Category Archives: History

They Keep Saying: “Hope is the Only Thing Left”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care. Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

— Derrick Jensen, essay, “Beyond Hope

Life Measured in Gold

What is a life worth in this poisoned pen world of American deception? I have been scouring the depths of this culture for decades, 4.5 to be exact, looking for signs of hope, dredging the bowels of a country that has never been what so many today believe it was/is/will be. Ever.

I also balked for 4.5 decades at the silliness of Americans who hands down (70 percent) give the US Military Killing Machine the highest marks of all humanity coming out of the intestines of this genocidal country. These high school football games now have flyovers from attack jets and commandos from helicopters. Big fat tears for the mercenaries, and oh how this is normalized behavior.

Pretty soon, the camo and drones will be at your favorite daycare center recruiting.

Get this shit about America, ending this 2017, with Trump and friends as the new Kamikazes (all politicians and corporations love what Trump is and how he got there) pushing the national agenda for the more than just simple daft American consumer – offended by kneeling . . . getting a refund:

And if legislation from Indiana State Representative Milo Smith passes, the Colts would be required to offer those fans who feel disrespected refunds if Colts players kneel during the national anthem of home games, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”

You have to wonder if the refund includes all taxes paid since this country is run by economic hit men, buggering the people believing in government of, for, by, with the people, so called representational democracy? How many cents on the dollar go to US Military Inc. and the Little Eichmann’s running the complex that is guns-punishment-armaments-high tech tools of enslavement? Is it fifty-five out of every buck? Sixty cents? Do the extractive thugs with their massive externalities paid for by you and me and the rest of the world, is that tax refundable? Up to what, 70 cents of every dollar paid to Uncle Sam’s Killing Machine?

How many of those dollars will get refunded? All those offshore untaxable accounts? We getting refunds on that big fat kneeling of the millionaires/billionaires? Think I can cash it all in because I am offended by the high crimes insulter that is the Mafia Donald Trump for putting his knee into our proverbial groin and up against our children’s children’s proverbial necks?

I am reminded of other people’s writing looking at the blasphemy of a happy new year, let’s hope 2018 is better:

Those in power love it when we hold on to our fake optimism year after year, instead of revolting against these worn out celebrations. They love it when they see millions of mindless consumers storming stores to buy and consume more shiny and glittering gifts, as if they are genuine signs of loving and caring for each other. They love it when we keep quiet and do business as usual while “hoping for a better new year.”

An Angel in Every Household

This Wish for an Angel bullshit is America, all cuddly with Disneyland pudge, all teary-eyed flatulence when the old millionaire hands out Big Macs to the swollen masses who are homeless and dying.

In any case, there are a few bright spots for me coming into this next stage of the electrical storm, 2018 Surveillance-Punishment-Alternative Reality US/White race (sic): a teller (soon to be extinct professional) at my local bank gets it about Facebook and Zio-Zuckerberg selling us all out; and she cancelled her Page, and she understands the surveillance society she is now in, as a 28-something Latina in White-White Portland. She has plans to circumvent the reality of the controllers to her own reality.

Then there’s my buddy who is 64, Jim, and who’s worldly, playing Texas Hold ‘em in several small towns along the Columbia River and making money under the table while collecting social security checks and talking about the history of Switzerland, he’s really happy that his taxes in Washington (where he has 75 acres and a home next to my 20 raw acres) are doing what they should: providing roads, public services, fire control, all the necessary bureaucracy to keep people going and to deliver vital services.

The bright hope is that many significant people in my life knowing they are not living/working/existing in their own house, as my African-American friends say every time we face the hell of incorrigible bosses who berate and pencil-push us into corners at whichever job we find ourselves in. There are people running staffing agencies in my life who try and try to make the lives of their temps more tolerable, and try to hike up hourly wages and act as go-betweens between the employee (temporary) and the outfit bosses, typically as ugly as a Jeff Bezos fulfillment (sic) center, also known as a dead-end hell hole (for the lack of livable wages and the redneck drill sergeant supervision).

Uber fascist, Jeff, forcing journalists to not be, err, real journalists —

Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, has instituted a new policy with regard to employees’ social media behavior… a new social-media policy at the Washington Post prohibits conduct on social media that “adversely affects Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.”

In such cases, Post management reserves the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”

His paper’s new social-media policy specifically lists the following among the types of communications which are now prohibited:

Disparaging the products and services of The Post’s advertisers, subscribers, competitors, business partners or vendors.

Ahh, this perniciousness will engulf all corporations’ policies. Imagine, a journalist who can’t “disparage” things, people, corporations, ideas, products, services. The Age of Bizarre turn into the Age of Dumb and Dumber. The devil’s in the details, and I predict in 2018 Mr. Bezos will be positioning himself to run for POTUS soon — more devils in the White House:

See the source image

See the source image

Will Anyone Really Care in a Hundred Years if There is No Amazon (forest)?

I am attempting to be cogent here coming into 2018, trying to make the deadline for this DV end-of-the-year piece so its fine editor (here, Dissident Voice, going on 17 years or more as a radical news source) can scramble and get pieces ready for that artificial tick of the clockwork. My lamentation is that as each day in 2018 unfolds, the powers will make it more difficult to even launch anything small and terse and dissident like this blog. Imagine doing all this work for free, and the question is when the lights go out because of Verizon and ATT and Comcast, all these great pieces and ideas, more than a decades’ worth, thousands, whoosh, vanished into the digital thin air.

Which brings me to my hook here, one that I will be returning to in other pieces coming up in the year of the dog. I am taking issue with this laborious and loud lament usually stated by non-working class elites, or quasi-elites –

“Well, in a hundred years, what will our great-great grandchildren think how we left the world? In a hundred years, the people will be asking, ‘What the hell was that generation thinking doing/allowing/creating/destroying/ promoting/justifying . . . THAT?”

The “that,” conveniently, is a fill-in-the-blank answer, but the reality is there is no hundred years from now species of man/woman/child/they/it, or archetype of an American who would even have the context or knowledge to ask anything of the sort. The fact is we are on a pathway to completely damaged people, a neo-species of sick, psychologically dented, ethically demented, drawn and quartered spirits, people, youth and old, tied to the giant 24/7 15-minutes of attention on a million stories cycled into the next and the next 15 minutes. Trivial and shallowness, recycled, meaningless, cult of the famous-infamous, proud to know the football scores and the murderers and NYSE’s predictions for another year of gluttony.

People also held by gut diseases, by vaccine injuries, by persistent organic chemicals eating at their mitochondria, their DNA, or the off-gassing grossness in every corner of their lives, cesspools called ponds, eddies of slurry called rivers, black lagoons and gyrating garbage patches as beaches, clear-cut forests, oh, so inundated cities, half water logged.

Do we think in a hundred years there will be memory, human memory, as the kingpins of punishment and debt collude to turn everyone as obsolete. The horror, the horror, Kurtz might say in the Heart of Darkness, not about the white princes of the British Isle, but pointed at the masters of the economics of this universe, those three men owning the wealth of a 150 million, and those thirty titans of obsolescence and greed and exploitation toppling wealth of nations, more in those 30 men’s wallets than 3.5 billion of us collectively.

There will be no teenager in 2080 asking, “Man, what were you thinking killing the great barrier reef?” No millennial in 2100 admonishing, “How could they have allowed every single waking and sleeping and breathing moment be to surveilled by Big Brother Corporation-Government?”

No activists in 2100 running around the country with their big banner drops off the top of buildings stating, “Our grandparents are responsible for the oceans rising, the end of civilization, and my chronic and genetic illness!”

There Will Be Blood and We Do Need those Stinkin’ Badges

This is the same soft-shoe soft-headed thinking that runs Hollywood and Madison Avenue, that ensconces in the hallways of schools and colleges. There is no future world of dystopia and endless rot where a new generation a century from now, or even a few radicals or dissidents, will be admonishing past generations.

What they will have will be how they think. Acceptance is the gulag, now or in a century. Acceptance now is 11 million babies dying a year of treatable diseases. The accepting masses young and old today are here watching mountains explode and insects going extinct and oceans emptying out and accepting the infinite death ray of flat screens and Netflix-HBO-Amazon-20th Century Fox. Entertaining ourselves now into stupidity, and back to the superficiality that so many Americans have that causes them to think they are smart.

It ain’t gonna happen, generations in the future catching on, lamenting, knowing, and admonishing and understanding what each season brings in this madness of pre-post-retrofitting industrialization into the hyper madness of drones-artificial people/intelligence/ecologies/relationships/thinking.

Jeff Bezos and Musk and Google offspring and Zuckerberg zygotes will be the ruling classes of information flow, the arbiters of history found, kept and scrubbed. This is the time of the carnival, the sideshow, the blaring idiot Trump genuflecting to the waitresses and the go-go dancers while his effete sidekicks like Zio-Christian Pence take it all with the glee of televangelists hiding kiddie porn and their rhinestone g-strings.

The spectacle is our own downfall, the spiraling vortex of more and more aberrations turning into regular, every day, every minute events. The homeless wandering, bused from city to city; floating islands of crap, zfor the jobless to pick through; the obsolete, more and more people coughing up spare kidneys, letting the grand illusionists pull skin off of them for the $500 ready in hand entertainment, fun.

There are bigger and more horrific things than the barbarity of the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades or the Nazi pogroms of experimentation with the mammals in their concentration camps. We are now in full-throttle Mengele mode, where each cell in us, the deplorables, the 90 percent, or 80, is bought and sold by the corporatists, the disrupting economists, the evil twins of racism and inequity. Segregation now is based on zip code, decay, urban rot, and the evils of war and profits so lovingly embraced by the elites here and the majority in a place like Israel are quickly transformed into the divide and conquer the rich are so deftly able to promulgate each week, each 24/7 million rip-off deals a day.

Mad-Mad-Mad World of Ad Men

Here, let me explain: It’s the power of marketing the lies of capitalism, of prompting the psychological warfare of USA exceptionalism, of inciting the us against them-isms of a modern age now, teaching the lesser of evils throughout a person’s lifetime that warps memory and erases not only history but humanity. And, unfortunately, what I call the shifting baseline syndrome allows what is happening now, today, to be normalized, and valorized.

Pissing in a cup during a job interview? Sheriff’s deputies protecting repo men and women? Banks getting away with foreclosing on not only homes, but lives? What baseline do I go by? In my time, the cops had no right to ask what was in my glove compartment or trunk on a traffic stop. In my day, people tried stopping someone jumping off a bridge instead of calling 911, after whipping out Smartphones videotaping it and then saying, ‘Jump . . . jump’ right before the selfie.

In my day and age, there was a modicum of interest in learning about ecosystems and how to protect wetlands, mangroves, grasslands, deltas, riparian areas, mountain tops.

In my day and age a healthy reef in the Sea of Cortes was dozens of moray eels and turtles and a hundred fish species by the thousands in one 50 minute dive (scuba) piloted by dolphins and sharks.

In my day, there were reliable journalists – mostly print, sometimes small-town journalists (I was one) – who could tell you about a topic like zoning for a new stadium on many levels, from many perspectives for hours on end!

I won’t even get into details around how pathetically ruined Homo Sapiens will be coming out of this America’s womb in fifty years – chronic illness is now hitting 50 percent of the population, but put that at 90 percent in 20 years, and half of the population will have several chronic illnesses. What’s it going to look like in 80 years?

Count that as auto-immune issues out the rooftop, attention deficit issues, constant brain fog and arterial clogging, aches and autism, abnormal blood draws and diabetes, General Anxiety Disorders and fear of thy neighbor, and a bloody mix of bacteria loads, gut ailments, paranoia, and fear of one’s own shadow. Day to day, the surveillance state ramps up, and the poverty level increases, the one-credit card voucher away from being homeless pervades, digital and computer fatigue sets in, automation and artificial intelligence overtake human relations, and the list goes on and on, so it is hilarious to think there is some Cormac McCarthy world of people wandering the earth looking for that one spit of land or some mossy forest where goblins and fairies will bring back the good old days, a time of human humanity!

The Truths Are in the Eyes of the Billionaires

You’ve got Trump saying, err, tweeting, “Bring on the Global Warming, man, with all this snow in Erie, Pennsylvania, ha-ha-ha,” and you have Purdue University president Mitch Daniels calling those of us who question glyphosate and Golden Rice as immoral:

The attack on GMO technology is the most blatant anti-science of the age. But it’s far worse than that. Lives are at stake, and while scientists, regulators, and business people are naturally reluctant to fight back, it’s morally irresponsible not to.

Daily, in 2018, the fight will be with those who have been brainwashed into thinking mandatory vaccines are legal and ethical, and that anti-GMO activists are loony, and that our food as produced by the chemical industry is more than safe.  Here, the power of those multi-billionaires and the chemical purveyors on planet earth will be tested:

Report on, the food-health nexus!

The World Bank and United Nations funded 900 scientists over three years in order to create an International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Its conclusions were diametrically opposed, at both philosophical and practical levels, to those espoused by Bill Gates and clearly state that the use of GM crops is not a meaningful solution to the complex situation of world hunger.

Changing Seed and Plant Variety Protection Laws in
Tanzania—Implications for Farmer Managed Seed Systems and Smallholder Farmers

Monsanto Weed-killer Roundup Causes Cancer, California Says

European Union (EU) recently determined that it will renew glyphosate for another five years —a shorter renewal than it could have been, but not ideal when what we really wanted was a rejection of the license renewal altogether.For over two years, this vote was delayed as member states debated whether or not glyphosate is a carcinogen. The World  Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) designated glyphosate a probable carcinogen in March 2015, a decision that IARC has continued to defend despite attacks from industry interests on multiple fronts (including from members of the U.S. House of Representatives).

