pelshvalen

Dec 012019
 

When Pinochet came to power, he gave the so-called Chicago Boys (economists inspired by Milton Friedman) a free rein in remodelling Chile’s economy. Also, he enacted a new and obviously controversial constitution.

When Pinochet stepped down, the dictatorship ended, but the Pinochet constitution, enacted in 1981, is still in force. Moreover, the Chicago Boys’ neo-liberal market fundamentalism has reigned undisputed: The country is rich, but most of its people work their butts off for next to nothing. Proper education and health care are beyond their means.

What is being indicted in Chile is not so much the president as neo-liberalism.

I fear for Chile. Soldiers target protesters eyes, hoping to frighten them. When protests continue although so many people have been blinded or killed… who knows what will happen? Will the wealthiest 10% once again launch a dictatorship to prevent the slightest redistribution of wealth and income? The protesters must be extremely brave and/or extremely desperate, because they know what they’re up against.

Unlike Spain, Chile has not attempted to forget the dictatorship. Chileans have mourned its victims, paid some compensation to its survivors, built museums documenting its abuses, etc. What’s more, they have Patricio Guzman. His haunting documentaries are not only about Chile, but about mankind. If you cannot buy, borrow, rent or steal them, you will find some of them on Youtube.

Dec 012019
 

Though I do not devote much negative attention to Russia or China or, for that matter, the so-called “Democratic” Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Nigeria or Iran, I’m very glad I do not live in any of those countries. Had I done so, I would have been honour-bound to direct my darts at them, at great risk. Of course, had I lived in Africa, I may not even have had an internet connection. Had I lived in Iran, well … I would have known what most Iranians, but all too few Westerners, know: USA was the country that killed Iranian democracy (see Robert Fisk: The Great War for Civilization or at least some of his articles in the Independent.)

I live in the so-called “Democratic” part of the world, where countries consider themselves like-minded, developed, advanced, humane, etc., etc., and where populations are mostly Christian. No doubt we who live here have much to be grateful for. Nevertheless, I see no reason to harangue the diamond-rich DRC, which is universally considered one of the global epicentres of corruption, cruelty and human rights abuse. And I see no reason to harangue Russia, which is already being flogged with sanctions and threatened by the US/NATO missile defence shield.

As for China… well, they are turning out to be better than us at our own game (capitalism), but they are taking climate change seriously, and they are showing admirable restraint about Hong kong.

All the above countries are regularly derided by the media. Human rights abuses in our own back yard, however, do not always earn the attention they deserve. True, the self-defined “deeply religious” president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte shocked the world on his accession to power, by allowing the immediate liquidation of anybody suspected of being involved in the drug business (dealer or consumer).

Since then, it is becoming increasingly clear that values on our side of the table are not quite up to scratch:

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, came to power (with you know who’s warm support) not least thanks to votes from the country’s enormous evangelical community, which he earned by promising to loyally defend “traditional Christian values” (as opposed to e.g. abortion, homosexuality, etc.). One of his most important allies during the presidential campaign was the fabulously rich “Pastor” Silas Malafaia.

The ostensibly God-fearing president says he hopes ‘criminals will “die in the streets like cockroaches”, as a result of the hard-line legislation he is pushing, to shield security forces and citizens who shoot alleged offenders from prosecution.’ You will find very little in the media about this unholy alliance between an evangelical billionaire and a fascist president, and only defenceless human rights groups bother to plead the case of some of the victims.

Then there is Bolivia. After the Coup d’état, on declaring that she would be Bolivia’s interim head of state, Jeanine Añes held up a bible proclaiming something to the effect that “he” (God) was back in power. Since then, “indigenous” Bolivians have been shot at without impunity. See Amnesty International:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/bolivia-derogar-norma-

Israel’s ghastly human rights record is certainly no better than China’s, and now the US has given its blessing to the task of wiping out the Palestinian population (nearly 10% of whom were Christian in 1922)

To compound this very incomplete list of self-denominated “Democratic” and mostly Christian countries that are deviating ever more from the principles they pretend to adhere to, among them rigorous separation of powers, look at the UK: The Tories plan to “update” the Human Rights Act in order to put an “end to prosecutions of veterans over killings during The Troubles, in an attempt to protect the armed forces from vexatious prosecutions” in Northern Ireland.

