All posts filed under: Arts

A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot

Edward Curtin In my little town/ I grew up believing/God keeps his eye on us all.” Simon and Garfunkel, My Little Town Hello my old friends Paul and Art, I’m just sitting here chilling out in the silent darkness of a late night spinning some discs and thinking your song is great but even great songs age as do we all and so I want to tell you that as a NYC born and bred boy like you guys who moved out to the country some years ago that in my little town many young people grew up not believing that God keeps his eye on us all because they grew up not believing in God, and even many of their parents, baby-boomer believers in hands-off parenting and meditation and yoga weekends didn’t keep an eye on them, not at all, since the parents thought of themselves as super cool and so the kids were allowed to fend for themselves in a most culturally liberal life-style way, and then, when the kids got confused and …

The EU: From Social-Democratic Dream to Neoliberal Nightmare

Frank Lee Reviews The Left Case Against the EU by Costas Lapavitsas Britain, in the shape of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, initially joined the EEC in 1973, after Charles de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969. De Gaulle had always been opposed to the Anglo-Saxon axis, regarding the UK as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for US geopolitical objectives, and consistently blocked the UK’s attempted entry into continental Europe. According to DG Britain ‘was not European enough’. With the General out of the way the path was clear for British entry. However, this was not an altogether popular move with much of the electorate and some quite solid opposition from elements in both main political parties. This being the case the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, opted for a referendum on continued membership in 1975 to settle the issue. The electorate voted ‘Yes’ by 67.2% to 32.8% to stay in Europe. As I recall I voted ‘Yes’ and even wrote a pamphlet in support entitled: “EU the unfinished project.” However, I was then blissfully unaware that the …

The Myth of Reform

This is our second extract from Darren Allen’s book 33 Myths of the System. The first extract can be read here, while the full work is available as a free download here. A protest march is one of Gemma Arterton’s favourite things. ‘Oh, I love going on marches,’ she beams. ‘They’re such an amazingly galvanising, brilliant community.’ She brought her mum along on a women’s march recently, ‘and she loved it, too. She just loved the energy you get off it. It’s like carnival, people really together, and they’re singing and they’re chanting.’ She throws her head back, exhilarated by the memory. ‘It’s like, you feel power!’ Interview in The Guardian Reform is the lightning rod and pressure relief valve of the system. Reform deflects desire for a different system into negotiations for changing the scenery, the actors and the script of the current system · · · The key player in reform is the professional, or ambitious, stagversive, the proto-typical example of which was Karl Marx · · · Stagversives may be good people, …

ODE to 2018

It fogs the mind that Century Twenty-One
Already has a sixth of its span run.
Those born in the first months of the millennium
Can vote – all we can do is to pinchpenny ’em.
The hope is slim they ever can afford
To own a home. It seems a poor reward
For working internships and zero-hours,
No job security as came with ours.
I’m thankful for the age when I was young –
The Swinging Sixties, long gone, fully swung.

A Brief History of the System

This is an extract from the Introduction to Darren Allen’s new book 33 Myths of the System. We’ll be publishing a few more extracts over the coming days. The full work is available as a free download here. Our society resembles the ultimate machine which I once saw in a New York toy shop. It was a metal casket which, when you touched a switch, snapped open to reveal a mechanical hand. Chromed fingers reached out for the lid, pulled it down, and locked it from the inside. It was a box; you expected to be able to take something out of it; yet all it contained was a mechanism for closing the cover. Ivan Illich For hundreds of thousands of years, people lived well in peaceful, egalitarian, healthy societies, at the very least in comparison with what followed. We did not work particularly hard and the work itself (if it could be called work; pre-civilised societies don’t make distinctions between work and play), was enjoyable, meaningful and non-alienating. Activity is alienating if it makes …

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at 175

Catte This is an updated version of our 2017 article to mark the 175th anniversary of A Christmas Carol Today we think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a cosy piece of traditional seasonal fare, replete with steaming puds and roasted goose and comfortably easy lessons about not being stingy at Crimbo. But when Dickens wrote his novella in 1843 he was delivering a far more serious – and possibly freshly relevant – warning about the moral bankruptcy of a society that destroys human lives in pursuit of profit. It’s a fact not much considered, but Das Kapital and A Christmas Carol were both written in the same city, in the same decade – just five years apart. To those familiar only with the numerous adaptations of Dickens’ tale it might seem absurd to look for any point of connection between these two books. What can a feel-good tale of middle class redemption have to do with a study of the class struggle? But this question only begs to be asked because a lot …

