Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 2021

Just How Much Fallacy is Your To Quoque?

Judging you!!!

danielwalldammit posted on wordpress. Nov.7, 2010

We all learned that two wrongs don’t make a right when we were kids, didn’t we?

And we learned that ‘you too’ arguments are a fallacy back in Freshman logic class, right?

Right?

Okay, maybe not everybody, but this is a lesson a lot of us probably have in common. Most educated people ought to know that there is something wrong with answering a criticism by saying “you do it too!” or some variation thereof. Hell, most decent people ought to know better than that regardless of their education.

So, why do we do it?

Hell, almost everybody does it on at least some occasions. To be fair, some people do it more than others. They will do it every chance they get. Others try not to, most of the time anyway. So, the penchant for answering a serious concern with a quick ‘you-too’ gambit varies from one person to another, but I don’t know that anyone avoids it entirely.

This tactic also comes and goes with the times. It’s been particularly common for the last 4 years, so much so that folks even coined a new term for it; ‘whataboutism.’ The “Your side does it too” gambit has made a regular appearance in public debate for a long time, but it’s been particularly common for the space of about one presidential administration (or an administration plus the campaign before it). So, the internet collectively coined a new term to describe it.

Okay, but why is this kind of argument so common?

One reason? It’s not always a fallacy.

Another? For some people, it really is a way of life.

Variable Relevance: The (ir-)relevance of ‘you too’ games varies in a couple of interesting ways.

If someone corrects my behavior and I respond with “you do it too?” am I really engaging in a fallacy?

Variable Conclusions: If I mean by that you-too response that I am not really wrong, because you do it too, then yes. Hell yes! If that’s what I mean, then I am absolutely engaging in the tu quoque fallacy.

If, on the other hand, I mean; “Okay, I need to correct my behavior, but so should you, because you do in fact do this too,” then my response is not entirely unreasonable. I’m not denying my wrong-doing in this instance. I am just asking you to correct your own behavior right along with me.

Alternatively, I could employ a ‘you-too’ argument by of refusing to accept a rule that I have good reason to believe others are not going to follow themselves. Let’s imagine we are playing a game of soccer and you tell me I should stop touching the ball with my hands.

I could then say you do it too as a means of insisting either that you stop yourself or that we are just going to continue playing an odd game of soccer in which both of us are allowed to touch the ball with our hands. In this case, I am refusing to play by unfair rules, or unfair application of those rules.

It seems that there are at least some conclusions which could be reasonably drawn from a premise beginning with an assertion that is essentially saying “you do it too.”

Plus Alternatives: There is another context in which “you too” starts to become more relevant than it would otherwise be. In this case, the tu-quoque fallacy has some company, because the False Alternatives fallacy comes in here right along with it. This is the context of constrained choices.

If I tell you that apples bother my teeth, so I don’t like eating them, it would normally be quite foolish to respond by telling me that cookies have too much sugar. Whether or not cookies have too much sugar, apples still bother my teeth (always feels like I am biting into styrofoam). That does not change if cookies are bad for me. So, the cookie-themed response seems quite irrelevant.

…unless I want a snack, and I have exactly 2 options!

If my universe of possible choices includes an apple and a cookie, then problems with one might very well be a reasonable answer to my expressed concerns about the other. It’s not so much a logical inference as it is a conversational implicature. A possible respondent hears me complaining about the apple, realizes I have offered it as a reason for choosing the cookie instead, and responds by reminding me of a good reason to avoid the cookie

Of course apples and cookies don’t make these arguments themselves, so if this is a concern about false alternatives, how does it relate to the tu-quoque fallacy? Well, it comes into play when the apples and cookies do make these arguments themselves, or at least when we divide ourselves up into an obviously apple camp and a clearly cookie camp.

Or maybe when we try to pick a President.

If I say that Donald Trump has been self-dealing throughout his Presidency as a means of saying he is a terrible President, it wouldn’t normally help matters to say that Hillary does it too (using the Uranium One story about her charity foundation for example). Neither would it help to raise the prospect of similar corruption on the part of the Biden family.

These become relevant during elections precisely because the obvious alternative choice is understood, and so the range of viable possibilities is narrowed sufficiently to make these normally irrelevant arguments matter after all.

And here, 3rd party-proponents will have an obvious complaint of their own. What if there are better choices? What if you can point to a candidate that doesn’t have a history of self-dealing (or, more to the point, a history of having the charge of self-dealing leveled at them by political opponents)?

That’s a reasonable concern and one that speaks directly to the very kind of problem that logicians are trying to call our attention to when speaking about ‘false alternatives’ and ‘tu-quoque’ fallacies. Of course, part of the concern here lies in just how viable the third parties really are and what you are trying to accomplish with your vote, both of which speak to the question of just how constrained the alternatives here really are. If a 3rd party might really win, then it would be quite illogical to respond to a criticism of one major party candidate as though it were an obvious endorsement of another.

Conversely, you may know that the 3rd party is going to lose but choose to vote for them anyway as a means of signaling to the major parties that they should take you own political values more seriously. If enough others vote the same way, this could become leverage in the next election.

If a 3rd party candidate is, however, not a serious contender for winning an election, and the election is just too important to risk on a symbolic statement, then we may be back in the realm of 2 real choices and dirt on one viable candidate really will have to be weighed against dirt on the other. In such cases, “your guy does it too” and “the alternative is worse” start to become relevant again.

Where your choices are constrained, criticisms of one choice can provide a meaningful response to criticisms of another, but this is still problematic. Such arguments don’t erase problems, and they don’t disprove initial claims. If you tell me, for example, that Hunter Biden was using his father’s position as Vice President under the Obama administration to make money, reminding you that the Trump family profits from his role as President (e.g. through fees paid by the Secret Service to Trump properties during his visits, use of political leverage to get Ivanka’s patents in China, or simply the profits made when foreign diplomats choose to stay at Trump properties while negotiating with him) will not prove the claims about Hunter Biden are untrue.

If I want to do that, then I have to provide an argument directly debunking the claims about Hunter Biden activities. What do I get out of calling attention to similar shenanigans about Trump? I get an argument about the significance one relative to the other. I get an argument about how each balances against the other when we assume both criticisms are of roughly equal merit. That may not be the best argument I could produce on the topic, but it would not be fallacious. It’s in this context that ‘you too’ (or at least ‘your guy too’) arguments start to make a little more sense.

One fascinating thing about this is the way that the relevance of such arguments comes and goes. I understood claims about Uranium One, debunked as they are, as a concern in the 2016 election. It was fascinating to me, however, seeing Trump fans continue bringing this up in response to criticism of his actions well into the Trump administration. I found myself saying; “well let’s impeach her too” then, by which I hoped to suggest that this was no longer a relevant means of answering concerns about Trump’s own actions. As the 2020 election heated up, concerns about Biden became a more viable means of offsetting those about Trump (at least to those who care nothing about proportion or credibility of the sources). In terms of addressing the choice at hand, it was useful for the Trump camp to have a claim about political corruption in play precisely because they knew many such claims could be held against Donald. What the merits of each claim really are is of course a debatable question, but having comparable accusations on the table makes possible a kind of argument about how one wishes to weigh one relative to the other.

When we were all expected to weigh Donald Trump’s character against that of another person, complaints about that other person could pass a certain test of minimal relevance to complaints about him. So, the relevance comparison to other people to criticisms of Donald Trump came and went over the course of his Presidential administration. When he was operating on his own, and the only viable question was about his own competence and integrity, they should have gone away.

Of course they didn’t.

Constraining Personalities: This brings us to one last point; some people thrive on the sort of constrained choices I am describing here. When they face an open range of possibilities, they work very hard to create the illusion of constrained choices anyway.

Yes, I have Donald Trump in mind here.

I am also writing about his many fans.

There is a reason the Trump camp was such a source of whataboutism claims throughout his Presidency. This is both a feature of the base to which he consciously pitched his politics and to personality of Donald Trump himself.

Audience: There are people who live in a world of artificially constrained choices, and you can see it their responses to a broad range if issues. Did you say Fox news got something wrong? Well then you must be watching too much MSNBC. If there is a problem with capitalism, well then why don’t you just go try China?

Don’t like Christianity? You must be an atheist! Is the American healthcare system broken? Well then, let me tell you the horror stories coming out of Canada! Concerned about police brutality? You must support riots in the streets! Don’t like coke? Shut up and drink your Beer!

And so on…

(Okay, I might not be that be that serious about the coke and beer example.)

Perhaps all of us fall into this way of thinking from time to time, but some people really do seem to think in such terms on a regular basis. They live in a world of social Manichaeism, a world in which 2 rival forces contend with one another for control of the world and of our loyalties. Anything said against one can clearly be understood as support for the other, because all questions of value must be measured according to the standard of which force one wishes to align oneself with. Other options are always illusory.

You are with the lord of light or you are with the lord of darkness, and if you don’t declare your loyalties openly, then that is a good reason to suspect you are on the wrong side of this conflict. In effect, such people keep making use of the false-alternatives fallacy because they actually do live in a world in which their choices are always constrained. Their assumptions about the world around them and the choices available to all of us consistently reduce all choices to a binary opposition.

Always!

Brief Technicality: I should add that the not all binary opposition are equal. What typically happens here is that people looking at contrary relationships often construe them as contradictory relationships? What is the difference? In a Contradictory relationship between two claims, they two have opposite truth values. If one is true, the other is false. If one is false, the other is true. In a contrary relationship between two claims, on the other hand, one of them must be false, but it is at least possible that both will be false.

In the case of either a contrary relationship or a contradictory relationship, you could infer the falsehood of one claim from the truth of the other, but you could only infer the truth of one claim from the falsehood of the other in the case of a contradictory relationship, not in the case of a contrary relationship.

Case in point: If I know that John is voting for Biden, I can conclude he is clearly not voting for Trump (unless he wants his ballot to be thrown out). If, on the other hand, I know he is not voting for Biden, I could not normally conclude that he is voting for Trump. He might be voting for a third party after all (and whether or not that is a good idea brings up all the points made above).

So, political loyalties are not usually well modeled on the basis of a contradictory relationship. Such loyalties are contrary at best even if specific choices made on the basis of those loyalties (e.g. voting) might be framed in terms of contradictory relationships.

Another example? If you like capitalism, it’s probably safe to assume you are not in favor of communism, but could we really infer from a criticism of capitalism that you were a communist? No. You could be in favor of some alternative political economy. Old fashioned trade guilds, perhaps coupled with mercantilism, subsistence economics (as practiced in many indigenous communities), or good old Georgism (which may or may not be a form of socialism, depending on who you ask), all come to mind. (So, does rejecting the terms ‘capitalism’ or ‘communism’ outright as being to vague and sweeping.). Inferring support for one of these highly loaded terms from opposition to the other is hardly reasonable, and yet, people do it all the time.

People who should know better.

But people often treat contrary relationships as though they were contradictory, thus enabling a faulty implicature, the inference of a specific loyalty from criticism of an alternative commonly understood to be its opposite. This empowers both false alternatives and tu-quoque arguments. For some people this approach to decision making is just too gratifying to resist.

We sometimes encounter simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, and hence make choices between contradictory values, but much of our thinking takes place in a world with a broader range of possibilities. Those locked into the mindset of Social manichaeism are constantly pushing us to think in narrower terms to begin with. If all of us are prone to miss the possibilities from time to time, then some people seem to take this as a point of principle.

