Radicalisation and a kiss

Happy 2015! What a jolly time of it the powers that be are having – Obama and Cameron posturing like ancient philosophers on the problem of radicalisation and how to combat (combat?) hardline ideologies. LMAO – Mirror mirror on the wall…

Islamic fundamentalism grows in catch up with Christian fundamentalism and neoconservative/neoliberal fundamentalism.

There, I’ve answered it for you in a nutshell. But let me explain, in case you don’t get it yet Mr O and Mr C, (although I’m certain you get it very very well):

In a reality of linear and concrete thinking, where in Scripture this and that is taken to be literally true, fundamentalism will always beget fundamentalism.

Meanwhile hardline neoliberal policies of post GFC austerity beget a downtrodden populace, a populace with a dim yet tangible sense that they’ve been conned. (You will have heard the term bankster Mr O and Mr C?)

As ever, the two extremes, Christian and Islamic, foment each other, and as the pot is stirred by Western Supremacism (your way or the highway, eh), the utterly disaffected become so pissed off they’ll take up a bomb or a gun. It’s an obvious response. Happy days, say the Crusaders.

Radicalisation exists because we have a word for it, our gluttonous media slavering over every ounce of it. Hat’s off to the think tanks for this latest bit of spin in this new wave of propaganda. My, how adept you must think you are! Adept at creating thought wars, the battleground a dense fog, a miasma. Must be a fun job that.

Woo hoo say the corporations, circling vultures, waiting to swoop and eat their fill as cities fall and people flee. There’s the arms trade, there are the government contracts, there’s the private militia/security business, there’s the reconstruction, and there are the billions of dollars of profit to be made out of asylum seeker detention centres. It’s a bonanza.

Yet two women kiss and canoodle and are thrown out of a cafe in Vienna, and the owner is forced to apologise after over a thousand people take to the street outside in protest. If humanity is capable of mass action in the face of a cafe kiss, then little wonder you are afraid of us, so afraid you stamp us down with anti-protest laws and beefed up surveillance and security.

Let the woman in the hijab be. Let Islam, a religion of peace and grace, be. Let fundamentalism slip away on the wings of an open heart free of fear and hatred. And let neoliberalism fall, as all empires fall, and we can say farewell Mr O and Mr C, and welcome in a new and better age of fairness and goodwill.

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Reality Check

sheldonswolin_590

I was troubled this morning to read of the 10,000 people who lost their lives in the UK in 2013 as a result of fuel poverty. Fuel Poverty Action is taking action. ”They’re targeting Energy UK, the lobbyists for the tax dodging, huge profit making, Big Six energy companies.” http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/guest-blog-no-more-deaths-from-fuel-poverty/ And  I was troubled for a second time in the face of the injustice that has caused citizens to take to the streets of Ferguson; in a nation where the police are in service of corporations and not the citizenry. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=482387718569407 And at risk of bathos, here in Australia, our government has just axed the budget of our much loved and non-commercial ABC and it’s sister television station SBS, both known for their cutting edge news and documentaries, their efforts to present balanced and alternative views, and their coverage of serious issues.

All this news caused me to pause. I knew instinctively that all three dreadful bits of news were connected. I needed to do a reality check. I had to remind myself of why these things are happening and happening in Western democracies. I thought again of that fabulous book Democracy Inc by Sheldon S Wolin. I share with Chris Hedges a passion for Democracy Inc. for it explains what is happening to democracy and why. It isn’t a light read. But sometimes things are too damn important to treat lightly. The more of us who take the trouble to give the book a go the better, for it does more than offer an explanation. The book occupies the ground otherwise too easily labelled conspiracy theory and what is going on behind the scenes is in fact a conspiracy and not theoretical at all!!

Here’s the way I see the con.

Reality check:

1/ The Sting. The GFC was caused by the banks who were then bailed out by governments with tax payers’ money. Government is now in debt to the banks. Citizens pay the banks (again) via austerity measures. Bankers are laughing all the way to their own front doors. Read Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia for a punchy and entertaining portrayal of what went on.

