Europe Stares into the Abyss: Confronting the American Occupant in the Room

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Europe must seize the vast opportunity for self-determination that has presented itself in Trump’s destructive re-configuration of the post-War international order.

In the wake of the vandalism of the Trump presidency, an end-game has been revealed which will allow Europe to reclaim its sovereignty as an independent world power – and as another counter-balance to American hegemony.

If Europe will not, however, embrace this possibility, if it does not have the courage to take charge of its own destiny, it will face two existential possibilities: full assimilation into the American empire or destruction through war. There is no middle course if Europe will not embrace the truth of its oft-preached slogans and oft-publicised philosophies of freedom.

There may never be a better moment for Europe to take its destiny back into its hands. Trump wants to frighten, intimidate, expecting that we will always back down, that we will always choose the unimaginative stability of the status quo – or, that our elites will always be susceptible of blackmail, bribery or bullying to toe the line.

But, is this how we want our history to be told to our children: that we were knaves, cowards and accomplices to the most destructively narcissistic nation in history?

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Europe Stares into the Abyss.

 

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America’s Shameful State of Decay – Bernie Sanders still has a plan for the renewal of US infrastructure

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Every generation needs a new revolution.

                                 Thomas Jefferson

 

Infrastructure.  Not a very exciting word – and certainly not one to whip up the hysteria of the electorate in an election year.  We have other words for that: immigration, terrorism, religious extremism, or Russian aggression.  The usual suspects.

Yet, perhaps the word ‘infrastructure’ will become more exciting if we unpack it, learn what it is – and understand that it is not any external cause that most threatens America, but instead decades of negligence to the very ‘infrastructure’ of this nation.  There is that word again: infrastructure. But, what does it mean?

A short list will suffice: water treatment, roads, bridges, public housing, passenger and freight rail, marine ports and inland waterways, national parks, broadband, the electric grid, schools, hospitals, government buildings, dams – in other words, to use a medical metaphor, the conditions for the healthy life of a nation.

Perhaps the people of Flint, Michigan and the increasing number of cities affected by the lead poisoning crisis know better than most the critical importance of the timely maintenance and transformation of our nation’s infrastructure.

To read the rest of this article, please visit America’s Shameful State of Decay.

Political revolution isn’t just a sexy slogan

Why the ‘Movement for Bernie’ must not end at the White House, or even with a Trump or Clinton Presidency

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There has been much talk about the relative prospects for the success of a Clinton or Sanders nomination for the Democratic Party – and much debate over whom – Sanders or Clinton – would be the real ‘change-maker.’   There has also been much ink spilled over various strategies for overcoming Republican obstruction should either of the Democratic contenders win in November.  And, there have been many reminders that the 2018 mid-term elections will provide the Democrats with the opportunity to take back the Congress – and even, and especially, with a Republican win in November.

Yet, a political revolution is not just a sexy slogan.  A political revolution, born of a mass movement, is a process of radical change which will succeed or fail dependent on the persistence and tenacity of a grassroots struggle which must remain active and grow in intensity beyond the formal process of voting.  The scale of change needed to truly ‘crush the oligarchy’ requires long term vision and commitment to continuous fighting on a day to day basis regardless of the outcome of the election.  We are well aware that our electoral system is inherently corrupt – beyond Citizens United – and that political revolution requires the cultivation of a momentum to completely overturn a fraudulent and undemocratic system.

Most of us are aware of the challenges that such a political revolution will entail – and the depths and expanse of change that will be needed to carry out a radical program of democratic renewal.  Such a transformation is not merely a return to FDR style politics, focusing on re-allocation in the domestic arena.  It requires a thorough re-thinking of the meaning of democracy not only at home but also abroad.

This is why, as the saying goes, nothing should be off the table.  Not merely the voting system or campaign finance reform, but an entire transformation of business as usual. Not merely a more humane or trade oriented foreign policy, but a radical re-assessment of the place of the United States in the world order.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Political revolution isn’t just a sexy slogan.

Putin’s Ears Must Be Burning: A Report on the Banality of Propaganda

Russian President Putin gestures as he speaks to journalists following a live nationwide broadcast call-in in Moscow

I sometimes wonder what Путин must make of the Western media obsession with him.

Do his ears burn each day with all the new articles, broadcasts, social media mentions – the myriad voices, guided by the Western political and media establishments, speculating, characterizing, creating – “Putin”?

It is unlikely that Путин is indifferent to the “Putin” spectacle as there are often statements by his proxies or himself that deny or contest reports in the Western press – or, request never-forthcoming evidence to back up incessant and unsubstantiated allegations.

