64

Looking Through the Screen at the World’s Suffering

Edward Curtin

Image source: Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash.

If you are really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. as quoted by Andrew Young in the documentary “King in the Wilderness”

Most people on this earth live on the edge of an abyss. Life is a daily struggle to stay alive, to acquire enough to eat and drink, rudimentary health care, housing, and protection from murderous government forces, their various death-squads, and their economic vultures. The gap between the rich and poor, while always great, has grown even more obscenely vast, and lies at the core of what so many face daily.

Their perilous conditions are sustained by imperial nations, led by the United States, who, together with its minions, buy and bribe and butcher overtly and covertly all around the world. The love of wealth and the fear of death drive these power-mad marauders and divert the gazes of their citizens from the slaughter. It’s an old story.

If you are reading this, I am probably not telling you anything new. You know this, as do I, as I sit safely behind a screened-in table on a beautiful spring day in the hills of western Massachusetts. I have had some soup and bread for lunch and there are no bombers overhead or death-squads cruising the roads here.

While my family and I live a simple life, compared to the world’s poor and persecuted, we are privileged. One does not have to be rich to be privileged. The advantages granted to those like me who can securely sit and pen words about the fate of the poor and persecuted victims of my country’s endless violence weighs heavy on my conscience, as they have done since I was young.

I am ashamed to say that in the early morning of May 1, as I lay in bed musing, I thought I would like to stay in bed all day, a depressed feeling that I had never had before. Discouragement enveloped me: I was being forced out of my teaching job; I felt that my dissident writing and teaching made no difference in a world where injustice and violence are endemic and without end; and the forces of evil seemed to be triumphing everywhere. Self-pity mixed with an angry sadness that disgusted me. I disgusted myself. So I jumped out of bed and prepared to go and teach some of my last classes. But I was lost in gloom as I drove along the winding roads.

When I arrived at the college and checked my mail, there was a package waiting for me. It was a review copy of the poet Carolyn Forché’s startling new memoir (What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance) about her youthful transformative experiences in El Salvador in the late 1970s as U.S. trained and supported death-squads brutally murdered poor peasants and priests, and guerrilla resistance was growing prior to the outbreak of civil war. I opened the book to the epigraph, which reads:

Hope also nourishes us. Not the hope of fools. The other kind. Hope, when everything is clear.

Awareness.

The quotation is from the Salvadorian writer Manlio Argueta, whose deeply moving novel, One Day of Life (1980), banned by the Salvadorian government, takes the reader through one terrifying and bloodstained day in the life of peasants struggling to stay alive as they are tortured and slaughtered with impunity. We hear the voices of the poor tell a story of the growth of conscience (“God is conscience. And conscience is we, the ones forgotten now, the poor.”), the discovery of rights, and the awareness of exploitation.

Despite the terrifying evil that pervades this book – now considered one of the greatest Latin American novels of the 20th century – there is a luminous spirit of hope and resistance that miraculously prevails that is passed on from person to person despite death, torture, and immense suffering. Argueta fulfills the words of the tortured Jose to Lupe: “Don’t worry, if those of us with understanding failed to act, we would all be in real trouble.”

I remembered that I had reviewed this book in the early 1980s at a time when 100 or more very poor campesinos were being murdered every week, a few years after Archbishop Oscar Romero, the courageous defender of the poor who spoke out against the killers, had been gunned down while saying Mass. The Roman Catholic Church has subsequently declared him a saint.

Yet decades later, despite the extraordinary efforts of awakened souls like Carolyn Forché, it still seems true that Americans can’t visualize, no less believe in or care about, the death and suffering their government is inflicting on innocent people all around the world.

Today’s screen culture – I Phone therefore I Am – while seemingly allowing for the visualization of the suffering of the world’s poor, has rendered all reality more abstract and unreal, while inducing a collective hallucination sustained by media and machines that divorces us from flesh and blood, our own and others. All the disembodied data that is daily disgorged through these screens seems to me to have rendered the world disincarnate through the metastasizing of a digital dementia tied to death denial.

I think of Galway Kinnell’s poem, he Fundamental Project of Technology:

To de-animalize human mentality, to purge it of obsolete,
Evolutionary characteristics, in particular of death,
Which foreknowledge terrorizes the content of skulls with,
Is the fundamental project of technology; however,
pseudologica fantastica’s mechanisms require:
to establish deathlessness it is necessary to eliminate those who die;
a task attempted when a white light flashed.

