Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Non Co-Op News - June 2017

As I hinted in my last post, when it comes to opposing oppressive regimes, I have a certain preferred style of fighting.  A couple of prominent features of that style consist of non-cooperation - both economic and political - and building of parallel institutions.  So I tend to get really happy when I see other people adopting a similar style.

I think that's what I (and several perceptive others) have begun to see over the last six months.  Consider the following items:
The mainstream media all have various explanations for these phenomena.  But what if, among the various explanations, someone were to hypothesize that not a few Americans are deciding to stop feeding a predatory system?  I am thinking of a conversation I had with a co-worker who told me about a Keurig coffee maker she had been eyeing as a possible new addition to her home, and how she decided not to buy it in order to deny support to the Trump regime.  I have been in similar conversations with others lately who are coming to the same conclusion.  According to Gene Sharp's book The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Power and Struggle, economic non-cooperation was one of the key elements that brought down the Tsarist regime in Russia during the nonviolent struggle that lasted from Bloody Sunday in 1905 to 1917 (before the Bolsheviks, by the way).  What can be done to help accelerate the trends that I have listed in this post?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Matter of Alliances

After Donald Trump captured the U.S. presidency in a highly questionable election, a number of resistance movements sprang up in the United States.  One of those movements is called Indivisible, and it is representative of those movements whose strategy is to try to oppose the Trump agenda through established institutional political channels.   That's not my particular style of fighting just now, so, while I wished them well, I never really felt compelled to join them.  However, over the last few weeks, I ran into someone who is involved in a local chapter of Indivisible, and this person told me some of the things that this local chapter is trying to do.  The person also commented to me that "it seemed to be hard to get people of color involved in Indivisible...they just didn't seem to be interested..."  At the end of our conversation, we exchanged email addresses, and later, this person sent me a couple of links to Indivisible "weekly action checklists."

One of those checklists contained the following language: "After the election…
Like many Americans, I grew concerned for my rights—like the right to free speech, the right to be married to my wife, to dissent, and to privacy.  Even more, I grew worried for my Latino friends, my Muslim friends, my Black friends, and my gay sisters and brothers—especially as acts of violence and harassment increase..."

These words were written by a blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian woman who had married another woman.  And her statement of concern for "equity" and "equal rights" were led first and foremost by her concern for the freedom to pursue her own lifestyle.

Reading those words and looking at her picture on the Indivisible website spurred me to think about how the Civil Rights movement has morphed and mutated from its origins in abolitionist movement in the early-to-mid 19th century to the present, and especially how the movement's focus and agenda (along with the focus and agenda of the American Democratic Party) was changed from the 1960's to now.  I was also compelled to revisit the way I view nonviolent resistance on its most basic level.  I am aware that in their excellent book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Chenoweth and Stephan emphasize the importance of building a large coalition of diverse actors in order to insure the success of a nonviolent movement.  However, I believe that alliances must be chosen very carefully and not indiscriminately.

And as I consider the practice of radical nonviolent resistance, I see a some very important characteristics, the first of which is that this kind of resistance consists of speaking truth to power in the full knowledge that the power to whom you speak truth may respond by trying to kill you.  Second, radical nonviolent resistance requires that you cannot respond to your oppressor with violence even when he is trying to kill you, even as St. Peter wrote: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are crooked..."  Note also that even though Peter wrote of the need for submission, yet he and all of the apostles wound up as jailbirds at various times in their lives because they spoke truth to power by living radically in the truth.  (Indeed, Peter eventually was crucified upside-down.)

To me then, to be a nonviolent resister is synonymous with being a Christian.  And being a Christian means that I have confessed the Lordship of the Boss I work for.  Since He has called me to a dangerous work in which I might lose my life, I believe the success of that work hinges very closely on my willingness to do exactly what my Boss says.  And my Boss (as revealed especially by the New Testament) has specifically condemned homosexuality as a lifestyle.  Therefore, I cannot join with those who seek to legitimize homosexuality as a lifestyle.  Otherwise, I run the risk of failing in the task which my Boss has given me.

Yet there is another element of obedience to my Boss which I ought to mention.  According to His orders, I am forbidden to try to use secular, earthly political power to punish other people for their private sins.  Paul's letter to the Galatians clearly lays out the futility of trying to get people to act like Christians by trying to force "Christian" laws on a fallen nation.  The entire Old Testament history of Israel illustrates this futility.  And the history of Prohibition in the United States is another clear example.  Also, in the story of the Lord's encounter with the adulterous woman in John 8, when the Pharisees were pressing Jesus to agree with stoning the woman to death, Jesus responded by saying, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  Those who read the story to the end will notice that at the end, the woman was still alive.

There is one other thing to notice from the story in John 8, and that is the motive behind the Pharisees' efforts to force the Lord to condone stoning this woman to death.  He said, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone..." and this stopped them from throwing stones - so...I guess that means that they themselves had sinned, doesn't it?  And I think it is quite likely that some (perhaps many) of them had sinned in exactly the same way that this woman had.  Their motives in trying to put this woman to death had nothing to do with zeal for Biblical morality, but were rather a ploy to eliminate a threat to their secular, earthly political power and social status.  And Jesus knew it.  And they knew (from seeing and hearing about some of His miracles) that if they tried to continue their rush to judgment after hearing His warning to them, He would most likely have publicly declared some of their secret sins in the ears of the crowd standing around Him.

Which brings up a point, namely, the use which political actors in the United States have made of private sexual sin in order to advance their own political and economic power.  I am thinking particularly of homosexuality and how the response to homosexuality has been used both by the ostensible "Left" and by the Right as a proof of their "righteousness."  The Right, for instance, has largely succeeded in reducing Biblical morality to the question of how we should respond to a very small handful of issues related to sex.  This has been convenient for them because they have been able to say in threatening tones that God's "blessing" on this nation by which this "great nation" (meaning rich white folks) has been made "great" is under threat because "we have abandoned Biblical morality."  Therefore, the great issue of our time is the need to fight against departure from Biblical sexual morality.  We need a renewed "Focus on the Family!"  There are no other issues more important than this.

Such language conveniently ignores two things.  The first is that, according to the Scriptures, my Boss (whom they claim to be their Boss also, even though they don't know Him at all) is concerned about many issues beside sexual sin - and His concern for them is just as great as His concern about sexual sin.  One such issue (which they don't address because it would cost them money) is the issue of predatory behavior by one group of people against another.  Indeed, in Ezekiel 22, God promises to tear Israel apart, to destroy it economically and politically, and to send its residents into captivity.  When one reads Ezekiel 22 and counts the reasons why God promised to do this, homosexuality is not mentioned once.  However, economic oppression (and accompanying violence against the powerless) is mentioned fourteen times.  While sexual sin is mentioned four times, in two of those cases, God condemns men for forcing themselves on women.  (The word "humbled" can also be rendered "raped"!)

The Religious Right has condoned every sin listed in Ezekiel 22.  Indeed, their darling, Donald Trump, has been guilty of every sin listed in Ezekiel 22.  If we limit our focus solely to sexual sin, the list of Republicans and supremacists who have fallen is quite long, including Newt Gingrich, who was fooling around behind his wife's back during the Republican-led impeachment of Bill Clinton.  It also includes Bob Livingstone, who led the impeachment proceedings after Gingrich was outed, as well as Dennis Hastert who replaced Livingstone after he was outed for cheating on his wife.  It also includes Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton.  Starr later became the president of Baylor University, where he helped to cover up a massive sexual assault scandal involving the Baylor football team.  And as far as homosexuality, Dennis Hastert was later found guilty of paying public money to hush up his sexual assaults of high school wrestlers while he was a wrestling coach.  And the current Republican regime in Washington is trying hard to remove every legal protection from women who are victims of sexual assault, harassment, or domestic violence.

("Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!...You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the damnation of Gehenna?")

So we can see how the Right has pushed zeal against sexual sin as a convenient gauge of zeal for righteousness, because such a gauge does not threaten existing economic or political disparities in power, nor does it threaten existing patterns of oppression which enrich the few at the expense of the many.  But what about the "Left"?  For it seems to me lately that the Left has largely succeeded in reducing concerns about equity and diversity and equal rights solely to the push to legitimize certain sexual lifestyles.  Indeed, I remember reading a few years back (although I am sorry that I can't find the source now) that during one of the "general assemblies" of the Occupy protests, a group of gay rights activists stood up and proclaimed that the struggle for civil rights for people of color had largely succeeded, and that now the main focus of struggle should be on promoting the acceptance of "sexual minorities."  I also remember reading that the people who said this were shouted down by several people of color who knew differently.  Indeed, there are people of color within the LGBTQ movement who themselves have pointed out the racism and overall whiteness of the movement, and how it has largely ignored the voices of the people of color in its ranks.  (See this, this, and this, for instance.)  Note also what one source has said about the alignment of some elements of the gay community with the global far right.

