Monday, June 8, 2015

Exit Interview...

Gog L. Mitey
Vicinity 1124
Ethereal, Kanvas
Orion 7.46

                                                                                                              Whatever, Whenever

Dear Humans;

After many centuries and much consternation, I am writing to inform all of you that I am resigning as your benevolent...well, actually I'm not sure what anymore.  I was simply a passing stranger at a difficult time in your history, and somehow I managed to instill in your primitive culture an assumption of some grandiose position I held in your feeble existence.  Was hardly warranted.  Yes, I am plagued by eternal life, I gather wisdom like some collect bad habits, but when you are vaporous and ethereal;  unable to perish like some aging cow, boredom becomes a daily, tortuous condition.  And perhaps sadly, I surrendered to your continued accolades over my vast stores of wisdom and knowledge.  The short version:  I  kind of liked the attention.

However, it has led to so many misunderstandings, strange interpretations and fierce competition over whose voice the real Gog L. Mitey speaks for; further, whose side I might be on?  And unfortunately, once you humans invented  politicians and television, it all became too much to endure.  Nothing but endless squabbling and all these hysterical messages about failing body parts, barristers who bear false sincerity, and all this penis gratification nonsense for old men with fat bellies and imagined ferocity -- so tedious for an entity like myself, who has no body, much less falling parts...Or was it failing parts?  Kind of thought that issue went away after I provided you with a cure for that leprosy thing, but then, you humans seem to like problems, for every time I solved one sticky issue, strange affliction, or mindless wandered off to find another one. Quite baffling behaviour considering that you have a tendency to just expire and leave me to clean up another mess.  Should be Gog the Janitor.  Except you'd probably get that name wrong too! 

Well, I've had enough.  But before I go, I want to clarify a few matters. First off, all of us Etherals are named Gog.  Some earlier Gogs who stumbled in here tried a few subtle messages from the heavens, mostly because you humans were always looking skyward for some explanation for your misery.  Somehow you always assumed that some monstrous external entity was responsible for your sorry state.  A Devil?  An Angry Gog fighting with some other Gog for your soul?  Ha!  Who would want to possess such a pathetic item.  I would rather collect a jarful of farts. 

But, I digress.  You see, being ethereal, up/down, left/right, good/evil, man/woman -- all have no meaning.  There is no absolute nor opposite in a vapor.  I cannot take sides, because I have none, cannot hate because that would require joy...can never judge because I know no comparisons.  I listen, I whisper, I have the patience of death itself, yet even after centuries of quiet counsel here, I am unable to decipher your incredible sense of pointless resolve.  You struggle, you suffer to die, and some other human takes your place on a path that leads...well, to the somewhere and nowhere that defines your existence.  You believe that some means will justify an end that you celebrate as the end to all ends...a final cleansing for your dirty little world perhaps.  And what?  You're coming to live with me?  Sit glowing at the feet of one who has no feet?  Bask in the shadow of one who claims no image?  A fascinating strategy indeed! However, you are not welcome here, for there is no here, here.  Or over there. There is only the Ether.  Which is everywhere and nowhere, but never here.    

From the very beginning you worshipped such things as the Sun, the Moon...thunder and lightning -- made them into Ra and Osiris.  Later, some less savage types; who called themselves the Hellenic's; well, they took it a step further and declared that the new gogs wandered about the clouds and stars or lived in the depths of the vast oceans: Jupiter, Zeus, Mars & Neptune. And  Aphrodite -- a she-gog that was kinda cute in a fleshy sort of way.  The male gogs made war, fooled about with humans and lesser gogs, while the she-gogs cleaned up the mess.  It was a trend that would last for centuries.  However, even though you folks worshiped these insincere things, fought for their pleasure, then slaved away to build gaudy temples to honor these awful surrogates, in the end they laughed loudly at your mortal flaws.  And you seemed to enjoy this bashing immensely!  I was baffled and tried for many days to chuckle at this contradiction, but I simply could not master this skill.

So I tried a different tack.   I 'empowered' a few individuals with a few new  and enlightening thoughts.  At least I thought I had.  Was very careful choosing the thoughts I would project.  Then I'd take some human, like a simple carpenter's son, and whisper a few good ideas in his sleep.  Seemed to be taking hold as some humans actually stopped fighting long enough to listen. But others enjoyed fighting so much that they simply expired my messenger.  I kept trying, but when other messengers expired, you humans went to staring at the sky again and mumbling that it was all gog's will.  They even made books and said I spoke these words.  Later, you made awful statues of me with a beard and then worshipped these images.  Well, I don't have a beard, or a sex, or even fingers to grasp a pen.  I only have thoughts that endlessly annoy me.  So, no, I did not write the Bible, or the Quran , or The Vidas and I never met that Moses fellow.  I did see his these fictitious Commandments and mused,  "Well good luck on that plan Mr. Moses!"   And yes, it helped me finally learn how to laugh.  A grand achievement for a vaporous figment with no lips.  

I did have better luck with this little fat fellow that was very talkative...uh, Bood Ha was his name.  He never answered the questions of his followers,  instead merely passing along a few of my thoughts and leaving his students to figure out the answers.  Same with a curious fellow named Confusion.  Only offered his listeners little parodies of my logic...never really answered any questions, for all such answers were personal and private -- not universal. There were no tests and no one could pass or fail.  Much better than the other messengers, who were always telling people that I was going to send them to somewhere unpleasant.  Place called Hell as I remember it.  But to me, the other place you invented seemed just about as bad.  For me anyway. 

So, as people seemed to be getting a little brighter, I introduced Sciences. Thought maybe humans would stop killing each other if I invented Curiosity.  Ha!  While I was dreaming up some fun topics for you to explore...kind of wean you off this heavens-staring thing,  you invented something called religion.  Worse yet, you claimed that all of your silly actions were part of Gog's Plan!  And then, you came up with 148 different versions of Gog's Plan -- even though I don't have any plans -- only thoughts.  So, more fighting, with each of all your various sides either blaming me or claiming some idiocy about me leading you to victory!  And all these broken voices lying in the mud and blood of battle, weakly sending their voices skyward..."Save me Gog, save me !   I am dying...."  As if a vapor has the arms to lift these broken bones skyward, or the capacity to heal such an atrocity.  I could not even close my eyes or turn my back, as I don't visualize with light, hear with ears, nor have a back to turn.  For you see, I am merely a whisper that is only heard when all else is still.    

