Archives for category: politics

this is a response I posted on Facebook to this article. Context: the “History News Network” is affiliated with George Mason University, one of the bastions of right wing libertarianism.

Here’s the main problem I have with this. I have no idea whether, before the 20th century, there were references in travelers’ accounts, or whatever, to a region called Palestine. I suspect there were, even if there was never an established political entity with the name of Palestine. I do know that during and after WWI, the European imperialist powers went into the Middle East, imposed arbitrary boundaries on the land based entirely on their political motivations, with very little consideration given to what the people who actually lived there wanted. This mapmaking, commonly known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, created the boundaries of the Middle East as we know it today and in large part led to a lot of the problems in the region to this day, 100 years later. No consideration, or very little, was given to tribal or ethnic sensibilities or desires. It was ALL based on what the white folks in power at that time wanted. Then, WWII happened, and the Holocaust. Once again, the white folks (mostly the British this time)      decided what was best for the region and chose to establish the state of Israel there, a decision which was at least in part imposed by force.
I believe there is an ethnic group of people who should be considered Palestinian. Partly through their own infighting and disorganization, partly through the machinations of the established states in the region (most of whom still bowed to the wishes of the new colonialist powers, primarily the US these days, because money), they haven’t been able to unify enough to develop a common voice. This is partly due to their not having territory of their own on which they could establish a power base. Not only have they been violently opposed by Israel, they have also been sold out and abused by some of their fellow Arabs (Jordan in particular).
So finally, in the 90s I guess, they got some territory. Land. Land which is pretty much completely controlled by Israel, especially as far as access goes. Even the largest chunk of territory over which they ostensibly have control, the West Bank, is riddled, apartheid style, with Jewish “settlements”. They have control over Gaza too, but access to Gaza is completely controlled by the Israelis, not that there is a lot of viable land in Gaza anyway. Gaza is basically a huge Palestinian ghetto, if you want to get right down to it. Due to a plethora of factors, the Palestinians have not been able to establish a viable territory, which would lead to more economic stability and power, which would in turn lead to political power. The odds are against them, the deck is certainly not stacked in their favor, and their own infighting has not helped, of course. They are partly, I have no idea what the “percentage” might be, responsible for their own situation. But it is basically them against the world, a world with an incredible advantage in economic, military and political power. Palestine is just a word, but words truly have power.

Bill James’s post on revolutionary changes needed to our economic system certainly has some interesting ideas, ideas with which I am pretty much in complete agreement. We live in an obscene system where so many people do without even the basic necessities of life, while others inordinately profit from the labor of those who are even ABLE to find a job. A system which loses its justifications every day, whether it’s the good old “bootstrap” theory, or any of the other theories people find to explain away what is just plain and simple greed.
Marx was right in more ways than he was wrong. Marxism, however, or the perversion of it called Marxism-Leninism, has its problems. What Marx did was take a look around, in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, analyze what he saw, and predict what its future effects might be. True, he did have what could be called a political plan of action too, but what he proposed is far, far from what became of his ideas under the autocratic Soviet system. His analysis of what happens to surplus labor value, though, was at the time, and remains, spot on. Surplus labor value is what is allowing the dictators of industry to accumulate their ridiculous fortunes, fortunes which keep growing. It’s a systemic change which is needed, and what James proposes is a good start. We ARE the 99%, and if enough of us rise up and start to demand change, they will have to answer eventually.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BruceS on Snowden as Solzhenitsyn

the mind reels. This turns the conventional wisdom on its head and inside out. We can all be Snowden, or Assange, or Manning, if we choose to. All three of those men are far braver than I.

See, here’s the thing that is being lost in all the hubbub over the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, and the incident itself. They are SYMBOLS, symbols of one thing to one side, and of another to the other side. Symbols are POWERFUL, emotionally resonant and in a lot of cases more powerful than the things they symbolize. THAT is the reason for the unrest in LA and elsewhere, and for the intense emotions on both sides. I would like to believe we could look at this as a teaching and learning opportunity, an opportunity to look objectively about what really is going on in this country, even after five years of having a black president. He, Obama, is just a symbol too. If we continue to focus on the symbols and fail to ignore or trivialize the underlying realities, we will never find common ground and will continue lurching along on our course to oblivion and irrelevance.

End Guantanamo

End Guantanamo (Photo credit: jezobeljones)

We call it forced feeding – it’s torture

Horrifying. This is being done, in our names, twice a day, to other human beings. Some of whom should not even be still held at Guantanamo Bay. As Bey says in the video, Peace. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but now I’m glad I did.