Personality: Enter a living train-wreck such as Donald Trump! He thrives on constrained choices precisely because his own actions and his own statements cannot stand up to scrutiny on their own merits. Whatever the man may have been like when he was younger, he has long since accumulated a range of of bad deals, unpaid debts, and obvious lies in a personal history of chronically abusive behavior. His own credibility would never stand up to scrutiny, not from anyone making an honest effort.

So, how does he manage?

He always brings with him a broad range of bluffs and diversions, and one of the most important is a constant penchant for attacking someone in virtually any context, and for doing it in the most humiliating way possible.

Every claim he might make, every question one might ask, is then subsumed under the effect of this personal attack. For those under attack, this means trying to balance the need to defend yourself against the effort to address any objective issues that may be on the table. For bystanders, it is a question of balancing concerns over Trump’s behavior against those he raises about others.

In the ensuing hostilities, trump can raise and drop any issues he wishes, make false claims, and set them aside at his liesure. If he is caught flat footed, the solution is as simple as insulting the person who pointed it out or any source they may rely upon. The end-result is a choice between him or someone else, and any doubts about that other person whatsoever will be enough for Donald. He has spent his lifetime exploiting the benefit of the doubt. It is a benefit does not share with others.

The logic of the whataboutism gambit suits Trump’s style perfectly.

Is Trump University credible? What about Hillary!?!

Did Donald tell a lie? Ask Obama if you can keep your insurance!?!

Is he mistreating immigrants? What are the Dems doing to protect us!?! (…and after 2016, ask Obama, because he did it first?)

Is the Trump family self-dealing through their position in government? Where is Hunter!?!

You get the idea.

This is a man in deep need of enemies. The closest he will ever get to redemption lies in the hope that those around him will think him better than the alternative. Small wonder that he preferred to keep Hillary on the table as a kind of shadow President, a mythic character he could use as a whipping woman even in the 2020 election.

At the peak of his Presidency, when she should have been off the table entirely, she was still the answer to concerns about Trump, replaced only when Biden stepped in to become Trump’s new foil, and only partially so at that. Trump has always needed a constrained choice to make a case for himself, because he is of no value on his own.

To know the worth of Donald Trump, one has always to ask what about someone else.

A man like that is made for the sort of strife we have seen this week, and throughout his Presidency. He is at his peak when the whole world has to think in terms of the constrained choices he seeks to bring about in all times and all places. For most of us these moments come and go. For the likes of Donald Trump, such moments are the only ones that count.

***

Is Donald Trump the only person like this? Not by a long shot, but he is my exhibit ‘A’, and as he is still in a position to do us all harm, he seems to be a relevant example. It was the dramatic nature of our recent elections that got me thinking about the way that certain arguments seem more compelling at some times than other.

I could just as easily have written an epitaph for nuance.

Perhaps that would have been more to the point.

Let us hope that subtlety finds room to breathe in all our minds sometime soon! It is one thing to say ‘no’ with conviction when that is what is called for, and it is quite another to live in a world that is polemics all the way down.

In the end, the point here is that there seem to be some folks who really thrive on the ability to reduce the world to a pair of choices under the assumption that to affirm one is to deny the other. Elections may be a special time to such folks, a moment in which certain patterns of thought seem a little less flawed and a moment in which the rest of the world may just be happy to join in that same pattern of thinking.

We probably all engage in similar patterns of thought in many other contexts, sports rivalries and all manner of brand loyalties come to mind. For my own part, I hope soon to set some of this aside and think about other things. I can’t quite say that i am ready yet.

I can’t quite say that the rest of America is either.

Hopefully soon!

All kinds of Human trafficking: Forced child labor, sweatshop factories, immigrants, house helpers, sex slavery

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel another person’s labor.

By Noy Thrupkaew http://www.ted.com

About 10 years ago, I went through a little bit of a hard time. So I decided to go see a therapist. 

I had been seeing her for a few months, and one day she asked: “Who actually raised you until you were three?” Seemed like a weird question.

I said, “My parents.” And she said, “I don’t think that’s actually the case; because if it were, we’d be dealing with things that are far more complicated than just this.”

It sounded like the setup to a joke, but I knew she was serious. When I first started seeing her, I was trying to be the funniest person in the room. And I would try and crack these jokes, but she caught on to me really quickly, and whenever I tried to make a joke, she would look at me and say, “That is actually really sad.” 

I knew I had to be serious, and I asked my parents who had actually raised me until I was three? And to my surprise, they said my primary caregiver had been a distant relative of the family. I had called her my auntie.

I remember my auntie so clearly, it felt like she had been part of my life when I was much older. 

I remember the thick, straight hair, and how it would come around me like a curtain when she bent to pick me up; her soft, southern Thai accent; the way I would cling to her, even if she just wanted to go to the bathroom or get something to eat. 

I loved her, but [with] the ferocity that a child has sometimes before she understands that love also requires letting go.

But my clearest and sharpest memory of my auntie, is also one of my first memories of life at all. I remember her being beaten and slapped by another member of my family

I remember screaming hysterically and wanting it to stop, as I did every single time it happened, for things as minor as wanting to go out with her friends, or being a little late. I became so hysterical over her treatment, that eventually, she was just beaten behind closed doors.

Things got so bad for her that eventually she ran away

As an adult, I learned later that she had been just 19 when she was brought over from Thailand to the States to care for me, on a tourist visa. She wound up working in Illinois for a time, before eventually returning to Thailand, which is where I ran into her again, at a political rally in Bangkok. 

I clung to her again, as I had when I was a child, and I let go, and then I promised that I would call. I never did, though: I was afraid if I said everything that she meant to me — that I owed perhaps the best parts of who I became to her care, and that the words “I’m sorry” were like a thimble to bail out all the guilt and shame and rage I felt over everything she had endured to care for me for as long as she had.

I thought if I said those words to her, I would never stop crying again. Because she had saved me. And I had not saved her.

I’m a journalist, and I’ve been writing and researching human trafficking for the past 8 years,  and even so, I never put together this personal story with my professional life until pretty recently. 

I think this profound disconnect actually symbolizes most of our understanding about human trafficking. 

Human trafficking is far more prevalent, complex and close to home than most of us realize.

I spent time in jails and brothels, interviewed hundreds of survivors and law enforcement, NGO workers. And when I think about what we’ve done about human trafficking, I am hugely disappointed. Partly because we don’t even talk about the problem right at all.

When I say “human trafficking,” most of you probably don’t think about someone like my auntie. You probably think about a young girl or woman, who’s been brutally forced into prostitution by a violent pimp. That is real suffering, and that is a real story. That story makes me angry for far more than just the reality of that situation, though.

As a journalist, I really care about how we relate to each other through language, and the way we tell that story, with all the gory, violent detail, the salacious aspects — I call that “look at her scars” journalism.

We use that story to convince ourselves that human trafficking is a bad man doing a bad thing to an innocent girl. That story lets us off the hook: “I am Not a bad person. It shouldn’t be my problem”…

It takes away all the societal context that we might be indicted for, for the structural inequality, or the poverty, or the barriers to migration. 

We let ourselves think that human trafficking is only about forced prostitution, when in reality, human trafficking is embedded in our everyday lives.

Forced prostitution accounts for 22% of human trafficking.  10% is in “state- imposed forced labor” and 68 % is for the purpose of creating the goods and delivering the services that most of us rely on every day, in sectors like agricultural work, domestic work and construction.

That is food and care and shelter. And somehow, these most essential workers are also among the world’s most underpaid and exploited today. Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel another person’s labor.

And it’s found in cotton fields, and coltan mines, and even car washes in Norway and England. It’s found in U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s found in Thailand’s fishing industry. That country has become the largest exporter of shrimp in the world. But what are the circumstances behind all that cheap and plentiful shrimp? 

Thai military were caught selling Burmese and Cambodian migrants onto fishing boats. Those fishing boats were taken out, the men put to work, and they were thrown overboard if they made the mistake of falling sick, or trying to resist their treatment. 

Those fish were then used to feed shrimp, The shrimp were then sold to 4 major global retailers: Costco, Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour.

Human trafficking is found in places you would never even imagine.

Traffickers have forced young people to drive ice cream trucks, or to sing in touring boys’ choirs. Trafficking has even been found in a hair braiding salon in New Jersey.

The scheme in that case was incredible. The traffickers found young families who were from Ghana and Togo, and they told these families that “your daughters are going to get a fine education in the United States.”

They then located winners of the green card lottery, and they told them, “We’ll help you out. We’ll get you a plane ticket. We’ll pay your fees. All you have to do is take this young girl with you, say that she’s your sister or your spouse. 

Once everyone arrived in New Jersey, the young girls were taken away, and put to work for 14-hour days, 7 days a week, for five years. They made their traffickers nearly 4 million dollars.

hat have we done about it? We’ve mostly turned to the criminal justice system. But keep in mind, most victims of human trafficking are poor and marginalized. They’re migrants, people of color. Sometimes they’re in the sex trade.

And for populations like these, the criminal justice system is too often part of the problem, rather than the solution.

In study after study, in countries ranging from Bangladesh to the United States, between 20 and 60% of the people in the sex trade who were surveyed said that they had been raped or assaulted by the police in the past year alone.

People in prostitution, including people who have been trafficked into it, regularly receive multiple convictions for prostitution. Having that criminal record makes it so much more difficult to leave poverty, leave abuse, or leave prostitution, if that person so desires.

Workers outside of the sex sector — if they try and resist their treatment, they risk deportation.

In case after case I’ve studied, employers have no problem calling on law enforcement to try and threaten or deport their striking trafficked workers. If those workers run away, they risk becoming part of the great mass of undocumented workers who are also subject to the whims of law enforcement if they’re caught.

 Law enforcement is supposed to identify victims and prosecute traffickers. But out of an estimated 21 million victims of human trafficking in the world, they have helped and identified fewer than 50,000 people.

That’s like comparing the population of the world to the population of Los Angeles, proportionally speaking. As for convictions, out of an estimated 5,700 convictions in 2013, fewer than 500 were for labor trafficking.

Keep in mind that labor trafficking accounts for 68 percent of all trafficking, but fewer than 10 percent of the convictions.

10:13 I’ve heard one expert say that trafficking happens where need meets greed.

I’d like to add one more element to that. Trafficking happens in sectors where workers are excluded from protections, and denied the right to organize.

Trafficking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in systematically degraded work environments.

You might be thinking, oh, she’s talking about failed states, or war-torn states, or — I’m actually talking about the United States. Let me tell you what that looks like.

 I spent many months researching a trafficking case called Global Horizons, involving hundreds of Thai farm workers. They were sent all over the States, to work in Hawaii pineapple plantations, and Washington apple orchards, and anywhere the work was needed.

They were promised three years of solid agricultural work. So they made a calculated risk. They sold their land, they sold their wives’ jewelry, to make thousands in recruitment fees for this company, Global Horizons. 

But once they were brought over, their passports were confiscated. Some of the men were beaten and held at gunpoint. They worked so hard they fainted in the fields. This case hit me so hard.

After I came back home, I was wandering through the grocery store, and I froze in the produce department. I was remembering the over-the-top meals the Global Horizons survivors would make for me every time I showed up to interview them. 

They finished one meal with this plate of perfect, long-stemmed strawberries, and as they handed them to me, they said, “Aren’t these the kind of strawberries you eat with somebody special in the States? And don’t they taste so much better when you know the people whose hands picked them for you?”

As I stood in that grocery store weeks later, I realized I had no idea of who to thank for this plenty, and no idea of how they were being treated.

So, like the journalist I am, I started digging into the agricultural sector. And I found there are too many fields, and too few labor inspectors.