Alas.  My science became heresy, my ideas just built grand citadels for the armies to devour with newer and ever more lethal devices.  Death became common and endless;  all sides claiming me as the patron saint of a some cause I never knew, never embraced, could never condone.  And my Ether became crowded with the frantic cries of fading many that the vapor itself became clouded, like a window trying to hold back the moisture from a warm, summer rain. 
In the end, my only success was seen if I practiced a benign neglect... in places where some humans celebrated the animals around them, the earth they slept upon.  Sure, they created gogs to worship and pray to, yet their gogs perished in the hard winters and could be reborn with a forgiving spring.  They were malleable, they bled, they suffered as all life does to move forward to renewal, or that inevitable end.  But they too were swept away, for in the final game, this planet was merely a platform for the creation and worship of the self.  As if it was supposed be just that:  a convenience of the moment.  My presence,  just an illusion --  rarely heard and never seen until desperation was knocking at the door.  A purpose of no purpose...footsteps never really meant to be found. 

But before I go, I will share one last truth.  Yes, there are many, many intelligent forms of life in this vast common space you call the universe.  They have wandered by this dirty little outpost from time to time and concluded that they do not want to meet you.  They view you as little more than angry insects devouring each other as fast as you have consumed your own small  planet. They have considered destroying this eyesore, but they respect all life forms -- even those they deem toxic.  Given that you exist on the ragged outskirts of your galaxy, they see little likelihood of your disease spreading.  Besides, your planet is dying.          

Think I'll wander off now.  Catch a comet's tail to perhaps a more enlightened world, a place where silence is coveted, thought allowed to freely roam, and the Ether not tainted by the stench and decay of this never-ending  meal of fear, hate and ignorance.   

Good Luck...Yer Gonna Need It;

Gog L. Mitey

PS -- You are NOT Gog's children!  Most children grow up...eventually.       


Friday, May 8, 2015

Revolution Road...well, Maybe.

So, When?

Been doing a little reading of late, as opposed to being further numbed by the relentless oratory and visually myopic slime vomited from the world's greatest propaganda machine: network television, in all its insidious, mindless and vulgar manifestations.  From author Chis Hedges:

"Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the lies, absurdities, trivia, celebrity gossip and political theater we feed you in twenty-four-hour cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thankful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our platitudes about democracy, greatness and freedom. Vote in our rigged corporate elections. Send your young men and women to fight and die in useless, unwinnable wars that provide huge profits for corporations. Stand by mutely as our legislators plunge us into a society without basic social services while Wall Street speculators loot and pillage."

1929?  Might be, if not for the reference to television.  And of course, this time around, the middle-class are doing a metaphorical roof jump instead of the stockbrokers.  Or, being gunned down in the streets as the newest version of some 'Final Solution.'  Too severe?   

Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  I tend to seek recall from my early post-radical days. My sister had introduced me to Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention.  Oh, and something new called LSD.  I did a lot of reading and far too much acid.  On one rather extended LSD and amphetamine binge, I read:  "War and Peace," Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath," "Animal Farm" and Kenneth Patchen's allegorical tale, "The Journal of Albion Moonlight" -- while drinking bottle after bottle of Coca-Cola.  After a short hospital stay to restart my kidneys, I ended up at the Selective Service's version of a send-off party to Vietnam, where I pissed a cupful of blood and something that looked like rancid egg-whites. The guy in the next urinal was wearing a nice black bra and matching panties. Never did get his name...probably for a good reason.

Next day, I decided to become a radical...and that amphetamines were probably not a good way to extend my literary awareness. The rest is a long, rambling story that could probably fill a novel -- oh wait, it did.  But eventually I became old and rather lame.  You know how it goes, uh...played with one too many horses, animals that I always appreciated far more than humans, even if they were a little hard on me at times.

The 'Farmer's Almanac...for Lunatics.'
So here we are, a half century later, and I'm having a new twinge of a very old of deja vu kind of moment.  Only difference being that LSD is probably not going to offer me much clarity this time. Instead of one nasty war, we have two or six or how ever many you like. Voting is suppressed, or more accurately, a waste of a nice afternoon. Instead of just rumors of concentration camps (big deal in the 1960's), we actually have one at Guantanamo, along with sundry-dozens of private prisons, inner city-sacrifice zones -- such as Cleveland, Detroit, Camden and Baltimore ad nauseum.  Oh...and agricultural labor camps where we casually accept slave-labor in exchange for cheap, chemically-infested tomatoes.  And instead of spraying Agent Orange on Godless communists in some distant land, we just engineer it into the food we eat.

However, the Stock Market is making record gains, which is supposed to make everybody feel good, especially while we're endlessly scouting the neighborhood for the nearest food bank.  And for the first time in our recent history, poverty has been eliminated from the ranks of the Fortune 5oo.  I could go on, but...I'd need a kind of medication that I can't afford right now.

Do I have some point here?  Hmm.  Not sure, other than I keep wondering why it takes white people so long to get pissed off in this country?  Maybe it's because we've been told so often that we're "exceptional," and as such, we feel obliged to be on our best behavior. And of course, if we burned down the nearest Wal-Mart, where in the hell could we get cheap toilet paper? 

Mostly, I was wondering what happened to this budding weed known as the Occupy Movement?  At first, I was rather pleased to see people openly urinating in the streets again, and somewhat enthused about their non-violent approach; an idea we tried to emulate in another era of unrest, until the clubs, tear gas and occasional murder caused us to re-evaluate the idea of passive resistance.  Of course in those days we still had a free and antagonistic press -- not the corporate pimps and clowns that dominate the airwaves today. Or the hired thugs in the Blogosphere that shit lies and never seem to change their underwear. Even so, I tried to extrapolate our movement over time and consider its relevancy in this, the age of social media.  

First, I took a look at What Kevin Zeese had to say.  He was one of the founders of the Occupy Movement. "We do have a grand strategy," he said. "Non-violent movements shift power by attacking the columns that hold the power structure in place.  Those columns are the military, police, media, business, workers, youth...Every time we deal with the police, we have that in mind.  The goal is not to hit them...and weaken them. The goal is to pull people from those columns to our side.  We want the police to know that we understand they're not the 1 percent."

However, seems to me that the police work for whoever the other 99% might be; this large body that is simultaneously both inclusive and exclusive, but equally addicted to avoiding those questions that demand attention in real time. The 1% don't bother with questions, mostly because they haven't as yet noticed any problems with their private and sequestered lives or the narrative they espouse -- no, control.  So I'm going to adjust the arithmetic:  1% at the top is horn-locked with the 1% at the bottom. The rest of the country is waiting to see what Dr. Oz has to say about it. This might work in Occupy's favor, little like that old adage: "The rich get richer and the poor more numerous."  Ha...democracy in inaction!

