Category Archives: Social Commentary

The Prophet Spoke Again

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

The Prophet spoke once more in the latter days, long after any had been and these be the things she said into the minds of those that would listen.

I am not bringing any good tidings, she said to them, therefore it is entirely up to you whether you listen, or fail to listen, for the message will be given even if only the stones of this world, the pavement of its streets or the girders of its highrises hear it.

You will have noticed that your world has changed once again, and in that change it has turned against you. You speak amongst yourselves of climate change; you debate whether it is the works of your own hands, of the world itself or perhaps a combination of both. You do not know and while you are confused, refusing to face the music you yourselves ordered to be written upon skies, seas and lands, you cannot dance. You but plod, and you weary yourselves with petty thoughts of greedy corporate executives and bankers, corrupt politicians and the endless charade of religion. Thinking yourselves wise, you have indeed made yourselves fools; the duck thinking to survive the winter in a child’s wading pool.

You seek answers where there are none! You deliberately ignore your history to fall ever and anon in the same trap your ancestors fell in and died in. You continue to believe that if you replace this puppet with that one; this god with another; this system with a more “environment friendly” one, you can carry on with just such light brush strokes on the old canvas; that you can carry on with no self-sacrifice, no purifying of heart, no transforming of mind, therefore no essential change.

But know this, if you cannot see it for yourselves: your canvas is rotten, even to the frame that holds it together.

That is the sum total of my tidings, to do with as you see fit. I did not come here to make the change for you, I came but to give warning. If you care about each other and particularly if you care about your own children, you will listen. If you do not, I may as well once again take the name of Cassandra and die in the fall of your great and impregnable city.

Is there any hope? I don’t “do” hope, but I am addressing people who believe in such things. So, look about you, anywhere, and see if there is anything truly new rising from your world; from within your many systems: anything you would bet your life and the life of your children upon? Anything that cannot be bought and sold in the global marketplace or corrupted beyond recognition in your high places of government, banking and worship?

Every prophet is mad, I as much as any other who has ever dared incarnate on this world and in my madness I dare imagine that some of you will ponder this and cry out, ‘Yes, we can see how it is coming apart,’ and add, ‘what should we then do?’

As I said, I am not here to give you answers, that was not part of my job description.

Let me remind you that everyone like myself who has come before and given you strict guidance and rules of conduct has been an abject failure because the teaching was imposed, it did not arise from within yourselves, thus it was powerless to change you. Go ahead, read your prophets, the full time, the part time, the ones you defamed, tortured and killed. You could do worse than re-reading “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. Read other way showers and rule givers and go as far as pondering the voices of those who called themselves saviours and see what you find these many years later.

I will give you hints though, even if it violates my strict self-imposed mandate. Simple hints. First, your civilization as you experience it and as you’ve known it throughout your very short history, is finished. Its days have been measures and found wanting.

Its very nature is inimical to the concept we call life. It has exceeded its limits to growth. It feeds entirely on bloodshed and destruction and many there are who profit from this and many more who rejoice in the results. That is its greatest sin from which it can neither be healed, or ever rise again.

Second hint: if you would do something that has a chance of bearing fruit, though it likely will be but for yourself as an individual, choose the path of the compassionate being. “How” is entirely up to you.

Quote: “A dominant myth is inclusive, in the sense that people feel lost without it. They can’t attribute any sort of human activity to anything else but the myth. They can’t see their way past it. They feel stymied without it.” (Jon Rappoport) and my added comment: “And what is civilization but a dominant myth?”

 

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I Had to Write This…

I had to write this…
[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  ]

Just finished watching, for the umpteenth time, the movie, “The Statement” (2003) with Tilda Swinton and Michael Caine.  Basically another story of hunting down Nazi murderers of innocent and helpless Jews in WWII, this time in France under the fascist, heavily pro-Nazi Vichy regime led my Marshal Petain. 

The point here is that these mass murders happened 80 or less years ago – one Earthian life time and here we are, poised to do it all over again.  Isn’t that just fantastic how quickly we forget our ignorance, stupidity and murderous mob tendencies just to start again? 

Granted, we haven’t yet quite decided which race or class of people are going to suffer our wrath, but we’re ready to “do it”.  Most likely the educated and well-informed voting mob will pick on people of some sort of colour to slaughter. Refugees, they’re pretty safe, not too dangerous.  The Muslims, well, that’s a different matter, they tend to fight back. We’ll definitely need the police, the Security state, maybe the army on our side for this. It’s but a matter of putting the right people in government to pass the laws to legitimize the slaughter and that’s never been a problem.  The problem is motivating those still sitting on the fence.  They may have to be our target this time.  Great, those stupid liberals won’t expect to be a mob’s target: sitting ducks.  

You see? That’s how it goes.  The circles just get bigger, nothing essential changes.  And why is that? Why doesn’t anything change and why do we put on the rose coloured glasses and insist that somehow, yes, things have gotten better? Was the 20th Century with its two devastating world wars followed by endless wars and the cruelest form of exploitation of resource rich emerging countries really better than the Hundred Years War?  Is that a rhetorical question or what?

What is our problem?  I’ll tell you, and I’ll keep telling you, as long as I have breath: our problem is that as a species, as a collective, as a “civilization” we don’t give a damn. We are not the least empathetic, though we can be so easily conned by our various propaganda machines into believing that we are, indeed, kind and loving “at heart” and that it is only the few; the minority; that is psychopathic and loves war and killing.  It isn’t. It’s a very, very big majority that is in love with violence and that never gets enough of it. If you don’t believe me, check out the internet and video games. Check out how much money derives directly from violence or the promotion of violence.  

Not all violence means bloodshed and death, though we certainly enjoy doing that best. Violence is everything that causes some sort of harm to others; to another – human, animal, plant or planet, for one’s selfish benefit or one’s enjoyment.  We need to get that very clear in our head for it is the same as what religion calls sin: the inflicting of pain and loss upon any “other” for one’s own satisfaction, benefit or pleasure. 

There is but one antidote for this Earthian condition that is destroying this world and possibly much of the biological life on and in it, and that is for all *ISSA beings to choose to become compassionate.  How many times have I said that? Doesn’t matter because it’s like the wind in the leafless cottonwood trees here in winter: sound and either you like it or you don’t like it, but the wind doesn’t change its tune whether you’re comfortable with it or not.

