“Son, imagine our house: I represent capitalism because I’m the one who brings the money home. Your mother is the government that manages the money. The maid is the working class because she deals with the heavier tasks. You are the people as you enjoy the benefits of the system. And your little brother is the future of the country. Got it?”
“No dad, I do not understand.”
“Well, don’t worry; you’ll understand when you get older…”
That night the child is awakened by the persistent crying of his little brother.
He goes to the crib and find he is completely full of shit, and someone should change the diapers.
He goes for help to his parents’ bedroom and sees that his father is not there, and his mother is sound asleep, snoring, belly up, and he fails to wake her.
Then decides to go to the maid and enters her room to find his father having anal sex with her.
What is politics? – Dugutigui (on a joke from the net)
Blogging has been a funny story, but the longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes. A life in between green and indigo gone gray.
As the dawn’s disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy, blogging is a dry act, alone in the magnitude of the grief, as a devil that grabs you and pretends to keep you in hell for eternity … so what’s the point of it all?
Millions of people in their lonely little shacks, viciously writing and posting to their lonely little blogs the sadness they carry around in public in order to drown it out with the noise, but after a short interval breaks out again all the more terribly; and gathers inside us and is life, life that we can die of. It kind of makes me fell the saddest sadness.
Wouldn’t you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth when you caught yourself pretending that everybody out there cared about what you thought, when really nobody gives a shit? There is enough loneliness in the world already. I don’t need to add to it.
As Billy Joel goes “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”
You bet your sweet ass I’m speaking of the days that are no more.
3D modeling is like “playing God” (in secular and vague terms) …
In the beginning God downloaded SketchUp. Now the earth was formless and empty, green was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over a blank canvas.
And God said —using the controls in the Shadows Settings dialog box at Window > Shadows, “Let there be light,” and He manipulated the shadows and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “UTC+01:00 13:30 11/8,” and the darkness He called “UTC+01:00 17:33 11/8.” And there was evening, and there was morning. God saved the settings —the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God created a new SketchUp material called “water” or something, and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the HDRi background image in the shape of a dome, providing a full 360 degree background, “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning. He saved the work —the second day
The next day God considered it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. While his creativity soared creating his own 3-dimensional worlds, He found most of the objects He was seeking at 3D Warehouse within Google SketchUp, some creations for general use and others for showcase purposes —as two 2D persons. He forgot to save the project, but the auto-save “saved” His day! And there was evening, and there was morning —the third day.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind from the 2D persons standing at the origin of the axes, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” But the 2D persons were static as well as all the 3D Warehouse’s animals.
He downloaded and installed in His heaven’s desktop Lumion 4.5 Pro render, and God saw that it was good.
So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. He started rendering the scene. And there was evening, and there was morning, and there was evening —the fourth day.
Then God said, “This fucking Lumion rendering takkeees tooo looonnng,” and went back to bed. And there was morning —the fifth day.
God saw all that He had made, and it was not very good. So He downloaded and installed in His heaven’s desktop Adobe Premiere Pro CC. He imported His many video and audio files dragging them from his desk and edited His feature film, “Genesis”. And there was evening, and there was morning —the sixth day.
(*) Disclaimer: Please, before you think about hurting someone over this trifle of a Genesis, remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show.
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Dreaming in 3D – by a fallen angel (Dugutigui) | 3d architecture – Glass Pavilion – by a fallen angel (Dugutigui again!)
In the middle of Nature your dreams emerge, and then, with a dry mouth, you emerge from your dreams, and the battle is waged. The body, tired, and the mind, disgusted, thirsty enough to continue with the spectacle of the rapid. Ruthless enemies … But then, you listen silently to the water, it does not resist, but flows, you listen silently to it not just as water, but as the voice of life, like a river who loves water, and you go ahead.
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It is impossible to express the experiences you have below the surface with words, when water gently caresses your face and body, the pulse decreases and your brain relaxes. You are immediately cut off from the stress and hustle of everyday life when you are below the surface – there are no noisy telephones or SMS messages, no inboxes full of mail, no electrical bills, or other trivialities of everyday life taking up time and energy. There is nothing connecting you to the surface but the same withheld breath that connects you to life. There is only you and a growing pressure on your chest that feels like a loving hug and the vibrations from the deep quiet tone of the sea. It is quite possible that this deep quiet tone is none other than the mantra Om, the sound of the universe, trickling life into every cell of your body.
Nature and Civilization – Footage and first paragraph by Dugutigui. Second excerpt by Stig Åvall Severinsen
Since childhood I’ve always told the truth. I’ve been a sincere guy. But for some time I realize this is wrong. Since I got married to be precise. Like a cuttlefish spurting out black ink I’ve become socially insincere. And when you aren’t sincere you need to pretend, and by pretending you end up believing yourself; that’s the basic principle of every faith.
Let me elaborate it. If there was a nuclear war, it would still leave radioactive cockroaches and a meddling, snooping, complaining and controlling female entity called MIL.
Allow me introduce you to my mother-in-law: Mrs. Hope –suitably, the last thing you lose. Like a Canada goose she migrates every year between the north and the south. So here she’s for week-long visit… and I’d have to call an exorcist and bathe myself in holy water to get my home rid of the evil presence that she leaves behind (if I pour the holy water on her she may melt…) But … this day, unlike in the past, I won’t dare to verbalize it.
I opened the door and there she was in full swing: sharp horns and a shiny halo. With my best grin –a combination of Brad Pitt’s and Prince William’s catch, I managed, “Glad to see you! You look great!” I’m not at all glad to see her and definitely she doesn’t look great. In India they’d consider her sacred, and in England a disease. But if you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though. She fixed me with a hawk eye and I didn’t get clear her response, but I though I saw slime oozing from the festering pustules on her face … I have less chance than an ice cube in hell.
Nevertheless she brought a gift that she handed to me abruptly, as with little conviction that I was worthy of it. Some sneakers! Not an Air Jordan. No. These shoes were the ones you find in a big box in the store that is like the mass grave of sneakers, and it’s like nightclubs at eight in the morning, all loose pairs. They were size 45 … I use the 41 … She said it will be okay with some cotton … I profusely thanked her.
After Patton finished supervising everything –clarifying, “I do not want to criticize,” and, “I have nothing against your husband,” she decided she wants to prepare us a nice dinner. Let me tell ya, I would rather have a chainsaw enema, than have dinner with her, but you gotta pay attention to signs –how often has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? “That’s a wonderful idea,” I grinned.
“Darling will you take my mother out to the grocery?” asked my already anxious significant other. “Yes, sure!” I was going to take the dog for a walk anyway…
Driving her to the store was the gross five minutes of my life. I haven’t spoken to her. We haven’t quarreled. I just don’t want to interrupt her monologue -it was as clever as a stick in a bucket of pig swill. Like a shadow I ingratiatingly nodded when she nodded … almost nodding off. I was thinking that English Law prohibits a man from marrying his mother-in-law. This is their idea of useless legislation!
Back at home, the opulent dinner consisted of pea soup and a steak. I tried the soup and wondered how a simple food like a pea could be manipulated to taste so bad. I mean, I thought it, but didn’t say. Instead, with a wax museum smile, I pointed, “Mom, you’ve outdone yourself! Yummy! … I don’t take more because it got cold. No! No! Don’t heat it. Thank you! The steak on other hand… At first bite I got paler than a vampire’s armpit. It was … a brown brick. Even the smoke alarm seemed to be cheering her on! In brief, an endless hour on the table and I was still hungry.
Well … I wasn’t going to socially kill myself that night. You can’t say today that you prefer three thousand people die in a tsunami in another hemisphere to have flu. You can’t tell that. What a wretch, what a human waste! But then … you don’t know them! Who’re that people? … And flu is seven days in bed, fucked, with boogers. It can even turn into bronchitis! Better another three thousand buy the farm!
Well, what I mean is that sincerity does not go anywhere. You must know that.
Course. Before I go I want to tell you I’ve never had more friendly, loving, cordial, and endearing followers than you!
To live for the hope of something isn’t really living at all, and so, while Chinese checkers is indeed a fine pastime, a person may also play dominoes, chess, strip poker, tiddlywinks, drop-the-soap or Russian roulette with his brain, and so, I marched to my imaginary bathroom, to shower off the stench of failure, soap up the death of hope, then wash away the ashes of my love for writing, and so, I abandoned my blog, and took my drone to film streets that are a poor kid’s PlayStation, from above.
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If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction, and ultimately, without a major resolution.
Don’t Walk Away from War, It’s Not the American Way.
The United States has been at war — major boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, air strikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts, and covert actions — nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began. That’s more than half a century of experience with war, American-style, and yet few in our world bother to draw the obvious conclusions.
Given the historical record, those conclusions should be staring us in the face. They are, however, the words that can’t be said in a country committed to a military-first approach to the world, a continual build-up of its forces, an emphasis on pioneering work in the development and deployment of the latest destructive technology, and a repetitious cycling through styles of war from full-scale invasions and occupations to counterinsurgency, proxy wars, and back again.
So here are five straightforward lessons — none acceptable in what passes for discussion and debate in this country — that could be drawn from that last half century of every kind of American warfare:
1. No matter how you define American-style war or its goals, it doesn’t work. Ever.
2. No matter how you pose the problems of our world, it doesn’t solve them. Never.
3. No matter how often you cite the use of military force to “stabilize” or “protect” or “liberate” countries or regions, it is a destabilizing force.
4. No matter how regularly you praise the American way of war and its “warriors,” the U.S. military is incapable of winning its wars.
5. No matter how often American presidents claim that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in history,” the evidence is in: it isn’t.