The 'Occupy Movement' as depicted by
 American mainstream media
Zeese goes on to explain that what they wanted to create in this movement was a 'horizontal hierarchy' -- not a vertical one in the corporate sense. But of course what they got was the street dregs, dope fiends and other homeless folks that had already fallen hard from America's fleet of social dump trucks. And the press (if you can still call it that!), was more than willing to exploit that angle. You could say it was a PR disaster where for once, the truth didn't free you...just complicated things immensely, mostly because today's media uses crayons, and only colors inside the designated lines.

So I looked a little further. It seemed that the Movement was borrowing from the ideology of Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Havel, who advocated "living within the truth."  Hedges paraphrased the concept:  "This attempt to 'live within the truth brings with it ostracism and retribution.  But punishment is imposed in bankrupt systems because of the necessity for compliance, not out of any real conviction. And the real crime committed is not the crime of speaking out or defying the rules, but the crime of exposing the charade."

Hmm. Brings me back to this insatiable need for 'law and order' and the fact that the free press is having lunch in the boardroom -- while the masses eat off the $1 menu. It seems to me, having a little media experience myself, that in order to appreciate a free and open press, you just might need a free and unencumbered mind.  So, I delved back into history and fiction. First, I re-read George Orwell's "1984."

"Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?  It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself."

Ah, so fear does garner votes; for all the unnatural reasons.  Seems that's how Stalin enjoyed such a long run in Moscow. Nobody voted in the conventional sense, just as nobody seems to vote here -- either conventionally or otherwise.  Too busy watching serial alligator killers or "House of Cards"  -- a fine example of the truth masquerading as satire...or is it the other way around?  Too bad Shakespeare's long dead. she might have been able to shed some light on it.  Yeah, I said, 'she.'  Another theory for another day.  

Also rattled the bones of Karl Marx and noted anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin.

Marx said, concerning proletariat revolutions are: 

"...[They] constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their opponents only so the latter may draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again more gigantic than ever, recoil constantly from the indefinite colossalness of their own goals -- until a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call out:"

"Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze."
[Here is the Rose; dance here.]

Mikhail Bukunin

Karl Marx

But...and a big but.  While Marx easily "recognized the self-destructive machine that was unfettered capitalism, he viewed the poor as a conservative force...made irrelevant by the growth of capitalistic forces and caustically referred to them as "a sack of potatoes."" [Hedges.]  Here, I somehow visualized Wal-Mart, where the amorphous masses pick up their bribes from the 'company store;'  or in the case of a decaying and corrupt Rome, where you were given "bread and games" as an exchange for supporting the corruption of the state. How else do you explain why the abused do their shopping at the abusers store?   Fear, or something else?

Mikhail Bukunin figured it differently. He saw "in the uncivilized, disinherited, and illiterate, a pool of revolutionists who would join the working class and turn on the elites who profited from their misery and enslavement."  [Hedges] 

Tend to like the anarchist's approach better, but do imagine it might take a little longer to start the fire.  Of course, these revolutionists occupied a different era -- a time when voices, eyes and body language transmitted much more than the written word could.  In this age of 14-word logic, the mass assimilation and distribution of disinformation, and passive-aggressive pandering traveling at the speed of light, any semblance of truth or fact might be difficult or impossible to find -- Ah, but you see, that's the whole idea: confusion and misdirection. In the old days, the revolutionist's first task was to take over the radio stations; to silence the self-anointed propaganda machine of the state and deliver their alternative message.  Today, we have the sanitizers and thought police at the NSA, as well as a half-dozen other agencies and  news corporations who control access to virtually all forms of communication here -- from the news, to what constitutes entertainment, those lines fuzzier than ever. This, along with virtually every electronic device on the planet.  Privacy?  Ha. Orwell had it right all along.             

Then again, there's Bob Dylan, whose mystery and lyrics painted a different landscape that perhaps many of us felt, but could never completely articulate:

"Something is happening here,
But you don't know what it is;
Do you, Mister Jones?"
                                                                                       "Ballad of the Thin Man."

Here's a primer on how revolutions get started:  

* discontent that affects nearly all social classes;
* widespread feelings of entrapment and despair;
* unfilled expectations;
* a united solidarity in opposition to a tiny power elite;
* a refusal by scholars and thinkers to continue to defend the actions of the ruling class;
*an inability of government to respond to the basic needs of citizens;
* a steady loss of will within the power elite itself together with defections from the inner circle -- a crippling isolation that leaves the power elite without any allies or outside support;
* a financial crisis.

Crane Brinton, "Anatomy of a Revolution."

Well, we have elements of 7 out of 8 as it is, but of course, there are always other issues: the propaganda machine in this country, the love of law and order...or as the addict explains: 'the bad known is always more comfortable than  the unknown.'  So we accept the little crumbs, keep staring at the horizon and assume tomorrow will be better, when yesterday was just another repeat of many other yesterdays.  

Funny. When I was back east last year in a vain attempt to get my long-overdue hip repaired, I killed a lot of time with my 12-year old protege of sorts, Vincent. A very serious Star Trek fan and future Starship commander, I do believe I watched every episode ever made.  Even learned a few words of Vulcan.

In the end, I concluded that America had become this planet's Borg -- all-consuming, infinitely powerful...insatiable really, until virtually every resource on this planet is stripped away and stored in some unseen vault. The rest, sadly cast to the cosmic winds.

As Bernie Sanders has often said, 'we need a revolution of thought in this land,' It is either that, or we're likely going to experience the other version, which just might be the closing chapter on this experiment called America.  It is the inevitable outcome when the ambitions and dreams of ordinary people are sacrificed for the gains of the few.  Same lesson, new century, a lot at stake. 

We went off to battle this monster called the Borg -- 
Only to discover that the Borg was really us. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Home is where the....

Empathy Test

The United Nations has determined that as of today, there are approximately 45-million refugees wandering our planet. About a third of these people were set adrift by US-led military actions throughout the Levant.  Approximately 7-million once called Syria home; a percentage of those once called Palestine home.  Oddly, the plight of these folks seems to gain little traction, much less empathy here in the US, and that is actually rather shocking considering that we are a nation founded by...yeah, refugees -- human refuge discarded or driven from our own traditional homelands.  