I’ve been following the current protests highlighting climate change and elitist rip-offs called the economy and assessing the chances of such protests actually accomplishing anything at all. My conclusion is predictable: the protesters are going nowhere.

Oh, what a terrible thing to say! Of course they’re going somewhere; they’re making some politicos change their minds… wow! Problem with that is, these mind-changing chameleons are opportunists. They can see the tide flowing in and they are just smart enough to move the blanket, the umbrella and the cooler a bit higher up on the beach. Still same beach, same picnic, same people. They’ll be safe from the rising waters and who cares about those who are already up against the cliff? Their problem.

If there is one thing activism has taught me back then, it’s that to address one “big” problem it is absolutely necessary to address all “big” problems. You cannot address climate change without addressing global poverty. You cannot address poverty without addressing over-population. You cannot promote alternative sources of energy if you are not condemning consumerism outright. You cannot blame right-winged politicians for screwing the planet if you are blinding yourself to the fact that your “left winged” politicians (the ones you would happily put back in charge) are as corrupt and often more so.  You cannot address justice if you are not, first, dedicated to destroying your billionaire elites – and I mean destroy utterly.  You cannot address and hope to make a dent in any of the above if you are not primarily committed to stopping all wars, genocides and where police operate out of control as in the US, stopping all government sanctioned mass murder.  You cannot in all honesty address and oppose any of the above if inside yourself resides one ounce of racism, misogyny, bullying and oh yes, patriotism. How many realize that patriotism is fanaticism that leads to terrorism?  It’s always been that.

Finally (this has to stop somewhere) nothing at all will ever change as long as there remains one Earthian anywhere convinced that s/he is entitled; if particularly blessed in some way or is superior to anyone else.  In other words, until Earthian pride is completely subdued by humility… we are doomed. We were taught; we were given chance after chance; we know right from wrong and as long as we choose wrong we can’t expect that anything will ever come out right. 

“We knew that the Earth was flat, we knew that we were the center of the universe, and we knew that a man-made heavier than air piece of machinery could not take flight. Through all stages of human history, intellectual authorities have pronounced their supremacy by ridiculing or suppressing elements of reality that simply didn’t fit within the framework of accepted knowledge. Are we really any different today? Have we really changed our acceptance towards things that won’t fit the frame? Maybe there are concepts of our reality we have yet to understand, and if we open our eyes, maybe we will see that something significant has been overlooked.”Terje Toftenes (take from the film “The Day Before Disclosure”)

*ISSA: intelligent, sentient, self aware

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

[My introduction to this article: a major question of mine for long decades: what makes ordinary people admire, support and quasi-worship the rich and “financially successful” when it is common knowledge (or should be by now!) that these are vultures and vampires who feed off the blood, sweat and tears of the poor, marginalized, oppressed, disenfranchised, servants and slaves of the world?
Be honest, who would consider the woman who delivers the mail as a proper candidate for president? Can’t claim it’s because she has no experience, Trump didn’t have any.  Would you vote for your plumber if he decided to run? Baker? How about your babysitter? Kindergarten teacher?  The neighbour’s son who is a long-haul truck driver?
What are these people missing, apart from any opportunity? Well, they aren’t personally known, popular or notorious, but mostly, they are poor. We vote for the eagle, never for the rabbit.  That it means the eagle will feel entitled to kill more rabbits doesn’t seem to sink in, and neither the fact that we are the rabbits.    
  ~Sha’Tara~ ] 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I hate to even bring it up, but we’ve come to that moment again. You know, the one at year’s end when I ask all of you for money to keep this website afloat. This isn’t exactly how I like to spend my time either, but your contributions really do keep us going. So I’ve written a funding appeal to all TomDispatch subscribers that begins this way: “What a year!  I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by You Know Who and the ‘Fake News Media’ coverage of him.  I know, I know… in the president’s inimitable style I should have at least six exclamation points after that last sentence.  Still, I don’t think it would be an unfair description to say that I’m one of the un-Trumps.  I don’t insult.  I don’t even tweet…” The appeal includes, of course, the expectable but necessary plea for donations. If you’re not a TD subscriber but visit this site regularly, you can click here to read my whole letter. Or, if the mood strikes you instantly, you can just go right to the TD donation page and contribute. In return for a $100 donation — $125 if you live outside the U.S. — you can also choose to receive a signed, personalized copy of various Dispatch Books or others as a token of our thanks. Believe me, you really do make all the difference. Tom]

This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates — have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I don’t use exclamation points lightly or often.) Or as Oxfam reported in January of this year, the wealth of eight men — and yes, they were men (including the three mentioned above) — was equal to that of half the people on this planet in 2017. Yikes! And just to give you a sense of where we’ve been heading at supersonic speed, an Oxfam report a year earlier had 62 billionaires owning half the planet’s wealth. Imagine that: 62 to eight in a single year.

Then consider what we know about the rise of the billionaire class. Again, according to Oxfam, a new billionaire appeared every two days in 2017, while 82% of the wealth being created on this planet already went to the top 1% and the bottom half of the global population saw no wealth gains at all. In 2017 (the last year for which we have such figures), the total wealth of the globe’s billionaire class ballooned by almost 20%. (And I want you to know that, unlike our president, I’m fighting hard to restrain the urge to put one or more exclamation points after every one of those sentences.)

Oxfam released its figures this January to coincide with the annual meeting of the world’s top dogs at Davos in Switzerland. Assumedly, it will do so again in January 2019 and I shudder to think what the next set of stats are likely to be. In the meantime, consider what TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author most recently of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, has to say about a planet on which the actual economic situation of most people bears remarkably little relationship to what’s generally advertised and why, if you think stability is already a thing of the past in a Trumpian world, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Tom

Wall Street, Banks, and Angry Citizens
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
By Nomi Prins

As we head into 2019, leaving the chaos of this year behind, a major question remains unanswered when it comes to the state of Main Street, not just here but across the planet. If the global economy really is booming, as many politicians claim, why are leaders and their parties around the world continuing to get booted out of office in such a sweeping fashion?

One obvious answer: the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat. In other words, the good times have left out so many people, like those struggling to keep even a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts to cover an emergency or the 80% of American workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

In today’s global economy, financial security is increasingly the property of the 1%. No surprise, then, that, as a sense of economic instability continued to grow over the past decade, angst turned to anger, a transition that — from the U.S. to the Philippines, Hungary to Brazil, Poland to Mexico — has provoked a plethora of voter upheavals. In the process, a 1930s-style brew of rising nationalism and blaming the “other” — whether that other was an immigrant, a religious group, a country, or the rest of the world — emerged.

