Nov 092020
 

My friends both in the USA and in my own country are ecstatically congratulating one another on the Biden/Harris victory, and I too am relieved to see the imminent end of Trump’s barbarian one-man show. But this may not be the end of his methods, and I think it is important not to be carried away by triumphalism.

The difference was, after all, only four million votes. True, we are rid of Trumpism for four years, but many poor and/or non-white prospective Democratic voters told interviewers that they intended to vote only to get rid of Trump, not because they thought Biden would “make a difference” for them. Will they come out again in four years?

Who voted for Trump and why? I agree with those who maintain that the media played a big part. But Trump, too, blamed the media. In fact, far from all the media was pro-Trump. So I must ask: What is the main difference between people who believe a headline like “chlorine kills Covid”, or who subscribe to the Pizzagate conspiracy, and those who don’t? I maintain that by substantially improving educational opportunities for all young citizens, we would substantially reduce vulnerability to false news in the course of only three or four years.

Evangelical Trump followers were loyal regardless of the press, and there were very many of them, even though they knew what sort of person he was. They believed God was using him because he had promised to continue helping Israel engulf Palestine. I’m not privy to their beliefs, but as I understand it, they are convinced that all of this will hasten the return of the Messiah. Not much you can do about that, I guess.

I have the impression that the past decades (since the 70s) have seen a downhill slide for a large part of the US population as is described, for instance, in the Guardian: Who will speak for…

The so-called “divided America” is not just about Trump. It is to a large extent about despair, humiliation and loss of dignity. It is also about anger.

Trump is angry, too. He claims to hate the elite. To many voters it seemed that because of his ostentatious and iconoclastic alleged anti-elitism, Trump was being humiliated, ridiculed and harassed by mainstream press, just like them. He told them he was on their side, and they hoped he would get rid of some of the multinational corporations that had gobbled up their livelihoods.

I believe that what Trump really hates is science, education, etc.,and anything that stands in his way. Getting rid of him does not, however, mean you get rid of his voters who want something neither Trump nor Biden can or will give them: decently paid work, education and proper health care.

From Thomas Piketty’s book (see the Harvard Gazette article How political ideas keep economic inequality going) we learn that inequality in all of the western world has been rising steadily ever since the seventies, and is now back at where it was before WWI. This trend is not due to Trump, is not limited to the USA, and is not going to stop by itself.

Meanwhile, to quote the above Guardian article, “It is one thing to be spinning your wheels stuck in the mud, but it is even more demeaning to watch as others zoom by on well-paved roads, none offering help.”

Take a look the below graph from the Fed.

Oct 302020
 

There is absolutely nothing I can do about the shoot-out between Trump and Biden, other than to commiserate with US citizens in both camps who have had to watch their American dream go down the drain.

Had I been a US citizen, I would have voted, sure, but as I am not, I do not intend to sit up all night, every night of this last week, waiting for the election results, so please have me excused. Nor do I intend to incur headaches, hypertension, muscular pains, insomnia, or psychosis by following the news byte by byte. It is nearly all about Trump and Covid, even in my country. You could almost envy the people in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, who have issues that take their mind off Covid-Trump.

However, there are actually enjoyable pieces of news out there, would you believe it? True, my country’s national broadcasting company did not see fit to inform us about the outcome of the 25 October plebiscite in Chile, but we still have internet. (By the way, did you know that in Kashmir they don’t, thanks to “Democratic” India’s rabid PM Narendra Modi’s having slapped a one-year-long internet blackout on Kashmir.) So I watched a Chilean TV channel for – yes, for a whole night.

General Pinochet, whose US-assisted dictatorship had engaged in a particularly sadistic effort to exterminate the regime’s political opponents, stepped down in 1990 following a plebiscite he had allowed, believing that it would grant his dictatorship legitimacy. To everybody’s surprise, it didn’t. See the film No! directed by Pablo Larrain (trailer).

However, Chile was not rid of Pinochet. He left his mark in a Constitution (adopted back in 1980, when people were too terrified to oppose it), a constitution that seemed a hymn to Milton Friedman’s market fundamentalism.

Subsequent legislative efforts to protect the population from the effects of that constitution have been a seemingly hopeless uphill battle.