We did not invent democracy. We have not, all propagandistic, patriotic blandishments to the contrary, even perfected it. Who are we, really, to tell the citizens of Egypt, or Turkey, or Syria, or Iraq, how to achieve it? It is a messy, long process, especially in countries where there is no history of democratic rule. The historical perspective we need to even BEGIN to understand what is happening in Egypt and elsewhere will not even be available until after I am gone. That is just the way it is. However, that won’t stop the pundits from bloviating and pontificating (how those words sound like excretory functions, which they are). David Brooks isn’t the only culprit. The US is the empire now, and is seen as such from more parts of the world than it is not. There is a new Orientalism afoot, and it ain’t pretty. Edward Said, where are you when we need you? I would love to be able to hear your insights on the events of the past few years in the Arab world.

index(6)837997257Snowden’s Run

This story proved the accuracy of the cliche “truth is stranger than fiction” a couple of weeks ago. And it just keeps getting stranger. One of the most interesting aspects to me is how the supremacy and power of the US government is being challenged. And, in this latest chapter, how sovereign governments kowtow to the wishes of the US government and do their bidding. In a way, I think, the incident is prescient about how things are going to be in the future. By this I mean the struggle between the global south, or third world, or whatever, and the nations who have traditionally controlled the world for centuries. We are seeing the beginnings of huge change here, change which I regret I likely won’t be around to witness.

The image that comes to mind is Gulliver, prostrate on the ground and being harassed by the Lilliputians who are swarming around him and restricting his movement by staking him to the ground. Bravo to Morales, and Kirchner, and to an extent even Putin, who are exercising their sovereignty and by their actions acknowledging the reality that the US has lost its moral and political authority in the world. A new world is here, and as is usually the way with superpowers, the US is the last to realize it.

Whizzer_and_Chips837997257

We are useful idiots

This is one of the things that has been bothering me about this whole episode, that it isn’t JUST the NSA/CIA/FBI doing all this spying.It is the collusion between them and corporate America, and the lapdog media, that is truly undermining our country and depriving us of our rights. Rights that now, they are trying to convince us, we never really had in the first place – that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are just a useful illusion. From their point of view, the only rights we truly have are the ones they choose, in their eminent wisdom, to allow us to have.

And so what do we do? Nothing. We take to Twitter, and Facebook, find amusing pictures of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, or whatever, post snarky, witty little slogans on them and let it go at that. Then we go on to be distracted by our devices and look for the latest celebrity news, or funny and/or shocking story, to divert us until we are momentarily provoked by another outrage. Then the moment passes.

Meanwhile, the people of Syria, of Brazil, of Turkey, of Egypt, put us to shame with the seriousness with which they express their outrage. They take up arms, or take to the streets, in (sometimes misguided, admittedly) efforts to express their discontent, and make it something tangible, something real that their governments can’t help but notice. In the case of Egypt, they may want to be careful what they pray for, so to speak. The choice between ruled by a radical Islamist government and being ruled by a military cabal is not much of a choice at all. But, the point is, they are DOING something. Putting their very lives on the line, in some cases for years now, to take to the streets, squares and parks and give voice to their views.

Can we draw from their example? I have my doubts. We have forgotten that the streets, parks, and squares belong to US. That we have ceded control of these things, or in some cases had them taken away from us, but we can always take them back. One of the most interesting photos I have seen from the past couple of weeks in Brazil was one of a factory producing HUNDREDS of masks resembling the one worn by V in V for Vendetta. That movie was just OK, but its effects have been astonishing. Maybe at first we’ll have to wear the masks, to avoid being singled out, separated and individually crushed. But in time, if enough of us take to the streets, wearing masks or not, we can realize and take action on the fact that the true power resides in US. That whatever power we think we don’t have is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we have ceded it, for good reasons, to a larger force which has our best interests at heart. This is a LIE, and maybe, hopefully, enough of us are beginning to become aware that we are constantly being lied to that we can begin to leave that way of thinking behind and move toward a way of living together that allows all of us to realize our full potential. Maybe.

Français : Walter Benjamin en 1928

Français : Walter Benjamin en 1928 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee

Walter Benjamin‘s concept of the angel of history has particular resonance for me, in looking at how things go in the world. I quote, “A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

— Walter Benjamin,

Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History

Benjamin saw what was happening in and to Europe in the 30’s, and particularly what was happening to Jews. He chose to take his own life, in 1940, rather than deal with the horror or take the chance of being corralled by the Nazis.

Benjamin’s observation, or insight, is from a completely different time from our own. Its relevance to human history in general, however, is timeless. I quote here from an essay on truthout.org by Henry Giroux, linked below:
“we are pulled forward by future happiness – [when] in fact, [as Benjamin noted], we are pushed from behind by the horror of destruction we keep perpetrating on the way.”

The promise of a brighter future is constantly held before us, but we, at least most of us will never get there, neither in this life or whatever may come after. Most of us will experience the stick, in one way or the other, much more often than we will taste the sweetness of the carrot. It doesn’t HAVE to be this way, but as the system currently is constructed, and works, this is how it is. It is up to us to change it if we can muster the desire, pull away from the distractions constantly dangled in front of us, and bond together with like-minded individuals to enact change.

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/71:in-the-twilight-of-the-social-state-rethinking-walter-benjamins-angel-of-histo

http://m.guardiannews.com/world/2013/jun/15/turkey-police-clear-gezi-park
Beneath the paving stones, the beach