Monday, 17 October 2016

Let Battle Commence

Albert Camus wrote books-many of which are now deemed classics. He wrote fictional novels as well as non-fictional works alike and he is not the only one. Henry James, Jean Paul Sartre, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Ivan Goncharov, Leo Tolstoy, are just some of the writers who famously wrote in this fashion. William F. Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal are also two others writers who can boast the same, at least they would if they were still living.

Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville co-directed the 2015 documentary, Best of Enemies. The film is about Buckley and Vidal. Buckley presented a debating show called the Firing Line which ran from 1966-1999. It was not a debating show technically. Buckley interviewed his guests and he would debate with them with whatever issues surfaced. It was through this show that he became well known. He also was the editor of the National Review. He was a man who thought debates should be cultural and whatever one thinks of Buckley, few, if any will argue against his phenomenal debating skills but today many of his views have fallen out of favour with even modern day so-called conservatives. There are few people in history whose views and beliefs have stood the test of time so to say, and still appear rational; Buckley is not one of those people. He even refused to debate with a communist on television. What he said about the Vietnam war was shocking, but what is interesting about this Conradian nightmare is elite intellectual opinion and the opinion amongst the general population. 70% of the American population said the war not was only wrong; and neither did they believe it was a mistake, but instead thought is was criminal. People like Buckley, who of course is part of the intelligentsia, would not even call it a mistake, he enthusiastically supported it.  He is not alone. Opinion amongst the intelligentsia is quite revealing. The only academics that criticised the war only did on narrow grounds and labelled it a ‘mistake, the one’s that did call it criminal were on Nixon’s famous list.

Gore Vidal on the other end of the political spectrum, opposed it. He, like Buckley, was born in 1925. His sharp wit and exotic exuberance counteracted Buckley’s debating prowess. Vidal is often accused of patent arrogance and there is a more serious charge laid against the writer of Lincoln and Myra Breckinridge. He is, or was, say some, only interested in his own vanity and supercillious character. He lived a large part of his life in Italy and called himself a born-writer. Before and after the now famous Buckley/Vidal debates, Vidal was not short of controversy. Norman Mailer once punched him, when Vidal was on the floor, he said: ‘once again, words fail you’.  He hated Truman capote and more particular, his most popular novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  He also successfully sued him. These were interesting times but it was the debates between WillIam Buckley and Gore Vidal that is most interesting, compelling and inspiring.

In 1968, the Republican party in the United States held their national convention in Miami and the Democratic convention in Chicago. ABC News had the temerity to invite the men men to debate the conventions and they did this. Ten intriguing debates took place. What is interesting about these debates is the universal ideas which were exchanged. Comparisons of one variety or another can be made. Anton Chekhov, the Russian playwright and short story writer writes, that is true, or did. The difference is he writes about universal issues about all of us and not merely Russians, the same can be said of Zola, Balzac, Shakespeare, Kafka and so on. These two men then, as Christopher Hitchens commented, ‘despise one another’. Buckley thought Vidal’s ideas where going to take out the nation with them and vice versa.

People will add that why bother to even discuss these two characters. Perhaps they will add it is only about the United States they speak of and the issues they discussed are not only old-fashioned but no longer relevant. Well, that is just not true. It teaches us a lesson, a lesson of history: debates are no longer conducted in this fashion. The two men, in their words and sentiments were not censored, there was no fooling the public mind, no subtle techniques of manipulating information or just leaving inconvenient facts out. In contrast, today’s debates are extremely contrived. The BBC for example, would never employ a Vidal or Buckley or anybody even remotely like them. Instead we have more entertaining forms of debate. Strangely enough, in these modern debates on mainstream television channels, people regurgitate the same views, there are just minor quibbles they disagree with and that is the limitation of debate.

Anybody familiar with news programmes on television channels today will be aware of the lack of debating taking place and even when this does happens it consists of reprobatory characters shouting at each other as if they were in the playground. One of the most important elements of these modern-day debates is precision. This is a very clever stratagem and most employ it. Most people debating just offer base, untruthful platitudes and this is information that reaches mass audiences, so for these malevolent-types, there is little need to elucidate what they are referring to and so forth but for the dissident, i.e the teller of dark, well-hidden lies and it is the truth they are concerned with; we, they face a significant problem. When they discuss these well-hidden falsehoods, people at home evidently ask and rightly say things like ‘you better have evidence for that comment and lots of it’ but under precision in the media you can not give evidence; there is no time and so the media is framed so that the person that fabricates the most nonsense will always win.

As for Buckley and Vidal; well, that is different. What they said, they believed was the case. Most people, once they are vetted through the television system tell lies so naturally, they no longer know they are doing it. It is no longer about the battle of ideologies  or even principles, it about something more basic elementary than that. It is the search for the truth, and when people falter at that, and there is no telling if they will, then history will remain to be what Edward Said called ‘a creative life’. Now, what matters with the intelligentsia is not truth, but the perpetuation of power, of the need of the strong to bludgeon the weak, to create an hegemony between plutocratic demagogues. We are no longer encountering debates between two eloquent American intellectuals about the emerging crisis. We are entering an apocalyptic era that may be the very last steps of human existence if the status quo continues in this perverse and abominable fashion.
   