This phenomenon offered a series of Trumpian figures, including of course The Donald himself, an opening to ride a wave of “populism” to the heights of the political system. That the backgrounds and records of none of them — whether you’re talking about Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte, or Jair Bolsonaro (among others) — reflected the daily concerns of the “common people,” as the classic definition of populism might have it, hardly mattered. Even a billionaire could, it turned out, exploit economic insecurity effectively and use it to rise to ultimate power.

Ironically, as that American master at evoking the fears of apprentices everywhere showed, to assume the highest office in the land was only to begin a process of creating yet more fear and insecurity. Trump’s trade wars, for instance, have typically infused the world with increased anxiety and distrust toward the U.S., even as they thwarted the ability of domestic business leaders and ordinary people to plan for the future. Meanwhile, just under the surface of the reputed good times, the damage to that future only intensified. In other words, the groundwork has already been laid for what could be a frightening transformation, both domestically and globally.

That Old Financial Crisis

To understand how we got here, let’s take a step back. Only a decade ago, the world experienced a genuine global financial crisis, a meltdown of the first order. Economic growth ended; shrinking economies threatened to collapse; countless jobs were cut; homes were foreclosed upon and lives wrecked. For regular people, access to credit suddenly disappeared. No wonder fears rose. No wonder for so many a brighter tomorrow ceased to exist.

The details of just why the Great Recession happened have since been glossed over by time and partisan spin. This September, when the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the global financial services firm Lehman Brothers came around, major business news channels considered whether the world might be at risk of another such crisis. However, coverage of such fears, like so many other topics, was quickly tossed aside in favor of paying yet more attention to Donald Trump’s latest tweets, complaints, insults, and lies. Why? Because such a crisis was so 2008 in a year in which, it was claimed, we were enjoying a first class economic high and edging toward the longest bull-market in Wall Street history. When it came to “boom versus gloom,” boom won hands down.

None of that changed one thing, though: most people still feel left behind both in the U.S. and globally. Thanks to the massive accumulation of wealth by a 1% skilled at gaming the system, the roots of a crisis that didn’t end with the end of the Great Recession have spread across the planet, while the dividing line between the “have-nots” and the “have-a-lots” only sharpened and widened.

Though the media hasn’t been paying much attention to the resulting inequality, the statistics (when you see them) on that ever-widening wealth gap are mind-boggling. According to Inequality.org, for instance, those with at least $30 million in wealth globally had the fastest growth rate of any group between 2016 and 2017. The size of that club rose by 25.5% during those years, to 174,800 members. Or if you really want to grasp what’s been happening, consider that, between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires whose combined wealth was greater than that of the world’s poorest 50% fell from 380 to just eight. And by the way, despite claims by the president that every other country is screwing America, the U.S. leads the pack when it comes to the growth of inequality. As Inequality.org notes, it has “much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1% than any other country.”

That, in part, is due to an institution many in the U.S. normally pay little attention to: the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve. It helped spark that increase in wealth disparity domestically and globally by adopting a post-crisis monetary policy in which electronically fabricated money (via a program called quantitative easing, or QE) was offered to banks and corporations at significantly cheaper rates than to ordinary Americans.

Pumped into financial markets, that money sent stock prices soaring, which naturally ballooned the wealth of the small percentage of the population that actually owned stocks. According to economist Stephen Roach, considering the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, “It is hardly a stretch to conclude that QE exacerbated America’s already severe income disparities.”

Wall Street, Central Banks, and Everyday People

What has since taken place around the world seems right out of the 1930s. At that time, as the world was emerging from the Great Depression, a sense of broad economic security was slow to return. Instead, fascism and other forms of nationalism only gained steam as people turned on the usual cast of politicians, on other countries, and on each other. (If that sounds faintly Trumpian to you, it should.)

In our post-2008 era, people have witnessed trillions of dollars flowing into bank bailouts and other financial subsidies, not just from governments but from the world’s major central banks. Theoretically, private banks, as a result, would have more money and pay less interest to get it. They would then lend that money to Main Street. Businesses, big and small, would tap into those funds and, in turn, produce real economic growth through expansion, hiring sprees, and wage increases. People would then have more dollars in their pockets and, feeling more financially secure, would spend that money driving the economy to new heights — and all, of course, would then be well.

That fairy tale was pitched around the globe. In fact, cheap money also pushed debt to epic levels, while the share prices of banks rose, as did those of all sorts of other firms, to record-shattering heights.

Even in the U.S., however, where a magnificent recovery was supposed to have been in place for years, actual economic growth simply didn’t materialize at the levels promised. At 2% per year, the average growth of the American gross domestic product over the past decade, for instance, has been half the average of 4% before the 2008 crisis. Similar numbers were repeated throughout the developed world and most emerging markets. In the meantime, total global debt hit $247 trillion in the first quarter of 2018. As the Institute of International Finance found, countries were, on average, borrowing about three dollars for every dollar of goods or services created.

Global Consequences

What the Fed (along with central banks from Europe to Japan) ignited, in fact, was a disproportionate rise in the stock and bond markets with the money they created. That capital sought higher and faster returns than could be achieved in crucial infrastructure or social strengthening projects like building roads, high-speed railways, hospitals, or schools.

What followed was anything but fair. As former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen noted four years ago, “It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority.” And, of course, continuing to pour money into the highest levels of the private banking system was anything but a formula for walking that back.

Instead, as more citizens fell behind, a sense of disenfranchisement and bitterness with existing governments only grew. In the U.S., that meant Donald Trump. In the United Kingdom, similar discontent was reflected in the June 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU), which those who felt economically squeezed to death clearly meant as a slap at both the establishment domestically and EU leaders abroad.

Since then, multiple governments in the European Union, too, have shifted toward the populist right. In Germany, recent elections swung both right and left just six years after, in July 2012, European Central Bank (ECB) head Mario Draghi exuded optimism over the ability of such banks to protect the financial system, the Euro, and generally hold things together.

Like the Fed in the U.S., the ECB went on to manufacture money, adding another $3 trillion to its books that would be deployed to buy bonds from favored countries and companies. That artificial stimulus, too, only increased inequality within and between countries in Europe. Meanwhile, Brexit negotiations remain ruinously divisive, threatening to rip Great Britain apart.