I found multiple layers of plausible deniability between grower and distributor and processor, and God knows who else.

The Global Horizons survivors had been brought to the States on a temporary guest worker program. That guest worker program ties a person’s legal status to his or her employer, and denies that worker the right to organize. 

Mind you, none of what I am describing about this agricultural sector or the guest worker program is actually human trafficking. It is merely what we find legally tolerable. And I would argue this is fertile ground for exploitation. And all of this had been hidden to me, before I had tried to understand it. (No different of what’s happening in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates)

 I wasn’t the only person grappling with these issues. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, is one of the biggest anti-trafficking philanthropists in the world. And even he wound up accidentally investing nearly 10 million dollars in the pineapple plantation cited as having the worst working conditions in that Global Horizons case.

When Omidyar found out, he and his wife were shocked and horrified, and they wound up writing an op-ed for a newspaper, saying that it was up to all of us to learn everything we can about the labor and supply chains of the products that we support. I totally agree.

13:52 What would happen if each one of us decided that we are no longer going to support companies if they don’t eliminate exploitation from their labor and supply chains?

If we demanded laws calling for the same? If all the CEOs out there decided that they were going to go through their businesses and say, “no more”?

If we ended recruitment fees for migrant workers?

If we decided that guest workers should have the right to organize without fear of retaliation?

These would be decisions heard around the world. This isn’t a matter of buying a fair-trade peach and calling it a day, buying a guilt-free zone with your money. That’s not how it works.

This is the decision to change a system that is broken, and that we have unwittingly but willingly allowed ourselves to profit from and benefit from for too long.

We often dwell on human trafficking survivors’ victimization. But that is not my experience of them.

Over all the years that I’ve been talking to them, they have taught me that we are more than our worst days. Each one of us is more than what we have lived through. Especially trafficking survivors.

These people were the most resourceful and resilient and responsible in their communities. They were the people that you would take a gamble on. You’d say, I’m gong to sell my rings, because I have the chance to send you off to a better future. They were the emissaries of hope.

15:28 These survivors don’t need saving. They need solidarity, because they’re behind some of the most exciting social justice movements out there today.

The nannies and housekeepers who marched with their families and their employers’ families — their activism got us an international treaty on domestic workers’ rights.

The Nepali women who were trafficked into the sex trade — they came together, and they decided that they were going to make the world’s first anti-trafficking organization actually headed and run by trafficking survivors themselves.

These Indian shipyard workers were trafficked to do post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction. They were threatened with deportation, but they broke out of their work compound and they marched from New Orleans to Washington, D.C., to protest labor exploitation. 

They cofounded an organization called the National Guest Worker Alliance, and through this organization, they have wound up helping other workers bring to light exploitation and abuses in supply chains in Walmart and Hershey’s factories.

And although the Department of Justice declined to take their case, a team of civil rights lawyers won the first of a dozen civil suits this February, and got their clients 14 million dollars.

16:49 These survivors are fighting for people they don’t even know yet, other workers, and for the possibility of a just world for all of us. This is our chance to do the same.

This is our chance to make the decision that tells us who we are, as a people and as a society; that our prosperity is no longer prosperity, as long as it is pinned to other people’s pain; that our lives are inextricably woven together; and that we have the power to make a different choice.

17:25 I was so reluctant to share my story of my auntie with you. Before I started this TED process and climbed up on this stage, I had told literally a handful of people about it, because, like many a journalist, I am far more interested in learning about your stories than sharing much, if anything, about my own.

I also haven’t done my journalistic due diligence on this. I haven’t issued my mountains of document requests, and interviewed everyone and their mother, and I haven’t found my auntie yet. I don’t know her story of what happened, and of her life now.

The story as I’ve told it to you is messy and unfinished. But I think it mirrors the messy and unfinished situation we’re all in, when it comes to human trafficking.

We are all implicated in this problem. But that means we are all also part of its solution.

Figuring out how to build a more just world is our work to do, and our story to tell. So let us tell it the way we should have done, from the very beginning.

Let us tell this story together.Romy Assouad shared this link  from Shahd AlShehail

“This is our chance to make the decision that tells us who we are, as a people and as a society; that our prosperity is no longer prosperity, as long as it is pinned to other people’s pain; that our lives are inextricably woven together; and that we have the power to make a different choice.”

A powerful dose of reality

Human trafficking is all around you. This is how it works Behind the everyday bargains we all love — the $10 manicure, the unlimited shrimp buffet — is a hidden world of forced labor to keep those prices at rock bottom. Noy…http://www.ted.com|By Noy Thrupkaew

Is your volunteering work plainly a folly?

Suppose you are a professional and earning $300 per hour doing your work.

For example, a consultant of some kind, a photographer, a lawyer, a physician…

If you are a celebrity, showing up in a fund-raising event that you are passionate about, your volunteering of time might be a great move for publicity.

Otherwise, why volunteer your “precious time” to build birdhouses for endangered species if you have no carpentry skills?

With what you earn per hour, you can easily hire 6 professional carpenters who will produce dozens of well built birdhouses, instead of the lousy one you might be able to pull through

If you feel like volunteering time and effort, consider the jobs as a break in your routine life-style, from the tedious demands in your profession, a day of vacation to relax…

Volunteer folly does not correspond to volunteer work that may increase your skills and enlarge the sphere of your contacts…

Just don’t fall for these follies that corporate abuse new graduates to exploit their skills and talents for peanuts. (I have posted a few articles on the kinds of corporate abuse of graduate volunteers)

Many young people keep volunteering their time with Red Cross, Scout movement… way after they graduated instead of focusing on their career.

I guess this impulse of staying in close contact with the “tribe” is a mighty factor: we are unable to break free from our emotions and feeling secure.

Note: Read Rolf Dobelli (The Art of thinking clear)

Umam, la mémoire libanaise de Lokman Slim

Après l’assassinat de l’intellectuel chiite, sa femme, Monika Borgmann, souhaite continuer la mission que le couple s’était fixée.

OLJ / Par Lyana ALAMEDDINE, le 11 février 2021 

Note 1: Monika Borgmann,Chloé Kattar wrote that “The Hangar” was a political decision in order to counter Hezbollah “monopoly” on the kinds of arts and culture prevalent in Al Dahiyat. « Le Hangar, c’était une décision politique, une façon de dire “Ne donnons pas Dahyé uniquement au Hezbollah” », raconte Monika.

Chloé Kattar added: By opening the quarter of Haret Hreik

« En ouvrant à Haret Hreik cet espace culturel qui parle d’arts, qui fait des nuits cinéma et des mini expositions, ils ont répondu à un besoin dans ces régions marginalisées où l’accès à la culture est limité ou monolithique à cause du parti politique dominant. Ils ont offert une alternative », commente Chloé Kattar, qui effectue un doctorat à l’université de Cambridge sur la guerre civile libanaise.

« Vous devriez discuter, vous êtes tous les deux intéressés par les choses morbides. »

C’est cette petite phrase, lancée par l’un de leurs amis en commun, qui est à l’origine de la première rencontre entre Monika Borgmann et Lokman Slim en 2001, au Zico House à Hamra.

Entre la journaliste allemande arabophone et l’intellectuel libanais, « cela a tout de suite été le coup de foudre », confie Monika dans le bureau de son époux, en plein cœur de la banlieue sud, dans la maison patricienne des Slim.

C’est là, dans la villa blanche aux fenêtres et portes vert pastel, « qui a vu passer cinq générations », que le couple a donné naissance à Umam en 2004, une association de documentation et de recherches visant à reconstituer et réconcilier les mémoires libanaises.

Dans les locaux d’Umam, une affiche montrant Lokman Slim. A l’arrière-plan, sa soeur Rasha el-Amir. Photo João Sousa

Umam, c’est avant tout l’histoire de leur rencontre. Celle de deux individus passionnés par la nature humaine, dans ce qu’elle a de meilleur et (surtout) de pire, et par les blessures et les traumas du passé.

« Tout a été très vite entre nous. Nous avons commencé à travailler ensemble, puis nous nous sommes installés ensemble », raconte la cofondatrice de l’association, entourée des livres, objets et cartons qui remplissent la pièce, laissant à peine transparaître les murs.

Dès 2001, le couple se lance dans son premier grand projet, un documentaire sur les massacres de Sabra et Chatila en 1982, racontés par 6 des bourreaux de l’époque.

Massacre“, coproduction libanaise, suisse et allemande, sort en 2005 et remporte plusieurs prix internationaux dont le Fipresci Award Berlin 2005.

« Cette expérience (commencée en 2001) a été le déclic pour créer Umam », explique la journaliste. « Comme le massacre est extrêmement politique, il fallait vérifier toutes les informations venant des tueurs. Dans un pays normal, nous les aurions puisées dans les archives nationales, mais au Liban, nous ne pouvons pas y accéder », poursuit-elle.

C’est là qu’ Umam entre en scène, pour combler un manque lié à l’absence d’institutions publiques dignes de ce nom. L’association est à la fois un outil et un espace de réflexion sur la guerre et la « banalité du mal » qui lui est intrinsèque.

« Nous voulions comprendre cette violence collective : comment en sont-ils arrivés à commettre des actes si inhumains ? » Confronter le passé pour ne plus répéter les mêmes erreurs. « Je fais partie d’une génération qui a grandi avec la mémoire de la Shoah », dit Monika Borgmann.

L’un des objectifs d’Umam : créer des archives accessibles à tous. Photo João Sousa

« Plus nous creusons, moins nous comprenons »

Au départ, deux objectifs : créer des archives accessibles à tous et sensibiliser le public au Liban via des événements culturels pour provoquer des discussions difficiles mais nécessaires.

Au fil des événements (guerre de 2006, affrontements de mai 2008, soulèvement du 17 octobre 2019), Umam endosse un rôle politique et se donne la mission de traiter de sujets d’actualité tout en les liant au passé. « Ce travail de mémoire a montré la complexité de ce pays. Plus nous creusons, moins nous comprenons », analyse Monika Borgmann.

En 2005, le couple fonde le Hangar, un lieu de discussion et de rencontre poussant des gens de tous les milieux à venir dans la banlieue sud pour assister à des tables rondes, expositions, ateliers ou projections.

« Une fois, lors d’un événement, il y avait un cheikh qui faisait sa prière dans une cabine en vitre près de personnes qui buvaient du vin », se souvient Nathalie, assistante chercheuse depuis trois ans à Umam.

« Le Hangar, c’était une décision politique, une façon de dire “Ne donnons pas Dahyé uniquement au Hezbollah” », raconte Monika.

« En ouvrant à Haret Hreik cet espace culturel qui parle d’arts, qui fait des nuits cinéma et des mini expositions, ils ont répondu à un besoin dans ces régions marginalisées où l’accès à la culture est limité ou monolithique à cause du parti politique dominant. Ils ont offert une alternative », commente Chloé Kattar, qui effectue un doctorat à l’université de Cambridge sur la guerre civile libanaise.

Rasha el-Amir, la sœur de Lokman Slim. Photo João Sousa

« Le travail d’archives force à se poser des questions, enclencher des échanges et des réflexions », explique Nathalie, qui travaille sur les archives en lien avec le Studio Baalbeck, ancien cinéma fondé par un Palestinien et ayant fait l’objet d’une exposition dans le Hangar.

En 2010, alors que le bâtiment du cinéma est sur le point d’être démoli, le matériel cinématographique est donné à Umam. Les dizaines de milliers de documents d’archives sont rangés par thématique et ordre chronologique, organisés par l’équipe qui vérifie les pages manquantes, les rangent mais aussi les numérisent partiellement pour les ajouter à la base de données.