Awareness? I sit here looking through the screen that encloses the little porch where my table rests. MLK’s words reverberate in my mind as I watch a grey fox slink across the grass in search of prey. What is it about the love of money and the fear of death that so cripples people’s care and compassion? I know I don’t want to see that fox seize a screaming rabbit and worry (to kill by biting and shaking the throat; strangle) it to death.

Unlike Forché, I have not physically seen the dead and mutilated bodies of Salvadorian victims of death squads, nor been threatened by them, as she was. Nevertheless, thanks to her and others like Manlio Argueta, I have seen them in my imagination and heard the screams, and they have haunted me. Ghosts.

But why are some so haunted and others not?

The foreknowledge that terrorizes the contents of skulls, as Kinnell puts it – our ultimate powerlessness – overwhelms humans from childhood unless they can find a way forward that discovers power in powerlessness. When one’s “well-being” is dependent on the death of others, as is the case for most Americans and others in the so-called first world, people tend to repress the terror of death by building various types of culturally induced defenses that allow them to shakily believe they are in control of life and death.

One’s natural impotence is then hidden within what Ernest Becker called “the vital lie of character,” and in what, by extension, is the lie of American character that rests on money and military might. One lives within the manageable cultural world that helps blot out existential awareness by offering various social games, agreed forms of “madness” that narcotize. One learns to adjust, to use all sorts of techniques to blot out the awareness that each of us is essentially exposed and mortal, flesh and blood.

The aim is clearly to cut life down to manageable proportions, domesticate terror, and learn to think we are captains of our fate. Inevitably, however, not all these social “tricks” work equally well. Life’s terrors have a way of breaking through to dim awareness, and therefore more drastic measures are needed. So after having lived the cultural lie uncritically, one tries to blot out awareness itself. If shopping to forget doesn’t work, if obsessive work doesn’t do it, one turns to drugs or drink, anything to forget, anything to assuage our fears, anything to deny our need for courage. Anything to help us refuse the truth that our lives are built on the blood of others.

The ineluctable reality of uncertainty is our fate. I have always known that, but I forget. I have also long known that we live by faith of one kind or another, and whatever name we give it, it is by faith we enter into the holy mystery of existence. We are carried forward by the spirit that binds us in solidarity to all human struggles for freedom and dignity, for bread and justice. The day I wished to stay in bed and wallow in self-pity and depression came as a shock to me. It revealed to me my hubris, my sense of self-importance, as if my efforts were not just a drop in the sea, seeds scattered that may or may not take root. I was afraid to accept possible defeat, despite my best efforts. I was afraid of death and lacked courage. Like those I criticize for turning their faces away from the suffering faces of America’s victims, I lost my courage that morning in bed. And hope.

But later that day I would awaken and see through the screen of my self-importance when I leafed through Carolyn Forché’s book and chanced upon her quoting Fr. Romero’s words: “We must hope without hoping. We must hope when we have no hope.”

Then her poem Ourselves or Nothing bubbled up in memory:

There is a cyclone fence between
Ourselves and the slaughter and behind it
We hover in a calm protected world like
Netted fish, exactly like netted fish.
It is either the beginning or the end
Of the world, and the choice is ourselves or nothing.

Priest and poet reminding us to fight lucidly on. Hope when everything is clear. Awareness.

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Question-This
Question-This
May 20, 2019 10:42 AM

Hope, is just delayed disappointment, whilst the powerless look to the system to solve the problems caused by the very system that creates them!

Liberals are the greatest to all life on earth…

mark
mark
May 19, 2019 8:51 PM

Ed’s pessimism is misplaced. The Yew Ess Ayy and its endless sprees of murder and mayhem is going into the dustbin of history. Probably a lot sooner than anybody realises. Then everyone will wonder why it didn’t happen a lot sooner.

eagle eye
eagle eye
May 20, 2019 4:40 AM
Reply to  mark

The bigger problem is that it will almost inevitably be replaced by something equally nasty.
What to do about that is the question, and where the real opportunity lies. The most vital work is to educate our fellow humans about the power of acting cooperatively against the very small number of psychopaths among us. Select our representatives carefully, don’t let them group together, and fire them with ruthless regularity just to keep them from getting complacent and corrupted.

comite espartac
comite espartac
May 19, 2019 6:10 PM

After this disgustingly soapy and cheesy piece of unmitigated shit, that exploits all the trite cliches of the thirdworldist agenda and depraved sentimentality, there is only one solution for the author and that is to ‘exit’ his guilty and accommodated life with grace by means of a 45… The ‘poor’, the ‘peasants’, the ‘persecuted’… the usual Christian FAKE message trying to blame the ‘privileged’ and ‘undeserving’ Westerners, those evil ‘rich’ nations, that is, the ‘organised workers of the world’, that selfish ‘commies’…!!!