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A Letter to the Economist


Image result for massacre IN EAST TIMOR










Sir- I refer to the article published in the economist featured in the November 12th issue, “The happening place”. In the piece you say “Indonesia’s special forces, accused of past human-rights abuses in East Timor”. Indeed. If you will allow me to reveal the facts that are available in the public domain and have been for many years, that would be appreciated. I will refrain from being subjective about the matter.  For the evidence about past human-rights abuses in East Timor by its oppressors, Indonesia, is so overwhelming that such views are unwarranted and unnecessary. The 1975 invasion of East Timor, now Timor Leste, as I am sure you are well aware, was itself an act of aggression. I will refrain from discussing the reasons for the invasion, the international response, and all the other implications, instead, I will stick to the audacious statement in the article, stated above.

Four years after the invasion an article appeared in the New York Times which was later leaked to the Boston Globe, the article was written by a Portuguese priest, there he explains Indonesia’s human-rights abuses against the East Timorese.

A full-scale bombardment of the whole island began. From that point there emerged death, illness, despair. The second phase of the bombing was late 1977 to early 1979, with modern aircraft. This was the firebombing phase of the bombing.  Even up to this time, people could still live. The genocide and starvation was a result of the full-scale incendiary bombing...we saw the end coming. People could not plant. I personally witnessed-while running to protected areas, from tribe to tribe-the great massacre from bombardment and people dying from starvation. In 1979 people began surrendering because there was no other option.  When people began dying, then others started to give up.

He went on to claim that from 1975 to 1979 200,00 East Timorese had been massacred. I am well aware this is a single man’s account and responsible publications like the Economist would be quite right to question the facts. But a more horrifying claim was not made by a Portuguese priest with sympathies for the people of East Timor but the united States’ UN ambassador to Indonesia, according to him, 60,000 had been killed in just two months. If correct, quite outrageous that such a person of his stature and influence would make such a claim, or take a highly respected journalist, Denis Reich, writing in Paris Match, believes 75,000 East Timorese were killed in 18 months.

I now refer back to the article in the Economist, that there were ‘accusations’ of ‘human-rights abuses’ in East Timor. The allegations above are indeed ‘accusations’, where is the evidence, sir, you may ask. I can fully grasp the argument that anybody, whether is be a priest, or a UN ambassador, can make such accusations without substantiating any evidence. So what of human rights groups, church reports, parliamentary investigations and so on? If such groups produced reports on East Timorese massacre and crimes against humanity they would be available to the press to publish such findings. It would be hard to imagine the Economist not knowing about these reports.  It so happens that reports were published and made available to the press. Amnesty International, the Roman Catholic Church, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Australian parliament all produced reports, not ‘mere allegations’. They all say around 200,000 East Timorese were massacred by the East Timorese military.  The French demographer, Gabriel Defort believes the figure to be far higher, he believes 300,000 were killed. The shocking thing is the population of East Timor was around 600,000 during this time. It follows then if these reports are true, and it must be added were carried out by some of the most respected organisations in the world, one third of the population were murdered. Comparatively, worse than the Nazis. If a publication made the claim that there were accusations of past human-rights abuses in Nazi Germany, the response of the readership would be predictable, and so would the publication’s reputation.  

Sir-in the 1990s, the late 1990s the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence...at a price, well that is according to church groups and responsible journalism.  Church groups agree that 3 to 5,000 people were killed and with a two-week period, more than 10,000 may have been massacred. The Nobel Laureate, Bishop Felip Belo had his house burned down.  Benedict Anderson goes further, “In East Timor they became an exemplar of every kind of atrocity.” It would interest you, sir, if indeed you do not already know, what the Indonesian military’s response was to this. Did they deny it, tell the world it was all lies? Well, no.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  Colonel Suartman, warned: “if pro-independents win...all will be destroyed”. The official army document said “massacres should be carried out from village to village”. This then, is not mere ‘accusations’, more threats and indeed, according to the church groups quoted above, such massacres were carried out.  

Sir- I would like to draw your attention to three outstanding individuals who have documented, and indeed lived through such horrors-at least they make ‘accusations’ of such things. To conclude the letter, I think this is important for the following reason: the gruelling statistics I have discussed in relation to abuses in East Timor do not talk about specific abuses that were taking place. For example, I have not quoted passages from Amnesty International reports or indeed any others. This, I hope, will draw your attention to the substantial terror that these men claimed plagued these people’s lives, they no doubt reach genocidal levels. Kay Ray Xanana Gusamo, Commander of the National Liberation front, after his incarceration in 1992, gave the following account:

The killing was indiscriminate. They murdered hundreds of people on the first day, including the Australian journalist, Roger East. Like him, many were brought to the harbour, where they were shot one by one, as the Nazis did. Anyone, women, children, the elderly, anyone who ventured outside their homes were shot down. They smashed up churches, leaving them full of wine and faeces ...men had been murdered and their women raped.  In Uatu-Lan, for instance, all those who could read and write were massacred, and in some villages only women remained. In the early years the Indonesian army would tie people up and leave them outdoors, naked and exposed to the harsh heat and cold of the night, little by little, they cut pieces from their skin, their arms and their legs. They cut of their penises or their ears, which the victims were then forced to eat. Each village had a detention centre which held the able-bodied men and women.  At night the bodies were disposed of.

If this account of abuse was just mere ‘accusations’, Mr Gusamo does clearly have an overactive imagination. Take another man, Jose Ramos Horta, the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1995 he gave an account of a personal tragedy:

Maria Hortensia was my daughter. She was twenty-one years old. She was too close to the Indonesian bombs and the shrapnel caught her and she died. That same year, 1978, I lost two sons, Nuno and Guiherme, also killed by the Indonesians. Now if you say the Indonesians are bastards, you may wonder; but what bastards they were, and they are. Let me give you another example. I used to go to hospital in Dili, and I know what happened there when the babies were born, many had diarrhoea  and vomiting and the Indonesian authorities made sure they went on suffering and were not cured, because they wanted them to die.  They wanted all of us to die, to vanish.