Milton Friedman often proudly referred to “the miracle of Chile”. Moreover, the father of Neoliberalism (albeit Neoliberal economists indignantly declare there is no such thing as Neoliberalism) Friedrich Hayek, visited Pinochet. If you are an economist, and if you still adhere to the “classical” economic precepts of Hayek, I suggest you take a look at Wikiquotes and search “Chile”.

Chile’s economy has been a model of stability, the darling of the IMF, with steady and uninterrupted growth in terms of GNP. But let me declare loudly, let me stand on a chair, let me shout, let me scream, as the Chilean protesters have been screaming: GNP does not reflect the welfare of the vast majority of a country’s inhabitants.

True, the number of people defined as living in extreme poverty has declined markedly from year to year. However, how do you define poverty? I put to you, that the majority of Chile’s population is living in what I consider poverty. I am sure you would agree if you were put to the test.

I quote from the think tank www.americas.org:

Fifty percent of the economically active population earns less than 550 dollars per month, with the minimum wage equivalent to 414 dollars. Overwhelmed by the narrow strip that separates it from poverty, an important part of the population lives in fear of seeing their income fall. In Chile, downward social mobility is greater than upward social mobility, and downward mobility is more highly correlated to political protest than poverty itself.

The biggest factor that exacerbates inequality is probably the nation’s pension system, in force since 1982. Designed during the military government, the pension mechanism has not met Chileans’ expectations. According to the group No + AFP (No More Pension Fund Managers), which in 2016 organized a march of 600,000 people, these are “undercover banks of the richest entrepreneurs in our country who use the pension funds to expand their investments and further concentrate capital in a few hands”. The average pension for retirees is $286 per month, and 80% receive pensions below the minimum wage. The amount of pensions is on average close to 40% of people’s income at the time of retirement.

Education is the second major source of inequality. In 2006 and 2011, students organized massive demonstrations calling for profound reforms in the education system. Chilean education is characterized by the huge gap between public and private education. The withdrawal of the State from its functions as generator, regulator and supervisor of the education sector led to the gap as part of neoliberal reforms beginning in the 1980s.

The above quote is far too polite, in my mind. (The NY Times does a better job of it.) Then again, I suspect that working and living conditions for more than half the population in the USA is not very much better than for the majority of the population in Chile.

Now back to the night when the votes were being counted. The below link will take you to the infamous Stadium in Santiago during the last minutes before voting ends. Then you will see how counting starts at various polling stations, how amazed silence follows the first signs of what seems to be happening,

If you go on watching, you will see that dazed spectators surrounding the polling stations (las mesas) start to understand that they may actually have won. Eventually, they will find themselves in the streets, deliriously celebrating, and although there is a curfew, neither the police nor the army intervenes.

What emerges when all the votes have been counted is that only 5 of the 346 electoral districts were opposed to the trashing of Pinochet’s constitution. Two of them are so small they are statistically insignificant. Three of them, however, constitute the part of Santiago that houses the top of the social pyramid, the epicentre of political and economic power: Vitacura, las Condes and Lo Barnochea. In an interesting article, BBC explains that Santiago consists of two distinct universes. What is clear is that from the top of a pyramid, you don’t see the ants swarming down below.

President Piñera deserves praise for at least not having declared a civil war on the night when it became clear that 78.2 % of the population of Chile, had declared the country’s constitution worthless.

Look to Chile, my friends. Change is indeed possible.

Sep 202020
 

No, I’m not done yet. And the extradition hearing isn’t over. Its outcome is crucial not only for Assange, but for us all.

For many people, the Trump period has been a watershed, a scales-falling-from-the-eyes event. For others, the turning point came much earlier, with Wikileaks, which is why the US authorities hate Assange so vehemently. Moreover, many honest US American citizens have clung at length to the hope that the Iraq war and Bush had merely been aberrations, so defence of Julian Asange has therefore not been deafening in the USA, a country where brave men and women are willing to risk their lives in the great “Black Lives Matter” battle, and where many firefighters are loosing their lives in the fight against climate devastation. There is no lack of bravery in the USA, just a lack of information. Julian Assange attempted to provide some of the missing information. He was not thanked.