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:50 PM

One shouldn’t feed the troll but that is egregiously vicious. You’re a tosser.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
May 20, 2019 8:30 AM

A mega dose of laxatives should clear that up sport.

tonyopmoc
tonyopmoc
May 19, 2019 3:13 PM

Wonderful piece of writing. I would like the author, Edward Curtin to expand on “Discouragement enveloped me: I was being forced out of my teaching job” He may be having a similar experience to me. I loved my job, and had been promoted to a Senior level, and was very well paid. Then overnight everything changed. In early 2003, I had one of these moments, that, I can only compare to Saint Paul, on the Road to Damascus. I felt I had literally been kicked very hard in the stomach. Whilst at work, I now had conclusive proof, that the Official US Government Story of 9/11 was impossible, because it did not comply with the fundamental laws of physics and maths. I was doing a technical job, with some highly intelligent people. I told absolutely everyone. I said just look at this evidence. No one wanted to know. Almost everyone… Read more »

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 7:58 PM
Reply to  tonyopmoc

I’m glad for you Tony, and agree that Edwards words are very beautiful.

They encapsulate the essence of the suffering that accompanies even lives of privilege. An endless samsaric whirl between such binaries as bhava tanha – the hunger for being, vibhava tanha – the urge toward annihilation/non-being.

BigB
BigB
May 19, 2019 2:26 PM

Death anxiety is the primary driver of all human behaviour. Death salience is the ever-present subconscious experience of our own mortality. To be reminded of our mortality is to engage fear-first self-defences of our own particular worldview – in psychological defence of our own particular mortality alleviating projects and the invested ersatz immortality (safe tribal) cults we consent to. The fear of death causes us to invest blind faith in the absolute validity of our received dominant cultural worldviews – space/time; causality; duality; individuality; birth; death; ageing; etc – in order to construct a reality that offsets the inevitability of death. So goes the work of anthropologist Ernest Becker: as developed into Terror Management Theory by psychologists Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski. It is also pure Zen. The understanding of birth and death becomes the very interface of the cultural aporia separating the experiential reality, and the abstract… Read more »

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 3:43 PM
Reply to  BigB
BigB
BigB
May 19, 2019 4:48 PM
Reply to  crank

Or, as Nafeez Ahmed put it last weekend:

A bit like running into an ontological brick wall. Moral injury caused by retaining a modicum of sanity in an increasingly psychotic world.

(https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/escaping-extinction-through-paradigm-shift-83e33d4cb548)

BigB
BigB
May 19, 2019 4:52 PM
Reply to  BigB

“Watching the news has become like entering a psychological boxing ring where you get the shit punched out of you repeatedly until you drop to the floor, broken, bloodied, and inert: helpless.”

Not sure what happened: but the blockquote disappeared on posting. That’s Nafeez’s take.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:07 PM
Reply to  crank

Please label links so we know what we’re about to look at. It’s netiquette.

This is an extract from The Men Who Stare At Goats which if i remember rightly is kind of about MKUltra. This bit has a real Lynchean feel to it.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 20, 2019 2:00 AM
Reply to  KarenEliot

“Please label links so we know what we’re about to look at.”

In my book, that’s a double-edged sword of a request if ever I saw one.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 20, 2019 6:34 PM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

You’re not wrong 😜

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 20, 2019 2:16 AM
Reply to  KarenEliot

I’ve now viewed it, having overcome the anxiety you delineate and, even though I haven’t seen the film in referential question, I would venture to suggest, from that clip alone, that his mistake was to break into an inertia-accumulating run as he approached the wall. What good could that possibly do? Prove that anyone can lie on beds of nails? Well, duh… Common beginners error.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 20, 2019 6:36 PM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

I don’t remember it well but I think he’d been dosed with some experimental chemical and sincerely believed he could make it thru that wall. Though clearly not enough.