The grand illusion is each community, each unique people’s we might imagine in the future will be covered in more than a trail of tears to the tenth power. More than slaves to debt and confusion, and commerce will be exacting punishment for being a being. More pain than what befell the first nations people, all those abused scoundrels, the immigrants – European illegals coming into a land that was once a nation of people and tribes. This recessive gene pool gave birth to the abused and abuser on a very special scale. This grand deception called America Great Again is more than the PT Barnum scam of credit and debt, land theft, gilded syphilitic ones determining the number of bellies bloated and brains blown away.

The very premise of these 50 states and territories, this country shitting on Puerto Rico while oligarchs and kleptomaniacs stuff billions inside the cadavers of their enemies, isn’t even the real shame.

The reality is Americans are bamboozled into believing they are god’s second chosen people, that the entire mess of this hyper-military society is somehow legitimate, a god-send to the other continents.

I have faced down the scourge and scrooge that is capitalism, credentialism, credit scores, and what one has to demonstrates his or her credence in society – status, money, power and say, and voice. I have failed in 60 years, and turning 61 in the Year of the Dog just militates my points of abject failure of my own voice having any weight.

The reality of who is and who isn’t an outlier forever is determined by how much scratch one accumulates, and how much limelight is shined upon him or her and the weight of digital ink expended.

I have listened to people say my position of precarity is all tied to the gravity of the decisions I’ve made throughout my pittance of a life. Every single decision I have made have put me behind the proverbial eight ball – healthy, both of mind and body, but underemployed, under-developed, under-realized, and precarious: one broken leg from poverty, one motorcycle accident away from institutionalization, or one verbal altercation with a cop from being dead on arrival.

Big Sugar Daddy in the Sky

More and more people are looking at the big daddy in the sky excuse, as if the bad one faces, and the deadly unraveling of one’s life are predestined, ordained a billion big bangs ago, controlled by the drone operator in the sky, the boss, head honcho of heaven.

The talk of the world now is mishmash of billionaire and millionaire sputtering illusions and delusions of grandeur. We have the multi-millionaire Obama interviewed by the ultra multi-millionaire Prince Harry and the world goes a shudder:

Barack Obama Expertly Snubbed Trump in Prince Harry Interview: The prince also couldn’t resist asking the former president some rapid-fire questions about cigarettes, celebrities, sports, and Suits.

We can’t talk about social justice anymore, or talk about the social contract, or the deadly poisoned well that is capitalism. We can’t talk about what might be better, a whole set of better ways to be humane and human, or how socialism and anarchy and humanism and communitarianism and collectiveness might hold some key to sanity and salvation for ones worthy of saving in our hurtling 8 billion human inhumane world.

Worth, value, integrity, something deeper inside the soul than transactional thinking, or this comedy of errors we call American politics. The news is not fit to print, and the Hollywood and Madison Avenue worlds are not real, yet dominate the axiom of perception being THE reality, the show that counts.

Ode to Hope

Oceanic dawn
at the center
of my life,
waves like grapes,
the sky’s solitude,
you fill me
and flood
the complete sea,
the undiminished sky,
tempo
and space,
sea foam’s white
battalions,
the orange earth,
the sun’s
fiery waist
in agony,
so many
gifts and talents,
birds soaring into their dreams,
and the sea, the sea,
suspended
aroma,
chorus of rich, resonant salt,
and meanwhile,
we men,
touch the water,
struggling,
and hoping,
we touch the sea,
hoping.

And the waves tell the firm coast:
‘Everything will be fulfilled.’

— Pablo Neruda

Even Some Rich Know They Are Filthy Rich! 

Celebrity culture, and the cult of money. The destructive nature of capitalism married to Zionism and commerce and automation and digitization is hardly recognized in the very nature of a Jeff Bezos, working hand in hand with CIA, killing the book industry, this purveyor monopoly and headmaster of the watchtower shadowing individualism and uniqueness.

The spoils of the monsters of money will be a handsome extra $1 trillion for 2017. These Storm-troopers of Capital are so filthy and filthy rich that some of their tribe even plead for taxation, plead for the lot of them to give it away. Even in the world of superficiality, sports, the head honcho of one team is lambasting his filthy and illegal gains:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked why he thinks it’s important to give back to the community: “Because we’re rich as hell and we don’t need it all, and other people need it. Then, you’re an asshole- if you don’t give it. Pretty simple.”

It has nothing to do with the democrats losing the election. It’s got to do with the way one individual conducts himself. And that’s embarrassing, it’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he’s in a game show, and everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people and our country. Every time he talks about those things, that’s just a ruse. That’s disingenuous, cynical and fake.

Or, how about:

Federal prosecutors have requested records related to a $285 million loan that Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner’s family real estate company one month before Election Day, the company confirmed this week.

The records were sought by prosecutors in Brooklyn and do not appear related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

A Kushner Cos. spokeswoman said that the firm is cooperating in the review of what it called a “routine” transaction.

Fourteen $ an Hour and the Trumps Laugh All the Way to Bedlam 

Here’s a job announcement, for Portland, Oregon, one I am qualified to perform beyond simple basic skills and experience. This is for $14 an hour!! This is what I have always pointed out in my articles that all big ideas and concepts can be tied to the microcosm — this job for hip, up and coming, California dreaming Portland, Oregon, with a housing crisis, homeless crisis and drug abuse crisis. Get it? A non-profit seeking someone with a master’s, helping disabled people get on their feet, the entire suite of services, and it’s FOURTEEN dollars an hour! In my day and age . . . .!!!

1) An understanding of workforce development programs, policies, and initiatives
2) An understanding of the process by which individuals:
a) define career goals,
b) prepare for, find and retain employment,
and c) build skills for career advancement
3) An understanding of labor market resources and how to access them
4) An understanding of the special employment needs of diverse groups and the ability to make appropriate adaptations to address these needs
5) An ability to both provide and facilitate good customer service
6) An ability to develop and track program outcomes and task analysis
7) An understanding of basic computer technology used in job development

Some Major Responsibilities Include:

• Work side-by-side with a newly placed customer at a job site
• Analyze the job, and break into manageable components
• Identify and solve problems before they become crises for the customer, employer or co-worker
• Teach effective job retaining skills
• Use the least intrusive methods possible on the job
• Gradually reduce the time spent at the job site as the customer becomes better adjusted and more independent • Work closely with local school district

Qualifications: • 1) EOP Training, and 2) APSE (or ARCE) Certification or DHS approved equivalent (can be completed within 6 months of hire)

• At least 1 year of experience working with individuals who experience disability
• At least 1 year of experience working or educated in a specific field that includes supervisory and/or training duties and/or marketing and/or sales
• First Aid certification
• Pass a criminal history background check
• Approved driving record
• Self-motivated, self-directed
• Proficient communication skills, written and oral (i.e., interpersonal skills)
• Ability to work in collaboration with TCP staff, local and state agencies, and businesses

Oh, so, let’s get back to that 100 years down the line, when most people will be unemployed, in clinics as harvest factories, or at-home care facilities, organs harvested, and each blink of the eye counted as a tax. How those Bezos sort of people love killing us with their disruptive technologies of obsolescence:

McKinsey counted more than 70 entire professions in which at least 90% of activities can be automated, ranging from mail clerks to ophthalmic lab technicians, tire-repairers, butchers, food preparers and bakers.

But many Americans don’t think they need to adapt, with 80% saying their job definitely or probably will exist in its current form in 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We often think about automation as applying to front-line, low-wage, low-skill activities and jobs — and what we’ve discovered is there are some activities that are high-wage, high-skill that are actually very susceptible to automation,” said Michael Chui, a McKinsey Global Institute partner in San Francisco who studies the issue. “Almost every job in the economy has a significant percentage of activities that can be automated.”

The professional service robot industry expects to sell a third more units from 2016 through 2019 — 333,200 in all — than it sold in the past 17 years, says the International Federation of Robotics. They could be used in place of professionals, whether it’s medicine, agriculture, hospitality or even the supermarket down the street.

Consider: —Restaurant workers. In fast-food, San Francisco-based Momentum Machines already makes a hamburger-flipping robot. Several chains are gradually introducing self-ordering stations.

Shelf stockers. In stores, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics has developed a robot that is checking shelf inventory in a test at Lowe’s, the home-improvement chain.

Journalists. Automated Insights has created a software suite called WordSmith that writes thousands of automated stories every month, including Minor League Baseball game accounts and earnings reports for the Associated Press, basketball game recaps for Yahoo! Sports and financial content for dozens of other clients.

Bookkeepers. Accountants — perceived as a steady 9-to-5 job with an average salary of $67,190 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — are poised for a total makeover. About one in five people in the finance and insurance sector primarily perform data processing — and about 85% of that work can be automated, McKinsey estimates

Love as Antidote?

Enough said about the coming year, the coming decade, this century. Automatons, and disease. Am I supposed to end the year, 2017, with hope, with something?

Try this out for size:

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

— L.R. Knost

Sex, Drugs and Rollickin’ Roles: Christmas and Our Ever-Changing Relationship with Nature

​​Traditions of the Winter Solstice

Christmas is an ancient feast that has many positive associations for people around the world. While the bible places the birth of Christ in Bethlehem it does not say when, but by the 4th century the Churches in the East were celebrating it on January 6 and the Churches of the West on December 25.

One thing is certain about Christmas is that it is rooted in many traditions and superstitions relating to nature that existed long before Christmas and many have continued in one form or another to the present day. The many strands of Christmas can be seen in the variety of different traditions associated with, or originating in, places all over Europe. These strands are, inter alia, the solstice, the Nativity, Saturnalia, Yuletide, St Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz).

The association of Christmas with its earlier midwinter nature worship traditions declined as the Church exerted its power and authority over pagan practices and in more recent centuries as the industrial revolution took people away from the land and into the cities and factories. Since then industrialisation has taken over many aspects of people’s lives as they shifted from being producers to consumers.

As direct contact with nature declined and scientific knowledge was applied to production, our lives were made easier by an abundance of relatively cheap goods and food. These benefits have come at another price though as industrialisation and technology the world over pushes nature further and further into ecological crises. There is much discussion and debate about the potential for a tipping point as the destruction of ecosystems and climate change move headlong towards irreversible damage of the Earth’s biosphere.

This has come about, partly due to our alienation from nature, but also due to a system which blinds us to the excesses of production through mass media, and Christmas has become the vehicle for the worst excesses of industrialisation, commercialisation and commodification. However, this is a gross distortion of its roots in respecting nature and nature worship which was ultimately about a heightened awareness of survival in an unpredictable world.

Sex

The predominant figure of Christmas has become Santa Claus (Dutch: Sinter Klaas) and originated in the stories around St Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra (Turkey), giving anonymous gifts to help people in need or trouble.1 In many European regions St Nicholas came door to door with a bishop’s mitre and crosier on his feast day, December 6. He was accompanied by his helper Ruprecht or Krampus as he is known in the Alpine regions. Krampus is depicted as half goat and half demon and punished misbehaving children with a rod.

Krampus

It is believed that Krampus derives from the much earlier pre-Christian Norse mythology and that he was the son of the god of the underworld Hel. While the name Krampus is believed to originate from Krampen meaning ‘claw’, Ruprecht is believed to be from “Hruodperaht” meaning “gloriously shining one” another name of Wotan. Their negative status is likely the result of Christian attempts to assert dominance over the pagan peoples of the time, in the same way that the Celtic goddess Bridget was demoted by the Christian church to St Bridget. Krampus is an evil fertility demon who scares children (reversing his earlier role as fertility god) with his hazel wood rod:

The hazelnut was holy to Donar, the God of marital and animal fertility. The hazel wood rod was considered a great rod of life. With this symbol of the penis, women and animals were beaten “with gusto” in order for them to become fertile.2

This fertility rite has continued to the present day on Easter Mondays in the Czech Republic when young women are whipped with a braided rod of willow called a pomlázka to “assure womankind with good health, fresh look and keep fertility. The girls then give coloured or painted eggs to boys and men as a sign of their thanks and forgiveness.”

Pomlázka

During the 12th century the church tried to end the Krampus celebrations but it seems that, like with many popular traditions, they re-surfaced and were re-integrated back into church traditions. Unlike the ‘demonised’ Krampus, the Christian St Nicholas distributed typical gifts of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, spices and toys.3 These gifts were also symbols of fertility. Hazelnuts helped people survive winter as they could be easily stored and were rich in fats and vitamins. Apples were associated with the Tree of Paradise and dried fruits such as oranges and lemons served as fertility symbols in the Mediterranean countries as they were the first fruit of the year and thus herald a good harvest.4

Drugs

Another major association of Norse mythology with Christmas is the reindeer pulling the Santa’s sleigh. The first mention of St Nicholas in the air in popular mythology is of him “riding jollily among the tree-tops, or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets and dropping them down the chimneys of his favourites” is by Washington Irving in his satirical work, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). At this point St Nicholas was not associated with Christmas and presents were exchanged on the night before his feast day on December 6.

However, in a poem written in 1822, Clement Moore has St Nicholas arrive with his presents on the night before Christmas and in “a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer” who “would mount to the sky […] with a sleigh full of toys” and then go down the chimneys to deliver his gifts thus shifting celebrations of St Nicholas in the United States from his feast day on December 6 to Christmas Eve on December 24 instead.5

The phenomenon of flying animals has long been associated in Norse mythology with Wotan (Odin) and his flying eight legged horse Sleipnir, and with Thor and his flying goat-drawn chariot.

​”Odin and Sleipnir” (1911) by John Bauer

Wotan is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded in Old Norse texts and is a fierce god associated with wisdom, healing and war. Children would leave straw in their boots for Sleipnir by the hearth and Wotan would exchange it for a gift in return for their kindness.

Thor was also depicted as a fierce god of thunder and lightning, storms, oak trees and fertility. Another god, Morozko, the powerful and cruel Slavic god of frost and ice could freeze people and landscapes at will, became known as Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) but was eventually demonised by the Russian Orthodox Church. As our fear of nature declined and Christmas became more of a child-centered celebration, the depictions of these gods became less fierce over time.