And That’s The Way It Is

The Essential U.S. Journalism Books of 2018 James McEnteer Two very different reporters dig deep beneath the mainstream media chatter to find the authentic, arrhythmic heart of America. Charlie LeDuff (Sh*t Show!: The Country’s Collapsing… and the Ratings are Great) and Chris Hedges ( America: The Farewell Tour), both former New York Times writers, are resourceful investigators who go their own ways to find stories. Beyond that instinct for truth, and independence from the media pack, they have radically different methods. Read together, their books complement and corroborate each other. LeDuff gathers anecdotal evidence from “the fringes” of the country, including minorities and the poor, who rarely have a voice or make an appearance in media until some tragedy befalls them. His made-for-TV antics are gutsy and amusing (a la Michael Moore) but his points are deadly serious. Hedges’ relentless jeremiad reveals the pathologies of America’s failed institutions, the impotence of our corporate political parties, the rise of the Christian fascism and infotainment that brought Trump to power and the concomitant cruelties of word and …

BOOK REVIEW: Injustice – The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five

Vacy Vlazna Survive prison I must, for when I come out I would hold no grudges, or hate, or resentment. My belief system tells me that whatever comes upon me is a matter already decreed by Allah. He knows better.” Shukri Abu-Baker, HLF5 Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five is about a grave and cruel injustice wielded by both the the USA and Israel, and paradoxically the book’s foundations are friendship, human dignity, and trust bound together by the integrity of the author, Miko Peled. Peled’s credentials, as an Israeli dissident, as uncle of Smadar (13), a victim of a Palestinian suicide bomber and as son of an Israeli General gives compelling credibility to the findings of his comprehensive investigation. INJUSTICE A decade of innocence caged. It is now 10 years since a Machiavellian travesty of US justice sentenced, between 15 – 65 years, the innocent Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohammed El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulrahman Odeh, who were senior staff of The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) …

Fascism Is the True Face of Capitalism

by Bertholt Brecht, 1935 The truth must be spoken with a view to the results it will produce in the sphere of action. As a specimen of a truth from which no results, or the wrong ones, follow, we can cite the widespread view that bad conditions prevail in a number of countries as a result of barbarism. In this view, Fascism is a wave of barbarism which has descended upon some countries with the elemental force of a natural phenomenon. According to this view, Fascism is a new, third power beside (and above) capitalism and socialism; not only the socialist movement but capitalism as well might have survived without the intervention of Fascism. And so on. This is, of course, a Fascist claim; to accede to it is a capitulation to Fascism. Fascism is a historic phase of capitalism; in this sense it is something new and at the same time old. In Fascist countries capitalism continues to exist, but only in the form of Fascism; and Fascism can be combated as capitalism alone, …

Revolution with Lee Camp

Eddison Flame As the saying goes, wars take place when the government tells you who the enemy is; revolutions take place when you work it out for yourself.” John Wight If it’s true. If revolutions do take place when the people work it out for themselves, then we must be headed for a revolution. Because people are working things out for themselves. It seems like every day I find someone new who is shining bright light into the darkness, and I can’t help but feel we are reaching a critical mass. People are becoming bolder, and they are speaking the truth with ever greater clarity. This week I’m very excited to have found Lee Camp’s wonderful new Super Patriotic Very Uncle Sam Comedy Special. It is a shining example of just what I’m talking about. It is a clear minded and boldly spoken social critique, and it is stand up at its finest. It reminds me of something from George Carlin or Bill Hicks. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a great …

Book Reviews: 9/11 Unmasked

Every year, at about this time, OffGuardian likes to cover the anniversary of 9/11, the most important “catalysing event” in modern history. And this year is no different. As part of this coverage, and in recognition of our willingness to discuss this often-controversial topic, we were invited to review 9/11 Unmasked, a new book from David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth, focusing on the discrepancies in the official account of that fateful day 17 years ago. We reached out to trusted regular contributors and friends of the site based on their honesty, integrity and potentially contrasting points of view. The results are three different reviews, illustrating an interesting cross-section of opinions and experiences. Philip Roddis Two years ago, on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, OffGuardian ran my review of Dylan Avery’s Loose Change. Except it wasn’t a review but a pouring of vitriol on the film’s central assertion that the events of September 11, 2001 were an inside job. Reception below the line was hostile. But among the cat-calls were voices I could not ignore: …

Seventeen Years on: what really happened on 9/11?