To an increasing number of us from communities of color, the gay rights movement seems to have hijacked the efforts in this country to fight for social justice.  The last year, for instance, has seen many well-funded "rights" organizations fighting for things like public "transgender restrooms" even as corrupt white police officers get away with murdering unarmed African-Americans.  What is also telling is that there is so little outrage within the broader American society over the murders.  To us, the LGBTQ agenda has no relevance to us; rather, the insistence on making this agenda so prominent is one of the factors which makes us increasingly distrustful of the so-called "Left", and unwilling to engage with them in their agenda.  This is one reason why we are not rallying behind the Democratic Party - a party which is home to a Governor who derailed the indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Michael Brown.  This is the same party who has as a member a man named Rahm Emanuel, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.  Rahm Emanuel went on later to become the mayor of Chicago, where he helped the Chicago police department cover up police murders of unarmed African-American teens.  So as the Left extends its hand to us once again, we don't trust it.  To me, it seems that we must chart our own course.  And some of us are gaining the skills and tools to do just that.  For the Left as it is currently constituted is also no threat to existing economic or political disparities in power, nor does it threaten existing patterns of oppression which enrich the few at the expense of the many.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

La Batalla Por La Ontogénesis


[And now, at last, the promised Spanish version of one of my recent posts.  Muchas gracias, N.R., for the translation!  One note: I transcribed his translation from a paper copy he gave me, so if there are any spelling or grammar errors, I take full blame for them...  Also, I will try to clean up the formatting in the next week or two.  Buen provecho.]
Ontogénesis: “El desarrollo de un organismo individuar,” Wictionary. “El origen y el desarrollo de un organismo,” Wikipedia. “El proceso por el cual cada uno de nosotros personifica la historia de nuestra propia formación.” (Gingrich, Fox, et al, 2002)

Ontogénesis. ¿Un tema interesante, o no? Estoy especialmente sorprendido por la ultima definición citada, ósea ontogénesis como “proceso por el cual cada uno personifica la historia de nuestra propia formación.” Tomando estas definiciones indican que esta historia es una función de nuestro desarrollo como individuos. En otras palabras, el propósito de nuestro desarrollo es originar una cierta clase de historia. ¿Habrá claves de la clase de historia que debemos personificar, y de la meta deseada de nuestro desarrollo?

Antes de darte mi respuesta a esta pregunta, déjame advertirte con tiempo que esto será otro anuncio espiritual manifiesto. Y ahora, miremos a una escritura en particular:

Porque la gracia de Dios que tra salvación a todos los hombres se manifesto,
ensenándonos que, renunciando a la impiedad y a los deseos mundanos,

viviamos en este siglo demplada, y justa, y piamente, esperando aquella esperansa bienaventurada,

y la manifestación gloriosa del gran Dios y Salvador nuestro Jesucristo,

que se dio a s mismo por nosotros para redimirnos de toda iniquidad, y limpiar para si un pueblo propio, celosa de buenas obras.

– Tito 2:12-14

Considerando las partes de esta escritura, podemos hacer unas observaciones rápidas. Primera, la intención de nuestro creador es que seamos rescatados para no vivir vidas fútiles, caracterizadas por pasiones y adicciones degradantes, y descrontroladas. Segundo, nuestra vidas devén de ser disciplinadas y con propósito; con nuestro ingenio y facultades envueltas completamenta en servir a ese propósito. Tercero, nuestras vidas devén de ser virtualmente hermosas siendo caracterizadas por buenas obras. La palabra “buenas” en Griego es la palabra “Kalos.” De acuerdo a la concordancia de Strong, esta pabra significa “hermosa (Mi énfasis), como una muestra exterior de un buen interior, noble, carácter honorable, dignidad, honrosa, y noble que se hace manifesto.” Entonces nuestras vidas devén de estar llenas de obras hermosas, obras cuya hermosura es una reflexión directa de la bondad en ellas. Y la carta a Tito esta llena de apelaciones a aquellos que se llaman cristianos para que se envuelvan en estas buenas obras, cuyo propósito, entre otras cosas es suplir las necesidades apremiantes (o urgentes) de nuestros semejantes seres hermanos (Tito 3:14)

La escritura indica que esta vida llena de propósito solpo pueda ser experimentada atreves de una transformación que es resultado de una fe genuina en Cristo. Y aun cada ser humano ha experimentado alguna vez un deseo por esta clase de vida, un deseo de cumplir esta clase de ontogénesis. La prueba de esto se puede obetner al preguntar a cualquier niño de 5 o 6 anos que quiere el o ella ser cuando crezca. Al menos que el niño halla sido traumatizado severa y persistentemente, nunca oirás al niño contestar que el o ella quieran ser basura o nada. Los niños de forma natural tiended a querer ser algo hermoso, algo noble, algo bueno cuando crezcan.

Sin embargo, la perversión humana que es el resultado del pecado original a traido como resultado a personas que comúnmente están confundidas acerca de como pueden cumplir su ontogénesis. Tales personas frecuentemente hacen el error de creer que ellos no se pueden levantar al menos que empujen otros hacia abajo, que no preden brillar al menos que apaguen a otros, que no pueden cumplir su deseo de ser hermosas al menos que arruinen y deshumanizar a sus semejantes seres humanos, que no pueden cumplir su ontogénesis al menos que priven a otros de su derecho y habilidad de realizar su ontogénesis.

Esta perversión se puede mirar en el papel ejecutado por el gobierno Británico del siglo diecinueve al proteger y expandir el movimiento del opio en China para enriquecer a la Bretaña y dañar a la sociedad China. (Es interesante notar que los Chinos trtaron de erradicar el mercado del opio cuando vieron el dano des bastante de los efectos de la adicción al opio. También es interesante notar que antes de la invasión en Afganistán por los E.U. en el ano 2002, los gobernante, de ese país habían eliminado el mercado de opio y sin embargo este mercado resurgió después de la invasión.) Otro ejemplo son las leyes puestas en varios estados en los siglos 18th y 19th en los E.U., las cuales hicieron que el ensenar a leer y a escribir a los esclavos Africanos una ofensa criminal. De hecho, mucha gente no sabe esto, pero los estados y los dueños de esclavos trataron de evitar que los esclavos aprendieran de la Biblia, o que fueran evangelizados, o que se convirtieran en Cristianos, temiendo que este conociemiento podria ayudar a los esclavos a afirmar su humanidad en cara de los “dueños” blancos. Estos y otros ejemplos ilustra la perversidad de gentes que tratan de cumplir su ontogénesis oprimiendo a otros, que buscan alcanzar su mas alto propósito convirtiendo a los semejantes humanos en victimas.

Para los oprimidos, entonces, la búsqueda para alcanzar su propia ontogénesis se convierte en el aspecto central de la resistencia sin violencia contra su opresores. Y como los opresores están en el negocio de tratar de prevenir este logro, los oprimidos no pueden esper ayuda alguna de parte de la sociedad opresiva en que viven. Después de todo, el interés de los opresores se cumple mejor al mantener a los oprimidos en una condición de quebrantamiento constante. Entonces, si los oprimidos han de lograr su ontogénesis, tiene que desarrollar la clase de instituciones paralelas, fuera del control de los opresores, por los cuales equipar a los oprimidos para su completo desarrollo como seres humanos. Ya que una ontogénesis cumplida resulta en gente quienes son caracterizados por buenas obras, un componente clave de instituciones paralelas es que tienen que ser edificadas en la edificación de arreglos paralelos para la educación de los oprimidos. Esta educación debe equipar a los oprimidos con las habilidades y herramientas necesarias para buena obras. (Tito 3:14 – “Y aprendan asimismo los nuestros a gobernarse en buenas obras...”)

Ejemplos de instituciones paralelas para la educación incluye la escuela de esclavos ilegales (illegal slave schools) de los Americanos antes de la guerra en el Sur. También incluye las universidades volantes Polacas (Polish “Flying Universities”) que aparecieron durante cuando menos tres periodos en la historia polaca, correspondiente a la partición de Polonia por Prusia, Austra-Hungary y Imperial Rusia del siglo 19th; la ocupación de Polonia por Alemania Nazi on la seguerra Mundial, y la lucha contra el dominio soviético en el medio y fin del siglo 20th.

En los dos primeros casos, los ocupantes invasores de Polonia buscaron deshumanizar a la populación Polaca negándoles (especialmente a las mujeres) acceso a la educación alta. En ambos casos, estas universidades volantes clandestinas fueron instrumentales en edificar y preservar un cuadro de dirigetes intelectuales. Polacos quienes reconstruirían a la sociedad Polaco cuando el tiempo fuera apropiado. (Muchos quizás no saben esta pero Marie Curie, la descubridora de radium fue una gradúate de una universidad volante Polaca.) Ejemplos en la actualidad incluyen el fenómeno creciente del homeschooling entre padres afroamericanos.