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 4:37 PM
Reply to  BigB

It is also pure Zen
I thought that Becker was a critic of Zen.
His accompanying Jewish thinkers in the TMT paradigm expand Freud’s Thanatos model.
If Judaism is the ‘materialist religion’ whose Yahweh only ever promises worldly reward in exchange for following the byzantine set of laws and psychopathic commandments, then might this colour the culture and the thinking of its academic descendants?
TMT describes the mind of the lower self. It is blind to the Light.
You seem to adhere to a bleak and negating vision of human existence/ culture.
There are other traditions in the West (as well as the East) that make much more affirmative and straight forward sense to me.

BigB
BigB
May 19, 2019 8:01 PM
Reply to  crank

Becker was a post-Freudian as you point out – but his framing is pure Zen too. You do not have to look beyond the mythology of the Buddha’s enlightenment to see the parallels of encountering old age, sickness, and death (the Four Sights: the fourth being a ascetic representing magga – the Path beyond suffering). And though Freud may now be discredited: if Western culture is not a psychosexualised death cult in honour of Thanatos – what the fuck is it? If it seems I have a bleak vision of human conceptual existence …you’re damn right I do. What part of the political imaginary destroying the world are we no longer in agreement about? Or the plans to privatise nature in order to create just enough of a financial base to debt-fund the cannibalisation of what little is left …so we can have neoliberal climate colonial pseudo-socialism for a few… Read more »

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 9:34 PM
Reply to  BigB

Is all that not conflating ‘human culture’ with ‘Western culture’. I think you know that we are in close agreement about the symptoms of this death culture, but less so on the causes. I have read you link to Freudian theorists, to the Frankfurt School theorists and now to Becker, Greenberg et al. Have you read the Old Testament BigB? I am confident that you would agree that it is a pretty weird and disturbing set of stories. Would you go so far, I wonder, in agreeing that in it is a blueprint for a psychopathic society? You can evoke the ‘imaginary’ and say that all religion is in essence the same prop against our own fear of death, but then the implication is that there is no qualitative difference between, say, the religion of the First Nation Americans and that of the ultra orthodox Jewish residents of somewhere like… Read more »

BigB
BigB
May 19, 2019 11:52 PM
Reply to  crank

We do have deep agreement on many points. Causality is duality: as any student of Zen will attest to. The scientific notions of causality we have – stemming from Aristotle (particularly material and efficient causality) – becoming ‘mechanised’ by Newtonian mechanics (transmission of force to mass; isolated chains of ‘billiard ball’ dynamics) – already suppose an isolated, individuated, substantive entity or being. Such thinking negates nonduality: reducing it to isolated, non-interactive events and processes. I do not see things like that. Have you read Joe Cambell? He studied world mythology and found it remarkably consistent. He termed it the ‘monomyth’ and developed the idea of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ – which encapsulates the major elements of all world mythology. So there might be a difference in metaphors: but “qualitative difference” – not according to Cambell. The Masks of God was his collated masterpiece. Similarly with language: the core of all languages… Read more »

crank
crank
May 20, 2019 5:59 AM
Reply to  BigB

I have read little Campbell. I do note though that he has been labelled as an ‘anti-semite’ for pointing out the very things mentioned above : that many Jewish ‘myths’ can only be interpreted as presenting a moral drive counter to that of the rest of humanity. Tribalist religiosity is not unique to this group, but circumstance and the timing of the emergence of monotheism and writing have combined to make their situation exceptional. Jung -who also devoted his time to studying myth, basically said the same thing. Neitzsche too maybe ? American protestantism, as indeed all Christianity to differing degrees, quite often raises the Old Testament as its sword and shield. It is after all half the Bible, even if its message is the opposite to the teaching of Christ. It is, in truth, the religious formulation of materialism (that attempts a nonduality of a perverse kind), there is… Read more »

BigB
BigB
May 20, 2019 10:52 AM
Reply to  crank

The thing about the archaeology of cultural beliefs is that they are lost in deep ontological time. Jeremy Lent tried to recreate the dominant metaphors of a given era: but all he was doing is projecting a modern mind backwards, and literally imagining. We cannot accurately dissect what beliefs influence modernity …and even if we could – the doxa of belief is belief (belief is predicated on belief in infinite recursion). Which is why I propose going back to the basics – the foundationalism and essentialism of language and belief. The foundation is a mind-independent external reality – that is our temporal and spatial container. The essential is that there is a separate Being that occupies objective reality. These are the subject/object and self/other fundamental faultlines in modernity – and they are rooted in the foundations of language. ALL beliefs predicated on misplaced foundations are naturally FALSE. To reclaim language,… Read more »