2/ The Second Sting. Behind the veil of budget deficit every small fragment of social democracy that can be privatised is being privatised. Once privatised the operating systems will be corporatised (asset stripped and so on) and services rendered both expensive and inadequate. The minimum will be provided, for the maximum profit. For an insight into how corporations operate as vulture capitalists read Antony Loewenstein’s Profits of Doom.

In the corporatised scenario citizens often pay for services that used to be provided for by government. Citizens also pay for the same services through their taxes, which go into the government outsourcing coffers to pay the new corporate service providers. So we pay for the same service twice. And the corporations are dizzy with delight.

3/ The Third Sting is the corporatisation of government itself. Imagine that our elected representatives are not representing us at all. They have been swallowed by the corporate sector. They have been bought, groomed, placed or otherwise corrupted to serve the interests of Capital and not the people. They wear false cloaks and false smiles. They hold our babies and steal our wallets. The best encapsulation of this sting is the revolving door, where individuals move back and forth from plum jobs in government to plum jobs in the corporate sector.

Studies have shown that the Corporation is psychopathic The hallmark of a psychopath is a distinct lack of empathy. As an entity a corporation is also a breeding ground for psychopaths. For people who lie, who deceive, who con, who cheat; heartless bastards whose capacity for cruelty is vast, whose capacity for blithe indifference equally vast.

It’s been six years since the GFC turned the screws on social democracy and created this latest horror show. Dystopia is upon us and many are accusing their governments of blatant fascism. We can and we must fight this beast. Not by following the ruthless cruelty of organisations like Islamic State, which are both corporate democracy’s nemesis and mirror, ( in effect a Fourth Sting fomented by corporate democracy to engender widespread fear and tighten security and surveillance laws). Instead, we must protest and campaign and educate and keep on shining a spotlight on reality. To that end I will from time to time hold up my own thin candle and shout.

Heeding the Jihad Call

images   Hearing Obama outline his latest plan for the curtailment of ISIS it would be easy to believe that this group emerged spontaneously and entirely of its own accord out of the desert country of Syria and Iraq, filling a vacuum in the power shenanigans left when the US military pulled out of Iraq. That’s the propaganda. That is what the US and its allies would have us believe. And it isn’t true.

An elite of concentrated power bent on expansionism, such as found in Empire America today, will inevitably spawn its nemesis; groups of the disenfranchised, the alienated or the diametrically opposed in belief and ideology, those who contest both the expansionism and the elitism behind it. This sounds a logical and reasonable claim.

Empire America calls the nemesis terrorism.

Dig around and things begin to look quite different. Since the power elite of Empire America knows full well that such a nemesis will emerge, as inevitable as sunrise, they have set off with fertilizer and a watering can, encouraging their nemesis to grow and flourish, seizing the opportunity to further their own aim to render the Middle East a series of Failed States.

The nemesis has had other names. In the age of European expansionism, when Spain and Portugal and Britain were conquering new lands, the nemesis was piracy. In fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries piracy was rife. Renegades from all over Europe flocked to Algiers and Sale, (the pirate utopias of North Africa),  many converting to Islam. Piracy was big and legitimate business. In Algiers, then the world’s slave capital and a sanctuary for a polyglot of renegades from all over Europe, ten per cent of the proceeds of a pirate attack went into the city coffers in exchange for the pirates’ protection. Sale, originally inhabited by Berbers and the only Moroccan Atlantic city not to have fallen to the rising powers of Spain and Portugal, became the home of exiled Spaniards that had fled King Phillip III’s anti-Moor ethnic cleansing. It was out of these exiled groups that the notorious Sally Rovers came into being. Ships sailing back from the Americas were especially vulnerable. The Canary Islands, situated en route to the Americas, were repeatedly sacked. And these piratical attacks were brutal. Whole villages and towns razed, people slaughtered, or taken as slaves to be sold back in Algiers. An entertaining and informative book on the matter is Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs and European Renegadoes,  by Peter Lamborn Wilson, 1995.

