Wishful Feeling: Christianity and Emancipation

Many Christians maintain that their religion “set them free”, or liberated them. Whatever do they mean? I received a Catholic “education” and my descriptives would be far and away from glowing terms employed by the born again. In theory and practice that religion’s representatives meant to stupify the mind.

In keeping with Catholic tradition, separation by gender was implemented as far as was legally acceptable. Girls were expected and then praised to high Heaven for their deference and natural grace. (Tomboyishness – as in: personality – was actively persecuted.) As a reward, they were alloted extra “play time” and allowed to leave for home earlier. Boys were damned with the assumed tautology that we were too “boisterous” (yes, the staff were really that dense), and instructed that sports and a little mathematics were to be the extent of our purview.

John Erskine told students they had a moral, and attainable, obligation to be intelligent. Nothing so affirming here. We were informed regularly which of us was useless, which of us stupid and irreparably so, who was smart – not in the Erskine sense, but that pointed, accusatory way, as in, “oh, Mr Clark, I had no idea you were an expert in ark construction”. We soon learned that harsh words (usually with reference to Hell) and consequences were reserved for any who questioned The Doctrine.

On one occasion, I was told by a bucktoothed shag-weasel named Mrs Smith – her poor, browbeaten and well-meaning husband worked for the same institution – that no one in our class would amount to anything much: no successful businessperson or university scholar would escape the ragged crowd. We were working class and had to accept our lot. This sort of thing will, even at a young age, trigger an overwhelming sense of dejection. Children, we somehow forget, or pretend to not know, have a remarkable capacity for foreboding. It complemented what we were taught as a matter of course; we recited weekly:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And o
rdered their estate

This among a tsunami of verses in All Things Bright and Beautiful, an awful hymn that still retains the ability to sneak attack my consciousness. England has a long history of Christian moralists, working in service to power, excusing hideous societal failings by claiming that eternal bliss awaited their victims in death. That hypocrite Wilberforce arrogantly claimed to be doing God’s work, all the while stamping on the worker and hacking away at the Liberty Tree. Besides chattel slavery*, every terrible excess of the British capitalist class was justified: workhouses, the banning of workplace organisation, and government massacres, including Peterloo. Because, oddly, class distinctions were Heavenly ordained, and by extension contained, even if the racial weren’t.

While he went on to preach about the perfectibility of the British State, with its damnable constitution — has anyone seen it? — and its heroic resistance to reform, starved bodies were being discovered in the Home Counties, half-digested daffodils in their stomachs. Hazlitt, perceptive and brilliant, put it tersely, “[he, Wilberforce,] who preaches vital Christianity to untutored savages, and tolerates its worst abuses in civilised states.”

Image result for workhouse

 

William Cobbett satirised this type of Christian. The type who thinks suffering a holy virtue, and considers envy the very worst a pauper can experience.

Come, little children list to me
Whilst I describe your duty
And kindly lead your eyes to see
Of lowliness the beauty

‘Tis true your busy backs are bare
Your lips too dry for spittle
Your eyes as dead as whitings are
Your bellies growl for Vict’al

But, dearest children, oh! Believe
Believe not treach’rous senses!
‘Tis they your infant hearts deceive
And lead into offences

When frost assails your joints by day
And lice by night torment you
‘Tis to remind you oft to pray
And of your sins repent ye

Let dungeons, gags and hangman’s noose
Make you content and humble
Your Heavenly crown you’ll surely lose
Of here on earth you grumble.

Liberation Theology

But, as I’ve alluded to, this isn’t Christianity in toto, and I mustn’t allow the personal make me think so. Cobbett himself was a dedicated believer (he could never reconcile that his hero Thomas Paine was a deist), and despised those clergy that he felt were twisting the Good Word. And hasn’t it been the case that, just as there have been men citing the Old Testament when committing their terrible deeds, they have had their opposite, quoting from the Gospels? There are Bible verses that glory in the freeing of slaves, and there are those that revel in the taking of them – and indeed both sides of the 18th and 19th century debates on the question of owning of Africans made good use of them. There are other verses that teach followers to resist change and new ideas, and others still that seem to instruct believers that they should defiantly question, and if found lacking, overthrow the status quo.

Image result for liberation theology

 

Does this mean that there’s enough in the Judeo-Christian canon to make any condensing of it arbitrary? While the US-backed juntas of Central and South America paraded Family, Order and the Cross, independent priests and nuns were forming the vanguard of liberation theology. This movement which, until School of the Americas trained thugs put bullets into its leading figures, led with Jesus and made common cause with the socialists. The lies about unending joy following death were put to the wayside. They demanded salvation, in the form of land reform, democracy, adequate healthcare, and the pursuit of happiness, in the material here and now.

But the poor person does not existing as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.

So said Gustavo Gutierrez.

Well meaning as they no doubt were, there was – and will always be – a trap door awaiting all those wishing to employ Christianity for progressive means. It’s got a vindictive and selfish god, scriptural defenses of murder and plunder, it’s got heroes like Lot, and a historical connection to Rome that opens up an entirely new (and terrifying) avenue of dismay. It, in other words, it has baggage.

Cut out the bullshit and get right to the liberation. Real emancipation requires a radical change in the material realm, and to Hell with the spiritual (whatever that is anyway). If something requires an illusion – or is it delusion? – to sustain itself, surely there’s something amiss, the impartial must admit. Can’t people take the socialist pill without the sweet – and deadly – sugar coating of Christianity?