Thor and Tyr in their Goat-Drawn Chariot (From “The Book of Myths” by Amy Cruse, 1925)

The flying aspect of Santa’s reindeers is believed to refer to the reindeers’ fondness for Fly Agaric mushrooms associated with Old Nordic Shamanism. The Shamanic ‘flight of the soul’ was part of the culture of people in arctic Europe and Siberia who would communicate with the souls of their ancestors in an altered state of consciousness helped along by the hallucinogenic mushrooms.6 Like the Church attempts to eradicate the earlier fertility traditions and the gods associated with them, shamanism has been considered mere superstition and attacked by both Churches and governments alike.

It seems that what shamanism and fertility rites have in common is the idea of directly engaging with nature to secure desired material or spiritual goals. Both Krampus and Shamanism have been associated with Satan who “uses deception and demonic spirits seeking our destruction” yet their popularity has ebbed and flowed over the centuries without disappearing altogether.

Rollickin’ Roles

Similarly the Bacchanalian aspect of Christmas celebrations is a survival of Saturnalia, the Roman celebration of Saturn the “god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation” which could also be described as an engagement with the cycles of nature. Saturnalia was “a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry” held on December 17 of the Julian calendar and was subsequently extended to 23 December. Saturnalia originated as a farmer’s festival to mark the end of the autumn planting season in honour of Saturn (satus means sowing).

According to Justinus, the 2nd century Roman historian, these celebratory aspects of Saturnalia derived from, and were explained by, its origins with pre-Roman peoples of Italy who:

were the Aborigines, whose king, Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, and undivided, as one estate for the use of every one; in memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal.

Once again the association with nature and the Golden Age (when people lived in peace and harmony) forms the basis of a celebration which was to be co-opted by the Church and eventually attacked for its excesses. According to a Puritan minister in 17th century England, Increase Mather, Christmas occurred on December 25 not because “Christ was born in that month, but because the heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those pagan holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones]. Stephen Nissenbaum, in his book The Battle for Christmas, writes:

Puritans believed Christmas was basically just a pagan custom that the Catholics took over without any biblical basis for it. The holiday had everything to do with the time of year, the solstice and Saturnalia and nothing to do with Christianity.

Presumably the masters could not cope with the concept of equality and saw Saturnalia instead as a role reversal. In pre-industrial England people would elect a Lord of Misrule who would be in charge of Christmas festivities and who even had license to poke fun at the nobility.7 Yet the Lords of Misrule were an important aspect of Christmas as the reversal of traditional social norms was a safety valve for class tensions in England. It was around this time that the personification of Christmas as Father Christmas began to appear.

​Father Christmas 1848

He was associated not with children, presents, chimneys or stockings, but with adult merrymaking and feasting. During Christmas ‘great quantities of brawn, roast beef, ‘plum-pottage’, minced pies and special Christmas ale were consumed’ and people enjoyed singing, dancing and card games resulting in ‘drunkenness, promiscuity and other forms of excess.’ Thus when the Puritans took over government in the 1640s they tried  ‘to abolish the Christian festival of Christmas and to outlaw the customs associated with it’. The satirical Royalist poet, John Taylor, wrote in The Complaint of Christmas:

All the liberty and harmless sports, with the merry gambols, dances and friscals [by] which the toiling plowswain and labourer were wont to be recreated and their spirits and hopes revived for a whole twelve month are now extinct and put out of use in such a fashion as if they never had been. Thus are the merry lords of misrule suppressed by the mad lords of bad rule at Westminster.

However by the 1650s it was reported that the taverns were full on Christmas day, churches were decorated in rosemary as usual, Christmas Boxes had been given out, presents exchanged and mummers paid despite the bans. Worse still violence broke out in London when:

a large crowd of Londoners gathered to prevent the mayor and his marshalls removing the Christmas decorations which some of the city porters had draped around the conduit in Cornhill. The confrontation ended in uproar, with arrests, injuries, and the bolting of the mayor’s frightened horse.

The Christmas celebrations returned with Charles II in 1660 and showed once again the attempt to impose a narrow religious view on the multifaceted ancient traditions of people had failed.

Trees

Somewhat earlier, in the 14th and 15th centuries in Germany, craftsmen began to decorate their guild halls with trees and adorning them with fruits and nuts. This eventually led to the German, Charlotte, who married King George III in 1761, potting up and decorating a yew tree and initiating the custom in England. Legend has it that in Germany, St Boniface, an historical figure from the 7th century, saw a group of people honouring the sacred tree, Donar’s Oak (sometimes referred to as Thor’s Oak) somewhere around Hesse, became angry and chopped the tree down (and added insult to injury by using the wood to build his church).

St Boniface chopping the oak tree

Sacred trees and sacred groves were very important to the Germanic peoples and were too important to be cut down. Again we can see that the earlier traditions of pre-Christian society revolved around revering nature:

Some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites; while others, with sounder minds, abandoned all the profanations of heathenism, and committed none of these things.

Over time, cutting the evergreen tree and bringing it indoors became an important part of Christmas traditions [see my previous article on Christmas trees] despite church proscription, because of its shamanic-pagan past.

Another early nature-based tradition is the wassail in England. Wassailing is a very ancient custom that is referenced in history as early as the eighth-century poem Beowulf. The word ‘wassail’ is believed to be derived from the Old Norse ‘ves heil’ and the Old English ‘was hál’ and meaning “be in good health” or “be fortunate.” The wassail had an important significance for farmers:

In parts of Medieval Britain, a different sort of wassailing emerged: farmers wassailed their crops and animals to encourage fertility. An observer recorded, “They go into the Ox-house to the oxen with the Wassell-bowle and drink to their health.” The practice continued into the eighteenth century, when farmers in the west of Britain toasted the good health of apple trees to promote an abundant crop the next year. Some placed cider-soaked bread in the branches to ward off evil spirits. In other locales, villagers splashed the trees with cider while firing guns or beating pots and pans.

The Apple Tree Wassail lyrics anticipate the next year and a good crop:

(It’s) Our wassail jolly wassail!
Joy come to our jolly wassail!
How well they may bloom, how well they may bear
So we may have apples and cider next year.

Solstice and the Unconquered Sun

Our awareness of mid winter and the solstice (‘sun stands still’) is shown to go back to the late Neolithic and Bronze Age with Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in England. In both cases the monuments have been aligned to the solstice, sunrise at Newgrange and sunset at Stonehenge. It has been the occasion of celebrations, rituals and gatherings as the sun appears to be reborn and the days start getting longer again. After this time food became scarce (January to April) which were known as the ‘famine months’. It was the last feast of the year as cattle were slaughtered and wine and beer were ready for drinking. The ‘rebirth’ of the sun was known as Sol Invictus or the ‘unconquered sun’ god during the Roman Empire in the 3rd century CE and the Emperor Aurelian dedicated a temple to Sol to be celebrated on December 25. Solar deities have been represented as both gods and goddesses in different cultures and are particularly important in mid winter when the sun is low in the sky. In many countries in Europe the tradition of the Yule log burning was an important festival to help strengthen the weakened sun.

Yule log

A large log, big enough to burn for the 12 days of Christmas, was brought into the houses and burned. It was believed to have originated with the Norse and the Celts who had large bonfires to welcome the return of the sun. The log was thought to have magical properties and the ashes were then used as fertiliser and as cures for both people and animals and would protect them for the year to come.

Nature

Throughout the world there have been many forms of nature worship demonstrating that people respected and feared nature in equal amounts over the millennia. We have a complex relationship with nature, indeed we are an important part of nature. We have to negotiate every aspect of that relationship, be it food, water, reproduction, climate (storms avalanches, floods, droughts, fires), the seasons, the geophysical (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes), light (length of day, sleeping during hours of darkness) etc.

In the past people hoped and prayed that in the next year nature would allow them to live well again and consequently treated nature with respect. To do that people were careful not to over-exploit nature in various ways: by leaving land fallow, having food taboos, allowing areas to regenerate by moving on, by not over-using a food resource, thus creating the basis of sustainability into the future. Their respectful attitude to nature was reflected in what we call superstitions and paganism but it allowed them to celebrate Christmas without guilt in the knowledge that they had treated nature well and that nature would reciprocate with a bountiful harvest the next year.

Today, on the other hand, we are alienated from this way of thinking and living to the extent that people have lost direct control of their relationship with nature. The ever increasing industrial overproduction of meat, over-fishing, over-fertilisation, deforestation, air pollution and extractivism is pushing nature to extremes and already we are seeing the catastrophic results of this in climate change. Maybe as climate change brings ever fiercer storms and destruction of food production we will learn to respect and fear nature again.

  1. Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, by Jeremy Seal, p. 28.
  2. Pagan Christmas: the Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origin of Yuletide, by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, p. 33.
  3. Pagan Christmas, p. 36.
  4. Pagan Christmas, p. 52/3.
  5. From Stonehenge to Santa Claus: The Evolution of Christmas, by Paul Frodsham, p. 164.
  6. Pagan Christmas, p. 46/47.
  7. Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony, Richard Heinberg, p. 107.

The “Last Martyr”: Who Killed Kamal Al-Assar?

When I learned of the death of Kamal al-Assar, a few years ago, I was baffled. He was only in his 40s. I remember him in his prime, a young rebel, leading the neighborhood youth, armed with rocks and slingshots, in a hopeless battle against the Israeli army. Understandably, we lost, but we won something far more valuable than a military victory. We reclaimed our identity.

Kamal al-Assar’s mother, Nuseirat Refugee Camp

At every anniversary of the First Palestinian Intifada, a popular uprising that placed the Palestinian people firmly on the map of world consciousness, I think of all the friends and neighbors I have lost, and those I have left behind. The image of Ra’ed Mu’anis, in particular, haunts me. When an Israeli sniper’s bullet plunged into his throat, he ran across the neighborhood to find help before he collapsed at the graffiti-washed walls of my house.

“Freedom. Dignity. Revolution,” was written in large red letters on the wall, a pronouncement signed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Only later I learned that Kamal was the one who carried Ra’ed out of the firing zone. But it was too late. Ra’ed, a skinny and feeble teenager, with a distinct black mark on his forehead had bled alone at the steps of my home. When he was buried, hundreds of refugees descended on the Martyrs Graveyard. They carried Palestinian flags and chanted for the Intifada and the long-coveted freedom. Ra’ed’s mother was too weakened by her grief to join the procession. His father tried to stay strong, but wept uncontrollably instead.

Kamal was revitalized by the Intifada. When the uprising broke out, he emerged from his own solitude. Life made sense once again.

For him, as for me and many of our generation, the Intifada was not a political event. It was an act of personal – as much as collective – liberation: the ability to articulate who we were at a time when all seemed lost. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) languished in Tunisia after being forced to leave Lebanon in 1982. Arab governments seemed to have lost interest in Palestine altogether. Israel emerged triumphant and invincible.

And we – those living under protracted military occupation – felt completely abandoned.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s largest and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier on that day, an Israeli truck had run over a row of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, the refugees in my refugee camp – Nuseirat – marched to the Israeli military barracks, known as the ‘tents’, where hundreds of soldiers had tormented my camp’s residents for years.

In the morning of December 9, thousands of Nuseirat youth took to the streets and vowed to avenge the innocent blood of the Jabaliya victims of the previous day. They swung large flags made of silky fabric that swayed beautifully in Gaza’s salty air and, as the momentum grew and they became intoxicated by their own collective chants, they marched to the ‘tents’ where the soldiers were uneasily perched on the tops of watchtowers, hiding behind their binoculars and automatic machine guns.

Within minutes, a war had started and a third generation of refugee-camp-born fellahin peasants stood fearlessly against a well-equipped army that was visibly gripped by fear and confusion. The soldiers wounded many that day and several children were killed.

Kamal was on the front lines. He waved the largest flag, chanting the loudest, threw rocks the furthest and incessantly urged young men not to retreat.

Kamal hated school as well as his teachers. To him they seemed so docile, adhering to the rules of the occupier which decreed that Palestinians not teach their own history, so that the fellahin were denied even the right to remember who they were or where they came from. The Intifada was the paradigm shift that offered an alternative – however temporary, however chaotic – to the methodical humiliation of life under occupation.

Within hours, Kamal felt liberated. He was no longer tucked away in a dark room reading the works of Marx and Gramsci. He was in the streets of Nuseirat fashioning his own utopia.

The Intifada was that transformational period that saved a generation from being entirely lost, and Palestine from being forgotten. It offered a new world, that of solidarity, camaraderie and wild youth who needed no one to speak on their behalf.

Within weeks of bloody clashes in which hundreds of youth fell dead or wounded, the nature of the Intifada became clearer. On one hand, it was a popular struggle of civil disobedience, mass protests, commercial and labor strikes, refusal to pay taxes and so on. On the other hand, militant cells of refugee youth were beginning to organize and leave their mark, as well.

The militancy of the Intifada did not become apparent until later, when the repression by the Israeli government grew more violent. Under the banner of the ‘Iron Fist’ campaign, a new Israeli stratagem was devised, that of the ‘broken bones’ policy. Once captured, youth had their hands and legs broken by soldiers in a systematic and heartless manner. In my neighborhood, children with casts and crutches seemed to outnumber those without.

Kamal was eventually detained from his home. He attempted to escape but the entire neighborhood was teeming with soldiers, who arrived at night as they always do. They commenced the torturous rite in his living room, as his mother – the resilient, Tamam – shoved her body between him and the ruthless men.

When Kamal regained consciousness, he found himself in a small cell, with thick, unwashed walls that felt cold and foreign. He spent most of his prison time in the torture chamber. His survival was itself nothing less than a miracle.

When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, officially ending the Intifada, Kamal’s generation felt betrayed. Nothing good came out of that ‘peace’, except that a few rich Palestinians grew even richer.