Un véritable travail de fourmi qui témoigne de l’exigence dont faisait preuve Lokman Slim. « Je lui demandais “qu’est-ce que tu veux ?” il me répondait “tout” », se remémore une collègue ayant requis l’anonymat.

Cet amour des archives lui vient de sa famille qui collectait depuis toujours des journaux, des brochures, des tracts ou encore des posters.

Monika Borgmann, la femme de Lokman Slim. Photo João Sousa

« Umam était sa défense »

Dans un pays encore marqué par les blessures de la guerre et qui n’est pas allé au bout du processus de réconciliation des mémoires entre les différentes communautés, la tâche du couple était herculéenne. « Ils ont effectué un travail artisanal pour collecter les archives », estime la collègue précité.

Ces archives ne sont pas que des livres, mais aussi des brochures, des interviews, des journaux, des objets tous rangés dans les locaux et ouverts au grand public. « À la fin de la guerre, il y avait une amnésie collective, conséquence directe de la loi d’amnistie : pas de justice, de tribunaux, de dialogue ou d’initiative publique ou privée, et surtout pas de travail institutionnel de la part de l’État, ce qui a empêché une sorte de catharsis.

Aujourd’hui, le travail se fait de façon dispersée et éclatée entre différents acteurs », explique Chloé Kattar. « Le travail de Lokman est fondateur pour reconstruire une histoire orale. Construire une mémoire, c’est se mettre à la place de l’autre pour mieux se pardonner et avancer », résume l’essayiste Mona Fayad.Lire aussiL’assassinat de Lokman Slim réveille le spectre des liquidations politiques

À partir de 2008, l’association prend une nouvelle envergure. « Nous avons lancé une série d’ateliers sur la justice transitionnelle sur une durée de deux ans, accompagnés d’expositions ouvertes au public sur les disparus de la guerre civile. Nous avions commencé avec 25/30 personnes, puis fini avec 80. C’est là que nous avons commencé à gagner en visibilité », raconte Monika Borgmann.

Esprit libre et téméraire, personnage parfois provocateur, Lokman Slim incarnait une sorte de contre-miroir du Hezbollah, qu’il n’hésitait pas à critiquer sur la scène publique et depuis la banlieue sud. Présenté comme un « chiite des ambassades » par les organes de propagande du parti, qui l’accuse d’être un agent à la solde de « l’ennemi américano-israélien », l’écrivain est menacé de mort à plusieurs reprises, avant d’être assassiné le jeudi 4 février dans le caza de Zahrani.

« Umam était sa défense », explique sa sœur, l’écrivaine Rasha el-Amir. « Sa seule arme était la mémoire. Les archives sont une manière de résister contre l’amnésie. On étudie, on réfléchit, on se remémore puis on continue. » Et maintenant ? Comment l’association peut-elle survivre sans celui qui en était incontestablement le cœur ?

« Personne n’est comme Lokman, il comprenait la valeur de toutes ces archives, même d’une simple note, grâce à ses connaissances », estime Monika Borgmann. Elle refuse toutefois de renoncer à la mission qu’ils s’étaient fixée. « Partir ? Jamais. Encore moins après son exécution… Nous croyons en Umam, nous avons un impact… C’est ma vie, c’est vingt ans de travail. Je me le dois. Je le dois à Lokman. Ma place est ici. »

Un rassemblement aura lieu aujourd’hui dans la demeure familiale en mémoire de Lokman Slim. Il sera à son image, cosmopolite : « Des prêtres de toutes les confessions feront une prière pendant trente minutes, il y aura également une sorte de micro ouvert pour permettre aux gens de dire quelques mots sur Lokman, et une séance Zoom pour se connecter à l’étranger, notamment à la Sorbonne, établissement où a étudié Lokman… » explique son épouse. Sur France Culture en 2019, l’écrivain ne doutait pas du fait que son travail lui survivrait. « C’est un travail infini. Nous sommes tout à fait conscients que, finalement, peut-être qu’il va nous survivre, mais, sûrement, nous n’allons pas lui survivre. »

Note 2: Monika Borgmann stated « Je fais partie d’une génération qui a grandi avec la mémoire de la Shoah ». And I am wondering what the memory of the Shoah has to do with supporting this implanted colonial apartheid State of Israel? I would be interested in reading a few of Borgmann articles on how she views Israel policies and what are her opinions and positions on the Return of the Palestinians to their Homeland.

Titbits 117

The series of events have been called a “revolution,” “revolt,” “upheaval,” “uprising,” “awakening,” “spring,” “conspiracy,” “rioting,” “terrorist,” “hell,”  “Arab,” “Islamic,” and “foreign” are also terms intermittently used in conjunction with the previous descriptions.

Yalla. Covid-19 has become a passe-partout “cause of death“. You don’t die of Ebola, Sarl, or other sisters of Corona…. You just died of Covid-19. I am under the impression that the “Spanish flu” that harvested more than 20 millions after WWI might be a nasty kind of Covid-19.

Why we refrain to say what we think? Do we only express opinions that seem safe to the community idiosyncrasy? Here’s how the spiral of silence works and how we can discover what people really think?  If you never master the courage to sound and look like an idiot for a while, you’ll never do anything great.

Antoun Saadi, founder of Syria National Social party in 1936 said: “The main difference between our capitalist class and the ones in more advanced nations is that our kind of capitalism is Not founded on industrialization which seeks unified and larger markets; but we have simply an outmoded mercantile system

A reminder for our people in the Near-East: Israel was implanted by the western colonial powers in our region to prevent any daily trade and communication among the same people. Israel was created to fail us in any sustained development among the same people who were divided in pseudo “independent” States in order to facilitate the fomenting of civil wars among the pseudo-States. Israel/USA/France/Britain are existential threat to our future well-being

Equal practical opportunities circumvent the wrong implication that opinions are reached independently of their surrounding.

As long as police officers are Not controlled for alcoholism, violence will be prevalence in these institution.

One of the plans of the genes is to decide whether we are to be one of the human species or a bacteria.
Together, the bacteria in the intestine have 150 times more genes than us, called microbiome

Stimulating opportunities to choose from is a stabilizing factor in societies. Stimulating desires (and wants) can be easily blocked in many ways and generate unrests

When a young guy was raised to equal status in the living with his superiors (parents, uncles…), to feel free of extending his opinions, of tasting everything that was displayed in front of him, of expressing the desires he has…How can this guy feels as soon as he feels scared and cowed when confronted with a Master who treats him as a “slave”? Who forces him Not to speak or communicate with the invitees, of Not finishing his meal (as was the customs with apprentis)… When he feels like desiring everything just because he is denied it? (Rousseau)

If an hour of reading leisurely failed to generate a single worthy idea/feeling to note down, then you better try another book

Covid-19 has resuscitated the ancient mode of separation among communities. Farewell the mild fiscal and commercial barriers. Still, internet (social platforms) continue to add wings to ideas/feelings that have been restrained for so long.

Funny. Covid-19 confinement has proven that No major commercial furniture manufacturers have designed a convincing high-performance chair that blends in with the rest of our homes (✦). —Kira Bindrim, 

Protest in Portland continues. For the 56th day in a row, a mostly white crowd of protesters gathered to voice their disapproval of police brutality and racial injustice.

Ideal face mask for Covid-19? You want a three-layer mask. Next to your mouth goes cotton or something else soft and woven. The middle should be a non-woven material, like a Kleenex or the polypropylene in reusable shopping bags, to increase filtration. And the outside should be something that repels moisture, like a nylon or polyester blend.

Etre assez intelligent, assez bon, assez prevoyant, assez… n’aident a rien. C’est l’autre moitié, (l’autre assez) qui fait défaut et qui prévaut. Justement, c’ est “l’autre assez” qui est le plus intéressant.

Mais oui, on peut rire toute une journée, si on apprend a rire de soi-même.

Redouter l’ironie c’est craindre la raison: Plus tu ironise sur ta condition, plus sage tu deviens.

Ce n’est pas la parole qui déguise la pensée: c’est bien ce qu’on écrit.

Why this urgency of US/Israel to negotiate the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel? Apparently, the blocks 8 and 9 in Lebanon are the main reserves of gas/oil in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel wants to start extraction near this area and fear Hezbollah will demolish any offshore installations without any agreement. Israel does Not want the wealth of this reserve to be share with Egypt and Cyprus.

Proving that competition is a click away is not the same thing as proving that a market is competitive. For competition to work well, consumers need to be able and willing to switch to better products, and new competitors need to be able to enter the market.

Released 42 years ago: late Nigerian Afrobeat star and political activist Fela Kuti “Sorrow Tears & Blood” in his pidgin English: “My people sef dey fear too much!”. Fitting Nigeria past three weeks of EndSARS protests against police brutality, this “Special Anti-Robbery Squad” 

Lumper-proletariat? Prolétariat a guenilles des bidonvilles, shantytowns. L’intellectuel communist a une idée précise de ses propre sous-classes. Ces Lumper-proletaires terrorise les communists traditionnels: Ils ne savent pas comment traiter avec eux.

Chinese officials are testing out a virtual yuan, backed by the central bank, in one of the world’s most cashless societies. Funny, counterfeit digital yuan wallets have already sprung up to exploit the innovation. Yeah, how old, off-line problems have a way of resurfacing in the online world.

Racism is virtual among the rich, regardless of color, religion or origine. The only difference is Old and New wealth.

Racism spans all the spectrum of differences among the poor people.
One exception in Lebanon: White colonial citizens are highly welcomed and treated like VIP, even if they are practically poor or pretty stingy

“Zombie fires”? Wildfires have been smoldering underground in Siberia for five years and can outlast harsh winters and are a growing problem in Arctic areas of Russia.

If we could read each other’s body language, Zooming will fail to bring out the remote communication message.

Not much into that business. If you care, then these Top 10 Cyber Security Tips

  • Reboot your mobile device(s) every morning
  • Use a microphone/camera blocker on all devices/computers when not in use
  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) with all email/cloud/web accounts
  • Use a Password Manager (with strong passwords, no password reuse)
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), make sure the VPN vendor is based in a friendly country!
  • Make sure all devices/computers are fully patched (operating system/software/apps are always updated)
  • Don’t post addresses, phone numbers or email account information on social media
  • When travelling, don’t use airport/plane/hotel Wi-Fi networks unless absolutely necessary (and use a VPN if you do!)
  • At home, don’t use the Wi-Fi network provided by your ISP modem (use a separate Wi-Fi router)
  • Keep home IoT (smart speakers, TVs, etc) on a separate Wi-Fi network from devices/computers

Nicolás Rivero’s story on how cities like Stockholm and Seoul are using pneumatic tubes to dispose of waste brightened my day, allowing me to daydream of a better-smelling, less rat-heavy way of life. —Sarah Todd

More than 100 years ago, a multinational Census of Hallucinations found that up to 19% of the living said they’ve encountered the dead . Did you ever had this experience?

The rolling droids robots emit ultraviolet light to disinfect St. Pancras International, one of the country’s busiest transport hubs.

Even with the $18 trillion of stimulus pumped into the global economy, mostly by wealthy governments, the International Monetary Fund projects a cumulative loss of some $12 trillion by the end of 2021.

Measuring hidden carbon footprints of oil companies that are mostlyò generated  from their customers and suppliers?  David Fickling and Elaine provide a useful, if “more art than science,” estimate of which big polluters are keeping the most concealed.

