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 missed out on modern history at school and confess that for decades I shied away from gaining much knowledge of the rise of fascism as it all seemed too ugly, too horrific, to delve into.
Now I’m finding it hard to put down Anna Funder’s All That I Am, a novel based on real events in the period between WWI and II, when Hitler rose to power and those on the Left, the communists and socialists of all stripes, were purged. The captured were rounded up and put in prisons until there were so many that concentration camps were created to house them. Thousands of journalists, writers, poets, activists and intellectuals fled Germany to live in exile as refugees in bordering states. Denied the right to work, these refugees existed on air. And they were forbidden from political activism of any kind. Breaking this rule meant deportation.
Many were made stateless. Others were hunted down and killed in exile.
They were dangerous revolutionary times, when humanitarianism was pitted against ugly despotic power.
A similar sort of energy hangs over the world right now. An intensification of power and control versus the revolutionary spirit. The rise of neo-Nazi far-right parties throughout Europe with an equally if not more powerful rise of the Left. Not the Left of old. Something new and fresh is emerging, populist in flavour, youthful, visionary, determined to represent the people, not ideology. Anti-austerity movements emerging in Greece, in Spain, in Italy, and even, in its own way, in Queensland, Australia.
The road ahead for these movements will be fraught, but out of goodwill, out of hope, out of respect, I shall not add my voice to analysis and criticism before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves.
Meanwhile, the old-school persists in habits that have long since been discredited. The treatment of refugees a case in point.
Rounding up refugees (asylum seekers) and putting them in off-shore detention centres is somehow worse than what Hitler did. Those seeking asylum, the same sorts of people that were purged by Hitler (with his lists), the journalists, writers, poets, activists and intellectuals, having already fled persecution, are being imprisoned without trial and tortured, not by their own country, but by ours. There’s something so nightmarish about it. For anyone held captive it is a horror on an epic scale. And here we stand, yet more journalists, writers, poets, activists and intellectuals, risking our own freedoms under new anti-terror and surveillance laws, speaking out on behalf of common humanity.
Anna Funder’s All That I Am is well-researched and factually based. Her contribution to our awareness of that era is profound.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It pleases me to announce that Australia will be selling uranium to India. They are a stable democracy with a growing economy and much need for power. This government is happy to expand into the vibrant market of India with this valuable resource, giving a timely boost to our own economy. Our nation stands to gain many benefits from this gesture of goodwill. Profits all round. It’s a win win win. Yes, I’ll chink flutes with you.
Tailing ponds? Oh, don’t worry about them. They are perfectly safe. Deformities in local populations? You mustn’t take notice of the propaganda on this one. There is no evidence whatsoever that any deformities, if they exist, were caused by the uranium mines, mills or tailing ponds. I shouldn’t pay much attention to the ABC (chuckle). Nuclear power is a safe industry. Fukushima? That was a freak accident and the authorities are doing a good job, a good job securing the plant. Nuclear power is the way of the future, a clean green technology empowering generations to come. Waste? I understand that the Indian nuclear power companies have a sound policy for securing their waste. Nuclear weapons and depleted uranium? Our uranium is sold for sole use in nuclear power stations and not for military use and I have it on good authority that the Indian government is working closely with the power industry to ensure that no uranium and no nuclear waste falls into the wrong hands.
Expanding the uranium mining industry in Australia is good for jobs and good for business. And make no mistake here, mining uranium is perfectly safe. What about adverse effects found in impact studies on World Heritage ecosystems and landscapes? There is absolutely no proof of this. Stringent environmental measures are in place. This government takes environmental safety matters very seriously.
I think we are all agreed on this. Bob Hawke has come out in support of our indigenous Australians accepting the storing of nuclear waste on their land. He’s right when he says it will close the gap on disadvantage. Clearly this is not a partisan issue.
It’s a cast iron mindset.
In Ancient Greek mythology it was the Titan Cronus who overthrew Uranus by castrating him with a sickle. A sickle given him by his mother Gaia to rescue his youngest brothers who had been kept in darkness. Cronus then ruled the world instead, his reign the so-called Golden Age. Nevertheless it was an age of dictatorship, of total rule, one reflected today in the emergence of an insidious totalitarianism at root in corporate globalisation, in which democracies are managed by power elites with corporate interests at heart. Where far-right religions, corporations and governments merge to form a single power elite. Where all social and welfare services are run by private enterprise, from debt collecting, prisons, probation services, detention centres, care homes, counselling services, schools, utilities, transport services – just about everything you can think of run for profit not for us. The taxpayer no longer pays for government to provide all the elements of social democracy. Instead the tax payer lines the corporate purse. To prevent dissent this elite makes every effort to opiatise the people by any means, from anti-depressants, through the use of media to spin propaganda, to the atomising of lives through ideological manipulations so that all that matters to us is the small world we live in, our family, our work, our neighbourhood. Then through education to the inculcation of false beliefs as absolute truths, such as the notion of the selfish gene. And through the glamour of celebrity and promotion of narcissism at every turn. As well we are enslaved by high mortgage debt and lowering wages as we watch our rights to complain erode. Trapped and powerless, we acquiesce. Failing that, and for those free thinkers among us, the security and surveillance measures are there to the ready. It seems the power elite have things all figured out.