Ramdan
Ramdan
May 19, 2019 4:53 PM
Reply to  BigB

“(…) we are destroying the world for imaginary reasons.”…. Indeed.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:01 PM
Reply to  BigB

Nicely put BigB. I made my shorter interjection before reading yours, which is rather more elegant. Same point I believe.

Gezzah Potts
Gezzah Potts
May 19, 2019 1:47 PM

Thank you Edward for your powerful, and at times poignant words. My conscience does not allow me to look away from the immense suffering in the World; Palestine, Yemen, Venezuela, anywhere the Empire targets for plunder or regime change or sanctions. I recall Madeleine Albright sitting in her chair stating the deaths of 500000 children was ‘worth it’, I recall Hillary Clinton cackling at the news of Gaddafi’s horrific murder, I recall George Bush stating “you are either with us or with the terrorists”, I recall Colin Powell’s lies at the UN. Many more examples. I learnt how truly evil the United States Govt was back in the 1980s early 90s when I was involved in a Central American solidarity group. Thats what woke me from my slumber, even tho I was still in my 20s back then. My eyes have stayed open since. I cannot close them. I met… Read more »

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 20, 2019 8:33 AM
Reply to  Gezzah Potts

We are all The Empire. Whoever you emp for, the ire always wins.

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 1:17 PM

I don’t want to sully the comment section under this fine writing by including a link, but if anyone looks at youtube for the Madonna performance at Eurovision, they will see a lot symbolism in her terrible performance.
‘X’ seems to be a prominent motif.
Now, where else have I seen that recently ?
Put 3 Dagaz runes together and what do you get?
Power is about more than money and weapons.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
May 19, 2019 1:38 PM
Reply to  crank

I hear Madge wore an eye patch – was it because a trigger happy IDF sniper made another ‘mistake’?

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 4:04 PM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

Atzmon thinks she was channelling Moshe Dayan.
Either that or some ‘X rated’ nod to the religion of the all (not) seeing eye.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:12 PM
Reply to  crank

Interesting but I’m not going to search out a clip if you don’t mind 😜

The SocialJusticeWarrian predictably quotes some odious Israeli politician who castigates Madge for some mild display of a Palestine flag 🇵🇸 because, you see, Eurovision is supposed to be apolitical and a celebration of the brotherhood of man or some such bullshit. My aching sides: as if ANYTHING is apolitical!

mark
mark
May 19, 2019 8:47 PM
Reply to  KarenEliot

What is Eurovision doing in Israel? Since when was the Middle East part of Europe?

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 20, 2019 4:53 AM
Reply to  mark

“Since when was the Middle East part of Europe?”

Since the formation of the EMEA.

BigB
BigB
May 19, 2019 10:29 AM

As a technical aside, which does not really detract from Ed’s beautiful and important message – America is not the centre of globalised dollar imperialism. Because they have the “exorbitant privilege” they can afford all the penis-extending big military toys – it certainly looks that way. What confuses the hell out of people is that privilege is based not solely on the dollar – but on the subsidy of the ‘eurodollar’ (euro$). Eurodollars are dollars created ‘elsewhere’ and ‘offshore’ – outside the jurisdiction and regulation by the Fed. By anyone – i.e. trade is not limited by nationality, but by capital accumulation requirements. The centre of global trade in euro$ – which can be created in bourses anywhere (HK, Macau, Tokyo – not limited to Europe) – is London …that is the City of London Corporation. Essentially there is a deregulated globalised black market in dollars that EVERYONE (once at… Read more »

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:17 PM
Reply to  BigB

Hadn’t heard of it but three quid on evil eBay, how can I resist. Thank you for the tip BigB.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
May 19, 2019 10:13 AM

We’ve become possessed by the things we own and that possession oils the wheels of capital$chi$m.
Tracy Chapman says it best>>
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-8WYfHQ-Njk

