnhisel documented how CIA bureaucrats taint your culture.
  5. Lowell lacked Anna Akhmatova’s brass ovaries, but Joe McCarthy was easy to outsmart.
  6. The All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party celebrated African Liberation Day in Chicago, Oakland, Washington, Orlando, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Brooklyn, and Atlanta with 16 other cities worldwide and nobody here knew it but the spies in the fusion centers.
  7. The full scope of your cultural rights are interpreted by ECOSOC General Comment 21, by a special procedure of the Human Rights Council, and by UNESCO.
  8. One of CIA’s Iowa cutouts penned that.