Philip Roddis Introduction On Friday, August 31, I had an email from OffGuardian editor Catte: How do you feel about reviewing a new 9/11 book for the anniversary? I know you’re a sceptic but that is why I’d value your input … Two years ago, on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, OffGuardian ran my review of Dylan Avery’s Loose Change. Except it wasn’t a review but a pouring of vitriol on the film’s central assertion that the events of September 11, 2001 were an inside job. Reception below the line was hostile. But among the cat-calls were voices I could not ignore: voices of reason from dudes who’d done their homework and whose tones were sober; friendly even. I promised to re-assess the truther case and return either to concede and apologise or reaffirm my views with better arguments. I gave no date but strongly and at the time sincerely implied it would be a few months tops. Not two years. Why the delay? I’m not afraid of saying, I was wrong. I’ve had practise …

Book Review – “Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”

David William Pear How can I write a review of Andre Vltchek’s new book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism? I am damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. Andre himself says that: There is nothing to add to the writing of maverick revolutionary philosophers. Hands off their work! Let them speak! Editions without prefaces and introductions, please; no footnotes! The greatest works of philosophy were written with heart, blood and passion! No interpretation is needed. If allowed to read them, even a child can understand.” He is speaking about the works of other great revolutionary writers, not himself. I think Andre is a great revolutionary writer, too. But, who am I to speak for Andre or greatness? Read his great works for yourself, and you will understand them without my introduction. You will find that Andre has the guts to put himself out there, let it all hang out, and expose his vulnerabilities as well as his wisdom… But I am damned if I don’t write a book review for Andre’s book, because I …

Westworld: Does the ‘Door’ of Perception Lead to the Valley Beyond?

by Dan Mallon Dan Mallon gives his overview and analysis of the psycho/social themes in HBO’s hit series Westworld. Who, what, when, why; where are we? In Johnathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s second instalment of the Westworld saga obviously; once again, we have found ourselves lost. This time, just like William (Ed Harris) — the formerly known Man in Black; we are now lost at the epicentre of ‘the Maze’, with no conceivable route out and with William’s ultimate wish having materialised: the stakes are real this time. The creators of the Westworld series clearly have quite a few seasons in the pipeline and have decided to give them names which seem to reflect the deep and varied themes we have seen develop so far. The first season was aptly entitled ‘The Maze’; whereas this brand new one has been dubbed ‘The Door’. Of course the Maze was never anything more than a metaphorical challenge, intended for the human-like hosts of Westworld to develop consciousness by way of intermittent voice commands to “Remember” or “Wake up”, all …

Speaking the Unspeakable: The Assassination and Martyrdom of Thomas Merton

A Quasi-Review by Edward Curtin of The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton by Hugh Turley & David Martin Killing a man who says ‘No!’ is a risky business,” the priest replied, “because even a corpse can go on whispering ‘No! No! No! with a persistence and obstinacy that only certain corpses are capable of. And how can you silence a corpse?” Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine Fifty years have elapsed since Thomas Merton died under mysterious circumstances in a cottage at a Red Cross Conference Center outside Bangkok, Thailand where he was attending an international inter-faith monastic conference. The truth behind his death has been concealed until now through the lies and deceptions of a cast of characters, religious, secular, and U.S. governmental, whose actions chill one to the bone. But he has finally found his voice through Hugh Turley and David Martin, who tell the suppressed truth of Merton’s last minutes on earth on December 10, 1968. This is an extraordinary book in so many ways. First, because the authors prove beyond a shadow of …

FILM REVIEW: Loveless [нелюбовь] (2017)