Even more puzzling?  How we evolved into one of the most racist, bigoted nations on the planet; only South Africa running a close second -- that distinction made because they, unlike us, never denied it.  Now, before you shit your pants in moral outrage, consider a few minor notions.  We embraced slavery longer and fought its demise more bitterly than any so-called civilized country on Earth.  We made ourselves into the White-Protestant mecca of the west...desperately resisting the incursion of any and all groups who would attempt to land on our shores later -- seeking the very same freedom and opportunity we sacrificed life and limb for when we first trespassed on this land -- a land long claimed by others.  The truth here is that history is rarely kind in its relentless push forward and all dynasties will fall -- some more tragically than others; yet no lesson was learned, no forgiveness sought and apparently no remorse found -- for our actions today both reveal and reinforce our insatiable arrogance toward the greater world, in that it continues to be "our way or the highway."   In effect, we demand and try to export a system of democracy and fair-play that we have chronically failed to practice ourselves.

I remember this grand statue that the French presented us in 1886 and that we decided to plant in New York harbor; somewhat ironically, pointing it out to sea and the lands beyond. The French thought they knew us pretty well, that we shared some great egalitarian principles, that just maybe this new America could and would create a Camelot in the vastness of the new west -- a dream that the world desperately needed.  And in brief moments over the next century and a half, we did occasionally shine that light.  Yet all too often we turned our backs to the fundamentals of our heritage and sat in clear-eyed apathy as the dark side of our collective soul killed the messengers.  Yeah, we hold those names in reverence today, yet fail to fully reconcile why they had to die.  If a great conspiracy did exist, we all own it equally.

 I recently read an extremely well-written piece about a young Palestinian refugee couple living in Syria. Palestinian? Yes. Already refugees from one home and now faced with losing their second chance. For all intents, they seemed like any young couple you would meet on the streets of America. Educated, ambitious...ready to embrace what life might be able to offer them.  Living was difficult in their town south of Damascus, but they had found  a sense of community there and a degree of optimism about their always uncertain future.  Then ISIS came into their neighborhood and once again they were forced to flee...but this time, there was nowhere left to go.

The State of Jefferson

Now, bear with me for a minute.  In this tale, you, the reader gets a rare opportunity to become a refugee in your own town.  And it all starts when a faction in northern California and southern Oregon decides to secede from the Union. By all standards, these folks are fairly liberated in their thinking. Small farmers, entrepreneurs, survivalists...folks married to the land. Many of them are boomers, ex-hippies -- those that once fought for this illusive palace known as Camelot. Mostly they want to be left alone, to pursue what their version of the Constitution guaranteed: that 'pursuit of happiness' thing.  Yet more and more the country that they loved was becoming a plutocracy -- ruled by an oligarchy completely disconnected from the people, whose toil and blood had made freedom and by extension, all that wealth possible. And to the north and south, xenophobic bands of Christian extremists were re-defining the new moral boundaries in the very land born through the fires of religious persecution elsewhere, and almost three centuries in the past.  So the Jeffersonian's closed the borders, burned all the Wal-Marts and Home Depots and declared their independence.  Oh...uh, the Wal-Mart and home Depot were abandoned anyway. The local residents had boycotted  these places from the beginning, choosing to support community businesses.

The year?  2017. America had a new President; a fundamentalist Christian who firmly believed that Moses got it right the first time and no government legislation could possibly say it any better.  But now, in what was referred to in the media as the "Oregon Spring," the new President was being challenged -- no, openly defied.  And his followers were demanding immediate, decisive action against these socialistic, un-American pinko's and ouliers. Well, actually farmers, retirees and fisherpeople mostly.            

So he called in the National Guard to open the blockade and restore order. Which given the realty of the situation could have been carried out by 4 or 5 journalists with baseball bats.  The blockade was symbolic, and the new Oregon Militia's weapons of choice were little more than potato guns, pitchforks and squirt guns loaded with green paint. But to his surprise, the commander in Salem refused.  He simply said, "There is no disorder and I will not demand that my people go up against their neighbors.  Hell, half of them are sympathizers anyway."  Rebuffed, the President fired the Oregon commander and called in the Idaho Guard, a state he had carried in the election by an overwhelming majority. They in turn seized the military assets held at the Oregon depots and joined forces with the fundamentalists that had already gathered in force at the newly established borders of Jefferson, claiming that they had a mandate from God, though they didn't really say how they acquired it.  It was a short, one-sided fight and the dire news spread rapidly down the coast, spreading alarm among the residents of this small fishing town...many of whom were elderly and unable or unwilling to defend themselves from the government they once cherished. Then suddenly, the internet went dead. 

In the next few days, rumors sparked of a vast force heading up Highway 101 from the south.  By now, most of the village had armed itself with what weapons could be found, as nobody seemed to know if it was serious.  The rumors were running rampant -- real information scarce. The fishing fleet had put their boats in the water, offering a ride for anybody with the $500 or a case of liquor to join them. Helicopters were over-flying the town regularly.  Some folks had tried to escape north, only to be rebuffed in the hills near Coos Bay.  Many were arrested. Those that made it back related stories of incredible violence and savagery by the 'liberating' forces (as they were called in the media), but few believed these tales -- after all, this was still America, wasn't it?  But then, the free press, that beacon of democracy had been sold to the highest bidder more than a decade earlier.  So now the Jeffersonian's were labeled a sect and painted on Fox News as the new Branch-Davidians of the north.  The next day, the power was cut off, causing the one sewage treatment plant to fail. All land lines had ceased working and sometime during the night, the remaining cell tower was blown up. People were suddenly alone, in the dark...wondering. 

Food was beginning to get scarce.  The one market in town had been pretty much sacked by the third day of the siege. Fuel was gone the next day.  Some people had wandered into the hills, others huddled in groups, while at the south end of town, a determined group had built a barricade across 101...directly adjacent to the Battle Rock monument, the worst form of irony being played out by the most unlikely of combatants.  During the night, both the Lutheran and Catholic churches mysteriously burned to the ground. A growing distrust was enveloping this community -- a place where people prided themselves on stepping up, not away from trouble.  The enemy seemed to be nowhere and everywhere.       

Then on a Friday, the smell.  Diesel fumes and the distant clatter of track-treads on asphalt. At noon, a sole artillery shot flew over the town, landing in what was the school playground. Then the loudspeaker with the ultimatum -- the blunt words of most ultimatums: surrender or...blah, blah.  Conform, find God in your heart, accept the new order of things.  Death was in the message somewhere, but that was the least ambiguous part of the message.  Mostly nobody said anything in response, just eyes meeting eyes in a kind of tragic disbelief.