Reason, Slave

The great Richard Carlile, jailed for six years for fighting for an English free press, made the mistake of thinking that all that was required to revolutionise the masses was the propagation of radical literature. Once people read that there was an alternative to superstition and submission, then surely they would reach for the last priest’s entrails and strangle the world’s last king with them. The reasons why this wasn’t so are numerous, although principally it’s thus, people aren’t rational. To expect Man to be led by Reason alone, as he did, is like expecting a flower to be sustained entirely by starlight. It can’t, and we can’t – or at least, we had better not: John Stuart Mill was brought up to experience the world solely in terms of the rationalist utilitarian calculus, and by the age of twenty he found life weary and stale and was ready to die. His relief came chiefly from the poetry of the Romantics.

(And it was to the poetry of William Blake that Clement Attlee’s reforming Labour government turned to in 1951. Even this had its Biblical allusions:

I will not cease from mental strife,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.)

Related image

That’s not to say that Christianity must therefore be the vessel containing the germ of change. Only that appeals to reason alone will not suffice. Marx himself recognised this when, just before he wrote his famous line about the “opium of the people” (one of the best known quotes on the internet and one of the least understood), he described religion as, “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions”. This leaves non-religious narratives at a disadvantage, because they haven’t the same recognition – in part because religious regimes have actively cracked down on them – and neither can they promise so much.

A Political Alternative

Yet attempts at an unifying, non-religious and emotive narrative have been made. These efforts (mostly communes), it could be said, have seen success by satisfying itches in those zones of the cortex usually reserved for the religious. Sin becomes alienation and oppression, the saviour figure of Moses, Jesus or Muhammad is replaced by the Collective or class, the moment of salvation and/or rebirth is The Revolution. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, suggests that were his lead character – a devout and pious man of the cloth – to answer “do you believe in God?” with the negative, he would be a fervent socialist. He sees the overlap as significant, drawing particular attention to utopianism.

In the same way, if he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth.

But we have to be careful here. Socialist and Christian groups share similarities exactly because they are groups, and all groups have their common objectives, vices and taboos. And it’s no surprise that a dedicated God botherer might make a committed politico – indeed, American politics is awash with those who manage to make an identity of both. More importantly, the socialist project is no illusion. It promises, rather than “spiritual improvement”, implementable solutions rooted in the world we can fairly assume exists. And in its quasi- forms it’s given us such boons as the welfare state, nationalised heathcare, subsidised arts, industries held in common, and trade unions.

What a socialist future can’t guarantee is vicarious redemption, or, for that matter, quick fixes. It won’t free you from the troublesome tendrils of reality. It’s unlikely to answer all of your prayers (yet what does?), and it certainly won’t grant you a personal Jesus.

What it may do is erode the binds of economic exploitation, eliminating what Oscar Wilde called the sordid nessessity of living for others. Allowing individuals to fully realise their innate talents, and the dreams that the pressures of work and capital, at present, suppress. It won’t be perfect, but it promises people a new, higher and more meaningful form of consolation: self-expression. (And if you insist on having concepts like “soul”, you might dedicate your freshly unmanacled mind and body to discovering or defining it. Perhaps without resorting to folk stories and clergymen.)

However, whatever the future brings – socialism or no – it’s unlikely to be “heaven on earth”. For this reason and others, Christianity will endure as source of false hope and sham freedom. Irrevocable as it and all religion may be though, can we at least begin to make them a little less necessary?

 

_______________________

*Slavery existed in the colonies, and continued under a different name following “Wilberforce’s” abolition.

Same for sex. On women agitating for the abolition of slavery, “[F]or ladies to meet, to publish, to go from house to house stirring up petitions – these appear to me proceedings unsuited to the female character as delineated in Scripture“.

 

Paddy

Machine Men with Machine Hearts

The original quote is from Charlie Chaplin's The Last Dictator. The mechanistic and ubiquitous nature of Capital
The original quote is from Charlie Chaplin’s The Last Dictator. The mechanistic and ubiquitous nature of Capital

The Face of Capitalism

Sir Philip Green has been described by the good Frank Field (chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee) as the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. Strong words to be sure – and the added comparison to Robert Maxwell surely stung – but, c’mon now, let’s get serious…

This is the face of capitalism.

What did Green do?

  1. He sold his retail company to a mate, Dominic Joseph-Andrew Chappell – a man with three bankruptcies to his (incredibly cunty) name and no prior experience of retail management – for £1
  2. Guarantors to the sale were given “unrealistic” figures, with the Goldman Sachs’ stamp of approval
  3. Chappell brought in his mates to fill directorships (what’s the betting that one of them wasn’t called Horatio-Bonky-Gunterballs?)
  4. Chappell and his mates stripped what they could – including the employees’ pension pot – from the rapidly deceasing BHS (describing one withdrawal of over £1 million as “a drop in the ocean”, so what are the employees moaning about?)
  5. Most of this money ends up in off-shore accounts, one of which is in the name of a certain Tina Green
  6. Company sinks and the state is left to pick up the pieces – in this case, the pieces are former low-paid workers who suddenly don’t have money left aside for a rainy day

 

Is it also worth mentioning that, as Chappell and co.’s accounts are offshore, they’re not contributing tax to the very state that is now obliged to fix this mess?

But I ask you: what part of this is illegal? What makes it unacceptable exactly? It’s all some jolly good free enterprise – the market showing its supremacy over state interference.

 

If you wish to read the Select Committee’s conclusions, you may find them here. Here’s a quote from the report:

 

Goldman Sachs provided free advice to Sir Philip on the transaction, having turned down the opportunity to be formally engaged. In doing so, they hoped to maintain a longstanding and lucrative relationship with a wealthy client. Goldman Sachs told us that their role was limited to providing some “preliminary observations” on the proposals. It is clear that their subsequent involvement went considerably beyond that. They enabled their prestigious name to be cited as that of “gatekeeper” to the transaction. This added lustre to an otherwise questionable process. Lack of clarity about their role evidently caused confusion for some parties to the transaction. Goldman Sachs should have been either “in” or “out” of the deal, and demonstrably so. As it was, they had authority without accountability

 

 

Authority without accountability. Ah, there’s the wonderful Third Way Blair promised us.