Ramos-Horta did not win the Nobel Peace Prize for making accusations against Indonesian human-rights abuses against the East Timorese. As mentioned above, Bishop Belo was a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. He gives the world a stark account of what his people endured, at least to the people that bothered to listen, again it is personal.

Some of the killings happened near my house-when I visited the hospital at 11am-on the day of the first massacre, November 12th, there were hundreds of wounded. When I came back the next day, there were only ninety. Witnesses told me the killing of the wounded began at eight O'clock that night, and that most deaths occurred between two and three in the morning of the 13th when the lights suddenly went out in the city. I don’t know what happened to those people-maybe they were put in the sea...I have a list of 271 names, but I was told by the East Timorese intelligence people working with Indonesia that there were more than 400 killed. And now we have the problem of justice because the families are still waiting for the bodies of their children.  And we don’t know where they are buried.

Again, it is unlikely Bishop Belo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for making up ‘accusations’. Sir-I am sure you will agree with me the information provided in this letter is overwhelming, I could continue but eventually it would start to become tedious, because I think my point has been stressed.
I end the letter by asking the Economist a question because I think it is right for you to clarify your position over the matter:

Is it the view of the Economist that you have no knowledge of Indonesian murders, massacres, rapes, disappearances, of the East Timorese? Or is there some other reason for talking only of ‘accusations human-rights abuses in East Timor’?
Sincerely,
John Mulligan


Postscript
This was a letter I wrote to the Economist at the end of November, 2011. I am most grateful to John Pilger for, who, in his eloquent book, Hidden Agendas, gives excellent material on the three courageous men quoted in the letter, of which I have taken excerpts from the book; the rest of the information I wrote in the letter were less arduous than that.  It is important to stress the following point: that to gather the sort of information I gathered, is not difficult at all, but it is true people are not aware of the facts, and that is because publications like the Economist decide to hide them.  I must comment that the Economist never replied to my letter. Anybody concerned with human-rights abuses and the suffering of an entire people will be concerned about what happened in East Timor, and of the west's complicity in the genocide.
January, 2012


 