Y yo tengo un ejemplo personal, es a saber, el colectivo de tutores al cual pertenezco, el cual visita apartamentos de bajos ingreos tres veces al mes para ensenar matemáticas básicas y ciencia a los niños que viven ahí. Puedo ver que deseperantemente necesitan nuestro servicio cuando le pregunto a un niño de nueve y dies anos cuanto es 8 por 7 y miro a muchos de ellos que empiezan a dibujar ocho círculos para poner siete puntos en los círculos para poder contar los puntos, lo único ue puedo pensar es que las escuelas publicas que estos niños atienden, son culpables del terrible desperdicio del tiempo de estos niños.

La educación de la cual hablo es por tanto no meramente vociacional, sino dar a los estudiantes un conjunto de herramientas para navegar esta temprana etapa de la vida, y proveer en una forma honorable para suplir sus necesidades propias y las necesesidades de otros mediante hermosas buenas obras en cualquier situación que puedan encontrar. Corresponde a los que son oprimidos el tomar responsabilidad de proveerse por si mismos de esta educación.

Cuando una gente oprimida hace un esfuerzo coordinado para realizar su ontogénesis en la manera descrita, devén anticipar una reacción adversa de parte de sus opresores, como fue el caso de los seguidores de Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (También conocido como Bacha Khan). Durante la primera parte del siglo 20, Bacha Khan organizo un grupo grande de Pashtungs para poder educarlos y para mejorar la sociedad. Los Británicos tenían el control imperial de esa región, y ellos resintieron profundamente su trabajo. Por eso, ellos lo arrestaron a el y a su anciano padre en 1919, lo cual fue el principio de una serie de arrestos y enarelamientos. A pesar de la acción de la policía Británica, el pudo organizar un gran ejercito pacífico de Pashtungs dedicados a mejorar la sociedad Afgana.

Por su trabajo el ejercito Británico y la policía cometieron una masacre de cientos de Pashtungs durante una protesta pacifica en 1930. Los Británicos dispararon sus rifles contra los desaramados protestantes pacíficos por mas de tres horas. (Informacion tomada de Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggles, Democratization and Governance in the Middle East, Chapter 8, Maria Stephan, et al.)

Ese incidente, aunque horripilante y tragico, ilustra un punto poderoso. Y es, que mediante la búsqueda de esta clase de ontogénesis – y mediante la búsqueda de esta clase de auto-educación necesaria para vivir la vida de hermosas buenas obras, una gente oprimida puede lanzar una poderosa reprensión sin violencia a sus opresores. Porque las vidas provechosas hermosas y llenas de habilidad y de propósito que son el resultado de esta educación, tienen un poderoso efecto en los opresores, a saber la no deseada diminución de la distancia social entre el opresor y el oprimido, porque el opresor es forzado contra su voluntad por las hermosas obras que ve, a reconocer la humanidad de aquellos que desea oprimir.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How Do You Say "Head Fake" In Mancunian?

I almost titled this post, "How do you say 'Head Fake' in Scouse?" Many may not know this, but British actor Bernard Hill, who played King Theoden in the Lord of the Rings movies, got one of the bigger breaks of his career playing a Scouser unemployed asphalt layer named Yosser Hughes in the British 1980's series The Boys From The Blackstuff.  I have never lived in Britain, so I cannot tell the difference between a Mancunian accent and a Scouse accent.  However, I did discover that Bernard Hill is actually from Manchester - thus not a Scouser at all.  Such is the power of good acting, that a skillful actor is able to so thoroughly disguise his origins and identity in pretending to be someone else.  (I remember seeing one other instance of this several years ago, when a coworker foisted a DVD of Secondhand Lions off on me, and insisted that I watch it, which I did.  I couldn't really stand the kid in the movie, nor did I particularly like the movie itself, but Michael Caine did a very creditable job of pretending to be Texan.  Could'a fooled me...)

Such cases of pretending can be quite entertaining when part of a well-done drama, although they can't save a cheesy plot from annoying the living daylights out of those who are forced to be its audience.  As I think of Manchester, and of the recent "terror" attack which took place there, I have to confess that I am annoyed.  The trouble to me is that it has all the markings of other attacks which were perpetrated in Europe and the United States over the last several years, characteristics such as the following:
  • The attacks were supposedly perpetrated by some vague, shadowy "Islamic State" bent on imposing Muslim rule throughout the world;
  • The attacks did not materially degrade the military capabilities of the nations where they took place;
  • The attacks had an effect exactly opposite the supposed aims of the supposed perpetrators.  The actual effect of the attacks was to provide an excuse to inflame anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant (especially anti-dark-skinned-immigrant) sentiment in the nations where they took place, and to provide a justification for the nations of the Global North to attack Muslim and Arab nations where there were large concentrations of mineral resources.
  • The alleged perpetrators of the attacks all wound up conveniently very dead, and thus unable to stand trial in pubic.
  • After each attack, critical thinkers began to expose holes and inconsistencies in the official narrative put forward by government authorities.  One example of this includes the fact that after a supposed Islamic jihadist supposedly drove a truck into a crowd of people in France last year, French anti-terror police asked the city in which the attack occurred to destroy all video surveillance footage of the attack.  (See this also.  And, oh, by the way, did you know that remotely driven trucks have existed for years?)  If the police were really interested in getting to the bottom of this attack, why destroy video footage that could provide valuable evidence?  Another example is the presence of faked passports among the dead in the 2015 Paris terror attack.  Now in the wake of Manchester, an analyst and critical thinker is again raising questions.  And even some of his potential enemies have begun to listen
There is additional evidence of plans to carry out false flag attacks over the last few months, such as the case of the German army officer who tried to pose as a Syrian refugee in order to plan an attack that would have been blamed on Syrian asylum-seekers. I think the cases I have mentioned only scratch the surface of the false-flag phenomenon as it is now being practiced by powerful interests in the Global North.  The goal of these attacks is actually to prop up these powerful interests, who have succeeded in capturing the governments of the United States and Russia, and who have succeeded in the recent reversal of freedoms in many other countries such as the Philippines.  These false-flag operations prop up such regimes by validating the myth of redemptive violence which is devotedly taught by so many oppressive regimes because each autocratic leader of such a regime can cast himself as Marduk, the Babylonian autocrat deity who alone preserves the world from...chaos!!!  Those subjects who live under autocratic rule are thus taught again and again to fear...chaos!!!..., to fear disorder, to fear any deviation from the micromanaged script dictated to them by the Marduk who rules their society, and most of all, to fear those whom Marduk deems to be enemies of the state, for those enemies are the potential seeds of...Chaos!!!  And if those enemies don't care to act like enemies, Marduk must arrange incidents which portray these enemies as agents of...CHAOS!!!

In his book, The Powers That Be, theologian Walter Wink does a good job exposing the myth of redemptive violence and the uses which dictators and autocrats make of this myth in propping up their regimes.  If you follow his logic, you can see that George W. Bush was Marduk.  Dick Cheney was Marduk.  Ronald Reagan was Marduk.  Donald Trump is Marduk.  (Indeed, Trump is a spectacular Marduk, as he is only good for protecting us from "threats" that don't exist.  Other than that, he is worthless as an agent of the common good.)  Maybe Theresa May is about to become a Marduk.  (In that case, "he" will become "she" for a while.)  And Vladimir Putin is Marduk, as he showed in March of this year when he rallied his security forces against the outbreak of...CHAAAOOOOSSSS!!!!!!

The execrable part of this program is that too often, it actually brainwashes ordinary people who are susceptible to national narcissism, as in the case of Germany at present, where in 2016 there were about ten attacks a day against asylum-seekers, or in the case of Portland, Oregon, in the United States, where last Friday, a crazed white supremacist killed two passengers with a knife and seriously injured a third while they were riding a MAX train. 

What is the actual nature of the "chaos" of which the Marduks of the Global North are afraid?  If we're going to be honest, this "chaos" is nothing more than the loss of white supremacy and global domination, and the emergence of a world in which one nation cannot bully or unilaterally impose its will on other nations.  It is a world in which you can't get anywhere without taking your turn, saying "Please," or "Thank you."  It is also a world populated by many, many really neat, decent people - even though they are not of European descent!  It is a world in which nations that formerly dominated the world must acknowledge these non-European people as people, as fellow human beings.  It is a world in which national narcissism simply won't fly, but will instead lead to a moment in which the leaders of narcissistic nations are forced to look at each other and say, "You arrogant coyote, you've killed us!"  Britain is having such a moment just now.  For narcissists always miscalculate.  And the outworkings of damnation always find those who have made themselves damnable.  "Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

So...Who's the Dangerous One Again?

