Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

The critical mind of Voltaire could summarize an entire philosophical book into a sentence

I just read a tiny story called “Micromegas” of 15 pages that condensed Voltaire highly critical mind.

In short, two men from far away stellar systems, both at least a mile tall and can live over 10,000 years and are endowed with 3 dozen sensory organs… and still Not satisfied and banned from their huge planet, still worried about the nature of their souls…). They haphazardly landed on earth, after boarding comets and earth arboreal light.

They had to look into a microscope to discover that these insects of humans do exist. The two men are interested in figuring out if these “insects” have soul and how different is their understanding of what is “The soul”.

At first, the giants were convinced that earth had no living creatures since they walked it quickly and crossed its shallow oceans without seeing anything that moves.

Actually the giants comprehended French but Not Greek to communicate with these French adventures in the North pole.

The giants discovered that these human insects have vast knowledge in geometry, algebra, and enough adequate instrument to measure their length and the circumference of earth and the distance to the sun…

“Since you know many things of what is external to you, how good are you in knowing what’s inside you?

One French in the boat described the state of human cruelty, of the perpetual wars among the human. Thousands in turbans, under a Sultan who never stepped out of his palace, massacre and burn villages of thousands of soldiers in metal headgear, under another king named Caesar or King and with different religious mythical ideology. And vice versa.

These human Princes are meant to eradicate the human species. Wars that will kill far more humans from famine and diseases for a piece of muddy land. Those barbarous urban oligarchies, who have never knew or seen who is being killed, keep thanking their Gods for their war achievement.

On the definitions of the Soul of a few philosophers of the period, such as Descartes, Leibniz, Locke…

One philosopher mentions Aristotle and his “entelechie”, a reason that extends the power to exist as is, and he quotes in Greek the definition, a language he doesn’t master, but he has to quote in order to impress.

The Descartes disciple claims that the soul is a pure spirit that is formed in the womb, but the person loses its meaning as he starts attending schools. It is then useless to have a soul if we end up totally ignorant about it, as we go on living. “And what you say about the spirit?” It is Not matter that can be divided and measured and described… “You can describe a few attributes of a matter, but do you know the deepest structure of any matter and the consequences of lacking of it?”

A Malebranche disciple claims that it is God that thinks and do everything for him and he doesn’t have to worry about anything. “Then there is no point for your existence”.

A disciple of the British Locke said: “I think only at the instigation of my senses. That there are immaterial and intelligent substances, I have no doubts about them. I hardly doubt that it is impossible for God can communicate spirit to material elements, if He wishes it. I contend that there are far more possible events that can occur and which I cannot think about or fathom…”

Among these insects, there was someone wearing a square bonnet (a Jesuit?) who vehemently repeated St. Thomas claim in the “Somme”:” Every thing in the sky and on earth were created for the humans”. The giants laughed their heart out and had a great moment on hearing this.

The giant from star Sirius decided to write a philosophical book, with as small characters as it was possible for him to reduce, and offered it to the human insects. The scholars at Paris Academy opened the book and discovered it was mostly blank.

Note: I will be reading Zadig by Voltaire and might review this other short story.


Liberalist in the USA: Decrepit?
Note: I don’t mind posting “controversial” articles: a reflective mind should be able to extract valuable positions when the State social media disseminate what the administration wants to be exposed.
Any connections among Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Citizens United case, political corruption, Common Law doctrine of stare decisis, Chief Justice John Robert?
Note: Common Law doctrine of stare decisis is borrowed from the British legal system: prior cases decisions take precedent. Not fair, since deep pocket defenders generally win cases when the downtrodden are helpless in covering up legal expenses.
ANDREW LEVINE wrote in CounterPunch under “John Roberts: Liberal Hero?”:

“In America today, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” describe positions that bear only a vague connection to the meanings of these terms in less benighted times.  The connection to philosophical understandings is even more attenuated.

This is a consequence of the accelerating decrepitude of our political culture.

How may we understand one of last month’s more remarkable developments: the adulation liberals accorded the previously despised John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States?

John Roberts cast the deciding vote upholding most of the Obama administration’s most vaunted legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). On June 28, to the dismay of other right-wing Justices, Robert saved Obamacare’s linchpin, the much vilified individual mandate, which requires persons not otherwise insured to buy health insurance or else to pay a fine.

Before the ruling came down, the idea that liberals would make a hero of John Roberts seemed about as likely as that Barack Obama or Eric Holder would heap praise on Bradley Manning or Julian Assange.

Two years ago, it was Roberts who engineered the outcome in the Citizens United case, making political corruption the law of the land, and turning over what “we, the people” have left of a democracy to the plutocrats who own our political class.  Roberts can take credit for countless reactionary Supreme Court rulings.

Indeed, as Roberts’ position is scrutinized, doubts about his bona fides are reemerging.  To be considered a liberal hero (Robert) for a while tells a lot about liberals, and about the state of our political culture.

In retrospect, the liberal response to Roberts’ ruling makes sense, at least at a psychological level.

Having been put down for so long by an administration bent on courting the plutocrats, Roberts lives to serve and determined to win the hearts and minds of “moderates,” liberals are understandably easy to please.

Obama proved that point when, with a few kind words (only words!) on same-sex marriage, he got the handful of “forward leaners” in the corporate media to wax ecstatic again.  And though no American president ever has been worse on immigration issues, an executive order halting the deportation of undocumented immigrants younger than thirty and brought to the United States as children seems to have assured Team Obama that, this time around, they can count on Hispanic voters again too.

No matter that Obama’s less than generous motives are transparent: in a Citizens United world, he needs all the gay donors he can bring on board and he needs to keep the constituencies that backed him in 2008 in the fold.

Liberals either don’t want to know about this or don’t care; they’re happy just to accept anything Obama throws their way.

Ever in dread of the greater evil, they have learned to ask for nothing and to be grateful when that’s what they get.