Beware! Killing or maiming demonstrators and suspects is not – I repeat, NOT – commensurate with “Democratic” or even “Christian” values. Killing or maiming protesters has nothing to do with progress. It’s asking for civil war. Give them decent minimum wages, proper education and proper health care instead. That should do the trick.

Nov 182019
 

Do you pay taxes?

I bet you do unless you are unemployed. Basically, in order to avoid paying taxes, you have to be very well-to-do. Of course, you could try good old-fashioned tax evasion and risk getting caught. But you’d better be sufficiently well-healed to employ a battery of lawyers to protect you in court. My experience is that the less well-off you are, the greater is your risk of getting caught pilfering a can of beans, let alone witholding tax.

Do you like paying taxes? Most people don’t. But look on the bright side: If the well-to-do pay their fair share of taxes (which, more often than not, they don’t) they pay an awful lot more than you.

Let’s say you make USD 3000 per month and pay a 30% tax, which leaves you with USD 2100. Not very much, I grant you, considering all the expenses we have these days: the rent, health insurance, car insurance, pet insurance, dentistry, child care, halloween costumes, weddings… ?

But your boss is making – say – USD 30,000. If he pays his 30% tax, he’ll have an annual income after tax of 351,000. Not bad, I’d say. More importantly, though, his annual contribution to the common good will have been USD 9000. That’s something to be proud of!

Have you ever met a person who was in some way seriously incapacitated, yet who nevertheless managed to help others? I put to you that when we meet such people, most of us feel – if nothing else – respect.

Incapacitated people are exempted from having to live up to peer pressure. They are not expected to own, let alone pilot their own pin-striped jet planes or serve 19th century cognac. That is probably the only advantage the incapacitated have over the rest of us, who tend to scramble like mad to impress one another with profligacy.

Recently, a former president of Peru, Alan Garcia, shot himself when the police came to arrest him. He is believed to have tucked away a lot of illegally acquired money in trusts that the prosecutors won’t get at. You see, trusts have recently turned into a particularly interesting financial instrument for tax evaders and other criminals. If you read this article from the Guardian, you may end up conceding that the extent of callousness knows no limit in the upper echelons of finance. You will see that what the article explains started long before the current US presidency, so don’t blame Trump.

Some authors have romanticised the “poor”, claiming they too are exempted, claiming that they are better than the rest of us. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Or rather I doubt it.

Is the human species even worth the effort of trying to save it from the iminent climate collapse? Can we at all imagine the possibility that social standing might someday not be measured by what we consume, but by what we contribute to the common good?

What I do know, though, is that for hundreds of years, fiction – of which I have read a lot – has tended to make heroes of those who sacrifice social standing and personal wealth to serve the common good. Even in real life, there are such people! Edward Snowden appears to be one of them. With his brains and self-discipline, he could have become fabulously rich.

His deeply moving book, Permanent Record, is not fiction. I don’t know what to call it. An autobiography? Written by somebody who is barely 30 years old? No, I prefer to call it an account. To what extent can one believe his account about why he acted as he did? On the other hand, why else would he have taken such an apparently hopeless risk, which yielded him, personally, nothing but the sterility of exile.

After all I have seen and read during my lifetime, I deeply distrust the species to which I belong, with its Bolsonaros, Trumps, Bushes, Netanyahus fake news, exploitation of miners and anyone who is destitute and hungry. For decades I have witnessed, albeit only on the screen, the killing and maiming of demonstrators demanding elemental human rights. Throughout history, not least the first decades of this century, there has been so much cruelty – just think of the Yemen war and Sudan – so much callousness – the suppression of the Palestinians, the Rohingiuans, the Uighurs, the desperate refugees banging on the doors of USA and Europe…

Would I have bought a pin-striped jet plane if I could have afforded it. No!

Castle in the Air, 1928 - M.C. Escher
Copied from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/m-c-escher/castle-in-the-air

But would I, had I had the means, have bought a gorgeous mansion surrounded by a park – my park – by the sea? I honestly don’t know. I would have been a different person, wouldn’t I? Fortunately, I am spared the temptation. So maybe the poor are better.