Daniel Ellsberg‘s Pentagon Papers in 1971 were also a scales-falling-from-the-eyes event from which we have unfortunately not learned enough. I recommend listening to Daniel Ellsberg’s explaining why he is a witness for the defence of Julian Assange. What he says applies specifically to the prosecution’s hypocritical charges that Assange put people’s lives at risk with Cablegate.

European authorities, fearing US backlashes, appear to be discouraging the media from highlighting the ignoble (i.e. illegal ) conditions of Julian Asange’s lengthy captivity and the parody of the legal proceedings against him. In any civilised court, illegally obtained evidence would not be acccepted. Not so, in this case, it seems; see example of illegal surveillance of Julian Assange.

I have just discovered, that there is a small newspaper in my own small country, that has been granted access to the preposterous extradition hearing and is diligently covering it. I expect it has been granted access because it is not widely read.

Saturday’s issue includes an article about a US torture victim who had just witnessed for Assange. If I have understood correctly – after all, I wasn’t there – the US tried and eventually succeeded in blocking the witness’s appearance. In the end, however, his written statement was read to the court. The witness stated that diplomatic notes among Wikileaks’s “Cablegate” were instrumental as evidence in his own legal battle for justice (in Europe, that is, not in the USA).

Since I’m sure you may be as ignorant as I was about the legal battle in question, I would like to direct your attention to the Wikipedia article that covers it. However, since there is a risk that the article will be tampered with in the wake of the Assange hearing, I think I had better just paste a quote from Wikipedia as at 20/09/2020 (without the reference numbers).

Khaled El-Masri … ,[born] 1963, is a German and Lebanese citizen who was mistakenly abducted by the Macedonian police in 2003, and handed over to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). While in CIA custody, he was flown to Afghanistan, where he was held at a black site and routinely interrogated, beaten, strip-searched, sodomized, and subjected to other cruel forms of inhumane and degrading treatment and torture. After El-Masri held hunger strikes, and was detained for four months in the “Salt Pit”, the CIA finally admitted his arrest and torture were a mistake and released him. He is believed to be among an estimated 3,000 detainees whom the CIA abducted from 2001–2005.

In May 2004, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Daniel R. Coats, convinced the German interior minister, Otto Schily, not to press charges or to reveal the program. El-Masri filed suit against the CIA for his arrest, extraordinary rendition and torture. In 2006, his suit El Masri v. Tenet, in which he was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was dismissed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, based on the U.S. government’s claiming the state secrets privilege. The ACLU said the Bush administration attempted to shield its abuses by invoking this privilege. The case was also dismissed by the Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit, and in December 2007, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

On 13 December 2012, El-Masri won an Article 34 case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The court determined he had been tortured while held by CIA agents and ruled that Macedonia was responsible for abusing him while in the country, and knowingly transferring him to the CIA when torture was a possibility. It awarded him compensation. This marked the first time that CIA activities against detainees was legally declared as torture. The European Court condemned nations for collaborating with the United States in these secret programs.

The Julian Assange case (not to mention the El Masri case before him) is critical for all Europeans, not to mention US nationals. It is a demonstration of the bullying our governments submit to from the USA. Our European governments are accessories to US government-sponsored outrageous acts of every conceivable flavour. The extradition case is also an example of how due process is being eroded in the UK.

Sep 182020
 

In country after country, critical press coverage is becoming risky. Very risky. It has always been risky in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, China… If Julian Assange, an Australian national living in Europe, is extradited to the US, freedom of the press will have become a figment of the imagination also in Western Europe and the USA. I use the cliché to indicate that many of us will not even know that we no longer enjoy freedom of the press, if indeed we ever really did.

In my country, the national broadcasting company now basically tells us what our government wants it to, which is mostly just to observe social distancing, to distrust the Russians and hate the Chinese, and to have fun.

Still, as far as I know, progressive or environmentalist media outlets are not being hobbled here. Not yet. But they don’t have the economic clout to send reporters all over the world to pick up and analyse news outside our borders, to challenge mainstream press and to expose financial and political overlords.

There is one news outlet that has the necessary clout and dedication to do just that: Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is no more progressive or environmentalist than your Aunt Julia, but it has a freer rein than most other news outlets and its reporters are extremely competent.

