Sep 232022

Those of us who can still bear to read, watch or listen to the news do so at our own risk. The emotional cost of learning, day after day, that just about everything is going from bad to even worse is high. This morning, I learnt that ten per cent of all Norwegians use sleeping pills. I hasten to add that Norwegians are health freaks (they jog, ski, exercise in gyms, eat sensibly and don’t drink alcoholic beverages on weekdays). The real intake of sleeping pills is probably much higher since many people buy prescription drugs in countries that are less restrictive. Add to that all the people who have several glasses of wine before they go to bed – a new trend in Norway.

“The News”, as we used to call it back in our days of innocence, when grown-ups would gather around the radio to hear what was going on in the world, was implicitly trusted. It was, we were told, fact, not conjecture, hence not biased.

For my part, I make a point of regularly reading/watching/listening to Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera caters to people with business interests, but is not Euro-/US-centric. Also, they run very interesting debates to which they invite people of all ideological shades. Nevertheless, I was very surprised to see, among the list of Al Jazeera headlines on my phone app: “Degrowth is not austerity – it is actually just the opposite”.

Mind you, this turned out to be only an “opinion” piece (which I read jubilantly). Still, it had been given a prominent place, and that was truly good news. Maybe parts of the business world are starting to understand a thing or two.

Now, have you heard about “degrowth”? You probably wouldn’t have if you rely only on mainstream news outlets, where degrowth is considered a four-letter word. To the extent it is uttered, it is perfunctorily slated, because degrowth would mean the end of … – well, a lot of things. It would, however, save the planet and save those of us (including other species) who are still around. Most of us would even fare very much better than we do today, said the opinion piece.

Cheered by finding it in Al Jazeera, I decided to give degrowth another chance. (I had previously dismissed it as being wishful thinking: Those greedy fools who own most of the world would never allow it, I thought.) So I bought a book that has swept me off my feet. I recommend it to you with all my heart. It will make you feel that maybe there is hope after all. Don’t be frightened by the fact that the preface is written by members of Extinction Rebellion. The author is called Jason Hickel – he must be the smartest guy in town – any town. I say no more.

The book is called:


Enjoy, and have a much better day!

Sep 132022

from Harold Pinter’s “Nobel Lecture”
on his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 2005



… that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: ‘Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.’

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.’ There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: ‘But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?’

Seitz was imperturbable. ‘I don’t agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,’ he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: ‘The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.’

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren’t perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.

But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what’s called the ‘international community’. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be ‘the leader of the free world’. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man’s land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You’re either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. ‘A grateful child,’ said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. ‘When do I get my arms back?’ he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn’t holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you’re making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm’s way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.


I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.


I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Sep 112022

The problem – one of the problems – is that nobody quite knows how to solve this mess. On the one hand the European sanctions against Russia are bringing Europe to its knees. On the other hand, the entire world is completely unprepared for the meteorological disasters that are thrashing country after country in spite of serious warnings over a period of 40 years.

The powers that be – i.e. politicians of all colours, mainstream economists, financiers and major corporations have betrayed the rest of us. Social media and the press – from which public opinion takes its cue – have failed disastrously. The USA wants to pulverise Julian Assange for allegedly damaging US interests; but what about all the individuals and institutions who have effectively fanned global climate collapse?

Now, those of us who can still bear to read the news finally understand, and we want to contribute our bit, but how? By refraining from eating meat? Will that solve anything? Obviously, Liz Truss does not know. Nor does the Labour Party, I’m afraid, in the UK or anywhere else. All the leading political parties have swallowed the neo-liberal bullshit. (I refuse to apologise for using a word that is accurate.)

They have all put their faith in technology, commodification, an unfettered free market and – in the case of Europe, the EU. I will not deny EU achievements, such as a more than welcome rise in living standards in the poorest EU countries. On the other hand, the EU is a technocracy that arguably suffers from a Democratic deficit.