Caste system in certain countries extend to overseas locations: Indians from lower castes can’t escape prejudice even when they emigrate to the US. It’s rampant in Silicon Valley, and Dalits in particular face insidious discrimination from their upper-caste Indian colleagues.

The main reason for tariff cost related are handicap procedure 77%, These cost have prompted companies to relocate their supply chains production. An increase of 33% so far.

New research from the New York Federal Reserve shows more than 70% of a potential $1,500 second payment would be saved or put towards debt payments rather than buying goods, which is the main reason for these lavish payment. Only the well to do can save. The common people have to spend it, no matter how they respond for “wishing” to save.

Poorer nations are floundering amid massive public debt and shortfalls in state revenue. All the while, the roughly 2 billion people who eke out a living in the world’s informal economies face varying degrees of deprivation.

Financiers and traders on Wall Street may be starting to feel optimistic, but for most people the gloom is only deepening. Starvation and famine are looming wide and large in most Third World States

Denying the Demonic

By Edward Curtin / April 20th, 2021

In March of last year as the coronavirus panic was starting, I wrote a somewhat flippant article saying that the obsession with buying and hoarding toilet paper was the people’s vaccine. 

My point was simple: excrement and death have long been associated in cultural history and in the Western imagination with the evil devil, Satan, the Lord of the underworld, the Trickster, the Grand Master who rules the pit of smelly death, the place below where bodies go.

The psychoanalytic literature is full of examples of death anxiety revealed in anal dreams of shit-filled overflowing toilets and people pissing in their pants. 

Ernest Becker put it simply in The Denial of Death:

No mistake – the turd is mankind’s real threat because it reminds people of death.

The theological literature is also full of warnings about the devil’s wiles. 

So too the Western classics from Aeschylus to Melville.

The demonic has an ancient pedigree and has various names. Rational people tend to dismiss all this as superstitious nonsense.  This is hubris. 

The Furies always exact their revenge when their existence is denied.  For they are part of ourselves, not alien beings, as the tragedy of human history has shown us time and again.

Since excremental visions and the fear of death haunt humans – the skull at the banquet as William James put it – the perfect symbol of protection is toilet paper that will keep you safe and clean and free of any reminder of the fear of death running through a panicked world. 

It’s a magic trick, of course, an unconscious way of thinking you are protecting yourself; a form of self-hypnosis.

One year later, magical thinking has taken a different form and my earlier flippancy has turned darker. You can’t hoard today’s toilet paper but you can get them: RNA inoculations, misnamed vaccines.

People are lined up for them now as they are being told incessantly to “get your shot.”  

They are worse than toilet paper. At least toilet paper serves a practical function.  Real vaccines, as the word’s etymology – Latin, vaccinus, from cows, the cowpox virus vaccine first used by British physician Edward Jenner in 1800 to prevent smallpox – involve the use of a small amount of a virus. 

The RNA inoculations are not vaccines.  To say they are is bullshit and has nothing to do with cows. To call them vaccines is linguistic mind control.

These experimental inoculations do not prevent the vaccinated from getting infected with the “virus” nor do they prevent transmission of the alleged virus.

When they were approved recently by the FDA that was made clear.  The FDA issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for these inoculations only under the proviso that they may make an infection less severe.  Yet millions have obediently taken a shot that doesn’t do what they think it does.  What does that tell us?

Hundreds of millions of people have taken an injection that allows a bio-reactive “gene-therapy” molecule to be injected into their bodies because of fear, ignorance, and a refusal to consider that the people who are promoting this are evil and have ulterior motives. 

Not that they mean well, but that they are evil and have evil intentions.  Does this sound too extreme?  Radically evil?  Come on!

So what drives the refusal to consider that demonic forces are at work with the corona crisis?

Why do the same people who get vaccinated believe that a PCR test that can’t, according to its inventor Kary Mullis, test for this so-called virus, believe in the fake numbers of positive “cases”?  Do these people even know if the virus has ever been isolated?

Such credulity is an act of faith, not science or confirmed fact.

Is it just the fear of death that drives such thinking?

Or is it something deeper than ignorance and propaganda that drives this incredulous belief?

If you want facts, I will not provide them here. Despite the good intentions of people who still think facts matter, I don’t think most people are persuaded by facts anymore. But such facts are readily available from excellent alternative media publications. 

Global Research’s Michel Chossudovsky has released, free of charge, his comprehensive E-BookThe 2020-21 Worldwide Corona Crisis: Destroying Civil Society, Engineered Economic Depression, Global Coup D’Etat, and the “Great Reset.”  

It’s a good place to start if facts and analysis are what you are after.

Or go to Robert Kennedy, Jr. Childrens Health Defense, Off-GuardianDissident VoiceGlobal Research, among numerous others.

Perhaps you think these sites are right-wing propaganda because many articles they publish can also be read or heard at some conservative media. If so, you need to start thinking rather than reacting.

The entire mainstream political/media spectrum is right-wing, if you wish to use useless terms such as Left/Right.  I have spent my entire life being accused of being a left-wing nut, but now I am being told I am a right-wing nut even though my writing appears in many leftist publications.

Perhaps my accusers don’t know which way the screw turns or the nut loosens.  Being uptight and frightened doesn’t help.

I am interested in asking why so many people can’t accept that radical evil is real.  Is that a right-wing question?  Of course not.  It’s a human question that has been asked down through the ages.

I do think we are today in the grip of radical evil, demonic forces.

The refusal to see and accept this is not new.  As the eminent theologian, David Ray Griffin, has argued, the American Empire, with its quest for world domination and its long and ongoing slaughters at home and abroad, is clearly demonic; it is driven by the forces of death symbolized by Satan.

I have spent many years trying to understand why so many good people have refused to see and accept this and have needed to ply a middle course over many decades. The safe path. Believing in the benevolence of their rulers.  

When I say radical evil, I mean it in the deepest spiritual sense.  A religious sense, if you prefer.  But by religious I don’t mean institutional religions since so many of the institutional religions are complicit in the evil.

It has long been easy for Americans to accept the demonic nature of foreign leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.  Easy, also, to accept the government’s attribution of such names as the “new Hitler” to any foreign leader it wishes to kill and overthrow.  But to consider their own political leaders as demonic is near impossible.

So let me begin with a few reminders.

The U.S. destruction of Iraq and the mass killings of Iraqis under George W. Bush beginning in 2003.  Many will say it was illegal, unjust, carried out under false pretenses, etc.  But who will say it was pure evil?

Who will say that Barack Obama’s annihilation of Libya was radical evil?

Who will say the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo and so many Japanese cities that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians was radical evil?

Who will say the U.S. war against Syria is demonic evil?

Who will say the killing of millions of Vietnamese was radical evil?

Who will say the insider attacks of September 11, 2001 were demonic evil?

Who will say slavery, the genocide of native people, the secret medical experiments on the vulnerable, the CIA mind control experiments, the coups engineered throughout the world resulting in the mass murder of millions – who will say these are evil in the deepest sense?

Who will say the U.S. security state’s assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Fred Hampton, et al. were radical evil?

Who will say the trillions spent on nuclear weapons and the willingness to use them to annihilate the human race is not the ultimate in radical evil?

This list could extend down the page endlessly.  Only someone devoid of all historical sense could conclude that the U.S. has not been in the grip of demonic forces for a long time.

If you can do addition, you will find the totals staggering.  They are overwhelming in their implications.

But to accept this history as radically evil in intent and not just in its consequences are two different things. 

I think so many find it so hard to admit that their leaders have intentionally done and do demonic deeds for two reasons. 

First, to do so implicates those who have supported these people or have not opposed them. It means they have accepted such radical evil and bear responsibility.  It elicits feelings of guilt.

Secondly, to believe that one’s own leaders are evil is next to impossible for many to accept because it suggests that the rational façade of society is a cover for sinister forces and that they live in a society of lies so vast the best option is to make believe it just isn’t so. 

Even when one can accept that evil deeds were committed in the past, even some perhaps intentionally, the tendency is to say “that was then, but things are different now.

Grasping the present when you are in it is not only difficult but often disturbing for it involves us.

So if I am correct and most Americans cannot accept that their leaders have intentionally done radically evil things, then it follows that to even consider questioning the intentions of the authorities regarding the current corona crisis needs to be self-censored. 

Additionally, as we all know, the authorities have undertaken a vast censorship operation so people cannot hear dissenting voices of those who have now been officially branded as domestic terrorists. The self-censorship and the official work in tandem.

There is so much information available that shows that the authorities at the World Health Organization, the CDC, The World Economic Forum, Big Pharma, governments throughout the world, etc. have gamed this crisis beforehand, have manipulated the numbers, lied, have conducted a massive fear propaganda campaign via their media mouthpieces, have imposed cruel lockdowns that have further enriched the wealthiest and economically and psychologically devastated vast numbers, etc.  Little research is needed to see this, to understand that Big Pharma is, as Dr. Peter Gøtzsche documented eight years ago in Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, a world-wide criminal enterprise.  It takes but a few minutes to see that the pharmaceutical companies who have been given emergency authorization for these untested experimental non-vaccine “vaccines” have paid out billions of dollars to settle criminal and civil allegations.

It is an open secret that the WHO, the Gates Foundation, the WEF led by Klaus Schwab, and an interlocking international group of conspirators have plans for what they call The Great Reset, a strategy to use  the COVID-19 crisis to push their agenda to create a world of cyborgs living in cyberspace where artificial intelligence replaces people and human biology is wedded to technology under the control of the elites.  They have made it very clear that there are too many people on this planet and billions must die.  Details are readily available of this open conspiracy to create a transhuman world.

Is this not radical evil?  Demonic?

Let me end with an analogy.  There is another organized crime outfit that can only be called demonic – The Central Intelligence Agency.  One of its legendary officers was James Jesus Angleton, chief of Counterintelligence from 1954 until 1975.  He was a close associate of Allen Dulles, the longest serving director of the CIA.  Both men were deeply involved in many evil deeds, including bringing Nazi doctors and scientists into the U.S. to do the CIA’s dirty work, including mind control, bioweapons research, etc.  The stuff they did for Hitler.  As reported by David Talbot in The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, when the staunch Catholic Angleton was on his deathbed, he gave an interviews to visiting journalists, including Joseph Trento.  He confessed:

He had not been serving God, after all, when he followed Allen Dulles.  He had been on a satanic quest….’Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars,’ he told Trento in an emotionless voice.  ‘The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted…. Outside this duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power.  I did things that, looking back on my life, I regret.  But I was part of it and loved being in it.’  He invoked the names of the high eminences who had run the CIA in his day – Dulles, Helms, Wisner.  These men were ‘the grand masters,’ he said.  ‘If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.’  Angleton took another slow sip from his steaming cup.  ‘I guess I will see them there soon.’

Until we recognize the demonic nature of the hell we are now in, we too will be lost.  We are fighting for our lives and the spiritual salvation of the world.  Do not succumb to the siren songs of these fathers of lies.

Resist.

Edward Curtin writes and his work appears widely. He is the author of Seeking Truth in a Country of LiesRead other articles by Edward, or visit Edward’s website.

For a sustainable growth and Gold-paper currencies

Posted on: October 28, 2008

In these uncertain financial crisis and economical deflation I suggest a psychological incentive for people to recover some sense of value to their currencies.  