The Democratic Party has been counting on this for years and, with Obama at the helm, they are not about to change their ways.

And so we live under a duopoly party system where both parties compete to serve the interests of those we have come to call “the 1%.”

The difference is just that one of those parties, the scarier one, is more transparent about its allegiances than the other.

No wonder that, in such a world, the political compass has gone haywire and words like “liberal” and “conservative” have become unhinged.

No wonder too that it was self-identified liberals, not conservatives, who made a hero of John Roberts.

In making a hero of Roberts, liberals were not just grasping at straws: they were also revealing where their deepest sympathies lie.  It wasn’t always so, but those who identify with liberalism today have become the true conservatives. (You mean the Silent Majority?)

Self-identified conservatives, meanwhile, are just plain reactionaries – except sporadically and for reasons that are not always on the up and up.

To make sense of all this, it is not necessary to dwell on what “liberalism” used to mean or what it means in philosophical circles.

For political philosophers, what liberalism is and what it implies for justice and equality has been Topic A for decades.  This work, valuable as it is, is largely dissociated from the real world of politics.  It is nearly irrelevant for explaining how self-identified liberals think.

It is relevant to bear in mind the last great liberal settlement in American political history, the one that began with the New Deal and continued through the time when the Vietnam War effectively undid the Great Society.

New Deal-Great Society liberalism aimed to ameliorate conditions of life under capitalism.

Though pale in comparison, it was of a piece with similar ameliorative programs developed in Europe and elsewhere under the aegis of social democratic ideologies.

We have not yet reached the point where self-identified liberals expressly advocate undoing that last great liberal settlement; that is what self-identified conservatives do.

“By their deeds shall ye know them.

Democratic presidents, their party in tow, have done at least as much as Republican presidents to restore pre-New Deal conditions.  Awful as Mitt Romney promises to be, if history is a guide, it is far from obvious that Barack Obama, with the election behind him, won’t be worse.

In a world where liberals and conservatives are both engaged in the same nefarious project – in the one case, without quite saying so; in the other, with greater honesty — identifying the connection, if any, between actually existing liberalism and the genuine article is complicated at best.  But, for our purpose, there is no need.

Obamacare hardly rises to the level of a New Deal or Great Society program and, that feeble connection apart, there is nothing particularly liberal about it.

But it does have a lot to do with venerable understandings of what conservatism is.  One strain of conservative thought is especially relevant for making sense of it and also, more importantly, the reaction to it.

Nothing illustrates the idea better than the Common Law doctrine of stare decisis, precedent rules.  This is ironic inasmuch as it was a legal judgment, advanced in the Common Law tradition, which turned Roberts into a hero for liberals.

The rationale for deciding legal cases according to this doctrine begins with the assumption that the issues courts decide are relevantly like those they decided in the past. 

Those decisions, the argument goes, were good enough in most instances.  At the very least, they got us where we are.  In the conservative view, that is not a bad place to be.

If we set our minds to improving on past judgments without regard to past decisions, we might do better.  But this is unlikely, and it can also be unsettling.

The rule of law works best when there are stable expectations about what the law requires.  Stare decisis enhances the likelihood that this will be the case.

Of course, if there are overwhelming considerations of justice that were not taken into account in past rulings, then, the argument goes, precedents should be overridden.  But inasmuch as this is usually not the case, precedents should, for the most part, determine  outcomes.

This is the accepted view throughout American jurisprudence, honored both in the breach and the observance.  Even when the doctrine is not followed, when “activist judges” make laws, they almost always attempt at least to maintain the fiction that they are following the guidance of the past.

Similarly, in the larger political arena, the guiding idea is that if we follow the lead of the past, we will generally end up no worse off than we now are, and that the result will therefore be at least satisfactory.  On the other hand, if we break from the past in an effort to make things better, we will likely end up worse off, perhaps disastrously so.

Thus conservatives think that in politics it is always wise to be risk averse.  This is why, in their view, traditions of governance trump attempts at fundamental change, and why continuity in institutional arrangements and on-going practices is of paramount importance.

Of course, even dedicated conservatives concede there are activities for which cautious gradualism is inappropriate because they necessarily involve the exercise of untrammeled Reason; this is the case in most fields of mathematics, for example, and in some areas of philosophy.  In these and similar domains, it would be foolish to accord priority to received ways of doing things.

But these are the exception, not the rule – because most of life is more like, say, cooking than geometry.   The cook relies on instruments, techniques and recipes that embody a collective wisdom accumulated over generations by people facing roughly similar problems to those cooks now confront.  There is no need to resort to first principles, not because our cooking is as good as can be, but because it is good enough and because far-reaching changes risk going drastically wrong.  There is also no one best way to cook, but many traditions, each continuous with a useable past.

Governance, conservatives think, is, like cooking.  A conservative can be agnostic on whether the problem lies with the nature of Reason itself.  No doubt, many think it does.  But even if it does not, the crucial point is that human beings’ rational capacities are not up to the task; for doing politics the way we do geometry, we are, so to speak, insufficient.

The idea behind this conviction all but defines a much older strain of conservative philosophy.  In the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes, the greatest political philosopher the English-speaking world has produced, argued that, given human nature and the human condition, life would degenerate into a devastating “war of all against all”  unless individuals are made unfree to do everything they want to do.

Hobbes argued that, to achieve this end, it is necessary that there be coercive institutions capable of compelling individuals to follow the dictates of political authorities.  He argued, in other words, that what individuals cannot achieve voluntarily, given their nature and condition, they can achieve politically — through the use or threat of force.

Hobbes also argued that the only sustainable form of political authority is sovereignty – supreme and, in his view, unlimited authority.  Thus he deemed sovereignty necessary for order, the paramount value in his vision of a good society.  That vision is idiosyncratic and extreme, and Hobbes’ arguments are compelling only within the framework of his other philosophical views.  But the preeminence he accorded to order is typical of this strain of conservative thought.

