Sunday, January 24, 2016

The big picture

To begin, just a couple of items I found interesting. One is on the conference at Davos, which, I think, was a big step toward corporate fascism.

Then there's a solid piece on CBC about Trump and Palin – who are not the harmless comics that some think they are. And their rise is a sign of the moral and intellectual collapse of the U.S. What makes it worse is that most of their opponents, including Hillary Clinton, are no better. Indeed, Hillary is Obama. And Obama is Bush.

When Britain and others took control over China some two centuries ago, they did not just loot and peddle opium, and impoverish and kill. They destroyed the whole social structure of China. They destroyed the system of government. They destroyed religion. They destroyed education. They completely destroyed all those things we call culture. The Chinese became strangers in their own land, strangers even to their neighbours. In addition to that, there was looting, starvation, forced labour, humiliation. A Chinese nation ceased to exist. A Chinese people ceased to exist. They became people simply of fear, hunger, starving animals in a pen.

They lost even reminders of their own history. Britain's much-praised Lord Elgin looted the summer palace of the emperors just as he had looted the marbles from the ancient temple in Athens. To see that and other imperial loot from India, Egypt, Greece, you can visit the British Museum in London. It's so educational.

The destruction of a culture left China in a turmoil and confusion and fear that still is prominent. For over a century, Chinese fought the West and fought each other over the questions – Who are we? What are we? What should we be? How do we get there?

That was what led to the rise of Chiang Kai Sheck, thug, drug dealer, murderer – and the darling of Britain and the U.S. And that is what led to the rise of Mao. And then, of course, came the unspeakable brutality of the Japanese invasion as Japan realized that the path to the future was to imitate Western capitalism in its murder and plundering.

Mao won that round, but not the war. So his successors have imitated the western imitation that Japan had carried out. But China is still a long way from stable. It remains uncertain about the future, and still has national nightmares about the century and more of social destruction and humiliation.

As for building on the past, that's impossible. The religion of the past barely exists. As for their history, the Chinese have to visit the British Museum to see it.

Foreign interference in a nation creates terrible damage to a culture, destroys its evolution and, at best, causes lifetimes of fear and confusion and suffering. We should know that. We did it to our native peoples. We did it centuries ago. But the damage is still there. People still suffer, and suffer profoundly, from it.

Afghanistan is still at a stage in which it is a nation, sort of, but it's more importantly based on tribal,
religious and family relationships. It has, at times, made considerable progress toward becoming a modern state. But Afghanistan's misfortunes happened because it was an important route for trade and, more recently, because it is a desirable site for a major oil pipeline. As a consequence, Afghanistan has been a prime target for a good, two centuries.

First, it was the British who saw it as being strategic to the dominance it was building in India and China. Sometimes it was the Russians.

About the time of World War Two and after, Afghanistan was making serious progress in modernizing its society. Then came the Russian invasion. It was a long and brutal war of an advanced and large war society against a much simpler and smaller society that was ill-equipped for war. But the Afghans won.

Not surprisingly, that war strengthened a return to tribal, family and religious traditions - including forms of Islam. And some of the latter, not surprisingly under these conditions, were extreme. (Though I'm not sure they're so extreme as those of the cardinal who blessed bombs to be dropped on Cuba, or the chaplains who tell our soldiers they're doing God's work. I'll bet there was a prayer when the Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima.)

Then came the American invasion of Afghanistan, supposedly to capture Osama bin Laden, though actually an invasion that was planned years before by people like Jeb Bush.

In 15 years, the mightiest and most expensive military machine in the world has been unable to beat this small nation – even though Afghanistan itself is torn by civil war. And again, the interference has only reinforced religious, tribal and family ties. And it has reinforced the most extreme religious elements in Afghanisan.

Ever wonder what makes extreme Islamic thinking? What makes it is the extreme western thinking that the rich of the western world have a right to own everything, And have a right to kill Muslims who don't agree with them. That is what created the Taliban.

Some day, we should take a look at the Christian extremism that has led to Muslim extremism. Our models of Christian (and Judaic) faith are oil billionaires.