Nor was such a story the captive of the North Atlantic. In Brazil, where left-wing president Dilma Rouseff was ousted from power in 2016, her successor Michel Temer oversaw plummeting economic growth and escalating unemployment. That, in turn, led to the election of that country’s own Donald Trump, nationalistic far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro who won a striking 55.2% of the vote against a backdrop of popular discontent. In true Trumpian style, he is disposed against both the very idea of climate change and multilateral trade agreements.

In Mexico, dissatisfied voters similarly rejected the political known, but by swinging left for the first time in 70 years. New president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his initials AMLO, promised to put the needs of ordinary Mexicans first. However, he has the U.S. — and the whims of Donald Trump and his “great wall” — to contend with, which could hamper those efforts.

As AMLO took office on December 1st, the G20 summit of world leaders was unfolding in Argentina. There, amid a glittering backdrop of power and influence, the trade war between the U.S. and the world’s rising superpower, China, came even more clearly into focus. While its president, Xi Jinping, having fully consolidated power amid a wave of Chinese nationalism, could become his country’s longest serving leader, he faces an international landscape that would have amazed and befuddled Mao Zedong.

Though Trump declared his meeting with Xi a success because the two sides agreed on a 90-day tariff truce, his prompt appointment of an anti-Chinese hardliner, Robert Lighthizer, to head negotiations, a tweet in which he referred to himself in superhero fashion as a “Tariff Man,” and news that the U.S. had requested that Canada arrest and extradite an executive of a key Chinese tech company, caused the Dow to take its fourth largest plunge in history and then fluctuate wildly as economic fears of a future “Great Something” rose. More uncertainty and distrust were the true product of that meeting.

In fact, we are now in a world whose key leaders, especially the president of the United States, remain willfully oblivious to its long-term problems, putting policies like deregulation, fake nationalist solutions, and profits for the already grotesquely wealthy ahead of the future lives of the mass of citizens. Consider the yellow-vest protests that have broken out in France, where protestors identifying with left and right political parties are calling for the resignation of neoliberal French President Emmanuel Macron. Many of them, from financially starved provincial towns, are angry that their purchasing power has dropped so low they can barely make ends meet

Ultimately, what transcends geography and geopolitics is an underlying level of economic discontent sparked by twenty-first-century economics and a resulting Grand Canyon-sized global inequality gap that is still widening. Whether the protests go left or right, what continues to lie at the heart of the matter is the way failed policies and stop-gap measures put in place around the world are no longer working, not when it comes to the non-1% anyway. People from Washington to Paris, London to Beijing, increasingly grasp that their economic circumstances are not getting better and are not likely to in any presently imaginable future, given those now in power.

A Dangerous Recipe

The financial crisis of 2008 initially fostered a policy of bailing out banks with cheap money that went not into Main Street economies but into markets enriching the few. As a result, large numbers of people increasingly felt that they were being left behind and so turned against their leaders and sometimes each other as well.

This situation was then exploited by a set of self-appointed politicians of the people, including a billionaire TV personality who capitalized on an increasingly widespread fear of a future at risk. Their promises of economic prosperity were wrapped in populist platitudes, normally (but not always) of a right-wing sort. Lost in this shift away from previously dominant political parties and the systems that went with them was a true form of populism, which would genuinely put the needs of the majority of people over the elite few, build real things including infrastructure, foster organic wealth distribution, and stabilize economies above financial markets.

In the meantime, what we have is, of course, a recipe for an increasingly unstable and vicious world.

Nomi Prins is a TomDispatch regular. Her latest book is Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books). Of her six other books, the most recent is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Nomi Prins

On Communication and Patriotism

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I’ve been “blogging” for a few years now, sometimes intensely, sometimes lackadaisically, but always as I see in retrospect, with intent to both, learn from others and express ideas they seem unaware of.  Some would call that teaching, but I am no teacher nor do I aspire to such a task. I’ve also been called a “contrarian” and in all honesty, that label, given to me by Frank Parker (https://franklparker.com/ – have a peek, there’s some cool stuff there!) does carry validity.  I’m not rejecting it even if often what is thought of as merely contradictory is juxtapositions of ideas to create “food for thought” for those too comfortable in their traditional niche of clubbish patting on back.

Blogging is all about communication. For the most part people share blogs between comfort zones having discovered that attempting to communicate across storm-tossed seas of divergent ideas is difficult and, without a great deal of skill in diplomacy, basically impossible.  When I engaged in social media like Facebook I encountered too many “Donald Trump” type Tweetering.  Ignorant comments by ignorant people. I gave that medium up on short order.

WordPress has a different quality of correspondents. Here you can express your own thoughts and even if they stand at odds with those of another blogger there is space to express, allowance for different opinions, at least most of the time. I, who carry a heavy baggage of non-conformist ideas, certainly do appreciate this rubber-matted sparring room.

That said, I had an unfortunate dialogue with a blogger recently that got me labeled as an “attacker” of another person.  Language problem? Perhaps, but I saw it differently. The issue was political and as with religion, most people exist on the cusp here, holding it together with barely restrained emotions.  I try to approach it from a wider pathway but current political events are carried emotionally and very personally. Political people seem to take any and all non-agreeing discussions as personal attacks even when obviously stated as facts used to clarify an issue, i.e., obviously totally non-personal.  The fact is, I’m not at all interested in personal aspects of individuals, at least not until they stand in my face and claim to be my leader or my master. Then I get very interested, very fast.

OK, let’s get down and dirty.  Most political discussions in this neck of the woods will be about America, Donald Trump, Russia, Vladimir Putin, with peripherals of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Israel and the sleeping dragon, China and Xi Jinping. Americans have their own personal understanding and misunderstanding of these things, based on which “fake news” media or social media they get their information from.  Few social medianites actually put their own boots on the ground to garner up-close personal information about the events they spout on about. In fact most of their “reporters” don’t either so in many cases the buffoon is right about his claims of fake news.

One thing for sure, with fresh air exceptions, is that “America” is declared a good place being vilified by crooked, dirty dealing bad hombres, particularly the current Satanic arch-enemy bogey man Putin.  Putin’s crimes have reached to the very gates of heaven.  But what has he done?  Oh, he has dared intervene with force to stop American-backed regime change in Syria and has put enough fear in the hearts of Zionists and Sunni Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia to prevent the planned invasion of Iran as proxies for the USA war machine and oil lobby.