And here’s a bonus lesson: if as a polity we were to take these five no-brainers to heart and stop fighting endless wars, which drain us of national treasure, we would also have a long-term solution to the Veterans Administration health-care crisis. It’s not the sort of thing said in our world, but the VA is in a crisis of financing and caregiving that, in the present context, cannot be solved, no matter whom you hire or fire. The only long-term solution would be to stop fighting losing wars that the American people will pay for decades into the future, as the cost in broken bodies and broken lives is translated into medical care and dumped on the VA.
Heroes and Turncoats
One caveat. Think whatever you want about war and American war-making, but keep in mind that we are inside an enormous propaganda machine of militarism, even if we barely acknowledge the space in our lives that it fills. Inside it, only certain opinions, certain thoughts, are acceptable, or even in some sense possible.
Take for an example the recent freeing of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from five years as a captive of the Haqqani network. Much controversy has surrounded it, in part because he was traded for five former Taliban officials long kept uncharged and untried on the American Devil’s Island at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It has been suggested that Sgt. Bergdahl deserted his post and his unit in rural Afghanistan, simply walked away — which for opponents of the deal and of President Obama makes the “trade for terrorists” all the more shameful. Our options when it comes to what we know of Bergdahl’s actions are essentially to decry him as a “turncoat” or near-voluntary “terrorist prisoner” or ignore them, go into a “support the troops” mode, and hail him as a “hero” of the war. And yet there is a third option.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl
According to his father, in the period before he was captured, his emails home reflected growing disillusionment with the military. (“The U.S. army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs [sergeants] are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same.”) He had also evidently grown increasingly uncomfortable as well with the American war in that country. (“I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”) When he departed his base, he may even have left a note behind expressing such sentiments. He had reportedly told someone in his unit earlier, “If this deployment is lame… I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.”
That’s what we know. There is much that we don’t know. However, what if, having concluded that the war was no favor to Afghans or Americans and he shouldn’t participate in it, he had, however naively, walked away from it without his weapon and, as it turned out, not into freedom but directly into captivity? That Sgt. Bergdahl might have been neither a military-style hero, nor a turncoat, but someone who voted with his feet on the merits of war, American-style, in Afghanistan is not an option that can be discussed calmly here. Similarly, anyone who took such a position here, not just in terms of our disastrous almost 13-year Afghan War, but of American war-making generally, would be seen as another kind of turncoat. However Americans may feel about specific wars, walking away from war, American-style, and the U.S. military as it is presently configured is not a fit subject for conversation, nor an option to be considered.
It’s been a commonplace of official opinion and polling data for some time that the American public is “exhausted” with our recent wars, but far too much can be read into that. Responding to such a mood, the president, his administration, and the Pentagon have been in a years-long process of “pivoting” from major wars and counterinsurgency campaigns to drone wars, special operations raids, and proxy wars across huge swaths of the planet (even while planning for future wars of a very different kind continues). But war itself and the U.S. military remain high on the American agenda. Military or militarized solutions continue to be the go-to response to global problems, the only question being: How much or how little? (In what passes for debate in this country, the president’s opponents regularly label him and his administration “weak” for not doubling down on war, from the Ukraine and Syria to Afghanistan).
Meanwhile, investment in the military’s future and its capacity to make war on a global scale remains staggeringly beyond that of any other power or combination of powers. No other country comes faintly close, not the Russians, nor the Chinese, nor the Europeans just now being encouraged to up their military game by President Obama who recently pledged a billion dollars to strengthen the U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe.
North and South Korean soldiers at the DMZ. Korea 2013
In such a context, to suggest the sweeping failure of the American military over these last decades without sapping support for the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex would involve making the most breathtaking stab-in-the-back argument in the historical record. This was tried after the Vietnam War, which engendered a vast antiwar movement at home. It was at least conceivable at the time to blame defeat on that movement, a “liberal” media, and lily-livered, micromanaging politicians. Even then, however, the stab-in-the-back version of the war never quite stuck and in all subsequent wars, support for the military among the political class and everywhere else has been so high, the obligatory need to “support the troops” — left, right, and center — so great that such an explanation would have been ludicrous.
A Record of Failure to Stagger the Imagination
The only option left was to ignore what should have been obvious to all. The result has been a record of failure that should stagger the imagination and remarkable silence on the subject. So let’s run through these points one at a time.
1. American-style war doesn’t work. Just ask yourself: Are there fewer terrorists or more in our world almost 13 years after the 9/11 attacks? Are al-Qaeda-like groups more or less common? Are they more or less well organized? Do they have more or fewer members? The answers to those questions are obvious: more, more, more, and more. In fact, according to a new RAND report, between 2010 and 2013 alone, jihadist groups grew by 58%, their fighters doubled, and their attacks nearly tripled.
On September 12, 2001, al-Qaeda was a relatively small organization with a few camps in arguably the most feudal and backward country on the planet, and tiny numbers of adherents scattered elsewhere around the world. Today, al-Qaeda-style outfits and jihadist groups control significant parts of Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and even Yemen, and are thriving and spreading in parts of Africa as well.
Days before the drawdown. Iraq 2011
Or try questions like these: Is Iraq a peaceful, liberated state allied with and under Washington’s aegis, with “enduring camps” filled with U.S. troops on its territory? Or is it a riven, embattled, dilapidated country whose government is close to Iran and some of whose Sunni-dominated areas are under the control of a group that is more extreme than al-Qaeda? Is Afghanistan a peaceful, thriving, liberated land under the American aegis, or are Americans still fighting there almost 13 years later against the Taliban, an impossible-to-defeat minority movement it once destroyed and then, because it couldn’t stop fighting the “war on terror,” helped revive? Is Washington now supporting a weak, corrupt central government in a country that once again is planting record opium crops?
But let’s not belabor the point. Who, except a few neocons still plunking for the glories of “the surge” in Iraq, would claim military victory for this country, even of a limited sort, anywhere at any time in this century?
2. American-style wars don’t solve problems. In these years, you could argue that not a single U.S. military campaign or militarized act ordered by Washington solved a single problem anywhere. In fact, it’s possible that just about every military move Washington has made only increased the burden of problems on this planet. To make the case, you don’t even have to focus on the obvious like, for example, the way a special operations and drone campaign in Yemen has actually al-Qaeda-ized some of that country’s rural areas. Take instead a rare Washington “success”: the killing of Osama bin Laden in a special ops raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (And leave aside the way even that act was over-militarized: an unarmed Bin Laden was shot down in his Pakistani lair largely, it’s plausible to assume, because officials in Washington feared what once would have been the American way — putting him on trial in a U.S. civilian court for his crimes.) We now know that, in the hunt for bin Laden, the CIA launched a fake hepatitis B vaccination project. Though it proved of no use, once revealed it made local jihadists so nervous about medical health teams that they began killing groups of polio vaccination workers, an urge that has since spread to Boko Haram-controlled areas of Nigeria.
In this way, according to Columbia University public health expert Leslie Roberts, “the distrust sowed by the sham campaign in Pakistan could conceivably postpone polio eradication for 20 years, leading to 100,000 more cases that might otherwise not have occurred.” The CIA has since promised not to do it again, but too late — and who at this point would believe the Agency anyway? This was, to say the least, an unanticipated consequence of the search for bin Laden, but blowback everywhere, invariably unexpected, has been a hallmark of American campaigns of all sorts.
NSA’s surveillance hearing. U.S. 2014
Similarly, the NSA’s surveillance regime, another form of global intervention by Washington, has — experts are convinced — done little or nothing to protect Americans from terror attacks. It has, however, done a great deal to damage the interests of America’s tech corporations and to increase suspicion and anger over Washington’s policies even among allies. And by the way, congratulations are due on one of the latest military moves of the Obama administration, the sending of U.S. military teams and drones into Nigeria and neighboring countries to help rescue those girls kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram. The rescue was a remarkable success… oops, didn’t happen (and we don’t even know yet what the blowback will be).
3. American-style war is a destabilizing force. Just look at the effects of American war in the twenty-first century. It’s clear, for instance, that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 unleashed a brutal, bloody, Sunni-Shiite civil war across the region (as well as the Arab Spring, one might argue). One result of that invasion and the subsequent occupation, as well as of the wars and civil wars that followed: the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Syrians, and Lebanese, while major areas of Syria and some parts of Iraq have fallen into the hands of armed supporters of al-Qaeda or, in one major case, a group that didn’t find that organization extreme enough. A significant part of the oil heartlands of the planet is, that is, being destabilized.
Meanwhile, the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the CIA’s drone assassination campaign in the tribal borderlands of neighboring Pakistan have destabilized that country, which now has its own fierce Taliban movement. The 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya initially seemed like a triumph, as had the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan before it. Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and the rebels swept into power.
Taliban regaining control. Afghanistan 2014
Like Afghanistan and Iraq, however, Libya is now a basket case, riven by competing militias and ambitious generals, largely ungovernable, and an open wound for the region. Arms from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals have made their way into the hands of Islamist rebels and jihadist extremists from the Sinai Peninsula to Mali, from Northern Africa to northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is entrenched. It is even possible, as Nick Turse has done, to trace the growing U.S. military presence in Africa to the destabilization of parts of that continent.
4. The U.S. military can’t win its wars. This is so obvious (though seldom said) that it hardly has to be explained. The U.S. military has not won a serious engagement since World War II: the results of wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq ranged from stalemate to defeat and disaster.
With the exception of a couple of campaigns against essentially no one (in Grenada and Panama), nothing, including the “Global War on Terror,” would qualify as a success on its own terms, no less anyone else’s. This was true, strategically speaking, despite the fact that, in all these wars, the U.S. controlled the air space, the seas (where relevant), and just about any field of battle where the enemy might be met. Its firepower was overwhelming and its ability to lose in small-scale combat just about nil.