Monday, 5 September 2016

an essay concernin Jews

I was once in the presence of a young man who could have been no older than thirty. As for as I could see, he appeared to be well-mannered, pleasant, dignified and thoughtful. It came to my attention this person viewed some harrowing footage of children, Jewish children in concentration camps in that dreadful period in history. His only remark was that ‘they deserved it’. Then he justified his reasons for saying such a monstrous thing. His reason was this: because they had murdered millions over the centuries.’ When asked further about this, he gave no response, and this was the end of the matter. This can only come down to miseducation and no doubt his family, were anti-Semitic, was he? Certainly not. His idiocy got the better of him.
The Jews have emerged since this rapacious bloodbath in history. This essay is not concerning itself with religious Jews, idealism or even politics. It is Jews as people that are of interest. If somebody belongs to a working class district, they should set themselves the task of looking for Jews. Without being grotesque about the matter when searching for Jews people should ask themselves what do they look like if we must follow them out of curiosity, out of intrigue, of interest. Then when we have followed them for so many miles, we can say what we did that day; that we followed a Jew, or at least somebody that resembled one. It would be interesting to observe their mannerisms, how they behave, how they eat, how they dress, and so on. The day's events can be written in a diary. There is nothing strange or odd about doing such a thing. In order to observe the Jewish way of life, something must be done.
There is a vibrant culture amongst Jewish communities. They write books, good ones, there are an array of Jewish writers who have won the Nobel Prize for literature. There are others that may have won it. In the world, there are well over one billion Christians and one billion Muslims yet ‘Jewish’ writers appear to have a Jewish identity. Christians lack the cultural fibre Jews possess, as do Muslims. The Christian writer, in any case, sounds a little odd. Judaism is a way of life for many. Norman Mailer, himself a Jew, in his masterpiece the Naked and the Dead, says Judaism is a way of life and nothing to do with the fact they believe in God. Most Jews, if they are honest with themselves, do not believe in God; any God. instead, they celebrate the Jewish traditions. People convert to Judaism but that is an entirely different matter.
There is a mysterious air concerning these people. They emerged in 1945 and beyond with tremendous spirit and resolve. It is not just an array of literary writers which they can boast of but there are many intellectual ones also. When we put this fact forward, people may reply well, what is so impressive about that? When they become aware just how many Jews there are in the world, they are backed into a corner. It is then that they concede that this is not only impressive but almost inconceivable that they achieve this status. Look at the intellectual and philosophical writers they can boast of in the twentieth century alone: Hannah Arendt, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Rudolf Rocker, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Stiglitz, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim. Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Paul Avrich, Aaron Baron, Abu Bluestein, Murray Bookchin, Paul Goodman and of course there are many more. Then there are the literary writers: Franz Kafka, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nadine Gordimer, primo Levy, Amoz Oz, Norman Mailer, John Updike, Aharon Appelfeld and of course many others.
When we see a Jew, we know we see a Jew. It is entirely evident. A Christian may have a cross or crucifix around their necks, the Muslim wears the traditional dress but without these we do not know if they are Christians or Muslims nor do we recognise it elsewhere. It is only Jews we can distinguish. It is unfathomable but lots of Jews have very large noses. Observing a Jew from a non-Jewish perspective, from a secular point of view is interesting because it is alien to us. The interest is learning of a different culture; a different way of life. Some of us do not know how to live our lives, we are  lost as we attempt to find our identity. The Jews do not need to find their identity. It is there. Jewishness is their identity. That is something people ought to be envious of.
‘Where are the damned Jews today?’ say some. They live in the local village but cannot be seen. They are everywhere yet they are nowhere. They are a mysterious group of people. Take somebody like Noam Chomsky. His father was a Hebrew teacher, as was his mother. They were both Jewish of course. Noam looks Jewish, speaks Hebrew. But for some he will always be Jewish because his father was, and after all that is his heritage. That suggests that is little to do with the belief in a higher being. It is about culture, identity and heritage. Speaking as a secular thinker and not as a Jew or even one that knows a great deal about them, they appear, to be from a good upbringing, they are successful, cultural, intelligent, ambitious and all these traits of course are obvious.
We have the ‘cultural Jew’ but we seldom hear of the cultural Buddhist, cultural Christian, Muslim and so on. Leo Tolstoy rejected the Nobel Prize for Literature on cultural grounds but he was not a Jew. In fact, he rejected culture entirely and based his entire existence on his peculiar religion which he placed a great deal of emphasis on. He even attacked the greatest writer of them all, William Shakespeare. Mr. Tolstoy only rejected these things and only came to this conclusion because of his idle fantasies with God. It is perhaps odd for a man of such a high intellect to think such frivolous things. But with the Jew, none of this infantilism would ever materialise in this first place with the cultural Jew. Because, for Tolstoy, everything was concerning God, nothing else mattered. High culture went in the garbage bin of history.
Disreputable people often lament the existence of the Jews. This, of course, is for a number of reasons. The obvious reason which is racist and fascist fanaticism. Jews, not all of them, refer to non-Jews as ‘gentiles’. This is offensive and suggests the Jews believe themselves better than anybody else. The atheist does not saunter around calling everybody else a fraud who believes in god, of course the atheist would be right to say this but it is rather a bit coarse to publicly examine it.
Franz Kafka was Jewish but he was by no means a ‘Jewish’ writer. We may read Kafka over and over again until we can read no more and we would still have little clue he was in fact Jewish because indeed he does not indeed advertise the fact. On one occasion he walking down the street and a schoolgirl was shouting something to him when he looked over to see what pleasantries she was shouting, she was yelling ‘Jew’. This is quite comical, one may add but what is not comical is the fate that awaited his own family after he had died in 1924. Many of them were gassed at the now notorious gas chambers and death camps, other Jews of course had to flee like Freud, Mann and countless others. What is remarkable is how these Jews have emerged from that time and one must assume there is something quite remarkable in that. There is little wonder why so many are so thankful, envious and scornful towards them.
If one goes into a Kosher shop, one will observe Jews in conversation. To ensure you know you will be following a Jew this is the best practice. A plan must be concocted. Not to deceive somebody but merely for somebody’s self-interest. Because of this Jew-following activity an effort must be made to enter the shop as if a worthwhile and enjoyable purchase was about to be made: for the sake of common decency and to prevent wasting the time of the shop workers, a purchase must be made. Now, it is evident not everybody enjoys kosher food, indeed people dismiss it for ethical reasons. If this is the case then one can always throw this food to their dog or somebody but be advised to cook it first. If the dog refuses the food then they are surely an anti-Semite. But no matter. After the purchase is made you must vacate the premises and follow a Jew. Most importantly it will be an educational experience.
The reader may or not be as the case may be-relieved to find the writer of this essay has not spent his time following Jews from one place to another, or followed them at all. On one occasion however, I was sitting in a cafe reading AndrĂ© Gide, not a Jew, some moments later, four or five people arrive and they order whatever they are having and as they sit behind me I try to eavesdrop in on their conversation. I was growing irate because the barista kept putting the noisy coffee machine on and I was unable to hear the conversation behind me taking place. I soon became aware the people were Jewish and that delighted me very much. I heard one saying how one must never compare the holocaust; meaning the Jewish holocaust with others because that was a special one. They also spoke about how members of parliament berated the state of Israel for their utter barbarism against the natives, although they did not use those words, they went on to describe a member of parliament as an anti-Semite and how a popular journalist referred to him as a ‘fascist’. Then they spoke about popular culture, which of course is when I lost interest and left.
That is evidence, first-hand evidence that one not need follow a Jew to observe their absurdities, eavesdrop on their conversations and whatever else but I would have preferred it if they had not discussed popular culture. That was disappointing. I did find it somewhat frustrating that they talked and refused to stop because it took me a silly amount of time to read André Gide. The event of course was not organised, it was an accident of history. To be candid I found most of their conversation an absolute bore. Maybe Jews are not so interesting after all.
It is the case that Jews can be quite ridiculous people. One only needs to read Kafka. Emma Goldman failed in her attempts to become a prostitute on 42nd street in New York. She told her potential ‘client’ how terrible it is that women have to lower themselves to do such a thing, her friend and sometime boyfriend Alexander Berkman failed to murder a man, but instead shot him and for his troubles earned himself a 22-year prison sentence in one of the world’s toughest jails. One only needs to read the novels of Philip Roth to realise what a strange person he is. The film director Woody Allen, had Ingmar Bergman as his favourite director, but Bergman, as is well known, deals with issues such as atheism and existentialism, he also had sexual relations with his teenage step daughter, an irregular thing to do. Roman Polanski went further and caused a scandal with a thirteen-year-old child. There are other Jews that are full of absurdities as have been shown.
Christopher Marlowe wrote a play called the Jew of Malta; Shakespeare gives us Shylock in the Merchant of Venice; in Portnoy’s Complaint, young Portnoy is masturbating on a bus using a baseball glove; in Norman Mailer's the Naked and the Dead, there are discussions with the protagonist concerning Jews and Jewishness and what it means to be a Jew; in Gogol, in Pushkin, in Balzac we see Jews from different walks of life; in the film the Lemon Tree, we see good Jews and bad ones; Saul Bellow, Aharon Appelfeld, Amoz Oz and other Jewish writers have portrayed Jews in their works and that is some heritage. The state of Israel may have savagely annihilated Palestinian history, their cultural identity but Judaism and Jewishness is in the history books and nothing shall delete it.
Gramsci was Jewish who suffered terribly, Hannah Arendt wrote painfully and honestly about Judaism and the holocaust, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Avi Shlaim, Norman Finkelstein are prominent Jews who speak out against Israeli state violence. There is the Jew that writes wonderful literature, the intellectual Jew, the Jew of compassion,  the cultural Jew and the absurd one. One need not be afraid of Jews. They are human beings like all of us. They are not gods either. If you speak to them surely they will speak back. If they are walking along the street with a newspaper under their arm and drop it, they drop it and you pick it up they will say thank you for this act of kindness. This is the Jewish way and it is just like any other way. The Jew is not a freak show to observe. They will communicate with you and make you tea. This is the way it is. Then you can have  a cultural discussion, an intellectual discussion, even a political one, perhaps a boorish one. Do not be afraid of the Jews stature. They are human beings; that is certain.
People attack Jews for the mere fact they are Jews. They give different reasons, none of it is justified of course, for no act of violence can ever be justified. The Jew is an easy target. People, no doubt have reasons, so they say, for attacking Jews. One bunch say it is because of what Israeli barbarians are doing to the Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank, well this hardly correlates with Jews because it has nothing to do with Judaism and the people that are attacked may or may not agree with Israeli savagery, so that can hardly be a reason for inflicting violence on defenceless people.
Others do it because they claim Jews have too much influence, too much power, too much business and are taking over. People who make these wild claims can not name a single Jew who is part of their own country’s government, who have a voice in their community, own the shops and businesses they frequent. These are the worst bunch of racists who can not tell the difference between a pancake and a brain. They come from the Richard Wagner school of thought but without the intellect, culture and with the violence. They are cowards of course who have nothing better to do with their idle time.
When I was a child and learned about the Jewish holocaust, the question I asked was how did they know the people were Jewish. How did they spot them, I asked. Of course children ask these questions and it is dreadful to think about. Germany has to live with the horror of the past while the Israeli state slaughters the native population. We are told we can never forget the past, more importantly, we must use the present to stop current bloodshed from taking place. If we fail to come to the aid of one group of people but show concern for others we are parasites and spineless. We are who we are as people because of our history; what we have experienced, the friendships we have encountered, the relationships we have been involved in, every conversation, every accidental ‘bump’ into that other person becomes who you are. If, in your teenage years, you beat weaker people to a pulp, if in your twenties you were in prison for such activities, if in your thirties, you begin to live decently and honestly, if in your forties you have a certain status in your community and whatever else, you would be forgiven for the behaviours in your younger days. Time heals, people deserve second and third chances. We, as people are imperfect and at times know not what we do. Bleeding Jews must heal their wounds and prevent similar injury to others. We must act as altruistic humans, without that we all become brutes.
November, 2015