That however isn’t Putin’s worst crime. His worst crime is that he is accused of interfering in US elections.  True or false? What difference can that make when the USA interferes in elections of sovereign countries all over the planet as a matter of course and when the die still won’t go their way, they concoct a reason for an invasion, or a regime change civil war.  History, folks, repeating and repeating history.

But Americans, like all good patriots, need to deflect the sins of their nation, military, international banking and corporate crimes and impute them on others. They need enemies, preferably of course poorly armed and less technologically advanced so as to suffer the least amount of casualties while inflicting the maximum amount.  Anyone remember the invasion of Grenada under Clown Reagan? Anyone know how big a country Grenada is? Anyone know what Grenada’s military strength consisted of?  Imagine a pack of wolves, say about twenty adults in the pack, planning an attack upon a field mouse’s nest. Surprise, the wolf pack won that “war” and the win filled its newspapers with glowing headlines.  Such heroism, it did them proud, that.

They also need a scapegoat for that imputation to work. Vladimir Putin, the front man responsible to “make Russia great again” in actual fact while the buffoon who claimed same for Amerikkka caused it to go in the opposite direction, just happens to be the right kind of guy to demonize. The propaganda has been rolling off the press full bore now for a couple of years at least and by now I’m sure if we looked closely, Putin has red skin, horns growing out of his forehead and a tail with a spearhead on the end. No? Put on your American Patriot Glasses or “APG’s issued by Homeland Security, then you’ll see it too. Don’t be of those left out of Amerikkka’s Vision.

What’s either sad, funny or amazing, is that most Americans are quite unaware they are participating in this war-mongering scenario, just as the German people were quite unaware at first that supporting Hitler would mean millions of them would die, after they slaughtered tens of millions of others, and all for naught.  Well, not exactly, their elites, just as US-based elites are currently doing, would make zillions from the various killing fronts, hiding and laundering those massive profits which they would then use to create ‘the new world order’ under the American Hegemon.  The German people didn’t know this, and neither do their current imitators, the American people. Why not? Because they prefer propaganda over history, that’s why not.

So I was attempting to explain this to a blogger who, I suspected, was aware of these things. But this person chose to ignore the big picture and focus on lambasting the White House buffoon and his family (deservedly so) and say nary a word about the 50% of total government income handed to the military to do with as it sees fit; to ignore the massive war crimes being committed with US weaponry and tactical aid against Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Lybia (yes, that’s still going on!), Iraq (yes, that too is still going on), in northern Africa (you name it, special forces will be in there destabilizing, creating chaos, blazing a path for multinational exploitation of remaining natural resources and enslavement of the work force), and of course Afghanistan (how old is that endless war again? Is it a war on terror, or on protecting the poppy fields? Hah!) I’m sure US military thought is looking at Pakistan also, and perhaps India… but these have nukes… Oh-oh… owie!

One could laugh at such military ineptness from the world’s most powerful military nation with the world’s greatest export of military arsenal, and the equal ineptness of its sidekicks in war crimes: Britain, France, Canada, and probably dribs and drabs of other benighted and equally stupid European Union members of the NATO coalition.  War is always good business, win or lose, for those who ‘fund’ them and provide the guns and who really rules Western “democracies” huh?

This is where it’s at. So I call that blogger a hypocrite for deliberately ignoring the facts of the matter and choosing instead to demonize Vladimir Putin and turn it all around, making it look as if it’s Putin who is fighting all those wars and the honourable peace-maker in all of this is the USA.  But before I made the call, this person had admitted to knowing these facts as well or better than I do.  I then felt justified in calling a spade a spade.  If you are stuffing your face with apple pie and I say that you are eating apple pie, I’m not attacking you, am I?

But I did not reckon with that mind-blinding sickness called patriotism.  ‘My country, may she be always right, but my country right or wrong.’  Indeed, that is the last cry of the patriot.  Truth, facts, reality, these must play second fiddle to my country’s right to be always “right” and all others who disagree, to be always wrong.  And woe to them if I decide they are wrong: I have the might to punish such temerity and the propaganda machine to make it all seem so legitimate.

Communication, then, must bow to the superior patriotic mind.

The pen is not mightier than the sword at all.  All the pen is allowed to do is promote and extol the sword or stick to making shopping lists.

 

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land Posted by Aviva Chomsky at 8:12am, November 29, 2018.
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[This is a kinda-sorta reblog, though it really is simply a copy and paste from the Tomgram website. I’ve done this before as I find no way to re-post this otherwise except with the posting of a link which, in my opinion for what it’s worth, isn’t good enough. I think that if I’m hoping someone will read something I find worth reading, I should offer the article, not just the link. Still, the link is there if you prefer reading it on their website, and it is an amazing website at that!  This article is about how “America” – the Hegemon – treats the defeated original inhabitants of these lands (Canada where I reside does NO BETTER, let me make that perfectly clear.]

Begin Tomgram article:  In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we — and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I identified with — were regularly ambushed by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship. And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us. We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we, invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders” a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he sent almost 6,000 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same movie world, felt — I suspect — so comfortable lambasting those refugees as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended, as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the movie world of my childhood. Tom

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian
DNA, Race, and Native Rights
By Aviva Chomsky

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota.

Profiting by Recreating Race

Let’s start by looking at how the ancestry industry contributes to, and profits from, a twenty-first-century reformulation of race. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe lure customers into donating their DNA and a hefty sum of money in exchange for detailed reports claiming to reveal the exact geographical origins of their ancestors going back multiple generations. “Who do you think you are?” asks Ancestry.com, typically enough. The answer, the company promises, lies in your genes.

Such businesses eschew the actual term “race” in their literature. They claim instead that DNA reveals “ancestry composition” and “ethnicity.” In the process, however, they turn ethnicity, a term once explicitly meant to describe culture and identity, into something that can be measured in the genes. They conflate ethnicity with geography, and geography with genetic markers. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that the “ethnicities” they identify bear an eerie resemblance to the “races” identified by European scientific racist thinking a century ago. They then produce scientific-looking “reports” that contain purportedly exact percentages linking consumers to places as specific as “Sardinia” or as broad as “East Asia.”

