American Psychos! The Iraq War according to Arundathi Roy (Watch Democracy Now’s interview by Amy Goodman)

According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. - Wikipedia

Between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. – Wikipedia

In my humble opinion, she’s one of the greatest writers among the living. Her first novel, Booker Prize winner The God of Small Things, has been widely acclaimed as a masterpiece of contemporary literature. Besides having proved her mastery in fiction, Arundathi Roy is also a terrific non-fiction essayist, an extremely powerful investigative journalist, providing us, their bewildered readers, with a prose so powerful as, let’s say, George Orwell’s or Emma Goldman’s. In the following conversation with Amy Goodman, from the WebTV show Democracy Now, Mrs. Roy talks about the Iraq War, 10 years after the beggining of the U.S.A’s invasion in 2003. I completely agree with everything she says. Like an Indian punk rocker, she boldly exposes hypocrisies and lies, debunks ideologies and justifications, and tells it like it is. Fellow earthlings, I beseech ya, listen to Arundathi Roy’s voice, and open your minds to hers, ’cause what the world desperately needs nowadays is more people like her.

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Recommended further reading & viewing:

Crusiele

“If you look at the logic underlaying an act of terrorism and the logic underlaying a retaliatory war against terrorism, they are the same. Both terrorists and governments make ordinary people pay for the actions of their governments. Osama Bin Laden is making people pay for the actions of the U.S. State, wheter it’s in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, or Afghanistan. The U.S. government is making the people of Iraq pay for the actions of Saddam Hussein. The people of Afghanistan pay for the crimes of the Taliban. The logic is the same.

Osama Bin Laden and George Bush are both terrorists. They are both building international networks that perpetrate terror and devastate people’s lives. Bush, with the Pentagon, the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank. Osama Bin Laden with Al Qaeda. The difference is that nobody elected Bin Laden. Bush was elected (in a manner of speaking), so U.S. citizens are more responsible for his actions than Iraqis are for the actions of Saddam Hussein or Afghan for the Taliban. And yet hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have been killed, either by economic sanctions or cruise missiles, and we’re told that this deaths are the result of “just wars”. If there is such a thing as a just war, who is to decide what is just and what is not? Whose God is going to decide that?” ARUNDHATI ROY, The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile. South End Press, 2004. Pg. 60.

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INSTANT MIX: IMPERIAL DEMOCRACY – FULL LECTURE 
(NEW YORK, Riverside Church, 2003)

DOWNLOAD FREE EBOOKS BY ARUNDHATI ROY

ALAN WATTS VIDEO COLLECTION – PART 1

Alan Change
Conversations with Myself:

Time & The More It Changes:

Work as Play:

Death:

Buddhism & Science

The Void

The Discipline of Zen

To be continued…

EXPLORATIONS OF EASTERN WISDOM – Chapter 1: Alan Watts’ legacy; remarks on Yin & Yang, Interdependence and Flux; differences between Buddhism and the Monotheisms… and so on!

Yin 5

I’ve been immerging myself in Alan Watt’s talks lately, plunging into his words and thoughts, and I seem to have reached a point in which, so to speak, my cup is about to overflow. In other words: his teachings, I suppose, are beggining to bear fruit in my inner gardens, and I’ve been wondering with myself, under Alan’s inspiration and spell: why don’t I open the gates to others to come and taste these fruits, even though they’re still in a process of ripening? What starts here, right now, is an attempt to write about my pilgrimages through Eastern Wisdom. Not from the perspective of an historian who looks at it like dead curiosities in a museum of ruins, but as something alive and kicking, which still has many possible lessons to teach us, the “Modern Times”. This is certainly a work in progress – but after all, is there any work that isn’t necessarily in flux, embarked on the cosmos’ ever-moving stream, and thus fated to wander and ramble on, constantly on the move?…

I cherish a lot Alan Watts’ attempts to  teach to the Modern Times the keys to the unlocking of the treasures of Eastern (and ancient) Wisdom. Maybe he deserves to be considered alongside figures such as Aldous Huxley or Heinrich Zimmer as a very important figure in the history of bridge-constructing between the so-called “East” and “West”. A famous Zen proverb – quoted often in popular culture (in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain, for instance) – states: “When the wise man points his finger at the Moon, the fools regard his fingers.” Alan Watts’ uses words in order to get beyond words, to point at the stars and moons, at the waters and the rocks, at the breezes and the streams, in order to invite us, invoke on us, depict for us, a way of experiencing the world in which we inhabit Nature instead of feeling alien (or alienated) from it.

 I don’t listen to Alan Watts like he’s an irreproachable Awakened One, who has all the answers and final solutions, to be worshipped on my knees, but rather as some sort of pilgrim of wisdom, of witty beatnik poet, of “spiritual entertainer” (as he himself jokingly called himself). He demands of us, his listeners and readers, not credulity or obedience, but rather creativity and singularity. A guru who is deeply anti-gurus and who repeats to us: “Don’t respect any authorities or gurus without criticism, try to think and experience for yourself!”

alanwatts

Stuff like Nirvana – or other sorts of Ecstactic Awakenings and satoris and unio mysticas   aren’t fully describable in words. They are truths of lived experience rather than statements of representational verbal language. “Words are too clumsy”, Alan Watts loves to say, and he underlines frequently the simple fact we tend to take for granted: the mountains aren’t made with words, and neither are the stars. Do words flow in rivers? Do we breath words in the air? Does it rain words on our umbrellas? In our cosmos, words seem to be a very small part of it. As far as we know, it’s a recent extravagance of certain lliving organisms on a little corner of the Universe called planet Earth…

My plan is to begin a series here in Awestruck Wanderer’s vast cyber-spaces (I see plenty of room to keep on expanding it!) in which I’ll try to share some footprints of my own wanderings in the realm of Eastern Wisdom. The aim is not only to register a journey, but to invite others to add their own discoveries and different perspectives to this journey of quest for Nirvanic enlightenments and dispellments of burdensome illusions.

alan-watts

ALAN WATTSBuddhism: The Religion of No Religion. Full Course (Audio Book) – 5 hours and 20 minutes – DOWNLOAD TORRENT.