To save those compassionate souls among us from complete meltdown, this dystopia is assuaged by a veneer of humanitarianism. The charitable impulse most of us feel is hijacked by quasi-corporate ngos, providing us with a sense of doing small things to make a difference, giving us feelings of well-being and goodness, and an illusory sense of power and influence. We can donate, sponsor a child, watch the awesome efforts of Save the Children or the Red Cross with our credit card in hand. We can accentuate the positive, focus on the rhetoric of the United Nations and feel ennobled to be part of a world that truly cares, never seeing the complicity, inevitable and sad, of the corporations and the humanitarian organisations, some (but not all) natural disasters aside, often responding to situations created either through structure or agency by the machinations of the military-industrial complex. Sometimes a corporation itself will make an overt humanitarian move, such as Gucci with its Chime For Change campaign to empower women around the world. Not to mention the philanthropy and generous donations and funding of worthy causes, such as displayed by the Bill Gates Foundation.
Adopting a simple theosophical view, for all the technological advances of our times, the present globalised world seems to me the consequence and the cause of a devolution of consciousness, a wrong orientation, as if humanity is in retrograde motion, the bulk of us concerned primarily with material achievements and narrow selfish satisfactions.
Whether or not the word totalitarianism is used, there exist many across the world responding to its reach, resisting its impositions, struggling to wrest free. There are two distinct means by which people seek autonomy, one cold-hearted and destructive and on the devolution fast track, the other aware, warm-hearted and constructive and both constrained by the resistant pull of devolution and doomed therefore to struggle and suffer. Both approaches make use of the sickle, that communist symbol of the peasantry.
The destructive response to globalisation is a sickle-abusing power grab. Here disenfranchised factional or nationalist groups arm themselves with ideological and military weaponry and go on the rampage. Their resistance is instinctive, their sense of injustice whipping up rage and desires for revenge that are both delusional and psychotic, laying waste to city upon city, community upon community, destroying that which if they stopped and thought rationally for long enough they would realise they are seeking to protect. Destructive groups play into the hands of the corporate totalitarians. While groups such as IS may believe they are taking back power rightfully theirs, they are unwittingly serving the agenda of the power elite, a power elite that sets about fostering these very factional nationalistic groups for its own purposes. It is ironic that extreme outraged calls for some sort of justice are simply doing the work of the totalitarians, providing failed state upon failed state whilst justifying increases in security and surveillance measures in the so-called free democratic west. These wanton destroyers are unwittingly complicit in the agenda of the War on Terror, a mob of blood-lusting brutes sent forth on a killing frenzy, creating more carnage than all the Hollywood blockbusters combined.
While apparently lacking in the drama, almost the heroism of the destructive response, I believe there is only one constructive solution available to us and one we must pursue with vigour. It is the path of the people’s collective. It involves cooperation, goodwill, egalitarianism and a will to transcend personality differences for the good of the whole. Yet also a need for courage, resilience and perseverance. Constructive acts that seek to demonstrate to the super rich and powerful, that we are not taking their shit any more. That we will fight, we will campaign, we will protest Occupy style, and we too, will carry a sickle in our hands.
The sickle is a tool for harvest, for the constructive response to our times must be one aligned with the land and must be focused on local economies. Whether it be the Permaculture inspired Transition Towns, the creation in Bristol of the Bristol Pound, or the people’s collective of Marinaleda, we need to celebrate each move in the direction of constructive responses to global power that seek change outside the corporate-city walls. Snip the ties that bind us at every turn to the global corporate machine. Reclaim what is rightfully ours – our autonomy. The sickle will save us, if we use it as a tool to empower and not destroy. And perhaps in pushing against the wheel as it turns in retrograde, at least apply a brake.
It has come as no surprise that women’s refuges are under corporate attack. It was only a matter of time before the ideological warriors of the new corporate regime would put in their sights frontline services catering for women fleeing domestic violence. Currently in the UK we witness the broadscale closure of women’s refuges that have been providing women and their children an essential service for decades. It also came as no surprise to read in her piece, There Is No Such Thing as a ”More Efficient Alternative” to Refuges Polly Neate’s insightful critique of that great universal leveller ”efficiency” as the declared motive for the closure of women’s refuges. In my view, this is not only another devastating cut to an essential social service, it is the undermining of a significant power base of the feminist movement.