Obviously, a much respected and fearless outlet will have many enemies. I would like to direct your attention to a post on this site written back in June 2017: The Rat is out of the Hole. (A related post, also written in June 2017, discusses the disconcerting relationship between the Trump administration and the Arabian peninsula. ) You will particularly notice the UAE statement (as quoted by the Guardian):

We do not claim to have press freedom. We do not promote the idea of press freedom. What we talk about is responsibility in speech.

Beautiful, that, no? If all autocrats could be as frank, we’d be spared a lot of claptrap.

Now the UAE has finally succeeded in partially hobbling Al Jazeera. From CNN’s rendition of the matter, you will see that US authorities are not very fond of Al Jazeera, which according to a letter from the Justice Department obtained by CNN aims “to influence audience attitudes with its reporting” with, CNN adds, “policies such as calling the Israeli Defense Forces the Israeli army instead of the IDF and not using the words terrorist or terrorism.”)

Meanwhile my own country’s national broadcasting company has not yet mentioned the bridle put on Al Jazeera. Nor does it appear to care much about the outcome of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London.

However, I find in El Pais a letter to that paper’s readers dated 3 March 2020 from no lesser a personage than the famous judge Baltasar Garzón, who humbled Dictator Pinochet and who directed the world’s attention to the shameful post-dictatorial silence (about mass graves, stolen babies etc.) in Spain. The title of the letter: Assange, la prensa en peligro. If you understand Spanish, read it! If you don’t understand Spanish, learn the language.

Sep 062020
 

My dog’s health is declining. I won’t go into detail, but the latest development is that she has started to limp, on alternating paws. One of these days, I shall have to take her to the vet’s for the final solution. She has had 12 good years and will have a painless death. I will be heartbroken.

Not everybody dies painlessly. People in concentration camps, for instance… In Finland there was a terrible civil war in 1918. All I knew about it, until I read Kjell Westö’s novel The Wednesday Club, was that the “Whites” beat the “Reds” and saved the country (for the Germans, except that the Germans lost everything after WWI). Frankly, my ignorance was more due to lack of interest than to anything else. I mean, who cares about Finland? (Until I read the Wednesday Club, that is.)

But before I continue about the Wednesday Club, I would like to draw your attention once again to Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Don’t read about the book, just go get it. I mean, what are pandemics for if not for enlightenment?

In Finland, after the 1918 civil war, there appear to have been concentration camps in which thousands of people died, not from wounds but from maltreatment.

Kjell Westö’s novel is not about the concentration camps as such, but about how the winners of the war told their story. He describes the crippling shame felt, still in 1938, by women who had been raped in concentration camps in 1919. The author seems to be suggesting that since, in 1938, Finnish society had not yet started to understand what crimes had been committed by the winners in 1918, they were already busy excusing Nazi crimes, endorsing fascism and overlooking the ghastly moral consequences of easy fixes. I find the narrative very compelling, because I recognise it. I recognise the pattern.

My personal history links me to South America and to Palestine, where so much injustice has been inflicted and endured that I am almost in favour of endorsing euthanasia for entire populations to spare the victims more misery. After all, to quote Jane Fonda, “they shoot horses, don’t they?”

Your personal history might link you to Algeria or Egypt; or Iran; or India. At the moment, everything seems to indicate that in Russia, murdering Putin’s political opponents is just a cup of tea. Navalnyj, whatever else he might be, is nothing if not astoundingly brave, a hero and a martyr. In the West, we also have martyrs, Julian Assange, for instance.

But what about the rest of us? How did our governments react to Operation Condor and the vicious and systematic slaughter of anyone vaguely “leftist” in most of Latin America (not least in Central America). How did we react here, for that matter, to the emergence of Nazi Germany in the 1930-s and the pogroms and subsequent extermination of Jews? How did our governments react to the Vietnam war? In retrospect, have Bush Jr. or Tony Blair or José Aznar expressed any shame about the war on Iraq and its aftermath? On the contrary, it would seem that the US and the UK are hell-bent on preventing crimes committed by the state from being exposed, cf. the Julian Assange case, which in reality is about defence of a free press. I quote the N.Y. Times:

From the start, the charges against Mr. Assange have raised profound First Amendment issues because his actions are difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from those of traditional news organizations. It would be unprecedented in American law for such activity to result in criminal convictions, so press freedom advocates have denounced the charges against him and have been watching the case closely.