I enjoy very much the concept of Buddhism not as a religion, with fixed dogmas and rituals, unquestionable and always worthy with blind obedience, but rather as a collective effort, extending over several generations, to discover ways to transform states of consciousness. Sidarta Gautama, some may argue, is the world’s first great psychotherapist. The word “religion”, perhaps, doesn’t fit well when applied to Buddhism – Alan Watts calls it, rather paradoxically, “The Religion of No Religion” – cause Buddhism it’s the poles apart from Christianity, Judaism and Islam, to restrict ourselves to the world’s most popular monotheisms.

My perspective on this radical difference between Buddhism and the three major monotheistic religion is this: there’s a radical difference between concepts such as Nirvana and Samsara and concepts such as Heaven and Hell. Samsara and Nirvana are existential states, are different ways of experiencing reality, are ways to inhabit the world; Heaven and Hell are mythological places, imagined to be absolutely transcendent, alien to this world, supernatural, outside Nature. Samsara and Nirvana only have meaning inside the realm of life, considered as journey of transformation; Heaven and Hell are thought to “reside” in a separate territory, outside the Physical realm, and the access to it is granted only after the body’s death.

It would be quite absurd for someone to say: “I’ll reach Nirvana when I die” – such a statement would probably provoke a zen master either to hit the person with a stick or to laugh his lungs out, joyously aware of how nonsensical that pretension is. But it’s perfectly “normal” for a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim to say: ‘I’ll get to Heaven when I die” – and such a statement would be considered normal, trivial, in accordance with the predominant discourse of their particular communities, faithful to the main cultural trend.

Heaven, of course, is a place quite different from Earth: it’s imagined to be a place of pleasure without pain, life without death, existence without change (no disease, no decay; no old-age, no new-born-baby…). Buddhists look at this Heaven dreamed by the Monotheisms and say: your Heaven is but a phantasy and an ideal impossible to attain. The way of liberation, a Buddhist will state, lies not in dreaming another reality, “purged” of all the elements usually called evil, ugly or sick. The way of liberation lies in understanding the inter-dependency and inter-relateness of the fabric of reality in which we exist, each one a part of the same whole.

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This I’ve learned from Alan Watts (and, indirectly, from the masters from which Alan himself has learned from…): in reality, there’s no eggs without chickens, no fingers without hands, no brains without stomachs, no planets without rocks, no black without white, no pleasure without pain, no life without death. I could go on forever: no seas without salt, no tears without eyes, no mind without matter, no life without bodies, no wisdom without folly. When we realize fully that the cosmos is in flux, filled by ever-moving processes, we begin to perceive ourselves not as separate egos, fixed in some sort of enduring permanence, but rather as whirlpools in the stream, interconnected beings in a web-of-evolution, boats embarked in cosmic change. Awakening or Nirvana refers to a state of consciousness in which the ilusion of separateness vanishes: in the Cosmos we plunge. The Whole, the All, Spinoza’s God, the pantheist’s object of adoration, we fill no longer apart from us – we’re in it. We’re one of its constituent parts.

To believe in Heaven and Hell – the first a realm of absolute enjoyment, pleasure, light, delight; the other a realm of terrible torture, un-ending pain, fiery darkness… – is pure folly, a Buddhist would argue, because it denies reality – it’s nothing but a ghost created by the human mind in its alienation from its existential position inside Nature’s bosom. The awakened one is not the one to preach fake promises, but rather someone who aims to free us from the burden of expecting reality to conform to a certain ideal that reality can never fulfill. In Lin Chi’s words: “MY DUTY IS TO BEAT GHOSTS OUT OF YOU!”

One of the best visual representations of Eastern Wisdom is the Yin & Yang dancing diagram. It means not only that black implies white, and figure implies background, but much more: it depicts reality’s eternal movement, in which are cointaned all differences. Just like it’s impossible to take a magnet and separate its North and South poles (if you chop off any of the poles of a magnet, Alan Watts explains, you won’t ever manage to get rid of polarity), it’s impossible to sever reality in separate chunks. Reality comes like this: all mixed stuff, intermingled beings, connected in inter-relationships and webs. Just like the apple-tree bears fruit, the Cosmos has made Earth it’s life-tree: our planet peoples, our Earth bears the fruits of life, and life bursts from the Cosmos not as something created by Transcendece but as a product of Immanence. Earth or Gaia, this flying sphere of multiplicity beyond words, locked in the embrace of solar gravity, dancing in the Universe’s immense dancefloor, has life as one its fruits. The Cosmos is doing each of us just like a tree is doing apples or the oceans are doing waves. Life: We must cherish it, enjoy it, love it, but always aware that Life is dependent on Nature, involved in it, part of it, plunged in it. Lives in the cosmos are like fishes in seas.

