Sunday, February 28, 2016

Killing A Predator - Nonviolently

Among the animals there are natural-born predators - animals who are specifically designed to live by eating other animals.  They are incapable of relating to certain other animals as anything but a food source - a fact which, no doubt, causes a great deal of stress in the animals who are regarded as food by the predators.  After all, nobody likes being eaten, or living under the constant threat of being eaten.  What if among humans, there are people who can't look at their fellow humans in any other way than as something that would look good between two pieces of bread?  How should the rest of humanity look at such human predators?

There are a few possible responses one could choose.  The first would be to be on the lookout for those in our midst who are natural predators, and who are incapable of being reformed, and to physically attack and destroy these people before they can make a meal out of you.  The trouble with this, however, is that some predators have used this justification for accusing and attacking people who were not a threat to them, in order to prey on them.  Or, we could let the predators run society so that they could shape society into the form most advantageous to them.  (This is the model adopted by the United States from 1776 until now.)

But what if you were bound by a moral code that prohibited you from doing violence to your fellow human beings, even if some of them were predators?  Would that mean that you had to passively offer yourself up to be eaten whenever you met a predator?  Surprisingly, opinions are divided on the answer to this question.

If you asked me what I thought, I would tell you that I am a Christian; therefore, I am prohibited from physically attacking those whom I recognize as human predators.  On this point, the New Testament is quite clear, if one is willing to take what it says at face value.  But where opinions diverge is on the question of whether we are obliged to keep constant company with predators, once we see that their fangs and claws have come out.  One school of thought would quote Luke 6:27-36: “But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you...", and would say that our duty is therefore to embrace every opportunity to do good deeds to abusive people, even going so far as to choose to remain in situations where we must endure long-term abuse, in order to have the opportunity to minister to abusive people.  This is how an acquaintance of mine counseled me after I told him of my recent decision to leave the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, after I had heard some statements from some of their clergy who tried to justify the many police shootings of unarmed African-Americans over the last few years.  The acquaintance told me that I should stay with the Lutherans in order to "minister" to them, in the hope that "the Holy Spirit might reach them."  I didn't take his advice.  But it is the sort of advice that tickles the ears of the sort of people who want some of us to be like the central character in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

For there is another school of thought which says that placing yourself in situations of long-term abuse is sometimes a codependent behavior, and is not a sign of health on your part, but rather of pathology.  For such a response on your part enables the abuser to continue with his dysfunctional behavior.  ("Enabling" can be defined as "removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her own behavior.")  So while I do indeed submit to Luke 6:27-36, I am also guided by Matthew 10, where the Lord sent His disciples out to do good to a nation which He knew would not receive His message.  There He says, "Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves.  Therefore be wise (some translate this as "shrewd") as serpents, and harmless as doves.  But beware of men..."   Someone who is shrewd is smart or clever in a practical sort of way; he or she has an ability to understand things and make good judgments, and he or she possesses hard-headed acumen.  (In the original Greek, the word translated "wise" or "shrewd" is the Greek word φρόνιμος , or, "phronimos.")  In Matthew 10, the Lord also told His disciples that if their intended audience rejected the message of the good deeds done to them, the disciples were to leave them and move on to someone else.  And He said, "But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next..."  (Emphasis added)  In other words, don't stick around.  

Things get even clearer when the abuser calls himself or herself a Christian.  For 1 Corinthians 5 says that we are not to associate with anyone who is called Christian if that person practices certain sins, among which are scheming to steal other people's stuff (which is a rough working definition of covetousness), or threatening other people in order to rob them (which is a rough working definition of extortion).  In other words, we are called to separate ourselves from those who are hell-bent on being abusive.  (That also applies on a certain level to abusive nations that call themselves "Christian".)

What if the abusers own the major institutions of society, and own the playing space in which the great game of economic advancement is played?  Then separation will not be without cost.  But those who do separate themselves will discover an amazing thing, namely, that they can indeed live outside of the system, if they are willing to stop wanting the things the system has to offer.  In other words, they discover that they don't need the things the system told them they needed.  1 Corinthians 7 commands us not to make full use of the world, since this world is passing away.  

So let's bring this to the realm of secular geopolitics.  The United States and Britain have, for the last sixty or so years, sought to refashion the world into their own personal possession, a united Anglo-American empire rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the British empire, on which "the sun never set."  They have imposed the dollar on the world as the world's reserve currency, the de facto currency of international trade.  They have enforced monetary policy via the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and have made the world into their oyster, an oyster which has only one choice, namely, to be eaten.  For they have made the pursuit of all other options impossibly painful for the oyster (or so they thought).  