Many people wandered off, choosing to collect what few belongings they could carry, and in small bands melted into the hills.  A few of these folks were walking backwards at first, taking a last look at what was home,  All seemingly gone in the blink of an eye...a few wondering loudly how this could happen in a free country, or why so many people chose not to vote.  Others stayed in their homes, too frail to make the trek; too resigned to fight the inevitable.  A few turned their guns on themselves. Those that got away wandered northeast, some thinking that Montana might be safe or maybe Canada.  Most longed for news, any news that might explain how such a thing could happen in America.  But all they could hear in the failing light was a cacophony of gun fire; at first rapid and intense; just as suddenly random, then silent.  They walked on through the night, following the stars to a destination they did not know, a welcome they might not receive. This night, they became refugees in their own land. Just another number among those 45-million other numbers who no longer have anywhere to call home. 

    I require no lesson on empathy in this matter.  You see, my own mother was a refugee.  In the vernacular of the day, she was a war bride. She also went from girlhood to womanhood in the vortex of a world war.  Did she love my father?  Maybe.  Did she need to escape the aftermath? Absolutely.  Was she welcome here?  No. Yet the hatred for this child of war here was somehow easier for her to endure than the suffocating depravity that marked her entire childhood.  

I don't have an answer here. It took me most of my life to understand her refugee among millions.  And now we have millions upon those millions.  It has to stop. Somehow.            


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lessons from the Grave.

Patton Got Quite a Bit Right...Sort of.

General George S. Patton had an insatiable appetite for history. He knew quite well that the 'present' could never be comprehended, nor addressed, without a very humble and necessary nod to the past.  In many ways, for this man anyway -- cause and effect had deep and ancient roots.  But like most warriors, he abhorred politics, all the while being forced to acquiesce to the crooked trail they often traveled.

So not surprisingly, he was eventually fired, a fate shared by other generals who question the intents; maybe the intelligence of those who dictate foreign policy.  Among his sins: proposing to re-arm the Germans and push the Soviets out of eastern Europe. Perhaps a militarily sound idea, given the incredible view some find in our kind of myopic hindsight, but difficult to sell to a country exhausted by 5 years of war.  And of course, that thorny issue of the Soviet Union being a somewhat unpredictable and highly tenuous ally.  A marriage that was doomed at the altar -- if not for the greater evil emanating out of Berlin.  


Now just for the fun of it, or really, so that maybe you have the slightest idea what I'm babbling on about, I'd like you to do a simple word juxtaposition. Every time I say 'Germany,' I want you to instead imagine, 'Iraq.'   

VE Day (Victory in Europe) was just possibly the greatest mass exhalation of the century.  But when the champagne went dry and the hangover showed up, so did the truth.  Europe was in ruins, the population devastated by years of all-out war -- national economies non-existent.  And there was that little matter of The Holocaust, an atrocity that spread far beyond the Jewish community -- albeit, they bore the brunt of this genocidal storm. But there was more. Call it 'collective shock' if you like.  The real grinding issue behind these 10-million deaths was that this 'final solution' was perpetrated by a Christian, educated, acculturated state right smack in the heart of Europe.  State-sanctioned murder on a scale never before seen.  Difficult to swallow, harder still to comprehend. Yet it also spawned the concept of a World Court; accountability broadened to include this rather ambiguous term: "crimes against humanity" -- gross violations by...well, humanity.  And we're still struggling with that distinction today. The courts also established the precedent that "following orders" would no longer constitute a defense for the actions of an individual in uniform.  Perhaps an unreasonable demand for when the shit really hits the fan.

So at the time, given the emotion of the day, it seemed like a good idea to round up all these Nazi's and hang the bunch.  Hence, the formation of the Nuremberg Tribunals, named after the city of their birth. Vengeance first, housekeeping later. Except that there were a few issues lurking in the background -- particularly the opening salvos of what would become the new Cold War; not to mention the lingering issue of how all these Nazis got to be Nazis in the first place. So let's flashback to 1918.  

First order of business when Baghdad fell:  Round up all of Saddam's lackeys, have a quick trial and a quicker hanging.  Only instead, let's have the Iraqis administer the justice. You know, kind of loyalty test. 

But back to Berlin. Germany loses the first 'big one' -- WW I. Only they didn't really lose. They were still occupying territory in France and elsewhere.  Strange predicament for a 'loser' to find themselves in and certainly not lost within the German psyche.  Next came the Treaty cobbled together by the allies in Versailles -- one of many aimed at preventing Germany from ever militarizing itself again.  Massive financial reparations, the loss of territory in Germany's industrial sector...sanctions on a scale never before seen. Which meant that rebuilding even the basic elements of state function were nearly impossible. The result? Massive unemployment, runaway inflation, two revolutions and the rise of communist and nationalistic sentiment.  And of course, credibility for that little Austrian corporal who really knew how to work an audience.

American policy in Iraq: Capture and hang the bad guys, dissolve the Iraqi army, the police, the security forces and pretty much anybody else. Remove all Baathist party members from government and administrative posts. Create 50-70% unemployment, massive public suspicions by arresting thousands, re-fuel sectarian differences and fail to even get the electricity turned on. Everybody's a terrorist, so turn the Army into judge, jury and prosecutor.  As Patton observed, as military governor of Bavaria...the army is NOT qualified (or trusted) to police a civilian population. 

[Note: As I have talked about before, my own grandfather was in the German Luftwaffe -- by default a member of the Nazi Party. What does that mean to me?  Very little actually as the ideology was only useful to those with the political power to wield it.  And as all soldiers know, once the bullets start flying, politics no longer have a meaning.] 

The result of post-World War I decisions?  World War II.

Berlin or Baghdad?

Joseph Goebbels--
Hitler's social architect.
Now Patton wasn't alone in having an eye to history, or put another way, having the vision to understand that Europe's century of wars was rooted far more in economics than mere power politics.  At the end of the day, the ordinary man sees the meager food on his children's plates, not the grand ideals of the would-be demigod. But he will hear the message. And therein lies the vast power of the greatest   propaganda machine ever                                                   seen...until maybe today.  Hitler was the sword of action, but Goebbels painted the canvas.  Both men opened the door a crack on what could be a better world for the average German. This after 20-years of turmoil and hopelessness. Who could resist such a moment?     

Plans. What plans?  The US went back to Iraq and later, Afghanistan on with wings of vengeance.  Blood for blood. Hell, Americans were demanding it. Never mind that Bush Sr. created this monster called Al Queda, Bush Jr. was going to set 'these' people right. Saddam Hussein may have been a bad ass in many, many ways, but his forced removal was destined to create a political vacuum that would only be filled by incredible chaos.  The lesson of Tito's Yugoslavia evidently not on that weeks homework assignment. Not only was there no coherent plan on going in, none existed to get out.     