Alan Watts explains this beautifully in several of his talks and lectures – here’s one of the best of them: 1960’s Buddhism and Science, part of Watts’ TV-series Eastern Wisdom & Modern Life:

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You might also enjoy this South Parkianesque video

(it could be nicknamed Alan Watts For Dummies):

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“Man as an organism is to the world outside like a whirlpool is to a river: man and world are a single natural process, but we are behaving as if we were invaders and plunderers in a foreign territory. For when the individual is defined and felt as the separate personality or ego, he remains unaware that his actual body is a dancing pattern of energy that simply does not happen by itself. It happens only in concert with myriads of other patterns – called animals, plants, insects, bacteria, minerals, liquids, and gases. The definition of a person and the normal feeling of ‘I’ do not effectively include these relationships. You say, ‘I came into this world.’ You didn’t; you came out of it, as a branch from a tree.”

“The special branch of science which studies the relation of living beings to their environments – ecology – shows beyond doubt that the individual organism and its environment are a continuous stream, or field, of energy. To draw a new moral from the bees and the flowers: the two organisms are very different, for one is rooted in the ground and broadcasts perfume, while the other moves freely in the air and buzzes. But because they cannot exist without each other, it makes real sense to say that they are in fact two aspects of a single organism. Our heads are very different in appearance from our feet, but we recognize them as belonging to one individual because they are obviously connected by skin and bones. But less obvious connections are no less real…

Civilized human beings are alarmingly ignorant of the fact that they are continuous with their natural surroundings. It is as necessary to have air, water, plants, insects, birds, fish, and mammals as it is to have brains, hearts, lungs, and stomachs. The former are our external organs in the same way that the latter are our internal organs. (…) The sun, the earth, and the forests are just as much features of your own body as your brain. Erosion of the soil is as much a personal disease as leprosy, and many ‘growing communities’ are as disastrous as cancer. That we do not feel this to be obvious is the result of centuries of habituation to the idea that oneself is only the envelope of skin and its contents, the inside but not the outside. The extreme folly of this notion becomes clear as soon as you try to imagine an inside with no outside, or an outside with no inside.”

(ALAN WATTS. “Does It Matter? Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality.” New World Library, California, 2007. Pgs. 20 and 36-37)

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P.S.

A box of comments, in the Blogosphere, may well be used as a bridge [a meeting place, a cyber-symposium…] between humans interested in Wisdom Sharing. Anyone? “Hello… Hello… Hello… Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me… Is there anyone at home?

Eduardo Carli de Moraes, Awestruck Wanderer
Toronto, 13/08/2014 (my last week in the Twenties!)

Speaking Truth to Power & Other Worthwhile Civil Disobediences (#NousSommesTousPalestiniens)

London 09 08

London, UK. August 9th, 2014. An estimated multitude of 150.000 marches in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Israel’s war crimes in Gaza have sparked massive demonstrations in several cities worldwide. Read BBC’s article. Follow the Facebook page Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK.

Cheers, fellow earthlings!

alice walkerMrs. Alice Walker, author of the highly acclaimed novel The Color Purple (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and filmed by Steven Spielberg), hits the nail on the head when she says: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that wonderful phrase lately, especially after “witnessing” the latest events in Gaza. From a distance, here in Toronto, I followed the news with an inner feeling of powerless outrage. “So many people are afraid to speak at all”, said Mrs. Walker to Amy Goodman in the WebTVshow Democracy Now, “and I think this is very dangerous. Wherever there’s oppresion, wherever you see people being humiliated, it’s our duty as human beings and citizens of the planet to speak. If that’s all you can do… speak, at least!” 

The streets of several cities, all around the world, are shouting out: “enough is enough!” Israel’s genocidal practices against the Palestinians must end, and those allies who sell weapons of mass destruction for the State’s politics of racist Sionism, murderous islamophobia and militarily-imposed Apartheid should be aware: thousands of us, citizens of global Civil Society, won’t take it anymore.

We can’t allow ourselves to believe in our own powerlessness, to feel beat -own and out-of-strenght to oppose high-collar criminals, or else we’re lost – and genocide will happen again. As Mrs. Rosi Brandotti says, we have to join our voices in a global chorus that states: “we organize, we don’t only agonize!” In apathy we’ll drown, in empathy we’ll rise!

 Mrs. Walker and Mrs Roy, together:

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Children

UNICEF: The conflict in Gaza has killed more than 400 children and injured over 2,500. Thousands more suffered trauma and will need psychosocial support. Pernille Ironside, Chief of UNICEF’s Field Office in Gaza describes the “catastrophic and tragic impact” that this war is having on children: uni.cf/1pCl5NA via The New York Times.

From the United Nations "Gaza Crisis Appeal" - Download the full document. http://bit.ly/1spNBD7

From the United Nations’ “Gaza Crisis Appeal” – Download the full document. http://bit.ly/1spNBD7

Unfortunately, the most common discovery we make when genocide and ethnical cleansing are being commited is that we are unable to stop them. We lament after human lives have already been slaughtered, and during the slaughter we feel unable to create an effective obstacle in the way of the murderers. Methinks it’s a healthy symptom of empathy to experience sadness and grief for the thousands of victims of Israel’s heinous crimes – more than 400 hundred children killed; half a million people displaced; bombardments of hospitals, schools, universities, UN-shelters etc. But it would be unhealthy and unworthy to do only that. We may lament and cry over the spilt milk (or, rather, the spilt blood), but now action needs to be taken collectively in order that such horrors don’t happen again.