At their most benign, these reports have become the equivalent of a contemporary parlor game, especially for white Americans who make up the vast majority of the participants. But there is a sinister undertone to it all, reviving as it does a long-discredited pseudoscientific basis for racism: the notion that race, ethnicity, and ancestry are revealed in the genes and the blood, and passed down inexorably, even if invisibly, from generation to generation. Behind this lies the assumption that those genes (or variations) originate within clearly defined national or geographic borders and that they reveal something meaningful about who we are — something otherwise invisible. In this way, race and ethnicity are separated from and elevated above experience, culture, and history.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Although all humans share 99.9% of our DNA, there are some markers that exhibit variations. It’s these markers that the testers study, relying on the fact that certain variations are more (or less) common in different geographical areas. As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9% alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1% of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Ancestry tests rely on a fundamental — and racialized — misunderstanding of how ancestry works. The popular assumption is that each of us contains discrete and measurable percentages of the “blood” and DNA of our two biological parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on, and that this ancestral line can be traced back hundreds of years in a meaningful way. It can’t. As science journalist Carl Zimmer explains, “DNA is not a liquid that can be broken down into microscopic drops… We inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average… If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50% that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.”

In reality, such testing does not tell us much about our ancestors. That’s partly because of the way DNA is passed down through the generations and partly because there exists no database of ancestral DNA. Instead, the companies compare your DNA to that of other contemporary humans who have paid them to take the test. Then they compare your particular variations to patterns of geographical and ethnic distribution of such variations in today’s world — and use secret algorithms to assign purportedly precise ancestral percentages to them.

So is there really a Sardinian or East Asian gene or genetic variation? Of course not. If there is one fact that we know about human history, it’s that ours is a history of migrations. We all originated in East Africa and populated the planet through ongoing migrations and interactions. None of this has ended (and, in fact, thanks to climate change, it will only increase). Cultures, ethnicities, and settlements can’t be frozen in time. The only thing that is constant is change. The peoples who reside in today’s Sardinia or East Asia are a snapshot that captures only a moment in a history of motion. The DNA industry’s claims about ancestry award that moment a false sense of permanence.

While whites of European ancestry seem enthralled with the implications of this new racial science, few Native Americans have chosen to donate to such databases. Centuries of abuse at the hands of colonial researchers who made their careers on Native ancestral remains, cultural artifacts, and languages have generated a widespread skepticism toward the notion of offering genetic material for the good of “science.” In fact, when it comes to one DNA testing outfit, 23andMe, all of the countries included in its lists of the geographical origins of those who have contributed to its “Native American” database are in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In North America,” the company blandly explains, “Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this heritage remains.” In other words, 23andMe claims DNA as conclusive proof of Native American identity, then uses it to write Native North Americans off the map altogether.

The Ancestry Industry and the Disappearing Indian

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of U.S. history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the nineteenth century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the nineteenth century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Such antiquated understandings of race as a biological or scientific category allowed whites to deny Indian existence — and now allow them to make biological claims about “Indian” identity. Until recently, such claims, as in Senator Warren’s case, rested on the murkiness of family tales. Today, the supposed ability of DNA companies to find genetic “proof” of such a background reinforces the idea that Indian identity is something measurable in the blood and sidesteps the historical basis for the legal recognition or protection of Indian rights.

The ancestry industry assumes that there is something meaningful about the supposed racial identity of one of hundreds or even thousands of an individual’s ancestors. It’s an idea that plays directly into the hands of right-wingers who are intent on attacking what they call “identity politics” — and the notion that “minorities” are becoming unduly privileged.

Indeed, white resentment flared at the suggestion that Senator Warren might have received some professional benefit from her claim to Native status. Despite an exhaustive investigation by the Boston Globe showing conclusively that she did not, the myth persists and has become an implicit part of Donald Trump’s mockery of her. In fact, any quick scan of statistics will confirm the ludicrousness of such a position. It should be obvious that being Native American (or Black, or Latino) in the United States confers far more risks than benefits. Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and low birth weight, as well as lower educational levels and shorter life spans than do whites. These statistics are the result of hundreds of years of genocide, exclusion, and discrimination — not the presence or absence of specific genetic variations.

Reviving Race to Undermine Native Rights

Native rights, from sovereignty to acknowledgment of the conditions created by 500 years of colonial misrule, rest on an acceptance that race and identity are, in fact, the products of history. “Native Americans” came into being not through genes but through the historical processes of conquest and colonial rule, along with grudging and fragile acknowledgement of Native sovereignty. Native American nations are political and cultural entities, the products of history, not genes, and white people’sassertions about Native American ancestry and the DNA industry’s claim to be able to reveal such ancestry tend to run roughshod over this history.

Let’s look at three developments that have, over the past year, undermined the rights of Native Americans: the reversal of reservation status for Mashpee tribal lands in Massachusetts, the striking down of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Republican attempts to suppress Native American votes in North Dakota. Each of these acts came from a different part of the government: the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, the courts, and North Dakota’s Republican-dominated state legislature. But all three rely on notions of identity that place race firmly in our genes rather than in our history. In the process, they deny the histories that turned the sovereign and autonomous peoples of North America before European colonists arrived in “the New World” into “Native Americans,” and imply that Native American historical rights are meaningless.

The Mashpee of Massachusetts finally achieved federal recognition and a grant of reservation land only in 2007, based on the fact that they “had existed as a distinct community since the 1620s.” In other words, federal recognition was based on a historical, not a racialized, understanding of ethnicity and identity. However, the tribe’s drive to build a casino on its newly acquired reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, would promptly be challenged by local property-owners. Their lawsuit relied on a technicality: that, as they argued in court, reservation land could only be granted to tribes that had been federally recognized as of 1934. In fact, the Mashpee struggle for recognition had been repeatedly stymied by long-held notions that the Indians of Massachusetts were not “real” or “authentic” because of centuries of racial mixing. There was nothing new in this. The state’s nineteenth-century legislature prefigured just such a twenty-first-century backlash against recognition when it boasted that real Indians no longer existed in Massachusetts and that the state was poised to wipe out all such “distinctions of race and caste.”

In September 2018, the Department of the Interior (to which the court assigned the ultimate decision) ruled against the Mashpees. Recently appointed Assistant Director of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, the first Native American to hold that position, “paved the way for a reservation to be taken out of trust for the first time since the termination era,” a 20-year period from the 1940s to the 1960s when the federal government attempted to “terminate” Native sovereignty entirely by dismantling reservations and removing Indians to urban areas to “assimilate” them. The new ruling could affect far more than the Mashpees. Some fear that, in the Trump years, the decision portends “a new termination era,” or even a possible “extermination era,” for the country’s Native Americans.