Kamal died a few years ago. I learned that his revolution never ceased. He became a teacher, laboring to reconstruct the history of his people at a local Gaza university. His mother, now an old refugee in Nuseirat, is still heartbroken over her son’s death. She told me that Kamal’s wounds and physical ailments from prison never healed.

Kamal was a martyr, she told me. Perhaps the last martyr in an uprising that was not meant to liberate land, but liberate people from the idea that they were meant to exist as perpetual victims; and it did.

Genuine Progress Index Be Damned! Grow, Displace, Submit!!

Rapacious. “They got theirs, so I better get mine. Yes, things change, and, sure this sleepy town is about to boom but that’s the way of the world…. Might as well be part of the winning team – that money making side of things. That’s all you can do.”

I just finished talking to white guy in his late forties, gassing up excavators and huge dump trucks. We’re near the Estacada High School, and he tells me the scrapping is to make room for more ball fields. The school already has fields and a football stadium. This is a town with 3,000.

The day before on the very same spot I was walking with Canada geese lighting on the marshy part of the tract of land. I was with flickers, robins, raptors, and bee catches and swallows and maybe 15 other species of birds, including hummers.

The crows were squawking their disapproval of all the rumbling trucks and blades sawing up plywood and siding for the new crop of homes coming to fruition near the spit of land. These few acres with a creek running through them were their paradise, their wintering quarters.

Foreboding, those corvids rallying their ranks in the sunny bluster, really, for me, living in a county with no native American signs, tributes, museums, nothing, left on the surface, just the name, Clackamas River in Clackamas County. There are 99 percent whites here, and many cruise with American flags and Confederate ones as big as trampolines fluttering behind their jacked up Jeeps and pick-ups.

The California invasion is lamented daily, with now sputtering-to-a-stop superhighway commutes, and the constant building and the housing and rental stock vanished into thin banker’s air.

I’ve had someone recently tell me to stop whining about the cost of housing in Portland . . . . “Try San Francisco out, buddy boy.” Yep, I never whine, and the “buddy boy” is to me like a Harvey Weinstein glowering at his secretary.

In calm terms, the stupidity of his statement is torn apart. First, I am with clients as a social worker who are straddled because of the long-arm of injustice pinching them for Driving While Black or Dealing While Latino or Walking While Young. My client load is trying to do something with their lives and get off the endless hamster wheel and rat pipe of addiction, and many are old, and some are very young.

The young are told to go to community college or rip-off trade schools; go get some shitty warehouse job for $12 an hour; and then admonished to find a dozen other Homies and get a two-bedroom crib for the lot of them, anywhere, somewhere and shut the fuck up.

Mr. and Mrs. California, oh, baby, many are leaving their Orange County haunts because they HATE the brown people, the crowds, the traffic, and the cost of living there. Again, the white hoards are the destroyers of entire civilizations (Spain and Inca and Aztec), or the slavers of Puritanical Puerile needs, the entire project of White Hegemony, the white hope for the rest of human kind five hundred years ago, 300, 30 and now.

“Try the roads in LA. You want to see real bad traffic!”

These are cancerous times in a deadening world of people that see barely an inch beyond their noses. I have a graduate degree in urban planning and there is no way in hell I could get a job in that field, one that really doesn’t mean much in the scheme of radical planning, radical design, regional and biological planning. Each entity is vying for those workers, those big ass companies to site in their municipalities or counties, those tax dodgers like Nike, Intel, Apple, Uber, Amazon, you name ‘em, the next big half empty convention center, or how about a casino on every corner . . . . Towns are haphazard, and draining our lives with the noise, the traffic, the same-same sameness.

Back to Estacada and my mind-clearing walk, near a blackberry-plagued stretch of land adjacent to the tract home I live in, in the planned development, HOA included, in a town named after a place in Texas, Spanish of all things, in a county that hosts lots of immigrants from Mexico pounding nails, landscaping and flipping gorditas, but a county where many in the white population support sending “all of ’em” back a la Trump-Obama ICE expressway.

Llano Estacado (staked plain or palisaded plain) is a region in the Southwestern United States that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas. This ain’t the Southwest, where I spent many years cutting my teeth as reporter, college teacher, writer, and itinerant environmentalist and novelist.

The old acreage to my north is now graded-over for a whopping 350 homes – times 2.5 people per house and you have 875 people, and, well, that’s 875 more vehicles, plus the motor-homes, ATV’s, boats, and 4×4’s.

The white guys grading and paving and setting it up for the next phase of wasps coming in for the footings and framing – Mexicans mostly – they seem slap happy gleeful. One side of mouth, “I hate those Cally-forn-i-cation-ers,” and then other side of mouth, “Man oh man, keep on coming and show me the money.”

My mind clearing is tied to the fascism of our times – I just got sacked (yet again) for my mouth, but this time it was nothing, really, but again, non-profits are all living hell these days, and social workers like myself (former teacher, real journalist and urban planner of sorts) are in high demand but with low regard, and the turnover rates are terrible. Read here, and here about that part of my life.

I’m trying to collect unemployment, and I am busy applying for jobs – employment opportunities all over the map: executive director for a non-profit giving free med services to pets; development director for a street newspaper; tutor at the local community college; and plenty of social worker jobs, too. Even a job with the Center for Biological Diversity on a renewable energy campaign tied to population and sustainability. My chances are a snowball’s chance in the Arctic . . . Hell!

Hitting the streets at 60 years of age is both surreal and bile-drenching – my grandparents from Scotland and Germany never would have thought this great country (neither sets of grandparents really thought of USA as a great country, but we’ll pretend . . . .) would dish it out this hard to one of its own.

No retirement, man, as each billionaire laughs harder and harder at the idea of retirement for the masses at age 65, let alone 70. Health care cut off at the knees three days after getting the AX.

I talk to this fellow grading the land, and he’s paunchy in his forties, the tell-tale signs of engorging beer and whiskey sessions on his face. The big fellow running the excavator is fifty and has a belly and shirt size that could tarp a family of 12 in Haiti. The 25-year-old pushing the gearshift of the huge dump truck is surly looking. These are big times for these fellows — $35 to $75 an hour, easy. They have blood relatives and high school friends and in-laws working with them in this locked-up market.

Sitting on their fat asses (except for the young guy grinding gears) making twice as much an hour or more than that over what I was making running ragged helping homeless and addicts find some pathway out of that shit (many of my homeless addicts were once in the trades, in construction, welding and excavation!) is one aspect of the insanity of wage inequity, wage unfairness, and what the market should bear!

Here, a little ditty on Estacada from some web site:

Estacada’s History has been a wild road of ups and downs some might say is a reflection of the roaring rapids of the adjacent Clackamas River. In the mid 1800’s small communities of pioneers popped up in the foothills of Mount Hood wiping out the Native Clackamas Indians with disease. Then railroad tracks serving the dam builders of the early 20th century pushed through the foot hills up the mountain creating dams that still power Portland to this day. As the building slowed, the workers left and the work camps turned in to a small tourism community that became Portland’s play ground known as Estacada Oregon.

Imagine, “settlers popping up wiping out the Native Clackamas Indians with disease” as the one liner in America’s great forgetting, great amnesia. We walk the land in a daily forgetting!

Imagine, this anti-Mexican-Muslim-Person of Color hysteria stoked up in the flames of the dying white race, the dying capitalist race, and then think hard about the constant lies the youth and the old hold about the land of theft, US of America/Israel. Genocide!

Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, wrote to Colonel Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.
– California Governor Peter H. Burnett, 1851

In 1949, however, the U.S. government took a step back towards 19th century bigotry, as the Hoover Commission urged the assimilation of the Natives, “The basis for historic Indian culture has been swept away. Traditional tribal organization was smashed a generation ago .… Assimilation must be the dominant goal of public policy.”

I talk with the manager of the True Value Hardware store, and his store’s been at it for more than 30 years here, but the council and chamber and economic developers approve of a National Dollar General Store opening up right in the middle of downtown.

The anchor now of the town that was trying to look funky, post logging years. Out in the bushes and the hills there were once progressive back-to-earthers, hippies, and a few shops in town sell artisan stuff, but now the Dollar General is the cancer in downtown Estacada.

The planners and the tax men and the elected officials, again, incapable of looking beyond their noses. True Value Hardware, locally owned, now looking to compete with a shit store with a shit CEO with shit values and shit for brains and shit worker rights and shit locales to store offshore profits.

In the old days, no out-of-towner with Tennessee and NASCAR roots would ever have been accepted, but hell, just hitting Wikipedia, here, the low hanging goods on the company trading $80.50 on NYSE:

Financial irregularities

On April 30, 2001, Dollar General Corp was liable for making false statements or failing to disclose adverse facts about the company’s financial results, and paid $162 million for settlement.

On April 30, 2001, Dollar General announced to restate its earnings for the past three fiscal years, due to accounting irregularities including allegations of fraudulent behavior.

On March 3, 2005, Dollar General announced to restate its results for 2000 through 2003, due to a clarification of lease-accounting matters issued by the SEC.

OSHA 2014 and 2016 fines

In November 2014, Dollar General was fined $51,700 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an inspection of a Brooklyn, MS branch of the store. The statement from OSHA notes that Dollar General has had repeated health and safety violations: “Since 2009, OSHA has conducted 72 inspections of Dollar General nationwide. Of those inspections, 39 have resulted in citations.” In April 2016, OSHA reported that further citations had been given to the store for exposing employees to the risk of electrical hazards due to missing face plates on electrical outlets. The store was fined $107,620.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, unlike many tribes does not have a central reservation, but consists of eight tribal communities in Mississippi. Those communities are on land held in trust by the U.S. Government for the benefit of the tribe.

Beginning in 2000, Dollar General has had a lease from the tribe to operate a store on tribal land, and obtained a business license from the tribe. In 2003, a 13-year-old tribal member, identified as John Doe in court documents, was working at the store as part of a joint tribal-Dollar General internship program. Doe alleged that the store manager sexually abused him in 2003[5] causing “severe mental trauma.” The tribe took action to legally exclude the manager from tribal lands, but the United States Attorney did not criminally prosecute him.

Tribal and District Courts

In 2005, Doe sued the store manager and Dollar General in the tribal court. The defendants tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that the tribal court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over non-Indians. The tribal court refused to dismiss the lawsuit, and the Choctaw Supreme Court affirmed, noting the case of Montana v. United States allowed tribes to exercise civil, as opposed to criminal, jurisdiction over non-Indians on tribal land when the non-Indians had entered into a voluntary relationship with the tribe.

The store manager and Dollar General then sued the Tribe in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, seeking to stop the suit in tribal court. The manager was dropped from the case by the district court but Dollar General was held to have been in a consensual relationship and subject to the tribe’s jurisdiction.

Court of Appeals

The defendants then appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed the decision of the district court. The case was heard by a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Jerry Edwin Smith, Catharina Haynes, and James E. Graves Jr. Judge Graves delivered the opinion of the Court, finding that the facts in the case met the first exception noted in Montana, allowing the tribal court to exercise jurisdiction of Dollar General.

“Unexpected/untamed/unforgettable” is the City of Estacada’s motto, 2017, and the state of the world is in a microcosm, anywhere I go. I have been able to peddle my theses easily since the entire mess of capitalism is tied to the leech, the tick, the parasites, the slimy octopus of hostile takeovers and forced arbitration and tax havens and lobbying.

Could have been a Walmart or Costco — Amazon Fresh — Anything to make a city or township beholding to the transnationals, their blood soaked dollars yanked from the bellies of the rest of us. A town that gets this big cancer in downtown, one giant footprint, and you have to wonder at the lack of creativity, thinking and slight understanding of the history of bad economics. Box Stores. The whole nine yards.

The California Land Rush has been on for a decade up here, reaching into Hillsboro, Estacada, Gresham, Hood River, Wilsonville, Beaverton, up to Vancouver and Longview, WA. They come in with hard real estate cash, and buy up homes – three or four to a family. They do their house flipping and rental hording. These people are California, in every way.

Trucks in a constant black smoke snake, in a Valley already deemed ripe for the taking; and the mythology states that the native tribes called this the Valley of Death, Willamette, but indeed, now, maybe, the “death valley” was meant for when the white man and woman came in with diseases, diseased values, diseased honor, diseased treaties:

In remembrance of the Kalapuyan and Clackamas (lower Columbia Chinook) indians who lived and died here, and in honor of those who still live here; please stop saying “no one lived here.” Please stop saying that Willamette means “the valley of sickness and death.” Please know that if the natives later referred to this valley as one of “sickness and death,” it came from the biological genocide inflicted on the natives by this civilization. Please go to the library, or better yet find a living native, and learn the real history of this place.

This sorry thing called unlimited growth, this Diaspora of whites going back and forth looking for some place to set down roots, this constant fear the white race has of the wild, of undammed rivers, of grizzlies and open plains, and trees and forest fires.

The microcosm I see in El Paso and in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, in Tucson in Phoenix in Spokane in Seattle in Vancouver — every place now that the roiling white race in a constant flurry away from something, away from any place while landing in a new land where the same leeching machines and excavators roam the land like monster metal ungulates.

Earth movers, earth eaters, earth desiccators.

Imagine a city council and rotary club and an American Legion and school board and citizens groups and county agencies and big-players like OHSU and Nike throwing in — those scraped and raped acres turned into some of the most sustainable and strong growing fields. Food . . . . And young and old learning how to grow it and sell it and package it. Imagine a town investing in deep ecology and permacultue. Imagine this little town turning all those old farmsteads and hay operations and wolf-grass filled plots of land into interconnected mushroom farms, cat-fish farms, bonsai centers, kale-broccoli-bean fields. Imagine a city that brings native healers and native educators to their land — cultural centers, and places of social concern. Imagine this town named after the Spanish “stake plain” turned into a going concern, where people come to study real rural and small-town design. Imagine sustainable low impact centers for aging, centers for teaching youth with autism how to live. Among those gardens and fields, all those flickers and stellar jays and black-black crows, alive, yappy, the angels of Native cultures past, a chorus singing about Homo Sapiens  finally doing something right for the now, for the future, for the past.