Enter General George C. Marshall, chief architect of the plan for post-war Europe that bears his name.  And in many ways, the last shining example of American foreign policy since.

"The reconstruction plan, developed at a meeting of the participating European states, was drafted on June 5, 1947. It offered the same aid to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they did not accept it, as to do so would be to allow a degree of US control over the Communist economies.  Secretary Marshall became convinced that Stalin had absolutely no interest in helping restore economic health in Western Europe. President Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan on April 3, 1948, granting $5 billion in aid to 16 European nations. During the four years that the plan was operational, US donated $13 billion in economic and technical assistance to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation.

In 2013, the equivalent sum reflecting currency inflation since 1948 totalled roughly $148 billion. The $13 billion was in the context of a US GDP of $258 billion in 1948, and was on top of $13 billion in American aid to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Plan that is counted separately from the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was replaced by the Mutual Security Plan at the end of 1951.

The ERP addressed each of the obstacles to postwar recovery. The plan looked to the future, and did not focus on the destruction caused by the war. Much more important were efforts to modernize European industrial and business practices using high-efficiency American models, reducing artificial trade barriers, and instilling a sense of hope and self-reliance." 

The Plan was costly and brilliant, but not as altruistic as one might assume.  If you peeked under the sheets, a second motivation existed:  containing the Soviet Union by strengthening the economies of western Europe, and by extension, hopefully preventing a World War III.  Which given the escalating antagonism between the two new 'superpowers,' seemed almost inevitable -- except for one minor matter:  the A-bomb. And by a necessary default: NATO. 

Back to Patton for a moment.  VE Day also marked the transition of Germany from a military problem to an administrative one; a task not normally found in an army's playbook. This situation was also frustrated by the sudden and overbearing encroachment of US and allied political will -- ambition if you like that term better, including those chartered to open the Nuremberg Tribunals -- amid the extreme media buzz surrounding this open-court spectacle.  

Note: The first round of trials focused on party members themselves, military commanders (questionable) and somewhat surprising perhaps: members of Nazi Germany's judiciary -- the very judges responsible for sanctioning a widespread genocide against civilian, non-combatants. And awaiting trial were German industrialists the likes of Krupp and Bayer who were to be tried for supplying the German war machine. Notable steel, munitions and the very gas used to exterminate millions. But hold on...Patton and others said, "I don't think so."

Politicians in Washington and elsewhere were also convinced that the German people needed "denazification," as if the citizenry as a whole were infested with an incurable political virus.  Something that sounds almost laughable...until you consider that the very same thinking permeated the think-tanks that sprouted up around Langley shortly after Baghdad threw in the towel.

Yes. Second order of business was to de-Baathisize Iraqi politics. Just as in Germany, every German was a fanatical Nazi and every Iraqi was automatically a terrorist. So, they were rounded up, tortured...locked away in numerous Gulags until they either confessed or ratted out some other poor slob. How's the saying go: "Win the hearts and minds..." Bunch of that going on in Guantanamo these days. 

Prior to Patton's dismissal and eventual death in Europe -- before even the implementation of the first economic tenets under the Marshall Plan, the buzz-word of administrative policy in Iraq Germany surrounded this rather vague, yet powerful notion of denazification. Patton, among others, refused to play along, citing the impossibility, in his opinion, of making any constructive progress in returning some state of normalcy to the country without the direct involvement of the German people.  This included everything from traffic control to garbage, food distribution, utility reconstruction...even answering the phones. And the German citizenry needed the work, not only to survive, but to gain confidence that life could indeed return to normal. And the US and its allies had an obligation (and certainly a political motivation), to convince the populace that the occupation was NOT about punishing the German people, but to create a more constructive world for all of Europe. You could say, the political antithesis of what would soon become life for those trapped behind the Soviet Union's new and ominous Iron Curtain.  A wall that proved impervious for the next 40 years.

*Addendum:  While Patton didn't live to see his philosophy bear fruit; meaning quite frankly that the Germans needed to be empowered to dictate the course of their nation, it quickly became obvious that repeating the spoiled lessons of retribution was not going to have positive results.  This lesson completely ignored by US policy-makers toward a defeated Iraq -- defeated not even an accurate term for it. Iraqi's army was mostly composed of internal mercenaries -- soldiers whose loyalty rarely exceeded their weekly paycheck.  For the leadership clique, it was merely a conflict perpetrated by the need for a domestic deflection from the real issue:  a leader who led through brutality and fear, and would eventually lead the country to ruin.

Back in Berlin, industry leaders, like the Krupps, didn't spend long in prison -- the nature of German loyalty was such that workers would not work under foreign supervision. And too, unlike Iraq, the Germans held no real resentment toward the Allied Forces -- a clear distinction being drawn between the acts of government and the guy on the street.  It was a necessary 'stretch' if a new Germany was to be allowed to rejoin the club of nations. how you  can build trust out of the ashes of conflict.     

Oh...those WMD's. Turned out to be diaper factory disguised as a...diaper factory.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Decoding India's Caste System...And Maybe Our Own.

Just Another Word for Structured Inequality?

"The caste system in India is a system of social stratification, which is now also used as a basis for affirmative action Historically, it separated communities into thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis which is synonymous with caste in contemporary usage. The Jātis were grouped by the Brahminical texts into four categories or varnas: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Certain groups, now known as "Dalits", were excluded from the varna system altogether, ostracized by all other castes and treated as untouchables. Strongly identified with Hinduism, the caste system has been carried over to other religions on the Indian subcontinent, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism."

Endogamy:  Marrying within your group, clan, caste.
Exogamy:  Marrying outside your group, clan, caste.

"Almost every statement of a general nature made by anyone about Indian castes may be contradicted."  D.D. Kosambi, 1944.  Yep. That about covers it.  Indian scholars themselves cannot agree, much less the greater population.  And outsiders tend to view the caste system as some kind of static phenomenon, taking the viewpoint of India as "stereotypical [and] tradition-bound."  Yet it appears to operate more radically...more fluidly if you like, according to the greater or lesser fortunes of the state and society in general.  Meaning really, that Indians themselves frequently alter the definition to fit the situation at hand. Gosh....imagine if that happened here? 

This caste system goes back a long ways (maybe 5000 years), and is remarkably similar to early Roman social/class/spiritual belief structures of that time, only in India's case, wrapped tightly to the scriptures of Hinduism.  Yet even here, vast disagreement exists on origin and purpose, further complicated by our friends the British, who remodeled India's caste system (colonial period) as an aid to both administering the British Raj and as a tool for social control. But...and a big 'but' here; these systems were highly practical where basic survival was a daily challenge to establishing static, permanent communities.  A little like the goals of the 'socialist state,' whereby each person had a purpose (caste), in the greater community.  However, once money (gold, whatever), replaced value as the currency of the realm -- versus individual contribution, the system became abusive and cooperation for the common good went obsolete.  Ha...maybe Lenin should have spent a little quality time in Bombay.     