Toby Russell
Toby Russell
May 19, 2019 10:04 AM

Thank you for your clear writing and honesty. I have long felt that the palpable hollowness of modern life and its attendant need for distractions is as clear evidence as we can ever hope to have of the non-mechanical nature of reality. Surely we are not dead automata in a machine universe magically fooled by dead bio-chemical processes that we are conscious. And if we are not complex machines, surely we are something like expressions of consciousness, and what we call matter is in fact an extension of consciousness as experienced information. For me, this is a logical deduction that the content and intent of this article support. The very resonance of hope expressed in: “Hope also nourishes us. Not the hope of fools. The other kind. Hope, when everything is clear.” cannot possibly be experienced by a machine. Indeed, machines cannot experience at all, by definition. And if there… Read more »

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
May 19, 2019 9:43 AM

‘The day I wished to stay in bed and wallow in self-pity and depression came as a shock to me’ – that can happen when ideals meet the real world, in fact I would go so far as to say it is almost invitable.

You may be experiencing ‘moral injury’ rather than depression: the two are linked especially when duration and severity of moral injury results in the kind of psychological overwhelm associated with conditions such as PTSD.

Loverat
Loverat
May 19, 2019 10:37 AM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

I see there has been some study of moral injury in terms of soldiers in combat. Perhaps from the point of view of a soldier the issue is not the mission as stated from the outset and the combat itself. Rather a gradual realisation that the leadership and the true purpose of the mission is against all the principles of that soldier. You do wonder why so many US and UK soldiers in particular are diagnosed with PTSD and other conditions. In my area homelessness is a big problem as most places, but the amount of ex-soldiers on the streets with mental health conditions is staggering. I guess more in terms of this article perhaps people might suffer this if they realise perhaps after years of believing otherwise, that their government is doing everything against what values they stand for and a feeling of betrayal and shame they were lied… Read more »

JudyJ
JudyJ
May 19, 2019 1:17 PM
Reply to  Loverat

Because of my complete disgust at the immoral behaviour of TPTB and a significant number of servicemen I used to tar them all with the same brush in my disdain for them. It was only relatively recently after seeing old videos of veteran US corporal Ethan McCord give his witness accounts at various forums (available on YouTube) about his time in Iraq, and in particular his experiences at and after the infamous “collateral murder” event, that I had to acknowledge that my generalised judgement was grossly unfair; there are some decent servicemen out there deserving of our compassion. “…in particular the leadership and the true purpose of the mission is against all the principles of that soldier” This was very much the message that McCord was conveying. He said at one point in his presentations that he reached a point in Iraq that he “realised that [he] had more in… Read more »

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
May 19, 2019 1:51 PM
Reply to  JudyJ

Some ex-servicemen come to be seen as ‘the enemy’ because the reveal the reality of American occupation, which of course is very different to the ‘liberation’ or ‘bringing democracy’ myths spun by the neocons.

Just watching Ethan McCord now – very eloquent guy.

The journey from naive nationalism, a key factor driving military recruitment to disillusionment is described by Vince Emanuele – he is clearly another vet’ right out of the McCord school.

Respect to both of them.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:24 PM
Reply to  Loverat

Amen to that

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:23 PM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

It’s not in common use but the Power Threat Meaning paradigm explaining the triggers for unhappiness is worth googling. Whatever its faults (and prolixity is certainly one) it offers way more than the DM.V (Diagnostic Manual, 5th iteration) in explaining how the world is driving us mad. (“The world” being a mental construct too, of course, but a highly convincing one…)

Francis Lee
Francis Lee
May 19, 2019 9:29 AM

Ah, the problem of consciousness. It should be common knowledge that most ordinary folk are aware that capitalism is a racket; this could hardly be otherwise as it is confirmed in their daily lived experience. The same, as Smedley Butler pointed out some time ago, goes for war. I suppose that WW2 might have been a necessary war, but as for the rest they were merely conflicts between competing national oligarchies or colonial wars against the hapless peoples of the global periphery. And yet the whole murderous spectacle continues without abate. This historical farce-cum-horror is for some reason viewed as a natural calamity. Orwell’s proles seem resigned to their fate; a stoic acceptance of the inevitable catastrophe whipped up by the party (establishment) and its apparatchiks in the media and political classes. However mass consciousness leaps forward when the war psychosis wears off as the casualty figures and experience of… Read more »

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:28 PM
Reply to  Francis Lee

Nice to see a less celebrated Orwell novel being name checked. For all his faults he nailed false consciousness pretty well. I recommend his essay Shooting An Elephant.