The winner is always the one to tell the story. But even after a winner has had to leave the scene, he or she will rarely express shame. Shame is felt primarily by a perpretrator’s victims, who have often had to do things they, the victims, feel are indefensible.

The Latin American dictators and their henchmen (and their far from innocent wives) have shown no regret, no shame when questioned by the press or by judges. Not a jot of it. On the other hand, those who survived torture and many years’ imprisonment …, well, you can imagine.

On this cheerful note, I can recommend a whole stack of very good novels. Tonight I particularly wish to direct your attention to José Saramago. Any of his novels will probably astound you. I love his elegant irony and humour, as well as his penetrating insight. I believe the man must have been extraordinarily intelligent. His most important work may have been Blindness (Ensaio sobre a Cegueira). I would also recommend, for the sake of the reader’s sanity, the somewhat more cheerful follow-up Seeing (Ensaio sobre a Lucidez). If you cannot read them in Portuguese, read them in Spanish, if you can, because most of them were beautifully translated by his Spanish wife.

Aug 242020
 

You know the feeling, I’m sure, of walking as fast as you can without making any headway at all; you will have done it in dreams – nightmares, perhaps.

That is what it must feel like to be a climate activist. The facts and figures are all there, out in the open for all to see, yet all we talk about now is Covid. Even before Covid, all the media was concerned about was growth and the GDP – as if GDP reflected the welfare of a country.

Remember who owns the media? On issues in which owners have a major financial stake, the media cannot be trusted. Such issues include, you will remember, the sale and smoking of tobacco, arms trade, gun control, oil extraction and trade, national health insurance, unethical practices on the part of the pharmaceutical industry… and climate change. If a major industrial or financial player is aversely affected by media coverage, it will retaliate powerfully, as sure as winter used to follow summer.

Anyway, if you really want to concentrate on viruses, we can now worry about more than Covid. In the province of Seville, for instance, they are now grappling with West Nile Virus, with 32 patients hospitalised so far, one or two already dead.

I just read a piece in the Guardian about Extinction Rebellion (XR) a movement I never took very seriously because the media here portrayed it as extremist; the media would do just that of course (remember who owns the media?). Yes, XR did indeed advocate civil disobedience (peaceful civil disobedience, that is), but I understand now that it had every reason to do so, and rather than explain that, I refer to the article in the Guardian.

It seems, still according to the Guardian, that XR has been weakened and splintered by internal discord on tactical matters, but I suspect and hope they’ll get up on their feet again, and I urge you to listen to a “talk” given in 2019 by one of the XR founders.

We’ve assumed that at some point, sooner or later, when the planet has been battered by yet another hurricane or flood or hellish conflagration, such as the ones we saw recently in Australia, our politicians and their voters would finally come out of their denialist torpor, and say “This has got to stop.” But no, now California is burning, and all our politicians and their voters can manage is an exasperated sigh: “California is burning again.” The keyword here is: again.

Yep, we’ve gotten used to it. We have hurricanes, and floods and conflagrations again and again and again. We’re already expecting more pandemics and are, in short, sliding down an increasingly slippery, increasingly steep slope. Dazed and in a dream-like condition, we bravely and stupidly adapt to the acceleration.

We used to have to deal with outright denialism: the dreamer believes that human activities have little or no part in climate change. Now we have to contend with oblique denialism: the dreamer is a techno-optimist and believes that technology will stop the downward slide.

As a rule, I’m not in favour of civil disobedience in Democratic countries. I prefer using the instruments embedded in the “social contract” (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique) that underlie Democratic government. However, it has become eminently clear that our governments are failing us in one issue after another.

Whereas major industrial and financial players may have practically unlimited power, whereas they may own 10% of the all the planet’s wealth, we, the rest of us, are the vast majority. Our lives and futures are at stake. I put to you that our lives and futures are vastly more important and valuable than all the shares and financial assets in the world.

We are the majority stakeholders; we just don’t know that, yet, thanks to the media (remember who owns the media).

Aug 182020
 

Hvem sin tillit, fru statsminister?

