Friday, July 25, 2014

Attitudes

I am somewhat amazed, even taken aback, by the unexpected attitudes of some of my friends, although I suppose I shouldn’t be. We have a kind of informal club that meets every Tuesday evening. We think of it as “The Gentlepersons Club” as both males and females are welcome. There aren’t a lot of members and we play billiards, not pool, billiards, now known in the U. S. as carom billiards. We also of course have conversations about various topics sometimes but not always politically related conversations.

Last Tuesday in a conversation I casually observed that Vladimir Putin had recently married his girlfriend, apparently a one-time gymnast medal winner. I went on to observe that he had divorced his wife of 30 years with whom he had two daughters, but no one was sure where they were. One of the women immediately said, “Maybe he got rid of them.” I confess I was astounded. Why on earth would this woman, a perfectly bright, reasonably liberal democrat (I don’t have any other friends) say such a thing? Obviously her remark must have been prompted by an assumption that Putin must be a kind of Stalin clone, an evil person who would presumably not hesitate to dispose of the woman he was married to for 30 years plus their two offspring. Of course I don’t know where they are, but I would bet a lot of money they are well-off and living in comfort somewhere, if perhaps anonymously for their own protection.

And of course they all seem to believe that Putin is responsible for the situation in Ukraine, having aggressively moved towards that country. They are apparently unaware of the violent coup we promoted, along with the EU, that overthrew the democratically elected President (who was, granted, an evil, greedy son-of-a-bitch) with the aid of some neo-Nazi groups who happily joined in to help, and are now trying to destroy the Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

Anyway, the next day, in a conversation with another friend, I remarked that Hamas had offered a ten year truce to Israel provided certain (what I thought were perfectly reasonable) demands were met, and Israel had turned them down. My friend seemed to be confinced that Israel was right to do so because Hamas wouldn’t stop attacking them even if there was such a truce, another attitude that surprised me (Hamas, being Arab, was obviously untrustworthy). Of course he and the others also seem to believe that Hamas started the recent trouble by suddenly (and I guess for no apparent reason) firing rockets into Israel.

Now you have to understand that none of these friends are news junkies although they do watch some news on the MSM. None of them as far as I know watch Fox (non) News. They are liberal democrats, certainly not Neocons, and are all basically opposed to war, especially the ongoing troubles in both Ukraine and Palestine. I would describe them all as very typical American citizens, somewhat informed, but accepting whatever our MSM tells them. So I guess it is not surprising they have the attitudes they do, the attitudes that our corporate controlled media want them to have. If ordinary people in the U.S. believe that Putin is an evil dictator trying to re-establish the Russian empire, ruthless in his attempts to do so, and believe that Hamas has no legitimate reasons for firing rockets at Israel, both gross and false claims, what chance is there really to solve any of these problems? The powers that be have us brainwashed into believing their lies and gross oversimplifications so they can pursue their corporate interests and world hegemony. Putin and Hamas stand in their way, so Putin and Hamas are the bad guys and we, the U.S. and our allies are overwhelmingly the good guys. We have been fed so many lies and so much misinformation in recent years I truly believe that ordinary Americans now live in surreal webs of misunderstanding, divorced entirely from the events in the real world.

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Depths of Depravity

I did not start my life worrying about the depths of depravity of the human species. The truth of the matter has been forced on me by my now more than 80 years of study and observation. Reality has a way of reaching even the most innocent of observers.

Because of my academic interests, and especially my career in anthropology, I have been increasingly exposed to the behavior of humans both historically and contemporaneously. This has become more and more unpleasant. Learning about the inquisition and the colonial period that began in the 1500’s has not made me proud of our human history. The First and Second World Wars has not made things any better, nor have any events since then and up to the present. I would have liked to have thought that things were getting better, a la Steven Pinker, and that we are less violent now than at any time in history. Professor Pinker, who may not have been out of his Harvard office much, seems to argue that because we now can kill each other by the hundreds of thousands we are less violent than when we had to do it one on one. I gather his research assistants must have picked out the few most violent “primitive” societies they could find to establish the prevalence of violence in the “primitive world,” ignoring the many such societies in which violence was either pretty much absent or controlled by tradition and sanctions. There is nothing like Chicago in the “primitive world.” My personal experience in New Guinea did nothing to make me believe the world was just one big happy place.