Today the ideology of Jihad has replaced that of piracy as a repository for all the thugs, criminals and blood-lusting psychopaths eager to let loose their base impulses. Young men craving adventure, keen to cut loose and go wild, enamoured with rampage, glorying in brutality are drawn to join one or other of the many groups fighting the enemy Empire America, fighting to gain supremacy over competing groups, fighting to impose their own version of Islam, fighting for the hell of it.

Then as now the holy war and its defeat are glamourised and revered. Tragedies mourned, heroes celebrated. Pomp and ceremony in abundance. Then as now it is big business that profits. Then as now it is the innocent who suffer.

Now, as then, the fall of ISIS will mirror the retreat of Empire. Or its collapse.

 

Waking up to the Third World

 

heges Back in the 1980s I enrolled in a course as part of my undergraduate degree with the Open University (UK) entitled Third World Studies. I was twenty-four and full of awe and amazement and outrage as I learnt about India’s Green Revolution, issues for the Tuareg of Niger, and of the economies of the newly-industrialised countries (NICs) of south-east Asia. I learnt about the problems created for poor economies by big business. I learnt about the IMF and the World Bank. I studied the socialism of governments in Tanzania and Mozambique. I read novels by Buchi Emecheta and the poetry of Louise Bennett. The course was multi-disciplinary (perhaps the first of its kind) and all-encompassing, or so I thought.

Now I am reading Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Nation Books, 2012) and I realise that the course title ‘Third World Studies’ was a misnomer. The title created the illusion that there was a First World, perhaps a Second World (Russia) and a Third or Poor to Very Poor World. Other notions have come along since, such as North and South, notions that also perpetuate the illusion. For upon reading Hedge’s text, it has struck me squarely that apparent third world conditions (slavery, corruption, severe inequality) have always existed and persist in America today.

Being from Australia it is fairly easy to say that our indigenous Australians have been condemned to exist as impoverished others in their own land, conditions normally associated with the very poorest of the poor in the ”Third World.” John Pilger’s Utopia suffices as an introduction to that view. Perhaps I have for too many decades been naive, or perhaps somewhat in the dark as regards poverty in America. I have known about low wages, trailer parks, food stamps, the state of Detroit, African American and Hispanic and Mexican poverty. I have known of the ludicrously high incarceration rate in America, mostly of African American men. And I knew, vaguely, that America’s First People are horribly oppressed and marginalised. I knew all of this, but only vaguely. I knew about the voracious appetite of American corporations too, of their corruption of democracy and the judiciary, and the casino-style hustlers in the world of American finance.

What I have not known, not contemplated, not engaged with so deeply it  turns my stomach and makes me want to holler with outrage and weep for the suffering – tears I had spilled decades earlier for many an African nation – Hedges portrays with unrelenting honesty. A laying bare of America’s underbelly, from the native Americans of Pine Ridge, the enormous widespread and utterly unjust suffering of the poor of Camden, the  devastation of the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia (500 mountains so far bombed into oblivion to extract their coal), and the Mexican slave workers in tomato fields in Immokalee, Florida.

That the American Elite (corporations in cahoots with duly corrupted and compliant political and judicial systems) can so devastate its own nation in such a ruthless manner, bodes so ill for the rest of us, for this is the package it persists in exporting to the rest of the world in the guise of development.

As I have indicated above, I have long known the dreadful environmental and social consequences of Big Mining. The struggles of the working classes and the poor around the world are so often bound up with the mining giants, along with the oil and gas giants. If not, they are bound up in agribusiness. It is a case of same old same old.

So when I read calls from the apparently awake  for others to wake up, I ask myself of the islanders of Bougainville – Are they awake? – Yes, I have to say yes they are. What of Papua New Guinea? – Are the people there awake to the shenanigans of corporate greed? – In large part I would say they are? What of the villagers of India whose valleys are being flooded by Big Dams? Are they awake? – I would say most definitely, judging by their protests.