It would be folly to imagine that this record represents the historical norm. It doesn’t. It might be more relevant to suggest that the sorts of imperial wars and wars of pacification the U.S. has fought in recent times, often against poorly armed, minimally trained, minority insurgencies (or terror outfits), are simply unwinnable. They seem to generate their own resistance. Their brutalities and even their “victories” simply act as recruitment posters for the enemy.
5. The U.S. military is not “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” or “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known,” or any of the similar over-the-top descriptions that U.S. presidents are now regularly obligated to use. If you want the explanation for why this is so, see points one through four above. A military whose way of war doesn’t work, doesn’t solve problems, destabilizes whatever it touches, and never wins simply can’t be the greatest in history, no matter the firepower it musters.
The look of defeat. Vietnam 1975
If you really need further proof of this, think about the crisis and scandals linked to the Veterans Administration. They are visibly the fruit of a military mired in frustration, despair, and defeat, not a triumphant one holding high history’s banner of victory.
As for Peace, Not a Penny
Is there a record like it? More than half a century of American-style war by the most powerful and potentially destructive military on the planet adds up to worse than nothing. If any other institution in American life had a comparable scorecard, it would be shunned like the plague. In reality, the VA has a far better record of success when it comes to the treatment of those broken by our wars than the military does of winning them, and yet its head administrator was forced to resign recently amid scandal and a media firestorm.
As in Iraq, Washington has a way of sending in the Marines, setting the demons loose, leaving town, and then wondering how in the world things got so bad — as if it had no responsibility for what happened. Don’t think, by the way, that no one ever warned us either. Who, for instance, remembers Arab League head Amr Moussa saying in 2004 that the U.S. had opened the “gates of hell” in its invasion and occupation of Iraq? Who remembers the vast antiwar movement in the U.S. and around the world that tried to stop the launching of that invasion, the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to warn of the dangers before it was too late? In fact, being in that antiwar movement more or less guaranteed that ever after you couldn’t appear on the op-ed pages of America’s major papers to discuss the disaster you had predicted. The only people asked to comment were those who had carried it out, beaten the drums for it, or offered the mildest tsk-tsk about it.
By the way, don’t think for a moment that war never solved a problem, or achieved a goal for an imperial or other regime, or that countries didn’t regularly find victory in arms. History is filled with such examples. So what if, in some still-to-be-understood way, something has changed on planet Earth? What if something in the nature of imperial war now precludes victory, the achieving of goals, the “solving” of problems in our present world? Given the American record, it’s at least a thought worth considering.
As for peace? Not even a penny for your thoughts on that one. If you suggested pouring, say, $50 billion into planning for peace, no less the $500 billion that goes to the Pentagon annually for its base budget, just about anyone would laugh in your face. (And keep in mind that that figure doesn’t include most of the budget for the increasingly militarized U.S. Intelligence Community, or extra war costs for Afghanistan, or the budget of the increasingly militarized Department of Homeland Security, or other costs hidden elsewhere, including, for example, for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which is buried in the Energy Department’s budget.)
That possible solutions to global problems, possible winning strategies, might come from elsewhere than the U.S. military or other parts of the national security state, based on 50 years of imperial failure, 50 years of problems unsolved and wars not won and goals not reached, of increasing instability and destruction, of lives (American and otherwise) snuffed out or broken? Not on your life.
Don’t walk away from war. It’s not the American way – By Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
La monarquía nos hace parecer ridículos. Nos exige y recibe deferencia por razón de nacimiento. Es una idolatría tan bruta y estúpida como la de los antiguos paganos. Esto distorsiona nuestra capacidad de inventar ceremonias y honores por nosotros mismos y arruina el funcionamiento del Estado con reverencias tontas y envaradas. Más grave aún, la monarquía crea una falsa idea de unidad de la nación, mientras nuestros verdaderos gobernantes juegan a la ruleta con millones de nosotros, mientras que millones de nosotros -“súbditos”- nos la estamos jugando con nuestras casas y finanzas.
La monarquía tiene tres efectos negativos para la sociedad: personifica y alienta la idea de una jerarquía social que se basa en la creencia de que la sangre y el nacimiento, en lugar del mérito personal, son suficientes para justificar el respeto e incluso admiración; estimula la nostalgia por el pasado, en el que se asienta firmemente, en lugar de esperanza en el futuro. También es muy cara. Pero eso es un perjuicio insignificante en comparación con los otros efectos dañinos.
La monarquía sigue siendo el único metrónomo en nuestra tierra que no fibrila a mil pulsaciones por segundo. Es nuestro guardián de la continuidad, que nos ancla a una identidad histórica impermeable a la siguiente actualización de Windows, en una época en la que mucho de lo que era culturalmente familiar se ha ido, se ha desconectado, o se ha usurpado con fines de lucro.
La monarquía refleja y refuerza una parálisis en el corazón de nuestra cultura política. El encanto de la realeza o la idiotez del súbdito no son más que una distracción de la realidad, aunque las travesuras reales alimentan muy bien a una cultura cada vez más basura. Sin embargo, es la deferencia la que siempre ha sostenido a nuestra monarquía. La gente todavía reverencia al rey y reverencia a la reina -hasta hace poco ha sido inculcado en nosotros- pero no puedo imaginarme a mi generación hacer lo mismo con un Felipe rey: “¿por qué? ese tipo no es diferente a mí”, muchos podrían reclamar. Y eso es antes de volver la atención a los costos de esta institución inexplicable.
Creo que la monarquía se ha convertido en una especie de telenovela nacional, pero un poco más cara de mantener. Debo confesar que resulta algo entretenida, a pesar de mis aspiraciones a una mayor altura de miras. Ciertamente pulsa todos los tópicos (muy españoles): la clase social, la herencia, la riqueza, la intriga familiar y el mal comportamiento, entre otros. Pero se pone un poco repetitiva y no parece ser muy buena para los propios actores, que se encuentran atrapados en papeles de los que no pueden escapar. Tal vez es el momento de poner fin a la serie.
A pesar de la predisposición de las personas en general a aceptar la monarquía sin crítica -como una especie de fondo de pantalla constitucional- lo cierto es que esta se encuentra en el ápice de una pirámide de jerarquía que está compuesta mayormente por personas que gozan de riqueza no ganada, de poder no democrático o de prestigio inmerecido, o los tres. Cualquiera que acepta esta institución participa de un engaño masivo: que la única manera en que una democracia moderna puede ser gobernada es por medios profundamente anti-democráticos, que la única manera de tratar a los ciudadanos es como súbditos. A mi juicio, estos “súbditos” sólo alcanzarán la mayoría de edad política con la abolición de la monarquía.
Y si usted duda el patriotismo de un republicano, considere el tratar de explicarle a un americano por qué los EE.UU. deberían importar la Constitución española. “Ustedes deben hacer a alguien presidente de por vida”, podría empezar. “Podría ser Barack Obama, como él ya está en el poder y todas las dinastías empiezan con alguien que se ha apoderado del trono… Sus herederos le sucederán, sin importar lo altivos, ilusos, enfermos o, de otra manera, inadecuados que puedan resultar para ocupar altos cargos. Serán los jefes oficiales del estado y las fuerzas armadas les jurarán lealtad a ellos y no a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos“. Puede que reforzara su terreno de juego si usted añade la conclusión: “A los turistas les encantará la monarquía americana. ¡Piense en los beneficios para los hoteleros de Washington!”
Savage capitalism is back – and it will not tame itself. Capitalists spread prosperity only when threatened by global rivalry, radical movements and the risk of uprisings at home.
Back in the 90s, there was a series of assumptions everybody had to accept in order even to be allowed to enter serious public debate. They were presented like a series of self-evident equations. “The market” was equivalent to capitalism. Capitalism meant exorbitant wealth at the top, but it also meant rapid technological progress and economic growth. Growth meant increased prosperity and the rise of a middle class. The rise of a prosperous middle class, in turn, would always ultimately equal stable democratic governance. A generation later, we have learned that not one of these assumptions can any longer be assumed to be correct.
The real importance of Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster, Capital in the 21st Century, is that it demonstrates, in excruciating detail (and this remains true despite some predictable petty squabbling) that, in the case of at least one core equation, the numbers simply don’t add up. Capitalism does not contain an inherent tendency to civilise itself. Left to its own devices, it can be expected to create rates of return on investment so much higher than overall rates of economic growth that the only possible result will be to transfer more and more wealth into the hands of a hereditary elite of investors, to the comparative impoverishment of everybody else.
In other words, what happened in Western Europe and North America between roughly 1917 and 1975 –when capitalism did indeed create high growth and lower inequality– was something of a historical anomaly. There is a growing realisation among economic historians that this was indeed the case. There are many theories as to why. Adair Turner, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, suggests it was the particular nature of mid-century industrial technology that allowed both high growth rates and a mass trade union movement. Piketty himself points to the destruction of capital during the world wars, and the high rates of taxation and regulation that war mobilisation allowed. Others have different explanations.
No doubt many factors were involved, but almost everyone seems to be ignoring the most obvious. The period when capitalism seemed capable of providing broad and spreading prosperity was also, precisely, the period when capitalists felt they were not the only game in town: when they faced a global rival in the Soviet bloc, revolutionary anti-capitalist movements from Uruguay to China, and at least the possibility of workers’ uprisings at home. In other words, rather than high rates of growth allowing greater wealth for capitalists to spread around, the fact that capitalists felt the need to buy off at least some portion of the working classes placed more money in ordinary people’s hands, creating increasing consumer demand that was itself largely responsible for the remarkable rates of economic growth that marked capitalism’s “golden age”.
Since the 1970s, as any significant political threat has receded, things have gone back to their normal state: that is, to savage inequalities, with a miserly 1% presiding over a social order marked by increasing social, economic and even technological stagnation. It was precisely the fact that people believed capitalism would inevitably civilise itself that guaranteed it no longer had to do so.