At any rate, as long as there still are people like Edward Snowden around, it would be a great pity if the human species should go down the drain.

Having thus reached the conclusion that mankind is still worth saving (because you know that no matter how many species perish, the planet will survive and new species will evolve, but humans may not be among them) I recommend not only one, but two good reads:

Edward Snowden – Permanent Record – to maintain your faith in the human species

Naomi Klein – On Fire – which explains in a very companionable way HOW we can save the human species. For those of you who fear that Naomi Klein is a firebrand, you can listen to the book for free before you buy it.

Nov 102019
 

I should begin by making it clear that to my knowledge, Catalonia has never been a sovereign state, though until 1714, the region enjoyed a very high degree of autonomy, see the Catalan constitutions.

I am not writing this as an expression of support to Catalonian secession. With few exceptions, I find nationalism distasteful. Bullying, however, I find even more distasteful.

There are a few aspects of the conflict I would like to highlight:

  • Most importantly there is the unresolved matter of the Franco era.
  • Next there is the matter of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006 (2010)
  • Finally there is the issue of the methods the Spanish authorities use to this very day to bring the region to heal.

The build-up

The Spanish Civil War was triggered by a right-wing coup against the democratically established Republic. For centuries an arrogant aristocracy, supported by the clergy, had been living off the fat of the land – other people’s lands, that is – doing little if anything to develop anything in Spain other than its own wealth and status. When the Civil War broke out, there had been an attempt to develop agriculture and industry since the mid-nineteenth century, but the politically primitive state (mainly the crown and the succession of generals on which it leaned) virtually asphyxiated progress. The last of the generals before the establishment of the republic was Primo de Rivera, a dictator.

To this day, a tremendous monument, richly surrounded by flowers, is devoted to Primo de Rivera in Plaza de Arenal in Jerez. I put to you that Spain has a pending debt to its people: Confess!

The Franco era

The hate that had been seething in the population for decades if not centuries knew no limit during the civil war.

Not least in Catalonia (because Franco was determined to annul the region’s newly regained self-determination). Republicans killed a lot of people – often indiscriminately – not least members of the clergy. That was not nice of them, I admit, but you may be sure that the Spanish clergy had a lot to answer for.

Eventually, the Catalan fighters were killed, and not only during the war. By the thousands. Tens of thousands. Note that I am being purposefully vague about figures, both for Catalonia and for Spain as a whole.

Not that I haven’t often heard figures. For instance I just read that there are 33,000 unnamed graves in Valle de los Caídos, from which Franco was recently moved. The place was built by forced labour after the war. There was a great deal of forced labour after the war!

Why am I writing all this, you ask. Isn’t the war over? Franco has been dead since 1975, has he not? Spain is a democracy, is it not?

Yes. Yes and yes.

BUT … the outstanding debts

  • The war and the dictatorship left hundreds (if not thousands) of mass graves.
  • No effort has been made on the part of the state to establish the real number and location of persons killed by the deeply Catholic Franco administration.
  • Even long after Franco, people were afraid to talk. In recent years, we have seen a few ancient bereaved spouses and mothers finally admitting to their children what they remember. Each opened mass grave and DNA identification of the remains has cost years of legal battles.
  • There are no records, either with the church or with public authorities of who was killed, who died in prison, and who was tortured to death. Nobody even knows how many survived harsh and humiliating imprisonment and torture.
  • Nobody has had to face charges of crimes against humanity. Perpetrators have not even been discredited.
  • No compensation has been paid to the survivors; no treatment has been offered for PTSD.

You get an impression of how much Catalonia suffered during the dictatorship if you read fiction from Catalonia. Personally, I make no effort to seek out Catalonian fiction, but for many years, I have found, almost every time I look for a nice juicy crime novel to read, that the current best-seller recommended to me is Catalonian. (My favourite Catalonian author, however, is the long since deceased Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.) In almost all the books I have purchased, protagonists have relatives who were tortured and/or killed and/or disappeared during the regime. It’s not that long ago, you know.

Franco’s spirit

Franco’s officials and supporters seem to have continued whatever line of work they had previously engaged in. This includes police officers.