My idea is to issue hard currencies that are an alloy containing the quantity of gold commensurate to the large denominations.  This currency would be almost as thin as paper money and could not be forged unless the amount of gold is the same as the officially issued currencies. I

It should be feasible because gold can be made as thin as needed; then if we find a cheap metal or plastic that can add resistance and flexibility to the currency to be folded and handled as paper money then everybody would be satisfied.

At first, the gold paper-like money could be distributed at a rate of say 1% increase over its real value to recover the upfront expenses in addition to the increase in market value of gold, averaged once a week.

these extra expenses would not discourage the use of paper money for those who could not afford the extra cost of gold currencies.  The higher denomination currencies would be larger to keep the same thinness as the other smaller denominations. 

 As the value of gold would certainly keep increasing then the government would at interval retrieve the older currencies from the market and replace them with smaller size currencies containing the market value of the amount of gold in the alloy.

this is logical because the gold-paper currencies would require less gold as its value increases.  Travelers could then exchange their State own gold-paper money abroad and register them at any bank for Interpol investigations in case of thefts and get exactly the same money value of the respective States.

Obviously, all governments that signed in to this system would have to submit to international control when issuing gold-paper money for credibility and quality reasons.

I believe that with real gold-paper money then the businesses of currency speculations and rate of exchanges should wane and quickly disappear.  

What might remain is currency trade or the accumulation of gold in rich sovereign funds.  The governments would quickly learn to issue enough gold-paper currency to satisfy internal commerce.

The superpowers and regional powers would exercise political and military “incentives” on weaker and unstable States to issue more gold-paper currency than needed for inner commerce, but then they would have to deliver real gold and good value products to retrieve the surpluses.

  The US Administrations do not have real value money or real value economy to horde gold and will not be able to do so for many decades to come; only China, India and the rich oil producing States with small populations would be the major players in currency trade of gold-paper money.

There are several policies that governments would revisit to manage this new system.  

Governments might issues a composite weight of the amount of gold-paper and regular paper money that should satisfy internal commerce.  Either the gold-paper money would concentrate in the hands of the rich and thus reducing commerce to regular money with industries specialized in high quality and luxury products for the rich and industries focusing on lower quality and basic products for the masses; or the little people would not desist from the gold-paper and use them as personal saving account in their homes and thus deflation would hit the economy due to the lack of currency circulation.  

Consequently, governments would have choices to either limit the amount of gold-paper in circulation to encourage circulation of money or eliminate regular paper currencies to force the masses into liberating their horded gold-paper. 

The same pitfalls and recurrences of the present monetary system would be exhibited but the remedies would be more straightforward to comprehend by the common people.

Furthermore, an interesting phenomenon will emerge: cultures where mostly little people horde the gold-papers and cultures where gold-papers are concentrated in the class of the rich.  

Well, if there is civilization clashes then this division between the two types of cultures would set the foundations for a new sociology science where the manipulation of hard money is the first principle.

This system would require many fine tuning but the advantages must far exceed the disadvantages for smaller and weaker States.  

Countries with real value-added economies would not be affected by any mischievous financial embezzlement schemes in destabilizing their financial status because the middle classes would have re-learned the value of hard money and desist from speculative schemes for some times.  

This re-learning process of the value of real hard money is the fundamental benefit of the new system so that financial history would repeat its cycle of development for the century.

  In any case a genuine International Monetary Control and Management Fund would be instituted to focus on the circulation of money within and among States and help in the synchronization of real commerce.

            The crux of this gold-paper currency system is to stabilize growth to a sustainable level for human kind. 

 Since gold is limited on Earth and its production has reached a limit then wild GNP rate of increases would slow down; redundant and irrelevant consumer products would make room for basic products essentials for the survival of mankind.  

The new economical strategies would focus on cutting cost, cutting waste, re-cycling and vigorously researching for substitute renewable energies for the benefit of all States.

As reported by David Talbot in The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, when the staunch Catholic Angleton was on his deathbed, he gave an interviews to visiting journalists, including Joseph Trento. 

He confessed:

He had not been serving God, after all, when he followed Allen Dulles.  He had been on a satanic quest….’

Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars,’ he told Trento in an emotionless voice. 

‘The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted…. Outside this duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power. 

I did things that, looking back on my life, I regret.  But I was part of it and loved being in it.’ 

James invoked the names of the high eminences who had run the CIA in his day – Dulles, Helms, Wisner. 

These men were ‘the grand masters,’ he said.  ‘If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.’ 

Angleton took another slow sip from his steaming cup.  ‘I guess I will see them there soon.’

Amid the waning of the humanities, Edward Said turned out to be one of the last literary scholars with a public presence.

Udi Greenberg @udi_greenberg. One of Said’s students

Teaches at Dartmouth College and is the author of The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War (2015).

Note: wordpress is Not opening new texts on my Samsung Chrome in the last month. Maybe I need a better laptop. Untill then, minimal editing on the saved drafts.

Exiles often have conflicting feelings about their adoptive society, and Edward Said was no exception.

As a Palestinian in the United States, he recognized the country’s pervasive racism and violence, but he also knew its educational system made his career as a renowned and prosperous thinker possible.

His life was indeed filled with paradoxes and contradictions. He was one of the twentieth century’s most influential anti-colonial writers, who mostly studied his colonizers’ literature; a proponent of Palestinian liberation who wrote in English and mostly for English-speaking audiences.

Few statements capture his embrace of such tensions more than his surprising claim in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that he was now the only heir to the Jewish tradition of radical criticism.

“I’m the last Jewish intellectual,” he exclaimed. “You don’t know anyone else. All your other Jewish intellectuals are now suburban squires.… I’m the last one.”

Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Saidby Timothy BrennanBuy on BookshopFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 464 pp., $35.00

As comical as this statement can seem, Timothy Brennan’s new biography, Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said, suggests it captures Said’s unique place in public life: a Middle Eastern exile who provided an original explanation for American imperialism, powerfully condemned it, and successfully reached mass audiences.

By telling Said’s life, from his childhood in British-ruled Palestine to his death in New York in 2003, Places of Mind seeks to explain his unique ability to blend intellectual production and public activism.

Impressively researched and powerfully written, it charts Said’s many triumphs: his revolutionary scholarly writings, which became classics and are taught decades after their publication; his rise as a media celebrity (an unusual fate for an academic); and his role in making the Palestinian national movement a source of international fascination.

For Brennan, who was Said’s student and is an accomplished literary scholar in his own right, his teacher was everything a humanist should be.

By embracing his status as an “outsider”—an exile, a Palestinian, an “Arab”—he successfully infused America’s mainstream with new ideas and political visions.      

Yet by claiming to be a “Jewish” intellectual, Said was doing more than placing himself in the company of giants like Franz Kafka or Theodor Adorno.

What he recognized, and what Places of Mind sometimes misses, was the tragedy of his career: how by his life’s end, the causes for which he fought were ultimately defeated.

The Palestinian liberation movement, whose cause animated so much of Said’s writing, was headed toward ruin (a reality that he was among the very few to realize).

(Fateh, the signatory to the Oslo treaty, was displaced by more radical movements in Gaza, and currently a new wave of reactions from every mixed towns and villages in the West Bank)

And the humanities, whose flourishing made his career possible, were entering a downward spiral from which they show no sign of recovery. Reflecting on Said’s life is not only a chance to celebrate groundbreaking achievements: It is also an invitation to recognize, soberly, some of our era’s heartbreaking misfortunes.  


Colonialism is a brutal business, and this was certainly true of British rule in the Middle East and mandated France in Syria and Lebanon. Whenever locals protested the empire’s authority, as Palestinians did during the so-called “Great Revolt” of 1936 to 1939, British troops responded by demolishing entire neighborhoods, imprisoning thousands of civilians in concentration camps, and putting hundreds to the gallows.

(The British had to dispatch 100,000 troops to squash this civil disobedience movement that had a source the refusal of the British to have municipal elections on the ground that the Jews constituted only 20%)

Like many other colonialists, however, the British also sustained their rule in the region by offering alluring opportunities to some of their subjects. Those willing to cooperate could gain access to British markets, find jobs in the colonial bureaucracy, and send their children to European-run schools. These were the carrots that Europe’s “civilizing mission” dangled in front of its subjects’ noses: Submit to us, colonialists promised, embrace our language and culture, and maybe, one day, some of you would control your own fate.

This was the duality that made the young Said. Born in British-ruled Jerusalem in 1935, much of his childhood took place in the shadow of the Palestinian national trauma. While his parents, Hilda and Wadie, rarely talked politics at home, other relatives often protested their people’s fate. The price of political oppression was even more apparent once British troops were replaced by the armed forces of the Jewish Yishuv, which decimated the Palestinian national movement.

In 1947, Said’s parents fled to Cairo, which rapidly became home to many hungry and dispossessed Palestinian refugees. At the same time, colonialism helped cushion the Saids from some of this brutality. Not only were they affluent merchants, but they also benefited from being Anglican, a tiny minority that enjoyed preferential treatment by British authorities. Said’s father supplied office materials to the British (which ran the formally independent Egypt), and Said was sent to study in the elite schools of British missionaries.

Nothing demonstrated colonialism’s contradictory imprint on his family more than his regal first name, Edward, which his mother chose because she admired the Prince of Wales—a fact that Said bemoaned his entire life. 

When Said’s parents sent him to the U.S. at age 15, he would find a similar pattern of simultaneous subjugation and inclusion. In his years as a student, first at an elite prep school in New England and then at Princeton, Said was alienated by the other students’ oppressive self-absorption. Almost all white, they were confident in the superiority of their Anglo-Saxon heritage and considered Arab culture primitive.

As he put it in a note uncovered by Brennan, “to be a Levantine” in the U.S. meant “not to be able to create but only to imitate.” At the same time, the postwar U.S. system of higher education provided remarkable opportunities. After Princeton, Said enrolled in Harvard’s graduate program in European literature, and in 1963, he was hired as a professor at Columbia. Ivy League prestige, as it often does, opened many doors, and Said quickly learned how to prosper in the world of U.S. letters.

He published a book on Joseph Conrad, built ties to the New York literary world, and began contributing essays to magazines like The Nation. For all the whiteness and Euro-centrist ethos of American academia, Said cherished his success in it. To his parents’ dismay, he preferred to spend most of his summers in New York, feverishly churning out academic writings.    

These paradoxes of imperial power do not get much attention in Places of Mind, and its first chapters say frustratingly little about the colonial Middle East or the Cold War U.S. This is a missed opportunity, as the similarities between the two systems would later become crucial to Said’s intellectual and political agenda. Most important, both the British and Americans elevated certain minorities (Christians in the Middle East, Jews in the U.S.) to justify their subjugation of others (Muslims under British rule, Black people and other people of color under white U.S. hegemony).

The two cultures also similarly viewed their elites’ culture as universal, a sacred trust they had to bestow upon humanity. Both British and American elites were therefore eager to demonstrate that “outsiders” like Said, who appreciated the brilliance of Western culture, could join their club, as long as they fully assimilated and “overcame” their non-Western origins. It is likely that these parallels informed Said’s later insistence that the U.S. emulated European empires.

And it is clear that his effective navigation in both inspired his later claim that colonialism was not just oppressive but also creative, that hegemonic cultures could possess a certain allure even for their victims.       


Said’s career up to the mid-1960s was headed in a predictable direction. Groomed by and for WASP institutions, he was on the path to become a footnote in their history, yet another scholar who studied the European canon and reproduced elites in his teaching.

But the convergence of two revolutions, one intellectual and one political, soon upended this trajectory. Harnessing their energies, Said went on to produce one of the twentieth century’s most important intellectual events. Be the most
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In its most impressive chapters, Places of Mind reconstructs Said’s participation in these two revolutions. The first was post-structuralism. Under the influence of philosopher Jacques Derrida, a group of French scholars launched blistering attacks on Europe’s intellectual traditions. Even after the Enlightenment, they claimed, Europe remained obsessed with enshrining hierarchies and binaries (between men and women, “primitive” and “civilized”); the most urgent task was to dismantle those.

While Said is not always associated with this school today, he was among the first to embrace it in the English-speaking world.

He took part in the early conferences on post-structuralism in the U.S. and was one of the first to utilize its concepts in his writings. He borrowed especially from Michel Foucault and his provocative depiction of the link between knowledge and power. Artists and thinkers, Foucault claimed, were rarely individuals who challenged authority. Most of the time, they reproduced and reinforced their society’s structures of authority, making them seem natural and even benevolent.

The second project that Said joined, and for which he became especially famous, was the Palestinians’ renewed struggle for self-determination. After the shock of the 1967 war, which initiated Israel’s military rule over large Palestinian territories, Palestinian activists and leaders sought to make their cause the center of international attention. They appealed to international institutions and launched multiple violent attacks on Israel to keep their struggle in the headlines.

While Said had little personal interest in returning to Palestine (by that point he considered his exile a permanent condition), he joined this campaign and quickly became its most prominent international figure.

He published fiery essays that compared the Palestinian struggle to other anti-colonial struggles in Asia and Africa and helped launch organizations that called for an end to the West’s support for Israel. His eloquence and rare status as a Palestinian at the center of U.S. letters made him into an icon. Palestinian politicians and leaders, some of whom he met in person during a prolonged academic stay in Beirut, sought his advice; in 1974, he helped edit and translate Yasser Arafat’s historic address to the United Nations, the first by any Palestinian leader in that forum. Three years later, Said became a member of the Palestinian National Council, the coordinating organization of the Palestinian national movement.

Bringing these two projects together was hardly an obvious undertaking. Post-structuralism’s philosophical musings, with its notoriously impenetrable jargon, seemed worlds apart from the blood and sweat of daily Palestinian resistance.

Yet in his monumental Orientalism (1978), Said fused these two projects to provide a new understanding of Western attitudes toward the Middle East. Drawing on his own experiences as a beneficiary and victim of colonialism, Said claimed that Europe’s colonial domination in the Middle East did not rely merely on military or political might. Rather, it was a vast intellectual project, in which countless scholars and novelists voluntarily rushed to explore, interpret, and explain why Europe had to dominate the “Orient.” Said further argued that the Orientalist project was in fact foundational to Europe’s own self-understanding. As Europeans sought to define themselves as rational, industrious, and self-controlling, they simultaneously identified the Orient’s people as emotional, lazy, and pathologically obsessed with sex.Said, in short, exposed how knowledge and art worked in the service of oppressive power.

This claim about colonialism’s centrality to Europe’s identity would have been enough to make Orientalism an intellectual bombshell. But Said went even further, using his literary study to explain the aggression of modern American diplomacy. Said argued that the collapse of formal European empires after World War II did little to diminish the orientalist mindset. Rather, orientalism continued to flourish in the U.S., where journalists, artists, and scholars conflated their country with a “civilization” that they contrasted with the Middle East’s alleged primitivism and fanaticism.

Indeed, Said maintained that U.S. diplomacy in the region, and especially its unwavering support for Israel, reproduced Europe’s earlier racism, arrogance, and myopia. U.S. diplomats and their Israeli allies inherited the view of Arabs as inhuman and thus dismissed their political demands as emotional and even animalistic outbursts. Said’s most scorching invective was directed at Middle East specialists like Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis, whom he acidly described as the intellectual foot soldiers of U.S. imperialism. Their writings about the Arabs’ supposed fanaticism, he wrote in a related essay, provided “not history, not scholarship, but direct political violence.”  

Said, in short, exposed how knowledge and art worked in the service of oppressive power. And in so doing, he forever transformed the meaning of the word orientalist: Rather than a term for a scholar of the Middle East, it now became an adjective describing a racist and paternalist worldview.  


Orientalism’s sweeping claims could hardly leave readers indifferent, and Brennan masterfully traces both the admiration for and backlash to Said’s masterwork. Conservative commentators predictably dismissed Said as an ignorant trespasser who failed to understand the West’s greatness as he downplayed the orient’s failings.

In a lengthy review, Lewis lambasted the book as “insouciant,” “outrageous,” and “reckless,” inaugurating a rhetorical dual with Said that would continue for decades. Even more sympathetic readers highlighted the book’s limitations. Scholars like the French historian Maxime Rodinson noted that Orientalism was far too sweeping in approach. The study of the Orient, he noted, was a diverse field, and many of its proponents hated empire.

Other supportive readers questioned the book’s focus on ideology and representation. Wasn’t colonialism ultimately driven by economic exploitation? The critique that stung the most came from Arab and Pakistani Marxists, who lamented that Said unintentionally strengthened Muslim conservatives. The Syrian philosopher and activist Sadiq Al Azm, for example, argued that by depicting European knowledge as hopelessly tainted, the book “poured cold water” on the effort to popularize Marxist ideas in the Middle East and bolstered lazy anti-Western sentiments. 

These misgivings, however, did little to diminish Orientalism’s impact on the international republic of letters. Appearing in 30 languages, it was widely celebrated as a fresh and sophisticated assault on Western arrogance, one equal to anti-colonial classics like Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth (1961). “Here for the first time,” Palestinian historian Tarif Khalidi wrote, “was a book by one of us telling the empire basically to go f— itself.” In a world reeling from the manifold disasters perpetrated by the U.S. in Vietnam, understanding the connections between Western self-righteousness and violence seemed more urgent than ever.

Said helped inspire the work of countless literary scholars, philosophers, historians, and political scientists who mapped colonialism’s intellectual legacies in the present. He was the founding figure of what in the 1980s became known as “postcolonial studies.” The impact of this intellectual project spilled beyond academic circles. After Orientalism, theater programs, museum catalogs, and Hollywood films began to adopt less Western-focused perspectives.

According to Brennan, Said in fact infused the humanities with renewed significance. Works like Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism (1993), which expanded its insight to more novels, demonstrated the centrality of literature and art to political discourse. Said turned the traditional Marxist view of culture on its head. He claimed that novels and images were not mere expression of social domination but their very heart; they informed how journalists covered world affairs, how citizens thought about politics, and how politicians enacted policies. Countless students and scholars came to view the study of stories, movies, and representation as political action, and journalists the world over courted Said, endlessly asking for his take on political matters.

Places of Mind’s last chapters trace Said’s rising prominence to the position of celebrity. As a testament to his triumph, they catalog the mind-numbingly abundant prizes and honors he received, describe his never-ending stream of interviews on radio and TV, and depict his collaborations with many famous artists, such as the conductor Daniel Barenboim. Yet along with the rapid ascent came frustration. Said’s publications may have made a splash, but they were unable to materially advance the Palestinian national cause, which suffered defeat after defeat.


For Said, stories were essential to the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. If Americans so enthusiastically lavished Israel with weapons and supported its cruel occupation, he claimed, it was not out of some hard-nosed calculation, but because they bought into a particular narrative, one in which persecuted Jews had heroically defeated their evil Arab neighbors.

According to Said, this story was sustained not only by relentlessly pro-Israel politicians, magazines, and TV shows but by the fact that Americans were rarely exposed to Palestinian perspectives. Said noted that this was true even for those who were deeply critical of Israel’s actions. Noam Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle (1983), for example, condemned U.S. diplomats and Israeli politicians for enabling the horrific massacres of Palestinians in Lebanon, but it, too, relied on Western sources and did not include Palestinian testimonies.

Alongside his campaign against the orientalist tradition, Said therefore launched an effort to open new spaces for Palestinians in the Western imagination. As he wrote in the essay “Permission to Narrate” (1983), the task was to forge “a socially acceptable narrative” that would allow people to empathize with Palestinians and view them as fellow humans. Venturing beyond European literature, Said sought to integrate Arab perspectives into the Western literary canon.

While most of his academic work remained focused on English and French authors, he also began studying Palestinian writers like Mahmoud Darwish and helped facilitate their translation into Western languages. And he collaborated with photographer Jean Mohr on After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (1986), a collection of images and short texts that depicted Palestinian people in everyday activities.If Said’s words still resonate today, it is because the evils he helped expose are as powerful as ever.

 Yet readers largely ignored After the Last Sky and similar projects, and most certainly did not lavish it with the prizes and honors that were showered on Orientalism. They were mostly interested in the analysis of the West’s colonialism; oppression’s victims were an afterthought. Said was painfully aware that this part of his work had limited impact, and during the 1980s and 1990s he became progressively despairing about the prospects of Palestinian liberation. “The road forward is blocked,” he ruefully wrote, “the instruments of the present are insufficient, [and] we can’t get back to the past.” His gloom only grew after the Palestinian leadership signed a tentative peace agreement with Israel in 1993 (the so-called Oslo Accords), which Said predicted would not lead to statehood but to deepening occupation. By the end of his life, he was politically isolated; his books were even banned in the Palestinian Authority over his criticism of Yasser Arafat’s authoritarianism.

Said’s high hopes for literary studies—that they would lead the expansion of the world’s political options—also proved fleeting. Said’s career, in fact, was not only a rare exception but also a product of broad intellectual sources. It emerged from the 1970s and 1980s, when debates about the literary canon roiled institutions of higher learning and figures like Paul de Man and Alan Bloom were famous.

But by the early twenty-first century, the humanities began to decline. Students were beginning to abandon them, a trickle that would soon become a flood. In such a world, Said was quickly becoming a monument for a passing era. He was one of the last literary scholars to gain the public’s attention; when he lamented being the “last Jewish intellectual,” he in part recognized he was not likely to be followed by others. His increasing alienation from his adoptive country was reflected in the location of his grave. At his request, it stands not in New York, where he spent most of his career, but in Beirut, where he was only an occasional visitor. 


If Said’s words still resonate today, it is because the evils he helped expose are as powerful as ever. In the two decades since the 2001 attacks, orientalist sentiments have only intensified: Western politicians still treat Muslims and Arabs as fanatical terrorists, and Western media still perpetuate those narratives. As historian Maha Nassar recently noted*, of the thousands of pieces run by The New York Times and The Washington Post on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, barely 1 percent were written by Palestinians.

The grip of orientalism on U.S. knowledge production has in fact only tightened since Said’s passing. In 2002, the historian Daniel Pipes, who began his career with a campaign against Orientalism, founded the organization Campus Watch, which has targeted scholars who express sympathy with Palestinians. The case of Fresno State University in California was probably the most on-the-nose expression of Said’s lasting relevance. In 2016, the university’s leadership posted a job ad for its newly created Edward Said chair in Middle Eastern studies, only to abruptly call off the search by summer of 2017.

Just like his life, Said’s legacy is a paradox. His ideas are relevant exactly because their political impact was limited: The vast campaign he launched in scholarship, the media, and political activism could not dislodge orientalist bigotry. Similarly, Said looms so large in the humanities because a career like his is now hard to imagine. Rather than blazing a path for other literary scholars to become influential political commentators, he turned out to be among the last humanists with a public presence. Those who share in his quest for a more equal and humane world still face the question that always vexed him: If one has a humanist story to tell, how to make others listen? 