Piketty, in contrast, begins his book by denouncing “the lazy rhetoric of anti-capitalism”. He has nothing against capitalism itself –or even, for that matter, inequality. He just wishes to provide a check on capitalism’s tendency to create a useless class of parasitical rentiers. As a result, he argues that the left should focus on electing governments dedicated to creating international mechanisms to tax and regulate concentrated wealth. Some of his suggestions –an 80% income tax!– may seem radical, but we are still talking about a man who, having demonstrated capitalism is a gigantic vacuum cleaner sucking wealth into the hands of a tiny elite, insists that we do not simply unplug the machine, but try to build a slightly smaller vacuum cleaner sucking in the opposite direction.
What’s more, he doesn’t seem to understand that it doesn’t matter how many books he sells, or summits he holds with financial luminaries or members of the policy elite, the sheer fact that in 2014 a left-leaning French intellectual can safely declare that he does not want to overthrow the capitalist system but only to save it from itself is the reason such reforms will never happen. The 1% are not about to expropriate themselves, even if asked nicely. And they have spent the past 30 years creating a lock on media and politics to ensure no one will do so through electoral means.
Since no one in their right mind would wish to revive anything like the Soviet Union, we are not going to see anything like the mid-century social democracy created to combat it either. If we want an alternative to stagnation, impoverishment and ecological devastation, we’re just going to have to figure out a way to unplug the machine and start again.
El capitalismo salvaje está de vuelta -y no va a domarse a sí mismo. Los capitalistas generan prosperidad sólo cuando se ven amenazados por las rivalidades globales, los movimientos radicales o el riesgo de revueltas en sus propios países.
En los años 90 se establecieron una serie de supuestos que todos teníamos que aceptar para que se nos permitiera incluso entrar en un debate público serio. Estos se presentaron como una serie de ecuaciones evidentes: “El mercado” era equivalente al capitalismo. Cierto que el capitalismo significaba riqueza exorbitante para la élite superior, pero también significaría un rápido progreso tecnológico y crecimiento económico general. El crecimiento traería un aumento de la prosperidad y el afianzamiento de una clase media. El surgimiento de una clase media próspera, a su vez, permitiría un gobierno democrático estable en última instancia, etc., etc. Una generación más tarde, hemos aprendido que ninguno de estos supuestos se puede seguir considerando correcto por más tiempo.
La verdadera importancia del libro de Thomas Piketty, Capital en el siglo 21, es que demuestra, con absoluto detalle (y esto sigue siendo cierto a pesar de alguna pequeña discrepancia predecible) que, en el caso de al menos una ecuación básica, los números simplemente no cuadran. El capitalismo no contiene ninguna tendencia inherente a civilizarse a si mismo. Abandonado a su suerte, solo se puede esperar que cree tasas de retorno de la inversión mucho más altas que las tasas globales de crecimiento económico, cuyo único resultado posible es la transferencia de más y más riqueza a las manos de una élite hereditaria de inversores. Y el empobrecimiento comparativo de todos los demás.
En otras palabras, lo que sucedió en Europa Occidental y América del Norte, aproximadamente entre 1917 y 1975 -cuando el capitalismo, efectivamente, fue capaz de crear un alto crecimiento y reducir la desigualdad- fue algo así como una anomalía histórica. Hay un acuerdo creciente entre los historiadores económicos de que realmente ese es el caso. También hay muchas teorías en cuanto al por qué. Adair Turner, ex presidente de la Financial Services Authority, sugiere que fue la naturaleza particular de la tecnología industrial de mediados del siglo pasado lo que permitió tanto altas tasas de crecimiento como un fuerte movimiento sindical. El mismo Piketty apunta a la destrucción de capital durante las guerras mundiales, las altas tasas de impuestos y regulaciones que acompañaron a la movilización de las guerras. Otros tienen diferentes explicaciones.
Sin duda muchos factores tuvieron que estar implicados, pero casi todo el mundo parece querer ignorar el más obvio. El período en que el capitalismo parecía capaz de extender y ampliar la prosperidad también fue, precisamente, el período en que los capitalistas sentían que no eran el único equipo en la ciudad: cuando se enfrentaban a un rival global como el bloque soviético, a los movimientos anticapitalistas revolucionarios desde Uruguay hasta China, y a la posibilidad real de levantamientos de los trabajadores en sus propios países. En otras palabras, en lugar de las altas tasas de crecimiento que permitirían una mayor riqueza para que el capitalismo se extendieran, el hecho es que los capitalistas se vieron en la necesidad de comprar al menos una parte de las clases trabajadoras, colocando más dinero en manos de la gente común, creando cada vez una mayor demanda de los consumidores, que fueron en gran medida los responsables de las tasas notables del crecimiento económico que marcó la “edad de oro” del capitalismo.
Desde la década de los 70, a medida que la significativa amenaza política retrocedía, las aguas capitalistas volvieron a su cauce original, es decir, las desigualdades salvajes, con un mísero 1% que preside un orden caracterizado por el aumento del estancamiento tanto social como económico, e incluso tecnológico. Fue precisamente el hecho de que las personas se creyeron que el capitalismo inevitablemente se civiliza a si mismo, lo que le ha garantizado el no tener que hacerlo.
Piketty, por el contrario, comienza su libro denunciando “la perezosa retórica de la lucha contra el capitalismo”. Él no tiene nada en contra del capitalismo en sí, o incluso, todo sea dicho, en contra de la desigualdad. Él sólo busca proporcionar un cierto control sobre la tendencia del capitalismo a crear una clase inútil de rentistas parasitarios. Como resultado de ello, sostiene que la izquierda debe centrarse en la elección de los gobiernos dedicados a la creación de mecanismos internacionales para gravar y regular la concentración de riqueza. Algunas de sus sugerencias -¡un impuesto sobre la renta del 80%!- pueden parecer radicales, pero todavía estamos hablando de un hombre que, habiendo demostrado que el capitalismo es una gigantesca aspiradora creada para chupar riqueza y depositarla en el saco de una pequeña élite, insiste en no desenchufar simplemente la máquina, sino que tratemos de construir otro artefacto succionador, un poco más pequeño, que trabaje en la dirección opuesta.
Lo que es más, él no parece entender que -no importa cuántos libros venda, o las cumbres que sostenga con luminarias financieras o miembros de la élite política- el simple hecho de que en 2014 un intelectual francés de tendencia izquierdista pueda, de manera segura, declarar que él no quiere derrocar el sistema capitalista, sino que solamente pretende salvarlo de sí mismo, es la razón por la que este tipo de reformas nunca van a tener éxito. El 1% no está preparado para expropiarse a sí mismo, incluso si se le preguntase amablemente. Y han invertido los últimos 30 años en la creación de un efectivo cerrojo de los medios de comunicación y la política, para asegurarse de que nadie lo hará por la vía electoral.
Ya que nadie en su sano juicio desearía revivir algo parecido a la Unión Soviética, tampoco vamos a ver nada parecido a la socialdemocracia de mediados del siglo XX, creada para luchar contra dicho bloque. Si queremos una alternativa al estancamiento, el empobrecimiento y la devastación ecológica, mejor vamos a tener que encontrar una manera de desconectar la máquina y empezar de nuevo.
Empezar de nuevo – Dugutigui (Traducción de un artículo de David Graeber)
Only halfway through 2014 and it is clear the year will be remembered for a number of seismic shifts occurring in the Asia-Pacific region. Because Asia in the early 21st century is, as Europe was in the early 20th, the center of world power and potential, and the implications for the wider global order are considerable.
The center of the Asia Pacific Region is China. The “pivot to Asia,” whether in its original American form, or its many reiterations, is in fact a “pivot to China.” During his Asian “pivot” tour to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in April, US President Barack Obama kept insisting that his policies —whether the Trans Pacific Partnership, from which China is currently excluded; mega-regional trade pact; or the 10-year defense pact with the Philippines— were not meant to contain or control China. He seems to protest too much!
In the meantime, Japan, which has a fair number of issues with China, including a tense dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, is proposing under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “reinterpret” the pacifist constitution so as to allow Tokyo greater maneuverability in boosting collective defense: another “pivot to China.”
Russia is making its own “pivot to Asia,” after the recent Ukraine kerfuffle, as highlighted by the May meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai, culminating in a 30-year energy agreement. This apparent Sino-Russian “rapprochement” —complete with a joint naval exercise— reversed a frigid relationship arising from the 1960 Sino-Soviet split, only marginally improved in the 1990’s, of tense distance between Beijing and Moscow.
To the south, China is engaged in hostilities with Vietnam in the South China Sea, as it was and almost certainly will be again with the Philippines, as well as having disputes with Brunei and Malaysia. That Hanoi looks to Washington for support in its confrontation with Beijing is perhaps one of the more flagrant paradoxes of history. All member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are torn between economic benefits of a rising China and security assurances from a seemingly retreating America.
The landslide election of Narendra Modi has electrified India and observers throughout the world. Can this “strongman,” as The Economist dubs him, “unleash India”? The Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China, respectively established in 1947 and 1949, are geographically close, but are not congenial neighbors, politically or emotionally. There was a war between the two in 1962, the bitterness of which is ingrained in the collective Indian memory. There are territorial issues —as recently as May 2013 the Chinese People’s Liberation Army made a deep incursion into the Ladakh region in India causing widespread resentment and alarm.
Perhaps most ominously there is a potential for major confrontation between India and China over water, as China controls the flows from the Tibetan plateau, sources of which are vital to India and surrounding countries. Modi’s “pivot to China” could either take the form of “doing a Nixon,” as some Chinese commentators have suggested —referring to US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972 thereby laying foundations for renewed Sino-American relations— or, as he seems inclined, beefing up the relationship between Tokyo and Delhi, as a means to enhance both economic and security partnership: a sort of Indo-Japanese entente cordiale.