Hobbes’ position was secular, but his notion of human insufficiency is of a piece with the distinctively Christian doctrine of Original Sin, the Church Fathers’ alternative to pagan (mainly Greek but also Roman) notions of human perfectibility, according to which, as Aristotle famously put it, we are essentially “political animals,” beings who must participate in the political communities we comprise in order fully to become all that we (potentially) are.

In the Christian ancestor of Hobbes’ position, political institutions are punishments for Original Sin because they block the free expression of our Fallen nature.  Ironically, in doing so, they also provide relief from its consequences, allowing Providence to work its way through human affairs.  Thus it is not our interests that order serves, but God’s.  Still,  the point remains: by imposing a non-natural order upon us, political institutions save us from ourselves and from each other.

Unlike the kind of conservatism that makes governance out to be an activity more like cooking than geometry, this strain of conservative thought does not directly resonate in John Roberts’ apparent defection from the self-identified conservative cause.  But it does underscore a point that is often lost in our political culture: that the anti-statist character of our actually existing conservatism is quite atypical.  Conservatism is not inherently anti-statist, as American conservatives assume.  As Hobbes’ example shows, precisely the opposite is usually the case.

* * *

As Obamacare slouched towards passage in Congress, it seemed a case of  “bipartisanship” gone awry.  Not wishing to rattle the cages of private insurers and healthcare profiteers, Democrats enacted a policy not much different from the one conceived in the early 1990s at the right-wing Heritage Foundation as an alternative to the Clintons’ efforts at health care reform.

Obamacare, accordingly, is very like the program Republicans promoted until quite recently and that Mitt Romney got enacted in Massachusetts when he was governor there. It was not until Obama took up the cause that Republicans turned on the policy they concocted and fostered.

Assuming it is not reversed in Congress, it remains to be seen how much good Obamacare will do when it finally goes fully into effect.  On the plus side, it will lead to more (but not all!) presently uninsured persons gaining coverage, and it puts a number of worthwhile insurance reforms in place.   On the other hand, it further entrenches the power and wealth of private insurance companies and health care profiteers.

It will likely also set back the cause of genuine reform, perhaps for another generation, in much the way that the Clintons did.  It may also leave many presently insured persons, union workers especially, worse off, as employers seize the opportunity to cut back or eliminate employment related insurance.  And it is becoming clear that its funding mechanisms may give rise to additional problems as well.

Even so, it seemed, when the Affordable Care Act passed, that the United States would indeed move forward a tad – not to the level other developed countries long ago achieved, but in that general direction.

Then an “only in America” thing happened.  The affair turned into a legal squabble.

The proposed rationale for ruling the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional was that, contrary to what Republican had been saying for years, Congress had no right to require otherwise uninsured persons to buy health insurance or pay a fine if they don’t.  It plainly did have that right, however, under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

If precedents matter, the issue was about as settled as any Constitutional question could be.  Moreover, the state Attorneys General who brought the suit and their allies on the Supreme Court were not about to take on commerce clause jurisprudence altogether; that would be too unsettling – and too patently “unconstitutional” — even for them.

So, not very ingeniously, they split a hair, arguing that while Congress can regulate activities that have commercial impact beyond the borders of individual states, it cannot proscribe inactivity that affects inter-state commerce.  In other words, Congress can say what health insurers can and must do, but it cannot require anyone to buy health insurance.

Antonin Scalia, supposedly the smart one, was especially concerned that if this distinction isn’t given legal standing, Congress could require individuals to buy broccoli. At least he had the decency not to take his usual tack: asking what the Constitution’s authors would do.

* * *

We Americans are so used to this level of silliness that few would find it odd if he had.

Indeed, it is one of the oddities of our political culture that we accord an almost scriptural authority to a text composed in the 1780s by leading planters (slave owners), merchants and lawyers.

But that is precisely what we do, and no one does it more than the reactionaries we call  “conservatives.”   This residue of America’s Protestant past survives in our jurisprudence and also, to a remarkable extent, in the broader political culture.  To buy into it, it is hardly necessary to be culturally, much less religiously, Protestant.  Scalia, a right-wing Catholic, is a case in point.

The idea that there is Holy Writ and that it ought to be authoritative took hold on American soil to such an extent that, even as faith waned, it survived outside the theological framework that gave it life.  Our founders established secular institutions that implement Enlightenment ideals including the separation of Church and State.  Nevertheless, we fetishize the Constitution they wrote, much as the Protestant faithful of old, and evangelicals today, fetishize the Old and New Testaments.

Constitution fetishism can be benign and even beneficial.  But because it channels public deliberation into a forensic realm where questions hinge, in part, on the interpretation of words written long ago, it affects how arguments are made, driving a wedge between the positions people hold and the reasons they hold them.  One consequence is that citizens or their representatives are often obliged to argue disingenuously, appealing to reasons they don’t embrace to defend positions they do.

Arguably, there is no harm in this when the governing jurisprudential practice acknowledges the evolving character of Constitutional interpretation.  Then, at least in theory, our style of jurisprudence would constrain how arguments are made, but not materially affect their substance.  On the other hand, there can be considerable harm if “originalist” styles of interpretation prevail.  Then the content, not just the form, of public argument is affected – in almost all cases for the worse.

Needless to say, it is not clear how the intentions of long dead Constitution writers can be ascertained.  But the pretense can be useful for turning back progress because originalism ties judges to the prejudices of earlier times.  Its proponents praise it as an antidote to “judicial activism.”  In fact, the opposite it is true; it is a rationale for enlisting the judiciary in the service of the most retrograde forces in our society.

* * *

That used to be what John Roberts was about and maybe it still is.  But then the so-called conservative Justice had a genuine conservative moment.

Only in retrospect and as more information emerges will what happened become clear.   Perhaps he honestly thought the situation through and this is where his thinking led.    More likely, he sided with the “liberals” for reasons that are more strategic than principled.  There are times, after all, when it is well to take one step back, the better to move forward – that is, to move the country backward — later.