Thursday, 1 September 2016

a Drab Existence


Image result for SUFFERING
On one chilly October morning there was a feeble knock at the door and the knocking continued, just like the porter in Macbeth. I answered the knocking of course and was presented with two aging women. As it turned out the pair were Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the conversation, which I found to be highly amusing, one of the women asked if I wanted to live on this earth in perpetuity albeit she did not use that particular word. I looked at her, and before saying anything reflected on this question. Within a moment I laughed, so much in fact that I began to foam at the mouth. I said to them it would be like hell for me to live for ever. The very idea was gruesome.

People who want to live forever have no talent, said Solzhenitsyn. Perhaps that is true. When most people die, they want to leave something behind for others to cherish. Those who leave nothing behind and have no legacy, are desperate. They want to live until something remarkable happens to them, but, sadly, for them, no such thing will happen and they will continue to live a drab existence. When they walk, they walk with no real purpose and it is the same with everything else. Their own lives have been devastated by their own failures and misfortunes. There is something Bergmanesque and Chekhovian about these people.

Oswald, in Ibsen’s Ghosts, hates the parochial, suburban existence, the man loathes the bigotry in such places. The terrible thing would be for somebody of cultural merit, of ideas, intellect, ambition, to live in a terrible place where everything and everybody that surrounded them were backward and barbaric. This would be worse than a drab existence; a concentration camp of sorts, for there could be no escape. There would be nobody for people to speak to; for everybody in the rotten town would be uneducated and uncultivated. Their perimeter of discussion would be around boorish trivialities. Soon enough the unhappy soul who belonged to this wretched town would die due to unhappiness.

It is not just the artist, the progressive, that leaves a drab existence either; the people are everywhere. They are the homeless, the prostitute, the poor, the disturbed, the mentally ill, tortured souls, the imprisoned, they are all of us. The struggle is finding warmth, food, even shelter. These people are affected by market absurdities. Unhappiness lurks everywhere. The world has been unfaithful to these individuals and they must bear the hardships until this sick, depraved existence ends their lives and are forgotten forever. In a world where there's no hope existence is futile in the first place.