Ties between China and the Korean peninsula are bizarre. Seoul and Beijing are major trading partners. South Korean investments and technology represent a critical component in China’s economic development and performance, and because of territorial and historical legacy disputes with Tokyo, Seoul is bolstering ties with Beijing. Pyongyang, however, continues to depend on financial, political and military support from Beijing. While Beijing has expressed frustration in its alliance with Pyongyang, any break is unlikely as China does not fancy the idea of a united Korea, allied to the US, with troops stationed along the frontier at the Yalu River. The Korean peninsula is likely to remain a bubbling cauldron.
Closer to home for China are Hong Kong and Taiwan. Since July 1997 Hong Kong has been a “Special Administrative Region” under the so-called “one-country-two-systems” regime. While Hong Kong has a degree of autonomy, and retains the rule of law, it has become highly dependent economically on China, including in tourism, which has, in turn, spurred a considerable degree of anti-mainland China sentiment. Hong Kongers chafe at the Chinese leash, and demonstrators demand democracy. The test may come in 2017 when, as earlier promised by Beijing, Hong Kongers expect universal suffrage in the election of their chief executive. The incumbent, pro-Beijing tycoon C.Y. Leung, is deeply unpopular, arising from the perception that he is catering to the Hong Kong elite and Beijing, while ignoring the concerns of the Hong Kong citizenry.
Similarly China has been a huge boon to the Taiwanese economy; some 10 percent or more of the Taiwanese population, 2.5 million in all, live, work and make money in mainland China; Taiwanese companies, including Foxconn and others, account for a large proportion of China’s exports; mainland Chinese visitors are a bonanza to the local tourism industry. While Taiwan’s own economy flounders and would be floundering even more were it not for China, a significant number of Taiwanese ferociously wish to preserve their identity and autonomy —as illustrated in recent massive demonstrations in Taipei, including occupation of parliament, staged in protest at the proposed China-Taiwan cross-strait agreement on trade in services. President Ma Ying-jeou, who campaigned on a platform of closer relations with Beijing, is a lame duck.
At home, or so official Beijing policy upholds, there are strong separatist movements, not only in Tibet, but arguably far more alarming for Beijing in the western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Whereas Tibetan pro-independence separatists engage mainly in self-immolation, Muslim Uyghur nationalists have resorted to terrorist acts that have left scores of people dead or injured. Chinese authorities can’t help but worry about Xinjiang’s ties with global networks of Islamic organizations.
The Sino-centricity of this age is not limited to China’s neighborhood. Economies in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America have become highly dependent on the Chinese locomotive, whether in terms of exports, especially commodities, including energy; investments; and development assistance. China’s multi-billion dollar investment in a Pan-East African railway eventually linking Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan is one of many examples.
A Chinese economic crisis or hard landing would have deleterious consequences for many economies. As the saying now goes: If China sneezes, the world will catch pneumonia. This also applies to the industrialized economies.
Japan, the European Union and the United States all, in different but significant ways, have “pivoted” their economies towards China. China is Japan’s biggest trading partner. Germany exports more to China than it does to the United States. Chinese firms are saving failing French companies —consider recent Chinese investments in Peugeot and Club Med. The United States depends on China to finance its debt at the macroeconomic level, and American universities relish all the massive fees they collect from Chinese students at a more micro level.
This is the world stage in the early 21st century. The United States, long accustomed to the limelight, must now share this with China. Does China have a script? Indeed is China one actor or are there several actors within China seeking to write the scripts? Today, no questions are more burning than these.
Pivoting to China – Jean-Pierre Lehmann’s “The Whole World Is Pivoting to China.”
Estas son algunas de las ideas más llamativas incluidas en el programa de 36 páginas del partido político PODEMOS liderado por Pablo Iglesias. El programa es el resultado de un proceso de elaboración colectiva a través de un método abierto y ciudadano en el que han participado miles de personas. Partiendo de la propuesta de un borrador el proceso ha consistido en tres etapas:
(i) debate y aportaciones online a título individual,
(ii) enmiendas colectivas de los Círculos Podemos y
(iii) referéndum online sobre las enmiendas.
Pablo Iglesias, en su programa Fort Apache, de la cadena HISPANTV.
EMPLEO Y PENSIONES
Reducción de la edad jubilación a 60 años y de la jornada laboral a 35 horas semanales para “redistribuir equitativamente el trabajo y la riqueza”.
Derecho a una renta básica para todos los ciudadanos “por el mero hecho de serlo”. La financiación se haría “a través de una reforma progresiva del IRPF y de la lucha contra el fraude fscal”.
Prohibición de los despidos en empresas con beneficios.
Eliminación de las Empresas de Trabajo Temporal.
Incremento del salario mínimo interprofesional y establecimiento de un salario máximo vinculado proporcionalmente al mínimo.
Derogación de las reformas laborales aprobadas durante la crisis.
Derogación de la última reforma de pensiones.
DEUDA Y BANCA
Derogación del artículo 135 de la Constitución española. Es el que hace referencia a la obligatoriedad de cumplir con el déficit.
Supeditación del BCE a las autoridades políticas.
Apoyo a la financiación pública de los Estados a través de la compra directa de deuda pública en el mercado primario sin limitaciones.
Creación de una Agencia Pública Europea de Rating que sustituya a las tres privadas actuales (Moody’s, S&P y Fitch).
Establecimiento de una tasa sobre los beneficios bancarios para la reinversión productiva.
Regulación pública de los tipos de interés básicos de la economía.
EMPRESAS Y FISCALIDAD
Recuperación del control público en los sectores estratégicos de la economía: telecomunicaciones, energía, alimentación, transporte, sanitario, farmacéutico y educativo.
Este proceso se haría mediante “la adquisición pública de una parte de los mismos, que garantice una participación mayoritaria pública en sus consejos de administración y/o creación de empresas estatales que suministren estos servicios de forma universal”.
Obligatoriedad para todas las empresas multinacionales y sus fliales de rendir cuentas de sus actividades en términos globales y desglosadas por países.
Implantación de la Tasa Tobin sobre las transacciones fnancieras.
Tipificación del delito fiscal a partir de 50.000 euros de cuota defraudada (actualmente se encuentra en 120.000 euros).
Eliminación de los paraísos fiscales ubicados en territorio de la Unión Europea.
Recuperación del Impuesto de Patrimonio.
Supresión de las SICAV.
Aplicación de un IVA súper reducido para bienes y productos básicos.
Introducir un nuevo tipo de IVA que grave los bienes de lujo entre un 30-35%.
Reducción del IVA cultural del 21 al 4%.
Reducción de la partida presupuestaria destinada al gasto militar para destinarla al sector de la investigación.
Moratoria de la deuda hipotecaria sobre primeras viviendas de las familias con difcultades para afrontar el pago de los préstamos.
Paralización inmediata de todos los desahucios de primeras viviendas y de locales de pequeños empresarios.
Dación en pago con carácter retroactivo.
Consideración del suministro de luz, agua y calefacción como un derecho básico inalienable, que debe ser garantizado por parte de empresas públicas.
Ampliación y extensión de la figura del referéndum vinculante.
Ejecución y evaluación de la inversión pública a través de presupuestos participativos.
Fin de las puertas giratorias: establecimiento para ello de un plazo mínimo de cinco años para que los políticos pasen a ocupar cargos en empresas privadas.
INTERNET Y MEDIOS
Garantías de la inviolabilidad de las comunicaciones, entre las que destaca que el respeto a la privacidad y a la intimidad se incluya en los acuerdos internacionales con terceros países.
Defensa de la libertad de expresión frente a las restricciones de acceso y el monopolio de la información. Apoyo al ‘crowdfunding’, el software libre y el ‘copyleft’.
Creación de medios públicos al servicio de los ciudadanos con una gestión democrática e independiente de los gobiernos de turno, con una agencia de noticias europea independiente. Ninguna empresa o grupo podrá ostentar más del 15% del total de un ámbito comunicacional, sea prensa, radio, televisión, internet o el sector editorial.
DERECHOS SOCIALES, EDUCACIÓN Y SANIDAD
Puesta en marcha de medidas encaminadas a garantizar la igualdad salarial entre hombres y mujeres.
Devolución al sector público de todos los centros y hospitales privatizados.
Prohibición explícita del copago sanitario y farmacéutico.
Contemplación del derecho a la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo de forma segura, libre y gratuita, dentro de la red pública.
Garantía del derecho a una muerte digna.
Elaboración de un plan para promover la implantación de una cobertura sanitaria universal para todos los ciudadanos de la UE en cualquiera de los países miembros.
Eliminación de cualquier subvención y ayuda a la enseñanza privada, incluida la modalidad de concertada, destinando el ahorro a la financiación y mejora de los centros públicos.
Derogación del Plan Bolonia.
CONTRA LA CORRUPCIÓN POLÍTICA
Limitación salarial y temporal (dos legislaturas) de los cargos públicos. Eliminación de “instituciones duplicadas e innecesarias, como las diputaciones”.
Eliminación del aforamiento de los diputados de todas las cámaras y senadores
Aplicación estricta del principio de incompatibilidad entre el ejercicio de un cargo público y cualquier otra actividad remunerada
Reforma de los marcos normativos destinados a designar el Fiscal Generaln del Estado, a los miembros del Consejo General del Poder Judicial, los miembros del Tribunal de Cuentas y los miembros del Tribunal Constitucional.
Prohibición de acumular cargos públicos (alcalde, senador, diputado, eurodiputado, etc.).
La anti-política, tanto aquí como en toda Europa, se ha convertido en el estado de ánimo predominante.