Basically, the castes are split 3 ways -- ranked accordingly from the old Brahman texts:

1st.  Judicial and priestly.

2nd.  Military and war.

3rd. Production, agriculture, crafts and commerce.   However, others argue that the origins as defined in Krishna add one more:

4th. The 'untouchables.'  ('Untouchables dealt with sewage and dead animals...including people.)

Course, as usual, Britain's meddling had backfired by the 1920's, actually forcing the Raj to introduce many 'affirmative-action' type programs, most aimed at elevating the social/economic status of the more oppressed groups; especially the Dalits.  (We're hearing a lot about this group lately.)  But it was also a tool of division, used frequently in American foreign policy-making, particularly during the Cold War years.  By putting minority populations in a position of power, the resulting group-to-group antagonism deflected attention from the real enemy:  the colonialist and imperialistic powers. Course, eventually the locals caught on anyway. However, below is one interpretation of how this system was/is structured: 

  • Strict segmentation of society, with the various groups being rigidly defined and membership of them determined by birth.
  • A hierarchical system that defines a ranking place for all of the castes
  • Limited choice of occupation, which is enforced within a caste as well as by other castes. A caste might follow more than one traditional occupation but its members would nonetheless be constrained to that range
  • The general practice of endogamy, although in some situations hypergamy is acceptable. Endogamy applies to the various sub-groups within a caste itself, preventing marriage between the sub-groups and sometimes imposing an additional geographical constraint, that one can only marry a person from the same gotra and the same place
  • Restrictions on dietary and social interactions that defines who could consume what and accept from whom. As with marriage arrangements, these restrictions apply at sub-caste level, not merely at the caste level
  • Physical segregation in, for example, villages. This is accompanied by limitations on movement and access, including to religious and educational areas and to basic facilities such as supplies of water. Again, this segregation applies at sub-caste level as well as at the higher level

The Big Picture

Safe to say that the British really mucked up Indian culture and traditions.  Aside from manipulating the caste system, they also socially re-engineered the entire region via population transfers; i.e., separating Hindu from Muslim in one of history's largest forced migrations, which resulted in the formation of two new nations in the process: Pakistan and East Pakistan, later re-named Bangladesh.  And following independence, all three were subjected to Soviet and US imperialism, all in the name of the new Cold War politics.  And yes, this plays heavily into the vacillating geo-political tensions and perceived loyalties throughout this region:  India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed, both mutually suspicious, both facing immense internal pressures; Pakistan, as close to a failed state as a country can get and still claim marginal functionality.  And yes, this plays into the equation, particularly with US foreign policy, the case for human rights usurped in favor of...well, it's getting tough to tell anymore.  Billions in American corporate interests re-arranging Indian society, Pakistan holding the keys to Afghanistan's back door, the current Indian prime minister on the State Department's 'dislike' list. Nothing as simple as it might seem.  Yet the macro picture must be considered along with the micro, because in the case of these two countries, the stakes are higher than most.

Closer to Calcutta

However, to be fair, the British did conduct an extensive and thorough ethnographic analysis of the entire region; material still in extensive use today.  Sure, it also served equally as a tool of manipulation, but for an area as large and diverse as the Indian sub-continent, the demographic research has proved invaluable over time. [Side-note: One of Britain's contributions to the developing world was rail systems. In India, this transportation network was extensive.  Yet here, on the trains, Indian's ignored the caste system completely, choosing transportation over cultural prejudices.  A lesson learned much later in the US.]    

So how does religion/spirituality play into the caste system?  Good question and to be frank, one I can't really answer logically, at least not in a western-trained mind.  However, a clue or two might be found in the words of two pivotal characters in India's fight for independence.  First, Dr. B.R. Ambedker, India's first Prime Minister following independence.  He was also an 'untouchable.'  

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

"Ambedkar, was born in a caste that was classified as untouchable, became a leader of human rights in India, a prolific writer, and a key person in drafting modern India's constitution in the 1940's . Ambedkar wrote extensively on discrimination, trauma and tragic effects of the caste system in India."

"Ambedkar described the Untouchables as belonging to the same religion and culture, yet shunned and ostracised by the community they lived in. The Untouchables, observed Ambedkar, recognised the sacred as well as the secular laws of India, but they derived no benefit from this. They lived on the outskirts of a village. Segregated from the rest, bound down to a code of behaviour, they lived a life appropriate to a servile state. According to this code, an Untouchable could not do anything that raised him or her above his or her appointed station in life. The caste system stamped an individual as untouchable from birth. Thereafter, observed Ambedkar, his social status was fixed, and his economic condition was permanently set. The tragic part was that the Mahomedans, Parsis and Christians shunned and avoided the Untouchables, as well as the Hindus. Ambedkar acknowledged that the caste system wasn't universally absolute in his time; it was true, he wrote, that some Untouchables had risen in Indian society above their usually low status, but the majority had limited mobility, or none, during Britain's colonial rule. According to Ambedkar, the caste system was irrational. Ambedkar listed these evils of the caste system: it isolated people, infused a sense of inferiority into lower-caste individuals, and divided humanity. The caste system was not merely a social problem, he argued: it traumatised India's people, its economy, and the discourse between its people, preventing India from developing and sharing knowledge, and wrecking its ability to create and enjoy the fruits of freedom. The philosophy supporting the social stratification system in India had discouraged critical thinking and cooperative effort, encouraging instead treatises that were full of absurd conceits, quaint fancies, and chaotic speculations. The lack of social mobility, notes Ambedkar, had prevented India from developing technology which can aid man in his effort to make a bare living, and a life better than that of the brute. Ambedkar stated that the resultant absence of scientific and technical progress, combined with all the transcendentalism and submission to one's fate, perpetrated famines, desolated the land, and degraded the consciousness from respecting the civic rights of every fellow human being.  According to Ambedkar, castes divided people, only to disintegrate and cause myriad divisions which isolated people and caused confusion. Even the upper caste, the Brahmin, divided itself and disintegrated. The curse of caste, according to Ambedkar, split the Brahmin priest class into well over 1400 sub-castes. This is supported by census data collected by colonial ethnographers in British India."

Worth noting here that Ambedkar took his beliefs so seriously that he converted to Buddhism -- bringing many Dalit followers into the Buddhist faith.