Imagine.

Postscript: Vortex I was held in Estacada at the state’s expense, where in 1970 100,000 came to a rock concert after the Governor of Oregon, Tom McCall, believed the lies of the FBI saying 50,000 anti-war activists were going to march against the American Legion’s supposed 25,000 attending their convocation in downtown Portland.

Note: Ecological FootprintEcosocialism;   Carrying Capacity; Radical Urban Planning; Marxist Urban Planning;  Redefining Progress

From Gandhi to Catalans, the Revolutionary Movement of Peacemakers

As Trump’s dangerous move on Iran’s nuclear deal and his provocative reaction to North Korea undercut diplomacy, tension is rising for World War III. Discord in the international community has been amplified in conflicts of identity politics across America. Greed and power-seeking leaders’ ambition for profits never end. With ever-increased military budgets, combined with tax cuts for the rich and slashes in health care and public funds, the legacy of imperialism is carried on. Uncertainty created by economic stagnation is generating frustration and anxiety, which is turned into anger and fear. These emotions are then channeled to harness a false sense of nationalism and white supremacy.

In the air of hostility that surrounds us, it is tempting for people to shun those who have opposing views and to respond to hate with even more hate. Resistance can easily be relegated to reactionary rallies. Protests quickly turn into an ideological battle of us versus them, which often results in violence. Yet for real social change to happen, it is imperative for all of us to overcome this loathing toward different views and work together.

There is a force within each person that can counter the hatred that seeks to separate us. Mahatma Gandhi recognized this as the power of peace and applied it to create nonviolent civil disobedience that led to India’s independence from British rule. Now, more than a half century later, a similar peaceful resistance has emerged.

Recently, leading up to the independence referendum on October 1 in Catalonia, Spain’s richest province, Spanish police engaged full force to stop the voting. WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange, who has remained confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than five years, acknowledged the peaceful act of self-determination by the Catalonian people in facing this police violence. Calling it “the most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi,” he said that “its results will spread everywhere.” Peace is a revolutionary force that largely remains untapped. How can social movements be created by this innate transformative power and bring harmony to this divided world?

The great law of peace

The same force of peace that guided Gandhi to fight against the oppression of Britain was present at the beginning of the United States. In history classes, many learned about the American Revolution and the War of Independence, where founders bravely fought for separation from King George. We all know America was founded on revolutionary spirit, but little is known about the quiet strength behind a fiery passion of war at the birth of a nation.

Early colonists, after settling into this New World, interacted with indigenous people. Historians have consistently noted how the original framers of the US Constitution like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin greatly admired the core concepts of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and their democratic governance that was based on a vision of peace. So what does peace mean?

From Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace to John Lennon’s popular song Give Peace a Chance, the word “peace” is in our everyday vocabulary. Many of us make slogans, carry banners of peace, and march in the streets. In our culture, peace seems to have become a mere symbol and has come to simply indicate the opposite of violence or a lack of conflict. Native Americans had a different conception of peace. Philosopher Jacob Needleman1 described how to them, it is “not as something passive, not as a mere absence of conflict, but as a force that can harmonize the actions and impulses of human life in all their multiplicity and opposition to each other” (p. 215). Peace, to Native Americans, is at the center of their way of life.

Needleman recognized how this peace diverges from European religious and ethical principles that work in duality and supports the “radical separation of the good (however it is understood) and the evil (that which resists the good)” (p. 198). He noted how peace conceived by Native Americans acknowledges interconnectedness of good and evil and it “includes all the forces of life,” even “what we often call ‘evil’” (p. 195). He then described for them “to be at peace means to be at peace with one’s conscience” (p. 196).

The First Nation’s conception of peace calls on each to recognize and respect each other’s differences, even the opinions and viewpoints of those we disagree with or condemn. The Great Law of Peace protects independence and individual liberty, while at the same time bases decision-making processes on consensus rather than majority rule. This wisdom of peace was not only at the root of Native American governance, but also influenced the formation of the US government—in particular, the key concept of decentralized power that was secured by the separation of power and checks and balances incorporated into the US Constitution.

Lost ideals and call for love

This peace placed at the foundation of America is a radical acceptance of differences that recognizes all equally in their uniqueness. Out of this fertile soil that embraces diverse seeds sprang the sprouts of inalienable rights. These include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that were promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Yet this revolutionary idea of peace that enlightened the mind and lit the hearts of early settlers seems to have been cast off by the shadow of the old world of monarchy. As Frederick Douglass reminded us in his famous speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” America became “false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” From the onset, with internal contradictions in the genocide of natives, slavery of Blacks, and the oppression of women, the nation diverged from the ground upon which it stood. The promise of equality in the Declaration became empty words. History, with absence of authors who can take responsibility for their creative power, remained asleep to its potential and fell prey to the darkness within.

As the republic expanded, with a focus on material happiness and short-term pleasure through acquisition, the force of peace retreated into the background. Yet it continued to speak to the hearts of ordinary people who still listened to the cries in the wilderness, awakening impulses for social change.

In the 1840s, women’s suffrage gained strength. Through the emergence of feminism, nature began to speak its silent language of peace. Some recognized the influence of the Iroquois principles of democracy, in which women played an important role. In the mid-1950s, mass protests erupted against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern states, which launched the nationwide civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. found the power of peace that Gandhi had discovered. In his effort to liberate Black people in the struggle for civil rights, he inspired the nation through a true message of peace—its unifying force of love even for one’s enemies. In his speech delivered in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King said:

Somewhere, somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

Such is the decentralized power of peace. It inspires all to yield the urge for power in order to open a space for others to come forward, a principle necessary for democratic dialogue.

Rage against the machine

The ’60s brought the further destruction of the democratizing force of peace and at the same time created a resurgence of peacemakers. As the country engaged in military action overseas, the opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War quickly organized anti-war protests. Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1969 at Woodstock struck a chord in the hearts of many, letting people hear “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” over Vietnam.

As the nation began seeking for answers blowing in the wind, a massive student movement kicked off at UC Berkeley. In the launch of the free speech movement (FSM), Joan Baez, who led the first group of protesters into Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, echoed Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence. She reminded the crowd of the commitment to act with love in the heart and that students were going to be “nonviolent in thought, word, and deed”.2

The clash of two forces became visible in images of flowers placed in gun barrels. As the youth turned to the hardened America represented by armed police, for a moment a breath of peace was brought back to resuscitate this dying culture. Yet this power of peace upheld by childlike innocence alone was not enough to confront the growing beast of the military industrial complex, which with its insatiable hunger consumes all into its soulless capitalism. As Mario Savio, the spokesperson for the FSM depicted in his passionate speech in December 1964, the “operation of the machine becomes so odious.”

As the rise of corporate power rolled back most progress that consumer advocate groups had made, the rage against this machine was quietly building up. Decades later, a call for an uprising came from southern Mexico, one of the poorest parts of the world, where indigenous people were treated like animals and abandoned by Western neoliberal economic policies. On January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the people in Chiapas revolted against the Mexican government. This ignited the revolutionary power of peace on the streets of Seattle in 1999. The protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) spawned a cycle of global social justice movements. Yet this victory was short-lived and the enthusiasm for a different world was crushed by the Bush era’s “war on terror” and a draconian crackdown of dissent, creating a chilling effect and moved society toward a more authoritarian state.

The age of cypherpunk

In the moral ice age of the post-911 world, a new front of courage emerged from the internet. In April 2010, with the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, an unknown website burst onto the global stage. When the government’s internal mechanism of checks and balance had been broken, WikiLeaks opened an avenue for a new accountability. Through this whistleblowing platform, patriotic and liberty-loving men and women found a way to restore the peace of a nation by each choosing to be at peace with their conscience.

Empowered by the vision of cypherpunks, a group that advocates social change with the use of strong cryptography, WikiLeaks engaged in nonviolent information warfare, freeing speech that is censored and oppressed. With its radical acceptance of speech in all forms, backed by innovative technology, WikiLeaks made the First Amendment available to the whole world.

From the election in Kenya and the Icelandic revolution to the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, WikiLeaks’ publications sparked contagious courage, helping open a future where ordinary people armed with knowledge began claiming the power of peace that was for so long stripped away and denied. History that was awakened through this courage is still moving.

Now in Catalonia, as Assange observed, significant events were happening that would change the “relationship between population and state in Western Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” As the Spanish government seized election literature, shut down websites, and threatened politicians as well as the offices of newspapers, the Catalan president gave his people instructions on how to circumvent this blockade and obstruction of free speech. Assange then noted: “When #Catalonia‘s press is Tweeting how to use proxies to avoid voting censorship we are in the age of cypherpunk.” He then provided technical support for people in Catalonia to communicate and organize securely, as they faced Spanish oppression for their right to vote for the referendum.

Currency of radical acceptance

The unchecked power of the dominant elite continues, engaging in the suppression of free speech through economic censorship. Along with control of public media and police, the Spanish government has been trying to seize control of Catalonia’s finances. Assange, who had firsthand experience of this kind of financial warfare with private companies’ illegal banking blockade of WikiLeaks, called people’s attention to the network of resistance that has been steadily growing online.

The invention of Bitcoin was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With features of permissionless, censorship resistant, and unseizable transactions, it was envisioned to become stateless currency that preserves the individual liberty of all. The white paper of this revolutionary decentralized money was published in 2008. It became operational in 2009.

The Iroquois’ law of peace codified in the wampum belt is now being coded into software. It becomes an armory that is made much more secure and immutable to any foreign or domestic attacks. Here, the First Nation’s vision of great peace that inspired its democratic confederation seems to have found its realization in the open source protocol of the consensus algorithm. Security expert and author Andreas M. Antonopoulos calls Bitcoin’s governance model “leaderless”—that which creates decentralized power. He describes how the system motivates people to come to consensus at a very high level and decisions are made by the circle of five constituents: miners, developers, wallets, merchants, and users.

As the era of cypherpunk opened up, the tyranny of the incumbent legacy system gathered up its power to define a new digital age on its own terms. Western liberal democracy, with the arms of technology and transnational corporations, has now expanded throughout the world, placing all into an elaborate web of a financial industrial complex. In this artificial machination of the world, money that has been used as a weapon to wage war and exploit can be automated, with humans no longer in charge. With mass surveillance and control, it can create a total dystopia. Here, the Great Law of Peace enshrined in a piece of mathematics can offer a shield for ordinary people to defend themselves against the sword of power that seeks to control and enslave all living beings into institutional hierarchies.

With Bitcoin, the First Amendment becomes an app that can be distributed across borders indiscriminately to anyone, including those condemned as enemies. Stewarded by developers around the world committed to the shared ideals of cypherpunk, Bitcoin makes its transactions from country to country, from belief to belief, from opinion to opinion, and traverses the way of peace. Having demonstrated its unbreakable integrity for the last eight years, the protocol of radical acceptance continues to evolve, providing an alternative to tyranny without fighting, by each engaging in the creative act of innovation.

As governments all over the world become destructive and old systems begin to crumble, new networks are being made by linking the knowledge of computer science with the wisdom of the First Nations, who have lived in harmony with nature. Now, the West and natives, two minds from the same roots that once diverged paths can come together to begin a new civilization. By each choosing freely to chart the way of peacemaking, social movements can be created. People walking side by side bring this world toward a more perfect union, founded upon a principle of equality that allows everyone to be free.

  1. Needleman, J. (2002). American soul: Rediscovering the wisdom of the founders. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
  2. Nagler, M. N. The search for a nonviolent future: A promise of peace for ourselves, our families, and our world. Maui, HI: Inner Ocean, 2004, p. 202.

The Voiceless Left Stands Before The Monster Of History

Rumours of war and the lexicon of war permeate the culture of empires, and the US empire is not an exception. In a concomitant manner, the spectre of violent death pervades the imagery of the US’s entertainment industry and stalks the citizen’s dreams.

Present circumstances merge with the sleeping monster of history: Close your eyes and images of cross burnings, lynchings, mountains of bison skulls, flaring veils of napalm and blooming mushroom clouds rise from within.

All the bristling, military armaments of the Pentagon cannot turn back the raging storm.

The mere existence of vast arrays of weapons, deployed or not, does great harm to the soul of a nation. US Americans are fearful, day and night. We would not feel secure if we ensconced ourselves in an armory.

An empire, built on the backs of slaves, both actual and de facto, with its expansion across the continent expedited by genocide, has conjured internal Furies — raging apparitions, borne of the nation’s collective soul and of nature’s fury, that cannot be repelled by weapons of any make.

Amid the empire of the feckless, we on the Left have been rendered all but voiceless. We wander in a wasteland of resentment, marginalised, denied a voice in cultural discourse. Online, we gibber and snarl at each other and curse our predicament like Dante’s figures of the damned in pits of the Inferno. By all indications, we are bereft of the knowledge of where and how to even begin the dialog.

Yet: Recently, by a resounding margin, Venezuelans vote to retain socialism. (The nation’s citizenry are fully cognisant that US imperialist subterfuge is the root of their nation’s troubles.)

Concurrently, polls of former citizens of the fallen USSR reveal, the majority favour delivering capitalism to the landfill of history and reestablishing communism. (Unlike all to many US Americans, they know they have been bamboozled.)

Although: Across Europe, the hard, racist right is in ascendancy. A predictable phenomenon, due to liberal’s serial betrayals of the middle and labouring classes in behalf of their capitalist vampire benefactors. The more undiluted the form of capitalism — the greater the levels of deprivation and attendant fear and displaced anger evinced by a power-bereft citizenry. The only factors that have saved capitalism from itself, on an historical basis, have been measures of progressive reform and piecemeal, socialist policies.

And that is the reality that frightens the capitalist overclass and motivates them to set into action their scheming, prevaricating operatives and propaganda-bandying shit-kickers. To wit, their ruthlessness knows no limit in regard to preventing capitalism’s exploited multitudes from gaining an even glancing degree of awareness of: The system was, from the get-go, designed to benefit a ruthless few and to the detriment of the many.

