Are we a world at war?
Surely for a world to be at war there should be some cohesion behind geographical lines. There should be advancing fronts. There should be a war office and sirens in the streets.
‘Where are the bomb shelters?’ we in Western nations cry. Go away and leave us be! We are at peace, not war!
But that doesn’t account for all of us. Maybe less than 1% is small, too small to care about, but not when it translates into 60 million.
60 million refugees. That’s according to the UNHCR; nearly 60 million people forcibly displaced in 2014.
One person in every 122 on the planet is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.
These are the highest levels since 1945.
So is the world at war? I think it is. I think that we are in the midst of a monumental crisis and we are for the most part blind to it.
Saying that world war exists starts the search for causes and solutions.
It could be argued that the main cause lies in history: in peoples lumped together with other peoples whom they may never have much liked or got along with as the globe was carved up under the auspices of Empire. It could be argued that each situation has its own unique history: The Rohingyas of Burma, the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, the Darfuri of Sudan, the Hazara of Afghanistan to name some on a long list.
And what of the African migrants in South Africa? That’s a different sort of ethnic cleansing. Workers pitted against workers.
What of the Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic, who face expulsion back to Haiti? All 250,000 of them. Different again. This time it’s been legislated.
The victimisation of minority ethnicities has a long long history. It could be said that these examples show a world not at war but disunited.
But what of the cleaving in the Middle East between Sunni and Shia? A faith dispute between two versions of Islam? Or a manufactured cleaving feeding off the schism. A cleaving cultivated, funded, sought. To answer that we need to examine America’s interests. And Saudi Arabia’s. And Britain’s. In fact, the entire military complex that seeks war, especially when times are austere.
As they are now.
As they are now thanks to the biggest sting against the 99% the world has ever seen: the GFC.
Is it the case that, done with the casino, war is now sought by the banksters, by elements of big business, by the 1%ers whose ambition is only to acquire more wealth?
Or is it simply the case that the cankers of hatred festering in the body of many nations, cankers that have fed on fear and on poverty for decades, are bursting all at once?
Maybe it’s all these things.
My little blog post seeks only to ask questions. The answers would fill bookshelves.
It is my impression that a world at war is what we have. War invisible to those of us who deem ourselves unaffected by it. What a privilege that is! What a convenience! It gives us the power to thumb our noses at asylum seekers. To regard refugees as the scum of the earth.
This is Refugee Week. It’s about time we told ourselves over and again that those 60 million refugees on the planet are the casualties of various forms of ethnic cleansing in countries involved in some sort of war.
It’s about time we tell ourselves that just because the tanks are not rolling down our streets, doesn’t mean we are a world at peace.
It’s about time we tell ourselves that casualties of war are not collateral, are not so much garbage, are not takers and chancers.
They are people, people who bleed just like us.
Isobel Blackthorn’s first novel, ASYLUM, has been released by Odyssey Books and is available through all major booksellers.
With thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in the Straits of Malacca, crammed into boats without food and water, rejected by country after country and towed back out to sea, the desperation of vast numbers of people scrambling to reach safer shores could not be starker. They may be fleeing terror. They may be fleeing destitution. And we must strive to understand the circumstances of such flights in their entirety before we dare to point an accusatory finger.
The blame game will only succeed for so long. A hugely successful propaganda technique is to isolate the ‘fall guy’ and blame to the hilt. When it comes to asylum seekers, we are told to blame the people smugglers. While I dare say such traffickers are not my kind of folk, because I prefer to spend time with people with scruples, they are, like many agents and go betweens, providing an essential service, and making a profit out of the fee.
In The last time they turned back the boats, Jeff Sparrow draws a parallel between the rejection of the Bangladeshi and Rohingya refugees and the Jews on St Louis, and our ‘casual indifference’ to such atrocity. Such indifference is cultivated in part through a manipulative play on our fears, of terrorism, and of ‘opening the floodgates to job stealers.’ Thus a nation may stand firm against ‘marauding outsiders’, control its borders with impunity, its citizenry hardened into callous yet bogus self-preservationist attitudes.
What is alarming about today’s situation is that we are able to turn our hate-fueled eyes in the direction of any and all outsiders, wherever they come from. And the causes of asylum seeking are ignored.
Yet unless we examine those causes, we will be complicit in an evil as great if not greater than the Holocaust. People take flight when fight is not possible. When villages have been razed, towns ethnically cleansed, when the women are raped and the men slaughtered. When there is nothing left to eat or drink. People flee because they are desperate. The decimation of the Middle East, the ongoing violence and oppression across North Africa, Myanmar, the civil war in Ukraine, are but a few examples.
We are also on a precipice. Climate change is already spawning refugees. Bangladesh, home of 156 million people, is slowly sliding under the sea, village by village.