But the oyster is now discovering that it does not have to be prey.  Syria (with a great deal of help from Russia) has just successfully resisted Anglo-American attempts to dismember it.  Iran recently announced that it will no longer conduct international trade with any other nation in dollars, but will trade in euros from now on.  China has announced that it will no longer peg its currency exclusively to the U.S. dollar, but rather to a basket of currencies.  (See this also.)  Russia and China are now trading with each other in Chinese yuan and not in U.S. dollars.  Other nations are also now ditching the dollar.  (See this also.)  And even inside the U.S. there is an increasing number of people who are unplugging from the system, financially and in other ways, by adopting simpler, more frugal lifestyles.  (One such development: note the swelling numbers of people who don't have a cable subscription, who don't even watch Netflix, and who don't have a TV.  Note also the very successful boycotts of year-end holiday shopping by African-Americans over the last two years.)  Such developments - not widely reported in Anglo-American media - must be giving a lot of hunger pangs to the predators who want to eat the oyster.

And this - the fear of starvation - is one big reason why predators start getting nervous when the prey begins to leave the pathological space created by the predators.  Just as no prey likes to be eaten, no predator wants to die of starvation.  The other reason why predators get nervous when their prey leave them has to do with the dynamic that emerges between predators once there are no longer any prey among them.  Along those lines, last week I was fascinated to hear a TED talk by Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore The Obvious At Our Peril.  In her talk, she described an experiment performed by William Muir of Purdue University, which involved two groups of chickens.  Chickens might prey on worms and bugs, but they normally don't prey on each other.  However, Muir took both groups of chickens through six generations of his experiment.  With one group (the control group), he did nothing but feed and care for them in the usual way.  However, in each generation of the second group, he separated out from them the best and most productive egg-layers (also known as the "super-chickens"), and used them as the breeding chickens for the following generation.  After six generations, the control group - the flock of mostly average chickens - was happy and thriving.  However, in the group which was subjected to selective breeding, by the sixth generation, only three of the "super-chickens" were alive.  The rest had pecked each other to death.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Machinery of Looting: A Case Study

Over the last few weeks, I have been describing how the machinery of looting built by the U.S. and Europe has worked to enrich Europe and America at the expense of the rest of the world.  This is the reason why the calls of some wealthy people with loud voices to restrict the entry of refugees and immigrants into the European Union or the United States (or the other four of the Five Eyes) are so immoral.

This week I want to provide a case study of one such instance of looting, namely Haiti.  Here then is a repost of an essay I wrote shortly after the Haitian earthquake of 2010 (an earthquake which many suspect was caused by undersea oil extraction activities that are remarkably similar to fracking).  In  the aftermath of the disaster caused by that quake, the U.S. sent over 10,000 troops to chase aid workers from other countries out of Haiti (including many doctors sent to Haiti by Cuba, a nation which produces some of the finest primary care and emergency doctors on earth), in order to protect the assets of foreign companies which had operations in Haiti.  Oops! - er, I mean, to help the "democratically elected" government of Haiti "deal with unruly, rioting crowds and restore order."

Thankfully, many of the foreign interests who "own" assets in Haiti are now on the ropes economically, as I wrote in a previous post.  And many of the customers of these foreign interests - upscale people in America and Europe who inhabit the upper-middle-class and the strata above this level - are now falling down from the lofty perches they have made for themselves, as I wrote here.  That includes engineers and scientists, lawyers, owners of private schools as well as the parents who send their kids to these, middle managers in various corporate sectors, entertainers and news talking heads, sports stars, and investment bankers.  And to the endangered occupation list, you can also add police officers, prison correctional officers and private prison employees.  I leave the verification of that last sentence as an exercise for the reader.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Case Of The Moth-Eaten Inverness

"Then He said to them, 'Watch out, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.'" - Luke 12:15

Back when I was a kid in what my generation called junior high school (that's middle school for you who are now kids), it was the job of the English teachers at our school (who would now be called "language arts teachers" in most places in our country) to pour what our society called "culture" into our pubescent brains, by means of making us read "literature" whose origins were almost entirely British or American.  This "literature", packed into 7th and 8th grade anthologies called "readers", contained a large assortment of the kind of stories that would bore most 11 to 14 year old boys to tears.  However, these books did contain a few inclusions from more spicy authors.  (As an aside, I remember one English class in which we were told to read a slow story about a complicated adult situation and to analyze the feelings, emotions, and responses of all the characters.  I just couldn't bring myself to be interested, so I flipped ahead to a Mark Twain story, and spent the rest of the period trying to stifle frequent snickers and chuckles while the rest of the class wondered what was wrong with me.)

One of the more spicy authors included in my "reader" was Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  These stories naturally appealed to me, as they involved danger, solving mysteries, and catching bad guys.  But there was a side effect to these stories which I did not notice until many years later.  For Sherlock Holmes was presented as the sort of heroic character which one might naturally expect to be produced by British society, a society which was itself presented as the most refined, intellectual and "civilized" society on earth.  Thus were the tastes, customs and culture of upper-crust British society presented as the pinnacle of human development.  And Sherlock Holmes became a pinnacle of civilized fashion (at least when he was out in public), as a representative of the British gentleman class.