What of the native Americans at Pine Ridge? Are they awake? Yes, I have to say mostly yes, for the alcoholism, the drug addiction, the suicides, the violence, surely they are a recognition of and a response to the consuming misery they are forced to endure. They are awake, to a nightmare.

So I ask of those who make the awake call, wake up who exactly? The privileged middle classes struggling to maintain expensive lifestyles and fat mortgages? Do they slumber? Or are they imprisoned by the system too, riven with fear of losing everything in an economic and social climate of uncertainty.

Sure there are those who are not so much asleep as rendered catatonic by consumerism with all its glamour, sure there are those whose hearts are riven by hatred and bigotry, those  prejudiced against the many who are not themselves. I don’t think there is much to be done about them, or at least, I don’t have a solution. All I know is that those who are catatonic and those who hate will most likely never ”wake up.”

There are enough of us around the globe who know more or less exactly what is going on. There are definitely enough of us who are awake to make a difference if and only if, we all decide to do something, to realise that what we face in the world today is a state of emergency akin to that of a world war, and we must resist at every turn.

I am a non-violent person. Which was why I was shocked when I woke this morning to the thought that someone should drop something big and heavy on Bohemia Grove at an opportune moment. Then I thought, no, that would make little difference. But I do know that we must make great personal sacrifices if we are to stave off the march of the corporations. We must preoccupy ourselves with the spirit of Occupy. And if ever there was a book to rouse the heart to action, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is it.

 

The whole world as we know it now.

Empire-State-BuildingWaking at four every morning seems to provide me with a reflective perspective on life, as if the pre-dawn hours are meant for contemplation. While the world around me sleeps and only the cock crows prematurely, I can think. And my thoughts have settled today on the will-to-empire. For it occurs to me that humanity has now entered a new era, certainly the new age has dawned but not on a lovely sunny day, more on a scene from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

This morning I realised that the limits of empire are always the whole perceivable world. Empire will always expand as far as it can reach, as far as what is known. The whole world for the Incans, the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Egyptians or the Ancient Greeks was most likely smaller than that conceived of by the Romans, the Chinese or the Ottomans.  The Spanish world was larger still, thanks to the invention, by the Portuguese, of the ocean faring caravel. Then at last the British Empire came along and took control of far off distant lands. The British saw the whole world and wanted it.  But even the British had to concede that there were rival nations and empires competing for territory. Britain could not rule the whole world in its entirety even if it managed to gain and maintain supreme power across a vast spread of nations for around four hundred years.

Empire is always contested. There will always be nations who are non-compliant and nations with a will-to-empire of their own. So where there is empire there will also be war. And there will always be human suffering.

One empire supplants another. As one empire falls another rises to take its place. And humanity has not transcended the dynamic. But it seems too many of us are incapable or unwilling to face the reality of empire, the consequences of empire, the sheer destructive stupidity of empire. And so we are doomed to repetition.

After WWII and upon the invention of the Cold War it appeared there were two competing Superpowers on the world stage, America and Russia, with a third, China, in wings waiting for its big chance. Today this appears no longer the case. While China and Russia will continually contest and seek to undermine the power of America, it is America that is the single Superpower of our age. It has attained Empire status and is on a quest for complete global domination by any means. In keeping with the aims, objectives and methods of  empire, the domination it seeks is economic, the means used are both ideological and military (There is perhaps only one difference between the American empire and the empires of the past. It is formed of corporate rather than state (whether born of government or monarchy) interests).  And today we witness the consequences of American Imperialism’s will-to empire in conflict with those who oppose it in Iraq, in Palestine, in the Ukraine.

So far I don’t think I have mentioned anything that is not obvious and not the point I seek to make here. What hit me this morning is that Empire has a tendency to run its course. It has a lifespan generally of hundreds of years. In other words, this is only the beginning of the American empire, we are still in the early stages of its life. Even if I track the genesis of the American empire to the beginnings of the Cold War, decades, not centuries, have since passed.