Hundreds of thousands of us spoke out in solidarity with Gaza. Thousands marched in the streets all around the world. Thousands more shared their indignation on social media and on the Blogosphere, made independent documentaries and photo essays. More than ever, I think we should as Jello Biafra likes to suggest: “don’t hate the media, become the media.” Considering the warmongers, profit-seeking sharks, ecocidal maniacs and trigger-hapy genocidal leaders who are currently in power, shouldn’t we speak out  as loud as we can? Will we let the powerful keep on getting away with the genocide of the powerless, with the murderous politics of Apartheid? Will the world accept silently the Guernica-like bombardment of the civil population of Gaza, for instance?

More than ever, I cherish these voices – such as Alice Waker’s or Arundathi Roy’s or Cornel West’s or Tariq Ali’s – who not only speak out for the powerless and for the crushed, defending the fundamental humanity of those treated by Power as subhumans or pests. It’s fundamental that we amplify and ressonate these voices who speak-out, shouting Truth into Power’s half-deaf ears, putting their words in the service of those who have been silenced. Simone Weil knew: it’s an optimistic lie to believe that love can’t be crushed by force, by violence, by mad strenght. It can. But we mustn’t let the hateful forces of bloody antagonism keep on winning over peace, love & empathy.

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Recommended further reading:

The Case

“Provides clear arguments for international sanctions against Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians. This excellent collection of essays is an essential text for anyone interested in why they should support the movement to boycott Israel. The essays are not just good reading; they are also an eloquent call to the world to give a damn.” – Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch (official) – DOWNLOAD FREE EBOOK

“For decades, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. Despite abundant condemnation of Israeli policies by the UN, other international bodies, and preeminent human rights organisations, the world community has failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law. Israel’s crimes have continued with impunity.

In view of this continued failure, Palestinian civil society called for a global citizens’ response. On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  • Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  • Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  • Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 19

The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Boycotts target products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions. Anyone can boycott Israeli goods, simply by making sure that they don’t buy produce made in Israel or by Israeli companies. Campaigners and groups call on consumers not to buy Israeli goods and on businesses not to buy or sell them.

Israeli cultural and academic institutions directly contribute to maintaining, defending or whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians, as Israel deliberately tries to boost its image internationally through academic and cultural collaborations. As part of the boycott, academics, artists and consumers are campaigning against such collaboration and ‘rebranding’. A growing number of artists have refused to exhibit or play in Israel.

Divestment means targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and ensuring that the likes of university investment portfolios and pension funds are not used to finance such companies. These efforts raise awareness about the reality of Israel’s policies and encourage companies to use their economic influence to pressure Israel to end its systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

Sanctions are an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country’s actions. Israel’s membership of various diplomatic and economic forums provides both an unmerited veneer of respectability and material support for its crimes. By calling for sanctions against Israel, campaigners educate society about violations of international law and seek to end the complicity of other nations in these violations.”

Source: The BDS National Committee
http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro

 

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From the streets of Montréal, Québec:
“Nous Sommes Tous Palestiniens”  (subtitles in English)

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The Case for Cultural & Academic Boycott of Israel with intro by Ken Loach

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See also the statements made by Noam Chomsky, Brian Eno, Cornel West, Tariq Ali.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Edward W. Said (1935-2003) – In Search of Palestine (BBC Documentary) + Interview with Salman Rushdie

Edward_Said

“For Palestinian expatriate Edward Said, the return to his homeland amounted to a painful inquiry into his past. This program captures the interconnection between Said’s personal recollections and the shared memory of the Palestinian people. Far from ignoring the contemporary realities of the Middle East, Said’s perspective relates the ruins of history to the complacent and destructive policies of present-day governments, and delivers a powerful articulation of the weaknesses of the Oslo accords. His intellectual legacy provides valuable insight into the circumstances of the second intifada, as well as the faint steps toward peace that have followed. A BBCW Production. Made back in 1998. The film was, as far as I know, never showed on U.S. television.”

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See also:

Edward Said interviewed by Salman Rushdie

“Algebra of Infinite Justice” by Arundhati Roy

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 “The Algebra Of Infinite Justice”
BY ARUNDHATI ROY

Published in October 08, 2001

ARUNDHATI ROY

Arundhati Roy, Indian writer and activist, author of Booker-Prize Winning novel “The God Of Small Things”

In the aftermath of the unconscionable September 11 suicide attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, an American newscaster said: “Good and Evil rarely manifest themselves as clearly as they did last Tuesday. People who we don’t know, massacred people who we do. And they did so with contemptuous glee.” Then he broke down and wept.

Here’s the rub: America is at war against people it doesn’t know (because they don’t appear much on TV).

Before it has properly identified or even begun to comprehend the nature of its enemy, the US government has, in a rush of publicity and embarrassing rhetoric, cobbled together an “International Coalition Against Terror”, mobilised its army, its airforce, its navy and its media, and committed them to battle.

The trouble is that once America goes off to war, it can’t very well return without having fought one. If it doesn’t find its enemy, for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one. Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a justification of its own, and we’ll lose sight of why it’s being fought in the first place.