There are liberals who touted his heroism who are coming around to this view.   They are starting to worry that when issues bearing on affirmative action and voting rights come before the Court next year, he’ll be better positioned to promote reaction than he would have been had not decided to keep the Affordable Care Act in place.

They are worried too that his hair splitting on the commerce clause will have bad consequences in the years to come.  Some are realizing as well that the “conservative” Justices, Roberts included, who ruled that states cannot be threatened with the loss of all Medicare money if they fail to go along with the Affordable Care Act’s efforts to extend Medicare coverage will make it harder from now on to implement federal regulations and rules at the state level.

In short, whether Roberts was a liberal hero, even if only on June 28, or rather an exceptionally clever snake in the grass remains to be seen.  Were this just a question about him, it would be of little interest.  But since he heads what is, in effect, a super-legislature with vast powers, it is a question of the utmost importance.  No doubt, in time, the answer will become clear.

But it is not too soon to see what their reaction to Roberts’ (temporary?) defection from the “conservative” juggernaut says about liberals.  It shows that if they are not the last true conservatives in our political culture today, they are the closest approximation we’ve got.

Of course, this may just be a defensive posture on their part; an understandable one too in a world where the reactionaries who have appropriated the conservative label are still on the offensive.  But it is hard to deny that in this Age of Obama the causes liberals enthuse about – same-sex marriage is another example – have a profoundly conservative cast.

For helping to bring about this state of affairs – and for stifling the impulse to seek out anything better, more experimental and bold — the Democratic Party of the Clinton and post-Clinton years has much to answer for.   Will Obama’s legacy be even worse?

Note: As far as the Middle East people are concerned, Obama and Hilary were the worst administration for this region. They purposely funded and facilitated the creation of ISIS and the occupation of Mosul. Any why this decision? Because Iraq turned down Obama demand to have permanent military bases in Iraq.

ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People.

He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Deal of the Century Adds “New” to the Four Thousand Year Old Name “Palestine”

The apartheid regime we know as “Israel” was built on the very ruins of Palestine and imposed a brutal regime on those who still live in their country. Millions of Palestinians still languish in refugee camps in and around Palestine, yet Israel and its allies around the world celebrate “Israeli independence.”

JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — Nakba Day — the day when Palestinians commemorate the destruction of their country and the mass killing and forced eviction of their people — is coming up, and with each passing day, another disturbing story unfolds.

Perhaps the most disturbing story so far is the plan to present Palestine with a new name, “New Palestine.” (How imaginative)

This, according to a rumored leak, is what Donald Trump and Jared Kushner are going to present to an anticipating world as part of the so-called “Deal of the Century.”

Also according to the leak, aside from a demand for Palestinians to accept a new name as part of the “Deal of the Century” — forgoing the name “Palestine,” which has been used to describe their land since the Bronze Age — the Palestinian people will have to accept that their heritage and their history will be erased and their land will be taken away for good.

In other words, what Palestinians are going to receive, according to the leak, is a new name but no country, and they will be expected to accept this or else they will be denied access to foreign aid, not only from the U.S. but other countries as well.

From elections to Gaza to Independence Day

Things move fast on the Israeli side of occupied Palestine.

Israel recently held elections, then — within a few weeks and before a new government was even formed — Israel lashed out with a deadly attack on Gaza.

Then, Israel recognized a few solemn days, the first one Holocaust Remembrance Day and the second, a day to commemorate Israeli soldiers who had fallen in battle. Then Israelis were off to celebrate “Israeli Independence.”

On the Palestinian side, no sooner does one tragedy end than a second one follows, no time for the fresh blood on the ground to dry before more is spilled.

The lovely face of 16-year-old Fatima Hijazi, shot by an Israeli sniper, is still fresh in people’s hearts when more, even younger casualties are reported. Palestinians go from mourning to mourning with no end in sight.

Over the past several years, a new phenomenon has risen, a joint memorial service where Israelis and Palestinians join together to commemorate their fallen loved ones.

While the idea of such an event may seem appealing to some, the moral equivalency it tries to create between the victims of the violence and those who lost their lives while perpetuating the violence is troubling.

However, in the political climate that now exists among Israelis, this is considered progressive. While this event was permitted to proceed, right-wing gangs came by to protest the initiative and lashed out with obscenities at the participants: “Sons of whores, may God take all of you stinking lefties! Death to Arabs!” and on and on.

Celebrating independence

A custom that can only be described as insensitive, if not outright cruel, and which has been in place since Palestine was destroyed, is the celebration of Israeli independence. Just as Israeli elections were held on the day that Palestinians commemorate the massacre at Deir Yassin, Israel callously celebrates a day of independence at the same time as Palestinians mourn the loss of their country.

The apartheid regime we know as “Israel” was built on the very ruins of Palestine and imposed a brutal regime on those who still live in their country. Millions of Palestinians still languish in refugee camps in and around Palestine, yet Israel and its allies around the world celebrate.

Israel Memorial Day

A young Israeli girl plays on a tank during an Israeli Memorial Day ceremony in Latrun, Israel, May 8, 2019. Oded Balilty | AP

Israelis are not the indigenous people of Palestine. What we know today as “Israelis” are people who came to colonize mostly during the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, and they did so largely with the assistance of the British government.

The British mandate over Palestine, which was, in reality, an occupation of the country, facilitated the creation of the Zionist apartheid regime in Palestine. The Jews who came to colonize and settle in Palestine were never oppressed or occupied; in fact, they were privileged. The Jewish settlements in Palestine had services like running water and electricity long before many of the Palestinian communities did, and they were assisted by the British in every possible way.

The biblical Zionist narrative

The name “New Palestine” becomes even more absurd in light of the fact that the name Palestine was, “first documented in the late Bronze Age, about 3,200 years ago.”