The EU is at war. The EU is fighting for the USA, for NATO, and we will all go down together, as Billy Joel sang with reference to the Vietnam war.

The Democratic deficit has become all the more glaring now that we see that we are headed for a very bad place. Europeans feel like cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse. Voting for somebody else will just get us more “business as usual”.

For example: Yes, we must cease to squander water and electricity, but does that warrant colossal price hikes on water and electricity? Wouldn’t rationing be a preferable option? I’m sure Liz Truss and her ilk can afford the price hikes. But for the majority of Europeans, it would be better to limit water and energy usage to a few hours a day than to turn us into street beggars.

All the other tremendous “climate” questions are elephants on the rampage. There are lots of people with lots and lots of expertise and knowledge, but they are not – it seems – asked, and far less heard. There are even economists who dispute the neo-liberal narrative (e.g. Thomas Piketty). The issues, ideas, suggestions are all there, hanging in the air, but they are not aired, not explained, not properly discussed. In short, we’ve been had. Unless we take matters into our own hands, we will all – Europeans, Africans, Americans and Asians – go down together, victims of cyclones, fires, food shortages, droughts, floods and – not least – poverty.

We look after ourselves and our families, assuming that governments look after society and the planet. It should be clear for all to see, at last, that they do no such thing. Governments look after themselves too. The system, in short, is not working.

Something entirely different is called for.

Aug 242022

War is more than collapsed buildings, deaths, and lots of people maimed for life. It is also paralysed infrastructure. We have just seen the beginning of the war with Russia. We have not seen the end of it.

As I write tonight, I find myself without internet. The internet service provider assures me that the break is due to a ruptured cable. That may well be the case, but what is also the case is that it could have been caused by Russia. Russia might yet decide to create havoc on our electrical grid, our water mains, etc. After all, war is war, and we (Europe) are in it, contributing in a big way to its perpetuation.

So we may all wake up one day to find that we have no Internet, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Google… That would be scary! But what if we have no water? In much of Europe, water is coming to an end due to droughts and heat waves. What if it disappeared altogether?

Russia has made it clear that they do not want to precipitate a nuclear disaster. Nor do “we”, obviously. But disasters do happen. And there are other forms of disasters that most of us lack the imagination to envisage. Such disasters are truly disastrous – not least for the allegedly innocent party.

Are we an innocent party? You might be interested in what Jeffrey D. Sachs has to say about that.

Yesterday, I spoke with compatriots who complained: “We were used to differences being sorted out with diplomacy and dialogue, and suddenly Russia attacks us!”. Was that really what happened? Did “we” (NATO/EU), prior to this war, really try to sort out differences with Russia with dialogue?

After the war started, did “we” belatedly try to halt its progress, settle differences?

In countries at war, dissidence is not tolerated. In Russia, individuals openly expressing opposition to the war are being arrested. In my country this is not yet the case, since no dissident voices are heard at all. Hence dissidence represents no threat to the powers that be. On the contrary: Support for NATO has never been greater in this country. I am tempted to maintain that the propaganda machine is more effective in Norway than in Russia

That, Mr Putin, is something you should consider. You may win the war in Ukraine, you will probably see Europe reduced to indigence, but you will be facing the hatred of Europeans.

Does Mr Putin care? Do we care? Alas, war turns us into primitives.

Aug 172022

Do you sometimes come out of a building and feel that the world outside is somehow unreal? Maybe if you have been very immersed in your work, or if you have seen an engrossing film or even just read a thrilling saga?

Recently, I have had that feeling almost every day, but not when I relocate between physical spaces. No, I am discombobulated by a sense of unreality every time I enter the space of – the enormous space of – mass media.

During Covid, we clung to mass media, not only for entertainment. Banned from the real world, many of us had to resort to laptops, mobile phones and TVs, to see a beach, cows in a field, and the delightful hubbub of a train station. We even turned to broadcasting outlets for comfort and reassurance.

In my country, the benign, familiar face of one of our news anchors would remind us every evening to maintain a two-metre distance distance, wash our hands thoroughly, and wear the mask properly. We would anxiously wait for the daily figures (remember the Worldometer?) – active cases, critical cases, deaths…. Almost every evening, the news included a brief lesson, such as “How to put on your mask”, “How to wash your hands”, “How to sneeze”, “What to do when you feel ill”.

In Norway, there was hardly any political opposition to government imposed measures regarding Covid. In fact, there was practically no political debate at all during the Covid regime.

We hoped, month after month after month, that it would soon end, that this was only a parenthesis in our normality, but it lasted for two years. Strictly speaking, it is still not entirely over. And we all know that it will happen again. And again.

Yet, we return with a vengeance to a semblance of normality, to a pretence of normality – to the realm of make-belief. News anchors are still telling us that everything is fine, except of course in Ukraine, but we will all do our bit to help Ukraine, and everything will soon be all right there too. Of the looming energy crisis in Europe, particularly in Germany and UK and of the numerous apocalyptic fires devouring hundreds of square kilometres (yes, kilometres, not acres) of forest, not to mention homes… hardly a word. As for the tension in South-East Asia – all China’s fault, of course, just as the war in Ukraine is all Russia’s fault – we choose to hope that justice will prevail, and justice is, of course, on our side. No doubt about that, at least.

There are doubts, though, fears even. Not about justice’s being on our side. We are, after all, like all human inhabitants, inculcated with certain values. (Inculcation is just a polite word for indoctrination – which, of course, is only practised by “Commies” (i.e. the Russians and Chinese). So justice is no doubt on our side, and we believe in progress, and just look at what science has accomplished, even in our lifetime.

Yet, something feels wrong, and definitely not right. Deep down, under our apparent complacence, there is angst. Everywhere.

Overnight, in my country, the mainstream press has become monolithic. Faced with a common enemy, Covid, the competing news outlets joined forces. Now that the threat of Covid may or may not be over, there are still threats, most notably that of Russia. Russia stands accused, and no news outlet or newspaper will allow the defendant to state his case.

As for the rest of us, we all know that the government is and has always been lying about the energy situation and about the urgency of the climate situation, yet, we put up with increasing militarisation, the theft of our hydroelectic energy and the refusal to seriously cut back emissions. Every evening, the benign, familiar face of one of our news anchors still tells us that everything is fine except for the people in Ukraine, and since most of us feel, for some reason or another, more kindly towards Ukrainians than to Syrians, we hope and believe that NATO’s defence of democracy and liberty will prevail.

Jul 312022

The title of this post is long, but I shall make up for that with a body text that is commensurately brief.

I put to you that almost all human beings


  • enough to eat three times a day
  • a bed to sleep in (without bedbugs)

do not want:

  • to fear for their children
  • to fear being assaulted when they sleep

I could make both lists very much longer, but I am sticking to the most basic of basics, because even at this most basic of basic levels, we – that is, almost all human beings – are heading in the wrong direction. Those who never had enough to eat, will be eating even less. Those whose only fear for their children was that they might get hooked on drugs or that the girls might get raped will now have far greater worries.

War games may be fun on computers, but they are not fun in real life. Climate change is not even fun on computers, and it is devastating for farmers, for the victims of hurricanes, floods and fires, for domestic and wild animals, even for whales and surfers. Climate change is or will be – in the shorter rather than the long run – hell on earth. You may or may not believe me – or rather, you might as well, because … Climate change is not linear, it is ex-po-nen-tial.

The global Earth Overshoot Day fell on 28 July this year.

What are we doing about it? What are the people to whom we entrusted the responsibility of leading our countries doing about it? They are militarising. Against each other (i.e. not against climate change).

I promised to make this brief, and I intend to keep my promise, because there are people who know far more about militarisation than I do.

I urge you to take a look at this site:

Jul 252022

If the West has presented a narrative that gives a clear, recognisable picture of reality, why should it so adamantly suppress the Russian narrative, which is that USA is waging, and has long been preparing a proxy war against Russia?

Likewise, had Zelensky’s narrative given a clear recognisable picture of reality, why should he have closed down TV channels, nationalising the remaining TV channels to create a single “united news”, and why should he have banned 11 political parties, including the largest opposition party – whose former leader has, incidentally, been arrested and is being held in custody without a trial. Why is Zelensky prosecuting hundreds of people for treason, including Bakanov, chief of the security service.

Interestingly, Bakanov was head of Kvartal 95, the company founded by Zelensky, whose partners were implicated with him – i.e. Zelensky – in the Pandora Papers. You didn’t know that Zelensky was one of the heads of state that was exposed in the Pandora Papers?

Ukraine was and is a fabulously corrupt country. One of the main fixtures of Ukrainian corruption has been the oligarch Mr Kolomoisky, accused of all sorts of financial crimes, who has been Zelensky’s main backer, so much so that the IMF refused at length to grant Ukraine a loan because of ties between the two men.

I am linking to an article in the New York Times about Mr. Kolomoisky, which you may not be able to read (unless you are a NY Times subscriber). In 2014, he financed a pro-government militia against the East Ukrainian separatists. I quote the N.Y. Times:

But Mr. Kolomoisky, widely seen as Ukraine’s most powerful figure outside government, given his role as the patron of the recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, has experienced a remarkable change of heart: It is time, he said, for Ukraine to give up on the West and turn back toward Russia.

“They’re stronger anyway. We have to improve our relations,” he said, comparing Russia’s power to that of Ukraine. “People want peace, a good life, they don’t want to be at war. And you” — America — “are forcing us to be at war…

… the United States is simply using Ukraine to try to weaken its geopolitical rival. “War against Russia,” he said, “to the last Ukrainian.” Rebuilding ties with Russia has become necessary for Ukraine’s economic survival, Mr. Kolomoisky argued.

I should tress that the article is dated November 13, 2019, long before the war even started.

Speaking of fraud and Zelensky’s attitude to corruption in Ukraine, you should also take a look at a Washington Post Article dated March 17, 2020. Obviously, the article would not have been published today, nor the one I linked to in N.Y. Times. My point being: Whatever else Zelensky might be, he certainly is not the shining prince of democracy he is made out to be by the western press today.

Fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, etc – financial crimes – are all very complicated businesses, so complicated that reading the details about Zelensky’s network is terribly strenuous. We are tempted to jump to the next section, which is a pity, because financial crimes are real, they are serious and they undermine everything some of us still believe in.

They say that Russia underestimated Ukrainian nationalism and hence Ukrainian resistance. That may very well be true. I have no doubt that Ukrainians resented the political suppression of the Soviet era, and that they longed to get out of the USSR. Nevertheless, I know that a very large segment of the Ukrainian population spoke Russian, felt Russian and thought Russian until fairly recently. Hard to tell, exactly, just how large a segment, and for just how long. There has been a concerted effort on the part of the Ukrainian authorities, to “Ukrainianise” the country, i.e. to suppress all that is Russian, including the language. This process is referred to on the Russian side as “genocide” – to my mind, a ludicrous misnomer. Nevertheless, the pressure on Russian speakers will no doubt have been considered repressive.

My experience is that if you whip a recalcitrant child, it will hate you – silently, perhaps, but implacably. Suppression of an ethnic group is usually not a good idea. Military violence against a country that considers itself a country is usually not a good idea either.

On the other hand, how will a country react to being forced to sacrifice its male population in an absolutely pointless, hopeless and interminable war that could have been avoided?

Of course, every attempt is made in the West, to conceal the fact that the war could have been avoided, but in the long run, maybe Ukrainians will understand they’ve been had, not only by Russia but by USA/NATO/EU as well. We shall perhaps see a very angry army of widows.

For years, international analysts, and even advisers to the White House, not to mention historians, have warned USA/NATO: stay away from Ukraine. Anybody who knows anything about Russian history must know that Ukraine is not a coveted object of Russian imperialism, it is and has always been felt, by the Russians, to be at the very heart of Russia. I leave it there for you: Go study the history of Russia.

That USA/NATO chose to disregard those warnings must be considered a slap in the face by the Russians (and certainly not just by Putin); or should I say “another” slap in the face, because there have been many since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Have you not heard of them? I suspect you might not, because that is something the Western press chooses to not write about, just as it doesn’t write about Zelensky and the Pandora papers.

You may argue that Russia is, politically, a nasty piece of work – with too many political prisoners – and I whole-heartedly agree with you!

But in USA with its soft-talking lying, cheating, slippery, vile and cynical financial elite, there are too many too-poor people and too many people in prison. Most of the prisoners are where they are, not because of their views, but because of their colour and/or their poverty. In fact USA has the largest number of prisoners in the world, larger even than China, and not just per capita. Far larger than Russia. That is neither “narrative” nor fairytale: that is a fact.

Jul 152022

The other day, I tried to explain to my sister-in-law that USA/NATO had effectively been provoking the Russians over a long period of time . The person I was talking to was non other than my sister-in-law. She smiled and said, “well, you would say that, wouldn’t you – you like Putin.”

“I what?!!!”

“Well, at least you don’t like USA.”

It is true that I don’t like plutocracies; nor do I like oligarchies. Both control the dominant narrative within their respective hegemonic spheres.

In a recent interview, John Pilger – still alive and going strong, bless him – complained about the rapidly shrinking narrative space for journalists. He contemptuously referred to western coverage of the Ukraine war as an unprecedented “tsunami of jingoism” with which the media was “utterly consumed”.

Just so: “utterly consumed”. Mainstream media, which is what “respectable people” heed, and social media – from which also less “respectable” people take their cues – are all “utterly consumed” with this single monolithic story: Putin is a monster that pounced on the innocent little Democracy Ukraine which we are honour-bound to defend to the last Ukrainian.

How on earth has this story become so entrenched against all odds – in spite of so very many incontrovertible facts that belie it?

The late 1980s saw the publication of “Manufacturing Consent. The Political Economy of the Mass Media”. For young people advocating change and progress, this book has for decades been an eye-opener all over the world, while the establishment reacted once and for all with a lot of slamming of doors.

Three decades down the road, the advertising industry has developed the manufacture of consent – i.e. an understanding of how to control what we think, what we believe, what we fear, what we want – to a level so sophisticated as to make us faint-hearted. Yet, I want to honour the authors Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman (not the least faint-hearted) for demonstrating that propaganda is, here, there and everywhere, a tool used to serve geopolitical, ideological and corporate needs; not least in the so-called free world.

I would urge you to study an enlightening analysis in the Huffington Post called “Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Marketing, Manipulation & The American Mind” by Samuel C. Spitale.

It starts with a safe outline of the obvious, but as he gets into the finer print, I think you will find it interesting regardless of your geopolitical views. The fact that the article dates back to 2017 and seems totally oblivious to the existence of countries outside USA makes it no less relevant as a study of 2022 jingoism and manufacture of consent.

For non-US examples, I add a semi-humorous list compiled by Caitlin Johnstone of some of the “false narratives ” with which “the political/media class pummels our consciousness day in and day out”.

  • We live in a free and democratic society
  • Your government is your friend
  • Capitalism is totally working just fine
  • Putin is trying to take over the world
  • Maduro must go
  • Assad must go
  • The governments of Iran, North Korea, and every other nation which doesn’t bow to imperialist interests must go
  • Assange is a rapist Nazi Russian agent who mistreated his cat so it’s good he’s locked up
  • The TV would never lie to you

I must say I’d never heard the one about TV, but the others are all too familiar.