 

Paddy

Just How Fucked Are We? Brexit Referendum

Paddy: OK, Project Fear may have gotten to me but I actually dread the prospect of a British exit from the European Union. There’s plenty of reasons, some ideological, others humanitarian, some selfish (more southern European women per favore!).

What a shame they’re all bloody married

I’m not sure how interesting you’d find the whole procession, so, for now, I’ll limit myself to the line I’ve been subjecting every acquaintance who mistakenly asked me “so, how are you voting?” recently. For short, this response is suitably labelled “The End is Nigh!

What you must bear in mind, for this to make any sense, is that the Remain/Leave is at its core an ideological battle. One between pragmatic internationalism and conservationism in its many forms.

So, it’s Friday and the vote’s in: (gulp) Leave has won.

In the City the pound plunges, in the estates the right-wing insurgency is boosted. All those Tommy Mair “lone wolves” get the unpleasant truth confirmed: they are, in fact, a dispersed pack. Their fellow travelers in the mainstream – the “I’m only saying what everyone’s thinking” lot – lose the residue of shame they have left, and join in. Pushing the post-Cameron Tory party further and further into the recesses.

More broadly and more importantly however: the continent. The loss of the UK will initiate the self-destruction of the EU. Not long before we see all those Eastern European and Baltic states we forgot existed drop out – leaving, among other things, the human rights standards Brussels guarantees. I assure you, it won’t be long before we’re witnessing pogroms of those “swarms” out of Africa and Arabia. Leaving us agitated and questioning, “should we do anything?” (A step backwards from that conundrum that has long rattled the Right, “what should we do?”)

Yanis: he’s like Che, only bald… and less shooty

The xenophobes and fascists will also excel in Greece’s elections (much to the fault of the EU and Europe’s biggest banks – see Yanis Varoufakis, a keen Remain campaigner), setting off dominoes snaking toward the North Sea. Putin and Ergoren will quietly celebrate and, quieter still, put Europe’s implosion to good use, cleansing their borders of Chechens and Kurds respectively (in the very strictest sense of the word).

Without the liberal, progressive force that is European unity, prepare yourself for the Savage Continent we mistakenly thought buried for good.

Battle of Grunwald by Jan Matejko

Pole: We’re due for a good and proper World War, don’t you think? It’s high time the Brits got their beating stick out and gave those no good Frenchies a good spanking. Also who doesn’t like to kick a German or two in their sausage loving arses.

Usually I’d say that you’re being a bit too paranoid and fearful of fascism and authoritarianism/totalitarianism re-establishing itself in Europe. However, this time I might actually join in that. Britain leaving the EU would set a dangerous precedence. It would indeed show those right wing extremists that they have some power and that is a frightful thought.

Not sure about the fascist regimes popping up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. (Fuck, is that an analogy for nuclear war?) Can’t speak for others, but I have faith in my countrymen. We might have a right wing party and prez in power, but they’re characterized more by their Catholic fundamentalism than authoritarian tendencies (though they have those). We have a constitution, and as the recent crisis regarding the Constitutional Tribunal (Polish equivalent of the Supreme Court) has proven, we are willing to fight in its defense. Not with guns and violence, but with demonstrations and protests. You might laugh at the futility of such an devour in face of a threat of totalitarianism. But remember, the Poles actually convinced the Commies and the Soviets to fuck off with just that.

Even if Brexit doesn’t mean the resurgence of fascism in Europe, it almost certainly spells doom for the British economy. If you paid attention or read one of Paddy’s previous posts, then you know we’re in recession, again. Breaking away from the EU would mean cutting some crucial funding. For example that for the British farmers, who rely on the EU to stay afloat. On the eve of the referendum 170 students’ unions wrote an open letter to the voters pleading to vote Remain. One of their argument was that the EU provides 15% of funding for the British universities. Without, you can certain there will be further tuition fee increases and marketisation.

If none of that speaks to you, then consider this. Leaving the EU could put Game of Thrones in jeopardy. Filming the show is incredibly expensive, and it relies greatly on funding from the EU. Without that support, the show could be forced to find a different venue. You can imagine the loss of continuation. Not to mention all the jobs lost in the Northern Ireland, which the show provides. Also, don’t expect another large scale scene like those in the most recent episode: The Battle of the Bastards. Seems that winter might take a little longer to get here.

Game of Thrones: can you live without it?

 

Paddy: Empire is never far away is it? The Poles achieved their 1989 liberation due to the decline of a crumbling empire, while British Leave campaigners are turning, for confidence, to quaint false memories of theirs’.

It is a truism in everywhere where blue moods and blue-bloods do not reign, but the decline of the British Empire was long overdue. But the Leavers are resolute: their path leads to the lions of old(e), glory and institutionalized sadism. That last one the Brits will certainly get, but they might not be so keen when they see it inverted rather than directed outside – to the wogs. (What do these working class voters think will happen to their rights when the right of the Tories take power?)

And that, rather neatly, brings us to the very worst of all: a Leave victory will be followed by Boris entering Number 10. See below a hint of just how our Dear Leader will be treated by the multitude.

A multitude the Old Etonian despises but, for this fleeting moment, finds useful.

Why is it that the Leave campaigners always seem to look so… unattractive?

Ugh, well, I’m sorry subject you to that. As a remedy, please let Rome remind you of the importance of European solidarity:

The Donald and Bernie Show! S02E08

 

Trump is making out with Sanders’ girlfriend Dalia on the sofa. Trump’s on top

Trump: Oh baby, you make me so hot.

Trump’s toupee flips up suggestively

(Audience roars with laughter)

Dalia attempts to push Trump back

Dalia (in shrill New Yorkese): Donny, stop, I-

Trump: The Trump! It’s pronounced THE Trump, you kikey whore!

(Audience displays considerable mirth as he strikes her)

Dalia: T-The Trump, sorry. The Trump… I-I don’t feel comfortable with this.

Trump: What’s wrong? Is Ivanka’s dress too tight? She has a very lean, supple body y’know.

Dalia: No no, it’s not that. It’s… Bernie, we’re hurting Bernie.

Trump: Baby, what people don’t know can’t hurt ‘em. After-all, the projection always TRUMPS the reality beneath. (Trump turns to look directly into camera) How’d you think I got those poll numbers?

(There’s a nervous tittering until someone in the back repeats ‘TRUMPS!’ and the unabashed laughter resumes)

At this point a key can be heard turning in the lock . The front door bursts open and Bernie Sanders enters the room on his tiny, rickety donkey. The donkey’s named Socialized Health Care

Sanders (waving arms erratically): Heya comrades!

(A wave of applause shake the set’s very foundations)

Trump and Dalia fix themselves and sit up on sofa

Sanders: And what have my best bud and favourite lady been up to today? I was just at the gun show with my Black Lives Matter buddies. I ended by having a Key Lime pie… and eating it!

(Tempered chortles)

Dalia: Look, Bernie, there’s some ‘ing I been meanin’ to tell ya.

Trump (jabbing her in the ribs with a Trump brand pen): Are you sure about that?

Dalia: This won’t be easy, Bernie. You betta get off Socialized Health Care and take a seat.

Trump (teeth gritted): Why don’t you go out into the kitchen and cook up some of that dreidel pie, huh hun?

Dalia stands

Dalia: Bernie, I and The Trump have been having sex behind your back.

Trump (grinning, he leans around Dalia to look at the camera): And also behind hers!

He slaps Dalia on her rear

Trump: Otherwise that nose would’ve took an eye out!


(A man in the front row is taken aside by the medical team and diagnosed with having split sides. It proves fatal)

Dalia: Oh! I can’t deal with this now! I’m sorry Bernie.

Dalia runs out of the room leaving Trump and Bernie in silence. Bernie looks confused and distraught

Sanders: Oy! Oy! …This can’t be happening.

Trump: Hey, now, there’s no need for language like that. Bernie, take a seat.

Sanders: …She’s my favourite lady and you’re my best bud…


Trump: Look here. Do you want know the truth? Bernie, you’re always on about sharing and being nice to each other and, well, I was trying to follow your example. I was trying to do that by fucking Dalia. Y’see, I respect you Bernie. I respect you a lot. I was just trying to be a bit more like my best bud.

(A loud “awwww” comes from the audience. Show runners begin handing out boxes of tissues)

Sanders: That’s the nicest thing anyone has said about me. D-do you really mean it?

Trump, arm around the hunched Senator, smiles 

Trump: Of course not you loser! Now come on, we’re going to the titty bar.

The theme tune to Curb Your Enthusiasm begins playing as Sanders looks up and wrily smiles back at his lascivious old friend


(End Credits)

Dynasty and Farce in D.C.: Perspective of a Brit No One Asked

This year the American citizen will be given the choice of voting for their country to become the laughing stock of the world or abstaining, leaving that privilege to others. And in either case, dropping the rest of us in it.

Currently, the only seriously progressive and intelligent candidate faces a giant impediment: you can say the preceding about him. The excitement which initially propelled old man Bernie is coming to a creaking stand-still. It is Sanders’ very peers – the over 60s – which have proved the least convinced, and it is this decrepit bunch which will fill the largest number of voting stations on November 8th. (Senility, after-all, is one of the leading causes of conservatism.)

So what has the great American democratic system thrown up instead? A small man for whom tongue twisters must be debilitating and a woman who can claim to being one of the world’s more infamous crooks before moving into the Oval Office.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the typical British fashion, I’ve looked beyond my nose toward the West and guffawed at our provincial, hopelessly idealistic cousins. Not only is this type of commentary ungallant, it’s usually wholly self-deceiving given the stupidity which passes as thought in this country – “well I wouldn’t want the queen’s job”. Usually.

This election race matters because Americans will not merely be choosing their president, they’ll be choosing the world’s president. Leaving the relatively safe, albeit blood-soaked hands of Obama, we speed toward rising seas, the spectre of nuclear catastrophe and war, war, war. The driving seat will be occupied by either (did you ever think we would be seeing this?) Donald Trump or Clinton II. Given his much publicized deep, personal connection with the number 1, I’ll start with him.

 

Trump

 

This is a man who both speaks at a 4th Grade level and balances a doormat on his head, and yet, is managing to command the love and respect of HUGE numbers of people (to borrow an adjective). Trump goes up to the podium day after day, tilts his head stroke-ways, adopts a convincing likeness of Mr Toad and speaks to those convened as if they were 8 year-olds. And, keeping the journalists badgered into attending these rallies to one side, the audience seems to sincerely enjoy it. He’s repetitive, abrasive and about 5000 miles away from anything that could conceivably be considered eloquent, but, somehow, it works. Here is how you make Georgian farmers’ wives and those ultra-hetero Joes damp down there:

“We are out of control… We have no idea whose coming into this country. We have no idea if they love us or hate us. We have no idea if they want to bomb us.”

 

On foreign policy,

“I dealt with Gaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land. That’s what we should be doing. I don’t want to use the word ‘screwed,’ but I screwed him. That’s what we should be doing.”

 

Sometimes the shortest ones are the best,

“I will be… the greatest jobs president that god ever created, let me tell you.”

This is what success sounds like in America? A silver spoon which bears the scratches of multiple bankruptcies and smeared, as it is, by incestuous innuendo. C’mon now, you’re just making it easy for us.
Many have drawn the red string of incrimination between the portraits of Donald and Adolf in recent weeks (helped by Trump’s ex revealing the collection of Third Reich biographies at his bedside). It’s a lazy comparison, sure, but not quite as lazy as what we’re accustomed to. I took some time out to visit some neo-Nazi sites (where Self-pity and Self-aggrandizement go to make very ugly babies) to read transcripts of speeches given by the Fuhrer, and I can report: whatever else you may say of him, he was capable of talking in sentences.

If you have been fortunate enough (and sufficiently un-Muslim) to actually see one of these spectacles in person you’d know that the hollow, wheezy cheers result not from lack of numbers. It has more to do with the, ahem, advanced age of those in the stands: Trump’s ranks are grey. This demographic knows its History – hell, they’ve lived it, and this experience has clearly taught them one thing if nothing else: they rather be spoken to as if none of that happened. As if they were children. (Those who fear the Civil War’s second half can at least be glad that the side reaction takes will also be taken by cataracts and arthritic knees.)

It’ll be no surprise to state this at this juncture, Trump isn’t quite hitting my G-spot: I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Perhaps Steinbeck’s words can offer some explanation, “I guess the trouble is that we [the United States] don’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone is a temporarily embarrassed capitalist.” Someday, they think, that’ll be my name shitting on the skyline.

 

A part of me, now a faint glimmer, still believes that Trump is doing all this for a laugh. That he’ll step in front of a television camera at the twilight of election season and say, “seriously, you losers fell for that?!” and laugh himself into a coma. But then, even then, Ted Cruz will just come along and sweep up the flock and, before you could say “/pol/ isn’t going to like this”, we’ll have the prospect of fascism all over again.

 

Clinton

 

From fascism, taking the form of Trump, to corruption, fraud, corporatism and the murder of un-people and former associates in the wake of Clinton (allegedly).

Clinton. Clint-on. What other than sickly stomachs has that name produced? (One or two illegitimate children, and dead Africans aside.) Just when you thought matters couldn’t possibly get worse, Hillary, the spawn of ill-gotten gains and tutored in the dark arts by Tricky Dickie himself, takes the stage. Yes, it was in Nixon’s Republican Party, and later being among the first to examine his secret tapes, that she finely honed her veneers.

Even the staunch Clintonite Chris ‘big-mouth’ Matthews is suggesting that Hillary shares more in common with Dick than their mutual acceptance of sexual assault,

“Most politicians want you to know everything about them. They do like the fact that [there is] public exposure. She is the absolute opposite, like Nixon was. The exact opposite of that.”

And the comparisons needn’t end there. Both Clinton and Nixon participated in character assassination, the first being central to the intimidation and slander campaign of Bill’s many victims. Both Clinton and Nixon exploited mass human disaster for their own megalomaniacal reasons – the former in Kosovo, the other in Indochina. Both Clinton and Nixon have lent their ear to that serpent Kissinger (he’ll outlive us all at this rate, but then, do demons ever expire?). Clixon is war-mongering, conniving and, perhaps most irritating of all, incompetent. (Try to remember that it was she who fucked up health care reform so astoundingly in the 90’s when she’s warning voters that Sanders’ll do just that.)

Many, including Trump, have been attacked in turn for attacking Hillary “personally”. In other words: by drawing attention to her marriage to a serial rapist. Underhanded, they say, irrelevant they add for good measure. Well, call me old fashioned but I think that this bit of trivia really says something about the She-Clinton’s morals.

But she’s a woman, cries CNN, surely that makes her a friend to all women and a symbol of the feminist ideal to challenge Maggie herself? Feminism is not sinisterly threatening the rape victims of My Man, that, as the street-savvy know, is called being a dependable bottom bitch. And sending the signal to nearby hotshots that you’ll do anything if there’s enough zeroes attached.

For more see vox.com

 

To remind the electorate of Hillary’s all-consuming hunger for power is not political opportunism, it’s a warning in the shape of a diagnosis. Rapist enabler in the bedroom, whore on the (Wall) street. So, which makes you shudder more, her personal or professional life? Is there even a difference?

With all of that she still acts, and is treated, as if she’s owed the presidency.

Do we need any more evidence that, just as clinical depression is irrational and, indeed, a disorder, those who prepare optimistically for the future are equally – if not more – unhealthy? Shouldn’t the psychiatrists be setting their heavy gazes on those grinning, rather than grimacing, at this freak show and be asking, “what the hell is wrong with you?”

Paddy

Thermo-Masochism: The question Hitchens, McNamara and Chomsky could agree on

“I HAVE COME TO THE PARADOXICAL CONCLUSION THAT TECHNOLOGY MUST BE PROTECTED FROM MAN”

Leading engineer of the Chernobyl project, Valeri Legasov

 

Those who wouldn’t be bent to his will were burned, crushed and torn asunder by Cormac McCarthy’s Judge, and this, apparently, is exactly what we’re looking for in a leader. At the height of the nuclear weapon debate, former PM David Cameron graced our television screens just long enough to tell us what a cold, murderous bastard he would be given half the chance. How weak and simpering, he went on, was the alternative, that Jeremy Corbyn. He possesses no intention of committing, and in turn inviting, genocide through Trident.

 

The press provided the echo, asking readers if they knew what possible mental defect had consumed the peace-mongering leader of the Opposition. Regurgitating with approval the Conservative reassurance that, yeah, they were still fully committed to lending the Rapture a helping hand, “want to make something of it?” (Omitting, in doing so, that they could only do so should the Americans demand it, treaties stating so going back to Attlee. Highlighting a curious master-slave relationship that the anti-EU crowd never raise objections to.)

 

The living embodiment of War may be too grandiose a comparison but Cameron and Co. certainly share something with the McCarthy plagiarism: sadism.

 

“Let me tell you about the Super Mutants”. An illustration of the Judge in Sam Chamberlain’s memoir, apparently McCarthy’s only source for Blood Meridian

 

If you think this analogy strained reflect on this: Dave has imagined circumstances in which he would be willing to conscript every British man, woman and child into an international game of Russian Roulette. Although, the excitement would sort of dissipate when all cylinders are loaded… Regardless, these are scenarios which must have occupied the dreams – for the giddiness of their delivery suggests they aren’t experiencing terrors in the night – of many a democratically-elected leader since 1945. (At what point up the pecking order does the prospect of holocaust go from unthinkable horror to viable, even good, “deterrence”?)

 

And yet how eager we find the silo fodder. The Tory press, eager to remind all of their tradition’s familiarity with both edges of the sado-masochist dialectic, pledged their allegiance to mutinous military men against the man who wishes to bring them back in from the front-line.

 

“And the fact Jeremy Corbyn is currently taking a hammer to them represents a much greater threat to British parliamentary democracy than any off-the-record military braggadocio. It is not the generals who are currently mounting a coup against the British constitution, it is Jeremy Corbyn mounting a coup against the British constitution.”

Dan “Googly-eyes” Hodges

 

That same piece shares the sobering figure that 79% of Telegraph readers “could push the button”. Apparently they don’t need a reason.

 

All this may be baffling but it shouldn’t be surprising. Nuclear weapons have provided insignificant men with an opportunity to project a macho image from their very inception. When wiser men were calling for caution (including those whose brilliant intellect had brought about the Atomic Age, Einstein and Oppenheimer), the stupid Harry S. Truman was preparing to launch B-52s at Hiroshima, gifting the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside with a blinding light show and their children with birth defects, and their children ad nauseum.

 

Forget the monetary price of the thing (£167 million), we can’t afford this again

 

In what George Carlin diagnosed as the Bigger Dick Foreign Policy problem, Truman committed the heinous act of disintegrating two Japanese cities – and for what? A show of force to Stalin, who was committed to a much-dreaded (on both sides of the Pacific) invasion of the island nation. Thus mutating the end of history’s most destructive war, which should have been a time of reflection and quiet celebration, into the Half-Century Dick-waving Contest (known to the politically-correct as the “Cold War”).

 

The most likely “exchange” – a euphemism which manages to be clean, capitalist, child-friendly – Britain will be involved in is with the Russia born from that engagement. Ukraine, Syria, the Middle East as a whole, it is these proxy wars between NATO and Putin which has Geiger counters everywhere wincing.

 

The Most Dangerous Moment

 

Thanks in large part to two Slavs, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov and Khrushchev, we haven’t achieved mutual incineration already. The second of that pair was willing to risk Soviet face rather than the planet during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A comparative slight which proved that bit too much for John F. Kennedy. Contrary to what many choose to believe, the Boy Wonder, adored by liberals everywhere, almost destroyed the planet in 1962. Letting his personal vendetta against Castro reach the obscene level of state terrorism – not to mention attempted invasion – he was then willing to apply pressure to the small island’s patron, causing a stand-off which he was warned by his own had a 1 in 3 chance of culminating in all-out war.

 

I’m reminded of that Christopher Hitchens’ quip, “Like everyone else of my generation, I can remember exactly where I was standing and what I was doing on the day that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy nearly killed me”. It was your and my very existence he was gambling with in between fucking the mistresses of mobsters, maids and Marilyn Monroe. And for some reason most people will still be more outraged, if at all, by the second half of that.

 

(His crony McNamara has assured us since in Foreign Policy that he regretted enabling that drug-fuelled megalomaniac, and took the opportunity to marvel at making it to the 21st century.)

 

The firebombing of Tokyo

 

I recommend Seymour Hersh’s excellent book for those who are interested in the dingier side of the US’s 35th president. And Putin, remember, is no Khrushchev. He pines for that Great Bear the other sent into hibernation.

 

As absurd as Kennedy’s nuclear policy was, it did make sense politically. As Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out, in a time when domestic and foreign policies weren’t so easily disentangled, the nuclear build-up enhanced the state’s power to such an extent that, by the time Kissinger entered that frat house on Pennsylvania Avenue, a lone sadist had to power to begin and end wars. Although the “doctor’s” speciality was always the former.

 

Orwell, with characteristic prescience, and with an eye on the political, saw that an intolerable extension of the State lay just behind Ernest Rutherford’s discovery,

 

“Ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance.”

 

Picture the Ancien Régime with Gatling guns rather than the common musket, and you’ll get the drift. By extension, imperial presidencies today can only be maintained with the specter of Nuclear Holocaust looming above this and that directive out of D.C. And the threat isn’t without force. Nixon, an excellent Inner Party representative, threatened to unleash nukes at Indochinese peasants after-all, completely subverting established arms race rules.

 

“Eastasia is our ally. They have always been our ally.” Kissinger and Nixon sought to give substance to Orwell’s nightmares

 

And still the Nuclear Question has the power to shape the debate. Dormant as it may be in the majority of geopolitical discourse, it remains a steady and apparently reliable gauge of character in the sickly theatre of personality politics. What better way of allaying fears of potential sissyness (and original thinking) than by declaring openly, “I love The Bomb”? This laid-back approach to species suicide is meant to convey just how tough and hard-headed our prospective Commander-in-Chief is. How bloody his grip, how steely his will. The fatherly figure who never tires of reminding us how we’re kept from death because he allows it.

 

Soon enough, the small hand hovering over “the button” will be that of a head-strong, air-headed game show star.

 

“I am not—I am not taking cards off the table”.

Trump on whether he would employ nuclear weapons in Europe and the Middle East

 

Never forget… this amazing front page

 

Perfectly fine candidates running for high office have seen their bids go the way of Fat Man – kaput! – when trepidation was shown. Alexander Cockburn wrote of the left-Democrat Harold Hughes, who lost all legitimacy by answering, “would you use nuclear weapons?” with the negative. He went on to add that should he be informed the Soviets had launched their warheads, he would not retaliate in kind. There was no point in confounding a genocide.

 

All Filth is Local

 

Toryism needs Trident. We, in Britain, may not have an imperial presidency to uphold, but there’s always that seat on the Security Council. Without which we would never have been able to stifle action against the Monroe Doctrine’s worst excesses, enable Suharto’s campaign of mass-murder, enforce Iraqi sanctions, or, more recently, elect Saudi Arabia to the UN’s human rights council. (Just what would the world do without us?)

 

Also, we are now burdened with a generation of MPs who simply cannot envisage life outside the special relationship – the junior role in which WMDs are seen to make up for a loss of BOTs (British Overseas Territories). An Army representative cut to the chase, warning of a coup should the public ever dare to elect the Jez, the Great Confiscator.

 

“The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.

“There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.”

Anonymous Army General

 

Every now and then a line is uttered that you’re sure will feature prominently in future history textbooks (if England doesn’t, in fact, deteriorate into Airstrip One). The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. Just where was the counter-punch? Where were the unions and fiery journos and the denunciations from Parliament? Where, for that matter, was the fucking Left?

 

Those who think the anti-fascism cause is an unnecessary one in the 21st century need to take a hard look at General Sir Nicholas Houghton and his ilk. The mere whiff of democratic socialism – the prospect is, remember, four years away – and, Heaven forbid, seizure of their apocalyptic dildos and they’re morphing into Pinochet.

 

We may have lost on Trident, but the Nuclear Consensus has become the Nuclear Question with introduction of Corbyn to the Shadow Cabinet. For too long it had been sheltered by bipartisanship and Tommies with a clear disdain of those of us on the civilian side of the constitutional divide. When coming to judging who best lead us in 2020 and – I suggest this optimistically – beyond, the British voter should perhaps think about the Judge’s sort and how, in the end, they’ll bugger you into the dirt.

 

 

Paddy

An Open Love Letter to M(r)s Sturgeon.

(Penned in the lead up to the 2015 General Election where a Labour victory of some sort seemed a shoe-in… at least with the aid of Sturgeon’s SNP MPs.)

Dear Nicola,

Upon hearing the news that you are on your way to the Capital I felt compelled to write you, lest I miss the opportunity.

I remember vividly my visit to the Sturgeon Clan at the closing of the Summer of 2014. This, as you no doubt remember, was a tense time for your family.

The Sturgeons were deliberating about relocating from our declining town or not. These deliberations threatened, for a time, to tear husbands from wives, brothers from sisters, selkie from dunnie. (As I recall, Patriarch Sturgeon never quite recovered from the episode.)

As an outsider, a visitor to your family’s residence, I felt my presence might make things all together worse. This concern was unfounded. Your family showed me great respect and kept me, as is your peoples’ tradition, well-fed.

I will never forget that all-too-brief time that we shared. A time which, in proximity, strong feelings developed in me. It was a surprise – as it may be for you now, reading these words.

Our shared loves became apparent even if the blossoming one remained – painfully – hidden: a strong appreciation for the Gaelic world, an impassioned dislike for the entitled.

Now, again, we are in challenging times and I can not help but notice another preoccupation of yours.
A man popular among many in the town (if not among those born on the “right” side of the tracks). He’s considered by some a rising star in the great game. I can’t help but notice that you have spoken as if you too share this sentiment.

Right now you may think Edward is right for you, after-all he can provide a great deal. In comparison I am wholly inadequate. I do not carry a degree from a prestigious university. Nor do I possess a substantial personal income, often relying on the generosity of friends (none of whom carry the prefix “lord”).

These things that I lack – I hope – I make up in shared curiosities and honesty. Edward, as attractive as he may seem, does not mean what he promises. Not truly. I believe you know that.

He will disappoint and leave you disillusioned with his kind. Nicola, you deserve someone better.

Not unlike the girl which preoccupied the minds of every man in this town all that time ago, possess the power to change the world. But, unlike Maggie, you are compassionate, thoughtful and are morally courageous. You are unmatched.

These things I write you needed to be said. As we near an uncertain future for you and me both, please spare my meager words a thought.

Couldn’t you see a way to loving me as I love you?

Yours,
A true English socialist.

Paddy

40 Years following American withdrawal, Vietnam is the loser

“I survived, but it’s not a happy ending.”
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Four decades ago to this day, the bureaucrats who had been facilitating assassination, obliteration and camps of concentration were tending bonfires. They were making crisp a paper trail that led all the way to Washington.

A rare thing happened as those papers burned and those Hueys took on their final load: a superpower conceded defeat. Opening the way to the rag-tag forces that the USA had been carpet-bombing, gassing and turning into soap not so long before. The battered Vietcong and northern forces had finally reached their goal – a grey bastion which would soon become known as Ho Chi Minh.

The South Vietnamese General Duong, the latest in a long line of Western puppets, ordered his men to lay down their weapons. And much to their relief they stood by as Minh’s tanks and red flags consumed the city. At last, it looked as if this poor, beleaguered army had managed to pull off an almost impossible task.

Taking on the combined forces of colonial France, Imperial America and their multi-national (and largely Korean) mercenary allies, the popular forces in Vietnam reunified their nation, and installed a representative government for the very first time. A remarkable event for any former colonial possession but particularly this one.

But anyone who has read histories which go beyond 1975 know that the country and its people never really recovered from the wounds that war inflicted. The lush tropical rain-forested landscape which defined Indochina was reduced to mush, utterly deformed – a hellish representation of its former self. Agent Orange ensured the populace shared similar make-overs.

Chemical weapons, supposedly rejected by all civilized peoples as they dragged themselves out of that great meat-grinder which was the Great War, made a gruesome come-back. In the 1960s, the Vietnamese people became unwitting subjects in a plethora of toxic herbicide trials.

Unsurprisingly for those suffering the White Man’s Burden, American strategists of the day found Asians a more acceptable target for testing weapons (or “defoliants”) than actual guinea pigs. (Rodents, in comparison, have the unfortunate tendency of eliciting sympathy in their captors.)

Vietnam. 12/2004. Ho Chi Minh. Professor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, at Tu Du Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital is pictured with a group of handicapped children, most of them victims of Agent Orange. Photo by Alexis DUCLOS
Vietnam. 12/2004. Ho Chi Minh. Professor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, at Tu Du Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital is pictured with a group of handicapped children, most of them victims of Agent Orange. Photo by Alexis DUCLOS

 

Over three million Vietnamese were directly affected. In the forty years since, many of that number have developed terminal illnesses or disorders of the brain. But exposure doesn’t limit itself there. No, it invades the ovaries as much as the cortex, and infects any unfortunate caught growing within. Babies with twisted or missing limbs. Oblong heads drooping, eyes missing. Torsos peppered with sinister bulges reminiscent of the Plague. They are today’s victims of that war waged half a century ago and it’s the stuff of nightmares (forgive the cliche).

The political leadership of the newly unified Vietnam did initially lobby for recompense. They pleaded with the suits in Washington for clean-up funds or, at the very least, expertise in decontamination. Nixon reluctantly promised $3.3 billion in secret talks (before the potency of Agent Orange was fully understood). But the funds never arrived as Congress never sent them. Instead American law makers busied themselves conceiving of more and more ludicrous conditions for the plaintiff to meet (such as materializing POWs to return to the States). And in a cold aside by a US ambassador the Gooks were informed that, seeing as both sides suffered during the conflict, any talk of reparations was “extortion”. Those who despised moral equivalence so much were only too eager to put victim-hood on a unrealistic level pegging.

As of yet, the compensation agreed upon in 1975 has not materialised.

With a subsequent US embargo on Vietnamese goods the latter country was forced into the suicidal Soviet embrace. This only went to intensify American demonisation of the small nation, with several Western commentators declaring that this proved the Vietnamese liberation forces were little more than Ruskie stooges all along.

Not unlike Cuba, whose population made the same grievous error of choosing their own government (if not through the ballot box), Washington D.C. could not forgive the insubordination of the Vietnamese. A good Third World government would turn its country into a glorified sweat shop, its people into low-wage workers – like the much lauded Suharto’s Indonesia. (Wolfowitz, the great democrat and liberator of Iraq was stationed there, showering the ruthless dictator with praise.)

Regardless, the elites have got their way in the end. As the USSR fell, any illusions remaining of an independent, egalitarian Vietnam emerging went with it.

It has been members of the new political class that the great socialist leaders Minh and Lê Duẩn helped create which has been responsible for the latest insults. Vietnam, they claim, is now a “socialist-orientated market economy”. For those unfamiliar with Newspeak, this in practice means the worst possible of both worlds: a neo-liberal economy reliant on cheap labour, mixed with an overbearing state in matters of military, policing, justice and free-speech. The Economist magazine not unfavourably described the contemporary leadership as “ardently capitalist communists”. Vietnamese politicians have claimed (as if to help quell their inner demons) that there is simply no alternative to this unsavoury hybrid.

Somewhere in this process throwing out Das Capital and latching onto Thatcherism has also tempered any criticism of the US and other aggressors – such as their trading partner Korea. The Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes opened in 1975 was renamed the more internationally-pleasing “War Remnants Museum”. Truth and reconciliation, Hanoi’s great and good have decided, is going to have to wait.

Thankfully there are those with an eye on more than the bottom line. NGOs have been successful in bringing some semblance of normalcy back to the country. Project RENEW is a fine organisation which helps locals in clearing the countryside of unexploded bombs and mines. It could be argued that General LeMay’s threat to bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age was, well, spot on – more explosives were dropped on it than Germany during the entirety of WWII (this attack-dog of JFK was also responsible for the fire-bombing of Tokyo). But RENEW is making progress, with many guilt-ridden American veterans volunteering their services.

Christopher Hitchens made his reputation in opposition to the American War on Indochina and, even when he appeared to ally himself with American power years later, this tragic episode maintained a special place in his amygdala. He wrote about the horror in 2006:

Of this Vietnam syndrome, some of us have sworn, there will … be no forgetting, let alone forgiving, while we can still draw breath. But some of the victims of Agent Orange haven’t even been born yet, and if that reflection doesn’t shake you, then my words have been feeble and not even the photographs [of its victims] will do.

Spare a thought for that triumphant moment forty years ago and what it meant for the Vietnamese. No one should ever have to endure a victory like that.

Paddy