Russia and China, now that they are capitalist, work on the same principles (or lack of them) that we do. And those principles have not worked. Every war in the middle east has been a failure in establishing what it was supposed to do. Iraq, even if it holds off ISIS, is a mess that's never going to get better. Same with Libya. Syria, no matter who wins, has largely ceased to exist. Turkey has become a threat to world peace. Iran has decided it would be much better to be friends with China than with the U.S. Yemen? Nobody knows how many are dead of starvation and disease. It may well be past the point of no return. ISIS is and always has been a front, a proxy for the U.S. and Turkey. If it wins in Syria and Libya and Iraq, Then Turkey and the U.S. will fight it directly ( and seriously this time) – and the result will be that ISIS and similar groups will continue to grow all over the world. ISIS is not a product of Islam. It is a product of the greed of western big business.

And our turn is coming as western big business puts the final touches on its mastery. We'll know this year when and if Trudeau agrees to the Pacific and European trade deals which take power from our elected governments, and hand it over to major capitalists. These are the deals that make it possible for capitalists to sue governments for billions if governments pass laws that protect citizens, but cut into profits (like banning pesticide sprays).

Worse, the cases will not be heard in government courts, but in courts owned by big business. With this, democracy is over. And we can expect our capitalists (who are really not capitalists at all) to treat us with the same brutality they have used in the rest of the world.This would be the final step of fascism – a huge improvement because it makes the wealthy not just sharers of power (as demonstrated at Davos) but the only power.

But if the wealth drive all the rest of us into poverty, won't that be bad for profits? Yes. But the very wealthy have a long history of not thinking much about anybody except themselves. At the height of the British Empire when the wealth of the empire flooded Britain, it stopped in the pockets the rich. Well into the 20th century, British cities were vile and filthy, pay was terrible, and the risks of death high. Social services barely existed. Children worked from the age of five or six. Orphanages were brutal. This didn't begin to change until the late 1940s and fifties – but Britain has been going backward again ever since.

The same thing happened in the industrial U.S. and Canada. And the U.S. and Canada have been rolling back progress so that the rich can get richer. That's what all the fuss about austerity in New Brunswick is about.

The rich know how to make money. But, so far as I've seen, that's all they know. And it's all they care.

It's hard to judge where Trudeau stands on any of this because so far he hasn't done anything, not even what he promised. But my guess is he'll do what he's told to do.

But the lesson of it all is that throughout society, the wealthy have seen it to be to their advantage to destroy societies, to destroy cultures, to prevent any evolution that could threaten their power and wealth. It happened in Afghanistan, in China, all over the middle east. And it could well happen here. Well, it is happening here.
Oh, I can hear readers saying, “But we have to fight terrorism.”

I agree. But the way to fight terrorism is to stop doing it. Wars ARE terrorism. They always have been. And no modern power has been more terrorist than the U.S. - though Britain and France and Spain and Portugal were all pretty strong on terrorism in their imperial days.

What we call terrorism today, random attacks on innocent people, often in their own countries, are a modern variant on traditional terrorism by mass murder of civilians – as in Vietnam, Iraq, and Guatemala. (I mean, really, how do you think Iraqis and Syrians feel when they're killed by Canadian bombs? How do you think their families and neighbours feel? I am almost certain they don't all sing, “O Canada” and send us thank you notes.)

The turning point to a new kind of terrorism was, I suppose 9/11. I remember the day well. I was on air with Gord Sinclair (son of the Gord Sinclair of TV fame in 50s and 60s). Gord and I stared blankly at each other as the news came in. We both sensed that this was not an accident, that the world had suddenly changed. We knew it was terrible; and we sensed, without speaking, it was more terrible than we could imagine.

War has always been terror. But this was a new kind of terror in a new kind of war. It is a tactic of the weaker side to overcome the power of the stronger side. It makes use a small number of fighters to kill people, anybody, on the other side and far away from any battlefield.

It wasn't entirely new, really; the U.S. had used it to deliberately kill large numbers of innocent people by bombing in Cambodia. But it wasn't called terror in our news. It was called air power.

Unlike conventional warfare, terror is used to drive a country into hysteria. It doesn't take many people to carry out an attack. And it's done in a place in which people feel safe – like a Paris theatre. The number killed is usually relatively small (though with 9/11 certainly an exception.) So, with only a few fighters and the killing of, perhaps, two to fifty people, a tiny and weak group can drive a large and powerful country of many millions into panic.

It also encourages more of the hatreds that drive many, many others to join the terrorists.

In short, it's an extremely effective way for the weak side to fight the powerful. And its greatest victory could well be a Republican ticket of Trump and Palin for 2016.

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