Hver kveld opptrer en liten tropp regjeringsartister på underholdningsprogrammet Dagsrevyen. “Bare hold 1-metern,” spøker de, så går det så greit så.

Jasså? Gjør det virkelig det? Enn om jeg er gammel og/eller ufør og MÅ bruke kollektivtransport? Enn om jeg ikke har bil en gang? Nei, Underholdningsrevyen forsikrer at det slett ikke var fullt på busser, tog og trikker i dag. Så da er det slett ikke nødvendig å påby ansiktsmaske. Det hele er tillits-basert, skjønner du.

Ja, vi vet at et av høyreregjeringens mantraer er “fritt valg”. Så jeg kan velge om jeg smitter folk rundt meg. Men jeg kan ikke velge om jeg blir smittet av folk rundt meg.

Regjeringsartistene har alltid rede svar for hånden, innstudert på forhånd, antakelig etter avtale med talerøret deres, Underholdningsrevyens reportere: Hvis vi påbyr ansiktsmaske, så vil folk tro at ansiktsmaske er tryggere enn 1-metern. Les den setningen en gang til: Hvis det blir påbud om ansiktsmaske vil folk tro at ansiktsmaske er tryggere enn 1-metern. Skjønner du syllogismen?

Men nå går smittetallet opp. Hvorfor det, mon tro? Handelstanden i kommunen Indre Østfold – hvor er det forresten? – skylder på Sverige. Men jeg krysset selv grensen fra Sverige en av de få dagene den var såkalt åpen. Jeg var innom to butikker og fulgte de samme forsiktighetsreglene som jeg gjør i butikker i Norge og er derfor helt sikker på at jeg ikke kan ha fått på meg noen smitte. Men det var lang kø på vei tilbake til Norge, og alle ble vi stoppet og sjekket.

Men samme dagen som jeg satt i kø ved grensen på vei fra Sverige, landet en bekjent av meg på Gardermoen. Han kom fra Latinamerika. Riktignok hadde han mellomlandet på en annen flyplass i Europa hvor han måtte vente på fly til Norge i tre timer. Man må gjerne mellomlande et sted når man kommer fra for eks. Brasil eller USA. “Var det ikke et fryktelig styr?” spurte jeg. “Langt i fra!” Da han kom til Norge var alt nøyaktig slik det hadde vært før Covid. “Hva?” spurte jeg skarpt. Ingen passkontroll, ingen som avkrevde noe som helst, heller ingen som fortalte noe som helst. Det var ikke et pip om karantene, for eksempel, ingen som delte ut informasjon på 6 språk om hvor man skulle henvende seg om man fikk symptomer… “Men, men… jeg trodde…,” sa jeg hjelpeløst, “på Underholdningsrevyen har de jo vist … teststasjoner …” Joda, det finnes boder til testing, forklarte han. Men de var tomme. Han selv hadde et sterkt ønske om å få teste seg, men dessverre, det var ikke noe tilbud.

De var nok sikkert bare satt opp slik at Underholdningsrevyen kunne filme dem.

Jul 252020
 

When President Kennedy died, I was just a kid, living in, of all places, the United States of America. Yes, of course I remember when our teacher came in and announced what had happened. Of course; although I remember little else from that period of my life. I also remember how proud I was when Bobby Kennedy later shook my small hand among the millions of other anonymous hands when he was campaigning.

I also remember how pained I was ten-fifteen years later when I was told in various ways and by various people that Kennedy was not the hero I thought he was. He had much to answer for about Vietnam and about sins committed against humanity in the name of anti-Communism.

The purpose of this post is not to throw stones at JFK and his brother Bobby. They were men of their space-time and, not least, products of their social class. There is no way you can become president of the USA unless you embrace extremely unsavoury views, and we like to believe that the president’s also having embraced drugs and certain off-bounds women were reactions to unpalatable decisions he was forced to make.

No, my message here is not to bring down or even undress statues. It is to undress us, who prostrate ourselves, adoring our icons uncritically, refusing to even see any inexcusable acts underwritten by the persons or ideologies the icons represent.

You don’t thank the bearer of tidings when he tells you your husband, son or father has ordered a massacre. You don’t feel relieved of a lifelong burden of lies; you cling all the more to those very lies as though your life depended on them. You do so, to begin with, by not feeling, period. You refuse to feel, and after that, you simply deny, even in the face of clear evidence. That is what we all do. I do it, my neighbour does it and you, who are reading this, probably do it too.