Moreover, there were a lot of people who in their heart of hearts missed the strait-laced form of life he imposed. Not being one of them, I must now use my imagination: Tradition. Values. Respect to elders and to the male provider. Courtesy of men to women, modesty of women to men. Subordination of women and children. And not least: Adoration of the Church and the Crown and a firm belief that the history of the Patria was “glorious”. Finally, an almost military loyalty to the centralised state. Devolution of any form or shape was anathema to them.

They still miss it, loud and clear. Their nostalgia is being nursed by the powerful Partido Popular and the rapidly growing far-right Vox. As I write, Spaniards are casting their votes, and the two right-wing parties may well turn out to be the winners.

The Statute of Autonomy

The majority of Spain’s population was immensely relieved when Spain ceased to be a dictatorship. Both the Spanish Parliament (Cortes) and the Catalonian Parliament accepted the blessedly liberating Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2006.

Not the PP. They complained to the Constitutional Court, the members of which are in essence politically elected. For four years, the court haggled over the issue, and the decision it finally reached in 2010 (to strike down 14 articles and alter 27) was not so much based on law as on the composition of the Court.

Outraged, the Catalans took to the streets.

I believe that the PP made a truly tragic mistake in contesting the Statute of Autonomy. The situation might have been put right if the Constitution had been amended to accommodate the 2006 Statute. Instead, Catalan frustration has been ridiculed and Catalan opposition has been harshly repressed. Catalans have been treated as naughty children by the national press, and the electorate outside Catalonia is becoming more chauvinistic by the day. I am fairly convinced that until 2018, the majority of Catalans were not – I repeat: NOT – in favour of secession. Certainly trade and industry were not. Now? I don’t know.

I deliver my views on this matter without referring to scholarly deliberations. The internatonal press tends to treat Spanish sensitivities kindly. After all, Spain is an EU member, and the country’s adaptation to democracy has been very impressive! The reason I am less kind is that I hope it is not too late to adopt a very different approach to the justly recalcitrant Catalonians.

Oct 192019
 

When Edward Snowden crashed into the media in 2013, the impact created more than a hiccup in the state of affairs. Do you remember what you were doing at the time? I do, and I can still feel the chill of horror that descended on the room where my colleagues and I ate our daily lunch packs. Disbelief quickly subsided as we realised that the evidence behind his story was overwhelming and that the implications were infinite. Mulling over them together, we chewed our sandwiches in near-silence, interrupted only by the occasional question that inevitably could be parsed as: “So now what?”

Given the initial impact, you might have thought that the Snowden revelations would be paradigmatic, that the world would turn slightly on its hinges and readjust its course through the ethers. After all, we don’t want to live in a global dystopia – remember Brave New World – do we?

Thinking back, there have been several moments in my lifetime which might have jolted our world enough to change its course. The Vietnam war, for instance, outraged a whole generation and brought it out onto the streets in protest. But then again, that was only in the West. Elsewhere, they had other problems. In Iran, faith in Democracy had already died, with the CIA-engineered coup against Mosaddegh. In South America, they were just starting to hope a better world was possible, when a series of CIA-engineered coups brought down one would-be democracy after another. What I’m saying is: We should long since have lost our innocence.

Yet, we go on doing what we were doing, out of habit, perhaps, or because: what else can we do? We continue watching the evening news, continue repeating the same fictions to our children. In Brave New World, people are inherently incapable of calling the authorities to account. I take the liberty of quoting Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death):

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

So after a bit of agitated humming – “look out, the NSA is watching you” – we all got back to business as usual, enmeshed as we all were – even back in 2013 – in the Google and/or Apple and/or Microsoft and/or Facebook universes. After all, how on earth could we extricate ourselves?

Personally, I have managed to stay clear of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook by using a Linux OS. But in the end, I am literally begging to be monitored by using Android, hence also Google contacts. I mean, the alternative would cost me hours of note-taking on slips of paper.

Ashamed, I bury my head in the sand and think “what the heck, I’ll be dead sooner or later, anyway”.

Edward Snowden’s book Permanent Record landed on my desk a few days ago. Let me tell you, It got my head out of the sand double quick. Even the preface jolts you.