When this gentleman class (and its American cousins) deigned to look at members of other cultures, it was usually with extreme disdain - disdain especially at the tokens which those other cultures used to honor those members whom they deemed to be worthy of honor.  Thus the civilized Anglo upper crust despised the feathers of the headdress of many Native American warriors, and refused to learn the meaning behind that headdress or the significance of the honor it represented.  This disdain extended to the art and music of various African tribes and nations, the food and religion of many Latin American countries, the rites of passage experienced by Australian aborigines in their cultures, the rituals of respect and honor of elders embodied in many Asian cultures.  After all, why was there any need to respect these?  The Anglo-American culture (and its European cousins) had conquered all, and in conquering all, had shattered the soul and identity of these other cultures, producing generations of people who no longer knew and who were therefore not comfortable with who they actually were.  The most these "lesser" peoples could hope for was to somehow learn to become a feeble, dark reflection of Sherlock Holmes, with his trappings of civilization: his Inverness cape, his cravat, his briar pipe, his various habits.  Or, to learn to be the 20th-century reboot of Holmes, namely, James Bond or any of the other macho spies with expensive tastes and really cool stuff who were spun off from him.  Or, failing that, simply to live large like the Anglo-Americans and the Europeans who had managed to fill their lives with really cool possessions.

And this is what I began to realize many years after my exposure to Sherlock Holmes: that Holmes, and the smug, upper-crust society he represented, were guilty of the very things they had despised in the cultures they conquered and subjugated.  And this guilt extended far beyond the veneration of the tastes of a couple of glorified fictional Anglo action-adventure heroes.  How was the fixation of 19th and 20th century British upper crust on their fashions any different or better than the reverence of any other culture for its tokens of honor?  To call one such reverence idolatry would be to automatically condemn the other reverence.  Who says that the tastes of a violent British spy who likes his martinis shaken, not stirred, are any better, more refined or more "civilized" than the tastes of anyone else on earth?

This leads to a larger question, namely, why anyone should consider the culture of Europe or the Anglo-American empire to be any better or more special than any other culture, especially when that claim to specialness rests on nothing more than having acquired more stuff than any other culture.  European and Anglo-American claims to specialness have come to rest on the possession of more, better and cooler "stuff" than anyone else has come up with, and this possession of "stuff" has even produced class consciousness and social stratification within European and Anglo-American society - a social identity based on creating a material paradise for one's own class while excluding everyone who is deemed to be beneath one's class.  But as the Good Book says, "...we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can't carry anything out."

And even in this life, those who have based their identity on their stuff can lose it all, thus losing their identity in the process.  That has already begun to happen to the Anglo-American empire and to Europe.  The process is driven by the cold, hard limits to the global industrial economy which I mentioned in a previous post, and which others have explained in depth.  (See this, for instance.)  There is nothing that can be done to stop it.  The loss is striking at many who are, no doubt, very surprised at the losses they are suffering, as seen in the following links:
There are many sources like these which describe the recent and increasing vulnerability of people who are in professions formerly considered to be immune to economic troubles.  Many of these people face a future in which the tokens of honor which they have collected will be forcibly taken from them, and they will be stripped to a level of nakedness which will shatter their souls and identity.  For it will destroy all they thought themselves to be.  (I could post some stories of the newly homeless, if I had the time.  Some of them never imagined that they'd be in that situation.)  What is Sherlock Holmes without his Inverness cape?  What is James Bond without his martini, shaken but not stirred?  If you can no longer afford an upper-class life, then welcome to the ranks of the permanently embarrassed millionaires.  Now you look just like the rest of us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Requiem For A Shovel And A Hole

In my last post I said that Europe and the United States are being helped to involuntarily give up their thievery of other peoples' resources, by means of the global collapse in commodity prices.  In saying that, I meant such things as this:
There is much more where that came from, but I'm sure you get the point.  Robbing other nations of their resources is becoming a losing proposition economically - especially for "producers" of most metals.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Will The Real Invader Please Stand Up?

Conversations between some people can seem a lot like beating a dead horse over and over again until the horse has been turned into equine hamburger.  This is especially true when one party in the conversation is trying to communicate the truth, and the other party has made up his mind to refuse to understand that truth - presumably, because it's to the other party's advantage to not understand.  As Upton Sinclair once wrote, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it."  So it seems to be with many who are commenting on the influx of refugees from the Mideast and North Africa into Europe.