Путин has been meticulously translated into the lifeworld of Western alphabets as caricature, a larger than life, Hollywood nemesis, woven out of an echo chamber of narrative clichés.

As with other mythological creatures, the poets elaborate the “Putin” tapestry by which we interpret the world.  This mythos, distinct from the disinterested integrity of knowledge, operates unconsciously, at the level of mass psychology, amidst the zeitgeist.  In this context, “Putin” becomes a trigger word for a nexus of prescribed, automatic feeling.

To read the rest of this essay, please visit Putin’s Ears Must Be Burning.

American Wasteland: The Profitable Decay of the Opioid Crisis

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The relentless tragedy of narcotic addiction, especially of opiates, across America has overwhelmed already depleted public resources, leaving a trail of devastated communities, families and lives – threatening a new lost generation.

For millennia, opiates have been agents that wash away or deaden pain.  In light of the chaos of our mental health provision, the lure of opiates (and other drugs) is an understandable, though dangerous, response to untreated mental illness.

It is ironic, however, that the default “solution” to the crisis is another range of drugs.

Substance abuse is clearly another thread in the American mental health crisis.  The main arena of public intervention however remains the criminal justice system.

Hearing the phrase “mental health crisis,” one may think of the epidemic of mass shootings plaguing the country since the Reagan era.  Or, images may erupt of home grown terrorist attacks or the plunge toward right-wing extremism in contemporary politics.

Yet, suicide outranks both homicides and car accidents as the number one killer of our fellow citizens. Every eighty minutes, for instance, a Veteran commits suicide, the final act of a life shattered by emotional and physical trauma.

The public health dimensions of the crisis have been studiously ignored by the neo-liberal media in its ideological refusal of any primary public role in the provision of health care.

Yet, the truth is already clear: the crisis has been an enormously profitable transition to a new order of private service provision.

To read the rest of this article, please visit American Wasteland: The Profitable Decay of the Opioid Crisis.

In the Syrian Labyrinth: The Impasse of International Law

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The tragedy of Syria serves as an object lesson for the persistent failure of international law.

As hundreds of thousands have been killed, injured or displaced, as the country lies in ruins, the United Nations has once again been exposed as unable to fulfill its stated mandate to protect the sovereignty of independent nations.

The situation in Syria is one of extensive covert and overt foreign intervention with the horrifying results of death, ethnic cleansing, and the systematic destruction of a country which, prior to the intervention, was stable and prosperous – even thriving.  Such was a country seeking to open itself up to the international community, becoming a preferred destination of foreign investment and tourism.

It is not that there have been no voices, however, raised in protest against the violation of Syria’s sovereignty and the questionable activities which have been orchestrated to create its on-going descent into the maelstrom of suffering and destruction.

Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov have contended from the beginning that the covert support by the Obama administration and its allies in the Gulf of so-called “moderate rebels” was a clear violation of international law.

Yet, as with the myriad and arguably illegal interventions by the United States, beginning shortly after the formation of the United Nations, international law has remained impotent as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has remained inexorably divided, and thus, paralyzed to undertake its stated responsibilities.

Such division and paralysis, however, has not ruled the day in every situation – only in situations in which a conflict reflected a division between the five permanent members (P-5) of the UNSC.  To this extent, the application of binding international law has had little impediment when it has come to African leaders, who have disproportionately found themselves made subject to binding resolutions of international law.

Indeed, the United Nations Charter – as was its intention from the beginning – is not the actual law of international relations as was the case with the articles of the Covenant of the League of Nations.  The Charter remains, for the most part, an aspirational document in which resolutions may only have binding validity as actual international law if they are supported and enforced by the UNSC.

To read the rest of the article, please visit In the Syrian Labyrinth.

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION: Dylan Thomas, Friedrich Nietzsche and Tragic Joy

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It is typical of the physically weak to emphasise the strength of life (Nietzsche); of the apprehensive and complex-ridden to emphasise its naiveté and dark wholesomeness (D.H. Lawrence); of the naked-nerved and blood timid to emphasise its brutality and horror (Me!)[1]

Dylan Thomas, “Letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson”, 1933.