What we’re witnessing here is the spectacle of the world’s most powerful country, reaching reflexively, angrily, for an old instinct to fight a new kind of war. Suddenly, when it comes to defending itself, America’s streamlined warships, its Cruise missiles and F-16 jets look like obsolete, lumbering things. As deterrence, its arsenal of nuclear bombs is no longer worth its weight in scrap. Box-cutters, penknives, and cold anger are the weapons with which the wars of the new century will be waged. Anger is the lock pick. It slips through customs unnoticed. Doesn’t show up in baggage checks…

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For strategic, military and economic reasons, it is vital for the US government to persuade the American public that America’s commitment to freedom and democracy and the American Way of Life is under attack. In the current atmosphere of grief, outrage and anger, it’s an easy notion to peddle. However, if that were true, it’s reasonable to wonder why the symbols of America’s economic and military dominance—the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—were chosen as the targets of the attacks. Why not the Statue of Liberty? Could it be that the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not in American freedom and democracy, but in the US government’s record of commitment and support to exactly the opposite things—to military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)?

It must be hard for ordinary Americans so recently bereaved to look up at the world with their eyes full of tears and encounter what might appear to them to be indifference. It isn’t indifference. It’s just augury. An absence of surprise. The tired wisdom of knowing that what goes around, eventually comes around. American people ought to know that it is not them, but their government’s policies that are so hated. They can’t possibly doubt that they themselves, their extraordinary musicians, their writers, their actors, their spectacular sportsmen and their cinema, are universally welcomed. All of us have been moved by the courage and grace shown by firefighters, rescue workers and ordinary office-goers in the days and weeks that followed the attacks.

America’s grief at what happened has been immense and immensely public. It would be grotesque to expect it to calibrate or modulate its anguish. However, it will be a pity if, instead of using this as an opportunity to try and understand why September 11 happened, Americans use it as an opportunity to usurp the whole world’s sorrow to mourn and avenge only their own…

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Before America places itself at the helm of the “international coalition against terror”, before it invites (and coerces) countries to actively participate in its almost godlike mission—Operation Infinite Justice—it would help if some small clarifications are made. For example, Infinite Justice for whom? Is this America’s War against Terror in America or against Terror in general? What exactly is being avenged here? Is it the tragic loss of almost 7,000 lives, the gutting of 5 million square feet of office space in Manhattan, the destruction of a section of the Pentagon, the loss of several hundreds of thousands of jobs, the bankruptcy of some airline companies and the dip in the New York Stock Exchange? Or is it more than that?

In 1996, Madeleine Albright, then US Secretary of State, was asked on national television what she felt about the fact that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of US economic sanctions. She replied that it was “a very hard choice”, but that all things considered, “we think the price is worth it.” Madeleine Albright never lost her job for saying this. She continued to travel the world representing the views and aspirations of the US government. More pertinently, the sanctions against Iraq remain in place. Children continue to die.

So here we have it. The equivocating distinction between civilisation and savagery, between the ‘massacre of innocent people’ or, if you like, ‘a clash of civilisations’ and ‘collateral damage’. The sophistry and fastidious algebra of Infinite Justice. How many dead Iraqis will it take to make the world a better place? How many dead Afghans for every dead American? How many dead women and children for every dead man? How many dead mujahideen for each dead investment banker?

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ASDASDAfghanistan’s economy is in a shambles. In fact, the problem for an invading army is that Afghanistan has no conventional coordinates or signposts to plot on a military map—no big cities, no highways, no industrial complexes, no water treatment plants. Farms have been turned into mass graves. The countryside is littered with landmines—10 million is the most recent estimate. The American army would first have to clear the mines and build roads in order to take its soldiers in.

Fearing an attack from America, one million citizens have fled from their homes and arrived at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As supplies run out—food and aid agencies have been asked to leave—the BBC reports that one of the worst humanitarian disasters of recent times has begun to unfold. Witness the Infinite Justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death, while they’re waiting to be killed.

In America there has been rough talk of “bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age”. Someone please break the news that Afghanistan is already there. And if it’s any consolation, America played no small part in helping it on its way. The American people may be a little fuzzy about where exactly Afghanistan is (we hear reports that there’s a run on maps of Afghanistan), but the US government and Afghanistan are old friends.

In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) launched the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA. Their purpose was to harness the energy of Afghan resistance to the Soviets and expand it into a holy war, an Islamic jihad, which would turn Muslim countries within the Soviet Union against the Communist regime and eventually destabilise it. When it began, it was meant to be the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. It turned out to be much more than that. Over the years, the CIA funded and recruited almost 100,000 radical mujahideen from 40 Islamic countries as soldiers for America’s proxy war. The rank and file of the mujahideen were unaware that their jihad was actually being fought on behalf of Uncle Sam. (The irony is that America was equally unaware that it was financing a future war against itself).

By 1989, after being bloodied by 10 years of relentless conflict, the Russians withdrew, leaving behind a civilisation reduced to rubble. Civil war in Afghanistan raged on. The jihad spread to Chechnya, Kosovo and eventually to Kashmir. The CIA continued to pour in money and military equipment, but the overheads had become immense, and more money was needed. The mujahideen ordered farmers to plant opium as ‘revolutionary tax’. The ISI set up hundreds of heroin laboratories across Afghanistan. Within two years of the CIA’s arrival, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland had become the biggest producer of heroin in the world, and the single biggest source on American streets. The annual profits, said to be between 100 and 200 billion dollars, were ploughed back into training and arming militants.