In any case it is true that we no longer routinely cut off arms, legs, and hands for presumed misbehavior, nor do we try out our blades on helpless captives or hunt others with dogs for sport, and so on. Nor do we routinely bash infants’ heads against the rocks and mount their mother’s genitals on our saddle horns or hats. That kind of violence does seem to have diminished pretty much in recent years, even though in rare cases it does seem to survive. Certainly the cutting off of heads has survived. The depths of human depravity have apparently also survived in places like Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, in the Middle East and Africa, and even in the hearts and minds of a majority of our Congresspersons as well as the Executive Branch. Can you believe that Congress and the President of the the United States almost unanimously support what is little more than outright genocide in Gaza? The Israelis have forced a million and a half Palestinians into a small strip of land little more than an open air prison and are systematically killing them at will, including many women and children. This is being done under the guise of “protecting themselves.” Of course all people have a right to protect themselves, but this does not ordinarily mean by attempting to completely annihilate the entire population because of a few responsible parties. There is no excuse for the Israeli excesses in this case. It goes far beyond merely protecting themselves and into attempted genocide. The Palestinians are basically helpless except for some missiles, having no huge army, no sophisticated American weaponry, no Air Force. They are essentially “sitting ducks,” “fish in a barrel,” “blind mice,” “sacrificial captives,””vermin,” to be disposed of. They are uniquely the only persons on earth who apparently do not have the right to protect themselves. The Israelis, with their massive military superiority just picks them off at will, claiming to avoid innocent civilians, women and children, while killing them by the dozens. This is human depravity on a high scale indeed.

The Congress of the U.S., and the President of the U.S., have endorsed this genocide wholeheartedly. Not only have they done nothing to stop it, they have obviously encouraged it and provided the means with which to do it. What is far worse is that some Israeli citizens have pulled up their easy chairs to watch and cheer this horrible event, obviously pleased to see Palestinian children blown to pieces, their homes and parents destroyed, and misery everywhere.

The same thing is happening in Ukraine with our blessing. Neo-Nazi militias drive Russian separatists into a building, set it on fire, and hurl insults at the poor souls burning to death. These are militias “on our side,” encouraged to destroy people defending their vital interests they falsely label “terrorists.” Nothing we can ever do now will ever erase the blood on our hands. We may not have reached the ultimate in human depravity as yet, but we keep on trying.

“I get it. I haven't seen much of the real world yet. But let's say I do get out there... and it turns out that it's not even worth seeing? Or even worse.. what if it's so ugly and cruel that I can barely stand to look? What if I only meet idiots and the depraved? What's that going to teach me? What can I learn from that?” 
 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Out of Control

I have a sickening and frightening feeling that most everything is out of control and apparently no one has the power or authority to bring things under control, or, if they do, they are refusing to act. As a first relatively simple, example, consider Darrell Issa. Mr. Issa seems to suffer from some form of subpoena disease or compulsion. During his tenure as head of an investigating committee he has issued 99 suboenas, far more than his three predecessors combined, and shows no signs of stopping this torrent of highly questionable subpoenas, his latest being issued for no apparent reason at all (except for his dubious contention that one does not need any particular reason for issuing one). This has been going on for several years. No one seems able to stop him. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, probably has the authority to stop him but as he fears reprisals from the Tea Party, does not. In this particular case you might say that realistically he does not actually possess sufficient authority.

A more serious example is Israel. Israel is out of control and has been virtually since its inception. The Israelis have built illegal settlements on Palestinian land one after another, they have stolen Palestinian water, destroyed Palestinian orchards and homes, and herded more than a million into the Gaza strip where they slowly and systematically are trying to exterminate them but so far have failed to do so. You might recall a famous line spoken by actor Paul Henreid in the movie Casablanca, “Even Nazis can’t kill that fast,” a line ironically not entirely inappropriate with respect to the Gaza situation. Israel has ignored international law, the United Nations, and the entire international community as it has gone about its racist, colonial activities and no one has been able to control them. President Obama is possibly uniquely able to stop them but, as in the case of Boehner, Congress would surely not allow him to do so.

The Congress of the United States, especially the House of Representatives, is out of control and has been throughout all of Obama’s tenure in office. They simply refuse to help govern and have said a resounding “no” to everything Obama has tried to do. No one, not even public opinion, has been able to get them to act. Even the possibility they are committing political suicide doesn’t faze them in their mean-spirited attempt to destroy Obama. The Senate, too, is virtually out of control, using their Republican minority to block Obama appointees and anything else they don’t like. Harry Reid has the power to stop them by a simple changing of the rules but does not do so even though the current rules are crippling our nation.

