…solidarity to pure wind

May 11, 2011

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidarity to pure wind.
– George Orwell

Everybody on the planet is capable of synesthesic thought. Usually we only identify the most extreme and unusual cases of synesthesia and single them out for investigation at the most and a nice little story to tell your mates at the pub at the least. Synesthesia is the ability to transfer the sensation of the stimulation of one sense, to the sensation of the stimulation of another sense. For example, people who see colours and hear a sound corresponding to that colour. Or vice versa. The truth is though, we all do, every moment. The simple way to measure this affect is the bouba keke test. Look at the picture underneath and decide to yourself which is called bouba and which is called keke:

If you are like everyone else, you will call the rounded shape bouba and the spikey shape keke. The reason is the rounded shape we see, corresponds to the rounded sound of “bouba“. Around 1% of people who take the simple bouba keke test will not instantly see bouba as rounded and keke as sharp and spikey. Similarly, 99% of people will not instantly understand why someone else sees green when they think of the number 2. It similar to seeing a bright green shirt and calling it loud. In short, synethesia is involuntary metaphor.

You have all no doubt seen this. Try to say the colour, rather than the word:

This is an example of cognitive dissonance. The tension we feel when the literal translation is somehow impaired by another perception we are simultaneously holding. The above will make you struggle when you get to the word and colour that conflict with each other, because human thinking cannot disregard what we consider to be the literal meaning. We cannot shake that.

This brings me onto the point of this blog.
A few days ago, was the Royal Wedding. Predictably discussion turned to Patriotism. There is a sort of expectation in the minds of the collective, that we are supposed to feel a sense of sacrificial pride to the landmass on which you were born, loyal only to the abstraction of the National flag under which you had no choice in. And I am left in two conflicting minds.

I cannot fight the powerful urge to feel a sense of community when England play (and inevitably hopelessly lose) at a World Cup. I feel a defensive sense of anger, when I hear American Republicans insist that a British style NHS will result in refusal to treat the elderly. When I’m abroad and I hear a British accent, I feel a slight tinge of kinship, even though I have no idea who that person is. The feeling of patriotism is there. The idea of a Nation creates an automatic expectation within each individual to feel a sense of loyalty and pride toward it. Yet, it doesn’t exist. It is the solidarity of pure wind.

The sense of Patriotism and its expectations are quite unnerving. It is a type of respect and loyalty that is supposed to be given without question. We bow in its presence as if its worship is just as natural as breathing. To even question the validity of such authority is considered unpatriotic. We group ourselves, not on merit or on objective morality, but on the idea of where we were born. When the British armed forces are in Iraq, they are there for “our freedom“. Our, being the key word. We are all apparently connected by an abstract principle. They are the “heroes” and those fighting against “us” are “terrorists“, “extremists“, “insurgents” or any other noun we choice to aimlessly proscribe to entire groups of people who don’t agree with the mainstream cultural sentiments of that specific country. We are asked to look at the “enemy” as an “other“. They are not like us, because they are not from our land and our land means we are all one. They are the “enemy” because they are from another land. We look at what happened on 7/7 and see a great evil, we see the deaths of innocent people amplified because “they” are “us”. We hear news of a bombed town or village in Fallujah, and we ignore it, because “they” are far away. But if “they” shoot “our” troops, we get angry.

When Wikileaks released the video of the the American Apache pilots killing twelve innocent people, and talking about it as if it were a video game, or when video was released of American soldiers firing into a prison and throwing a grenade at the building whilst laughing and joking, no one called these people animals, or criminals, or terrorists (in fact, what we do instead, is imprison the guy – Bradley Manning – who released the video). We ignore it. We ignore it, because we have built a Patriotic narrative that whatever crime they commit, they are heroes, but the “enemy” are always “terrorists“.

This comes at a time when Americans are on the streets celebrating the death of Bin Laden. One wonders why? It will almost certainly cause a revenge attack and America may well be the target. Celebrating a death of what is perceived to be the enemy (remember, much of the World considers America to be a great threat and enemy) simply seeks to perpetuate division. President Obama said justice had been served. Justice? Hundreds of thousands of people have had to die in a war, to seek one man? And that’s justice? It isn’t a video game.