In his book Profits of Doom, Antony Loewenstein uses the phrase ”vulture capitalism” to describe the carrion qualities of the private military and reconstruction industries involved in both war and disaster, and to refer to corporations such as Serco, G4S and Transfield who circle around governments waiting to snap up then pick to the bone outsourced services from roads and railways to courts, prisons and detention centres. A visit to their own website will quickly show the reach of such carrion corporations (sSee http://www.serco-ap.com.au/).
In my view the concept of vulture capitalism, while providing much insight into the nature of capitalism in our times, does not reach far enough into the belly of the beast, for a vulture is a bird of instinct, following its natural animal will and while laden with menacing symbology is but an outward aspect of a deeper, more malevolent will. The will of the power Elite (that ultra-exclusive club of the intellectual few – see Sheldon S Wolin, Democracy Inc, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp 159-183) that sends forth the vultures to undermine social democracy at every turn.
There are other ambassadors of change, other sorts of birds sent forth, ravens perhaps operating in tandem with the corporate vultures – Non-government organisations. NGOs seem well-placed to step in and run a raft of social services. Utilising an identical model of asset-stripping, down-sizing and streamlining found in the corporate model, many such organisations operate under the guise of a religious denomination and therefore carry a sanctified patriarchal ideology (for example – Salvation Army, Mission Australia). Such organisations now find themselves, and no doubt with private relish, at the vanguard of the new and covert war on feminism.
Why a war on feminism? Because feminists are a two-fold threat to the new corporate world of inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy. First feminism contests the patriarchal underpinnings of the dominant or hegemonic ideology of capitalism and second, feminists have been at the forefront of countless social reforms based on fairness, justice and equality that have seen the betterment not only of women and children but also men.
I wrote a letter to my local newspaper this week that illustrates the shadowy processes and the ruthless intent embedded in this latest attack on both feminism and social democracy.
Dear Editor, I attended a rally to save the Bega Women’s Refuge on Monday 4th August and was heartened by the large turnout, all concerned about the refuge’s future and hopeful that common sense would prevail over the fiasco that was the tendering process. So of course I was incredulous when I learnt that SEWACS (South East Women’s and Children’s Services) had been ‘’accidentally’’ undercut by Mission Australia’s tender. I understand that Mission Australia, who won the tender to run homelessness services in the Bega Valley under the new ‘Going Home Staying Home’ rollout of the New South Wales State government, have now been given additional funding to take over the women’s refuge, which they apparently had not realised was part of the package until after their tender was approved. This despite the fact that SEWACS have been running the refuge and attendant specialist services for women escaping domestic violence in the Bega Valley for thirty years. In my view, the decision to grant Mission Australia this service is unfair and procedurally dubious; there was a lack of transparency and honesty in the process that effectively sidelined SEWACS due to an administrative oversight. In my view, if the Bega Women’s Refuge must be put up for tender then it should at least be done in a fair and proper manner.
I fear that with corporate religious organisation Mission Australia in charge, the refuge will no longer be a place of sanctuary where women fleeing domestic violence feel safe and supported. I would take the side of any aboriginal woman choosing not to pass through the refuge door, filled with mistrust after the legacy of the Stolen Generation. I too, would be filled with mistrust. I have no idea the narrative or the procedures that Mission Australia would seek to impose on women fleeing violence but I do know that the one provided by SEWACS empowers women.
But we need not fear that women’s empowerment has been disregarded by the corporate Elite, for Gucci has taken up the baton with its Chime for Change campaign, fronted by Beyonce Knowles, Frida Giannini and Salma Hayek Pinault. While I growl like a crossed crone of the old guard at this recent appropriation of feminist discourse, I realise Chime for Change represents another fight altogether, a fight on the ground of popular culture and therefore I call upon my young feminist sisters to contest this latest sham while I mourn the loss of society’s most significant feminist-inspired institution.
If I ruled the country the first thing I would do is sack every CEO, deny them access to their wealth and property and make them work for the dole while applying for 40 jobs a week outside of the corporate and public service sectors. With no rental history they would be couch surfing (if they find themselves with any remaining friends). And for the first six months, with no welfare at all, they would be relying on charities for handouts.
Then, when they are caught stealing or dumpster diving, I would send them to jail for a mandatory term, where they would be required to work full-time for nothing and following the example of my American counterparts, if they complain their sentence would increase.
If the CEOs happen to be of middle eastern descent and they are caught doing anything suspicious (such as praying in a Mosque) then they would have their Australian citizenship revoked and they would be put in detention for an indefinite period.
Of course my counterparts would be hard at work implementing the same policies and our shores would be inundated with CEO boat arrivals. These CEOs would be immediately dispatched to Nauru and promptly forgotten.
No, I wouldn’t do any of it. I would be a despot if I did.