Catherine Brown looks at the 2017 Russian film and questions the claims made in western media that it represents an indictment of Russian society. On the contrary, she suggests, the film is a celebration of the sense of collective responsibility & compassion versus narrow self-asorption & materialism Dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev (1964-), Arte France Cinéma, Why Not Productions, released 13.5.2017, 128 minutes. To start with the first thing we see on screen: Нелюбовь. Russian film director Andrei Zvyagintsev explains: The English translation of the title does not fully convey the weight and meaning of the Russian title which is literally non-love, the opposite of love, not devoid of love which is what loveless implies. It’s not hate, it’s not indifference, it’s hard to say and the reason I brought this up is because the Russian title sounds even more pessimistic. So нелюбовь is a noun not an adjective, and the film is about that thing: the non-love which mutually connects Boris and Zhenya – a contemporary, bourgeois, Muscovite divorcing couple – and which connects both to …

BOOK REVIEW: Russia against the rest: the post-cold war crisis of world order

Frank Lee reviews Russia against the rest: the post-cold war crisis of world order by Richard Sakwa Cambridge University Press Chatham House London October 2017 This publication by the British academic, Richard Sakwa, follows on from his earlier work Frontline Ukraine first published in 2015. The present book identifies a continuity and unfolding of events which started with the end of the Cold War 1989-91, but which eventually broke down completely in 2014 with the onset of the Ukrainian imbroglio; the situation then settled into a new Cold War stand-off which has lasted to the present time. Sakwa has painstakingly detailed the whole sorry episode, identifying and dissecting the submerged trends which in time vitiated the early euphoria which had been triggered by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Initially the apparent transformation and ending of the geopolitical deadlock between the two super-powers gave rise to hopes of a new world order; there was a mood of cheery optimism widespread amid talk of a new epoch of peace and prosperity. Sadly, however, this elation underwent …

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: cosy seasonal tale or passionate condemnation of unfettered capitalism?

Today we think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a cosy piece of traditional seasonal fare, replete with steaming puds and roasted goose and comfortably easy lessons about not being stingy at Crimbo. But when Dickens wrote his novella in 1843 he was delivering a far more serious – and possibly freshly relevant – warning about the moral bankruptcy of a society that destroys human lives in pursuit of profit

What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments Of A Memoir Set To A Musical Soundtrack

by Phil Rockstroh Having been born in a coal and steel company town but destiny delivered, as an adult, to reside, during extended intervals, in the East and West Coast cities of Los Angeles and New York City, and, at present, the continent of Europe, I have come to conclude, people born into situations providing economic advantage, both liberals and conservatives alike, experience difficulty, more often than not, envisaging the lives of those born into a labouring class existence. Worse, a wilful obtuseness, in combination with a supercilious posture is, all too often, evinced, by reflex, towards those scorned as “hillbillies,” “trailer trash,” and “genetic retreads.” Among groups possessing economic advantage, a lack of curiosity prevails as to the nature of the lives of individuals who have spent their lifetime subjected to the life-defying tyrannies of full-spectrum, company town capitalism. Life circumstances, under the present, neoliberal order, that are, in all but rare cases, intractable; wherein, the meagre and fraught with economic instability livelihoods earned as a mine, mill, factory worker, and, in the service …

A New Code of Practice

by W Stephen Gilbert The Hays Code transformed the face of Hollywood in the 1930s, introducing rampant, some may say absurd, censorship and restricting the creativity of writers and directors. Here we take a closer look at what it meant, and what it can teach us about our own time From 1930 for almost forty years, film production and distribution in the United States was entirely governed by the Motion Picture Production Code. A set of dogmatic guidelines as to depicted behaviour, the explicitness of imagery and the tenor of the moral lessons to be deduced from a story’s outcome, this semi-literate document was known to all as the Hays Code, after its overseer Will Hays. Where a man like Hays would be coming from can be spotted a mile off. He was a Republican cabinet minister and a deacon in the Presbyterian church; to write his code, he commissioned a Catholic priest. The restrictions placed on screenwriters and movie directors inevitably look both piffling and dispiriting today. Thus: “…the use of liquor in American …