The ultra-Patriotic movement in America also creates its antithesis. There is a section of the Left that is so viciously anti-war it presumes and subtly declares as loudly as it can, that America perhaps deserved 9/11 or at least had it coming. The problem is that America didn’t create militant religious activity, it is simply a case that Nation States that aren’t built around militant religion will always come into conflict it, because the abstraction of a Nation is similar to that of religion; divisive.

It isn’t a case of Islam vs America. America, by its very nature has always been imperialistic and expansionist. It has had designs on Cuba for centuries and it shares this trait with organised religion. When Nation States mix with Capitalism, it is inevitably going to create a strain on religions, and the old power structure in which religion was built into the system is slowly eroded away to the dismay of those who quite liked the old ways, and having had the opportunity to follow the industralised Nations of their own accord, rather than being forced to for the sake of profit.
That tension between the old religiously-led system, and the new more secular way of governing was essentially forced upon the Muslim World for the sake of a more integrated global community, imposed by those in the West who thought our way was somehow “better”. Hassan al-Banna, the creator of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s said:

“Politics is part of religion, Caesar and what belongs to Caesar is for God Almighty alone Islam commanded a unity of life; to impose upon Islam the Christian separation of loyalties [into church and state] is to deny it its essential meaning and very existence.”

– Here is the conflict. Islamic nations under the control of fundamentalist dictatorships consider religion to be a necessary part of the existence of the Nation State. The West doesn’t. I would up and leave the UK if we were even to impose strict religious theocratic guidelines to the politics of the country. Islamic nations in the 1920s (and arguably today) are not ready to accept the separation of religion and state, and they must be allowed to walk down that path to religious freedom themselves, without America claiming to be on a moral mission, whilst plundering the area of its resources. We cannot impose Lockean principles on Nations that are not ready for it, because by definition that is not Lockean in itself. That being the case, it is absolutely no excuse to fly planes into buildings killing innocents. If they believe their religion promotes that kind of act, then that religion deserves no respect. If it can be interpreted to include violence and death against innocent lives (which it can) then it deserves no respect. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who tells me I am offending their religion, when their religion says people like me will burn in the pits of hell for eternity. I do not respect that religion. Any religion. In the same breath, I do not respect the armed forces of a Nation who are in a foreign land, killing, to protect its resources. The two systems do not work well together. There will never be peace whilst Nation States and Religion exist.

There was a sudden burst of outrage against the “ground zero mosque” on the grounds simply of “us” and “them“. Nothing more. It was right winged outrage and very hypocritical. The right wing of America tend to have an almost Messiah-like obsession with free market capitalism. But only when it works in their favour. The buying up of the space for the what they have termed the “mosque“. It is like saying “We want no government interferen……what? They’re building a mosque for brown people? WHY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT STOPPING THIS!!!” It is surely property rights that the American Right believe the government should not be interfering with? Property rights for everyone except those that don’t fit the American Right’s narrow vision of the World? As I stated on my blog entry last year, on the the subject, it wasn’t just a Mosque, it was the Cordoba Center. It will include a Theatre, a Performing Arts centre, a Basket Ball court, Bookstore, Child care, Prayer space, Restaurant, culinary school and fitness centre. It is already being used as a place of prayer for Muslims, and has been for quite some time. As I stated in that blog:

There is nothing that honours the victims of religious intolerance more, than a center dedicated to building relations, and showing that there does not have to be such separation, anger and fear. A symbol of the coming together of Islam and the West, and particularly Islam and America is a stage in contemporary times that we REALLY need to get to, and this Centre is an attempt to provide that link. We should be celebrating it. We should be celebrating that we are trying to move away from the past decade. We no longer want people like Palin and Bush and Cheney making sure fear is the order of the day. Innocent, decent Muslims are no different to innocent, decent Americans.

I stand by that today. Artificial, yet deafening boundaries like religion (built by faith) and nationality (built by patriotism) are dangerous and lead only to violent tension – always has.

The Imam of the Omar-E Farooq Mosque in Madrassa, Kabul in Afghanistan teaches his students to hate America. He does this, not for political reasons, but, as he puts it:

God says… we can never be friends with unbelievers

Whatever the foreign policy of the United States, Imams like this one, will also preach division and hate, because their religion tells them to. “Religion poisons everything“. One child in the school said that:

America are doing suicide attacks and blaming Osama Bin Laden……. we can never be friends”

– Absolute indoctrination of the worst kind.