Thus we discover, the reason capitalism’s elite invest so much time, effort, and money rigging the game, from the political structure to mass media. It is the reason one could never have an honest dialog with the beneficiaries of the system. Where would be the profit for them in risking their litany of lies being countered and their false mythos exposed as the life-negating fraud that it is? Honesty and openness were not among the factors that enabled the capitalist elite to ascend to a position of dominance.

Wilful and belligerent ignorance comprises the brick and mortar of the capitalist system’s mental architecture; the structure stands on a foundation of lies. But the phenomenon presents dissidents with an opportunity because what appears to be an implacable barrier is but a collective mirage, a vapour of the mass mind. What appears to be an all-powerful system is but a group hallucination, a join dream of interior phantoms. This is the reason, when we attempt to fight back, we appear to be flailing into empty air.

To dissipate the undead nightmare, we must reimagine the image and do so from within the living landscape of the imagination; otherwise, we are mistaking a mirage for terra firma.

As for myself, I’m a member of the Nambia Liberation Army. The calling of a poet is to make the invisible visible.

Of course, the flaming orange, ambulatory dumpster fire Trump should be mocked for proclaiming that there exists on planet earth a nation called Nambia. The man has the range of knowledge of some bar stool blowhard, the insufferable type who begins almost every wit-defiant declaration with “irregardless” or “actually” before launching into a false narrative based on an inane premise misinformed by a belligerently obtuse, fact-resistant Weltanschauung.

The same applies to toxic innocent types who believe capitalist (so called) democracies exist to respond to the will of the citizenry. Who would have chosen for high office the sleazy, craven, and sub-cretinous gallery of grotesques known as the Western political class? Only slaves who have been convinced that the clank and clatter of their shackles is the very song of freedom would argue, the extant, waking nightmare arrived as a matter of choice.

Attendant to the deception: The notion that the dismal circumstance will recede by the banishment of Donald Trump from the scene. Trump is merely a representation of one of the genera of imps squatting in the dark recesses of capitalism’s forsaken soul. He is the very embodiment of a crackpot realist.

Crackpot realist types, as is the case with Trump, view and present themselves as emissaries from “the real world,” as steely-nerved men of action. The breed has a compulsion to bandy dismissive declarations, such as, “that is just mere talk. I offer real world solutions.” And, in the magniloquent lingua franca of Trump, he possesses the “best” (crackpot) mindset and he, and he alone, will deliver the bestly of the bestest of real world solutions.

Yet, outside the feedback loop of those indoctrinated by Calvinist cum capitalist conditioning, talk is action. Talk is eros. Deeply depressed people lose both their eros and their voice. Well written books of prose and poems speak in a penetrating voice. The problem is, all too many of the working class and the poor have been bullied by the dominant order into believing that we have no voice — a voice that is capable of giving rise to the inner self, both lambent of mind and plangent of heart, thus provides agency towards action and gives context to experience. The crackpot realist notion that insists, conversation is a lesser function of humanity amounts to soul-decimating tyranny, and is a product of the Puritan Ethic, a coda for slaves. Words are the handmaiden of action and experience.

Talk is audio architecture and dance. Words are winged yet speak from the bones of the earth. Denied expression, we lose heart; then we lose our humanity. Suggestion for approaching and engaging in propitious dialog: Don’t demand final, definitive answers. The very notion, in an instant, demeans and destroys the potential of unfolding, organic phenomenon.

If you persist, you will have deracinated dialog from its natural habitat — a breathing landscape of infinite mystery. Acceptance of the following is crucial: Acts of exploration will serve to uncover more questions.

The heart is not a mere pump; it is the hub of imagination; it yearns for experience, thinks in living imagery, and will lead, if followed, into participation mystique. Any attendant answers…are an after the fact phenomenon. Then the scene shifts. The structure of the old order becomes a veil of dust, its dogma, the admonition of a long dead ghost. A ghost is an uncoupled habit, a self-resonating feedback loop shuffling through a fixated mind, an entity devoid of life thus cannot generate novel questions.

I question; therefore, I reveal signs of life. Yet the questions must remain open-ended, for when you insist on a forced finality, you have arrested and killed the process; you have attempted to render the voluble soul of the world into a didactic corpse.

For the affront, its life-sustaining fire, that suffuses every particle in the cosmos, will respond with the worst of all insults. It will deem you a bore and turn its numinous face away from you.

Speaking of the numinous, with Halloween approaching, our four and a half year old donned his Halloween costume and exhorted me to play one of his favourite games; i.e., let’s pretend.

“When mommy comes in, make her think we’ve turned into monsters.”

Drawing on the Method, I reach down deep within and feel the rage of the besieged earth, thus knowing what my son will come upon later in life: Our humanity is inseparable from the monstrous. To live is to live off death — but, in the case of Late Stage Capitalist humankind, the monster imperative has shifted into runaway, has become a self-resonating feedback loop of destructive impulses.

The kid is transmigrating through an obsession with monsters phase. Making his way through a wilderness of archetypes, he has picked up on an effable truth about his species…that will take a lifetime to process. All who are aware are wounded by the apprehension. If you do not take hold of the monster within, he will take hold of you. Both on a personal basis as well as the monster we know as human history.

Contraception, Abortion, and the Not So Holy Alliance

I’m looking at a large and stately oak tree. It has hundreds of branches and thousands of acorns. Each acorn has the capacity, the blueprint, for becoming another stately tree.  But right now it’s not — it’s an acorn. So when does it become recognized as tree? — Surely not when it first falls to the ground. Probably not yet either, when it’s covered with soil. When the first anchoring root is sent into the soil, is it now a tree? Maybe not — it does have a skinny little tendril, but it still looks like an acorn.  How about when the spring rains come and moisture swells the paired halves? The outer shell splits and something begins to poke through; it’s alive and growing, but is it a tree? When the sprout bends upward, just barely poking through the soil, and into free air — now is it finely a tree? Perhaps, but it might still rest on opinion or a scholarly learned definition. Change continues, two leaves appear, and the shoot grows taller. It sure looks like a little tree, and at some point recognition is undeniable: It really is an oak tree, no matter what frame of reference.

OK, it’s outrageous to compare the process of becoming a tree to that of a human being. There’s no moral based  equivalency, but a mutual creative unfolding does take place. Irrefutably, when egg and sperm unite, the blueprint is put in place to guide that first cell into the process of becoming a fully recognized human being. But where in the process does that recognition become undeniable? Is it at conception? At birth? Or somewhere in between? In that first cell, with the blueprint just completed, is it already a human being?  Or at five months, is it really just an assemblage of cells? Answering “no” to both questions precipitates a period of moral uncertainty and the necessity to entertain arguable ethical considerations.  Answering “yes” to either removes uncertainty and the need for further thought.  Catholic and Evangelical voices have become united in answering “yes” to the first question.  To their dishonor, both rather deceitfully claim God’s behest in support of their answer.  The maneuver intractably stifles exploratory dialogue, and has repercussions far beyond procreation argument.  It began long ago.

Some Historical Perspective

Europe was in turmoil.  The Church was under siege.  By 1870, revolution in France and Italy had erased much of its political/cultural control and had reduced its geographical footprint to the Vatican — hardly more than 100 acres in the city of Rome.  Pius IX and the Catholic Church were in survival mode.  Facing unrest from within, and destruction from without, Pope Pius IX began formal implementation of “Papal Infallibility.”  It was a centuries old concept that had been rejected as demonic in 1324 by Pope John XXII, but now seen as savior in the face of possible extinction.  Approved on July 18, 1870, the doctrine is two-fold: “Papal Infallibility” gives indisputable authority to the pope’s ex cathedra decisions on matters of faith and morals.  The second part, “Papal Primacy,” grants unbridled control over Church governance.

Of the two, “Papal Infallibility” receives most attention because it sounds even more presumptuous than it is. By simple definition, it would seem to broadly imply divine attributes to papal opinion, but in reality is confined to special papal decrees — thus far with minor impact.  It’s been implemented only twice, each time for nothing more than matters of saintly recognition.  “Papal Primacy” sounds less presumptuous and authoritative, but really does hold broad application and delivers ominous power to papal opinion.  It’s comparable to granting dictatorial power to an elected president and leaving Congress and courts with only advisory influence. The overriding papal judgment elaborated in one such decree, by Pope Paul VI, is prominent in current Church procreation thought.

Fast-forward 100 years: It’s 1968 and unrest seems everywhere. Civil rights marches, anti-war protests, political rallies and disruptions dominate the news. Music too, is in the air (and marijuana).  The Beatles, Airplane, The Doors, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, and so many others — all part of a clarion call to change and new freedom. That one word seemed to be the age’s key refrain: Freedom! It had many apostles and when used, inferred validation of purpose.  For the Church, the word held another inference: loss of influence. In effect, the Church was again under siege, not by violent mobs or armies, but by something more insidious. It faced a growing apathy and the prospect of irrelevance. The 60s era of freedom also came with a dawning concern for world population limits, promotion of contraceptive options, and the ensuing “sexual revolution” — all anathema to historical papal position on reproductive morality. The Vatican voice was losing its prominence as the world’s moral authority.

The ship almost changed course prior to the storm. In 1963, Pope John XXIII assembled his Commission on Population and Birth to study questions of birth and population control.  The group was inherited by Pope Paul VI and expanded to nearly 75 members, including an executive committee of about 15 cardinals and bishops. With an overwhelmingly one-sided vote, in 1966, the commission proposed that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil, and thus an allowable practice for married Catholics. It seemed Church policy was about to change, but in 1968, utilizing “Papal Primacy”, Paul VI disregarded the body’s recommendations and instead, issued his own statement, Humanae Vitae. The encyclical pushed aside argument for artificial means of contraception and reinforced abstinence and timing as the sole means of birth control that observed “Natural Law.” It may not have halted the Cultural Revolution, but did provide visage of the approaching clash and a clear moral bulwark from which to defend the onslaught.

Condemnation of birth control would seemingly infer condemnation of abortion.  Church position follows that course, but did have an early rewrite. Until the 17th century, prevalent Catholic thought was that the moment of ensoulment happened long after conception. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) maintained Aristotle’s “calculation” that ensoulment occurred around the 40th day for males, and the 90th for females. All abortive procedures were thought sinful, but didn’t rise to being murderous until after the human soul was present. Centuries later, with microscopic observation of reproductive cells possible (but likely not souls), opinions somehow shifted, and by 1875 conception and ensoulment were widely surmised to occur simultaneously.

Current Position and Alignments

Vatican position now holds abortion (to avoid childbearing) as sinful and murderous. All artificial means of birth control are seen as counter to God’s natural law, and may in themselves be abortive. Accordingly, the gift of procreation should be limited to married couples, with each sexual act being unitive and lending at least a small chance to the possibility of conception.  Exception is given to married couples who are naturally infertile. Reasserted by Pope Paul VI in 1968, this long-held Vatican position could have another modern day rewrite. Current Pope Francis seems to hold relatively liberal views with Church doctrine and has not displayed enthusiastic initiative in support of Humanae Vitae. In fact, he’s stepped away from some of the encyclical’s rigidity. Pope Francis has indicated some sympathy with regards to contraception’s possible role in fighting disease (AIDS, Zika). A reappraisal of Humanae Vitae is not completely unthinkable under his tenure.

Protestant Christian groups are many, and historically have shown little alignment with Catholic thoughts on contraception and abortion.  Most have had less stringent views, particularly with contraception.  In 1968, a gathering of evangelical leaders hosted by Christianity Today and the Christian Medical Society, issued “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction.” The statement noted that not all participants were in agreement as to whether induced abortion was sinful, but did have accord in deeming it necessary and permissible under certain circumstances. The same publication advised Christians that human population control efforts should be aimed towards the prevention of conception rather than towards the prevention of birth. In contrast to stringent Catholic articulation, contraceptive constraint was clearly of less concern in Protestant camps.

Evangelical views began to shift with the passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. Early on, it was not so much the abortive and contraceptive procedures themselves, but the perceived loosening of conservative Christian values that seemed to energize Protestant voices. Just a quiet murmur through much of the 70s, concern (first with abortion and then contraception) found profound amplification and range in the next decade. Jerry Falwell championed renewed focus on the issue, his message being heard throughout the 80’s in an explosion of network evangelism. “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception” was delivered to an expanding audience that soon began to espouse abortive characteristics to artificial contraception. For different reasons, Catholic and Protestant churches were coalescing into a unified front opposing the availability of both abortion and artificial contraception, and now, even those differences are beginning to merge. Originally articulated in Catholic precept as the obvious and natural relationship between God and man, Natural Law is increasingly finding Evangelical acceptance in support of opposition to artificial contraception. In lieu of current controversy with defining contraceptives as abortive, Natural Law provides an oppositional fall-back position from Biblical based argument.

For Catholics and Protestants alike, Natural Law and/or Biblical text, provide foundation for Christian opposition to abortion and contraception. For both groups, the Bible is deemed to be God’s word, while Natural Law is seen as God’s intent or order evident in the natural world. It may be adequate to juxtapose the two stances this way: The Bible is God’s word, as received and recorded by man, while Natural Law is God’s will, as perceived and elucidated by man.

Clerical Overreach

There’s an inescapable problem with citing either source as evidence towards divine censure of contraception (or even abortion): It’s not substantiated. Each requires human invention (Natural Law) or creative interpretation (of Bible) to reach that conclusion and becomes nothing more than arguable opinion. Claims to divine corroboration, then, have no validity. The following are several Biblical verses widely offered as testament in contraceptive debate:

Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

And Judah said onto Onan, Go into thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. (Genesis 38: 8-10)

Lo, children are the heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies at the gate. (Psalms 127: 3-5)

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1: 5)

He telleth the number of the stars: he calleth them all by their names.  Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. (Psalms 147: 4-5)

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, as according the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life. (Exodus 21: 22-23)

Nearly twenty-five English versions of the Bible (and counting) are in existence, which in itself is problematic to divining God’s precise will. The English translations are descendant from prior languages, muddying clarity even further. Still, it’s the passages above (from the “King James Version”) that persist and are most often cited for argument in English speaking lands. While not exhaustive of Biblical allusion to pregnancy and birth, there’s little else to offer more detail or less need for supposition.