He writes well, very well, in fact, and his line of thought is compelling, so that I follow him attentively even into descriptions of childhood minutiae. His prose is eloquent and clean, unlike that of Whitehouse spokesmen (witness the Whitehouse rendering of the run-in between Trump and Pelosi). And he has taught me a new word: conflation. It’s an important term because it refers to one of the tools used to manipulate “facts”.

This particular story is about spies and surveillance. One of the story’s main questions is: What are they for? Are they for keeping terrorists at bay or are they for consolidating the supremacy of overdogs? If you read Permanent Record, you will see it’s not just about the USA. And if you read the news (from decent outlets), you will see that what most of us consider “rule of law” is applied in only a minority of countries (source: World Justice Project)

I put to you that every one of us, even those of us who live in countries with a high rule-of-law-score, would benefit from reading Edward Snowden’s book.

Oct 062019
 

I have not previously written about drugs here, but goodness knows there is reason to raise the topic, even though we now have the climate to worry about.

We tend to be very loud when we talk about drugs. It’s a big issue. Parents worry about their children and/or grieve on behalf of a brother or colleague whose child actually fell prey to some addictive poison. Then, of course, there are the endless discussions about whether or not a substance is addictive chemically or psychologically.

There are those of us who maintain that drug addicts need help, others who clamour for their imprisonment and others who would rather see them dead.

The war on drugs imposes harsh sentences on dealers and mules, but as we all know, those who actually thrive on drug trade – the kingpins, as it were – are rarely caught. They are too rich and very much too ruthless and powerful.

Those who pay the greatest price for the war on drugs are the innumerable murder victims in Central and South America, innocent by-standers for the most part, but also judges, human rights activists and even priests.

Tax payers in Western countries also pay a great deal without realising that what they are paying makes no dent in the amount of cocaine and heroin that is brought into our countries, the astronomical sums our kids pay for the stuff, and the fabulous profits enjoyed by the kingpins, whether they live to all appearances innocent lives here, or far away.

I put to you the plight of a town in Southern Europe where registered unemployment is 32.4%. I must add that those who are not eligible for unemployment benefits may see no reason to register, so the real number of unemployed will be much larger. What I’m saying is that many young people in such places see no future for themselves. They have to live with their parents, cannot form their own families and should not have children. They cannot go on vacation, cannot buy a car or anything else, for that matter, and tend to grow listless. They give up. Those who were young when the financial crisis broke are nearing middle-age now, and still unemployed. Turning to drugs is in a sense an act of despair, a form of slow suicide. Putting these people in prison is probably totally ineffectual.

On the other hand, you have societies in rich countries such as in Scandinavia, where many kids turn to drugs out of boredom or peer pressure. I’m not sure putting them in prison would help either.

There is no doubt that the war on drugs has been a total failure, but there is no consensus as to the alternative. So we continue dedicating the best part of our policing efforts to it.

Personally, I believe that the drugs problem can and should be solved. Doing so, however, would require a completely different approach. I’ll leave it there for now.

Sep 172019
 

Do you remember when you started having opinions of a political nature? I do. I was about 15 when I started taking an interest in international affairs. Let me admit that I was going to a very good international school. We were even trained to debate positions that we did not necessarily hold. We had to read up on them, naturally.

My own personal opinions mirrored those of my father, whom I considered eminently respectable. He took pride in not being “biased” so he would present his views in the following manner: On the one hand, you have… and on the other hand, there is… .

This seemed an admirable approach, so I tried to be “unbiased” too, until I discovered that he was a loyal supporter of a political party and that the views I had developed on the basis of his approach were not unbiased at all. By then, I was 16-17, and we had some pretty hefty arguments.

I am writing this much about myself because I think that for most of us, political outlook is initially based on that of our parents, then on whatever analytical training we get at school, and then…

… well, then things start to get a little fuzzy. For most of us, the guiding light will be the media, and our opinions will basically echo those voiced by the media we are attracted to, including social media. Some of us make friends from the other side or perhaps even travel to the other side, whatever side that may be. But it goes without saying that most of us will hold “mainstream” opinions, i.e. the opinions voiced by mainstream media.