The two systems (religion and secular nation states) were always going to come into conflict and I dislike them both. It is easy to say that the Reagan administration created the Taliban and militant Islam to deal with the Soviet threat during the 1980s, but it stands to reason by that very logic that fundamental protestantism created America, and so Christianity, by proxy, created militant Islam. That is the sum total of the logic taken to its limit, by the delusional anti-war Left. The truth is, militant Islam has always existed. It is based on religion and nothing else. The militant branch of Islam had no problem when America was in Latin America supporting right winged terrorists; in fact the militant branch of Islam was working with America at that point. Militant Islam is expansionist by its very nature and has been responsible for both empire, and human rights abuses, much like the nation of America, over the centuries. The two are similar. Patriotism creates two breeds of lunatic; firstly the type who refuse to accept their nation could do anything wrong, and cheer on the streets of Washington when the leader of the supposed “enemy” is killed, like they’ve just beat the top bad guy on Call of Duty but refusing to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands have been killed or displaced using their tax dollars. The second type, is the antithesis mentioned above, who are content with defending militant Islam as a by-product of aggressive American foreign policy choosing to ignore the history of organised religion as one of sheer violence and coercion long before Nation States came onto the scene. Patriotism, like adherence to religion is simply a perpetuation of the inherent problems the two mutually exclusive yet very similar abstractions inevitably create.

I don’t know if it is a natural reaction, when we are constantly exposed to patriotic sentiment, that we adhere to this us VS them principle. I know I certainly do, and it takes me a minute or two to logically think through the implications of unquestioning Patriotism. That, leaves me feeling slightly uneasy.

We are blinded by the perception of what we expect to see.


Blinded by Patriotism

February 27, 2011

In 2003 the Americans tried to convince the World that Al Jazeera had been infiltrated by spies, in an effort to produce propaganda for the war in Iraq. It is an interesting and mightily hypocritical claim by the U.S who have a media largely in bed with the American Government, and largely responsible for the biggest manipulation in war time history. Propaganda is an absolute specialty of the United States of America.

Ex CBS reporter Dan Rather stated recently, on the subject of his unquestioning adherence to absolutely everything the Bush Administration was insisting, that:

“Had journalists questioned the deceptions…the invasion would not have happened.”

The truth is, Al Jazeera is the only news network in the World who were investigating the horrors of the U.S invasion of Iraq. Where were the U.S press, the freest press in the World, when the population of Fallujah were being massacred? Phrases like “terrorist” and “insurgent” were being used everywhere, to describe anyone in Iraq who wanted to fight back against the U.S invasion.

Fox went along to an anti-war rally in 2004, and suggested several times, that the protesters were “unpatriotic“. Fox went along to the Tea Party rallies in 2009 and 2010 and referred to them as “true patriots“. Fox was the most watched news broadcaster for news on the war. Throughout coverage of the war in Iraq, Fox displayed a little waiving American flag in the corner of the screen.

Similarly, MSNBC played a segment every week, called “America’s bravest”, which showed photos of American soldiers deployed in Iraq.

Peter Arnett, a reporter with NBC was fired for questioning the legitimacy of the war. He had interviewed Iraqi officials and said the American “first war plan had failed”.

A Maryland University study into the media affects on public perception of Iraq, found that 57% of mainstream media viewers believed Iraq was involved in 9/11. 69% believe that Saddam was directly involved in 9/11. 22% believed WMDs had been found in Iraq. 80% of Fox News viewers had one or more of the above misconceptions.

Media watchdog group “FAIR” found that 79% of all 319 news stories on Iraq in 2003, were sourced from Government officials or Military officials.