Si de hecho votas, la papeleta a recoger en el 2020 no se parecerá en nada a la que te ofrecerán en 2015, o 2010, o incluso ningún año anterior. Aunque la política frente a nuestros ojos parece ser la de siempre, un terremoto está retumbando bajo los Parlamentos. Dos tendencias tectónicas están empezando a chocar entre sí. El impacto tiene el potencial de tumbar el decorado político -los familiares rojos y azules, las líneas divisorias del consuelo, las mismas opciones básicas- al que nos han acostumbrado a lo largo de generaciones.
La primera de estas tendencias es la crisis de la política moderna. Durante las últimas décadas, la política dominante ha quedado atrapada en una espiral descendente. Los partidos políticos tradicionales han perdido millones de afiliados -representando ahora sólo 2 por ciento del electorado. En 1977, el 79 por ciento del electorado acudió a las urnas. En 2011, era el 71 por ciento, y menos de la mitad de los votantes menores de 24 años. En las pasadas elecciones Europeas, un triste 45 por ciento. Sólo un tercio de los jóvenes de hoy parecen están interesados en la política, y sólo la mitad de estos piensan que es su deber votar. La participación se prevé que seguirá disminuyendo a medida que los jóvenes representen un porcentaje cada vez más alto de los electores.
Subyacente a esto está la caída libre en nuestra actitud hacia la política; nuestra percepción de su capacidad para cambiar de manera significativa y positivamente nuestras vidas. Alrededor del 88 por ciento de nosotros simplemente no confía en lo que dicen los políticos. El año pasado, una encuesta de Metroscopia mostró que los políticos son el grupo que inspira menos confianza entre todas las instituciones y grupos sociales. Le siguen, por si quedaba duda, los partidos políticos y (¡Aggg!) los banqueros. Desde el paro a los escándalos de la corrupción, nuestros representantes han recibido largas décadas de merecido maltrato desde los medios de comunicación y el mundo cultural. La anti-política, tanto aquí como en toda Europa, se ha convertido en el estado de ánimo predominante.
La segunda tendencia es el surgimiento de las redes sociales y los usos cada vez más políticos que se dan de estas. Es hoy, por supuesto, la forma predominante de utilizar el Internet. Alrededor de cuatro de cada diez de los adultos en España (42 por ciento) aseguran participar activamente en alguna plataforma de medios de comunicación social. Por cada hora que pasamos en línea, 13 minutos se usan en las redes sociales -más que en entretenimiento, compras, control de la prensa, correo electrónico o cualquier otra cosa.
Las redes sociales están tomando un giro cada vez más político. Los jóvenes no se desacoplan de los temas políticos -en realidad están probablemente tan comprometidos como cualquier otra generación. Ellos recurren a las redes sociales para perseguir sus creencias y pasiones por un mundo mejor, fuera de esas instituciones convencionales en las que confían tan poco. Desde los grupos que se encuentran fuera de la corriente principal -como Podemos (un grupo de Facebook con un ala basada en la calle), a todo tipo de voluntariado, activismo y debate apasionado -tanto legítimo como ilegítimo, esta actividad para-política es ahora un fenómeno potente y creciente. En última instancia, los privados foros Bilderberg se van a tener que enfrentar, de tú a tú, con los populares foros de Internet.
Más temprano que tarde, las redes sociales van a cambiar drásticamente la forma de hacer en la política formal. Sólo tenemos que mirar a Italia para ver cómo un cansado y poco fiable status quo político y un electorado cínico, se ha mezclado con las redes sociales para crear nuevas realidades políticas. Ese ejemplo es Beppe Grillo: un cómico italiano canoso, enojado, sin antecedentes en la política. Grillo tenía un millón de amigos en Facebook, un millón de seguidores en Twitter y el blog más popular en Italia. Este seguimiento se convirtió en el Movimiento Cinco Estrellas -una furiosa oleada insurgente y anti-corrupción que disputó las últimas elecciones italianas, en 2013. Grillo no siguió las reglas del juego. Se negó a dar entrevistas a los principales medios de prensa, Berlusconi le llamó “psico-enano”; él ni siquiera (según las propias reglas de su movimiento) asumiría ningún cargo por sí mismo. No tenía lacayos en la prensa o la televisión. No tenía grandes financiadores del mundo empresarial. No importaba.
Los institutos de demoscopia que estudiaron a Beppe Grillo y su movimiento a medida que crecía, se dieron cuenta de que un nuevo tipo de política estaba tomando forma. Los medios sociales le dieron una voz y una maquinaria de partido (político, no recreativo). Usó grupos Meetup (reuniones ordinarias de personas que comparten un interés particular y se conectan entre sí a través de redes sociales) en todo el mundo para construir un ejército de voluntarios capaces de ganar lo que los estrategas electorales al uso llaman el “juego sobre el terreno”. Se estima que tenía alrededor de 250.000 personas que se consideraban miembros de su partido. Funcionó. En un año, el Movimiento Cinco Estrellas salió de la nada para ganar 1 de cada 4 votos -unos masivos 10 puntos por encima de donde las encuestas le pronosticaban. Creado en 2009, en las últimas elecciones al Parlamento Europeo ha consegudo 5.807.362 votos, o el 21,15% de los votos y 17 escaños.
Aquí en el España, la sorpresa de Pablo Iglesias y PODEMOS (creado en 2014. 1,245,948 votos, 7,97% del total de los votos y 5 escaños en las últimas elecciones al Parlamento Europeo) también nos muestra lo poderoso que puede ser el mensaje anti-sistema. Pero esto, de momento, solo refleja hasta que punto las personas más desfavorecidas están en contra de las políticas al uso, más que el convencimiento general de que PODEMOS llegue a cambiar la forma actual de hacer política. No obstante, es un gigantesco paso hacia el día en que la crisis de la política moderna y el auge de los medios sociales final y verdaderamente se unan. El resultado será una transformación drástica en el panorama político. Una voz carismática -tal vez Iglesias- se levantará con un insurgente y enojado mensaje anti-castas que atraiga a la gente de todo el espectro político. El mensaje -probablemente al igual que el mensajero- no reflejará los consensos y las divisiones políticas actuales. En este sentido, si se pretende llegar a todo el espectro político (única forma de ganar unas elecciones), será necesario sustituir términos de la era de los dinosaurios, como “izquierda” y “derecha” (que implican necesariamente bipartidismo), por otros que reflejen la realidad de los cambiantes tiempos que corren. Por ejemplo: “inteligencia” y “honradez”.
Pero por encima de todo, van a aprovechar el enorme poder de las redes sociales para nivelar el campo de juego con los partidos mayoritarios. Al igual que Beppe Grillo o Pablo Iglesias, las utilizarán como una plataforma sin costo para ambas, la promoción y la organización del partido. La puerta del cambio político está entreabierta. Pronto alguien va a usar las redes sociales para arrancarla de sus goznes.
Anti-política – Dugutigui (adaptación de un texto de Carl Miller)
The Podemos ‘earthquake’ could spell real reform in Spain.
The focus in last week’s European elections was on the seismic waves of the distinct currents of Euro-populism and reaction that “earthquaked” to the top of the polls in France, Britain (or at least England), Denmark and Greece. But arguably the most intriguing insurgency was Podemos (We Can) in Spain, a phenomenon worth examining outside the swish and swirl of populism.
Much of what I have seen written about Podemos has them “coming out of nowhere” –a cliché employed by politicians and analysts that means “we didn’t see them coming”. Yet a three-month-old party with a budget of barely €100,000 shot into fourth place with one and a quarter million votes and five seats in the European Parliament –similar to Syriza, the Greek left-wing party they plan to hitch up with.
The eruption of Podemos and its compellingly outspoken leader, Pablo Iglesias, has already triggered the fall of Alfredo Perez Rubalcalba, the Socialist secretary general who has presided over the party’s worst electoral performance since democracy was restored in 1977-78. But while obviously a rising current of a new left, Podemos could be a broader catalyst for political change in Spain and beyond.
The most obvious origins of this cleverly improvised party are in the mass movement of indignadosthat took over some 50 public squares across Spain three years ago, proclaiming that the EU-wide crisis was not so much a crisis as a scam by bankers and politicians that denies employment to more than half of Spain’s youth.
“If people don’t do politics themselves, they get it done to them, and that’s when they [the politicians] steal your democratic rights as well as your wallet,” Iglesias, a 35-year-old political science professor, said in an interview on Tuesday.
The embryonic party’s emphasis on grassroots participation –through some 300 “circles” across the country– and voting for candidates through a system of primaries, also has obvious inspiration in the indignadosassemblies. But Podemos also links back nearly five decades to the soixante-huitard tradition, through figures such as the former Trotskyist leader Jaime Pastor, or Publico, an online newspaper owned by Jaume Roures, Trotskyite-turned-media-tycoon owner of the Mediapro group. Publico’s TV programmes turned Iglesias into a sought-after guest on a range of mainstream current affairs programmes, and this made him a national figure.
The tendency of some media and political analysts to fixate on the internet and social media as the all-powerful enabler in modern politics and, especially, of political insurgencies misses the fact that it was TV that was key to the Podemos breakthrough. It used the web for crowd-funding, for the primaries and to convene meetings. But with almost no money, it pragmatically personalised the campaign in the TV personality of Iglesias, a media scholar who says “the main space or political socialisation in this country is television”.
Podemos policies are vague, populist, anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation. It rages externally against Germany and the troika (the European Commission, European Central Banks and International Monetary Fund) for imposing untenable levels of debt and joblessness on the EU periphery –as they see it– to save German banks. Internally, Iglesias never speaks without lambasting what he calls la casta (the caste) – the ossified hierarchs of the governing Partido Popular and the Socialists, most of whom have never done anything in life except rise inexorably up their parties, all the while (Podemos says) failing or betraying the country.