Tom Joad has hope as does the rest of his family in John Steinbeck’s the Grapes of Wrath. Their present existence, some, may argue, is drab, but there is hope; hope of finding permanent work that pays a salary we dream of and the rest follows on from that. Without hope nothing seems worthwhile. Cormac McCarthy of course, another American novelist, offers no such hope, and the characters in his novels are left rather helpless in a desperate quest for survival. In his apocalyptic novel, the Road, only death seems inevitable, for all life has been wiped out. The suffering of modern man, woman and child is inexplicable. It is a horrorshow of an existence.

We have all become existential absurdities in a Kafkaesque world. One nation may be economically viable to another; that is worth the imprisonment and torture of an entire nation; the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents, even millions perhaps. After all people are expendable. Nothing matters as long as economic growth is visible. Alexander Sokurov, the Russian film director, called all politicians terrorists because they put politics ahead of humanity. He is quite right, of course. We now live in an age where ‘terrorists’ must appear they are concerned for the poor and the oppressed. The plain truth is they are poor and oppressed because of the terrorists themselves.

Noam Chomsky said even to enter a debate on whether the Jewish holocaust took place is to lose one’s humanity. One should add even to enter the parliamentary political arena is to lose one’s humanity because what follows will be a holocaust of sorts. What people are subjected to is no better than a Kafka short story. People that live in misery and helplessness are limited in their scope of action. Some pray to something or somebody that is alien to them, others gamble their lives away and drink themselves to death.

India is a country which is subject to intolerable abuse by more developed countries. This does not generate a great deal of concern from many people today, and sooth it never did. Indians then are just raw cattle and market fodder who are abused and exploited for no other reason than free market perversities. I.E economic growth. This consists of forced labour and child labour. There are rich and wealthy areas of course which makes India such a disgusting country. It is these people who lead a drab existence that make western companies and business happy for the profits to go through the roof given the pittance they pay their workers, and the working conditions they work under is an absolute abomination.

People will always be in the gutter so to speak. There will always be oppression, repression, abuse, coercion and whatever else. Even in more developed countries we still see desperate and miserable people moseying around with little to do. Their entire lives have been emptied of any meaning. A drug addict can not function as a member of society, for they, in some cases, commit unceremonious acts in order to obtain particular substances, and by substances I do not mean the most lethal which is cigarettes and alcohol.

The alcoholic fares no better. The dependency on this drug leaves this person in a permanent state of lethargy and is impossible for them to live a normal or even decent life. This is hardly a life at all. They are literally dying and this is not uncommon either. The reasons for becoming dependent on alcohol can range from anything. It is true by taking vast amounts of alcohol on a regular basis nums emotional and psychological pain, and sometimes even physical pain. Victims of childhood abuse often, through anguish and pain, go through this downward spiral, and it affects the poor and rich alike.

We do not know, when we bump into another in the street, what sort of person they are, what life they have led and so on. We can only surmise. There was a woman I once had the opportunity to speak with and she was a peculiar sort of person. She lived in an apartment block and looked more like a tree than a human being. All through her clothes sticks and branches could be seen sticking out; her body looked like it comprised of nothing but twigs. The woman made it known she did not wish to communicate with any person and suggested that if any of her neighbours wished to communicate with her they should post a message under her door. This person led a drab existence and spent most of her time sitting on park benches getting drenched in the rain, when she had  a flat to go home to.

People are not happy and they attempt to deny this fact. Some will always be happy and be content with life; others will not.  Some people when they enter a prison or their deathbed will not change their demeanor or attitude towards life. Their smile is unable to be broken and their optimism unable to be reversed. These are the strong willed and nothing can break their spirit. Then there are people that will always have a black cloud hanging over them, no matter what happens in their lives. Depression of all kinds lurks in all corners of their mind. This cannot be helped. It is some kind of sick and rotten condition. They cannot go on, but they must.

 If we turn towards Anton Chekhov and his characters on stage we see they are far more remarkable in their melancholy and misery in the lives they have led. Uncle Vanya, one of Chekhov’s greatest creations, after attempting to shoot the old retired professor-a man he despises- bemoans his own existence:


Oh my God I’m forty-seven. Suppose I live to be sixty, that still means I have thirteen years to go. It’s too long. How am I to get through these thirteen years? What am I to do? How do I fill the time? Oh, can you think-? Can you think what it would be like to live your new life a new way? Oh, to wake up some fine, clear morning feeling as if you’ve started living all over again, as if the past was all forgotten, gone like a puff of smoke.
   
When people have led this drab existence for so long they no longer regard their lives as a drab existence at all.. This is because there appears to be little thought about anything at all. It is only survival they are concerned with. Yes it is true their lives, just like Vanya’s, are awful and desperate but often do not think about these things. This is hardly surprising. This has become the norm; the usual way. Their family and friends are often in the same position as themselves. This woeful situation then becomes normalised and it is no different from getting up in the morning and eating breakfast. Then the rest of their lives pine sway and they are forgotten forever.

The workplace is a good example. The structure of the labour market is a criminal disgrace. Once a ‘worker’ enters the workplace they are stripped of their rights, humanity and even civility and this only adds to the misery of their own lives. Work only adds to the burden. It is also the case, when entering the workplace, they are no longer a living organism; a human being, they have become a mere worker, a bondman, a slave to their exploiters, a prostitute no doubt. Physical labour at least leads to a premature death and creates all sorts of illness and diseases for the individual. Therefore people ought to free themselves from the hideous shackles and retain their freedom. There then exists a possibility for a better life; a better existence. ‘Work’ only makes a drab existence more inevitable.