I have a couple of posts in the embryonic state, which I hope to develop and publish within the next few weeks.  But something happened that demands a response.  At around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, a male white supremacist began screaming racist and anti-Muslim insults at two young women on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon.  I think it was probably the same line that I often rode home from work at around that time for many weekdays over the last several years.  When some male passengers tried to calm this man down and de-escalate his behavior, he viciously attacked them with a knife, killing two of them and wounding a third.  Then he fled the train.

I wonder what was going through the accursed head of Jeremy Joseph Christian when he started his screaming and shouting, and when he began to kill.  Did he think he was being some kind of hero?  Was this his way of trying to get one last shot of narcissistic glory to compensate for a life wasted as a felon and a loser?  Some prominent politicians and community leaders have called on Donald Trump to publicly condemn the bigotry embodied in Jeremy Joseph Christian, but if I were them, I wouldn't hold my breath, because Trump, like Jeremy, is a loser and a felon who is trying to get one last shot of narcissistic glory before being thrown into an incinerator.  Trump and Jeremy, moreover, are symptoms of a larger national and ethnic narcissism which seems to have permanently taken hold of a certain sector of the American public - a sector which can easily be egged on to re-enact the myth of redemptive violence (see this also) at the slightest provocation because the enactment of this myth enables them to project the shame of their own lives onto convenient targets, even if the choosing of those targets makes no sense, as was the case with Pizzagate.  This is the sector which doesn't believe it actually exists unless it can prove its existence by terrorizing people who don't belong to it.  But it is inescapably - bit by bit - losing its ability to terrorize.  For its members, the future contains only a yawning abyss, because this sector is good for nothing.

I am a Christian and not a Muslim.  But when Muslims are actively performing deeds of reconciliation and healing in a nation and society that is being polarized and torn apart by knuckleheads for the benefit of its wealthiest members, what does that say about America as a "Christian" nation?  Only that "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Touching The Oppressor's Wound

A person who believes in a world created and ruled by an all-powerful, utterly moral Being must, sooner or later, also recognize that the world which this Being has created is moral on a very deep level.  This means that the actions - the choices - of us creatures have consequences.  The consequences are not just moral consequences, but social, relational and even physical, as declared in such succinct Scriptures as, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap," and, "The wages of sin is death."

But when a person makes such an assertion in open company, he is likely to be accused of easy, careless, useless moralizing, especially by people who argue that moral concerns are irrelevant, and that only might makes right.  "Look," they say, "we see people getting away with robbery and murder all the time, and nothing bad happens to them!  The only thing that matters in life is who has the most strength, who can wield the most force, who is cleverest."

Which side is correct?  The answer depends on the evidence a person uses to answer the question.  Over very short time scales, it often appears that those who say that might makes right are correct, for over very short time scales it appears that rich and powerful people really are able to get away with robbery and murder without suffering any penalty.  However, the picture changes in interesting ways as the time scale of study gets longer.  So we find, in books like Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, that there is a large body of evidence that confirms that people who struggle against oppression by nonviolent, non-destructive means have a much greater chance of neutralizing their oppressor than people who adopt the destructive means of their oppressors to wage conflict.  On a certain level, this is a vindication of all of the New Testament teaching of nonviolence as the means of confronting a violent society.  Let the data speak.

But what about the morality of the oppressor - and specifically, what about the morality of the oppressive actions of the oppressor?  Is it true that oppression is an evil act?  Is it also true that oppressors are evil?  That depends, I guess, on who you ask.  However, based on the Source I consult, oppression and oppressors are both evil.  (See, for instance, Isaiah 58, Ezekiel 22, Luke 16, and James 5:1-6.  You might also check out this excellent poem by Dave Barnhart.  Look at the Scripture references at the bottom.)

So if the Good Book is correct in condemning both oppressors and their oppression, I guess that means that the Scripture which says "The wages of sin is death" is being fulfilled in their case, isn't it?  I mean, we should be able to see evidence that they are reaping damaging consequences, shouldn't we?  There is indeed compelling evidence to confirm these assertions.  But you have to know where to look.  A good initial proposition or hypothesis helps in the search, and such a hypothesis can be found in Paolo Freire's book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where he describes the dehumanization that occurs in the oppressor as a result of his actions of dehumanizing those he seeks to oppress.  (You can read the first chapter of his book here.)  In other words, a person who chooses to be an oppressor damages both his victim and himself by his oppression.

What evidence do we have that this assertion is true?  The evidence can be found anecdotally concerning slave-owners in the antebellum South, of whom historian Albert Murray is reported to have said that their per capita suicide rate was much higher than that of the slaves they owned.  It can also be found in the suicide rate of soldiers and others in Nazi Germany during World War Two.

However, there is abundant modern statistical evidence to document the self-destructiveness which characterizes many classes of wielders of power in the present-day industrial world.  This is seen in the recent high suicide rates among the military personnel of certain countries.  (For instance, see this and this.)  But it is also seen in the high suicide rates among other wielders of power, such as middle managers in business.  By far, the most noticeable example of suicide among those who wield power is the suicide rate among police and corrections officers.  (One study found that most corrections officers do not live to see their 59th birthday.)  The case of corrections officers is especially interesting, given the large number of prisoner abuse cases which have been in the news over the last several years.  (See this for instance.)

But the risk of suicide is not the only damage done to those who wield power - especially physically violent, destructive power - as agents of oppression.  There is also the slow damage wrought by substance abuse and the difficulties in family relationships caused by a job which requires a person to act violently or inhumanely toward some of his fellow human beings for 40 hours a week.  People who work such jobs all too frequently find that they cannot just switch off their aggression when they come home from work.  When that aggression is released outside of its intended environment, it has consequences, as I described in an earlier post.

We see then that wielding dehumanizing power or violence against powerless people really does damage the oppressor.  How then does the oppressor become damaged by the oppression he commits against the oppressed?  What is the exact mechanism of this damage?  For, as Paolo Freire says, "As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized."  How does this process work itself out?  For if we can create a model of the process of dehumanization, we can track the process of dehumanization as it works itself out in individual members of an oppressor occupational class.  Armed with this knowledge, we who are among the oppressed can begin to describe the process of dehumanization to our oppressors, providing the oppressors with the warning signs that show that process working itself out in our oppressors.  We now know something of the processes which disciplined nonviolent resisters activate in the agents of oppression who oppose them.  We should also work on developing a strong theoretical model of the self-destructive processes activated by the act of oppression in those who choose to oppress others.

This theoretical framework would form the basis for warning the oppressor that his oppression is killing him as well as hurting those whom he seeks to oppress.  It would be rather like the empirical observations of deaths in heavy smokers which led to the theoretical development and research which formed the foundation for the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking as a cause of death.  Such theory, backed up by research, would also be the foundation of a powerful appeal to the oppressor to give up his oppression - just as the Surgeon General's report was the basis of powerful appeals to Americans to give up smoking.  And such theory and research would serve as a foundation for making a personal connection with the secondary victims of the oppressor - such as the spouses and children who suffer domestic violence and the secondary effects of substance abuse resulting from the jobs held by the oppressors to whom they are married.

Friday, April 28, 2017

I Gotta Pull Weeds This Weekend

I have greatly appreciated the readership and kind and appreciative comments I have received over the last few months.  Those of you who blog regularly know that quality blogging can be very hard work.  In my writing, I strive for a semi-academic style, and I like to put a lot of research into my posts.

Unfortunately, the grass in the backyard has grown almost to the point that my cats can hide in some of the tallest patches, and there's a bunch of other stuff "in realspace" (namely, around the house and elsewhere) which I need to take care of this weekend and next.  So I probably won't have a new post this weekend.  I may have a Spanish translation of one of my most recent posts online by the following weekend, God willing.  After that, I hope to resume regular blogging.  See you in a bit.  Keep fighting the good fight!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tactics of Polarization

This last week, I listened to a video lecture presentation from the 2016 Fletcher Summer Institute of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.  The title of the lecture was "Nonviolent Discipline and Violent Flanks," and was presented by Dr. Erica Chenoweth and by Philippe Duhamel.  I learned a few rather disturbing things, the first of which is that, although the record of successes in nonviolent mass civil resistance campaigns had been growing steadily from 1900 to 2006, the percentage of nonviolent campaigns that succeed has been dropping steeply from 2010 onward.  (However, there is good news: the number of nonviolent campaigns that succeed is still quite high, and nonviolent mass campaigns, which were over two times as likely to succeed as violent campaigns during the 20th century, are now more than three times as likely to succeed.)