Now what are mainstream media? In Norway, the main news outlets, apart from the National Broadcasting Company, are owned by the Schibsted Group. Among the newspapers it owns are the most “respectable” one (Aftenposten) and the far less respectable but bestselling VG. Both are obviously available online. So the majority of people in Norway will hold views that tend to be voiced by these two very different news outlets.

It is true that if you read either of them, you will find a range of opinions, but I would be able to list, without hesitation, a few of my own that you would only rarely find. If you ask the editorial boards of the papers in question why they do not more frequently print articles advocating that we leave NATO, they will reply: Only 10 % of the population votes for a party that wants us to leave NATO.

Now, let me remind you of the chicken and egg causality dilemma:

  • Why do people vote for parties that do or do not want the nation to be part of NATO? How are they informed?
  • Who stands to gain from our continuing to be a NATO member? How do they make sure voters continue to endorse membership?
  • Why would anybody bother to invest in a newspaper? (If I were rich, I would lay my eggs in another basket.)

Above I wrote: “Some of us make friends from the other side or perhaps even travel to the other side, whatever side that may be.” I did just that. I made friends from other sides and I travelled to other sides. One of the other sides I travelled to was Chile. I was advised that El Mercurio was THE respectable paper. I ask you to please listen to the story told on this link:

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2019/09/talk-chile-el-mercurio-190914083123442.html

Sep 142019
 

Jeg har skrevet om Ketil Bjørnstad før. Det er langt fra alt han har gjort som griper meg. For å være ærlig så har jeg hverken lest eller hørt mer enn en brøkdel av hans kolossale produksjon, nettopp fordi jeg vet det – vet at ikke alt vil gripe meg. Men jeg beundrer hans evne til å kunne formulere nesten hva det skal være.

Jeg vil være ham evig takknemlig for boka “Jæger”, ikke fordi Jæger i utgangspunktet interesserte meg, men fordi Bjørnstads tilnærming til genren biografi var banebrytende og befriende. Synd at det må ha kostet ham så utrolig mye kildearbeid at få som behersker språket i den grad han gjør, vil orke å gå i hans fotspor.

Jeg hadde lest to bind av “Verden som var min”, men hadde ikke tenkt å lese flere. Bind V er en mastodont av en bok om tiåret 2000-2010 slik det så ut fra Bjørnstads ståsted. Men så kom jeg over 1) en nedlatende anmeldelse av boka i en hovedstadsavis og 2) Arild Rønsens panegyriske oppfordring i Klassekampen til å lese den. Hm, tenkte jeg. Her er det noe som ikke stemmer. Dette må jeg sjekke.

Jeg lånte boken, men da jeg var kommet omtrent halveis i den, var det like før jeg returnerte den. Første halvdel var en oppramsing av ærefulle konsertoppdrag med verdensberømtheter, og møter med kjendiser som Liv Ullman. Han var på fornavn med alle, snakket pent om alle og jeg, som leser, kjedet meg. Han forsikret dessuten med jevne mellomrom at han ikke kunne fatte at man ønsket å ha ham, “Bjørnstad-gutten”, med på laget. Jeg ble trett av det jeg oppfattet som påtatt beskjedenhet.

Men så, omtrent halvveis, skjer det noe. Han blir far, og her begynner ting og tang å rocke. Ganske forsiktig, til å begynne med, etterhvert med større trøkk. Først kommer kattungen Kaos inn i livet hans, som et forvarsel på hva som skjer med et menneske når det får ansvar for et levende men hjelpeløst vesen.

Fra nå av blir den elskverdige mannen stadig oftere både utålmodig, gretten og regelrett sint. Ikke på barnet! Nei, men som mange nybakte foreldre blir han umiddelbart nesten panisk klar over at den lille en dag vil måtte klare seg uten foreldre. Ulikt mange andre, utvikler han som et slags forsvar av barnet et særdeles klart blikk for hva som skjer rundt familien. Det slår meg at hans reaksjon minner om våre forfedres: de måtte være våkne for ytre farer som fiendtlige stammer og rovdyr, mens “normalen” i dag tvertimot er å låse seg inn i polstrede hjem med innbruddsalarm.

