November 23, 2005


What do you care?

Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, was in Toronto tonight. He gave a passionate speech centered on the Western newsmedia’s complicity and complacency in misrepresenting the war on Iraq. His mixture of humour and horror leaves a strong impression on the listener. He manages to bring to life fairly abstract subjects such as the old and new crimes of the Western powers in the Middle East finally revisiting them in the form of terrorism, now and in the future. He should definitely not be missed if the opportunity to hear him presents itself.

His historical analysis is highly engaging. Possibly because of his great passion and humanity, though, and the fact that he has witnessed so much death and suffering, he seems to look in the human heart for a solution to the problems he identifies. I found him rather Dickensian in believing that if only enough people were made to care about the suffering of strangers, war would turn to peace. He seems to think the problem is that most people in the West just don’t care about people in other countries. I find this point of view inadequate. No-one really cares about the situation of people in other countries. In the same way that Americans, for example, don’t care about the suffering of Iraqis, Iraqis don’t care about the suffering of Americans... Heck, most of the time people don’t care about the suffering of their next-door neighbour, not to speak of the suffering of strangers on the other side of the world, except perhaps when a natural disaster strikes.

So I don’t think the problem is a dearth of caring. People need something they can personally connect and relate to before they can care. The case of natural disasters is a case in point. People who on a day to day basis have no comprehension, and hence no sympathy, for the daily suffering of a Latin American shanty-town dweller or a victim of military action, suddenly open up their purses, albeit briefly, when a natural disaster strikes. I think they can imagine, at least at the back of their mind, the same thing happening to them and how they would feel if it did happen to them. Normally, people justify the suffering of others to themselves, which allows them to disregard it. You know the usual line: people suffer because they are lazy, have been brought up badly, and so on. I think such people can be made to care if they see the absolute irrationality and futility of what is going on, that is, by taking all justifications away from them.

It is useless to try to raise anti-war sentiment in the US by appealing to people’s compassion. People, at best, have compassion for their own group. It is, therefore, much more useful to help them see the irrationality and futility of the suffering of members of their own group. For instance, by pointing out to them that although the war on Iraq is going nowhere, more and more American soldiers are getting killed by the enemies that they themselves have created, and that the Iraqi Resistance is growing stronger. One indication of this is the number of American soldiers that are getting killed by the action of so-called “improvised explosive devices” or IEDs, that is, “home-made” bombs, a resistance movement’s weapon of choice. The number has been steadily climbing since the beginning of the war.

The November 2005 figure is preliminary, and covers only the first 21 days of that month. At the current rate, the final November figure will probably exceed 50.

My other posts on related topics:
Unity, progress, and purpose
The Poodle's UNcle

November 21, 2005


Dubya's exit strategy fails yet again

Thankfully, you can always depend on the Leader of the Free World for comic relief. In 2000, 48 percent of American voters told themselves "Let's give the most responsible job in the world to a complete fool and see what happens." They liked what they saw so much that they played their practical joke on the world again in 2004

Video here

Another video

As a bonus, another picture from the same disastrous tour, with Genghis Khan looking approvingly down at Dubya in Mongolia's capital.

November 14, 2005


This must end II

CBC News -- A man who spent the night in a Montreal dumpster is lucky to be alive after he was emptied into a garbage truck and later pulled to safety. Montreal fire Chief Gilles Ducharme said the man could have been crushed as the truck compressed each load of garbage. "We had pieces of wood, steel bars, so he was lucky that none of those passed through his body," Ducharme said. The man is under observation because of the risk of internal bleeding after being compacted in the truck. Driver Michel Duval was picking up garbage from dumpsters Monday morning when he heard noises from the back of his truck. He said he had probably dumped a couple of loads on top of the man before realizing he was inside. Fire and ambulance workers rescued the man, pulling garbage from the truck and leaving a small, smelly mountain of food waste, wood and crushed boxes piled on the ground.

The "lucky" man is now in hospital with crushed legs and a broken pelvis. Meanwhile Paul Martin, the Canadian Prime Minister, facing an election in a couple of months, has just promised a couple of big tax cuts, taking still more money out of social services than he has already. We no longer live in a world that can be called a "human" world in any of the possible senses of that word.

November 11, 2005


Unity, progress, and purpose

According to news report from post-bombing Jordan, the bombing has given rise to a (possibly temporary) consensus between pro- and anti-monarchy sections of the population. At one level, this is not surprising. No-one likes bombings, least of all the bombers themselves. That does not, however, make the above consensus any less of a puzzle. On one side are the Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who have lost everything to Israel, and who have every reason to loathe the Jordanian monarchy’s long-standing complicity with the Zionist entity. On the other side are the Jordanian elite, whose livelihood depends on a parasitic existence vis-à-vis King Abdullah, along with the brainwashed masses who, as usual, don’t believe in the possibility of anything better. The current “unity” between the pro- and anti-monarchy sections of the population is of little value as far as political progress is concerned. It is a unity without common interests or a common purpose, and therefore cannot lead to anything. It is a false unity.

Now take the unity that has arisen among widely divergent groups within the Iraqi Resistance. The Iraqi Resistance appears to consist of many groups that would not ordinarily give each other the time of day, to put it mildly. This is, of course, the pattern that has held true of all resistance movements in history. What unites them is not a common ideology or lifestyle, but rather active engagement in a common purpose. This is true unity.

It may seem to take us far afield, but last night I happened to be watching the latest TV version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. For the few people such as myself who didn’t already know the story, it is, briefly, about the adventures of a mixture of fictional and historical people in the context of the English invasion of Scotland in the eighteenth century. The actual story and history are complicated, but my point is about the character Alan Breck Stewart, who actually existed, and was a minor Scottish hero. When he is not busy being a hero, he is a gambling and whoring thief. His personality and character, though, are irrelevant to his being a hero. He was a hero and a progressive, solely because he fought the English invaders.

It is not our ideology, party affiliation, or “beliefs” that make us progressives. What makes us progressives is what we do and our concrete program of action.

My other posts on related topics:
The Poodle's UNcle
Today we are all Palestinians

November 04, 2005


Washington ships its garbage to Argentina

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona joined other celebrities late on Thursday aboard a Chavez-sponsored private train headed from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata, where Maradona will lead a protest march.

"It gives me pride to be on this train to repudiate the human trash that is Bush," Maradona told reporters before approaching the dimly lit platform, where Boca Juniors soccer club fans greeted him with pounding drums and stadium chants.

Meanwhile, Vicente Fox, Dubya's spokesman in Mexico, has come up with the brilliant idea of excluding from the FTAA any country (read: Venezuela) that disagrees with his master. I wonder what Fox will propose to do with the huge majorities in all the other Latin American countries who also want no part of any deal that has Dubya's stench associated with it.

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