Furthermore, according to a new book by historian Nur Masalha, “the name Palestine is the conventional name used between 450 B.C. and 1948 A.D. to describe the geographical region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” These quotes are from Masalha’s Palestine, A Four Thousand Year History, published by Zed Books in 2018.

Palestine: A Four Thousand Year HistoryMasalha — professor of history at the London University School of Oriental and African Studies, or SOAS — takes on the difficult task of seriously, scientifically, and one may add successfully, challenging the prevailing narrative regarding Palestine.

This is clearly no simple feat but it is one in which the historian Masalha succeeds in a manner that is both admirable and convincing. (Just peruse the old pictures of Palestinians and Palestine before and after British mandated power)

Unfortunately, odds are neither Jared Kushner or Benjamin Netanyahu — the two men who are most likely to be behind the “New Palestine” and the “Deal of the Century” — will ever read this important history book.

Revealing aspects of Palestinian history that Zionists would prefer remain in the dark, Masalha’s book is essential reading. Until the history of Palestine is told and the cruel reality in which Palestinians live today is exposed, Palestine will never be free.

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Note: I posted many articles on Palestine and Palestinians on my blog

Hojarasas (Hurricane): the mass transfer of working people everywhere

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote this novel when he was 18 and it was published years later, before he expanded on the story in “100 years of Solitude”.

Marquez could Not at this age write an epic story of the phenomena as John Steinbeck did in the Dust Bowl, the thousands who left their land to move to California during the financial crush of 1929.

This mass transfer of people following the trail of multinational companies, carrying them to where is their next exploitation of land and downtrodden people has been practiced in ancient civilizations but started actively and documented in the 19th century. People who learned to live for the “present” and could no longer take roots anywhere.

I figured out that this phenomena started after USA civil war when the urgency of linking East and West with train rails and the mushrooming of temporary villages along the way.

As the the company moves on, the people moves along, and the residents are left with an environment much degraded, in landscape and older people down on their fate, not able survive on their own toil and resigned to State subsidies, if any.

All the colonial powers performed the same “feat”, first with their poorer classes at home and then transferred to their colonies at a vast scale.

The older ugly face of slavery has mutated into a mass moving slavery, transferred everywhere where multinational companies settled for a while.

This phenomenon is the same, , even today, everywhere multinationals decide to exploit an under-developed country, or a country reeling after a civil war, or a pre-emptive war, planned, funded and executed by the colonial powers.

In the Hojarasas, Marquez mentions the Great War. I guess it is the period that started in 1880’s of endless civil wars in Latin America. Panama was part of Columbia and the USA wanted to conquer Panama and fomented most of these civil war. And also to pave the way for its agro-multinationals (Banana companies) to exploit the land and people in Latin America.

Marquez opted Not to give names of his major protagonists. There are the colonel, the doctor, the cleric El Cachorro (the Savage who was a terrible rebel, joined the army, rose to grade of colonel before reverting to be a man of religion). Even the daughter of the colonel has no name, neither his grand son. Names are totally irrelevant in period of calamities.

So many colonels in civil wars and so many captains, even today.

The author even asks questions, repeatedly, and never offer answers.

For examples: the second wife of the colonel, Adelaide, suspected she recognized a resemblance of the doctor with someone when he first visited them. She threw a lavish dinner in his honor. She got totally disappointed when he didn’t match her conservative attitudes or offered any explanation on who he is. The doctor said: “I eat only grass, like what the donkey eats”

The doctor and El Cachorro have many resemblance. So many half brothers and half sisters are generated in civil wars and when the hojarasas are on the move. Martin, the husband of the colonel’s daughter moved away when the Banana company folded, never to return, and left behind a son and his wife.

The doctor and El Cachorro arrived to Macondo on the same day and same hour. I doubt that was a coincidence: Some one must have dispatched them to Macondo, hoping they meet and link up. Probably it was colonel Buendias who was still fighting in Panama and who must have had many illegitimate sons and daughters.

We don’t know anything of the origin of the doctor or how he lived before he arrived to Macondo, as this small village experienced the mass transfer of workers to join the banana company.

The doctor lived in the colonel house for 8 years: he was allocated a room that opened to the street. He practised from his room and ate after the household finished eating. He never paid any dues to his room or the food he ate and waited  Saturday for the maid to come a clean up his filthy room.

The doctor got even more recluse when the company sanitary services robbed him of his clients.

There was a period when he decided to get out on evenings, trying his best to look presentable and smelling of cheap cologne. He sat outside the barber shop. Was he trying to find a hapless girl to marry and follow the trail of the company? Possibly, the doctor must have experienced before the hojarasas phenomenon and was willing to undertake another exodus?

The doctor was unable to explain the complex disaster and calamities of that period to non-educated or cultured people, which also would open wide the reasons for multiple questions on his former life.

Actually, it is the doctor who pronounced the term hojarasas to the colonel, as the village flourished for a while and he expected the coming calamities when the company moves on to “greener pastures”

Meme’, the Indian girl, a guajira, who lived in the colonel household since childhood had secret sexual relationship with the doctor. She got pregnant once and the doctor helped her abort. She got pregnant again and this time she wanted to keep the child.

The colonel demanded explanation and the doctor had to move to the corner house with Meme’ in order to save the “honor” of the colonel, since they were not married. Did Meme’ gave birth? Probably not: the doctor had funded a shop for Meme’ and she was never seen holding a baby to feed for 4 years.

The doctor doesn’t lie, and doesn’t respond when he has to lie, kind of observing his right of the “fifth”. The doctor told the colonel that Meme’ had left him, 4 years after she barricaded herself with him in the small house. The municipality broke into his house and dug the garden, hoping to find the body of a “murdered” Meme’ and found nothing.