In 1995, the Taliban—then a marginal sect of dangerous, hardline fundamentalists—fought its way to power in Afghanistan. It was funded by the ISI, that old cohort of the CIA, and supported by many political parties in Pakistan. The Taliban unleashed a regime of terror. Its first victims were its own people, particularly women. It closed down girls’ schools, dismissed women from government jobs, enforced Sharia laws in which women deemed to be ‘immoral’ are stoned to death, and widows guilty of being adulterous are buried alive. Given the Taliban government’s human rights track record, it seems unlikely that it will in any way be intimidated or swerved from its purpose by the prospect of war, or the threat to the lives of its civilians.

After all that has happened, can there be anything more ironic than Russia and America joining hands to re-destroy Afghanistan? The question is, can you destroy destruction? Dropping more bombs on Afghanistan will only shuffle the rubble, scramble some old graves and disturb the dead.

The desolate landscape of Afghanistan was the burial ground of Soviet Communism and the springboard of a unipolar world dominated by America. It made the space for neo-capitalism and corporate globalisation, again dominated by America. And now Afghanistan is poised to be the graveyard for the unlikely soldiers who fought and won this war for America.

* * * *

dscf-barundhati-broy-bone-bof-bmy-bbest-bshots-bat-bthe-bbook-brelease-bof-kochu-bkariyangalude-bponnu-btamburan-304763551Operation Infinite Justice is ostensibly being fought to uphold the American Way of Life. It’ll probably end up undermining it completely. It will spawn more anger and more terror across the world. For ordinary people in America, it will mean lives lived in a climate of sickening uncertainty: will my child be safe in school? Will there be nerve gas in the subway? A bomb in the cinema hall? Will my love come home tonight? Already CNN is warning people against the possibility of biological warfare—small pox, bubonic plague, anthrax—being waged by innocuous crop duster aircraft. Being picked off a few at a time may end up being worse than being annihilated all at once by a nuclear bomb.

The US government, and no doubt governments all over the world, will use the climate of war as an excuse to curtail civil liberties, deny free speech, lay off workers, harass ethnic and religious minorities, cut back on public spending and divert huge amounts of money to the defence industry.

To what purpose? President George Bush can no more “rid the world of evil-doers” than he can stock it with saints. It’s absurd for the US government to even toy with the notion that it can stamp out terrorism with more violence and oppression. Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease. Terrorism has no country. It’s transnational, as global an enterprise as Coke or Pepsi or Nike. At the first sign of trouble, terrorists can pull up stakes and move their ‘factories’ from country to country in search of a better deal. Just like the multinationals…

The September 11 attacks were a monstrous calling card from a world gone horribly wrong. The message may have been written by Osama bin Laden (who knows?) and delivered by his couriers, but it could well have been signed by the ghosts of the victims of America’s old wars. 

The millions killed in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, the 17,500 killed when Israel—backed by the US—invaded Lebanon in 1982, the 200,000 Iraqis killed in Operation Desert Storm, the thousands of Palestinians who have died fighting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. And the millions who died, in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican republic, Panama, at the hands of all the terrorists, dictators and genocidists who the American government supported, trained, bankrolled and supplied with arms. And this is far from being a comprehensive list. For a country involved in so much warfare and conflict, the American people have been extremely fortunate. The strikes on September 11 were only the second on American soil in over a century. The first was Pearl Harbour. The reprisal for this took a long route, but ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This time the world waits with bated breath for the horrors to come.

* * * * *

bin_laden_made_in_usa

Someone recently said that if Osama bin Laden didn’t exist, America would have had to invent him. But, in a way, America did invent him. He was among the jehadis who moved to Afghanistan in 1979 when the CIA commenced operations. Osama bin Laden has the distinction of being created by the CIA and wanted by the FBI. In the course of a fortnight, he has been promoted from Suspect, to Prime Suspect, and then, despite the lack of any real evidence, straight up the charts to being “wanted dead or alive”.

But who is Osama bin Laden really?

Let me rephrase that. What is Osama bin Laden?

He’s America’s family secret. He is the American President’s dark doppelganger. The savage twin of all that purports to be beautiful and civilised. He has been sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America’s foreign policy: its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated policy of “full spectrum dominance”, its chilling disregard for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think. 

Now that the family secret has been spilled, the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable. Their guns, bombs, money and drugs have been going around in the loop for a while. (The Stinger missiles that will greet US helicopters were supplied by the CIA. The heroin used by America’s drug-addicts comes from Afghanistan. The Bush administration recently gave Afghanistan a $43 million subsidy for a “war on drugs”…) Now they’ve even begun to borrow each other’s rhetoric. Each refers to the other as ‘the head of the snake’. Both invoke God and use the loose millenarian currency of Good and Evil as their terms of reference. Both are engaged in unequivocal political crimes. Both are dangerously armed—one with the nuclear arsenal of the obscenely powerful, the other with the incandescent, destructive power of the utterly hopeless. The fireball and the ice pick. The bludgeon and the axe. The important thing to keep in mind is that neither is an acceptable alternative to the other.

President Bush’s ultimatum to the people of the world—”If you’re not with us, you’re against us”—is a piece of presumptuous arrogance.

It’s not a choice that people want to, need to, or should have to make.”

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ARUNDATHI ROYRead the full article “Algebra of Infinite Justice”

Arundathi asks the USA: “How can you condemn violence when a section of your economy is based on selling weapons and making bombs?”