It’s at least plain from given Scripture that an omniscient God considers pregnancy and birth to be seen as blessings (or sometimes, as with Onan, a familial responsibility). Procreation is cited as God’s gift to man; that theme is clear, but not much else. Genesis 38: 8-10, is frequently cited as testament against contraception, but can just as easily be seen as rebuke for avoiding customary heritable obligations.  The text most often provided for condemnation of abortion is Jeremiah 1: 5. It’s used to allege that because one is already known by God while in the womb, any abortive means should be considered murderous.  The premise for that conclusion appears to be contradicted in Exodus 21: 22-23, which infers the mother’s life, is more valued than that of the unborn child. Verse by verse, there’s no clear consistent rebuke of contraception or abortion to be found in Biblical text without recourse to interpretive expansion and opinion.

Injecting the term “Papal Infallibility” prompts for unequivocal acceptance of opinion. “Natural Law” attempts the same response. The concept stems from the time of Aristotle and has been refined and incorporated in Catholic dialogue. Natural Law addresses scriptural vagueness and limitation of scope, enabling a convenient expansion of clerical authority while avoiding the appearance of Biblical adulteration. It’s under the banner of Natural Law that much of the Church’s opposition to contraception and abortion are found.  That it’s cited in Catholic (and now Evangelical) doctrine admits hierarchical dissatisfaction with Biblical content as single provider of God’s message.  The creation of Natural Law bridges the gap between scriptural evidence and human proposition, loftily lending an air of spiritual authority.  Pope  Paul VI’s reference to Natural Law in Humanae Vitae should be viewed accordingly:

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”….”Hence to use  this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and his holy will.

Natural Law and creative interpretation of scripture are each utilized to inveigh against contraception and abortion. It’s paradoxical that either veil is used for argument in expressing the will of a god considered to be omniscient. The digression from given scripture suggests either suspicion of a negligent god, or clerical desire for an expanded role exceeding Biblical script.

Beyond the confines of religious certainty, the recognition of embryonic and fetal life as human is enigmatic. A process is visibly taking place, and it’s clear that life is unfolding — but how to define and codify it? Certitude is evasive, leaving ample room for speculation and vigorous opinion.  It’s the prospect of terminating the process, of aborting, that really sharpens opinion. Is it ever ethical? Can there be extenuating considerations? If considerations are admissible, what are the boundaries and who defines them?

Catholic and Protestant voices readily answer and provide certainty, but not without defiling the wellspring of their authority. When clerics creatively manipulate or append Biblical testament, their appeal to providence is discredited. The ploy extends breadth to moral authority, but with consequence to actual integrity. The damage is not confined to just that — it extends past procreation argument and into the social and political fabric beyond church dominion.

Cultivation of Implacable Thought

Nothing is more polarizing than proclaiming “God’s will” to advance a controversial opinion. It begets a spiritual obligation to rigidity of thought and action, leaving no room for compromise or accommodation.  It’s not surprising that religious leaders would play the God card in valid representation of scripture — they’re expected and entrusted to do so. It’s disturbing though, and dangerous when clerics counterfeit scripture to play that card.  It’s not done through ignorance — there’s been centuries of scriptural study, with tomes of elucidation on every nuance of Biblical testimony. It’s likely not done in pursuit of a better good; Pope Paul VI even warns against that type of transgression in Humanae Vitae:

It is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it — in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family, or of society in general.

The lingering consideration is that religious leaders have willingly misrepresented scriptural authority to bolster their own. Prostituting “God’s will” for authoritative gratification has pushed the contraceptive/abortion issue to an ascendant posture beyond reconciliation. Single-topic intransigence provides fertile ground for political exploitation. Little is required beyond declaration. It delivers the goods, and because it’s a preeminent position, often provides cover for action (or inaction) that would otherwise merit condemnation.

Collateral Damage

Traditionally, Republican politicians wave the pro-life banner. Since at least 2000, white Catholics and Evangelicals (especially), have tended to support Republican candidates. While Blacks and Hispanics have a large presence in Catholic and Evangelical groups, they’re often marginalized in GOP policy and face more imminent threats than posed by procreation policy. White Christians are less marginalized, and in the last four elections their vote has gone to the Republican candidate by significant margins. 2016 exemplifies the trend: 60% of white Catholics voted pro-life and Trump, while 81% of white Evangelicals did the same. It’s reflective of the previous three elections. For white Christian voters it was not a mandate for change, but simply business as usual.

American politics and the Republican Party aren’t singularly dominated by white Christians, but the impact is significant, and in close elections can be crucial — as evidenced in 2016. The campaign and election results for that year provide vivid example of pro-life’s ascendant position and its determining influence.  Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump showed little in the way of holding traditional Christian or humanistic values. The opposite was more visibly true, but he did wave the pro-life banner.

The president’s first year has been reflective of the campaign’s conspicuous display. There’s an abundance of loud talk and activity running counter to Christian and humanistic concerns. Some administrative action (or lack of) can easily be seen as life threatening (gun policy, environmental degradation, immigration stricture, bombastic international diplomacy, healthcare constriction, etc.). Peril to the living is real and clearly visible.  That the pro-life banner was sufficient enticement for so many Christian voters conveys two possibilities: It’s deemed more important than all other considerations combined; or it’s a hypocritical affectation for self image and display. In either case, Catholic and Evangelical dissimulation provides the ladder to this ascendant position. In posing human opinion as God’s expressed will, Christian clerics bear prominent responsibility for the formidable voting bloc made available to political use — and abuse.

Politically it’s great strategy, sewing up a faithful block of voters. Whether intentional or not, Catholic and Evangelical leaders are partner to the manipulation. It may not have seemed like much, centuries ago, to have enhanced authority and Biblical reach with Natural Law. It may not seem like much today when proclaiming “The Bible clearly states this or that”, when it doesn’t quite do so. It is just a stretch after all. But it’s more than the simple stretch for a bit of self enhancement. It’s religious, and proclaims God as author to declarations never made. A spiritual deception is presented, and has multiple consequences: The faithful are shackled to an intractable position, dissemblers are given veil, and manipulators are given prey. In view of present reality, is it exaggeration to say the world suffers for it?

The Real Reasons Trump is Quitting Unesco

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

The first is that in 2011 Unesco became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at Unesco. Its departure is little more than a formality.

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

Unesco, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, Unesco enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

The third crime is the priority Unesco gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent Unesco reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating Unesco for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Unesco’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit Unesco is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish Unesco for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at Unesco, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.

• First published in The National, Abu Dhabi.

The Balfour Declaration Destroyed Palestine, Not the Palestinian People

Some promises are made and kept; others disavowed. But the ‘promise’ made by Arthur James Balfour in what became known as the ‘Balfour Declaration’ to the leaders of the Zionist Jewish community in Britain one hundred years ago, was only honored in part: it established a state for the Jews and attempted to destroy the Palestinian nation.

In fact, Balfour, the foreign Secretary of Britain at the time his declaration of 84 words was pronounced on November 2, 1917, was, like many of his peers, anti-Semitic. He cared little about the fate of Jewish communities. His commitment to establishing a Jewish state in a land that was already populated by a thriving and historically-rooted nation was only meant to enlist the support of wealthy Zionist leaders in Britain’s massive military buildup during World War I.

Whether Balfour knew it or not, the extent to which his short statement to the leader of the Jewish community in Britain, Walter Rothschild, would uproot a whole nation from their ancestral homes and continue to devastate several generations of Palestinians decades later, is moot. In fact, judging by the strong support his descendants continue to exhibit towards Israel, one would guess that he, too, would have been ‘proud’ of Israel, oblivious to the tragic fate of the Palestinians.

This is what he penned down a century ago:

His Majesty’s government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Speaking recently at New York University, Palestinian professor Rashid Khalidi described the British commitment, then, as an event that “marked the beginning of a century-long colonial war in Palestine, supported by an array of outside powers which continues to this day.”

But oftentimes, generalized, academic language and refined political analysis, even if accurate, masks the true extent of tragedies as expressed in the lives of ordinary people.

As Balfour finished writing down his infamous words, he must have been consumed with how effective his political tactic would be in enlisting Zionists to join Britain’s military adventures, in exchange for a piece of land that was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, he clearly had no genuine regard for the millions of Palestinian Arabs – Muslims and Christians alike – who were to suffer the cruelty of war, ethnic cleansing, racism and humiliation over the course of a century.

The Balfour Declaration was equivalent to a decree calling for the annihilation of the Palestinian people. Not one Palestinian, anywhere, remained completely immune from the harm invited by Balfour and his government.

Tamam Nassar, now 75 years old, was one of millions of Palestinians whose life Balfour scarred forever. She was uprooted from her village of Joulis in southern Palestine, in 1948. She was only five.

Tamam, now lives with her children and grandchildren in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza. Ailing under the weight of harsh years, and weary by a never-ending episode of war, siege and poverty, she holds on to a few hazy memories of a past that can never be redeemed.

Little does she know that a man by the name of Arthur James Balfour had sealed the fate of the Nassar family for many generations, condemning them to a life of perpetual desolation.

I spoke to Tamam, also known as Umm Marwan (mother of Marwan), as part of an attempt to document the Palestinian past through the personal memories of ordinary people.

By the time she was born, the British had already colonized Palestine for decades, starting only months after Balfour signed his declaration.

The few memories peeking through the naïveté of her innocence were largely about racing after British military convoys, pleading for candy.

Back then, Tamam did not encounter Jews or, perhaps, she did. But since many Palestinian Jews looked just like Palestinian Arabs, she could not tell the difference or even care to make the distinction. People were just people. Jews were their neighbors in Joulis, and that was all that mattered.

Although the Palestinian Jews lived behind walls, fences and trenches, for a while they walked freely among the fellahin (peasants), shopped in their markets and sought their help, for only the fellahin knew how to speak the language of the land and decode the signs of the seasons.

Tamam’s house was made of hardened mud, and had a small front yard, where the little girl and her brothers were often confined when the military convoys roamed their village. Soon, this would happen more and more frequently and the candy that once sweetened the lives of the children, was no longer offered.

Then, there was the war that changed everything. That was in 1948. The battle around Joulis crept up all too quickly and showed little mercy. Some of the fellahin, who ventured out beyond the borders of the village, were never seen again.

The battle of Joulis was short-lived. Poor peasants with kitchen knives and a few old rifles were no match for advanced armies. British soldiers pulled out from the outskirts of Joulis to allow Zionist militias to stage their attack, and the villagers were chased out after a brief but bloody battle.

Tamam, her brothers and parents were chased out of Joulis, as well, never to see their beloved village again. They moved about in refugee camps around Gaza, before settling permanently in Nuseirat. Their tent was eventually replaced by a mud house.

In Gaza, Tamam experienced many wars, bombing campaigns, sieges and every warfare tactic Israel could possibly muster. Her resolve is only weakened by the frailty of her aging body, and the entrenched sadness over the untimely deaths of her brother, Salim, and her young son, Kamal.

Salim was killed by the Israeli army as he attempted to escape Gaza following the war and brief Israeli invasion of the Strip in 1956, and Kamal died as a result of health complications resulting from torture in Israeli prisons.

If Balfour was keen to ensure “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” why is it, then, that the British government remains committed to Israel after all of these years?

Isn’t a century since that declaration was made, 70 years of Palestinian exile, 50 years of Israeli military occupation all sufficient proof that Israel has no respect for international law and Palestinian human, civil and religious rights?

As she grew older, Tamam began returning to Joulis in her mind, more often seeking a fleetingly happy memory, and a moment of solace. Life under siege in Gaza is too hard, especially for old people like her, struggling with multiple ailments and broken hearts.

The attitude of the current British government, which is gearing up for a massive celebration to commemorate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, suggests that nothing has changed and that no lessons were ever learned in the 100 years since Balfour made his ominous promise to establish a Jewish state at the expense of Palestinians.

But this also rings true for the Palestinian people. Their commitment to fight for freedom, also remains unchanged and, neither Balfour nor all of Britain’s foreign secretaries since then, have managed to break the will of the Palestinian nation.

That, too, is worth pondering upon.

52 Years after Fascist Genocide, Indonesians Scared of “Communist Ghosts”

From Jakarta and Yogyakarta — It was once again a hot, muggy day in Jakarta. The air was full of pollutants, epic traffic jams blocking entire center of the city. Biasa, as locals would say, or in a lax translation, ‘business as usual’.

It is September 29th, 2017, Friday, just one day before the most sinister anniversary in the entire Southeast Asia.

On September 30th, 1965, the Indonesian military, obeying orders from foreign powers (mainly the US and the UK), overthrew the progressive and anti-imperialist government of President Sukarno, murdering between 1 and 3 million men, women and children (including almost all members of the Communist Party of Indonesia – PKI). This was done with the direct help of almost all the major religious organizations (Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and Hindu). The bloodshed continued well into 1966, and the “Rivers were choked with corpses and ran red from blood,” as I was told by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the greatest Indonesian novelist. All the hopes for a socialist, just and egalitarian motherland were wasted.

Before the coup, Indonesia used to be a true internationalist nation, and was one of the proud founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (the West Javanese city of Bandung hosted its establishing conference in 1955). President Sukarno and his progressive and patriotic government used to hold in their hands almost all the natural resources, trying to build a proud, artistic and productive nation. Sukarno once even humiliated the US Ambassador, in front of a huge crowd, at a packed stadium: “To hell with your aid!” He did not need any Western aid. He was presiding over potentially one of the richest nations on Earth.

The Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), the third largest in the world after those of the Soviet Union and China, was going to win the elections, comfortably and democratically, in 1966, while being fully supported by President Sukarno. Their manifesto was clear: anti-imperialism, social justice and land reforms. But who were some of the largest landowners in Indonesia during that period? Religious leaders! And they, together with the military and corrupt elites, decided: “No!” This has to be stopped! No justice. No internationalism. No socialism.” They betrayed the nation and its people; they committed treason and on September 30, 1965, overthrew socialist democracy.

The results were horrifying. Perhaps the worst massacres of the 20th Century took place. Mass slaughter, mass rape, and cutting off of female breasts, torture, and shortly after the initial horrors, overflowing prisons and concentration camps. Around 40% of all the teachers of Java were slaughtered and the military was substituted into the school classrooms. Film studios and traditional theatres were shut down, and writers were sent to Buru concentration camp. Intellectualism was fully discouraged, while Communism, the Chinese language and culture, but also all progressive arts and creativity were either ridiculed, or out rightly banned. Promoted instead, were Western-style turbo-capitalism (that which was invented for the colonies, not that for the local consumption in Europe and North America), ‘religions’ (based on repetitive rituals, not on intellectual or spiritual search for God), ‘family values’ (read: patriarchal oppression), an empty pop culture, and selfishness, boosted by consumerism. All this combined gave birth to some of the worst corruption levels in the world.

Indonesia as it used to be before September 30, 1965, died. Unable to produce anything of substantial value, it began perpetrating the unbridled plunder of its own natural resources, predominantly on behalf of foreign conglomerates. The entire beautiful and naturally rich, enormous islands, like Borneo (the largest island in Asia and the second largest in the world), Sumatra and Papua, were converted into devastated, poisoned and fully privatized ecological and social nightmares.

*****

It seems that killing everything decent and hopeful has not been enough for this regime. Even memories have to be killed, even dreams. The great progressive past of Indonesia is being smeared and twisted, until there is nothing more left, only confusion and mechanical religious, family and commercial rituals.

Now, one of the mainstream Indonesian magazines Tempo put on its 25 September – 1 October 2017 cover: “SEKALI LAGI HANTU PKI”
(“Once Again, Ghost of PKI”).

Whenever it suits the corrupt elites, the military and the religious cadres (three main pillars of the Indonesia oppressive regime), the Communist ghost is evoked. It is depicted as a monstrous, nasty, and murderous creature. Indonesian children were taught that the Communist hammer was there to smash the heads of the people, while the sickle was – to cut their throats.

Islamic organizations, as well as the military and police are ‘guarding the nation’ from vicious atheist religious gangs and the security forces regularly dispersing countless meetings. Those who dare to address topics such as social inequality, the lack of decent medical care, affordable education, housing and other basic services, get physically attacked, or legally sanctioned.

MP’s and some government officials, who dare to talk about the necessity to redistribute the wealth of the country, favoring the poor, get attacked or at least openly smeared, including such individuals like the present President, Joko Widodo. Popular, extremely effective and left-leaning, the Governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, was recently locked up in a prison for ‘insulting Islam’ – on thoroughly bogus charges. His biggest ‘sin’ appeared to be his determination to build a mass public transportation system (instead of forcing people to use private vehicles, as all previous pro-business administrations have been doing, submissively), creating green public areas, building drainage and cleaning clogged and polluted canals.

‘Ahok’ is of Chinese origin, a great ‘crime’ in the racially intolerant Indonesia. President Widodo is not. No matter what his ‘blood’ is, he is repeatedly accused of being a ‘Communist’, especially after his State of the Nation speech earlier this year. He has been addressing issues related to social justice, something thoroughly unacceptable in extremely pro-business and pro-Western Indonesia.

Putting the interests of his people above the interests of foreign corporations has gained him countless enemies, at home (from the elites servile to the West) and abroad. His arch-rival and enemy, General Prabowo (former commander of the notorious Kopassus Special Forces under Suharto) is taking full advantage of the situation.

Many Islamists are now calling President Widodo ‘a Communist’. In Indonesia, it is synonymous with a threat and it could also mean a death sentence.

*****

And so it is September 29th, 2017, Friday, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thousands of protesters are gathering in front of the main gate of the Parliament. Today it is hot and humid, and the air is hopelessly polluted.

March of Anti-Communists

A river of human beings flows slowly. Today it consists predominantly of Muslim militants. Loudspeakers are blasting “Allahu Akbar!” and almost simultaneously:

Ganyang, ganyang, ganyang PKI
Ganyang PKI, sekarang juga!

(Destroy, destroy, destroy PKI
Crush PKI right now!)

These are mainly men, excited and determined. Some women are present, too. Most of them are fully covered. And there are also some children, clinging to their parents, several of them scared, but others clearly enjoying the loud yells and deafening noise.

Huge anti PKI demonstration

Numerous black banners, carrying Arabic insignia, can be spotted in the hands of demonstrators, some suspiciously resembling those of the ISIS. Other flags belong to such organizations as the outlawed but largely tolerated Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which is determined to establish a caliphate all over this vast archipelago.

Theoretically illegal but also tolerated Forum Pembela Islam (FPI) – Islamic Defender’s Front – is operating openly, and it is rubbing shoulders with the police and other security forces. No one would dare or even bothers to stop them from giving speeches or publicly displaying force.

It is obvious that the law is taken seriously only when it comes to the Communists (who are now practically non-existent in this country), or to any socially or people-oriented movements. Radical Islam is increasingly becoming untouchable, as it generally defends the status quo, as well as the political interests of several high-ranking extreme right-wing military officers, business elites, and Western imperialists.

I look around and I see not a single Western reporter. Surely they are busy sitting in their clubs, luxury hotels and condominiums, dutifully scribbling that Indonesia is a ‘vibrant democracy’, and ‘a country known for its predominantly tolerant brand of Islam’; an official Western dogma since 1965 coup.

At one point I’m approached by a group of young men with a small camera.

“What do you think about PKI?” I’m asked in English.

I pretend to be totally brain-dead. I smile. We shake hands.

“You killed PKI here, didn’t you?” I reply with a question.

“You think so?” they are grinning, talking to me as if I was a child. “You really think so? You are mistaken. PKI are like rats; they are hiding underground… they are everywhere. But don’t worry, we will get them all, soon!”

“Islam is a religion of peace. Indonesians are peaceful people,” his friend concludes. He sounds like the BBC.

*****

Then it is my turn to ask questions. I go from person to person. I want to know what do they really know about the PKI, about Communism? For years and decades, Indonesians have been bombarded by grotesque propaganda which was aiming at discrediting everything great and positive that ever took place in the Communist and socialist countries, from the Soviet Union and China, to Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, North Korea and dozens of other left-wing states all over the world.

After 1965, the perception of Indonesians about the world was never based on knowledge and well-informed analyses, but instead on the lowest grade of Western and local propaganda, on racist clichés, and on the gross censorship of everything that could challenge official dogmas.

Destroy PKI Totally, ‘Til Nothing is Left

I talk to a dozen “Communism-haters” and I realize that they know absolutely nothing about the subject they are loudly shouting about. Some are clearly paid to be here. Some have nothing better to do. Some are, perhaps, subconsciously scared about the emptiness of their lives in present-day Indonesia, and they need to cheer each other up, with hate speeches and feelings that they are not alone, that they are like hundreds of millions of others.

Mrs. Bode from Gerakan Ibu Negeri (Movement of the Country’s Mothers):

We are here protesting against resurgence of the PKI! PKI is here; it exists! Their members are all over the social media. They even held seminars, recently.

Some seminars were held recently. Not by the PKI, but by scholars and activists who were trying to address the history of Indonesia, particularly the coup of 1965. But the military interfered. Orders were given to break such encounters. A one-sided interpretation of history is the main and sacred pillar of the propaganda unleashed by the regime.

Mr. Wahnad from Majelis Taklim Nurul Ikhlas (Islamic studies assembly) from the city of Bekasi:

We are supporters of the HTI and we are against the government regulation which bans extremist mass organizations like ours. But PKI is real danger to our country. We want them to be banned. Now we even have them represented in the Parliament. Ribka Tjiptaning, an MPs from PDIP, proudly stated that she is a daughter of a former PKI member!

Poor Ms. Ribka Tjiptaning is the daughter of a former PKI member (and a Javanese aristocrat) who was hanged upside-down and tortured in front of her and her little brother (when they were children), before being sent to a prison. Consequently, each of her steps is being scrutinized as if under a microscope. She is clearly left wing, perhaps the most progressive Indonesian politician. And she wrote a book called I’m Proud To Be a Daughter of a PKI Member. But this lone socialist voice could hardly be mistaken for a great renaissance of the Communist thought in Indonesia.

A small, bearded man wearing white robes introduced himself only as Hamba Allah (Allah’s slave):

We are against the resurrection of PKI. They have distributed t-shirts, pictures, and other things, and there are even some children of the PKI members now pushing this ideology.

Mr. Wahnad from Majelis Taklim Nurul Ikhlas (Islamic studies assembly) from the city of Bekasi:

We are against the resurgence of the PKI. PKI was a party that did some sadistic things to Muslims in general and to Ulamas in particular.

“Sadistic things?” I wonder. The PKI was a relatively tame, constitutional and democratic political party. Even in 1965, many of its members were Muslims. Unless by ‘sadistic things’ she meant that it was pushing for land reforms, and had it won the elections in 1966 (it definitely would have done, if the West had not intervened), it would most definitely have broken the scandalous and feudal mass land ownership by the religious leaders.

“Yes, sadistic,” Ms. Khairunnisa raises her voice.

“How do you know?” I ask.

She replies without hesitation:

We know from G30S/PKI film and also from what the teachers told us. We haven’t read any history books on this issue; why should we? We know anyway…

By “G30S/PKI” she means an official state propaganda film, full of gore, with which all children of Indonesia were terrorized and shocked with on the anniversary of the coup. The film was directed by an arch ‘cultural’ collaborator with the ‘New Order” regime of General Suharto – Mr. Arifin C. Noer.

*****

At one point, I get fully covered by an enormous white flag with Arabic script. The flag covers several lanes of the roadway. Perhaps, as a foreigner, I’m being shown my place, taught a lesson, but I don’t care. I just sit down on the concrete road divider and rest for a couple of minutes. It is cooler under the flag, and all those aggressive, militant noises are now mercifully muted.

Flag under which I was later buried

‘Indonesia is a peaceful country’, I think, sarcastically. That’s what the West wants everybody to believe, convincing even Indonesians themselves that it is the case. ‘Indonesia committed three horrid genocides after 1965 – against its  people, against inhabitants of East Timor, and now against Papuans. Here, I have witnessed and covered all sorts of horrors, for decades: from the mass rapes of Chinese women in Jakarta and Solo, to religious violence in Ambon, Lombok and elsewhere. Even members of most of the non-Sunni Muslim groups (including Shia, Liberal Islam, Ahmadiyah) are frequently attacked, even physically liquidated.

The West praises Indonesia, as long as the country allows its companies to plunder the vast natural resources, in such places as Borneo (Kalimantan), Sumatra and Papua, as long as Indonesia remains anti-Communist, as long as its elites – business, military and religious – are willing to sacrifice hundreds of millions of its defenseless, desperately uninformed and mainly wretched citizens.

*****

“Protests in front of the Parliament were confusing. They brought the issue of PKI awakening. But they were led by the hardline Islamist group, HTI, which is itself banned,” explained Iman Soleh, a professor at the Faculty of Social and Political Science (University of Padjadjaran- UNPAD). He continued:

“In the meantime, it is suspected that the demonstrations were supported by anti Jokowi (President Joko Widodo’s nickname) parties, especially Gerindra and PKS… also Aksi 299 is allegedly funded by General Prabowo group, which always uses month of September to bring forward the issue of ‘PKI awakening’… of course it does it in order to weaken Jokowi’s government.”

In Indonesia, everything appears to be confusing, even what is and what isn’t truly Communist.

Several months ago I met a former Indonesian Mujahedeen fighter in Afghanistan, who barefacedly told me that the present-day Russia is actually Communist, and so is Assad’s government in Syria. According to him, even the governments of Karzai and Ghani in NATO-occupied Afghanistan continue to be essentially Communist.

In the minds of many local people, Communist ghosts appear to be crawling out from every corner, even from the tiniest cracks in the floor.

Indonesia is scared; it is clearly not at peace with itself.

It is not really scared of “Communism”, but of something else, although it finds very difficult to define what exactly is frightening it.

Between 1 and 3 millions of corpses could compile an unimaginably huge mountain of horrors. Most of the Indonesian families have both victims and killers in their ranks. And the killings in 1965/66 Indonesia were not perpetrated ‘long-distance’, by pressing some button. People were often slaughtered with bare hands. Victims looked into the eyes of their killers and tormenters, and they were begging, screaming, howling.

There were never any trials like those that took place in Chile, Argentina or South Africa. There was no serious reconciliation process. The military leaders are not rotting in jail; they are actually running the country.

In fact, the crimes have never been acknowledged. Even worse: the victims are still being officially blamed for the beginning of the 1965 ‘tragedy’.

A bad conscience is hanging over this entire enormous archipelago. Bad conscience because of at least three genocides committed in the last half a century, because of selling the entire country to foreign interests, because of the unimaginable plunder of this once, a long time ago, beautiful and abundant land.

Bad conscience is being silenced by loud senseless sounds of brainless pop music, by countless religious rituals, and by continuous attempts not to read anything serious, not to learn and not to understand.

Jihadi Selfies

Another anniversary of the terrible event has just passed. And thousands took to the streets to protest against the victims. They went to insult the memory of those who were mercilessly slaughtered on orders coming from the West. They went to demand that the days of true independence and the greatness of the Indonesian nation would never return.

•  Photos by Andre Vltchek

*  First published by New Eastern Outlook