Steven Toh. Saturday, January 2, 2021

An Interview with Oriana

Note: I have posted several book reviews of Oriana Fallaci, as well as her biography. And now this imaginary interview related to History

Photo: Wikipedia

That day Oriana came out of her room wearing a violet pantsuit, greeted me and sat on a chair in front of a window, resting one of her foot over the thigh of the other.

In her right hand she held a Virginia Slims cigarette and smoked continuously. Although she is tiny, perhaps five feet one and around 90 pounds, her posture gave the impression of a confident, self-assured, and assertive woman.

Her interviews with famous leaders of the world confirmed it all. This is the woman who dares to ask political leaders “brutal questions” in her interviews.

⁹This is the woman who dared to remove her veil while interviewing Khomeini, dared to ask Nguyen Van Thieu “How corrupt are you?”, and dared to accuse to Yasir Arafat “You don’t at all want the peace that everyone is hoping for.” 

Her most popular book “Interview with History” compiled interviews with 14 political leaders, with a cover inserting Rolling Stone magazine quotation “the greatest political interviewer of modern times.”

During my student time I read a few of her interviews that made her famous, with Henry Kissinger, Khomeini, Yasir Arafat and I was fascinated.

Only recently I found this book and was even more fascinated by interviews with the less popular Shah Iran, King Hussein, General Giap and even a rather “not well known” Alexandros Panagoulis.

Before reading them, I had no idea how interesting the interviews were, they gave fresh views and opened up windows to the personality of these politicians. 

So, I came to her apartment in Florence through the famous Ponte Vecchio and sat with this vivacious woman to talk about this book. She answered the questions with a husky voice, Italian accented, and with a lot of arm movements. Despite her temperamental reputation she seemed to me  a caring and sweet person.

Then I shot the first question: 

“Generally speaking, journalism emphasizes on objectivity in the writings in order to portray issues and events in a neutral and unbiased manner, regardless of the journalist opinion or personal beliefs.

While you are internationally renowned for your impassioned, confrontational approach. You became a celebrity because of your interrogative interviews, the imposing questions that made Shah Iran shared his religious view, made General Giap to disclose his military game plan for defeating the Americans in Vietnam, and made Nguyen Van Thieu sometimes had tears in his eyes. “

Oriana:

“I do not feel myself to be, nor will I ever succeed in feeling like, a cold recorder of what I see and hear. On every professional experience I leave shreds of my heart and soul: and I participate in what I see or hear as though the matter concerned me personally and were one on in which I ought to take a stand.

So I did not go to these fourteen people with the detachment of the anatomist or the imperturbable reporter.

⁹ū I went with a thousand feelings of rage, a thousand questions that assailing them were assailing me, and with the hope of understanding in what way, by being in power or opposing it, those people determine our destiny.”

I said:

“In your interview with Shah Iran you indeed assailed him, it was like boxing, you threw punches to him, he defended himself and even threw uppercuts to you. “

Oriana:

“He is a character in which most paradoxical conflicts merge to reward you for your pains with an enigma. He believes in prophetic dreams, in visions, in a childish mysticism, and then goes on to discuss oil like an expert, which he is.

He governs like an absolute monarch, and then refers to his people in the tone of one who believes in them and loves them, by leading a White Revolution that would seem to be making effort to combat illiteracy and the feudal system. He considers women as simply graceful ornaments incapable of thinking like a man, and then strives to give them complete equality of rights and duties. Indeed, in a society where women still wear the veil, he even orders girls to perform military service.”

I said:

“Did you ask him whether he is a dictator?”

Oriana:

“He said he wouldn’t deny it, because in a certain sense he is. Then: ‘But look, to carry through reforms, one can’t help but be authoritarian. Especially when the reforms take place in a country like Iran, where only twenty-five percent of the inhabitants know how to read and write. You mustn’t forget the illiteracy is drastic here- it’ll take at least ten years to eliminate it. 

Believe me when three-quarter of a nation doesn’t know how to read or write, you can provide reforms only by the strictest authoritarianism – otherwise you get nowhere.

If I hadn’t be harsh, I wouldn’t even been able to carry out agrarian reform, it would have been stalemated. Once that had happened, the extreme left would have liquidated the extreme right within a few hours, and it’s not only the White Revolution that would have been finished. I had to do what I did. For instance, order my troops to open fire on anyone opposing the distribution of land.”

I said:

“You said in the book that he was cold during the interview, stiff, his lips were as sealed as a locked door, his eyes as icy as a winter wind, stared at you rigidly and remote.  Yet he was so different when he talked about oil. He lighted up, vibrated, focused, he become another man.”

Oriana:

“He thought he knows everything there is to know about oil, everything.  He said: ‘It’s really my speciality. And I tell you as a specialist that the price of oil will have to go up. There’s no other solution. But it’s a solution you Westerners have brought on yourselves. Or, if you like, a solution brought on by your overcivilized industrial society.

You’ve increased the price of wheat by three hundred percent, and the same for sugar and cement. You’ve sent the price of petrochemicals skyrocketing. You buy crude oil from us and then sell it back to us, refined into petrochemicals, at a hundred times what you paid for it.

You make us pay more for everything, scandalously more, and it’s only fair that from now on you should pay more for oil. Let’s say…. ten times more.’ 

I will never forget him curtly raising his forefinger, while his eyes glared with hatred, to impress on me that the price of oil would go up, up, up ten-fold. I felt nauseated before the gaze and that finger….”

I said:

“Many of the political leaders you interviewed in this book had socialism view, Golda Meir, Willy Brandt, Indira Gandhi, Pietro Nenni to Helder Camara. But their socialism has many different colors, from mild to liberal. Are you a socialist Oriana?”

Oriana:

“No, I am not. Socialism as it’s been applied until now hasn’t worked. Capitalism doesn’t work too. I better quote what Indira Gandhi said in the interview:

‘I don’t see the world as something divided between right and left. Even though we use them, even though I use them myself, these expressions have lost all meanings. I’m not interested in one label or the other— I’m only interested in solving certain problems, in getting where I want to go. I have certain objectives. They are the same objectives that my father had: to give people a higher standard of living, to do away with cancer of poverty, to eliminate the consequences of economic backwardness. I want to succeed. And I want to succeed in the best way possible, without caring whether people call my actions leftist or rightist. 

It’s the same story as when we nationalized the banks. I’m not for nationalization because of the rhetoric of nationalization, or because I see in nationalization the cure-all for every injustice.

⁹I’m for nationalization in cases where it’s necessary.  We realized that the banks had not done any good, the money still ended up in the hands of rich industrialists or friends of the bankers. And we did nationalize the banks, without considering it a socialist gesture or an antisocialist gesture, just a necessary one. Anyone who nationalizes only so as to be considered on the left to me is a fool. 

The word socialism now has so many meanings and interpretations. The Russians call themselves socialists, the Swedes call themselves socialists. And let’s not forget that in Germany there was also a national socialism.

Socialism to me means justice. It means trying to work in a more egalitarian society.”

I said:

“One of your remarkable interviews is with General Giap, the North Vietnam General during the Vietnam war. He was famous for his cruelty, the French had fallen into his traps full of poisonous bees, his pits full of snakes, or they were blown-up by booby traps hidden corpses abandoned by the wayside, and in 1954 he defeated French at Dien Bien Phu. He was also feared by the Americans, for his courage Ho Chi Minh used to call him Kui or Devil.  

When you met him, did you find him to be a frightening person?

Oriana:

“I was astonished first of all at how short he was, less than 5 feet, and his body was fat. His face was swollen and covered with little blue veins that made him look purple. No, it was not an extremely likable face. Perhaps of the purple color, perhaps because of those uncertain outlines, it cost you some effort to keep looking at him, where the things you found were scarcely interesting. The huge mouth full of tiny teeth, the flattened nose enlarged by two huge nostrils, the forehead that stopped at the middle of his skull in a mop of black hair…. “

I said:

“Did he boast about his fighting strategy?”

Oriana:

“He said that the Americans underestimated the spirit of the people that knows how to fight for a just cause, to save its homeland from the invader. The war in Vietnam is not a question of numbers and well-equipped soldiers, that all doesn’t solve the problem. When a whole people rebels, there’s nothing you can do, and there’s no wealth in the world that can liquidate it.

8Their enemies aren’t good soldiers, because they don’t believe in what they’re doing and therefore they lack any combat spirit. 

Oh, this isn’t a war that you resolve in a few years. In a war against the United States, you need time, time…..

The Americans will be defeated in time, by getting tired. And in order to tire them, we have to go on, to last…. For a long time: ten, fifteen, twenty, fifty years. Until we achieve total victory, as our president, Ho Chi Minh, said. Yes! Even twenty even fifty years! We’re not in a hurry, we’re not afraid.”

I said:

“Your interview with General Giap caught Henry Kissinger’s attention, thus he invited you for an interview.  Very rarely does he grant personal interviews, he speaks only at press conferences arranged by the administration. What did he say about the Giap’s interview?”

Oriana:

“He didn’t speak about General Giap, instead he asked me about Giap, Thieu and other Vietnamese generals. He even asked me: ‘What do I think will happen in Vietnam with the cease-fire?’ On Vietnam he could not tell me anything much, and I am amazed that he said: that whether the war to end or go on did not depend only on him, and he could not allow himself the luxury of compromising everything by an unnecessary word.

He said: ‘Don’t ask me that. I have to keep to what I said publicly ten days ago… I cannot, I must not consider an hypothesis that I do not think will happen, an hypothesis that should not happen. I can only tell you that we are determined to have this peace, and that in any case we will have it, in the shortest time possible after my next meeting with Le Duc Tho.”

I said:

“Did Henry Kissinger say whether the Vietnam war was a useless war?”

Oriana:

“He said he agreed: ‘But let’s not forget that the reason why we entered this war was to keep the South from being gobbled up by the North, it was to permit the South to remain the South. Of course, by that I don’t mean that this was our only objective…. It was also something more…. But today I am not in the position to judge whether the war in Vietnam has been just or not, whether our getting into it was useful or useless. 

After all, my role, our role, has been to reduce more and more the degree to which America was involved in the war, so as then to the end the war. And it must be ended in accordance with some principle.

In the final analysis, history will say who did more: those who operated by criticizing and nothing else, or we who tried to reduce the war and then ended it. Yes, the verdict is up to history.”

I said:

“Now, the last part of your book is an interview with Alexandros Panagoulis, a Greek politician and poet, who actively participated against the Greek military junta, also known as the Regime of the Colonels. He became famous for his attempt to assassinate dictator Georgios Papadopoulos on 13 August 1968, but also for the torture to which he was subjected during his detention. 

Reading this interview, the readers couldn’t help but to notice that you highly admired him, even an amorous way.”

Oriana:

“That day and night in Athens, just two days after a general political amnesty had resurrected Alexandros Panagoulis from prison, I met him for this interview and fell in love with him. “

I said:

“Panagoulis was the real thing: A hero who had been condemned to death for attempting to assassinate a dictator. He only regretted having failed. Do you see him as a hero?”

Oriana:

“He said:’ I’m not a hero and I don’t feel like a symbol . . . I’m so afraid of disappointing all of you who see so many things in me! Oh, if only you could succeed in seeing in me only a man!’

I said:

“And you asked him: ’Alekos, what does it mean to be a man?”

Oriana:

“He said: ’It means to have courage, to have dignity. It means to love without allowing love to become an anchor. It means to struggle and to win. . . . And for you, what is a man?’

I answered him: ‘I would say that a man is what you are, Alekos.”

And so did the interview end. Arrivederci Oriana….

THE END


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

June 2021
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