Loverat
Loverat
May 19, 2019 9:28 AM

Excellent words Edward. There is a great deal I expect many of us can relate to. I certainly have had those days where I could not function out of a feeling of powerlessness and fear for the future. That’s largely gone but still get days, where something bad in the world happens or out of built up frustration with other people. But I can deal with this by a simple reset . An example: the build up of anger in the last few days has been reading about the murder of children in a town in Syria by terrorists. A mother who has lost her two young children. Not reported and then in response to the OPCW bombshell, reading the garbage on Twitter from people who still can’t get it. A new possibility of a staged chemical attack in Idlib imminent. The Eliot Higgins, Scott Lucas etc coming back out… Read more »

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
May 19, 2019 10:10 AM
Reply to  Loverat

‘For me, my turnaround came through the total feeling of being vindicated’ – yes, there is something rather satisfying about saying, ‘I told you so’ (a perk most Off-G aficionados must have experienced from time to time)

Mind you, take the Guardian, they are wrong most of the time.
Of course they are in absolute denial about this, or censor commentators BTL who gently try to point out their output is little more than corporate fodder designed to appease advertisers or the US war machine.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:32 PM
Reply to  Harry Stotle

Are they getting even more hysterical and shrill lately or is it just me? It’s relentless.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
May 19, 2019 9:06 PM
Reply to  KarenEliot

Wrong on most things that matter from Venezuela, to Julian, Assange, Syria, antisemitism, Russia, etc.

Of course its impossible to defend the Washington consensus which is more or less what the Guardian does nowadays, so it’s no wonder they rely so heavily on censorship, sorry, I meant ‘moderation’ (for not abiding by ‘community standards’) as their lies, and half truths are called out time and again below the line.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:30 PM
Reply to  Loverat

Beautifully put Ratty, if I may garble your handle slightly

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
May 19, 2019 9:03 AM

Exquisite, as ever. Your writing reminds this Marxist not to let (necessary) focus on the material drivers of the criminal insanity blind me to its psychic consequences. Nor to the ineffable, austere beauty of life.

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:33 PM
Reply to  Philip Roddis

Two different perspectives on the same thing, ithink.

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
May 19, 2019 8:39 PM
Reply to  KarenEliot

Yes!

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 8:59 AM

‘The wisest of Ancients held that what is least explicit is fittest for instruction, for it rouses the faculties to act.’ -Blake We seem to live in a time of inverse relationship, with political awareness rising, but real political engagement in equal decline. People seem less and less ‘here’. Me too. This article dances on the boundary between politics and religion : one that is fading. (Maybe liberalism itself could be defined as that boundary?). Our ‘religion’ has changed. That, I would say, is why so many fear death and cling to wealth, with the effect of lessening life and love. The question is, how did that happen? How does a ‘religion’ emerge/ replace another? The preists of the Liberation Theology movement posed a threat to empire not just in a political/ economic sense, but in a religious one too. Now, more clearly, we are engaged in a religious war,… Read more »

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
May 19, 2019 10:16 AM
Reply to  crank

Religions currently are ultimately conservative constructs: they eulogise prophets at a certain point in history and effectively pickle morality from that era, blithely ignoring that the real world evolves. Religions die when the construct has such a dissonance with daily experience that its usefulness is increasingly discarded. Turning the other cheek to Hitler turned out well, did it not? Women working the factories in WWI destroyed the myth of men working and women staying at home. The two world wars of the 20th did for Christianity in its traditional formulations. Islam is a more warring- and overtly racist/sexist religion. Men can have three wives, but a woman showing her face can be stoned. What a load of nonsense! But until the obscenely wealthy Middle Eastern Wahhabi are beaten in war by other Muslims rather than Western imperislists, Islam will remain a stain on the world. Whether the more peaceful sects… Read more »

crank
crank
May 19, 2019 11:15 AM
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Religions currently are ultimately conservative constructs: they eulogise prophets at a certain point in history and effectively pickle morality from that era, blithely ignoring that the real world evolves. Sometimes religions are conservative, sometimes they are reformist, sometimes revolutionary. What passes for ‘Christianity’ in 21st century America would be unrecognisable in terms of professed ‘morality’ to a Christian of centuries past. The ‘real world’ evolves, but seeing as religions are part of that world, they also change, and new religious sentiments come along whilst others fade and die. Turning the other cheek to Hitler turned out well, did it not? I wasn’t aware that anyone did. (Not saying that anyone should have). Women working the factories in WWI destroyed the myth of men working and women staying at home. The two world wars of the 20th did for Christianity in its traditional formulations. I think it was a blow, yes.… Read more »