I think of empire as humanity’s greatest evil. I think when empire is the grail in the hearts of humankind, the suffering of others is guaranteed.

Empire always fails. Empire seems always to self-destruct as if its expansionism were a bubble that will finally burst. I fear, however, that we have a very long way to go along the trajectory of the current empire. And there is every chance that when this empire does self-destruct it will bring us all down with it.

Why would the American empire seek its own destruction? For it must realise the probability of its destruction, it cannot possibly believe otherwise in the face of limited natural resources and the severe dangers of climate change. One answer lies not in the insane myopia that clouds the vision of the elite, but rather in the adherence of parts of this elite and large sections of  ordinary Americans as well, to a Last Days fundamentalist Christianity. That for some at least, the destruction of the world is sought so that the chosen few may rise again. When I first heard of such beliefs, that Reagan supported Rapture back in the 80s, it seemed to me ludicrous, surely an isolated example. Now I know otherwise.

Meanwhile, since this empire will likely go out with a bloody big bang soon enough and in the interim things will be business as usual and go on and on and on along the same path, then so will I. I shall continue to wake at four and have my say.

Totalitarianism is wearing a new coat.

togetherIt might seem extreme to talk of totalitarianism in the same breath as America. Totalitarianism belongs to the twentieth century, to Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler. It smacks of despots wielding absolute power through state control. America is nothing of the sort. America is a democracy. Or is it?

When I think of what occurs in the world today, what has gone down since 9/11 2001, that pivotal day that changed America, I begin to wonder. The aftermath of 9/11 saw the formation of the Patriot Act (an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), and Homeland Security. It was used to justify a war on terror of epic proportions.  It justified war in Afghanistan and the preemptive war in Iraq.  Consequently it has led to the starvation of the welfare state, funds siphoned into a ballooning defence budget instead (and this prior to the GFC). And now, under the reign of Barack I, sees the foisting of Free Trade Partnerships upon other nations left and right, effectively diminishing their own democratic autonomy.

In the light of these actions, that America is a Superpower seems undeniable. That its power elite regard it as the one and only Superpower sanctified by a right-wing Christian god ought to be of grave concern. That its power elite consists not of a government democratically elected and held in check by a supreme court and a constitution, but of self-appointed corporate leaders managing democracy in order to further their economic interests, the door between politics and the economy perpetually revolving. In Democracy Inc, Sheldon S. Wolin goes further. ”Stated more strongly, the condition for the ascendance of Superpower is the weakening or irrelevance of democracy and constitutionalism – except as mystifications enabling Superpower to fake a lineage that gives it legitimacy.” (Princeton University Press 2010, p101). One example of the corruption of democracy is the manipulation of votes in Florida that brought George II to the Presidency in 2000.

Wolin argues the case for inverted totalitarianism as a way to describe the American Superpower of today. A totalitarianism that, unlike its forbears, functions behind the scenes, exploits authority and resources of the state and ”gains its dynamic by combining with other forms of power [such as evangelical religions], and most notably by encouraging a symbiotic relationship between traditional government and the system of private governance represented by the modern business corporation.” ibid, xxi

America is now under inverted totalitarian rule. Why inverted? Because as Wolin states, inversion is present when a system, such as a democracy, ”produces a number of significant actions ordinarily associated with its antithesis.” (ibid, p 46). In other words, democracy has become its own other, the very system it opposes, totalitarianism. A system where economics, not politics is supreme (ibid, p 58).

As if that were not bad enough – awful for many Americans – the managed democracy template of this newly emerging Superpower form of governance is being imposed on nations around the world in the guise of a neoliberalist (aka neoconservative) ideology. Hence in Australia we now have an utterly arbitrary emasculation of our welfare state. We are busy signing off on free trade agreements. Our governments are enhancing our surveillance laws, restricting the freedoms of our citizenry, instituting change upon change that benefits the corporations alone while making every effort to maintain a acquiescent citizenry through creating a culture of fear (from bikies to homegrown terror suspects radicalised post-Syria) and especially through the demonising of asylum seekers who come to our shores by boat, thus justifying incarcerating them in concentration camps offshore while fostering xenophobia and racial hatred in the rest of us.