Fortunately, Dr. Chenoweth (who presented these statistics) also presented a number of possible explanations for this decline in effectiveness, such as the fact that oppressive adversaries have learned how to adapt and react to nonviolent campaigns, or that nonviolent movements are not learning the right lessons from each other.  But she also stated a hunch she has that the reason for the decline in nonviolent campaign effectiveness is that "...a growing proportion of nonviolent mass campaigns seem to be willing to tolerate or even endorse violent flanks that are existing alongside them..."  She defined a "violent flank" as "...a group of people attached to the movement and who engage on a routine basis in some form of violence," where violence is defined both as destruction of other people's property and as harming or threatening to do bodily harm to an opponent.  To bolster her hunch, she showed a graph which displayed the percentage of nonviolent campaigns per year that had no violent flank compared with those campaigns in which a violent flank coexisted with the nonviolent movement.

Sure enough, the graph line showing the number of movements which had both a nonviolent campaign and a violent flank began to increase around 2010.

Dr. Chenoweth then presented evidence of the detrimental effect of the presence of violent flanks on the nonviolent campaigns with which they coexist, presenting her own research and the data set which she built in the process of writing her book on nonviolent resistance.  However, she also presented evidence from studies I had not heard of before, studies which backed up her assertion that violent flanks in a mass civil movement drastically hurt the chances of success for the movement.  (Her slide, "Negative Violent Flank Effects," is quite relevant - especially the references she cites.)  Interestingly, in the NAVCO data set which was constructed by Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, most of the violent flanks in movements which occurred between 1900 and 2006 did not arise in the movements to which they attached themselves - rather, like unwelcome house guests or body lice, these violent flanks sprang up independently and then claimed to be part of these movements.

As Dr. Chenoweth described how violent flanks decrease mass societal participation in a civil resistance campaign she said something very striking: "Violence is by definition a tactic of polarization."  That statement is so important that I will repeat it again:
Violence is by definition a tactic of polarization.
In her words, "Polarization means dividing a society into very discrete camps that support or oppose a certain idea..."  Therefore, tactics of polarization effectively discourage diverse groups within a society from coming together to work for the common good, or from uniting against a common predatory threat.  Thus the emergence or presence of a violent flank in a nonviolent resistance movement does not help the movement - but it does help the oppressor against whom the movement has organized.

This perspective helps to interpret the events described by Philippe Duhamel in the second part of the video.  Duhamel is an activist who was instrumental in several anti-"free trade" protests in Canada and the U.S. from 1999 onward, and he described how, in the majority of the protests, the organizers held extensive training sessions for participants before each protest action.  Yet they began to find that as time passed, their protests were being increasingly infiltrated by members of the "Black Bloc," groups of young adults, usually men (and usually white), who attended protests in order to commit vandalism, assault other protesters, and attack police.  (See this, this, this and this also.)  The increasing presence of these Black Bloc vandals at mass protests has begun to reduce the effectiveness of sustained mass protest in presenting the genuine grievances of marginalized and threatened populations.

An interesting question, then, is, where the violent flanks have come from in the nonviolent campaigns that have been waged especially in North America and Europe from 2010 onward.  For the oppressors who are the targets of civil resistance have now known for a long time that the presence of these violent flanks actually helps the oppressive regimes against which these violent flanks fight.  In fact, there are concrete historical examples which demonstrate that if a mass nonviolent movement remains nonviolent, the oppressive regime it opposes will try to manufacture violent incidents in order to polarize the nation's population and bolster support for the regime, as happened in the Philippines when President Ferdinand Marcos ordered his forces to set off a number of bomb explosions around Manila.  The bombs were set to give Marcos a credible reason to declare that the country was under threat and that he was therefore justified in imposing martial law.  (See Why Civil Resistance Works, Chenoweth and Stephan, pages 148-150.)  It might be prudent to ask who is funding, supporting and growing the Black Bloc.  Who guides its recruitment efforts?  What similarities exist between the Black Bloc and the global far right?

(A larger question, one which hopefully will be studied by the academics at the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, is the study of false flag operations by oppressive regimes who are under threat from popular uprisings.  How, particularly, does an observer detect whether a violent incident is a false flag attack?  I think especially of the shooting of a police officer in France last week, supposedly by a "member of ISIS".  How, er, convenient - just a few days before the French presidential election, in which an anti-immigrant candidate is one of the front-runners.)

In closing, I am reminded of Vaclav Havel's essay, The Power of the Powerless, in which he says that "...a future secured by violence might actually be worse than what exists now; in other words, the future would be fatally stigmatized by the very means used to secure it."  He also implied that oppressive regimes appeal to their oppressed populations by making them believe that the only alternative to the regime is chaos, as made clear by his statement that "Every aberration from the prescribed course of life is treated as error, license, and anarchy."  One way a nonviolent resistance movement can disarm such an appeal is by being orderly and maintaining strict nonviolent discipline.  Another way is by building orderly "parallel institutions" by which people can get their needs met in an orderly way that is superior to what the existing system currently offers.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Ontogenic Battle

Ontogeny: "The development of an individual organism," Wiktionary.  "The origination and development of an organism," Wikipedia.  "The development of an individual," Online Etymology Dictionary.  "...The process through which each of us embodies the history of our own making," (Gingrich, Fox, et al, 2002)

Ontogeny.  An interesting subject, no?  I am especially struck by the last definition quoted, ontogeny as "the process through which each of us embodies the history of our own making."  Taken together, these definitions indicate that this history is a function of our development as individuals.  In other words, our development is meant to beget a certain kind of story.  Are there clues to the kind of story we are to embody, the intended goal of our development?

Before I give you my answer to this question, let me warn you in advance that this will be another blatantly spiritual post.  And now, let's look at a particular Scripture:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires
and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed,
and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
(Titus 2:11-14, NASB)

Breaking this down, we can make a few immediate observations.  First, the intention of our Creator is that we should be rescued from living useless lives, lives characterized by uncontrolled and degrading passions and addictions.  Second, our lives are to be disciplined and purposeful, with our wits and faculties fully engaged in serving that purpose.  Third, our lives are to be beautiful by virtue of being characterized by good works.  The word "good" in Greek is the word καλός ("kalos").  According to Strong's Concordance, this word καλός means, "beautiful [emphasis added], as an outward sign of the inward good, noble, honorable character; good, worthy, honorable, noble, and seen to be so."  So our lives are to be full of beautiful deeds, works whose beauty is a direct reflection of the goodness of these works.  And the letter to Titus is full of appeals to those who call themselves Christians to engage in these beautifully good works, whose purpose is, among other things, to meet the pressing (or urgent) needs of their fellow human beings  (Titus 3:14).  

The Scripture indicates that this purposeful life can only be fully experienced through the transformation that results from genuine faith in Christ.  And yet every human being has at times experienced a desire for this sort of life, a longing to fulfill this sort of ontogeny.  Proof of this can be obtained by asking any five or six year old kid what he or she wants to be when he or she grows up.  Unless a kid has been severely and/or persistently traumatized, you will never hear the kid answer that he or she wants to be trash or wants to be nothing.  Kids naturally tend to want to be something beautiful, something noble, something good when they grow up.

However, the human twisted-ness which is the result of original sin has resulted in people who are often confused as to how they may fulfill their ontogeny.  Such people frequently make the mistake of believing that they cannot rise unless they push other people down, that they cannot shine unless they make others dim, that they cannot fulfill their drive to be beautiful unless they trash and dehumanize their fellow human beings, that they cannot fulfill their ontogeny unless they deprive others of the right and ability to fulfill their ontogeny.  

This twisted-ness is seen in the role played by the nineteenth-century British government in protecting and expanding the flow of opium through China, to the enrichment of Britain and the detriment of Chinese society.  (It is interesting to note that the Chinese attempted to eradicate the opium trade when they saw the devastating effects of opium addiction on Chinese society, and these attempts provoked a military response from the British empire.  It is also interesting to note that before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, the rulers of that country had eliminated the Afghan opium trade - yet that trade re-appeared after the invasion.)  Another example is the passing of laws in various states of the 18th and 19th century U.S. which made teaching African slaves to read or write a criminal offense.  In fact, many people may not know this, but slave states and slave owners tried to prevent their slaves from learning the Bible, from being evangelized, or becoming Christians, fearing that such enlightenment might help the slaves assert their humanity in the face of their white "owners."  These and other examples illustrate the perversity of people who try to fulfill their own ontogeny by breaking other people, who seek to achieve their highest purpose by turning their fellow humans into prey.