Most of these commenters have written at great length of the dangers of letting said refugees (dirty, uncouth and savage "invading hordes") into the pure, precious, civilized sanctuary that is supposed to be Europe.  Indeed, such charity has been characterized as "committing suicide" (culturally, I presume) by at least one highly placed Eurasian politician.  Granted, there are Europeans who - very, very grudgingly - acknowledge that maybe, just maybe it is a good and moral thing to give a little bit of sanctuary to the Arab and Mideastern refugees whose homelands Europe has recently helped to destroy.  Yet many of these same Europeans object fervently to letting black Africans into their special precious sanctuary.

Well, okay, if that's the way you want to be, fine (although I am of African descent, and I am black!)  But have you thought of asking why Black Africans might want to emigrate to Europe in the first place?  If so, I have some ready answers to such a question.  In an earlier post, I described how forced migrations of peoples result from the robbery and plunder of those peoples by a nation skilled at robbery which then concentrates the majority of the resources of nations within its own borders, leaving almost nothing for those nations which it has robbed.  When we look at what European nations have done to Africa, there are plenty of examples of this process.  I will name a few recent cases for you to chew on.

First, there is the case of Nigeria, where the peoples who inhabit the Niger delta have suffered for at least two decades from the petroleum extraction activities of rich multinational corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell.  The pollution, not only from routine oil extraction, but also from lax operations and oil spills, has severely degraded living conditions in the Delta, and has seriously disrupted indigenous ways of life that were far less destructive to the land than the changes which the Europeans have brought.  Not only this, but the leaders of the Nigerian government have been installed by European and American multinationals for the purpose of keeping oil extraction costs low and profits sky high, thus insuring that the ordinary people of Nigeria will not benefit from the exploitation of their nation's resources.  Many of these ordinary Nigerians have risen up in opposition to this exploitation, and are now being branded as "terrorists" and "insurgents."  (See this and this also.)  As their homelands are wrecked in order to satisfy the European and American thirst for petroleum products, where will these people go?

The Nigerian oil situation is but a very small subset of the issue of the way Europe and the United States look at the African continent and the peoples who reside there.  I am thinking particularly of recent articles I have read in the financial press, as well as press releases by various mining companies which all describe Africa as a "treasure trove" of various things wanted by Europe and the Anglo-American empire.  There are also a number of interesting "players" in the African resource-extraction market, such as African Minerals, a mining company based in Sierra Leone, which was sued by villagers in that country for violently evicting those villagers from land wanted by the company, along with violent treatment of its workers, including a fatal shooting of a worker by police.  The incidents took place from 2010 to 2012.  The head of African Minerals, a Mr. Frank Timis, led his company into bankruptcy in 2015, and is now embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with investors.  Mr. Timis, who possesses dual Romanian and Australian citizenship, was also convicted twice for dealing heroin.

Then there is the matter of coastal African nations and the peoples who make a living on those coasts by fishing.  They have a long-standing problem, namely, that European fishing operations have depleted their coastal fisheries to the extent that the locals can no longer easily make a living.  When the locals try to oppose the overfishing of their own resource because they can no longer make a living, they are branded as "pirates."  (See this also.)

Lastly, there is the issue of land grabs, either by foreign multinationals or by the local government proxies installed by these multinationals.  Take Ethiopia, for instance, whose government is taken from a minority of the population, yet which uses its power (financed in no small part by the United States) to expel members of the majority Oromo population from their lands in order to clear the way for "development."  (See this, this and this.)

The instances I have mentioned are but a small scratch of a very large surface, beneath which lies a very large reservoir of wrongdoing.  These things are the means by which life in Africa has become a painful burden for many Africans, and the motivation behind their desire to escape to places where they may live in peace and safety.  Peace and safety - two things for which almost every human being longs.  And yet, there are those in Europe, who after plundering and destroying other peoples' homelands for the sake of enriching their own, can't seem to understand why those other people would want to seek peace and safety in Europe.  Those who regularly read my blog know that I seek to promote mutual hospitality and Christian charity of all peoples one toward another.  I really mean that.  Sharing, mutual exchange, and learning from one another ought to be encouraged as much as possible.  However, if Europeans don't want to have to share their precious society with "invading hordes" whom they themselves have created, then let them get out of Africa (and other places!).  Stop looking at other people's homelands as a "treasure trove" to be exploited for the use of pure, special Europeans.  Stop stealing other peoples' stuff.  It is that simple.  (You can even stop looking at the deserts of North Africa as an untapped solar resource, as far as I'm concerned.  I am sure you'd try to find a way to exploit that resource without paying the inhabitants of the lands you used.)  Once you all start leaving other people alone, you'll be free to give up your Munchausen-false flag complaints about other people trying to overrun or "de-civilize" your pure society.  Fortunately, Europe and the U.S. are currently being helped (albeit involuntarily) to give up their thievery by the current collapse in commodities markets.  After a while, in most cases, crime really doesn't pay.  In the long run, it never pays.