The media became the mouthpiece for a barrage of lies and propaganda. This is evident even today. When Wikileaks leaked the war files, the news outlets, from Fox in the US to the BBC in the UK focused almost entirely on Wikileaks itself. American Republicans are referring to Assange as a traitor for exposing their criminal activity. The UK media was focusing on Assange personally. No one focused on what the war logs were saying.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster, along with a team of researchers, surveyed 4,800 people in Fallujah and concluded that dramatic increases in cancer rates and infant mortality since the relative genocide by American troops, is “worse than Hiroshima”. After Fallujah, US Marines admitted, after first strongly denying, that they had used white phosphorus. The report is open for any to read, called “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009“. It shows a 38 fold increase in leukaemia (compared to a 17 fold increase, after Hiroshima), a ten fold increase in breast cancer, and an increase in brain tumours. This sharp rise if health defects, was not helped by the fact that the city continued to be blocked off to essential supplies, by the US, long after 2004.

Whilst the U.S networks were struggling to understand a map of the Middle East:

And using handy little catchphrases that seemed to give credit to the horrors:

Al Jazeera was getting right into the heart of the situation, and showing images, like the one below, which is beyond awful. (I have spent the past few minutes looking at this photo, and it is something I cannot comprehend without being overcome with quite profound sadness):

It is then, no wonder that the one media outlet that was actually bothering to do some investigative journalism, rather than imbedded journalism (in which the Western Military dictates what a Journalist is allowed to see and where he can go), showing pictures and videos of innocent people’s lives ruined, in the same way that Fox and CNN were after 9/11 were bombed. The Al Jazeera Kabul and Baghdad offices were bombed by the Americans, who also drew up plans to bomb the Al Jazeera office in Doha – Qatar!. Why? They weren’t harbouring terrorists. They were just a threat to US mass propaganda. We were not supposed to see the destruction and terrorism left by the Americans. We were supposed to see a happy population, joyfully welcoming the Americans as great liberators fighting for freedom. If people fought back, we were supposed to believe they were “insurgents” who “hated our freedoms”, rather than the fathers of dead children or orphaned children.

The “reality” of war, is not a natural reality, it is a construct. When thousands are killed in American and British aggression it is called the “reality of war“, simply because a Western Government has used the word “war” to describe it. But when a far smaller number are killed by extremists, it is called “terrorism” and it is “evil”. It is the creation of a narrative that seeks to propel Western aggression as necessary, to defeat evil. Whether that evil be Communists, Muslims, Vietcong, or Arabs. That is the public narrative. The truth is that if your dictator opens up his markets to American Capitalist ventures, he will be propped up for years to come. The moment he closes those markets, we will take them by force.

How blurred the lines of “reality of war” really are, and absolutely always in favour of the Western World. Vietnam, the propping up of Latin American and Middle Eastern Dictators, the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, the invasion of Iraq. None of it is labelled “terrorism”, and yet what else is it other than the spreading of terror and death across Nations that aren’t ours.

It isn’t new. The British Empire did it in Australia. Terrorised the Country but apparently it was for their own good. What if Aboriginal Australians had invaded England? Rome labelled anyone who disagreed with its policies as “Barbarians”. The concealing of crimes behind romaticised ideals is not new. Especially with America. America celebrates Columbus Day. A day when Europe began the mass genocide project across that continent.
The great American author Kurt Vonnegut sums this up in his book “Breakfast of Champions“:

rout and Hoover were citizens of the United States of America, a country which was called America for short. This was their national anthem, which was pure balderdash, like so much they were expected to take seriously:

O, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

There were one quadrillion nations in the Universe, but the nation Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout belonged to was the only one with a national anthem which was gibberish sprinkled with question marks.

The motto of Dwayne Hoover’s and Kilgore Trout’s nation was this, which meant in a language nobody spoke anymore, Out of Many, One: “E pluribus unum.” The undippable flag was a beauty, and the anthem and the vacant motto might not have mattered much, if it weren’t for this: a lot of citizens were so ignored and cheated and insulted that they thought they might be in the wrong country, or even on the wrong planet, that some terrible mistake had been made.

It might have comforted them some if their anthem and their motto had mentioned fairness or brotherhood or hope or happiness, had somehow welcomed them to the society and its real estate. If they studied their paper money for clues as to what their country was all about, they found, among a lot of other baroque trash, a picture of a truncated pyramid with a radiant eye on top of it. Not even the President of the United States knew what that was all about.

It was as though the country were saying to its citizens, “In nonsense is strength.” A lot of the nonsense was the innocent result of playfulness on the part of the founding fathers of the nation of Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout.