For the oppressed, then, the seeking of the fulfillment of their own ontogeny becomes a central aspect of their nonviolent resistance against their oppressors.  And because the oppressors are in the business of trying to prevent this fulfillment, the oppressed cannot expect any help from the oppressive society in which they live.  After all, the oppressors' self-interests are best served by keeping the oppressed in a condition of constant brokenness.  If, then, the oppressed are to fulfill their ontogeny, they must develop the sort of parallel institutions which, outside of the control of the oppressors, equip the oppressed in their full development as human beings.  Since a fulfilled ontogeny results in people who are characterized by beautifully good deeds, a key component of parallel-institution building must be centered on the building of parallel arrangements for the education of the oppressed.  This education must equip the oppressed with the skills and tools needed for beautiful deeds.  (Titus 3:14 - "And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds...")

Examples of parallel institutions for education include the illegal slave schools of the American antebellum South.  They also include the Polish "flying universities," which appeared during at least three periods of Polish history, corresponding to the 19th-century partition of Poland by Prussia, Austro-Hungary, and Imperial Russia; the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany in World War Two; and the struggle against Soviet domination in the mid-to late 20th century.  In the first two cases, the occupiers of Poland sought to dehumanize the Polish population by denying Poles (especially women) access to higher education.  In both cases, these underground flying universities were instrumental in building and preserving a cadre of Polish intellectuals who could rebuild Polish society when the time was right.  (Many may not know this, but Marie Curie, the discoverer of radium, was a graduate of a Polish flying university.)  Present-day examples include the burgeoning homeschooling phenomenon among African-American parents.  

And I have a personal example, namely, the tutoring collective to which I belong, which visits a low-income apartment complex three times a month to teach math and basic science to the kids who live there.  I can see how badly our services are needed when I ask nine and ten year old kids what 8 times 7 is and I see many of them start drawing eight circles so that they can put seven dots in each circle and count the dots, and I can only think that the public schools to which these kids go are guilty of a fearful waste of these kids' time.

The education of which I speak is therefore not mere vocational training, but giving students a complete suite of tools to navigate this earthly life, and to provide in an honorable way to meet their own needs and the needs of others by means of beautifully good works in any situation they are likely to encounter.  It is the oppressed themselves who must take charge of providing themselves with this education.

When oppressed peoples make a coordinated effort to fulfill their ontogeny in the way I have described, they can expect a backlash from their oppressors, as was the case with the followers of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (also known as Bacha Khan).  During the early 20th century, Bacha Khan organized a large number of Pashtuns in the Northwest Province of Afghanistan.  He built a number of schools for his fellow Pashtuns in order to educate them in the improvement of their society.  The British held imperial control over that region, and they deeply resented his work.  Thus, they arrested him and his elderly father in 1919, which was the first of a series of arrests and imprisonments.  In spite of British police action, he was able to organize a large Pashtun "nonviolent army" devoted to the improvement of Afghan society.  For his troubles, the British army and police committed a massacre of hundreds of Pashtuns during a nonviolent Pashtun protest in 1930.  The British fired their guns at the unarmed resisters for over three hours.  (Information taken from Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization and Governance In the Middle East, Chapter 8, by Maria Stephan, et al.)

That incident, while gruesome and tragic, illustrates a powerful point.  That is, that by this kind of pursuit of ontogeny - by the pursuit of the kind of self-education needed for living a life of beautifully good works - an oppressed people can mount a powerful nonviolent rebuke to their oppressors.  For the beautiful, skillful, purposeful, useful lives which result from this education have a powerful effect on the oppressors, namely the unwanted lessening of social distance between oppressor and oppressed, as the oppressor is forced against his will by the beautiful deeds he sees to recognize the humanity of those he wishes to oppress.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Emotive Effects of Saturday Night Wrestling, Part 2

If Donald Trump had hoped for some long-lasting boost to his approval ratings from last week's missile strike against a mostly abandoned Syrian airbase, he has another think coming.  The official narrative about the missile strikes and the supposed new animosity between Trump and Putin is unraveling faster than a cheaply made sweater in the paws of a bunch of kittens stoned on crystal meth.

Here's what we now know:
  • The Trump administration's warning of the impending attack gave Russian and Syrian troops plenty of time to move personnel and equipment out of the way before the attack.  The Russians and Syrians took advantage of this warning to get out of harm's way.  (But there was no protest from Russia after they had received the warning - only expressions of what appear to be feigned outrage and surprise after the attack had concluded.)
  • The attack did very little damage.  (See my previous post.)
  • The drama of last week's events occurred against the backdrop of mounting pressure on the Trump administration because of its ties to the Russian government.
  • The Trump administration has admitted that the Trump administration never intended to hurt or displace the Assad regime, and that the U.S. remains committed to working with Russia and the Syrian government to "defeat ISIS."  (See this and this.)
What we saw last week seems to be a typical tactic when the personality-disordered center of some train wreck tries to deflect the proper placing of blame by causing drama.  Trump's version of drama seems to involve causing big explosions.

But I'm tired of analyzing his actions just now.  My next post will be on the subject of ontogeny.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Emotive Effects of Saturday Night Wrestling

Looking back, I realize that when I was an adolescent, there were many times when my mom possessed the patience of a saint.  One such time seemed to occur every Saturday night, when me and my next youngest brother would park ourselves in front of the TV in the living room to watch Saturday Night Wrestling.  What inevitably happened was that for 45 minutes or so, we would fill the house with the noise of our screaming and shouting at the TV as we watched the good guys we had been told to root for as they were being beaten half to death by some Scary Big Bad Guys.  My mom never got into the screaming and shouting, nor did she ever watch Saturday Night Wrestling, as far as I know.  But she did sometimes poke fun at the emotive action-adventure shows we liked to watch.  (I particularly remember her stand-up parody of someone being shot by a phaser - but I digress.)

You see, by the time me and my brother discovered Saturday Night Wrestling, my mom had become in many ways a hard-edged realist.  It wasn't until much later that I myself began to reflect on some of the "pro wrestlers" I had seen and began to realize that even though they seemed to get the living daylights kicked out of them every Saturday night, they kept coming back week by week.  None of them died from wrestling, although several of them died from cardiovascular disease, and one of them suffered a fate worse than death - he became a state politician.

I was thinking about Saturday Night Wrestling and its connection to fights which are highly dramatized, even though the combatants don't do any real damage to each other.  For instance, take Trump's order to fire cruise missiles at a Syrian air base last week.  The Tomahawk cruise missile is supposed to have the capability for a high degree of accuracy, and the United States has a number of intelligence assets which could have been used to augment their accuracy - yet last week's missile strike did almost no damage.  (See this also.)  Second, take the fact that Trump informed the Russians of the impending strike before the first missile was launched.  (That means that Russian expressions of "surprise" at the missile strike are in fact disingenuous.)  Third, take the fact that before last weekend, Trump was in definite political danger in the U.S., and Putin was becoming increasingly unpopular in his own country.  Lastly, take the questions which have been raised by a number of commentators on whether or not Syria actually still has any remaining stocks of chemical weapons.

If you consider all these points, you may conclude, as I have begun to conclude, that last weekend's little show was an international version of Saturday Night Wrestling.  (Although I really do believe someone did use chemical weapons to kill innocent Syrians.  It always stinks when innocent bystanders are dragged against their will into someone else's TV show.)  If last weekend's action really was the beginning of a rift between Trump and Putin, I would expect to see long-term, deep, irreversible effects to manifest themselves - in such things as the cash flows between Trump and his Russian business contacts, or long-term adjustments or revisions to American economic policy toward Russia.  Absent that, I might be forced to conclude that last weekend's drama was about as real as the injury done to a pro wrestler who is body-slammed onto the mat, yet gets back up again for more action.

Maybe Trump and Putin should dress up in wrestling tights when they hold news conferences.  It would not hurt their credibility in my eyes, since Trump never had any credibility to begin with, and as far as Putin, one of his lackey mouthpieces once wrote that "a reputation is something you lose only once."  Putin has lost his.  Take this whole fight against terror, for instance.  Russia waged an information war accusing the U.S. of manufacturing ISIS in order to provide a pretext for military intervention in the Mideast.  Yet Russia has now been intervening in the same way in the same region for over a year, and by now should have destroyed ISIS itself - yet we keep hearing of ISIS attacks, in Egypt, and now in Germany.  What if ISIS is a convenient sock puppet for the Russians also, to aid their implementation of a Duginist agenda in Europe - an agenda which involves making Europe an unsafe place for any non-European person or Muslim to live?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Playing Catch With Fire

Last week's strikes by U.S. missiles against a Syrian air base have provoked a lot of commentary from various pundits inside the United States.  Some are saying that the U.S. action represents "the Trump doctrine not to follow doctrine."  Others are saying that the strikes are sending "a clear message" to Russia (and to the world).