Militias had entered the village and many residents were injured. The residents deposited the injured in front of the doctor door, but he refused to open or tend to the injured. He said: “I know nothing anymore to care for them and it is no longer my business”.  I guess he was frank and didn’t want to get involved in anything or get in touch with the community.

The community decided not to bury him after he dies and when once they wanted to burn the house, El Cochorro intervened and calmly told them: “No one is to approach this house”.

The doctor finally hanged himself and only the colonel came and did the necessary arrangement to be bury the doctor. The colonel asked his daughter to join him, and the daughter brought along her 8 year-old son to the deceased house.

The colonel had promised the doctor to bury him when the doctor saved his life after he seriously fell and broke his leg. The doctor told him “you cannot bury me if you die before me”

Note 1: The Hojarasas is fraught with repetitions and redundancies. I doubt an 18 year old would use this style: Marquez must have edited his original to mark the repetitious tendency in conversations in Latin America literature, or mainly in Columbia

Note 2: The oldest main colonial powers were Spain, Portugal, then England, France and the USA. Later on Germany abused of the people in Namibia and East Africa, Belgium in the Congo (over 5 million were mutilated for not satisfying the daily quota of rubber collection off the trees), the Netherlands in Indonesia, Italy in Ethiopia and Libya, Japan in Korea and China, and Russia and China with their own citizens.

All these “prosperous” nations got their wealth on the blood, sweat and suffering of the indigenous people and their own downtrodden citizens.  The price of adopting the “Capitalism” system was pretty high for the poorer classes everywhere in the world. And communism refused to be left behind in cruelty and humiliation of its own citizens.


What made violent crime drop sharply in the last two decades?

Is Legalized abortion law the main factor in the decline in violent crimes?

In the first half of the century, incidence of violent crimes in the USA was fairly steady. Why?

Infantile mortality was very high due to lack of vaccination and treatments for curable diseases.  All those unwanted children from single parent families died prematurely. and the pool of potential criminals, living in poor and uneducated families and in poor neighborhoods was manageable.

By 1960, violent crime rate increased steadily, so did the economy and the employment rates.

During the period of the civil rights movement, in the 60′s and early 70′s, conviction rates declined, as were sentences duration for most of the crimes committed. Why?

Judges and political climate didn’t want to be labelled racist or believing in apartheid (fear of being viewed as racist and backward) since more crimes, proportionally, were committed by Blacks and Hispanics living in poor neighborhoods.

Between 1980-2000, the period witnessed a 15-fold increase in the number of convicts on drug charges, and sentence duration increased accordingly.

By 2000, the US prison system had more than 2 million convicts, a 4-fold increase as of 1972.  Mind you that a prisoner costs $25,000 per year to keep him behind bars and away from the streets…

As of early 1990, crime rates of all categories, especially violent crimes, started to decline sharply and steadily. Criminology experts had warned that crime epidemics will get out of control, and they needed so time to realize that it was the opposite trend that was taking its steady course.

Between 1991 and 2001, crime experts extended many explanations for this aberrant trend of crime decline. Here are a few of the explanations with frequency of citations in the media:

1. Innovative policing strategies:  52 citations

2. Increased reliance on prison: 47

3. Changes in crack and other drug markets: 33

4. Aging population: 32

5. Tougher gun-control laws: 32

6. Strong economy: 28

7. Increased number of police force: 26

8. Increase use of capital punishment: 24

9. Concealed-weapon laws

10. Gun buybacks policies…

Only 3 of the above 10 explanations had significant effects on crime decline, mainly factors 2, 3, and 7.

There are strong correlation, if not causative explanation, among the trends of increased reliance on prison, prison duration, increase conviction rates and the number of law and order effective in order to round-up, capture, process, and prosecute criminals.

Consequently, it can be said that the increase in police forces was associated with a political policy of increasing conviction rates and expanding the prison system. These factors accounted for almost one-third of the crime drop.

In that period, cocaine and heroine prices dropped, and it was no longer worth sacrificing years in prison for small returns on crimes…

The main factor that was behind the decline and accounted for two-third was never mentioned or even contemplated.

This factor needed about 17 years of incubation (gestation) before it generated its powerful effect, and it is the legalized abortion law that took effect in 1973 in all US States.

A few large cities in States such as New York, Illinois, California… that had legal abortion laws before 1973, all had witnessed decline in crime rates before all other States.

All those unwanted children, born from single mothers or living in single families in poor neighborhoods and uneducated parents, were not born and had not to be raised to emulate their predecessors, as highly potential criminals in the waiting and the making.

That is what the analysis of Steven Levitt showed from torturing huge data-bases on the subject. Read Freakonomics.

Hezbollah of Lebanon: Alternatives and facts

د. لبيب قمحاوي Labib Kem7awi posted on Fb a section of his book

حزب الله: الحقيقة والخيارات

بقلم : د. لبيب قمحاوي

بغض النظر عن رأي البعض في ماهية حزب الله كإطار سياسي نضالي ذا صبغة دينية ، وبغض النظر أيضاً عن قبول البعض بمُسمَّى الحزب أو إعتراضهم عليه ، فإن محتوى وبرنامج الحزب ونهجه النضالي يبقى هو الأساس في تعريف الحزب وتصنيفه وتحديد هويته .

فإن حزب الله قد نجح في ترجمة ما ينادي به وفي تحويله من أقوال إلى أفعال ، وهو بذلك قد إكتسب مصداقية عجز الآخرون عن مقاربتها أو حتى على الحصول على جزء منها خصوصاً في زمن لم يشهد فيه العرب سوى إنهياراً تلو إنهيار .

من الخطأ التعامل مع حزب الله أو ما يتعلق بحزب الله بإعتباره شأناً لبنانياً محلياً ، فالأمر أكبر من ذلك وأهم بكثير . وسياسات الحزب المحلية أصبحت مرتبطة في معظمها بحماية وجوده في هذه الحاضنة اللبنانية ، أكثر منها رغبة في اقتسام كعكة السياسية اللبنانية أو الإنغماس في صغائر أمور السياسة المحلية .

برنامج حزب الله أكبر من لبنان ، وهو الوطن العربي العزيز والغالي ، ودور حزب الله الإقليمي في الظروف الحالية أكبر وأخطر وأكثر تأثيراً من دور الدولة اللبنانية التي تعاني من عوامل التفكيك الداخلي بما يكفي لإضعاف أي دولة وشَلّ مسارها .

لقد أصبح حزب الله جزأً من معادلة إقليمية مُعقَّدة تُشَكِّل في أبعادها السياسية نقطة وثوب إلى الأعلى عِوضاً عن الإنهيارات التي تعج بها أوساط وثنايا أنظمة الحكم والدول في الوطن العربي .

فحزب الله يمتلك رؤيا سياسية تعكس قناعات راسخة تكاد تقترب في قوة الإلتزام بها من الأيدويولوجيات المتشددة التي حكمت مسار العديد من الأحزاب والدول في القرن الماضي . وهذه الرؤيا ترتبط بشكل رئيسي بالقضية الفلسطينية والإحتلال الإسرائيلي وأطماعه الإقليمية .

يتعرض حزب الله منذ فترة طويلة لمسلسل من المؤامرات التي تستهدف القضاء عليه أو إضعافه إلى الحد الذي قد يُفقده التأثير على مجرى الأحداث المحلية والإقليمية .

وهذه المؤامرات قد أخذت أشكالاً سياسية وعسكرية وإقتصادية مختلفة . ويبدو أن نجاح حزب الله في تجاوز كل أشكال التآمر تلك قد حصر الخيارات أمام إسرائيل ومِن خلفها أمريكا وبعض العرب بالخيار العسكري . وخطورة هذا الخيار تكمن في أبعاده الإقليمية كونه سوف يشمل في آثاره أكثر من دولة ، وسوف يؤثر بشكل مباشر على موازين القوى الإقليمية السائدة .

تزداد خطورة الخيار العسكري نتيجة لإفتقاد أي طرف للقدرة على السيطرة منفرداً على مسار ذلك الخيار أو نتائجه إذا ما إبتدأ فعلاً .

ولكن من الواضح أن الخيارات المختلفة ضمن البعد العسكري سوف تكون خيارات صعبة ومُدمرة في نتائجها على كافة الأطراف . وهذا يعني وجود حالة من الردع النسبي المتَبادَل بين إسرائيل والسعودية وحلفاءهم من جهة وحزب الله وإيران وحلفائهم من جهة أخرى، خصوصا بعد فشل أمريكا والسعودية في حسم الوضع السوري لصالحهم .

حزب الله لا يسعى بالتأكيد إلى حرب إنتحارية بقدر ما يسعى إلى فرض ضوابط على جموح القوة العسكرية الإسرائيلية المتفوقة وإلى الحد الذي يسمح لها بالعربدة العسكرية في أي سماء عربي تختاره دون أن تحسب حساب أحد .

وحزب الله يسعى بذلك إلى تعبئة الفراغ الكبير الذي خلقه تدمير العراق وسوريا وعزوف الأنظمة العربية حتى عن التلويح بإمكانية الصدام مع إسرائيل فيما لو تجاوزت حدودها في انتهاك السيادة أو الحقوق العربية . وهذا المسار يسعى إلى فرض ما يسمى باللغة العسكرية ” ردعاً ” حتى ولو كان نسبياً ، للتفوق العسكري الإسرائيلي والضعف والإستسلام العربي الذي وصل إلى حد إستجداء القبول والرضا الإسرائيلي .

لقد إستجلب هذا الموقف عداء أمريكا المتزايد لحزب الله ومغالاتها في استعمال آليات الحصار الإقتصادي من جهة والتصنيف الإرهابي من جهة أخرى كوسائل لإنهاك الحزب لصالح إسرائيل .

وتُشارك بعض الأنظمة العربية أمريكا وإسرائيل عداءَهما لحزب الله سواء بالسر أو بالعلن وتحت عناوين ويافطات مختلفة تسمح بإلتقاء مصالح تلك الأنظمة بمصالح أمريكا وإسرائيل في عدائهما لحزب الله وإيران.

ما نحن بصدده لا يهدف إلى إيلاء حزب الله دعماً لا يستحقه بقدر ما يهدف إلى الإقتراب من الحقيقة بأوضح ما يمكن خصوصاً وأن مسار الأمور يشير إلى قرب شن حرب إسرائيلية في الظاهر وإسرائيلية – أمريكية – عربية في الباطن لتدمير حزب الله ومن ورائِه فلسفة المقاومة للإحتلال الإسرائيلي لفلسطين العربية. فالعدوان على حزب الله يهدف من المنظور الإسرائيلي إلى القضاء على نهج المقاومة بغض النظر عن الملابسات التي تحيط بعلاقة حزب الله مع إيران،

وإستعمال تلك العلاقة كعذر لبعض الدول العربية للتطبيع مع إسرائيل بل والتحالف معها في حرب لا يؤمن أحداً بوجاهتها أو بمنطقيتها من منظور المصالح العربية .

لقد نَقلَ سلاح الصواريخ طبيعة الصراع العسكري القادم مع إسرائيل إلى مستويات وآفاق جديدة لم تعهدها المنطقة من قبل . والتفوق العسكري الإسرائيلي أصبح الآن على المحك بعد أن تمكن حزب الله من إمتلاك مخزون ضخم من الصواريخ المختلفة في مداها وقوتها تجاوز في مجموعه 130 ألف صاروخ، والأهم أنه تمكن من الإحتفاظ بهذا المخزون سالماً معافاً .

ولكن ما الذي تغير وجعل خطر الحرب يلوح الآن في الأفق مع أن إمتلاك حزب الله للصواريخ ليس بأمر جديد؟

لقد فشلت كافة المساعي والضغوطات في إضعاف حزب الله أو كسر عقيدته السياسية وإرادة الصمود والتحدي لديه أو في تدمير مخزونه من العتاد العسكري والصواريخ . وفي هذه الأثناء تمكن حزب الله وبمساعدة ملحوظة من إيران من تطوير مخزونه الصاروخي من صواريخ تقليدية إلى صواريخ ذكية ( Smart ) مما يعني دقة أعلى في إصابة الهدف وقدرة تدمير أكثر كفاءة .

وبالرغم من المحاولات الإسرائيلية المتعددة لضرب مواقع التعديل تلك في سوريا ، إلا أن حزب الله نجح في نقل تلك المواقع وإستمر في تعزيز قدرة صواريخه التقليدية وتحويلها إلى صواريخ ذكية ، الأمر الذي شَكَّل بالنسبة لإسرائيل تجاوزاً على الخط الأحمر كما تراه .

من أهم الأسباب وراء إحجام إسرائيل عن ضرب حزب الله حتى الآن هو قناعتها بأن مثل تلك العملية ستؤدي إلى خسائر بشرية إسرائيلية كبيرة ، وإلى تدمير أهدافٍ إستراتيجية ومدنية عديدة في الكيان الإسرائيلي .

صحيح أن إسرائيل سوف تستعمل أقصى ما لديها من قوة عسكرية ودعم أمريكي لضرب حزب الله وتدمير قواعده في لبنان ، إلا أنها نفسها سوف تتعرض لحجم هائل من الدمار الصاروخي وربما إحتلال بعض المناطق المتاخمة للحدود في الجنوب اللبناني وهو أمر قد تكون له آثار ضخمة على الروح المعنوية الإسرائيلية بغض النظر عن طول فترة ذلك الإحتلال ، وهنا مربط الفرس .

إسرائيل تبحث عن طرق ووسائل مضمونة لتخفيف آثار الدمار المتوقع عليها من صواريخ حزب الله ، وإلى أن تصل إلى نتيجة مرضية ومقبولة فإنها سوف تفكر ملياً قبل أن تُقْدِم على شن حربها على حزب الله .

الحرب الإسرائيلية المقبلة على حزب الله قد تكون المرة الأولى التي سيتعرض فيها جسم الدولة الإسرائيلية وسكانها إلى القصف المباشر والمؤثر ، وهو بالتالي سيكون قراراً خطيراً بالنسبة لأي حكومة إسرائيلية كونه قد يؤدي إلى إغضاب الرأي العام الإسرائيلي إذا كانت الخسائر المادية والبشرية كبيرة والأسباب لم تكن مقنعة والنتائج غير مرضية . الخيارات ستكون صعبة بالنسبة لكل الأطراف والنتائج قد تكون مُدَمِرَّة على الجميع وإن بدرجات متفاوته .

لقد أصبحت روسيا الآن لاعب أساسي ومباشر في الشرق الأوسط ، ولها مصالح في سوريا مُعتَرف بها من قبل أمريكا والعالم ولها حق الدفاع عنها . وفي ظل التواجد المادي لحزب الله وإيران على الأراضي السورية ،

فإن إسرائيل تسعى الآن إلى التوصل إلى تفاهم أو صفقة مع روسيا تسمح لها بضرب قواعد ومخازن حزب الله وإيران في سوريا . وروسيا ، بالرغم من علاقاتها الخاصة مع إسرائيل ، إلا أنها لن تسمح بزعزة الإستقرار في سوريا خصوصاً إستقرار النظام . وهذا الموضوع خطير بالنسبة للمخططين العسكريين الإسرائيليين الذين لا يريدون أن يكون لدى حزب الله مَنفذ سوري للتخلص من الضغط العسكري الإسرائيلي على لبنان في حال شنت إسرائيل حربها المتوقعة ضد حزب الله ،

ناهيك عن أن الروس لا يريدون إرتكاب الخطأ الأمريكي بالتورط في مستنقع نزاعات الشرق الأوسط خصوصاً العسكرية منها ، كما أن الإسرائيليين لا يريدون إستثارة الغضب الروسي لأن ذلك قد يُقَلِّص بالنتيجة خيارات إسرائيل العسكرية .

من الواضح أن الروس لا يوافقون على الإنتهاك الإسرائيلي الأهوج للأجواء السورية ، مما حصر بالتالي مصدر الضربات الإسرائيلية لقواعد حزب الله في سوريا إما بالبحر أو بالأجواء اللبنانية المجاورة . وهذا الوضع قد لا يُمكِّن إسرائيل من توجيه ضربات قاتلة لحزب الله مقارنة بحجم الدمار الذي يمكن لصواريخ ذلك الحزب أن تلحقه بالإسرائيليين في حال نشوب حرب .

الإقليم إذاً في طريقه إلى مواجهات عسكرية حيث لا يمكن حسم ما هو مُخطط له إسرائيلياً وأمريكياً ضد حزب الله إلا من خلال الحرب .

وفشل مؤتمر وارسو قد أضعف خيار تدويل الحرب على حزب الله وإيران وأعاده إلى المربَّع الأول الإسرائيلي – الأمريكي – السعودي .

وحزب الله ، وإن كان يُشكل خط الدفاع الأول ضد ذلك المخطط كونه هو المقصود أصلا ، إلا أنه وضمن المعطيات السائدة ، قد يكون أيضاً خط الدفاع الأخير خصوصاً في ظل غياب جبهة فلسطينية فاعلة ومؤثرة على مجرى الأمور .

ان الحفاظ على حزب الله وعافيته ، والتخلص من السلطة الفلسطينية ومسارها الانهزامي ، هما طرفي المعادلة اللازمة لإنجاح أي مسعى حقيقي للحفاظ على مصالح الأمة العربية وعلى قدرتها على مقاومة الوجود الصهيوني على أرض فلسطين .

2019 / 03 / 03





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