My silence on this blog of late has, I've realised, not been because I have nothing to say but because I have wanted to say too much. Much as I delighted in the idea of blogging when I first started, I have now found it rather limiting. It has been good to react to items in the news and give my own personal take and also to reflect on my own journey with Inanna. I am glad to have had that opportunity.
Lately, however, I've found that whenever I sit to write here I do not know where to start. My personal journey is interesting to me but often repetitious. I go through the same old scripts and come up with insights which, although they have struck me with new force and clarity, appear very much the same as older ones. My life is not a linear thing but more of a spiral - ever returning to what appears from one viewpoint to be the same place but which to me is entirely new. Words are two dimensional - or at least my ability to use them is - and cannot adequately distinguish between one point on the spiral and a later point which, superficially, seems identical. It is thus that after my last posting, I have remained silent.
There is also the fact that world events, although appearing new and fresh when first seen on the news, are in fact no such thing. The crisis of gangster capitalism that has engulfed the world is not new. Such crises have happened in the past and will do so again. And the result of it will be that some will grow immensely richer but that innumerable others will sink into deep poverty. But this is of the nature of capitalism - it depends on the concentration of wealth in a very small elite class. In its mission to succeed in this task, however, it was previously constrained by an ideological struggle with its mirror image and bastard child, Soviet communism. With the fall of the Soviet Union fetters were removed and the vultures of the money markets free to circle the world identifying the vulnerable and then directing their energies - and their minions in politics and armies - into destroying economies and societies so that they can then land and devour the corpses.
Which they have done. Recently, there has been what at first glance seems to be a crisis in that capitalism. The world recession is not however the crisis it appears. It is a blip in which some bloated vultures have expired but most rescued by further infusions of blood from those on whom they prey. All the rest is spin.
Here, of course, I realise that I have been maligning vultures. In reality these birds fulfil the essential role of disposing of the dead. They have nothing to do with the creation of the situations that have caused those deaths. This is not the case with those who, by their deliberate policies, caused the banks to crash and have to be rescued with the use of tax raised from the people from whom they have plundered unhindered for decades. The very economists whose policies enabled the vast and unsustainable accumulation of personal debt are still in their positions of influence and thereby ensuring that only a select few of the wealthy who profited lose anything real apart from the minor inconvenience of public "mea culpas" followed by business as usual. The funds that enable this business not coming, of course, from their own large pockets but from the taxpayers.
It is a huge con job. Bernard Madoff goes to prison because his greed was more naked than most. Others, equally if not more corrupt, remain. Scapegoats are needed and they are found. The public is encouraged to celebrate their demise and then to go on its way reassured that its masters (and they are, mostly, men) have cleaned up their act and all will, eventually, be well. We all just have to weather the storm. The green shoots of the recovery, if not yet visible, are just about to break the surface. So we are told - and it may well be true. Until the next time.
For, after all, customers are needed - people who are willing to buy the unnecessities, as well as the essentials of food, clothing and housing, that we are told will fill the emptiness inside us. A form of prosperity will return but the numbers who appear to share in that prosperity will be fewer. There will be more who have been deprived of the essentials. More homeless people on the streets. More queuing for food from soup kitchens. More gated communities hiding from the mass of the dispossessed. More women and children forced into servicing the needs and desires of the wealthy in order that they may survive. More illegal immigrants - publicly condemned but privately welcomed - prepared to do the essential, but unpleasant, jobs for wages that resident populations would not accept. Such immigrants, moreover, provide convenient whipping boys whenever discontent may appear to threaten the interests of the powerful few. Here, in Hungary, that role is taken by the Roma - who, although they have been here for many generations, are seen as an alien and hostile presence, preying upon the law-abiding majority population. The venal and corrupt political class that, after enriching itself from the privatisation of state assets after the fall of communism, has been in control is only too happy that they have such a convenient target for the very justifiable anger of the general population - who see very many homeless, ethnically Hungarian, people rooting through their bins in search of food that is not too putrid and have parents and grandparents whose retirement - previously guaranteed to be sustainable if not luxurious - is now under threat of real privation. Many such people are, understandably if wrongly, angered when they see the very modest amounts of money and effort that are diverted to alleviate the deep poverty of the "gypsies".