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:48 PM
Reply to  crank

Some years ago I attended a talk by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche (a Tibetan monk of some renown) and he dealt very neatly with the question: “Youre a Buddhist and you preach harmlessness but isn’t turning the other cheek just letting the bad folks win?” I paraphrase of course. His answer essentially was that if using violence against another being is inherently wrong then we should do what we can to prevent it. Turning the other cheek does not achieve this. Forcibly preventing the assailant may be the best action. Few would disagree and though he did not use the example, I would suggest those of you unfamiliar with it take a moment to read (I suggest you skim, it’s not very well written) this account of the tyrannicide of Langdarma: https://info-buddhism.com/Tibetan_Buddhism_Compassioate_Killing_King_Langdarma-Jens_Schlieter.html It’s a myth of course but highly relevant I think in these days of such ascendant scum as John… Read more »

Toby Russell
Toby Russell
May 20, 2019 5:53 AM
Reply to  KarenEliot

Perhaps an important point to remember is that we can never know everything around any decision, so can never make perfectly informed decisions. Always turning the other cheek would be obeying a prescription that would only be the right ‘choice’ some of the time. Ditto for never turning the other cheek. In the end, we do what we can with what we are and try to reach decisions that are the healthiest on the whole for the highest number of people. So yes, you can and must fight back – with love and compassion – in some circumstances. Precisely how we fight back should be shaped by considerations of how lastingly effective each considered strategy is thought to be.

Mucho
Mucho
May 20, 2019 12:10 AM
Reply to  crank

When Jesus was alive, so we are told, he spent a lot of his time dealing with the issues of the day. Christians today get together in church, and harp on relentlessly about what Jesus did. It goes on and on and on and it’s all worded in Ye Olde English which is actually quite difficult to truly comprehend, but leaves the worshippers 100% sure that their whole life must revolve around worshipping the life of Christ. They obsess over the small details, instead of seeing how they can adapt the message of Jesus into today’s society. I find this ridiculous. When you take into account the volume of people worldwide involved in the various Christian faiths, the church really could make a real resounding difference, in part down to people power, if only it focused on addressing and SPEAKING OUT about the evil being played out today right before… Read more »

Mucho
Mucho
May 20, 2019 12:12 AM
Reply to  Mucho

The church does do good things on a local level, which I do not wish to play down, I just wish it did more in terms of addressing the kind of issues discussed on this site.

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 21, 2019 3:12 AM
Reply to  Mucho

“When Jesus was alive, so we are told,” by the supreme guardians of the most impeccable spirituality in the Christian church, counciling themselves in and finessing the unpersecuted political pursuit of naked, state power at Nicea, et seq, ah believe… —– …so Eve asked Adam, “Anyway, what colour is God? Black or white?” And Adam replied, “I’ve never asked Him. White like us, I expect. What else? But I’ll ask him next time we meet.” “Did you ask God what colour He was?” queried Eve a month of Sundays later (time passes slowly when you’re not keen on gardening). “I sure did,” replied Adam,”He’s white, just like us.” “So you saw Him?!” quexclaimed Eve. “Not exactly, I’ve already told you. Everything around Him always catches fire so all you can see is the smoke,” replied Adam. “And mirrors?” asked Eve. Adam ignored her, mostly because mirrors were a cognitive dissonance… Read more »

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 21, 2019 3:53 AM
Reply to  Robbobbobin

P.S. G-d actually said to Adam: “[This My Good Self damned reply editor won’t type nikkud-littered RTL]”.

Me: “Sorry. I’m not too good on nikkud–too synagoguey–so I cut and pasted.”
G-d: “Here–eat this apple.”

KarenEliot
KarenEliot
May 19, 2019 8:36 PM
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Though I see your point I think that atheistic religions ought not to be discounted. But I realise how near this veers to “my god is bigger than yours” and the thrust of what you say is fair criticism Rhys

Robbobbobin
Robbobbobin
May 20, 2019 8:45 AM
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Baby, bathwater.