But this has struck a note amid Spain’s crisis, which is institutional as well as economic –a message that extends beyond the usual leftie suspects to the thinking and sinking middle classes.
Practices emphasised by Podemos such as selection primaries did not come out of nowhere. One of the root causes of institutional decay in Spain is its political parties, in which the list system vests all power in the party leadership. In the course of last year, for example, a group impelled by diverse independent figures such as Carles Casajuana, former Spanish ambassador to the UK, called for wholesale democratic reform of Spain’s parties, which habitually politicise other institutions such as the judiciary. Another of the 100 initial signatories of that manifesto, the economist Cesar Molinas, said this was essential to overcome the “extractive elites” plaguing the country. A smaller group of left-wing independents around the controversial crusading magistrate Baltasar Garzon called somewhat optimistically for a new and unified politics of the left to overcome the crisis.
So no, Podemos did not emerge from nowhere. However well it goes on to perform, the momentum it has already generated could be a catalyst for reform.
Two hundred years ago, before the development of potent synthetic pain-killers or surgical anesthetics, the notion that “physical” pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed no less bizarre. Most of us in the developed world now take its daily absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as “mental” pain, too, could one day be superseded is equally counter-intuitive. The technical option of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of political policy and ethical choice.
Why does suffering exist? The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved only because they served the inclusive fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. Their ugliness can be replaced by a new motivational system based entirely on gradients of well-being. Life-long happiness of intensity now physiologically unimaginable can become the heritable norm of mental health.
Contemporary images of opiate-addled junkies, and the lever-pressing frenzies of intra-cranially self-stimulating rats, are deceptive. Such stereotypes stigmatize, and falsely discredit, the only remedy for the world’s horrors and everyday discontents that is biologically realistic. For it is misleading to contrast social and intellectual development with perpetual happiness. There need be no such trade-off. Thus states of “dopamine-overdrive” can actually enhance exploratory and goal-directed activity. Hyper-dopaminergic states can also increase the range and diversity of actions an organism finds rewarding. Our descendants may live in a civilization of serenely well-motivated “high-achievers”, animated by gradients of bliss. Their productivity may far eclipse our own.
Genetic engineering and nanotechnology allow Homo sapiens to discard the legacy-wetware of our evolutionary past. Our post-human successors will rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign the global ecosystem, and abolish suffering throughout the living world.
Try summoning up the most delightful fantasy you can imagine. Try and imagine feeling more blissfully fulfilled in pursuing whatever you love and value than you’ve ever felt before.
Unfortunately it’s quite futile. We run such simulations on legacy wetware. Even the most virile imagination glimpses only a shadow of the biological nirvana awaiting our descendants. For decoding the human genome allows happiness beyond the bounds of contemporary human experience to be genetically pre-programmed by rational transhuman design. In a post-Darwinian era of paradise-engineering, life on earth promises to be inconceivably good.
The Hedonistic Imperative (David Pearce’s abolitionist manifesto, 1995) predicts we are poised to explore a spectrum of outrageously beautiful states of consciousness. States of consciousness far more sublime than today’s fleeting “peak experiences” can potentially imbue the texture of everyday life. In contrast to our animalistic mix of pleasure and pain, utopian biotechnology will permit our genetically enriched descendants to be animated by gradients of immense well-being. In the new reproductive era of “designer babies”, an informational economy of mind based on innate bliss can form the bedrock of invincible mental health.
Early in the 21st Century, the prospect of paradise-engineering still sounds weird, and perhaps “unnatural”. Yet the metabolic pathways underlying heavenly states of consciousness are neither more nor less “natural” than any other patterns of matter and energy instantiated elsewhere in space-time. Knowledge of these (hitherto) genetically maladaptive forms of mental life has mostly been impossible to emotional primitives like us. This is because of the pressure of natural selection. Cruelly, any genetic blueprint for naturally “angelic” minds [if evolved blindly via the mechanism of natural selection acting on random genetic variations] would entail crossing dips in the evolutionary fitness-landscape. Such jumps are forbidden for reasons of neo-Darwinian theory. So truly beautiful minds never evolved; brutish Darwinian life forms were selected instead.
Fortunately, thanks to genetic engineering, a spectrum of mental superhealth will soon become safely accessible to all. Better still, primordial-DNA-driven minds are destined to redesign themselves out of existence. An enriched neural architecture will then disclose modes of ecstatic bliss far more intense, diverse and exhilarating than a drug-naïve hunter-gatherer psyche can comprehend. Such magical kinds of happiness are only travestied, alas, by the dry textual placeholders found here. Such happiness is only travestied, too, by today’s short-acting euphoriants or wirehead rodents.
For within a few generations, lifelong bliss that exceeds any fantasised Christian afterlife can become the genetically-coded basis of our existence. If we want our kids to enjoy mental superhealth – emotional, intellectual, and ethical – then we can design their genetic makeup to ensure every moment of every day is a sublime revelation. Gradients of well-being surpassing our own lame “peak experiences” can be their everyday norm of mental health.
On this scenario, Post-Darwinian superminds will go on to rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign our whole global ecosystem, and abolish suffering and cruelty throughout the living world. The abolitionist project has an overriding moral urgency. Yet the conquest of suffering is just the beginning. The molecular biology of paradise may be closer than we think.
Pleasure for the People! Do you consider whether there should be more opiates for the masses … or do you settle for nuts and seeds?
Heaven on Earth? – The Hedonistic Imperative (The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life)
“The unipolar model of the world is over,” declared Vladimir Putin last week.
As it tries to punish Russia for the latter’s dismemberment of Ukraine, the West is discovering that the balance of power isn’t what it used to be. Russia is a huge supplier of oil and gas —traded in US dollars— which gives it both leverage over near-term energy flows and, far more ominous for the US, the ability to threaten the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency. And it’s taking some big, active steps towards that goal.
I’m not just referring to the $400bn deal struck between Moscow and Beijing, under which Russia will supply 38bn cubic meters (bcm) of gas to China over 30 years from 2018.
What is not being outwardly discussed is that during Putin’s two days visit in Shanghai, Russia and China took another small step to undermine U.S. monetary hegemony, when Russia’s second biggest financial institution, VTB, signed a deal with the Bank of China to bypass the dollar and pay each other in their domestic currencies.
And as if pushing Russia into the warm embrace of the world’s most populous nation was not enough, there is also the second most populated country in the world, India. Today we learn just how prescient this particular comment also is, when Reuters reported that Rosneft, the world’s top listed oil producer by output, may join forces with Indian state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp to supply oil to India over the long term, the Russian state-controlled company said on Tuesday.
Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, travelled to India on Sunday, part of a wider Asian trip to shore up ties with eastern allies at a time when Moscow is being shunned by the West over its annexation of Crimea. Rosneft said it had also agreed with ONGC they may join forces in Rosneft’s yet-to-be built liquefied natural gas plant in the far east of Russia to the benefit of Indian consumers.
While the particular banking deal may not be incredibly significant in and of itself, there is another deal that is in the works that could have a much wider impact. According to Reuters, the BRICS block (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) aim to finish preparations for a new international development bank by this July. The bank, which has been in the works for several years now, aims to provide an alternative to the IMF (The United States is currently the dominant shareholder of the IMF).
While the new bank is being presented as a means of facilitating investment within the BRICS block, If Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are able to establish a stable financial network that bypasses Washington and the Federal Reserve, it would not only make it impossible for the U.S. to bully any one member (i.e. Russia), but it could also open the door to dollar free energy exchanges… exchanges like the one that Russia has announced it will open this June.
That’s right. On June 8th Russia is opening its own oil exchange to trade crude oil and petroleum products for rubles and gold.
To understand why trade deals between Russia, China and India are potentially huge, a little history is useful: Back in the 1970s, the US cut a deal with Saudi Arabia —at the time the world’s biggest oil producer— calling for the US to prop up the kingdom’s corrupt monarchy in return for a Saudi pledge that it would accept only dollars in return for oil. The “petrodollar” became the currency in which oil and most other goods were traded internationally, requiring every central bank and major corporation to hold a lot of dollars and cementing the greenback’s status as the world’s reserve currency. This in turn has allowed the US to build a global military empire, a cradle-to-grave entitlement system, and a credit-based consumer culture, without having to worry about where to find the funds. We just borrow from a world voracious for dollars.
But if Russia, China and India decide to start trading oil in their own currencies —or in gold— then the petrodollar becomes just one of several major currencies. Central banks and trading firms that now hold 60% of their reserves in dollar-denominated bonds would have to rebalance by converting dollars to those other currencies. Trillions of dollars would be dumped on the global market in a very short time, which would lower the dollar’s foreign exchange value in a disruptive rather than advantageous way, raise domestic US interest rates and make it vastly harder for us to bully the rest of the world economically or militarily.
For Russia, China and India this looks like a win/win. Their own currencies gain prestige, giving their governments more political and military muscle. The US, their nemesis in the Great Game, is diminished. And the gold and silver they’ve vacuumed up in recent years rise in value more than enough to offset their depreciating Treasury bonds.
The West seems not to have grasped just how vulnerable it was when it got involved in this latest backyard squabble. But it may be about to find out. In any case, don’t get your hopes up for immediate fireworks though. Rome didn’t collapse in a day.
The chess player – Dugutigui, on some excerpts from different sources.
Strangely, I almost liked the guy, president of a large book-publisher. He was in perfect shape. His shape was round. His diameter was a meter across the hips, easily. Perhaps, I was reflecting, this is why there is so little ancient art left in the world. Perhaps ancient fat people bumped into buildings and statues and made them fall. Perhaps this is the real reason Rome fell. “I had a dream I was a billionaire,” he was explaining. Being one of the biggest capitalists in the country, obviously, he was still in his coma. “But I have tried to write, and I have failed,” he continued, “I don’t care a fig about!” And right there was the cursed paradox of it. Every door to success in literature is guarded by those watch-dogs, the failures of literature. Of all creatures under the sun the most unfit would decide what shall and what shall not find its way into print. Strangely, I almost liked the guy, because despite the fat, more nauseating than cod-liver oil, despite being the most inadequate to decide on my manuscript, I could imagine his happiness when sitting on a couch next to his wife, resembling a large pear, and their children, like cucumbers, explaining magniloquent to them: “It’s funny. For a while now writers speak out on matters within the publishing world. Meanwhile, publishers function as critics, in the worst sense of the trade, and critics as writers, in the worst sense of the trade too. Everything is a little confused, outdated. But I’m the future…” The book factory tour was proving interesting, anyway.
We were accompanied by a young engineer who showed us those gigantic matte black machines, shuttling tokens of energy. I was deeply impressed by that properly automated and educated world. It was as a pornographic fantasy of the nineteenth century, rape followed by gratitude. According to the engineer, the annual output of the factory amounted to fifty million books. But what impressed me was not the number of books printed, but the almost total lack of workers. Then we entered a smaller chamber. A metal monstrosity presided room. It seemed to be a mass of hard drives all fused with each other, but too sophisticated to be merely hard drives. And above them, a funnel. “To print a book,” said the engineer, “is enough to put paper, ink and gray powder into the funnel-shaped opening of the machine. Once these materials have been placed in it, in less than five minutes, we start producing lots of books of all sizes.” I watched the books coming out as a torrent. I asked the engineer what the gray dust was. “This,” he replied indifferently, standing, with certain air of importance, in front the glistening black glowing machine, “is donkey brains. Brains are dried and turn into powder. The current price is two to three cents a ton.” Then it all made sense.
Donkey brains – Dugutigui’s version of a Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s tale
Becky was the white woman who had two Negro sons. She’s dead; they’re gone away. The pines whisper to Jesus. The Bible flaps its leaves with an aimless rustle on her mound.
Becky had one Negro son. Who gave it to her? Damn buck nigger, said the white folks’ mouths. She wouldn’t tell. Common, God-forsaken, insane white shameless wench, said the white folks’ mouths. Her eyes were sunken, her neck stringy, her breasts fallen, till then. Taking their words, they filled her, like a bubble rising – then she broke. Mouth setting in a twist that held her eyes, harsh, vacant, staring. . . Who gave it to her? Low-down nigger with no self-respect, said the black folks’ muths. White folks and black folks built her cabin, fed her and her growing baby, prayed secretly to God who’d put His cross upon her and cast her out.
When the first was born, the white folks said they’d have no more to do with her. And black folks, they too joined hands to cast her out. . . The pines whispered to Jesus. . The railroad boss said not to say he said it, but she could live, if she wanted to, on the narrow strip of land between the railroad and the road. John Stone, who owned the lumber and the bricks, would have shot the man who told he gave the stuff to Lonnie Deacon, who stole out there at the night and built the cabin. A single room held down to earth. . . O fly away to Jesus . . . by a leaning chimney. . .
Six trains each day rumbled past and shook the ground under her cabin. Fords, and horse- and mule-drawn buggies went back and forth along the road. No one ever saw her. Trainmen, and passengers who’d heard about her, threw out papers and food. Threw out little crumpled slips of papers scribbled with prayers, as they passed her eye-shaped piece of sandy ground. Ground islandized between the road and the railroad track. Pushed up where a blue-sheen God with listless eyes could look at it. Folks from the town took turns, unknown, of course, to each other, in bringing corn and meat and sweet potatoes. Even sometimes snuff. . . P thank y Jesus. . Old David Georgia, grinding cane and boiling syrup, never went her way without some sugar sap. No one ever saw her. The boy grew up and ran around. When he was five years old as folks reckoned it, Hugh Jourdon saw him carrying a baby. “Becky has another son,” was what the whole town knew. But nothing was said, for the part of man that says things to the likes of that had told itself that if there was a Becky, that Becky now was dead.
The two boys grew. Sullen and cunning. . . O pines, whisper to Jesus; tell Him to come and press sweet Jesus-lips against their lips and eyes. . . It seemed as though with those two big fellows there, there could be no room for Becky. The part that prayed wondered if perhaps she’d really died, and they has buried her. No one dared ask. They’d beat and cut a man who meant nothing at all in mentioning that they lived along the road. White or colored? No one knew, and least of all themselves. They drifted around from job to job. We, who had cast out their mother because of them, could we take them in? They answered black and white folks by shooting up two men and leaving town. “Goddam the white folks; goddam the niggers,” they’d shouted as they left town. Becky? Smoke curled up from her chimney. Nobody noticed it. A creepy feeling came over all who saw that thin wraith of smoke and felt the trembling of the ground. Folks began to take her food again. They quit it soon because they had a fear. Becky if dead might be a haint, and if alive – it took some nerve even to mention it. . . O pines, whisper to Jesus. . .
It was Sunday. Our congregation had been visiting at Pulverton, and were coming home. There was no wind. The autumn sun, the bell from Ebenezer Church, listless and heavy. Even the pines were stale, slicky, like the smell of food that makes you sick. Before we turned the bend of the road that would show us the Becky cabin, the horses stopped stock-still, pushed back their ears, and nervously whinnied. We urged, then whipped them on. Quarter of a mile away thin smoke curled up from the leaning chimney. . . O pines, whisper to Jesus. . . Goose-flesh came on my skin though there was neither chill nor wind. Eyes left their sockets for the cabin. Ears burned and throbbed. Uncanny eclipse! fear closed my mind. We were just about to pass. . . Pines shout to Jesus! . . the ground trembled as a ghost train rumbled by. The chimney fell into the cabin. Its thud was a hollow report, ages having passed since it went off. Barlo and I were pulled out of our seats, dragged to the door that had swung open. Through the dust we saw the bricks in a mound upon the floor. Becky, if she was there lay under them. I thought I heard a groan. Barlo, mumbling something, threw his Bible on the pile. (No one has ever touched it.) Somehow we got away. My buggy was still on the road. The last thing I remember was whipping old Dan like fury; I remember nothing after that – that is, until I reached town and folks crowded round to get the true word of it.
Becky was the white woman who had two Negro sons. She’s dead; they’re gone away. The pines whisper to Jesus. The Bible flaps its leaves with an aimless rustle on her mound.
One of the last times I was in a dive, in the harbor district, it was pouring. Sharp steely arrows gushed all over an agonizing lead sea, which massive chest barely encouraged. I remember it well, because out of my standardism of everyday life, that evening, in a moment of reflection, I was hoping to get killed. I got a Scotch meltdown instead.
It was dark inside, and until I took a long sip I wasn’t aware of the panorama of cloudy eyes the counter featured, no-ones with dog-gazes nursing their disappointment with life. The seedy slang and its scent, musty and damp, as if it were haunted by ghosts, had the reassuring feel of a place where everyone is just passing through, and which therefore has none of the close-knit atmosphere which could cast a humiliating light on one’s own alienation.
Behind the bar were the boss; a black woman with melons, well, like watermelons, thick lips, black eyes, and a hairstyle with many tresses as skeletons of vipers. In a corner, a drunk was imparting geography lessons to a drunken fat Caribbean, while she was lamenting having allowed her “Oreo of her soul” to flee to New York. Next to them two Bacchae mid-age Latinas were chattering softly, as crackers who fear being heard by the microphone of history. Closer to me a sexagenarian-wine-taster was humming a soulless song, with an empty gaze, and the wrinkled fingers of his hands, wrapped in a worn epidermis broken into small red dots, clenched with inert consistency in a Spanish guitar. At the other end, a drunk Cuban, black as history, sitting as a deposed monarch on a pine stool, spoke, spluttering, with the black boss, about the strengths and weaknesses of one politics or another, keeping aside his true opinion, as he hadn’t clear who could speak here about the order and disorder of the times. I -because for myself, to be thinking, I need no name-, sot as a homeless going to spend the night in the open, I was trying to bring sense to my brains, which safely intruded in conversations and muttered monologues of the night owl characters taken by the booze. Finally, behind all of us, a mahogany hair and eagled indigene, with some minor bite marks that past had given her, was sweeping the floor, quietly, like a sleepwalker, beyond this world.
Then a brown Moroccan, with a vendor’s mustache, staggered in to stand next to me, ordered a beer three times and had it served, he shouted with all his might, “Allah is great!” in his tongue. All eyes turned toward the lean Moroccan. “Alleluia!” was for me the meaning of the copious silence that followed. “Viva la revolucion!” shouted then the red-wine-old-guitar-man. “Viva la Virgen de la Macarena!” added, risqué and choir, with Sevillian accent, both Latinas, not without some irony. “Long live the head of the house!” cried the Cuban, with popping calf eyes, seeming like a statement. “Long live luv!” said, with ghetto accent, the one whose boyfriend fled to New York. I, who wasn’t able to shout a slogan, took refuge in tradition: “Holly fucking shit!” I absently muttered. It was then the big black cheese, tiding up with a slap the braids behind her, asked the eagled woman, who had stopped brooming, to cast the bolt of the door. Her next act was, turning around, to switch off some more lights in the room, leaving us in shadows. I don’t know how it happened, but we all took a good sip of our glasses. The boss got two beers from the drawer and told the mahogany hair specimen to leave the broom aside because “We expect a long night…”
The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time. So … the rest of the night I’d assign to oblivion.
Scotch meltdown – Dugutigui’s version of Carlos Sardinero’s “Una noche muy larga”