Meanwhile, in Chile, people have opened the gates for an entirely different kind of narrative. Whether or not the new draft Constitution will be approved by the national plebiscite scheduled for 4 September remains to be seen. You may be sure, there are very powerful forces dead set against it, as the richest percentile stands to lose a great deal. For instance, Article 25 stipulates:

Es deber del Estado asegurar la igualdad de trato y oportunidades. En Chile no hay persona ni grupo privilegiado.

I’ve read a lot of legalese in my time, but I’ve never seen anything quite like that: beautiful and simple. Every man, woman and child – presuming they can read – will understand those two sentences. It will take years to implement them, but people will know their rights.

Jul 112022

During the seventies, feminists maintained that if women had power, there would be no wars. Women, feminists claimed, know that food on the table is more important than guns. After all, we can’t eat corpses. Back then, of course, many women spent most of their lives cooking, cleaning and looking after children. But now, with so many women in power – women who never even have to boil a potato and who delegate the care of their children to underpaid strangers – it would seem that women are no better.

Mind you, I’m all for women’s equal rights. Unequivocally so! It’s just that – well, women are no better, that’s all. Look at von der Leyen and Nancy Pelosi, hawks of the first order. Nancy Pelosi, for one, should know that the greatest threats to USA are not the Chinese nor the Russians, but domestic problems. Serious domestic problems. She knows! But she is bluffing, hoping to keep the Democratic Party morale up against all odds.

Domestic problems, yes, and the global climate crisis, which is still just nibbling away at the edges of human existence, not least in the continent we all initially came from, Africa; but it will come roaring over us, all of us, including the Chinese and the Russians unless we get our acts together. We’ve had foretastes in the shape of forest fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, cyclones, mass migrations, power outages… – but in the end, we’ll know all of the above and more, at once and everywhere. You don’t believe me? Not my problem, really, because I’ll be gone soon, and I’m not religious, so if the human species doesn’t survive, that won’t bother me much. I will point out, however, in case you have forgotten, that even today, long after Freud, denialism is still considered a serious obstacle to rational problem solving.

To be frank, it is my problem, too, because I really hate seeing people suffer. Also in the US, people are suffering and have been suffering for decades. Decades! And your politicians haven’t done a thing about it, too busy defending the neoliberal economic order and, more recently, too obsessed with the idea of recovering the country’s irreversibly lost hegemony. The Biden administration’s proposed fiscal budget for 2023 includes spending USD 813 BILLION on “defence and national security”, but apparently both houses of Congress will demand to spend more (yes, more not less!). USD 813 billion is more than was spent on “defence and national security” during any year of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and more than what is spent by China and Russia and the 7 next top military spenders combined.

More than half of what US Americans paid to the military last year, about $2,000 per taxpayer, according to an analysis by the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies…..will have gone to giant weapons contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, along with thousands of smaller arms-making firms.

People in Europe are also suffering now, and will suffer more because of this stupid war of attrition against Russia. And of course Ukraine is suffering terribly, having been tricked into waging a war it cannot win. Mind you, Russia is not – repeat NOT – suffering. The sanctions on Russian gas and fertilisers and wheat, etc. are bringing Europe (but not Russia) to its knees. That will not – repeat NOT – benefit USA, because who will buy products from the US when Europe’s purchasing power has been reduced to pennies? There will still be Australians, of course.

USA has its holier than the Bible+Talmud+Koran so-called constitutional amendments. The defence of these “amendments” is reminiscent of religious fundamentalists’ vindication of “laws” imposed many centuries ago, laws that might have made sense at the time when they were adopted, but that are completely out-of-time and out-of-place today, in short downright nefarious.

Guns! Good heavens, how ludicrous! How pathetic! Above all, how sick! Frankly I prefer an honest hurricane, which at least reminds survivors that we – women and men – are not omnipotent.