The founders were aristocrats, and they wished to show off their useless education, which consisted of the study of hocus-pocus from ancient times. They were bum poets as well. But some of the nonsense was evil, since it concealed great crimes. For example, teachers of children in the United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again, and asked the children to memorize it with pride and joy: 1492. The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.

Here was another piece of evil nonsense which children were taught: that the sea pirates eventually created a government which became a beacon of freedom to human beings everywhere else. There were pictures and statues of this supposed imaginary beacon for children to see. It was sort of an ice-cream cone on fire. Like this [the Liberty torch].

Actually, the sea pirates who had the most to do with the creation of the new government owned human slaves. They used human beings for machinery, and, even after slavery was eliminated, because it was so embarrassing, they and their descendants continued to think of ordinary human beings as machines

Vonnegut is ingeniously pointing out the illogical mental illness of Patriotism and its refusal to accept the horrors that came before it, and are committed in the name of it. It is a delusional, non-existent entity that exists to hinder human progression rather than help that seed to grow. A heartfelt anthem and a flag are just ways to mask injustice. It is a clever social construction, to make you think what you are doing is for the greater good and that the greatest good is the Nation State, when in fact the truth is, it is all for the sake of profit.

The dominant superpower will always place itself as the moral standard, and we buy into the bullshit, because it takes too much effort to stop playing on Fifa, and actually read.
Instead of seeing a little girl marched out of her home, crying and scared and made to kneel down on the floor with her hands in the air, by our troops, isn’t presented in the media. Instead, the media will have experts in to talk about how awesome our aircraft is, or how the Democrats are trying to block Defence funding. As if any of that bullshit matters.

We don’t see a bunch of vicious soldiers shooting random people or committing mass murder in Fallujah. Instead, we see a Saddam statue being brought down and how wonderful and free Iraq now is. We don’t see the pictures of a family digging their dead child out of the rubble, instead we only hear words like “insurgents” and “terrorists”. If my child had just been killed by American forces, for no reason, I’d fucking do all I could to kill the bastards too.

We are all desensitised to war, by this obsession with an us VS them mentality. Consumerism is a useful tool against the questioning of the immoral actions of big business and government. It is a simple narrative to understand, we don’t have to read too much into it, we’re busy working our arses off for shit we don’t need, so we consume easily accessible news, without questioning its motives or its intentions. We are apparently the good guys, and they are apparently the enemies, that is how it is presented. A healthy dose of National Pride, by making pictures of American soldiers draping their flag over the head of the statue in Baghdad, ensures that we are kept docile and unquestioning. We don’t want to seem unpatriotic.

Whereas, the reality is that the good guys are the idiots who are compelled to fight to perpetuate the economic war system, on both sides, rather than joining hands and fighting the very people who profit from war and make it a rational product of Capitalism. Do we really believe that the American private defence contractors and oil companies would love to see a peaceful World? They exist, to profit from war. Therefore, the financial sector profits from war. It is gross manipulation. These are the real bastards, not a few farmers in Afghanistan.

David Cameron went to Kuwait and told them that 20 years ago a brutal and violent dictator invaded their home land, and they had a right to defend themselves. How offensive; we sold those arms to that brutal dictator, before we designated him a brutal dictator, because he was nice to our businessmen. I keep seeing arguments defending Cameron’s arms sales across the Arab World as “good for jobs in England”. Economic matters are being placed above human rights. It is believed that British arms were used in the massacre of protesters in Libya this week.

Blair’s government lifted sanctions on the sale of weapons to Libya in 2004. Since then British companies have sold £500,000,000 worth of arms to Libya n 2009 alone. This includes Sniper rifles, tear gas, and crowd control ammunition. Are we seriously suggesting that selling tear gas and crowd control ammunition to a dictatorship, is going to be used to protect itself from an evil outside force? They are always going to be used against protesters, to keep the dictatorship in power. For that, I don’t care how many jobs it creates in the UK, we should be ashamed.

And so whilst the Libyan government uses our weapons, like Saddam did before him, on its own people, the rest of the World will sit back and have lots of UN meetings and keeping saying “please stop“.

Sometimes, death is good for the economy, and so we are all expendable.
Was is an essential ingredient of Capitalism.