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CrusieleWhen you live in the United States, with the roar of the free market, the roar of this huge military power, the roar of being at the heart of empire, it’s hard to hear the whispering of the rest of the world. And I think many U.S. citizens want to. I don’t think that all of them necessarily are co-conspirators in this concept of empire. And those who are not, need to listen to other stories in the world – other voices, other people.

Under the shelter of the U.S. government’s rhetoric about the war against terror, politicians the world over have decided that this technique is their best way of settling old scores. So whether it’s the Russian government hunting down the Chechens, or Ariel Sharon in Palestine, or the Indian government carrying out its fascist agenda against Muslims, particularly in Kashmir, everybody’s borrowing the rhetoric. They are all fitting their mouths around George Bush’s bloody words.

After the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, the Indian government blamed Pakistan (with no evidence to back its claim) and moved all its soldiers to the border. War is now considered a legitimate reaction to terrorist strikes. Now through the hottest summers, through the bleakest winters, we have a million armed men on hair-trigger alert facing each other on the border between India and Pakistan. They’ve been on red alert for months together. India and Pakistan are threatening each other with nuclear annihilation. So, in effect, terrorists now have the power to ignite war. They almost have their finger on the nuclear button. They almost have the status of heads of state. And that has enhanced the effectiveness and romance of terrorism.

The U.S. government’s response to September 11 has actually privileged terrorism. It has given it a huge impetus, and made it look like terrorism is the only effective way to be heard. Over the years, every kind of nonviolent resistance movement has been crushed, ignored, kicked aside. But if you’re a terrorist, you have a great chance of being negotiated with, of being on TV, of getting all the attention you couldn’t have dreamt of earlier.

(…) The policies the U.S. government is following are dangerous for its citizens. It’s true that you can bomb or buy out anybody that you want to, but you can’t control the rage that’s building in the world. You just can’t. And that rage will express itself in some way or the other. Condemning violence is not going to be enough. How can you condemn violence when a section of your economy is based on selling weapons and making bombs and piling up chemical and biological weapons? When the soul of your culture worships violence? On what grounds are you going to condemn terrorism, unless you change your attitude toward violence?

ARUNDATHI ROY. The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile – Conversations With David Barsamian, Foreword by Naomi Klein. South End Press. Published in 2004.  p. 51/52 & 117. Available at Toronto Public Library.

Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy
(Buy One, Get One Free)
https://vimeo.com/97881169

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

jorge-luis-borges

Portions
from El Otro, El Mismo (1964)
by Jorge Luis Borges

[translated by DK Fennell]

Among the streets that sink in the West,
There will be one (I don’t know which) that I’ve crossed
For the very last time, unconcerned
And without foreseeing it, acquiescing

To Him Who determines almighty rules
And a secret and inflexible standard
For the shades, the dreams, the shapes
Which unravel and weave this life.

If all things have an end and there is a stipulated portion
And last time and nothing more and oblivion,
Who will tell us to whom in this house,
Without knowing it, we have bid farewell?

Outside the pane already grey the night lets up,
And from the pile of books which casts
A deformed shade on the indistinct table,
There will be some which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one broken entrance gate
With cement vases
And prickly pears, which I am forbidden to enter
As if it were a lithograph.

You have forever closed some door
And there is a mirror which waits for you in vain;
The crossroads seem open to you
But Janus, four-faced, guards them.

There is, among all your memories, one
Which is lost, irretrievably.
You will not be seen descending to that fountain
By either the white sun or the yellow moon.

Your voice will never repeat what the Persian
In his tongue said of birds and roses,
When, at sunset, before the scattered light,
You wish to say unforgettable things.

And the uninterrupted Rhône and the lake,
All that yesterday on which today I incline?
It will be as lost as Carthage
Which with fire and salt the Latins wiped out.

At dawn I think I hear a busy
Mulling of crowds moving away;
They are those who loved and forgot me;
Space and time and Borges now leave me.

Borges

Limites
from El Otro, El Mismo (1964)
by Jorge Luis Borges

De estas calles que ahondan el poniente,
Una habrá (no sé cuál) que he recorrido
Ya por última vez, indiferente
Y sin adivinarlo, sometido

A Quién prefija omnipotentes normas
Y una secreta y rigida medida
A las sombras, los sueños y las formas
Que destejen y tejen esta vida.

Si para todo hay término y hay tasa
Y última vez y nunca más y olvido
¿Quién nos dirá de quién, en esta casa,
Sin saberlo, no hemos despedido?

Tras el cristal ya gris la noche cesa
Y del alto de libros que una trunca
Sombra dilata por la vaga mesa,
Alguno habrá que no leeremos nunca.

Hay en el Sur más de un portón gastado
Con sus jarrones de mampostería
Y tunas, que a mi paso está vedado
Como si fuera una litografía.

Para siempre cerraste alguna puera
Y hay un espejo que te aguarda en vano;
La encrucijada te parece abierta
Y la vigila, cuadrifronte, Jano.

Hay, entre todas tus memorias, una
Que se ha perdido irreparablemente;
No te verán bajar a aquella fuente
Ni el blanco sol ni la amarilla luna.

No volverá tu voz a lo que el persa
Dijo en su lengua de aves y de rosas,
Cuando al ocaso, ante la luz dispersa,
Quieras decir inolvidables cosas.