For the God he praised is a pagan deity. Pagan is the “raging moon,” pagan is the worship of the trees, the night, the sun, and the sea; pagan are the visions of rebirth from fire and the burning stars; pagan are the images drawn from the deep well of the unconscious self and mingled with Welsh myth, folklore, and ancient rites; pagan is the animistic infusion of nature with these private visions; pagan is the celebration of this world and its joys and sorrows, and the refusal to be comforted by the blessings of another; pagan is the absence of symbols of guilt and sin to account for human failure and suffering; and pagan is the transubstantiation of religious symbols into the natural order of things.[2]

Hans Meyerhoff, “The Violence of Dylan Thomas,” 1955.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.[3]

           Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

 

Dylan Thomas in Exile

Dylan Thomas’ path toward modernist English poetry was laid bare when he was a child. He was not taught the Welsh language deliberately – a decision taken by his father David John Thomas, a head teacher of English literature and an un-forked poet.[4] David, who was himself bi-lingual and taught Welsh lessons in his own home, inundated his son Dylan with sounds and books of English words, introducing him to the great works of English literature, including modernist poetry, psychology and philosophy. Thomas began to write poetry as a child, – the “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive”[5] – and quickly began to edit his high school’s literary journal. Already involved in advanced intellectual, artistic and poetological questions and endeavours, Thomas, before the age of twenty, filled up notebooks with works which would, all in all, constitute around half of his poetic output – not counting his prose, screenplays, radio plays and short stories. Indeed, he showed no interest in other subjects, recognising very early that he would be a poet and writer.

Dylan Thomas left school at sixteen and began to work as a reporter. He fashioned journals and wrote poetry, and, after three years, published his first collection, Eighteen Poems, in 1933. This event paradoxically assured his exile from an “easy” life in quasi-traditionalist Wales. With his success, he began to roam the streets, pubs and salons of London, coming into contact with the state of the art of modernist poetics. Of course, just as quickly, he would return to Wales, for as he said in a letter, “Cities are death.”[6]  His nomadic, uneasy existence as a poet – and one in the English language – continued throughout his life, as he was caught in a web between Wales, London and later America. It was the utter lack of employment opportunities in Wales – especially as a poet – and his refusal to even consider another vocation – that gave birth to his permanent exile.  If one wished to be a Modern poet, one had to be in London or America – surely not in Wales (unless one could make one’s lucre elsewhere). Landing work with the BBC was later a great boon for Dylan Thomas, who contributed an English speaking Welsh perspective to the public corporation’s offerings. Under the neo-colonial thumb of British culture, the Welsh public and cultural spheres were and still are dominated by England and its media corporations, publishing houses and academic institutions.

It is not clear if this was David Johnson’s intention, but he is known to have been proud that his son had produced lyrical poetry and work of international significance. Nevertheless, he merely opened the door for Thomas, who went through willingly, single-mindedly working to create his own mytho-poetic world through the articulation of his lyrical, psychological and philosophical orientations and sensibilities. But, while his orientations were often centred around the tragic and brutal character of existence, of mortality, it was his longing for the Welsh landscape and its intimacy with nature which provided him with a sense of tragic joy, of the power of life (the concern of the physically weak), of the force of the “green fuse.”[7]  Indeed, Dylan Thomas acted as the Welsh druidic bard in his artistic channelling of the voices of his people[8], his wife, children and lifeworld, of the wind, the raging moon and the sea.  His father may have sought to make it “easy” for his son by giving him the language of the hegemonic power, but he could take away neither the accent of his voice, nor his perennial feelings of homelessness from Wales, necessitated by his extravagant exile.

Though his own life ended in the contradiction of his tragic existence, dead in New York in 1953, Dylan Thomas has been welcomed home in contemporary Wales, his legacy evidenced by the 2014 celebration of the Centenary of his birth. He is a celebrated son of a Wales that has enshrined bi-lingualism in its National Parliament. “Too English for the Welsh, Too Welsh for the English,”[9] Dylan Thomas died trying to escape the double bind of his predicament, though, as tragic, and intentionally so, he burned himself out through the ecstatic character of his lifestyle, his bohemian ethos – his own festival of tragic joy. Some would wish, as we will see, to bring sobriety to our view of Dylan Thomas, to pick his bones clean of any flesh, and to put to sleep or expunge his most riotous effects upon the youth (and patronisingly insulting adolescence in the process). On the contrary, however, it is precisely his eccentric rebellion that matters most about him as a tragic poet – especially one who also produced great works. That he is human, flawed, suffering, but also joyful and ecstatic, a creature of flesh and intoxication – and dying untimely – this makes him tragic in a way that allows people to empathise with him – in the first instance. The rebellion of youth may be “embarrassing” for those who have acquiesced to the nihilism of otherworldly hopes, but such denial of the tragic character of existence and fleeting possibility of joy is only a regretful revenge against the force of life, one provoked by the imminence of the night.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit And Death Shall Have No Dominion.