Superpower has the whole world in its sights. It is driven by a lust for a fully expanded empire. Hence post-Iraq we now have a thoroughly destabilised Middle East, with absolute chaos in Libya, bloodshed and despair in Syria, in Iraq, in Palestine and now also in Ukraine, anywhere and everywhere that poses a threat to the economic interests of the new Godhead Superpower, or can be construed a source of terrorist threat, this latter set up to scare the citizenry into submission while furthering yet more economic interests.

That a power elite has emerged on the world stage with such overwhelming reach, that can control the workings of its host government of America, is not lost on vast numbers of us. Books are written, banners waived, petitions signed, memes created and facebook pages accrue thousands of Likes. But what will it take to counter such power as exists in the inverted totalitarian state of America? Can it be transformed or must it be destroyed? Will it self-destruct? If so, will it bring the rest of us down with it? Or can those at the helm be swayed before it is all too late?

Perhaps what is needed in America are a thousand Martin Luther Kings, but no doubt they are all locked in jail along with their African-American comrades. What is needed are a million grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a hundred million Indignados,  a billion Occupiers.  This is what we need. We do have power. But only if we use it.

Dystopia is here in all but name.

dystopiaThere was a time when I believed wholeheartedly in the possibility that humanity would transcend its divisions and polarities, with all the attendant hatreds and racism and sexism; that consciousness would expand collectively and that we would embrace unity in diversity and be good neighbours within and across borders. That, I suppose, was my utopian phase. Now I consider it delusional. For there can be no disillusionment without a pre-existing illusion and this is precisely how I now feel. That while the narrative of a bright new age of alternative possibilities and ways of living was advanced in certain circles and within universities (Social Ecology, Permaculture just two examples),  and seekers of spiritual growth were out with their shopping baskets shoring up their own egos (authentic spirituality a noble and exceptionally difficult quest along a potholed road – see Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism), a different sort of new age was already drawing a blanket of darkness over the slumbering masses – dystopia.

One aspect of our dystopian reality is war.

It can’t be stated often enough – the  US Empire’s war strategy is to fund some separatist group (foster, create, invigorate, train) to stoke civil war. It is not a new technique. They were doing it in Afghanistan in the 70s and of course further back in Central and South America. I would say that since the end of WWII the US power elite has forged ahead with its own devious expansionist tactics designed to impose its own corporatist agenda (it might even be said that neoliberalism itself is an economic model and an ideology duly harnessed for the same purposes).

Today I rely on an article, written by Bill van Auken for the World Socialist Web Site. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/07/23/pers-j23.html It was the following quote that prompted today’s blog piece.

”More to the point, the political substance of the charge against Putin—that he is responsible for the disaster [MH17] because he failed to quell the uprising in eastern Ukraine—is far more relevant to the actions of Washington itself. After all, the Obama administration has politically supported, funded and armed Islamist insurgents in Syria, stoking a civil war that has produced human tragedy on a far wider scale, with over 100,000 Syrians dead and an entire country in ruins. It pursued a similar war for regime-change in Libya, backed by NATO bombings, that killed 50,000 Libyans and has yielded similarly catastrophic consequences.
Nor is the same moral standard applied to the US, which supplies Israel with billions of dollars in military aid every year, when it comes to Israel’s mass killing of Palestinians.”

There are no moral standards in dystopia, except when imposed upon outsiders to serve some purpose of the power elite. Which of course leads to blatant hypocrisies such as depicted above.

There are times I wish I could slip on the veil of make believe and exist in a la la land of my own construction. Or turn my back on reality, shrink my awareness until all I see are the simple day to day circumstances of my own life, but I can’t. I can’t focus my awareness solely on fostering positive life-giving alternatives even as I do strive to live an ethical, small footprint life. Instead, I shall continue to go about naming spades. Why? – Because someone has to.