Det som ikke stemmer er at nå er “Bjørnstad-gutten” på offensiven, altså fra andre halvdel av boka. Og det bør ikke forundre noen at en Bjørnstad på offensiven ikke faller i alles smak. Han kan virkelig få sagt både det ene og det andre så det svir; i alle fall for dem som blir rammet.

Tårene triller når jeg leser om foreldrenes sakte nedtang til dødsriket. Inntil nå har har han vært tilbakeholden om dem – han er ingen Knausgård, for å si det slik. Han har måttet skrive om dem i alle bindene fordi de tross alt er viktige i hans liv, men leseren har skjønt at mye er utelatt. Men så skjer det ting som er “utenfor vår makt”, som det heter. Force majeur. Nå kan han sette inn trykket ved å beskrive livets slutt i et moderne Oslo – og jeg får gåsehud! – og ved å hevde foreldrenes verdighet selv når de står med ryggen mot veggen. Han reiser flagget, kan man si. Slaget er tapt, men flagget vaier likevel.

Selv har jeg på disse sidene for det meste skrevet om forhold annetsteds i verden. Jeg har ønsket å tro at mitt land er en grønn og fredfull øy i verdens ufred. I Bind V bebreider Ketil Bjørnstad seg for å ha vært feig. Jeg antar han mener at han har vært redd for å gjøre seg upopulær. Jeg har også vært feig. Det skyldes delvis min lojalitet til min arbeidsgiver – til syvende og sist staten. Jeg har ønsket å tro på mitt land og jeg har langt på vei klart det. Men i det jeg har slitt meg gjennom mastodonten Bind V, blir det klart for meg at mye her til lands ikke er slik vi tror og ønsker å tro.

Jeg hører at kommentariatet beklager utfallet av det nylig overståtte valget og kaller det en utfordring for demokratiet. Jeg har derimot ikke hørt snev av selvkritikk fra de tradisjonelle partiene. Vi har for eksempel visst om de menneskeskapte klimaforandringene i mange tiår nå, og burde ha satset på massiv utbygging av kollektivtilbudet i like mange tiår. Da hadde vi sluppet bompengesaken. Er det rart at de unge stemmer MDG? Høyre og AP har jo vist at de ikke var velgernes tillit verdig.

Konklusjon: Jeg kan bare gjenta oppfordringen fra Arild Rønsen: Les Bind V av “Verden som var min”!

Til Ketil Bjørnstad: Skulle noen noensinne overlevere en beskjed til deg fra Pelshvalen, så er beskjeden denne: Takk for Jæger og for Bind V og, fra én musikkelsker til en annen, hør på Georgisk polifoni. Et sted å begynne er Rustavi-koret.

Aug 162019
 

I went to a demonstration today. Yes. I haven’t done that since I was a kid, but today I went. Why? Because I felt shame. Here’s the story:

The other day, a young man shot his way into a mosque. Yes, here! In this supremely peaceful country! Fortunately, nobody was killed, because two old and unarmed men who had been praying in the mosque were able to overpower the would-be killer more or less as soon as he got in.

The news spawned shock waves in the media; pictures of the two white-haired heroes, looking dazed by all the attention, and incessant interviews with senior police officers: Who? Why? How?

Now we know. He is a 21-year-old white supremacist from one of the wealthier outskirts of the capital. He is so far being charged with terrorism and murder. Oh yes, on that same day, he had apparently killed his half sister, who is of East Asian extraction.

The following day was the religious holiday Eid-al-Adha, and many Muslims worried that going to their Mosque might, from now on, be dangerous. So a number of people, from all religious denominations – including, I understand, Jews – and of all political colours, went down town, to the country’s largest mosque, to form a circle, a human shield, around it.

I saw it on the news. People forming the human shield just stood close to the walls of the mosque, surrounding it, silently holding small signs bearing messages of encouragement to those who wanted to go in and pray. I also saw the expressions on some of those who came to pray, and they were moved. So was I, watching them on TV. And I was ashamed, because it had not even occurred to me to go down town to symbolically protect the Mosque.

That was why I attended a demonstration today, an expression of warmth to all those who have travelled far physically and emotionally, who have crossed tremendous barriers to become my compatriots.