And let’s not forget there are huge sums to be made out of refugees. (And of course war) Who cares about human suffering when profits can be gleaned running detention centres? In fact, refugees make more money than prisoners, so bring it on. The more suffering the better. This sort of statement is not seen on Serco’s home page, or G4S’s, but it should be, and if these corporations told the truth about themselves it would be.
Serco, a corporation run by the super-rich. A corporation that profits out of the poor. That sucks from the teat of the tax payer’s bottle confident the bottle will never run dry.
In essence, asylum seekers exist because the super-rich exist. Because such people are expendable. The reality is that we are all expendable. The insanity of the situation we are living in is that of a parasite determined to kill its host.
Australia is a world leader in a universal cruelty. When St Louis was looking for a home, the locus of evil was Germany. Now we have multiple loci as country after country seeks to guard and close its borders. I have no idea how this will end. I suspect that there will be much horror ahead before it does.
I’ve been dipping into the introduction to a slim book entitled Propaganda by Edward Bernays. It’s the story of a long slow con, the main text written by one of its key proponents, who cites the enormous benefits of propaganda to the politician and the corporation.
The book has me wondering about the rise of shifting shape of propaganda over the last century. I’m no expert but here are a few thoughts.
Many would agree that Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) was spot on in identifying paradigm shifts in science. His insight is so powerful it has been used as a metaphor with much explanatory power in history and the social sciences ever since.
I’m hardly alone in recognising a fairly recent paradigm shift that is affecting the entire world, one rooted in the economics of neoliberalism.
When I was immersed in Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery I kept thinking that the protagonist, Simone Simonini was a typical unscrupulous self-serving totally amoral toad who was happy to do the bidding of various secret services who, in order to accumulate power, were keen to besmirch the Jews and the Freemasons, both groups used as scapegoats.
The events in The Prague Cemetery took place in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Much has changed. Not least a scientific revolution, or paradigm shift in which the new science of Quantum Theory has challenged the old Newtonian physics and a new age of science and technology born. Everyone recognises that.
In contrast the neoliberal paradigm shift is subtle, covert and involves the manipulation of collective thought and emotion. Propaganda is no longer simply about convincing citizens to go to war, or to buy a particular model of washing machine, and it no longer solely serves to promote the various hegemonic ideologies of the day, for example beefing up nationalistic pride.
From Abbott’s “team Australia,” and “death cult” slogans, the overt use of propaganda is screamingly obvious to anyone who paid attention in Year 10 English. These are simply the techniques used by all politicians since 1915, when governments, “systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent,” (Propaganda p 11) in the build up to World War I. The author of the introduction to Propaganda, Mark Crispin Miller, states that propaganda was used before and with success, particularly by Napoleon, but not systematically and it was this systematic use of propaganda that enabled governments to so successfully manipulate their people.
The hidden use of propaganda functions differently. More covert still, it operates far behind the scenes and is obvious only to those who really look. This is the sort of propaganda deployed by the likes of Eco’s Simonini.
When people dismiss conspiracy theory holus bolus as quackery for the paranoid and teenage boys with runaway imaginations, they overlook, as many conspiracy theorists themselves also overlook, that conspiracy is a methodology not a theory. All conspiracy theories are a product of this methodology. Conspiracy, in other words, is a modus operandi, a conspiracy theory generator on the one hand, and much much more besides.
Existing within the thick complex fabric of the world, at work in this country and that, responding to matters arising while seeking to influence those matters, choosing how best to proceed to achieve short and long term goals, employing any shady Simonini to do their bidding, are what might be called the Conspirators. I suppose we can imagine their existence in the inner sanctums of ASIO and embedded in various think tanks and elite groups such as the Leo Strausseans.
It could be argued, and with some force, that the vast social, cultural, political and economic web unfolds chaotically, unpredictably, guided by numerous agents who respond to conditions and make decisions, that this vast complex is impossible to control since there are unexpected consequences at every turn.
Yet this very chaotic complexity has opened up new opportunities for a certain kind of navigation, in part involving the manipulation of dissent. It’s as if Simonini’s ilk have stumbled on a smoke screen generator, one so persuasive and deceptive it can be used at will to both burn up the energies of dissenters and deflect the attention of the populace from unpalatable, if or when scrutinised, policies. Toxic policies that are neatly packaged in spin so as to appear entirely virtuous.
Diversion tactics are hardly new. Nothing these Simonini people do is new. What is new is that in Simonini’s day such types operated on behalf of one nation’s secret service or another, to serve various geopolitical ends and to enhance the power of one country over another, or one group, such as the Catholic Church.