Meanwhile, on October 4th, a U.S. District Court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This is a potentially devastating development as Congress passed that Act in 1978 to end the then-still-common practice of breaking up Native families by removing Indian children for adoption into white families. Such acts of removal date back to the earliest days of white settlement and over the centuries included various kinds of servitude and the founding of residential boarding schools for Indian children that were aimed at eliminating Native languages, cultures, and identities, while promoting “assimilation.” Indian child removal continued into the late twentieth century through a federally sponsored “Indian Adoption Project,” as well as the sending of a remarkable number of such children into the foster care system.

According to the ICWA, “An alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” States, it added, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” The Act gave tribes primary jurisdiction over all child custody issues including foster placements and the termination of parental rights, requiring for the first time that priority be placed on keeping Native children with their parents, kin, or at least within the tribe.

The ICWA said nothing about race or ancestry. Instead, it recognized “Indian” as a political status, while acknowledging semi-sovereign collective rights. It was based on the Constitution’s implicit acknowledgement of Indian sovereignty and land rights and the assignment to the Federal government of relations with Indian tribes. The District Court’s ICWA decision trampled on the collective political rights of Indian tribes by maintaining that the act discriminated against non-Native families in limiting their right to foster or adopt Native children. That rationale, like the rationale behindthe Mashpee decision, directly attacks the cultural and historical acknowledgement of Native sovereignty.

Superficially, the assault on Native voting rights may appear conceptually unrelated to the Mashpee and ICWA decisions. North Dakota is one of many primarily Republican-controlled states to take advantage of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminating key protections of the Voting Rights Act to make registration and voting more difficult, especially for likely Democratic voters including the poor and people of color. After numerous challenges, a North Dakota law requiring prospective voters to provide a street address was finally upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in October 2018. The problem is this: thousands of rural Native Americans, on or off that state’s reservations, lack street addresses because their streets have no names, their homes no numbers. Native Americans are also disproportionately homeless.

In the North Dakota case, Native Americans are fighting for a right of American citizens — the right to vote — whereas the Mashpee and ICWA cases involve fights to defend Native sovereignty. The new voting law invoked equality and individual rights, even as it actually focused on restricting the rights of Native Americans. Underpinning such restrictions was a convenient denial by those Republicans that the country’s history had, in fact, created conditions that were decidedly unequal. (Thanks to a massive and expensive local effort to defend their right to vote, however, North Dakota’s Native Americans showed up in record numbers in the 2018 midterm election.)

These three political developments downplay Native American identity, sovereignty, and rights, while denying, implicitly or explicitly, that history created today’s realities of racial inequality. The use of DNA tests to claim “Native American” genes or blood trivializes this same history.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty at least acknowledges that the existence of the United States is predicated on its imposition of an unwanted, foreign political entity on Native lands. The concept of tribal sovereignty has given Native Americans a legal and collective basis for fighting for a different way of thinking about history, rights, and nationhood. Attempts to reduce Native American identity to a race that can be identified by a gene (or a genetic variation) do violence to our history and justify ongoing violations of Native rights.

Senator Elizabeth Warren had every right to set the record straight regarding false accusations about her employment history. She should, however, rethink the implications of letting either Donald Trump or the ancestry industry define what it means to be Native American.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Aviva Chomsky


Armageddon: of Plots and Counter-plots

[a short story by Sha’Tara ]

“Mr. Chairman, there is one item remaining on this year’s agenda which I think should be considered before we adjourn for another century.”

The heavy-set, red-robed man at the head of the table nods imperceptibly and looks over the table with an undisguised bored expression.

“Very well, get on with it then.”

“Gentlemen, we are in the business of publishing best sellers on contract and I have here the contract for Yahu regarding the Earthian trilogy. It appears he hasn’t written a best seller in over 2000 years of his Earth time. We’ve made several inquiries about his intentions lately but without results. I have taken the liberty of having him present himself here today to explain why he has failed to fulfil his end of the agreement with this House and what he intends to do about it.”

The portly red-robed chairman nods in agreement. “Send him in, send him in.” He waves at the massive door in the side of the meeting chamber.

The door opens and a gnomish gray-robed shifty-eyed character with long white hair and beard enters and smiles at the gathering. No one greets him but the secretary who ushers him to a chair.

“Are you the same Yahu who claimed in his book to be the God of Earth?”

“That I most certainly am,” replies the wizened character with a quavering voice. “I Am that I Am.”

“Yeah well, so you say. Some 5000 Earth years ago you entered into a contract with us to write a trilogy about the creation, fall and termination of some world in your sector. We gave you the advance in power to manifest the ingredients required of your books. You delivered a very lengthy and repetitive but fortunately very violent Part One that contained enough murder, greed, sexual perversion, racism, slavery, misogyny and genocidal mania to easily rise to the top of our best seller list for over a thousand years.

Then you sent us a stultified Part Two in a very abridged and staid format that would have gotten nowhere had our editors not insisted it be tied to and weaved into Part One.

For Part Three you gave us a brief synopsis entitled “Revelation” but we are still waiting for that denouement. No action and no revelation. You are in breach of contract with this great Galactic Publishing house. Have you given thought as to how you are going to fulfil your agreements with us or do we need to bring legal action to recoup our losses?”

The wizened character stands up and wipes his brow with his over-sized sleeve. His voice quavers even more now.

“Please, don’t be so hasty!  Yes, I realize I made you all wait a bit long for the third part but it’s been very tough making this ending plausible. I mean, it was easy enough imaging the critters, evil spirit dudes and violent multitudes I mentioned in my blurb. Also you should know that I was rather busy at the time and I had a trainee write that part. I should have read it before it was sent to you but I was too absorbed observing (and abetting) some spectacular developments in an old empire of the time. I had several contracts to complete lesser books on that affair, which do not legally enter this discussion.

“To make a long story short – I don’t want to bore our illustrious chairman – I’ve taken steps to activate that Part Three on Earth. I’m sure that with our current developments of weapons of mass destruction, the fears around new diseases, global warming, overpopulation, wars over depleted resources and the utter, almost incredible, ignorance and overt incompetence of most of that world’s leadership, that a plausible scenario can be set in motion to satisfy the requirements my agents signed with your firm. Not only will there be a book but all of the action will be on video and made available to publish as a mini-series which shall appropriately be entitled “Armageddon.” I can assure this august assembly that our work won’t fail to entertain even the most blasé of your readers. It is guaranteed to be a box-office winner. You’ll be able to buy entire planets with your profits, gentlemen, you have my Word on that.