During the speeches, I fantasised. What if the white supremacists had also demonstrated, had marched down the town’s long, straight main avenue bearing their slogans, what would have happened? I knew, at least, what I would have wanted to happen.

***

Spectators would have been lining the avenue long before the slogan-bearing gang approached. The spectators would be waiting, chatting amiably, eating ice creams or playing with their phones. Oldies like me would have brought collapsible stools on which to sit and wait.

I see the slogan-bearing gang approach. Every once in a while, they chant something or other, raise a fist in the air and walk more or less in step. People around me fall silent, put away their phones and stare at the approaching army. Closer and closer it comes. Suddenly, I notice that there are so many of us that we cannot help touching one another. We stand literally shoulder by shoulder. Some of us exchange glances, others don’t, but we all look mostly in the same direction, and the marchers approach.

Now we can hear what they are chanting. I have of course risen from my collapsible stool, which I have folded and slung across my shoulder. I stand tall and straight, white-haired among the golden, black, light brown, dark brown and grey heads. We are all staring sternly at the heavy-booted men – mostly men, yes – and we notice that the expressions in their faces are almost all the same. We notice, in fact, that very much about them is all the same, and I, for one, feel that my mouth has contracted into a thin streak.

Finally, they are there, just ready to pass us.

Nobody attacks them. Nobody even says anything. Our lips all seem to be glued together. But as I feel the shoulder on my right side move, I look at the person beside me and see she has turned her back to the horde. The person in front of me is turning his back to the horde and is looking at me. I turn my back to the horde and now face the woman behind me, who turns her back to the horde, and the person on my left has already got the point and those behind and in front of her as well.

I cannot see it, since my back is turned, but what meets the army of white supremacist brats is a silent wall of human backsides.

Aug 052019
 

I have written elsewhere on this site that we all should do our utmost to form a protective ring around the “Reporters sans frontiers” (RSF) and other journalists who risk their necks to tell us what is going on.

At the same time, I abhor those who kill, maim or otherwise persecute people on the grounds of religion or ethnicity, or to steal land. Those people are indeed terrorists, as the two US mass killers last weekend, and should be captured, indicted on charges of terrorrism and sentenced.

Unfortunately, many nations and states treat non-violent political opposition as terrorism. Though my country does not do that, its servility to USA is awkward (an example of which is here, again from the Intercept, bless them). The US enjoys a warm relationship with a number of repressive regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, and has played a sinister role in Central and Latin America for decades. The country’s president takes action against people of Latin American or Middle Eastern extraction, although mass shootings in USA are mostly committed by right-wing extremists.

So what to do? On the one hand, we want to support law enforcement efforts to monitor electronic devices used by the real terrorists and other criminals who ruin people’s lives. On the other hand, we want to protect those who expose, for instance, serious profit-motivated deception, (cf. the health service in USA). We also want to protect those who are brave enough to voice protests against repressive authorities (cf. demonstrators in Moscow these days).

How can we do both? The answer, as I see it is: We can’t.

Compare another dichotomy: How can western countries maintain current living standards while at the same time taking the steps that are required to avert or deal with climate collapse.

The answer as I see it is: We can’t.

In this latter case, to avoid future implosion of whole states, there will have to be wealth redistribution, as there was in WWI and WWII. Draconian measures will be required. Those with greater wealth (i.e. with more to spare) will have to provide more than those with less, like it or not.

Those with more to spare don’t know that yet, and there will be much time wasted, many political battles, and probably more fascism before the tide turns.

Meanwhile, I put to you that the greatest of the dangers that faces our children and grandchildren is NOT terrorism and NOT crime, but climate collapse; oh, and yes, fascism. Fascism throttles knowledge and prohibits political activism. Fascism is state terrorism compounded by terrorism from armed militias trying to overthrow fascist governments. People fall silent and mind their own businesses, hoping that they and their children will survive the next week. We don’t need that.

What we need is the opposite: We need a boisterous majority that reads up on climate change, holds caucuses to discuss what to do and stridently demands that appropriate preventive measures be taken by our governments NOW. And by the way, we also need a vociferous minority that will have no part in such activism. In short, what we need is knowledge and solidarity, not repression and not electoral circuses.