Often desperate individuals are so downtrodden and despised that they turn to that awful thing, religion. This, of course, is because they are totally desperate. They hope for a better life in the next world. There is no use in trying in this one any longer. Instead the life’s unfortunates of this world must turn to something far more perverse. The interest is no longer in this world but elsewhere. It extends even beyond religion. These Kafkaesque nonentities, as they are often known being of their deprived social position, seek hope and salvation in visiting cunning and deceitful psychics and clairvoyants. Of course, like religious apologists they seek to prey on the vulnerable. It is easy to target the poor, the miserable, the downtrodden, the abused, the exploited, the unperson. This is the current state of affairs in the world.

The world is a desperate place for many, but what else is there? There is no escape-there is only alcohol and drugs to relieve the suffering, as discussed. Their lives are imperfect to say the least and there is no escape. They have no hidden talent that can save them from the terrible, perpetual nightmare. Often they wake up in the morning or afternoon wishing to speak, think, even breath. Life has let them down. They were born dying and that fact has never gone away and that along with everything else is inescapable. Their lives have become as insignificant as Estragan’s and Vladimir’s. Only their lives are real, and when they die, other people born into this world replace their misery. There is always somebody else to take their place. It is a drab existence.

8th-10th November, 2014

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Prison Essays (10). As Barbaric Institutions

 
Image result for abolish prison
 


“The law is an ass”, Charles Dickens once said, and quite correctly too. There are two sorts of laws that exist in the world at large: state law and natural law. I would like, very briefly to discuss these two terms. State law is the set of laws we are coerced into abiding by. These, of course, are man-made laws, and many are rather obscene, but must not be challenged no matter how wild and backward they may appear. Refusal to abide by these “laws” and break them could end in quite catastrophic circumstances for the individual concerned. They, will, depending on the “crime” almost certainly be convicted and given a criminal record and even sent to prison. They will be affected with this torturous affair for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, natural law is rather different. For such things as murder, rape, assault, armed robbery and so forth we all know to be wrong and unacceptable so some form of detainment may be even justified to prevent the individual or individuals from repeating those acts. For the argument is that we do not need the state to inform us that murdering, assaulting and raping people is wrong.

“Every law is a crime”, wrote the libertarian thinker, Marquis de Sade. Whether that statement is true or not it does not matter a great deal for the people currently residing in these insipid prisons. The frightening scenario is that prisons of various kinds exist in almost every country in the world. Every state, which is a criminal state of a certain variety, keeps these prisons and locks people up for lengthy periods of time. They lock up these people like a savage locks up his slaves. This institution is cut off from the outside world and all this from progressive, liberal states. “The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”, wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky. That is quite true. What do we have in these Kafkaesque monstrosities? Officers in uniform, jangling their keys, dark, sombre, black corridors, mouldy cells and this is our “humanity”, “progress”, “enlightenment”, “decency”. These places are justified by the criminal class by saying we are protecting our well-behaved citizens by locking all the criminals up. But that makes little sense, for if all criminals were locked up there would be a shortage of military personnel, the police, members of Parliament, journalists, doctors, journalists, social workers, probation officers, church Ministers, company executives, because they would be filling the prisons up.

This talk about locking up the bad people is complete nonsense, in fact it is a complete fabrication. There are a group of people in these prisons, and only this group of people ought to be removed from society, not indefinitely, but for an amount of time until they pose no danger once again. Punishment ought to have no role in a progressive society and people who pose such arguments, and there are many of them, are driven by ideology. That is the minority of people who are in favour of regressive practices. The majority are often well-intentioned but they lament their protestations under high-level indoctrination. Why torture and murder people when a more beneficial tool is brainwashing then under media freedom? It is rather unusual for a great many people to believe in punishment of this this kind in a single other country in Europe. The framework of the prison system has already been set in the human psyche. The media and statesmen alike must never deviate from this. The argument is never “prisons ought to exist”, instead it varies on “tougher sentences”, “making prisons tougher”, and other lunacies are also expressed, which happen under a free state under brainwashing lunacies.

The very existence of a single functioning prison bears the hallmark of a rogue society; a criminal state. But it must be emphasised that Britain is not a criminal state, that is totally false. Britain is not a criminal state, it is an elite criminal state. When an elite criminal state lives and breathes do not be too surprised in finding this same state committing crimes every day of week. The very idea of prison is a very Kafkaesque notion. That is of the “dehumanised” individual. A “nightmare” existence. But this Kafkaesque existence has become more and more terrifying in modern Britain. This, to many, sounds preposterous; it is not. The Hobbesian dystopia extends beyond the prison gates. In reality the real prison sentence takes place when the prisoner, so we are told, is a free man or woman, as the case may be.

Yet this is not a nightmare; it is reality. For these people, or rather unpeople, as Orwell would have it, liberty and freedom are unattainable goals in the most loathsome prison of all, Britain. It is a nightmare society that has been created and it has been created by almost everyone because they are classed as “criminals”, for Britain is a prison state and police state rolled into one, with the limited, necessary freedoms, for without such freedoms, even the greatest brainwashing state would fail to convince its people in calling it a “free state”. It is still a very disturbing and unceremonious thing that prisons exist at all in the 21st century, but the most shocking aspect of this is that people appear to accept it. But it has been tolerated because we belong to the most debased society imaginable. It is, in essence, a nightmare existence. The more free a people become the more the autocratic a government becomes. This has been shown in many societies and the vicious battle is still being fought.