What underpins the present system is one emotion. Fear. Without fear it cannot operate. I was reminded of this the other day when watching a discussion about the US use of torture. The debate seemed to centre on whether any good and reliable intelligence had been obtained by these methods. Some say yes and some say no. I have no way of knowing which is right. Perhaps, as Cheney maintains, some people have given information they would not otherwise have done. Perhaps, as others maintain, none have done so. A former CIA field agent interviewed on the Rachel Maddow show said that such interrogations would be better performed by the FBI - the CIA's job being that of running field agents etc and not of obtaining intelligence from unwilling prisoners. I have been impressed by Rachel in the past and was surprised that she accepted this disingenuous argument. The CIA's use of torture is well documented and predates Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition and all the familiar litany of excess by many decades.
Moreover, the belief that torture is committed in order to gain information is naive. The purpose of torture is to break the spirit of the victims and thereby instil fear in the population from which the victims come. Any useful information obtained is a by-product of this. The real purpose of the Inquisition was not, in fact, to determine the real beliefs of those they tortured but to impose an outward conformity on the rest of the population. Similarly, the CIA trained torturers in Pinochet's Chile, the Junta's Argentina -and so ad nauseam - were engaged not in real intelligence gathering but in maintaining a climate of terror which would stifle internal dissent. No one would want to be next.
George W announced that he was declaring "A War on Terror". The military strategy used in the attack on Iraq was, quite accurately, called "Shock and Awe". I cannot think of a better definition of terror than those three words. In adopting terror as official policy, the US has, literally, declared itself to be a terrorist nation. Torture is simply own weapon in the arsenal of terror. The incessant bombardment of populations, the cutting off of essential services, the imprisonment of them as they shelter wherever they can, the constant awareness of the proximity of death by random and arbitrary acts of violence is torture at a macro level. It is designed to strip away all sense of identity, purpose and self-determination from a population just as the tortured prisoner loses hers or his.
Where they have, disastrously, miscalculated, however is that they have now used these tactics on populations for whom terror is nothing new. It has, in fact, been part of their lives for decades. They have learnt to cope and to fight back. And they have learnt from those who terrorised them how the dynamics of terror work. When Pinochet took control of Chile, he took over a nation with a democratic tradition - his targets were intellectuals, artists, workers - all of whom expected some rules of decent human conduct to be, generally, applicable. The people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are under no such illusions. They had learned from experts that tyranny knows no such rules. Iraq and Iran learned their lessons from tyrants installed - and supported, with their secret police trained - by the US. In Afghanistan, they learned from the Russians. In order to maintain a sense of identity they have adopted a form of their religion in which their persecution is a test of their devotion and to fight back a divinely ordained duty.
The world is a mess of greed and corruption. On one level - and this is the level presented daily to the Western world by the media. Whether the media be governmentally or corporately controlled is irrelevant since there is little if no difference between them. Politicians move seamlessly into corporate posts when they leave office and business leaders are awarded governmental posts. The effect of the constant diet of fear is to cause the populations to be living in constant state of anxiety as they worry about jobs and mortgages and rising crime rates and the ever present, if remote, chance of death at the hands of an "Islamic terrorist". In the meantime, the corporate asset strippers continue unchecked in their depredations.
There is, however, more than a chink of light. An unprecedented 2,000,000 people marched in London to oppose the Iraq war. Schoolchildren spontaneously left their classrooms and marched in the street. People are growing ever more reluctant to cast their vote in favour of one gang of criminals against another, slightly more palatable, one. Obama's rhetoric - if not, so far, his actions - articulated this growing sense that there is something deeply rotten in the state of corporate affairs. Lies are now beginning to be seen for what they are. People are wanting a society ruled by love and not fear. They may not yet know how to get to there from here, but they are searching. In this there is great hope.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe: part four
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