The Presidency itself is out of control as our more recent  Presidents have unilaterally gone to war without Congressional approval and, under the tutelage of the chief torturer/murderer, Vice President Cheney, have increasingly usurped more and more power. Presumably Congress could put an end to the Chief Executives’ power grab but do not. The State Department, too, is out of control as the recent coup in Kiev makes clear. The idea that somehow they will cause a regime change in Russia through their Ukraine activities seems particularly stupid, and linking up with surviving neo-Nazis to bring this about is even more stupid and out of control.

The situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, are clearly out of control with so many different groups involved it is hard to know which is which or what is actually happening. And of course parts of Africa are out of control, what with Boko Haram kidnapping and slaughtering at will. There appears to be no overriding authority anywhere that can actually control human affairs. This seems to be especially true in so-called democracies where things can be out of control for long periods of time before some election might (or might not) actually bring about necessary changes.

In a very broad perspective you might argue that human affairs have been basically out of control ever since humans stopped living in small bands and in harmony with nature and their environment. You might also argue that this represents a collective and massive failure of human leadership at all levels for centuries. How else does one explain the incredible mess we have made of things?

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18



Monday, July 14, 2014

Moral and Mental Midgets

Tonight for the first time in my life I was so repulsed by the news I had to turn it off. I wanted to watch Chris Hayes as I occasionally do, but when it began by our best known senile warmonger claiming there is no moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians who have dastardly attacked Israel I thought I might throw up. John McCain needs to be retired before he kills again. Of course there is no moral equivalence, the Israelis have long since abandoned any evidence whatsoever of morality. If McCain’s absurd view of morality was not bad enough, both the House and the Senate passed resolutions approving of Israeli’s current actions in Gaza. They do this under the guise of Israel’s right of self defense (as if any nation does not have the right of self defense). In fact, in my opinion, these endorsements are nothing short of approving Israeli genocide.

The ostensible reason for the Israeli attacks on Gaza have to do with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens. Israel immediately blamed Hamas for this criminal behavior even though Hamas denied it and there was no evidence they were involved. Israel knew the teens were dead but began their revenge attacks on Gaza as if they did not, bombing innocent civilians, destroying Palestinian homes, killing innocent women and children. Then some Israeli citizens kidnapped and burned alive a Palestinian teenager in revenge. These horrible criminals were not representatives of the Israeli government but just extremists acting on their own. This horrible act of revenge did nothing to make the situation better. So even though neither of the parties were representing their governments, but were extremists acting on their own, Israel decided to hold the entire population of Gaza responsible and began an all-out slaughter of Palestinians living there, holding, that is, the entire population of Gaza responsible for the acts of a very few, an obvious war crime.

Yes, Hamas did send lots of rockets into Israel. So far, as far as I know, not a single Israeli death has occurred. Yet the Israelis have killed hundreds of Palestinians, including many women and children and have displaced many thousands more. This has been an overreaction of no small proportions, targeting the million plus trapped in Gaza who are basically defenseless, “shooting fish in a barrel,” so to speak. It is as far as I know a fact that Palestinians have no army or military even remotely able to engage Israel, they have few if any tanks, no air force, no sophisticated U.S. weaponry, virtually nothing but some rockets smuggled in from somewhere. They have no way to respond to Israeli aggression and abuse other than by using rockets. Israel is in complete control of the Gaza strip, monitoring everything that enters, controlling their economy, even limiting the number of calories per person they are allowed. While I hesitate to say it, I have come to believe that if they thought they could get away with it they would not hesitate to annihilate all the Palestinians. They would not, of course, consider this genocide, rather ridding the world on nonhuman “vermin” and such (where have we heard this before). I say this because it appears their only solution to the “problem” is to bomb and kill the Palestinians into submission, to reduce them at best to second class citizenship in an apartheid state (if they cannot otherwise get rid of them). It is clear Israel does not want a Palestinian state, does not want to give up the lands they are illegally occupying, and prefer an ongoing status quo in which Palestinians are divided and powerless. The campaign to bomb them into submission, to bully them and humiliate them, even with U.S. support, is doomed to fail, unless, in the end, they can be made to disappear entirely.  This is an absolutely shocking situation with only a “permanent solution” possible, a solution now fully endorsed by the United States, a solution that will “live in infamy” forever if allowed to continue. Israel has to be forced, however “kicking and screaming” into abandoning its current strategy and acknowledging the full humanity and legitimate rights of the Palestinians. If no solution can be found to this racist, colonial anachronism, the road ahead will inevitably lead to disaster.

I do not mean to demean or denigrate midgets, merely to point out the smallness of thought and morality in relation to the size of the problem. I have no doubt that a Congress of Midgets could do much better.


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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Transcendental Shame

As a boy, and even as a young man, I was always a proud American patriot. I believed in America as the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” “My country right or wrong,” American exceptionalism, democracy, the “shining beacon on the hill,” and all the other jingoistic idiocies I was taught and encouraged to believe. Now as I am approaching my 85th year of being a “participant-observer” in this house of horrors, and nearing the end of my journey to the west, reflecting back on my development over all these years has become mostly unpleasant.

I guess my first experience of at least a bit of shame came when I began to learn about what we Western- Europeans did to the American Indians we so violently displaced. Of course coming to grips with our history of slavery, racism and discrimination, just added to my slowly growing shame about my country’s past. Vietnam certainly did nothing to make me feel better about things, it was just another shameful episode in our history of shameful episodes. If this was not enough to be ashamed of I began to research the history of colonialism, beginning in the 15th century and up to the present. I confess to not knowing just how shamefully, even unbelievably horrible this several hundred year period truly was. And realizing that every major European, “Christian,” nation was involved and all participated in this true horror story did nothing to ease my sense of shame and guilt. There were acts of savagery so common and so terrible it is now almost unbelievable: murder, arson, rape, pillaging and exploitation without end, cutting off people’s hands and feet, hunting them with dogs for sport, killing their infants, stuffing their bodies with sand and hot peppers, torturing them with water, branding then, and who really knows what all else was commonplace. Our contributions to this mass miasma of sadism and violence took place mostly here in the U.S. and the Philippines where our behavior was every bit as shameful as that of the European colonials (with the possible exception of Prince Leopold of Belgium who was by all accounts the absolute worst).

Anyway, learning about all this sharpened my sense of shame even though I, of course, was not involved in it. Nor was I personally involved in the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, the attempt to kill the millions upon millions of buffalo that almost succeeded, the destruction of the salmon runs, the near extinction of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna, or the hundreds of other species now extinct because of human behavior. I am, however, ashamed that we did and are currently doing things like this. The Pope, that current colorful character from Medieval times, has recently announced that what we are doing to the environment is a sin. For once I agree wholeheartedly.

I cannot say that the Afghan and Iraq wars, along with our other military adventures all over the world, make me feel any less shame for our country. Our uncritical support of Israel war crimes I believe is shameful, as is what we have recently brought about in Ukraine. Drones, I believe, are totally shameful as is our ridiculously dishonest treatment of Iran.

While I have more or less gotten over my sense of shame about the past, the current scene still keeps me shameful. The shame I have felt at various times over being White, an American, supporting Israel, supporting our non-stop wars of aggression and exploitation, an Imperialist, and so on, have now been transcended by an even greater sense of shame. I have become  ashamed of being a member of the human species, the most evil, avaricious, violent, short-sighted, destructive, murderous, egomaniacal, thoughtless, uncooperative, irrational,  and suicidal species that has ever existed. As a species we have a virtually unique capacity for falsehood, denial, distrust, and hypocrisy. We have laid waste to our environment, our planet, and each other, and keep on doing so. Our future is for the first time seriously in doubt. I wouldn’t bet on it.

“Huamani’s skepticism was substantial. He knew that men are a joke of the gods, sent to mortify the animals.”
Abel Posse  

        

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Nothing too Heinous

There is apparently nothing too heinous the Israelis can do that will bring about any meaningful action on the part of the United States, Europe, or anyone else for that matter. It is entirely clear by now that Israel does not want a Palestinian state, does not want peace with the Palestinians, does not want to give up any of the land or water they have already stolen from the Palestinians, does not regard Palestinians as fully human, and, in fact, would be delighted if somehow the Palestinians could be made to simply disappear entirely. And, as they are currently doing, as they always do whenever they see any excuse, no matter how feeble, they are trying to bring about their desired aim by bombing Gaza incessantly, perhaps actually invading that tiny prison in which they have already trapped more than a million basically defenseless Palestinians. They have apparently killed hundreds of them, mostly women and children, in the best colonial tradition (they are basically subhuman, “nits make lice,” and etc.). This one sided slaughter continues while the rest of the world looks on idly and does nothing of substance to stop it. The United States could stop it but, in fact, supports it in the most shameful way. Empire building colonials and other racists flock together.

It might be observed that none of this would be happening were it not for the colonialism of the past when Britain and France divided up the Middle East, creating nations that were previously non-existant and not viable to begin with. Then to add insult to injury they allowed the creation of a Jewish homeland right in the center of a hostile Arab environment. Perhaps if the Israelis had been content with what they were given it might have actually succeeded, but they were not content and embarked upon a program of systematically alienating more and more Palestinian land and water, all with the blessing and support of the U.S. whose constant meddling in the Middle East is well known and a major contributing factor to the terrible unrest that plagues the area.

I do not know how all of this will ultimately play out but you can be certain there will continue to be thousands, perhaps even millions of more deaths, probably mostly women and children, millions more displaced, unfathomable misery and starvation, and more ethnic cleansing if not outright genocide. As has been said so often, “You reap what you sow.” I doubt that history will judge this well, the immorality and shame are far too great to go unnoticed. I think we are probably witnessing the absolute final moments of European colonialism. It is not going out with a whimper but, rather, a death throe unbearable to watch.

Yes, it is true, rockets are being fired into Israel, there is no other means for Palestinians to take action, there have been no Israeli casualties that I know of, and the Israeli response has been the usual massive overreaction allowing them to kill as many Palestinians as possible, all in self defense, of course. And oh, yeah, there is that terrible Iran problem, you know, the country that is trying to develop a (imaginary) bomb to attack Israel, the U.S., and the entire world if the U.S. doesn’t do the Israeli bidding and immediately bomb them. How long is the world going to put up with this Israeli nonsense? It looks like forever.





Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

No doubt you all know that three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered by someone. Netanyahu immediately blamed Hamas although there was no evidence that Hamas was the guilty party (as it turned out the kidnappers and murderers were three extremists acting on their own). Although the Israelis knew the three were dead they did not acknowledge this until after they conducted air and other strikes on Gaza, essentially bombing and killing many innocent Palestinians who had nothing to do with this horrible event, by the way, a blatant violation of International law (when did Israel ever pay any attention to International law?). 
Not to be outdone, three Israeli extremists kidnapped a Palestinian teen and burned him alive. This, of course, enraged the Palestinians, some of whom began firing rockets into Israel, not very effectively. This was one of those opportunities Israel never passes up to increase their genocidal attacks on Gaza Palestinians. They have been bombing Gaza for days and massing troops and tanks on the border for an actual invasion of that unfortunate little strip of land, an overreaction with no other explanation than wanting to eliminate as many Palestinians as possible using this recent violence as an excuse. As a million and a half Palestinians have been herded into tiny Gaza where they have no viable army or air force, no tanks and heavy equipment, no way of successfully fighting back, they are completely vulnerable to whatever horrors Israel wishes to visit on them. So, while it is true Hamas may be firing rockets into Israel, the asymmetry of power is so overwhelming and obvious the metaphor of fish in barrel seems perfectly apt.  

The amazing truth of this seems to be that, in fact, no one in the world, least of all the United States, seems to care what happens to the Palestinians. Some European nations propose some relatively minor sanctions but no one seems willing to demand the Israelis cease their obvious genocidal behavior “or else.” There is no serious “or else” involved, just unremitting warnings that Israel should stop building illegal settlements, stop their racism, and so on. All talk, no actions. Israel has for years ignored the United Nations, ignored International law, and thumbed their nose at the International community, to say nothing of common decency and human rights. The U.S. is shamefully complicit in this completely out-of-date, racist, colonial, criminal, enterprise. Even the savage beating of a U.S. teenager by Israelis does little but raise a few eyebrows while offering Israel even more money to continue ”protecting themselves” from their neighbors they, themselves. antagonize and insult on a daily basis. Pity the poor, defenseless Israelis, with the most sophisticated and strongest army in the Middle East, to say nothing of their unique stockpile of nuclear arms, they are so put upon by the basically defenseless Palestinians.

Do we hear the truth about what is happening? No, we do not. Do we hear the truth about what is happening in the Ukraine? No, of course not. Do we hear the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Africa, China, or anywhere else we are meddling and causing trouble? No, we definitely do not. Is it all about oil and other resources we want and the military means we employ to get them? Of course. Is it all shamefully disgusting? You bet. Is it the American Way? You might be able to decide if you did not presently exist in totally surreal web of lies with no connection to reality.  A “grain of salt” no longer suffices, maybe a collective and massive dose of electro-shock (sorry, can’t afford it, have to have more tax breaks for the 1%).

  “I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”