Yet why are these inhumane institutions still open? That is not such a difficult question to answer. Part of that question, has, in part, been answered already. That is, of the rampant indoctrinating mechanisms and the marginalisation of dissident debate about the issue. The other reason is the role of state capitalism, or rather, a variation of it. It amounts to class warfare; aristocrats dressed up as democrats, waging a class war on its biggest enemies of all, the electorate. There are no privileged classes in prisons, these people are far too busy committing major crimes in their chosen profession, with maximum protection from the government. Now this same state, of consecutive oppressive governments has succeeded in putting barriers between different kinds of prisoners, so prisoners are waging a war against each other. The poor are waging war against themselves, against poor refugees, benefit claimants, the disabled, it is a war being waged against all of us by all of us.

3rd-4th February, 2014












 

 




Friday, 10 June 2016

Prison Essays (9): Indeterminate Sentences

IPPs (Imprisonment For Public Protection) was introduced by a right wing Labour government and this new law was introduced for a variety of reasons. There are three reasons and I shall briefly discuss them all individually. (1). Control. Control in prison and most importantly outside of this establishment. People subject to an IPP sentence are placed on licence, once leaving prison, for at least ten years, and up to life. So, in effect a life sentence. So for the rest of these people’s lives they are subjected to a sort of mental terror, knowing that doing something wrong, especially in a bail hostel, face the prospect of spending many years in prison. So many aspects of their lives are dominated. They must ask if they want to work in a particular job, move into a flat, even form a relationship. This is, so we are told, a democracy and not totalitarian state.

(2). Induce the prisoner to admit “offences” they have not committed. This was savagely successful, and it had many sides to it. For example, people were utterly mortified at the prospect of being found guilty of anything. By pleading guilty there was less chance of receiving an IPP sentence and for the ones that did receive one it was a far more frightening prospect. For example they were, as they still are, forced to go on infantile courses and refusal would see them in prison for many more years, possibly for the rest of their lives. But it goes even further than this. These courses sought to change people's attitudes and tacitly encourage them to become more docile and favourable to authority, to reognise their incorrigible behaviour, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be removed entirely from society when they serve their life sentence, once they are out of prison. It is vicious brainwashing, and it goes much further than that. The sessions (they are group sessions), are filmed, their verbal introduction, views and thoughts on relevant topics, are noted down, this information is passed on to their probation officer and other agencies. Again, this, so we are told, is not a totalitarian state but a democracy.

(3). Deceive the public. With the IPP system now in place the government were able to make perverse claims, saying the most dangerous people are now in prison and will not be released until they reach certain conditions, these conditions is obedience to their tormentors. Many who were given this “death sentence”, as prisoners describe it, are not and never were the slightest bit dangerous. The judges were giving them out so frequently that the government had to vary the law, so fewer would receive the “death sentence”. All it required was an unfavourable report from their probation officer in their presentence report and that alone made the chance of receiving an IPP sentence more inevitable. One man, at the time he was sentenced, was still a “young offender”. According to his own barrister, was expecting, perhaps a suspended sentence; he spent some months on remand. His crime: he had a relationship with a thirteen-year-old child and this relationship included carrying out awful abuses such as holding hands with the boy and the occasional kiss on the cheeks. It should come as no great surprise that this young man had the mental capacity of a child, and no doubt thought and acted like one. When he was sentenced he received a three-and-half-year IPP. There are hundreds of more people, having committed small misdemeanours, who are in this same position.

In fact there are tens of reasons why the government introduced these barbaric IPP sentences. A more detailed essay could deal with these points and it is not difficult to understand why these harsh draconian policies are implemented. If that was not perverse enough there are another bunch of helpless prisoners who are subject to a sort of psychological terror and they are what we refer to as “lifers”, and most are set a “tariff”, that is that they must serve a number of years in prison before they are suitable for release, so in many ways similar to IPP sentences.

John Podmore is a former Governor, Chief Inspector of Prisons and author of Out of Sight Out of Mind, a book. In it he discusses Britain’s obsessive nature with handing out mandatory life sentences for convicted murderers. But it is not just for murder either but for many other “offences” considered to be less serious but this means nothing to the criminal classes and inevitably these unfortunate people who spend many years in prison will forever be in bondage to the state. Their release can only be made possible when they relinquish disobedience, independence and resistance to authorities. They must, in essence, think like their jailors, think like their leaders and think like a controlled machine, in other words not to think independently at all but do what they are told. Upon release from prison this hideous terror takes on the form of something far greater.

The state apparatus expects the prisoner to be “stable”, “stability here is the key word, stability is doublespeak to mean control. If we are not able to control individuals then they must perish in prison until they conform and obey. Any resistance to this is not tolerated by the criminal class but why would people outside the prison industrial complex care? These prisoners may have murdered, raped or tortured, so therefore why should such people deserve our sympathy, support or even acknowledgement of their existence? This is an interesting argument because the soldier kills, we are told for his country, the police shoot unarmed civilians and this is met with total impunity, the Social Services, Doctors and other professionals make decisions which amount to “gross negligence” and “manslaughter”, yet these professionals are seldom charged with these things, let alone spend years in jail. Members of Parliament are responsible for mass murder abroad, yet are free to continue their hideous practices. Major concentrated power commit heinous crimes: BP, Trafigura, Shell, Apple, Adidas, Nike, Gap and so on but they always get state protection, and in comparison, their crimes are too terrible to contemplate. In actual fact their crimes are more criminal than the entire prison population combined, but people tend not to treat them the same way as convicted prisoners.

1st-2nd February, 2014
For previous prison essays check recent posts. The last of my prison essays will be posted soon.