Today, in a globalised world where it can be easily argued that 147 corporations run (or rule) the world, geopolitics itself is a smoke screen. All social unrest, including war and terrorism, and the consequences of war – refugees and asylum seekers, are smoke screens. Anything that occurs and is reported on in the media and seems terribly important at the time, is part of the haze.
This haze is cognitively toxic. For those who do not recognise the toxicity, the damage is invisible. For those who enter the haze with values and beliefs that are counter to it, who contest the injustices, the haze might be deadly.
Today, for humanity, there can be only one fundamental reality and everything is in service to it. Profit. The social or common good is long gone. We have passed the tipping point and entered a new age of the corporation and all that remains is the tying up of a few structural loose ends.
The new paradigm is one in which the Conspirators have taken centre stage in a dark theatre thick with haze, haze so dense spotlights create mirrors. We have entered an age in which, as many of us are saying, 1984 and The Castle are being used as instruction guides, and heinous acts are choreographed, everyone is watched and our leader’s read from double speak scripts.
An age in which in Australia a joker card (Abbott) is played with a straight face that makes the progressives among us rise up alarmed that we are sliding backwards into gross societal unfairness.
Welcome to the age of the Conspirator, the conman and the adept. A new age of narcissism and happy pills. An age of spells and labyrinths and trickery.
An age where mental health equals fantasy. An age ruled by giants who look down, foot poised, on a colony of sugar ants. An age in which defecation is used as syrup to further corrupt our souls.
I used to teach Religious Studies at a high school in the UK. Best subject ever, from trawling through world faiths in the lower years, getting hot under the collar following the GCSE curriculum where moral issues such as Wealth and Poverty were explored, all the way to A Level, when it morphed into Philosophy of Religion.
I was teaching in 2001. The day the twin towers fell I’d just come out of a class on Islam. I was teaching Islam to four classes of Year Eights at the time.
In those classes we explored some core beliefs such as the five pillars of Islam. We did a historical cook’s tour and we thought about what we as white non-believers could learn from the faith.
Bang! A light bulb switched off.
It was the day the Dark Age began.
I’m not getting into the whodunnit side of things. All I know is the pudding was already cooked and ready to serve.
Welcome to the era of the terror monger.
Before the dust had settled on the towers, ‘war or terror’ and ‘axis of evil’ were rolled out. War in Afghanistan and then, to the horror of the world at large, the invasion of Iraq. A sorry recent history full of bloodshed and fomenting hatreds.
Our New Dark Age has the stamp of terror all over it. A stamp of indelible ink wielded on soft skin by the anti-terrorists.
The New Dark Age is an age of Security and Surveillance.
The hordes of bloodthirsty nutters with guns are doing nothing but serving this agenda. I wish they could see their own complicity. I wish they could see that they are empowering the very beast they fight.
As for the rest of us, while we sit around hoping we don’t get caught in the crossfire, we’re already ensnared. Our freedoms constricted by a raft of new laws. Our journalists gagged.
Islam is a fine faith and I, as a non-believer, will always defend it. Islam teaches that within each of us is a divine spark, something pure and sacred and connected to God.
My wish is for that spark to flame and light this darkening world, light up the hearts of those consumed by hatred.
And as for the greedy who are behind everything that is wrong with this world, I have yet to figure out what’s to be done about them…
I wasn’t going to say anything about the greyhound baiting revelations on ABC’s 4 Corners Monday night. It turned my stomach. I thought it a terrific piece of investigative journalism. What it must have taken to film all that!
Then last night on 7.30 Report I listened to Liberal Senator Chris Back stating that he had drafted a Bill that would require that the source material be handed over to some ‘authority’ within 5 days of acquisition, arguing that such handovers would expedite action to stop whatever it is that is going on.
He’s assuming of course, that said authority has no vested interest and is immune from corruption and has the capacity to take such swift action.
Meanwhile, whistleblowers and journalists beware!
No journalist gaining access to any material that might harm the reputation of any organisation will be allowed to hold onto that material and produce a film that explores and probes the issue in question.
There is a reason why this freedom exists for journalists, this ability to investigate behind the scenes then reveal to the public their findings.
It is not to create a sensation, although a sensation is often the result.
It is to expose hidden truths, hold the corrupt to account, help keep all pockets of society, especially those beyond the reach of ordinary citizens, in check.
If this Bill is passed, journalists will be forced to hand over source material to a government or other authoritative body whose job it will be to investigate the matter.
The potential for corruption and suppression of truth is enormous.
In other words, if this Bill passes we will most likely only get authorised, sanitised, heavily redacted versions of events, those that our government of the day wants us to see.
I thought that sort of censorship and control of the media was evident in countries with dictatorial or totalitarian styles of governance. Those with appalling human rights records.