I am quite a bit more cynical.  It is well known that Russia played a very large role in getting Donald Trump installed as the President of the United States.  It is also very well known that FBI investigations of the Russian role have uncovered a lot of dirt on Trump and his dealings with the Russians.  This dirt has been gleefully reported by a large number of American journalists who are frankly disgusted by Mr. Trump.  It is also well known that Russia has been caught in a very bad light lately, due to Vladimir Putin's repression of peaceful anti-corruption protests which took place over the last few weeks.  The ties between Putin and Trump are a liability which could have provided an easy opening to removing Trump from office.

Mr. Trump has closed that opening a bit by his actions against Syria.  Indeed, I believe this is the chief and sole reason for his order to attack Syria with cruise missiles.  It seems a devilishly clever bit of political calculus, and it seems to have worked for the present - but it is quite risky.  I am reminded of a quote from The Hunt For Red October: "The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch."

Make no mistake. In the present contest between the U.S., the Assad regime, and Russia, there are no good guys. None at all. The best way to look at what's going on right may be to compare these events to the Bible story set forth in Judges 9. I am thinking especially of the curse which Jotham pronounced against Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Maybe our present international crisis will end with a бабушка dropping a piece of an upper millstone on the head of a head of state. Кто знаете?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Resistance Way Of Life

I'd like to make a post out of a few very good comments to my discussion of frugality as a means of nonviolent resistance.  Thanks to Aimee and CZBZ for your input.

Aimee's recommended ways to be subversive in modern America:

1) Maximize your food independence. For some of us, that means growing a lot of food or raising animals. For others, it means learning how to cook from scratch. If you are buying raw materials from your local farmers at the farmer's market, you maximize support of your individual neighbors and minimize your support of the giant agribusiness companies. You also save money and eat better.

2) Buy secondhand. Everything you possibly can. In this way you avoid encouraging the extraction of raw materials and extend the useful life of products. The embedded energy cost in, say, a new car or a new set of dining room furniture - even a new winter coat! - can be stretched over a greater time period and made to serve a greater number of people. For me, buying secondhand clothing is an ethical decision to avoid supporting the sweatshop industry. A subclause to this recommendation is: repair things that can be repaired. Get your fridge fixed a few times before you get a new one. Learn to mend clothes. When was the last time you saw a kid wearing jeans with knee-patches on them, unless they were sold that way to begin with? Take good care of your car. Do all the scheduled maintenance. Learn to do it yourself! Or ask your neighbor.

3) Maximize your energy independence. There are so many ways to do this - we brew biodiesel for our cars. But you might do it with solar panels or windmills, depending on where you live. Or do it by not owning a car and biking instead. Or by living in a smaller house and super-insulating. The sky's the limit.

4) Know your neighbors. Make friends. Develop mutually beneficial networks. Support each other. Lend your tools. Pool your resources. Why should every small-farming family along the same stretch of road own its own haying equipment, for example? That's absurd. Or its own tractor, even? Why shouldn't three or four families get together to buy one tractor instead of four? Does every household really need a chainsaw? No, not if you are on good terms with Bob down the way. And not if you are willing to lend his wife your sewing machine.

5) Most important of all: take charge of your education! Be informed! Get your information from diverse sources. Use your brain. Teach your kids. Go to museums and libraries while they still exist! Buy books (secondhand, of course!). Do not default on your obligation to educate your children, or yourself. It's too important. You can't leave it to the public school system alone. Talk about important issues with your spouse, your neighbor, your kids, your in-laws, your city councilman, your state senator!

6) For the love of God, VOTE!

CZBZ's Contributions:

1) Join families under one roof. This challenges communal skills and nourishes spiritual growth. Save landfills by purchasing one washing machine for four adults. My sister and her son moved in with me and now my adult daughter lives with me. That would be four washing machines (dishwashers, refrigerators, etc.) if we lived apart.

2) Find a church and fill your inner void with something meaningful rather than zombie shopping, what my daughter calls "retail therapy". Each of us has shopped-til-we-dropped and that's why we know how 'empty' it is---like an addiction.

3) Buy second-hand furniture or better yet, learn to build it yourself. Self-esteem grows as carpentry skills increase and there's nothing as wonderful as knowing your nephew almost cut his finger off making a bookcase for your second-hand books.

4) I love cooking from scratch (make my own yogurt and have saved thousands of plastic containers from the landfill). However, I don't judge people who lack the time to cook from scratch...it is very time-consuming but gives me a sense of purpose now that I'm old. (grin) And nothing brings community together quite like having a good cook in the family.

5) Save all the bones and table scraps for day-long boiled broth but don't tell your guests that you were gnawing on the chicken a few days ago. 

6) Learn to be thankful.

And here's an additional contribution of my own: a link to an article in Sojourners Magazine on the virtue of buying used (when you have to buy at all).  Also, if anyone wants to add to these lists, feel free to leave me a comment.

Have a good week!

Friday, March 31, 2017

When Counting to 100 is Not Enough

The Kremlin is finding itself in a bit of a sticky situation this week.  You know how some people advise that if something makes you mad, or you smash your thumb while doing work, you should count to 100 before you say anything?  Waiting before talking is supposed to increase the chances that whatever does eventually come out of your mouth won't reflect badly on you.  But such advice doesn't always work.

After the "illegal" anti-corruption protests in Russia this weekend conducted by predominantly youthful demonstrators, Putin waited...and waited...and then said some things that added a great deal to the evidence that he is, in fact, a dictator and not a democrat.  According to one source, he accused "political forces" of using the issue of Russian government corruption for their own benefit.  He also compared the weekend protests to the Arab Spring protests that began in 2010, and hinted that if such protests were allowed to continue in Moscow, the result would be "chaos."

After these remarks, there were attempts both in Russian media and in sympathetic Western media (such as this) to deflect some heat away from Putin by suggesting that the real target of protesters' anger was Dmitry Medvedev.  One polling agency suggested that most Russians are not actually angry with Putin - believing instead that Putin is trying to fight corruption, but that he may not be successful.  And Putin also professed his dedication to fighting corruption, saying that "Personally, I am in favor of having questions about the fight against corruption always at the center of public attention."

So - if it's so that Mr. Putin is in favor of placing the fight against corruption at the center of public attention - why the crackdown on last weekend's protests?  Why have Russian prosecutors moved to block Internet calls for more protests?  Why were many protesters beaten while being arrested?  Why were even bystanders arrested?  Why did Putin show solidarity with Medvedev afterward?  Why is participation in "unsanctioned gatherings" punishable by up to five years in prison under Russian law?  (For that matter, if a man won a U.S. presidential election fair and square, and was himself the living embodiment of American democratic ideals, why would he be afraid of a vote recount?  But I digress.)

Honest people have a very powerful way of showing their honesty: namely, by allowing free and open examination of their deeds, including constructive criticism by others as necessary.  If Mr. Putin is really a champion of honesty and the elimination of corruption, how could he possibly be hurt by a free and open discussion of corruption in Russia - a discussion that included free, unconstrained, nonviolent protest?  Instead, what Russia is doing is seeking to "cure" the wave of protest by state-sponsored education about the Russian government's anticorruption efforts.  At least one Russian teacher is taking this "education" to a whole new level.  You can watch a video of this teacher here.

Problems that are constantly swept under a rug eventually become a tripping hazard.  One of the ways that tripping hazard may grow in Russia could be that the civil resistance that manifested itself last weekend begins to move beyond the methods of protest and persuasion to the methods of non-cooperation (especially economic non-cooperation), and to the methods of nonviolent intervention - including beginning to construct parallel institutions.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Resistance Heats Up In Russia

I had been thinking a lot about Russia last week, as shown in my last post. But today I just found out that there were massive anti-Kremlin protests in Russia over the weekend. (See this also.) The vast majority of protesters were youths from middle school age to early adulthood. Как сказать, “Things are getting rather interesting in Russia!” по-русский?