Even now, knowing better, JFK is one of my heroes. Even now, knowing better, yours might be the Democratic Party, which has let at least 60% of the US population down. Or your hero might be Putin or Mao or Castro or Chavez or Che, all very fallible men. Most men are, in fact, fallible. I’m absolutely sure that even my favourite guru for the moment, Thomas Piketty, must be fallible.

Even women are fallible, and I’m not referring to Ocasio Cortez. She hit my country’s headlines today, not for defending equal rights to health care and education, but for delivering a “lesson in decency“. I’m sure Ocasio Cortez’s verbal lunge at the Tea Party member was more than well served and well deserved. Frankly, I would probably have used much more offensive language to address the fascistoid m__ f__r, and I’m certainly not going to undress Ocasio Cortez! I only wish to point out that the only reason she was in my country’s news today was because she disliked being referred to as a “bitch”. In other words, what was being applauded by my country was her feminism, not her defence of human rights for women and men. Frankly, I’m embarrassed. Yet, I go on believing in the justice, the goodness and the wisdom of my country. In short, I put to you that we are all a bit blind.

I cannot recomend enough the allegorical novel by José Saramago Blindness ( Ensaio sobre a cegueira, meaning Essay on Blindness). It was written in 1995, but is more relevant now than ever.

26 July: I need to add a postscript. The European so-called Istambul Convention prohibits violence against women and domestic violence in no uncertain terms. Poland and Turkey are threatening to withdraw their adherence to it. FIE!

Jul 222020
 

No matter where you turn for information and guidance, these days, at least in my country, journalists and commentators are sure to raise their arms as a sign, not of innocence but of ignorance. “I don’t know,” they say, “I have no idea what will happen,” they say.

Obviously, they would never declare such ignorance unless they had reason to. Indeed, the bases for prognoses have cracked, not to say crumbled, just in the course of the last few months.

Many people, perhaps most, blame President Trump, who has undoubtedly eroded the rules of international law and who should long since have been put behind bars for tax evasion, among other things. But Trump didn’t invent the system, the winner-takes-all scheme of things. And he was of course compounded by Covid.

No government can be blamed for creating this particular natural disaster. However, some governments can be blamed for poor disaster management. and most can be blamed for not foreseeing that we would sooner or later be faced with a pandemic. Most can also already be blamed for not understanding that business as usual cannot and will not carry on in its wake.

In its recent deliberations about rescue measures, the EU undoubtedly had “social cohesion” in mind. Social cohesion is what was witnessed in the UK during WWII, a we’re-all-in-this-together attitude.

What you see in the below photo from Santiago de Chile is not social cohesion. It is a threat.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019%E2%80%932020_Chilean_protests

As you will understand if you look at the wonderful photos here, social cohesion in Chile has de facto come to an end. And that was before the pandemic! Because the so-called “Chilean oasis”, the neo-liberal success story, always was a deliberate travesty, a cynical fabrication.

Imagine, then, how anger and a long-simmering sense of injustice will play out after Covid. And what about Brazil? Yesterday saw 718 new deaths in Brazil. Yes, that was in just one day. You know, don’t you, that those 718 no-longer-existing individuals in Brazil did not belong to the jet set.

Unless the powers-that-be realise now, immediately, that major changes have to be made – and I mean major – that people will demand their fair share of equal opportunities, equal access to health care, education and sustained natural resources, Western civilisation will come to an end.

At any rate, social cohesion ends when you send in the National Guard, when you beat up or even kill protesters, hoodwinking them into believing that the manhandling they are subjected to is merely the wrath of God. Remember Syria? Autocrats of the world: You are not, I repeat, NOT God. Look to Syria: It is now a failed state.

If Western civilisation does come to an end, don’t snigger, Mr Putin. Your turn to be knocked off the pedestal will come.

In the mean time, I urge you to read the UN Secretary General’s appeal to us all, because all of us are part of this game. To quote the Secretary General:

We are sometimes told a rising tide of economic growth lifts all boats.
But in reality, rising inequality sinks all boats.”

Antonio Guterres