“What exactly are we talking about here, you’re wondering? Imagine: the total destruction of an entire world, its satellite and its “heaven” in real time. Imagine this: global war, famines, infectious diseases. Rampaging armies of mercenaries raping, looting, burning and killing unarmed innocents by the millions, year in, year out for as long as there remains life to destroy. Religious bigotry running rampant. Total lawlessness, or as they put it there, the law of the jungle in spades. Billions dead and dying of causes yet unknown. A sun going super-nova and a moon melting down upon a planet. My guarantee to you gentlemen is this: there will be no special effects. Everything the videos and accompanying best seller depict will be exactly as it unfolds. You will see it in real time, exactly as it happens. That, gentlemen, is the script I and my trusty group of shadow-writers, technicians and engineers, have been working on for 2000 Earthian years. You will find it was well worth the costs and the wait.

“How can you be so certain of the denouement, Yehu? That’s a mighty big set-up, even for one like yourself. Intelligent creatures possess a mind of their own.”

“Gentlemen, do not, ever, make the mistake of ignoring the Earthian mind’s predictability. I programmed them, remember? They will respond on cue, make no mistake. I repeat, make no mistake about that. They will believe, they will kill and they will die, heroes and martyrs in their own minds even while committing the most atrocious of crimes. We have already begun to trigger their atavism in that respect and the results exceed expectations. This is win-win.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to stir the pot some more. I must return to a current political seat of power called “The White House” where the ignoramus’s in charge actually believe they worship me. I need to get their sensibilities inflamed to expand that war in the Middle East (don’t worry about these locations, they mean nothing to the actual story, just collateral damage to help us set the scene) and bring the Powers of the West ever closer to a final confrontation with the Powers of the East. You want a Revelation? I’ll give you the mother of all Revelations! I’m bringing you Armageddon!”

He departs with a flourish. He knows his Earthian humans and there is not a doubt in his mind at that point that he will create his masterpiece from the destruction of Earth. It had always been his plan to complete his trilogy thus but he had been stymied by those who claimed he was plagiarizing them and forced to put the work on hold time and again. But those who stood in his way, he had finally triumphed over: the Communists; the Socialists; the Anarchists; Atheists and Pagans and assorted others. Hardly anyone published them or read them any more. Even the new high priests of Science were beginning to “see his hand” in the movement of sub-atomic particles even if they didn’t use his name… yet. And now with his ironclad under the table agreement with his once avowed enemy, Mammon, (Capitalism for the uninitiated) the timing couldn’t be better.

The scales had tipped once more. The people clamoured for his kind of entertainment, even if it meant he’d be using their blood to write the grand finale. The sweet irony! Oh, how he hated the stinking, short-lived whining creatures. Prayers! Prayers for parking spaces and hangnails! Prayers for sick dogs, dead budgies and weeds in the lawn. Prayers for deliverance and salvation: well that last part was his own fault, he’d unintentionally, in a fit of anger, brought that on himself with a promise which he had then used to write Part Two of his trilogy. Live and learn hey, unlike the creatures he was about to annihilate in long, drawn-out bloodshed! They won’t learn, not ever, he’d made sure of that.

“Kill them all: God will know those who are his!”

“Damn, I just LOVE that line!” He says under his breath with his best sardonic smile as he settles back in his containment field for his trip to Earth, all but rubbing his hands in anticipation and glee.

The Simplicity and Power of Innocence

[short story, by Sha’Tara]

“Come over here, look down in the garden. Listen.”

The older woman sitting in the rocking chair gets up slowly and holding on to her cup of tea, comes over and looks. In the garden a small child, a girl, is playing among rows of carrots and beets. She holds a doll in one arm and as she passes her free hand over the carrot tops, she addresses her doll,

“We can’t pull these up yet you know, they haven’t grown enough. Just like you, they are just too young. But it’s OK to caress their hair, they like that. When the sun goes down you and I will water them, just like my momma says.  I’m your momma now, so you have to do what I tell you, see?”

The two women at the open window can hear every word the child speaks to her doll. The woman who had been standing at the window watching the child has tears in her eyes.

“Did you hear, Ellie? She called me her momma. I have a child, finally.  She needs me and she trusts me. Isn’t that amazing?”

The older woman replies, “It is amazing in a way Viv, yet not. Where would the child be now if you hadn’t taken her off the streets when you did last year?  And how could you not? As you so graphically described it to me then, you found her sitting on the ground beside a garbage can, holding her dead mother’s hand and crying, begging her mother to wake up. Dear God Viv, who would not be moved by such a sight and such a need?”

“And yet Ellie, what I did, what I am doing, is illegal! All I know of her family is that her mother died of a drug overdose and there was no record of a child. The fringe dwellers, Ellie.  The homeless, the lost and forgotten. What a terrible, unconscionable mess we are making of everything.”

But out of that mess is that child, Viv.”

“I know. Yet for several days after I took the child in I was filled with blind hatred for her mother.  How could she?  How could a mother choose her own lusts over the needs of her child, if indeed it was her child? So I told myself the girl wasn’t hers but a waif she had been paid to look after. Who knows?

“Now I worry. What happens when I have to report her to the authorities if or when she needs medical attention? When she has to attend school? God, look at her.  Just look at that beautiful innocence. Will they let me keep her? Adopt her? I’m so scared Ellie. Even if I can comfortably support both of us on my income, I live alone and I am forty-five years old! How can I guarantee I can keep her?”

“You worry too much Viv. Not all bureaucrats are heartless creeps. We must, we will, find people familiar with this sort of situation who will be empathetic and able to help with the legal difficulties. I’m not without means either, Viv. I know people and when you are ready to go public, as I assured you a year ago, I will be there for you.

“If everything else fails, I have worked out a plausible scenario for us all.  If they won’t let you adopt her, Nicholas and I will. We’ve discussed it and he’s in full agreement. Then we will become one family and you will have her.  She will take your name, live with you and we will continue to be grandpa and grandma. You will always be her mom. Do you see a problem with that?”

Viv wipes her face, sighs and taking her eyes away from “her” child, turns to face her old friend. “No one could have a better friend than you, Ellie. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Yes, I have been, I am, I will be your good friend. But when we register her, what shall we call her?”

I’ve been calling her Nicole. She seems to have a particular attachment to that name. It could even be her real name.”