The recent history of Russia is punctuated by several periods of civil resistance, such as the three-year wave of protests that erupted in response to Putin "winning" the 2011 Russian elections under circumstances that smell about the same as the circumstances under which President Chump won the recent U.S. elections. The trouble now is this: it is not very easy for Putin and company to claim that last weekend's protests were the work of some "Deep State" bogeyman, as they have seemingly captured the one nation that could have been blamed for harboring such a "Deep State" - namely, the U.S.A. Yet they have been making the claim that the demonstrators against the Kremlin were paid by outside agents, as some Kremlin mouthpieces also made claims over the last month or so that this "Deep State" is trying to sabotage Chump. But a person who has bad body odor and no manners shouldn't blame a conspiracy for the fact that people don't want to be around him. Will Russian leaders be willing to engage in frank and open dialogue about the grievances of their citizenry? Or will they resort to scapegoating as they have so often?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

No Strangers to Самовлюбленность

We humans all have a common tendency, namely, the desire to arrange our surroundings to our liking and personal tastes.  The trouble comes when two or more of us disagree over the extents of "our surroundings."  For instance, I don't have a TV in my house because I don't want a TV in my house, and I don't think people should be watching TV in my house.  However, by and large, most members of many modern societies would acknowledge that I don't have the right to dictate whether people in houses other than mine should be allowed to own or watch a TV.  Most members of such societies would say that only a sick or pathological person would strive to gain the kind of control over his neighbors that would allow him to tell them whether they could have a TV, or what kind of grass they could grow in their yards, or whether or not their kids should be allowed to ride a skateboard, or whether they could have peanut butter with their jelly.  Most such people would say that there would be only a very few justifiable reasons for any human being to be allowed to exercise that sort of control over people who were independent of him.  I can think of only two such reasons:
  • That the circumstances are so extraordinary that the person who wants to exercise such control is justified in wanting that control.  For instance, you may or may not be a smoker, and if you are a smoker, you may be a proud smoker.  However, if you are next to an operating gasoline pump at a gas station owned by me, I have a perfect right to tell you not to smoke.
  • That the person who wants to exercise such control is such an extraordinary person that he has an intrinsic right to arrange every aspect of the lives of us ordinary people.   He might claim to be (or who knows, he may actually be) a prophet or saint.
I am a Christian; therefore, I believe in a Deity Who has a perfect right to dictate the proper arrangement of each of our lives.  However, under the New Testament, that Deity has "limited" Himself in that He is at present asking for our voluntary obedience, rather than forcing that obedience.  One consequence of my belief is that there are many aspects of our lives for which I do not believe that any mortal man or woman has a right to force us to conform to their wishes.  The times are not extraordinary enough, nor are there any people now alive who are extraordinary enough to warrant allowing one mortal human being to force his or her wishes on every aspect of his or her neighbors' lives.  In other words, there is a barrier where my surroundings end and my neighbor's surroundings begin.

I think there are many people who would agree with me.  However, we still see that there are people in the world who think that their surroundings include all of their neighbors and all of their neighbors' business.  Some of these ambitious people eventually do rise to the level of gaining control over their neighbors and their business.  They do this often by claiming both that the times are  extraordinary enough to demand an extraordinary leader, and that they themselves are the extraordinary people who should have extraordinary powers over their neighbors' business.  Once they gain that control, they usually manage to mess up their neighbor's business like nobody's business.

Some of these people become leaders of empires.  For while there are strong economic, political or military motivations which drive people to found empires, one of the frequently overlooked motivations for empire-building is the psychic need some people have to arrange their "surroundings" to their personal liking - combined with a serious confusion of mind over the limits of those "surroundings".  The imposition of their will over as many of their neighbors as possible fulfills a psychic need in these imperialists, who usually also bolster the enjoyment of their power by a cultural imperialism - that is, the trashing and disparaging of the individual cultures, languages, customs, and personal histories of those hapless victims who become part of the empires of these imperialists.  So the subjects of these empires are taught to despise their own souls, and are taught instead to long to emulate the imperialists.

This has been the history of the Anglo-American empire, from the time when it was run strictly by the British to the time of its present leadership under the United States.  To be sure, there were economic motivations for that empire - from the vast unconquered lands of the Americas in centuries past to the mineral wealth (and free labor!) of the African continent to the petroleum deposits of the Mideast.  And the masters of the Anglo-American empire were so convinced of their own specialness that they were quite happy to go to other lands in order to murder and enslave the peoples who were the rightful inhabitants of those lands.  In order to quiet their consciences, these imperialists also waged a war against the souls of the people they conquered - a war which had its own propaganda to justify the things that were done to other peoples.

Now an empire that behaves this way soon makes itself widely known as a royal pain in the - uh, er, neck.  Thus this empire quickly begins to generate a crowd of critics.  Some of these critics choose to document as carefully as possible the evils and misdeeds of the existing empire.  Many others rise up to undermine the existing empire by civil resistance or by other means.  And some try to put themselves forward as a righteous, healthy alternative to the existing empire.  But what if, among those critics putting themselves forward as "alternatives" are people who want to start their own empire, and who are criticizing the current empire in order to eliminate the competition?

That's how certain events of the last three or so years seem to me, as I have examined the contest between the United States and Russia.  Truly there has been no shortage of reasons for criticizing the U.S. in recent years - like the 2003 pre-emptive invasion of Iraq which killed over a million Iraqis for the sake of eliminating non-existent WMD's, and the rampant and increasing income inequality in the U.S., and the continued egregious oppression and terrorizing of nonwhite U.S. citizens, and the use of threat of military force in order to maintain dollar hegemony, and the revelations of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, and the fatal tendency of the U.S. to try to bolster civil uprisings in other nations by turning them into armed struggles in order to install regimes favorable to U.S. interests.  In all the criticisms of these things, some of the loudest critical voices were coming from Russia back in 2013 and 2014.  I think especially of the pieces that aired on Russia Today which criticized killings of unarmed African-Americans by racist cops in the U.S.  It was only natural that many of us Americans began to be very sympathetic to the Russian point of view to which we were being exposed, for we thought that Russia was one of the lone agents standing for decency and humanity in the world.

But in 2015 and 2016, the Arab and North African refugee crisis was occurring, and there was a fascist, far right element in the U.S. and in Europe which was saying that these refugees should be forcibly excluded from Europe and the U.S.  Their message was, "Let them drown! Or let them freeze to death!  But do not let them come into our bastion of cultural purity and pollute it!"  And I was mildly (but not altogether) surprised to hear many Russian voices join this chorus, including those who tried to capitalize on a number of false-flag incidents designed to inflame anti-refugee sentiment in Europe.  ("Что?! Это борщ странный!")  As I perused the site to which I have linked in the previous sentence, I also discovered that the Russian central bank had been financing various far-right fascist political organizations over the years, including Marine Le Pen's National Front.  Then the 2016 election season was upon us, and I found that almost the entire Russian media establishment had come out in support of the candidacy of President Chump.  

Needless to say, this led to a great deal of cognitive dissonance in my brain as well as a bad case of indigestion.  This is also what led me to the research that resulted in my post on the occult roots of empire.  And this led to a revised view of Russia - a Russia that I now see as afflicted by a strongly racist element, a nation whose president is not the democrat he was made out to be, but who has moved in recent years to increasingly stifle voices critical of his rule.  It turns out that Russia is also a nation with its own imperial ambitions.  As Trump has his Bannon, Putin has his own fellow traveler and ideologue: a man named Aleksandr Dugin, who is the chief architect of Russian geopolitical strategy.  And Dugin seems to have his own very strong preference for how he wants the world to be arranged.  The trouble is that a lot of us who have done nothing to Dugin and just want to be left alone would suffer greatly under his proposed "arrangement."  ("Stop the Empire's War on Russia," you say?  Лицемер!)

To me, it seems that the chief propaganda weapon employed by Russia over the last few years has been a portrayal of Russia as an ideal construct, an immaculate conception, a nation of supermen ruled by a nearly omniscient ruler.  (A jiu-jitsu expert!  A master chessman!)  But behind the grandiose self projected by Russia, one can frequently find, er, contradictions - like the empty hypodermic syringes and pills that enabled certain strength athletes to cheat their way to Olympic gold medals.  This is a nation whose leaders would have us to believe that it is All That And A Bag of Chips, a nation that cannot stand the thought that the rest of the world might regard it as a collection of rather ordinary, everyday человеки. 

The truth is that behind its Potemkin Village facade is a nation that has for years suffered a crisis of youth suicides (see this and this also), a nation whose death rate has once again begun to exceed its rate of live births (see this, this and this), a nation in which over 600,000 women a year suffer domestic violence, a nation whose government is aiding and abetting the stripping of its assets by wealthy interests for personal gain, as seen in the battles of the Russian environmental movement to try to preserve national forests and parks from commercial development (see this and this).  In other words, this is a nation of ordinary, fallen people in need of a Savior, Who is quite willing to save - as long as the people in need of saving are willing to engage in open, honest dialogue, including the open confession of sins.  (Even a frank discussion with a team of decent mental health professionals would do a lot of good.)  Yet this is the very thing that the leaders of Russian society seem unwilling to do, because such a dialogue would threaten the positions, prestige and image of people who currently enjoy positions of power in that society, and would force the leaders of that society to abandon their image of perfection.  Case in point: for years, there has existed a women's rights movement in Russia which pushed for stronger legal protections for women endangered by domestic violence.  They even managed to win some seeming victories.  However, in this year, 2017, Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill drafted by the Russian Duma to de-criminalize domestic violence except in cases of injury requiring a hospital stay.  That de-criminalization was pushed by the Russian Orthodox Church, by the way.

This is the nation which in our last U.S. election set about to re-arrange the United States according to its own liking, and threatened the lives of people like me in the process.  Mr. Putin and Mr. Dugin, please get out of my living room.