And of course, the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

Mahatma Gandhi
In his younger years, Gandhi, disagreed with some of Ambedkar's observations, rationale and interpretations about the caste system in India. "Caste," he claimed, has "saved Hinduism from disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from excrescences." He considered the four divisions of Varnas to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable subcastes or Jātis he considered to be a hindrance. He advocated to fuse all the Jātis into a more global division of Varnas. In the 1930s, Gandhi began to advocate for the idea of heredity in caste to be rejected, arguing that "Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man. Thus caste, in so far as it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil."

Many scholars argue that the caste system is inherently embedded in Hindu religious practices, particularly the teachings of samsara, dharma and karma, yet as mirrored by the British colonial use of caste as a social engineering tool, is it not too far afield to assume that the Indians themselves are not just as culpable?  After all, according to ancient texts, no untouchable could possibly gain a leadership position in India, yet three have become Prime Minister.  Further, what are the current conflicts, including this pogrom against the Dalits -- particularly the women -- really about?  To this author, as limited as my knowledge is...doesn't smell of religious or sectarian fault lines, but rather another glaring example of a rising social inequality throughout the world -- the same blame-game we play in America whenever and wherever immigration enters the conversation.  Those with the least power, the limited voice always make the best targets in tough times.  And the times promise to get tougher.

Literacy and Economics:

Here it gets a little sticky.  When British rule ended in the 1940's, the literacy rate throughout India stood at 12%. Today is stands at 74% (2011); excellent progress considering the obstacles, but still 10 points below world averages.  There is also a gender-gap disparity of about 20% -- men over women. And too, a geographic void between rural and urban populations, aggravated by this caste system.  A system that finds greater credence in rural areas, where folklore, superstition and the role of subsidence agriculture have traditionally played a greater role in societies. [More on the ag. issue later.]* 

[Dark green indicates highest growth]
Movement on educational improvements in these rural areas is frequently hamstrung by these discriminatory beliefs, causing both low enrollment and an extremely high (52%), drop-out rate. (2005 figures)  India too, is a land of strong stereotypes, particularly surrounding gender, contributing greatly to the wider gap between educational opportunities afforded men over women.**  And if that's not enough, the old traditions of family-based agriculture in India tend to value brawn over brains -- a common theme in much of the developing world.  Flawed?  Perhaps not.  But the alternative has proven to be even more disruptive to Indian society.

[Orange indicates lowest literacy rates]

Anyone else notice a disturbing parallel?  Yes, as one of our past president's once exclaimed, "It's the economy, stupid!"  

Two things are at play here. The first deals with the massive schism between rural and urban life in India.  In urban areas, the PhD has all but replaced the caste system.  Much can be said on this matter, but technology-export from the US and Europe has played a huge role in the upward mobility of those in the south of India. Certainly not the case elsewhere, and as I said earlier, literacy rates weigh-in heavily in this social system, for they use the old tenets of ancient Hinduism as a doctrine against the upward mobility of those 'sanctioned' as inferior.  But then, nothing new or remarkable here really.  Take away the tools of education, the access to knowledge and the drones will labor on.  We sort of invented the concept clear back in the 1920's. Only today, we call it the corporation.


*Talked about this issue in some previous blog postings.  Stole the term from Christian Parenti's book, [Tropic of Chaos].  It is basically when multiple issues 'converge' in one spot and metastasize from many small and seemingly unrelated diseases, into one very large and potentially fatal tumor.  Again, note the two maps above -- then the drought map shown here:  On a macro level, much of the tension between India, Pakistan AND Afghanistan is rooted in water issues; aka, Khashmir. Glacial run-off feeds the rivers of all three. As Parenti says, "Without the river (Indus), Pakistan's stock of groundwater and impounded reserves would only last a month. No river, no country.  And atop the river sits the enemy, India: Huge, economically dynamic, politically democratic, internationally respected and atomically armed."  Add one more element: the monsoons have been disrupted for a decade or more and the glacial fields are retreating -- drastically in most cases.  And as I noted in previous blogs, the impact of neoliberalism on agricultural production in the Global South has virtually destroyed traditional farming in these regions, along with arable land. [See Convergence, Parts I-III]

What does that have to with caste?  Simple. Caste is no longer a religious/cultural issue in India, but instead an economic one wrapped in the arms of marginal literacy, a rising urban opulence (fueled by the tech-servicing industry), dwindling basic resources and now, climate -- which in turn fuels migration from the land to the cities, where these ancient and obsolete traditions find new credence as the 'have-nots' rub hard against those that 'have.'  And the government is reluctant to address the problem:

[Parenti]: "As India's weather patterns have become more disjointed, so too have its economic policies shifted rightward to effectively abandon the peasant farming class and create greater inequality."  The result?  "The Maoist fire burns not only due to drought but also because of free-market government policy."  Yes, in northern India and Nepal, drought has caused a re-awakening of both the far-left and the fundamentalist right. (Hold that thought for a moment or two.) And yes, the statistics bear out the correlation between drought/privation and the rise of insurgency activities throughout the world, such reactions about as basic and primal as they come.   
Maslow's Hierarchy

I bring up Maslow's little pyramid because throughout the developing world, the top three take some pretty heavy trudging to even come close to fruition.  That same trend is occurring in this country, though for the most part, we remain well-insulated. Well, some of us anyway.  However, in this current convergence of multiple issues, the foundation -- the most basic premises of life are under almost relentless siege. And that brings me to a rather startling conclusion:

Religious Fundamentalism 

What happens when civilization, however we choose to define it, begins to unravel? Regression.  Without a tangible or definable future, we always look back to the past -- the times of security, safety...the bountiful harvest of nostalgia.  We yearn for it, as the questions were so much more basic, the answers seemingly so simple.  God, family, dinner.  Not chaos, deprivation and violence.

Fundamentalist ideas grow out of fear and uncertainty and serve to fuel radical, yet simplistic solutions.  And because we created a world that chooses money over value, today's societies fracture along the fault-lines of economic mobility.  Take that to the most basic levels: sustenance over starvation; the earth itself collapses under the strain. And it is an equal opportunity plague.  It honors no borders, claims no favorites.  India or America...little difference in this ongoing struggle.   

Caste?  It is no longer just a tradition of the Hindu is a global fact of life.            
**Gender stereotyping is NOT confined to women's roles within India society. Men too, find their identity wrapped around outside expectations in the community, duly noted in the burgeoning number of suicides among male Indian farmers over the last decade or more. 

Mere thoughts here...on a very, very complicated world.