¿Y el incesante Ródano y el lago,
Todo ese ayer sobre el cual hoy me inclino?
Tan perdido estrá como Cartago
Que con fuego y con sal borró el latino.

Creo en el alba oír un atareado
Rumor de multitudes que se alejan;
Son lo que me ha querido y olvidado;
Espcio y tiempo y Borges ya me dejan.

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Poets previously published @ Awestruck Wanderer:

“Beyond Burkas and Botox: The Struggles of Feminism Nowadays” by Arundhati Roy in “Capitalism: A Ghost Story” (2014, Haymarket Books, Chicago)

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Why do most “official” feminists and women’s organizations in India keep a safe distance between themselves and organizations like the 90.000-member Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sanghatan (Revolutionary Adivasi Women’s Association) that is fighting patriarchy in its own communities and displacement by mining corporations in the Dandakaranya forest? Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land that they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?

In a country like India, a rapid radicalization of women took place in the 1960s and ’70s. Most radical, anticapitalist movements were located in the countryside, where patriarchy continued to rule the lives of women. Urban women activists who joined these movements (like the Naxalite movement) had been influenced and inspired by the Western feminist movement.

Many women activists were not willing to wait any longer for the “revolution” in order to end the daily oppression and discrimination in their lives, including from their own comrades. They wanted gender equality to be an absolute, urgent, and nonnegotiable part of the revolutionary process and not just a postrevolution promise.

Intelligent, angry, and disillusioned women began to move away and look for other means of support and sustenance. As a result, by the late 1980s, around the time when the Indian markets were opened up, the liberal feminist movement in India had become inordinately NGO-ized. Many of these NGOs have done seminal work on queer rights, domestic violence, AIDS, and the rights of sex workers.

But significantly, the liberal feminist movement  has not been at the forefront of challenging the New Economic Policies, even though women have been the greatest sufferers.

The NGO-ization of the women’s movement has also made Western liberal feminism (by virtue of its being the most funded brand) the standard-bearer of what constitutes feminism. The battles, as usual, have been played out on women’s bodies, extruding Botox at one end and burkas at the other.

When, as happened recently in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burka rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. Coercing a woman out of her burka is as bad as coercing her into one. It’s not about the burka. It’s about the coercion.

Viewing gender in this way, shorn of social, political, and economic context, makes it an issue of identity, a battle of props and costumes. It’s what allowed the US government to use Western feminist liberal groups as moral cover when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Afghan women were (and are) in terrible trouble under the Taliban. But dropping daisy cutters on them was not going to solve the problem.

ARUNDHATI ROY.
Capitalism: A Ghost Story. Pg. 35-37.
Chicago: Haymarket Books. 2014.
Buy this book for U$15.

capitalism a ghost story

“From the poisoned rivers, barren wells, and clear-cut forests, to the hundreds of thousands of farmers who have committed suicide to escape punishing debt, to the hundreds of millions of people who live on less than two dollars a day, there are ghosts nearly everywhere you look in India. India is a nation of 1.2 billion, but the country’s 100 richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of India’s gross domestic product. Capitalism: A Ghost Story examines the dark side of democracy in contemporary India, and shows how the demands of globalized capitalism have subjugated billions of people to the highest and most intense forms of racism and exploitation.” – Haymarket

Zen Master Alan Watts Discovers the Secrets of Aldous Huxley and His Art of Dying

Reblogged from Hip Monkey

Few figures were as influential as Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley in popularizing experiments with psychedelic drugs and Eastern religion in the 20th century. Watts did more to introduce Westerners to Zen Buddhism than almost anyone before or since; Huxley’s experiments with mescaline and LSD—as well as his literary critiques of Western technocratic rationalism—are well-known. But in a countercultural movement largely dominated by men—Watts and Huxley, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, etc—Huxley’s widow Laura came to play a significant role after her husband’s death.

In fact, as we’ve discussed before, she played a significant role during his death, injecting him with LSD and reading to him from The Tibetan Book of the Dead as he passed away. In the interview above, Laura speaks with Watts about that experience, one she learned from Aldous, who performed a similar service for his first wife as she died in 1955. The occasion of the interview—conducted at Watts’ Sausalito home in 1968—is the publication of Laura Huxley’s memoir of life with her husband, This Timeless Moment. But talk of the book soon prompts discussion of Huxley’s graceful exit, which Watts calls “a highly intelligent form of dying.”

Watts relates an anecdote about Goethe’s last hours, during which a visitor was told that he was “busy dying.” “Dying is an art,” says Watts, “and it’s also an adventure,” Laura adds. Their discussion then turns to Huxley’s final novel, Island (which you can read in PDF here).Island has rarely been favorably reviewed as a literary endeavor. And yet, as Watts points out, it wasn’t intended as literature, but as a “sociological blueprint in the form of a novel.” Laura Huxley, upset at the book’s chilly reception, wishes her husband had “written it straight.” Nonetheless, she points out that Island was much more than a Utopian fantasy or philosophical thought experiment. It was a document in which “every method, every recipe… is something he experimented with himself in his own life.” As Laura wrote in This Timeless Moment:

Every single thing that is written in Island has happened and it’s possible and actual … Island is really visionary common sense. Things that Aldous and many other people said, that were seen as so audacious – they are common sense, but they were visionary because they had not yet happened.

Those things included not only radical forms of living, but also, as Huxley himself demonstrated, radical ways of dying.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness