Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘George Orwell

Tidbits and comments. Part 401

James Hamblin asks why millions of people are so eager to celebrate fake holidays created by corporations (Like National Fajita Day, National Cheese Toast Day) , and tries to register a day of his own.

Israel conducted a major suicide drone attack on Lebanon in Hezbollah Da7iyat stronghold. The two drones were to detonate, one after another, to insure success of the operation. Israel Natanyaho, trailing in the pole for September election, wished a major propaganda result, as Obama did with assassination of Ben Laden in Pakistan.

The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power. Of course, the main reason he has those qualities in the first place is what he is, not what he has achieved.

Lebanon State survival, so far, is due to its extreme fragility, in its social fabrics. No colonial powers or emerging countries can dominate this semi-state by any means. Same for its internal organizations.

Over 90 Amazon tribes have disappeared in the last century. This current gigantic fire is meant to eradicate the remnant tribes, barely numbered in 100,000 individuals.

If the Amazon burning is meant to transfer the aborigine tribes to make space for US multinational agribusinesses, would I burning my ugly garden make any difference?

Last century, Brazil constructed 5,000 km route in the Amazon to clear the space for the white settlers. Quickly, this route was transformed into a mud river at the first torrential rain.

Currently, war battles are in pictures and videos. As for the sound, it is a reserved right for the people close to the battle fields.

Vigilantes without weapons are the rage in England, Scandinavian States and Germany. The risk is to be transformed into a militia mentality and imposing own judgmental rules and laws

Are there any meaningful purposes for people to accept sweatshop jobs other than basic economic necessities? George Orwell in his “Down and out in Paris and London” tried to explain why people insist on working long hours, over 17 hours, everyday in mines and as plunger “plongeur” in hotels and restaurants.

A lawsuit filed earlier this week in the US shows it in chilling detail: The dehumanization of asylum seekers and migrants is routine in detention camps—and it doesn’t spare children. According to these children, guards shout at and threaten toddlers and babies; there is often not enough to eat, and clean water is harshly rationed.

Children are crammed in sleeping areas too small for everyone to lie down, without blankets, in cold rooms where lights blare 24 hours a day, and frequent check-ins interrupt what little sleep they manage. Girls receive one sanitary pad per day during their periods, left to bleed through their pants and wear soiled clothes.

This suffering of refugee children, in camps and on seas, cannot be blamed on politics alone. There’s a silent majority that is allowing it to continue—not protesting, not calling our representatives, not taking to the streets. Hundreds of millions of us who keep going about our days as if children weren’t being treated as less than humans in our own countries. There’s a word for this: complicity. —Annalisa Merelli and Annaliese Griffin

Invisible ink stamps could fix Japan’s subway groping. The “anti-groping” stamps—which allow victims to secretly mark their assailants—sold out in minutes.

The US Space Command gets off the ground. Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence will attend a White House ceremony marking the launch of SPACECOM, the first new armed forces branch in a decade. But the command, intended to boost US military capabilities in space, has yet to decide on the location of its headquarters.

China’s investment in Africa over the past two decades has been both unprecedented and unparalleled.

Were you born in a poor neighborhood? The Laws of the Land were tailor-made to accuse you of behaving like a potential criminal

A few criminologists went as far as labeling the tramp an atavist in the nomadic stage of humanity.

This prejudice of “Serve them damned well” attitude is no fairer than it would be towards cripples or invalids. If tramps were indeed criminals then the hundreds of them would not be served by only 3 persons in each lodging-houses.

The first plague of tramps is malnutrition and this lack of energy spent on walking miles to the next lodging-house is basically set by law, very much like driving to the left in England; the law prevents tramps to sleeping more than a night at a lodging-house for the duration of a whole month.

This law was meant to encourage vagrancy away from London and keeping constantly the tramps on the move.

It is interesting that lodging-houses purposely dump the leftover of edible food so that tramps just keep on their hunger and their ration of tea and four slices of bread and margarine.

Tramps barely can get a good night sleep because the beds are not comfortable, the blanket dirty and thin against the cold and the dormitories holding several dozens of tramps have a high rate of sick people coughing and with bladder problems.

The second great evil of a tramp’s life is being cut off from contact with women: their lack of sexual encounter with females and this forced abstinence encourages homosexuality and the feeling of degradation to the rank of a cripple or a lunatic.

No humiliation could do more damage to a man’s self-respect than being considered too low in society classes to be a viable husband or boyfriend.

The third great evil is enforced idleness.

The British vagrancy law of the thirties arranges that when the tramp is not walking the road to the next lodging-house he is to sit still in cells; or, in the intervals, lying on the ground waiting for the casual ward to open and set him free to walk again.

The average tramp has no clothes but what he stands up in, wear boots that are ill-fitting, and does not sit in a chair for months (because chairs are not available in lodging-houses or in any public place in London)

Orwell suggested farm houses to be cultivated by the tramps while living in lodging-houses but the ideology of the time would not encourage socialism or Bolshevik economy and the government preferred that its lowest class of tramps suffer physically and spiritually rather than offering comfort and remedies to their plight.

There are rules to the freedom of tramps that differ between Paris and London:

In London tramps are not allowed to sleep in the underground train stations, or even sit on pavement or beg; tramps have to fake that they are selling something.  In Paris tramps have wider latitudes and can sleep and spend their time in public parks and sleep in the metro and beg overtly.

George Orwell ends his manuscript with what he learned from these months living as a true tramp in London and Paris

I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels (since they can’t purchase drinks), nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy (living on just tea and two slices of bread and margarine), nor subscribe to the Salvation Army (since they treat the hosted tramps as prisoners), nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill (so that the distributor of handbill can finish his job early), nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant.  That is a beginning.

“There’s just no end to it once the cycle (of poverty) starts. It just keeps accelerating.”says Robert Solomon of Yale Law School

“The viciousness of State officials to the poor and homeless is breathtaking, trapping them in a cycle of poverty.

A Florida woman wrote to tell me that, before reading it, she’d always been annoyed at the poor for what she saw as their self-inflicted obesity. Now she understood that a healthy diet wasn’t always an option.

And if I had a quarter for every person who’s told me, he or she now tipped more generously, I would be able to start my own foundation.

How to define poverty?

Three months after the book was published, the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC issued a report entitled “Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families”, which found an astounding 29% of American families living in what could be more reasonably defined as poverty, meaning that they earned less than a barebones budget covering housing, child care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes – though not, it should be noted, any entertainment, meals out, cable TV, Internet service, vacations, or holiday gifts..

I completed the manuscript for Nickel and Dimed in a time of seemingly boundless prosperity. Technology innovators and venture capitalists were acquiring sudden fortunes, buying up McMansions, like the ones I had cleaned in Maine and much larger. Even secretaries in some hi-tech firms were striking it rich with their stock options.

There was loose talk about a permanent conquest of the business cycle, and a sassy new spirit infecting American capitalism.

In San Francisco, a billboard for an e-trading firm proclaimed, “Make love not war,” and, down at the bottom, “Screw it, just make money.”

When the book Nickel and Dimed was published in May 2001, cracks were appearing in the dot-com bubble and the stock market had begun to falter, but the book still evidently came as a surprise, even a revelation, to many.

In that first year or two after publication, people came up to me and opened with the words, “I never thought …” or “I hadn’t realised …”

To my own amazement, Nickel and Dime quickly ascended to the bestseller list and began winning awards. Criticisms have accumulated over the years. But for the most part, the book has been far better received than I could have imagined it would be, with an impact extending well into the more comfortable classes.

Even more gratifying to me, the book has been widely read among low-wage workers.

In the last few years, hundreds of people have written to tell me their stories: the mother of a newborn infant whose electricity had just been turned off, the woman who had just been given a diagnosis of cancer and has no health insurance, the newly homeless man who writes from a library computer.

At the time I wrote Nickel and Dimed, I wasn’t sure how many people it directly applied to – only that the official definition of poverty was way off the mark, since it defined an individual earning $7 an hour, as I did on average, as well out of poverty.

29% is a minority, but not a reassuringly small one, and other studies in the early 2000s came up with similar figures.

The big question, 10 years later, is whether things have improved or worsened for those in the bottom third of the income distribution.

For example, the people who clean hotel rooms, work in warehouses, wash dishes in restaurants, care for the very young and very old, and keep the shelves stocked in our stores.

The short answer is that things have gotten much worse, especially since the economic downturn that began in 2008.

Post-meltdown poverty

While I was researching my book the  hardships encountered– the skipped meals, the lack of medical care, the occasional need to sleep in cars or vans –Mind you that those occurred in the best of times. The economy was growing, and jobs, if poorly paid, were at least plentiful.

In 2000, I had been able to walk into a number of jobs pretty much off the street.

Less than a decade later, many of these jobs had disappeared and there was stiff competition for those that remained. It would have been impossible to repeat my Nickel and Dimed “experiment”, had I had been so inclined, because I would probably never have found a job.

For the last couple of years, I have attempted to find out what was happening to the working poor in a declining economy – this time using conventional reporting techniques like interviewing. I started with my own extended family, which includes plenty of people without jobs or health insurance, and moved on to trying to track down a couple of the people I had met while working on Nickel and Dimed.

This wasn’t easy, because most of the addresses and phone numbers I had taken away with me had proved to be inoperative within a few months, probably due to moves and suspensions of telephone service.

I had kept in touch with “Melissa” over the years, who was still working at Wal-Mart, where her wages had risen from $7 to $10 an hour, but in the meantime, her husband had lost his job.

Caroline, now in her 50s and partly disabled by diabetes and heart disease, had left her deadbeat husband and was subsisting on occasional cleaning and catering jobs. Neither seemed unduly afflicted by the recession, but only because they had already been living in what amounts to a permanent economic depression.

Media attention has focused, understandably enough, on the “nouveau poor” – formerly middle and even upper-middle class people who lost their jobs, their homes, and/or their investments in the financial crisis of 2008 and the economic downturn that followed it, but the brunt of the recession has been borne by the blue-collar working class, which had already been sliding downwards since de-industrialisation began in the 1980s.

In 2008 and 2009, for example, blue-collar unemployment was increasing three times as fast as white-collar unemployment, and African American and Latino workers were 3 times as likely to be unemployed as white workers.

Low-wage blue-collar workers, like the people I worked with in this book, were especially hard hit for the simple reason that they had so few assets and savings to fall back on as jobs disappeared.

How have the already-poor attempted to cope with their worsening economic situation?

One obvious way is to cut back on health care.

The New York Times reported in 2009 that one-third of Americans could no longer afford to comply with their prescriptions and that there had been a sizable drop in the use of medical care. Others, including members of my extended family, have given up their health insurance.

Food is another expenditure that has proved vulnerable to hard times, with the rural poor turning increasingly to “food auctions“, which offer items that may be past their sell-by dates.

And for those who like their meat fresh, there’s the option of urban hunting.

In Racine, Wisconsin, a 51-year-old laid-off mechanic told me he was supplementing his diet by “shooting squirrels and rabbits and eating them stewed, baked and grilled”.

In Detroit, where the wildlife population has mounted as the human population ebbs, a retired truck driver was doing a brisk business in raccoon carcasses, which he recommends marinating with vinegar and spices.

The most common coping strategy, though, is simply to increase the number of paying people per square foot of dwelling space – by doubling up or renting to couch-surfers.

It’s hard to get firm numbers on overcrowding, because no one likes to acknowledge it to census-takers, journalists, or anyone else who might be remotely connected to the authorities.

In Los Angeles, housing expert Peter Dreier says that “people who’ve lost their jobs, or at least their second jobs, cope by doubling or tripling up in overcrowded apartments, or by paying even 70% of their incomes in rent“.

According to a community organiser in Alexandria, Virginia, the standard apartment in a complex occupied largely by day labourers has two bedrooms, each containing an entire family of up to five people, plus an additional person laying claim to the couch.

No one could call suicide a “coping strategy”, but it is one way some people have responded to job loss and debt.

There are no national statistics linking suicide to economic hard times, but the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported more than a four-fold increase in call volume between 2007 and 2009, and regions with particularly high unemployment, such as Elkhart, Indiana, have seen troubling spikes in their suicide rates. Foreclosure is often the trigger for suicide – or, worse, murder-suicides that destroy entire families.

“Torture and Abuse of Needy Families”: TANF, or Temporary Assistance to Needy  Families

We do of course have a collective way of ameliorating the hardships of individuals and families – a government safety net that is meant to save the poor from spiralling down all the way to destitution.

But its response to the economic emergency of the last few years has been spotty at best. The food stamp program has responded to the crisis fairly well, to the point where it now reaches about 37 million people, up about 30% from pre-recession levels. Welfare – the traditional last resort for the down-and-out until it was “reformed” in 1996 – only expanded by about 6% in the first two years of the recession.

What’s the difference between the two programs, Food stamp program and Welfare ?

There is a right to food stamps. You go to the office and, if you meet the statutory definition of need, they help you. For welfare, the street-level bureaucrats can, pretty much at their own discretion, just say no.

Take the case of Kristen and Joe Parente, Delaware residents who had always imagined that people turned to the government for help only if “they didn’t want to work”. Their troubles began well before the recession, when Joe, a fourth-generation pipe-fitter, sustained a back injury that left him unfit for even light lifting.

He fell into a profound depression for several months, then rallied to ace a state-sponsored retraining course in computer repairs – only to find that those skills are no longer in demand. The obvious fallback was disability benefits, but – catch-22 – when Joe applied he was told he could not qualify without presenting a recent MRI scan. This would cost $800 to $900, which the Parentes do not have; nor has Joe, unlike the rest of the family, been able to qualify for Medicaid.

When they married as teenagers, the plan had been for Kristen to stay home with the children. But with Joe out of action and three children to support by the middle of this decade, Kristen went out and got waitressing jobs, ending up, in 2008, in a “pretty fancy place on the water”. Then the recession struck and she was laid off.

Kristen is bright, pretty, and to judge from her command of her own small kitchen, probably capable of holding down a dozen tables with precision and grace. In the past she’d always been able to land a new job within days; now there was nothing.

Like 44% of laid-off people at the time, Kristen failed to meet the fiendishly complex and sometimes arbitrary eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits. Their car started falling apart.

So the Parentes turned to what remains of welfare – TANF, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

TANF does not offer straightforward cash support like Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which it replaced in 1996. It’s an income supplementation program for working parents, and it was based on the sunny assumption that there would always be plenty of jobs for those enterprising enough to get them.

After Kristen applied, nothing happened for six weeks – no money, no phone calls returned. At school, the Parentes’ seven-year-old’s class was asked to write out what wish they would present to a genie, should a genie appear.

Brianna’s wish was for her mother to find a job because there was nothing to eat in the house, an aspiration that her teacher deemed too disturbing to be posted on the wall with the other children’s requests.

When the Parentes finally got into “the system” and began receiving food stamps and some cash assistance, they discovered why some recipients have taken to calling TANF “Torture and Abuse of Needy Families.”

From the start, the TANF experience was “humiliating”, Kristen says. The caseworkers “treat you like a bum. They act like every dollar you get is coming out of their own paychecks”.

The Parentes discovered that they were each expected to apply for 40 jobs a week, although their car was on its last legs and no money was offered for gas, tolls, or babysitting. In addition, Kristen had to drive 35 miles a day to attend “job readiness” classes offered by a private company called Arbor, which, she says, were “frankly a joke”.

Nationally, according to Kaaryn Gustafson of the University of Connecticut Law School, “applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police“. There may be a mug shot, fingerprinting, and lengthy interrogations as to one’s children’s true paternity. The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime.

How the safety net became a dragnet

The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalised in America.

Perhaps the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation.

Most cities, for example, have ordinances designed to drive the destitute off the streets by outlawing such necessary activities of daily life as sitting, loitering, sleeping, or lying down. )It is the same tactics at every generation).

Urban officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about such laws: “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a St Petersburg, Florida, city attorney stated in June 2009, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.”

In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalisation of poverty has actually intensified as the weakened economy generates ever more poverty. So concludes a recent study from the National Law Centre on Poverty and Homelessness, which finds that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with the harassment of the poor for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering, or carrying an open container.

The report lists America’s 10 “meanest” cities – the largest of which include Los Angeles, Atlanta and Orlando – but new contestants are springing up every day. In Colorado, Grand Junction’s city council is considering a ban on begging; Tempe, Arizona, carried out a four-day crackdown on the indigent at the end of June.

And how do you know when someone is indigent? As a Las Vegas statute puts it, “an indigent person is a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance.

That could be me before the blow-drying and eyeliner, and it’s definitely Al Szekeley at any time of day. A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington DC – the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Phu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972.

He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants.

It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one – for “criminal trespassing“, as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

The viciousness of the official animus toward the indigent can be breathtaking.

A few years ago, a group called Food Not Bombs started handing out free vegan food to hungry people in public parks around the nation. A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places, leading to the arrests of several middle-aged white vegans.

One anti-sharing law was just overturned in Orlando, but the war on illicit generosity continues.

Orlando is appealing the decision, and Middletown, Connecticut, is in the midst of a crackdown. More recently, Gainesville, Florida, began enforcing a rule limiting the number of meals that soup kitchens may serve to 130 people in one day, and Phoenix, Arizona, has been using zoning laws to stop a local church from serving breakfast to homeless people.

For the not-yet-homeless, there are two main paths to criminalisation, and one is debt.

Anyone can fall into debt, and although we pride ourselves on the abolition of debtors’ prison, in at least one state, Texas, people who can’t pay fines for things like expired inspection stickers may be made to “sit out their tickets” in jail.

More commonly, the path to prison begins when one of your creditors has a court summons issued for you, which you fail to honour for one reason or another, such as that your address has changed and you never received it. OK, now you’re in “contempt of the court“.

Or suppose you miss a payment and your car insurance lapses, and then you’re stopped for something like a broken headlight (about $130 for the bulb alone). Now, depending on the state, you may have your car impounded and/or face a steep fine – again, exposing you to a possible court summons. “There’s just no end to it once the cycle starts,” says Robert Solomon of Yale Law School. “It just keeps accelerating.”

The second – and by far the most reliable – way to be criminalised by poverty is to have the wrong colour skin.

Indignation runs high when a celebrity professor succumbs to racial profiling, but whole communities are effectively “profiled” for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor. Flick a cigarette and you’re “littering”; wear the wrong colour T-shirt and you’re displaying gang allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighbourhood can mark you as a potential suspect. And don’t get grumpy about it or you could be “resisting arrest“.

In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement.

Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalise people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of colour, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks.

And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too.

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world.

Today, exactly the same number of Americans – 2.3 million – reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.

It is not clear whether economic hard times will finally force us to break the mad cycle of poverty and punishment.

With even the official level of poverty increasing – to over 14% in 2010 – some states are beginning to ease up on the criminalisation of poverty, using alternative sentencing methods, shortening probation, and reducing the number of people locked up for technical violations like missing court appointments.

But others, diabolically enough, are tightening the screws: not only increasing the number of “crimes”, but charging prisoners for their room and board, guaranteeing they’ll be released with potentially criminalising levels of debt.

So what is the solution to the poverty of so many of America’s working people?

Ten years ago, when Nickel and Dimed first came out, I often responded with the standard liberal wish list – a higher minimum wage, universal health care, affordable housing, good schools, reliable public transportation, and all the other things we, uniquely among the developed nations, have neglected to do.

Today, the answer seems both more modest and more challenging: if we want to reduce poverty, we have to stop doing the things that make people poor and keep them that way. Stop underpaying people for the jobs they do. Stop treating working people as potential criminals and let them have the right to organise for better wages and working conditions.

Stop the institutional harassment of those who turn to the government for help or find themselves destitute in the streets.

Maybe, as so many Americans seem to believe today, we can’t afford the kinds of public programs that would genuinely alleviate poverty – though I would argue otherwise. At least, we should decide, as a bare minimum principle, to stop kicking people when they’re down.” End of article

This article is hugely important to me.

If I wrote my diary it is mainly to recollect the miseries I experienced living in the USA for 20 years, to face the conditions, and have a closure.

I earned a PhD in Industrial engineering, but graduated in 1991, at the peak of a recession during Bush senior.

Worse, I had no residency to even hope for a decent job, since I had no relative for support or to back me up.

I recall periods of utter helplessness.  I was living in Kensington (Maryland) and people who knew me assumed I had AIDS or a terminal disease, simply because I looked it.  I spent my last $10 visiting a local dispensary to be told that I am suffering from malnutrition.

At least, I had a professional opinion that I have no terminal disease…I was not entitled to food stamp or welfare programs either (I think), otherwise I would have jumped to the occasion since I turned every stone for survival sake.

I returned to Lebanon: I would not die of hunger or in a ditch like a dog, or in the one room basement frequently flooded and humid

Note 1: George Orwell described this situation very accuretly in https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/down-and-out-in-paris-and-london-by-george-orwell/

Note 2:  You may read https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/no-mass-demonstrations-in-the-us-so-far-is-youth-in-the-us-practically-illiterate

Do you still believe “Future revolutions are for Liberty?”

Thomas Mann from “The Magical Mountain” (La Montagne magique). Photo from Littérature et Poésie‘s photo.« Je cherche à introduire un peu de logique dans notre conversation et vous me répondez par des phrases généreuses. Je ne laissais pas de savoir que la Renaissance avait mis au monde tout ce que l'on appelle libéralisme, individualisme, humanisme bourgeois. Mais tout cela me laisse froid, car la conquête, l'âge héroïque de votre idéal est depuis longtemps passé, cet idéal est mort, ou tout au moins il agonise, et ceux qui lui donneront le coup de grâce sont déjà devant la porte. Vous vous appelez, sauf erreur, un révolutionnaire. Mais si vous croyez que le résultat des révolutions futures sera la Liberté, vous vous trompez. Le principe de la Liberté s'est réalisé et s'est usé en cinq cents ans. Une pédagogie qui, aujourd'hui encore, se présente comme issue du Siècle des Lumières et qui voit ses moyens d'éducation dans la critique, dans l'affranchissement et le culte du Moi, dans la destruction de formes de vie ayant un caractère absolu, une telle pédagogie peut encore remporter des succès momentanés, mais son caractère périmé n'est pas douteux aux yeux de tous les esprits avertis. »</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Thomas Mann - La Montagne magique<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Traduction de Maurice Betz
“I’m trying to introduce a little logic in our conversation and the phrases of yours responses are generous.
You kept hammering on the idea that Renaissance has created what we call liberalism, individualism, bourgeois humanism…
All these notions leave me cold.
Because conquest, the heroic age of your ideal is long past.
This ideal is dead, or agonizing, and those giving the “coup de grace” are already in front of the door.
You call yourself a revolutionary.
If you believe that the future results of revolutions is Liberty, you are wrong.
The principle of liberty was realized and was used up in the last 500 years.
A pedagogy, even today, represented as taking roots from the Century of Lights, and which sees its educational means in the critics, in the disfranchisement and the cult of the Me, in the destruction of forms of life having an absolute character… this kind of pedagogy may win a few more momentary successes, but its archaic character is not to be doubted in the eyes of the forewarned spirits…”
George Orwell wrote:
Should there be any limits to freedom of speech?<br /> Visit http://www.AtheistRepublic.com/
Note: Translated from this French excerpt
« Je cherche à introduire un peu de logique dans notre conversation et vous me répondez par des phrases généreuses. Je ne laissais pas de savoir que la Renaissa…nce avait mis au monde tout ce que l’on appelle libéralisme, individualisme, humanisme bourgeois. Mais tout cela me laisse froid, car la conquête, l’âge héroïque de votre idéal est depuis longtemps passé, cet idéal est mort, ou tout au moins il agonise, et ceux qui lui donneront le coup de grâce sont déjà devant la porte. Vous vous appelez, sauf erreur, un révolutionnaire. Mais si vous croyez que le résultat des révolutions futures sera la Liberté, vous vous trompez. Le principe de la Liberté s’est réalisé et s’est usé en cinq cents ans. Une pédagogie qui, aujourd’hui encore, se présente comme issue du Siècle des Lumières et qui voit ses moyens d’éducation dans la critique, dans l’affranchissement et le culte du Moi, dans la destruction de formes de vie ayant un caractère absolu, une telle pédagogie peut encore remporter des succès momentanés, mais son caractère périmé n’est pas douteux aux yeux de tous les esprits avertis. »
Thomas Mann – La Montagne magique

 

Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right:

Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’?

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Charles McGrath and Siddhartha Deb debate which classic dystopian vision rings truest at the beginning of 2017: George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

By Charles McGrath

Was Orwell right after all? Not yet. Trump would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world.

Photo

Charles McGrath Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

A month ago I would have said that not only is “Brave New World” a livelier, more entertaining book than “1984,” it’s also a more prescient one.

Orwell didn’t really have much feel for the future, which to his mind was just another version of the present. His imagined London is merely a drabber, more joyless version of the city, still recovering from the Blitz, where he was living in the mid-1940s, just before beginning the novel. The main technological advancement there is the two-way telescreen, essentially an electronic peephole.

Huxley, on the other hand, writing almost two decades earlier than Orwell (his former Eton pupil, as it happened), foresaw a world that included space travel; private helicopters; genetically engineered test tube babies; enhanced birth control; an immensely popular drug that appears to combine the best features of Valium and Ecstasy; hormone-laced chewing gum that seems to work the way Viagra does; a full sensory entertainment system that outdoes IMAX; and maybe even breast implants. (The book is a little unclear on this point, but in “Brave New World” the highest compliment you can pay a woman is to call her “pneumatic.”)

Huxley was not entirely serious about this. He began “Brave New World” as a parody of H.G. Wells, whose writing he detested, and it remained a book that means to be as playful as it is prophetic.

And yet his novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea.

So was Orwell right after all? Well, not yet.

For one thing, the political system of “1984” is an exaggerated version of anticapitalist, Stalin-era Communism, and Trump’s philosophy is anything but that. He would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world, which is based on rampant consumerism and where hordes of genetically modified losers happily tend to the needs of the winners.

Huxley believed that his version of dystopia was the more plausible one.

In a 1949 letter, thanking Orwell for sending him a copy of “1984,” he wrote that he really didn’t think all that torture and jackbooting was necessary to subdue a population, and that he believed his own book offered a better solution. All you need to do, he said, is teach people to love their servitude.

The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want — which is basically sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and lulling them into complacency. (That’s exactly what the US has been offering its citizens in the last 50 years)

The system entails a certain Trump-like suspicion of science and dismissal of history, but that’s a price the inhabitants of Huxley’s world happily pay. They don’t mourn their lost liberty, the way Orwell’s Winston Smith does; they don’t even know it’s gone.

Charles McGrath was the editor of the Book Review from 1995 to 2004, and is now a contributing writer for The Times. Earlier he was the deputy editor and the head of the fiction department of The New Yorker. Besides The Times, he has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic and Outside. He is the editor of two golf books — “The Ultimate Golf Book” and “Golf Stories” — and is currently working on an edition of John O’Hara’s stories for the Library of America.

By Siddhartha Deb

Why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two evils choices of electoral politics?

Photo

Siddhartha Deb Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

There exists a comfortably predictable and, to my mind, uninspired approach to the dystopic novel and its powers of prognosis, a Pavlovian response that involves reaching for a copy of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” whenever extreme turbulence hits the West.

Together they make up a short reading list, if a rather familiar one, redolent of high school literature classes and expanding, if forced, to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

That’s it, we’re done — a brief tour in four books to dystopias where the individual’s sense of freedom is always under threat from the totalitarian state.

The last few months have been hard, no doubt, the news more distressing by the hour, but there is still something perversely groupthinkish in the fact that the impulse of resistance has homed in on the same book, and that a measure of opposition to the horrors of the Trump administration is the climb of “1984” to No. 1 on Amazon.

There is much in Orwell’s novel, in fact, that translates poorly into the contemporary moment. From its texture of material deprivation, the loosely packed cigarettes and boiled cabbages recalling wartime rationing in Britain, to its portrayal of Ingsoc, Big Brother and various Ministries (Truth, Peace, Love, Plenty), all of which assume control by a heavily centralized State, it is a work very much of the ’40s as experienced by an English intellectual.

In “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the American media critic Neil Postman in fact argued that Huxley’s novel was far more relevant than Orwell’s when it came to the United States, where the dominant mode of control over people was through entertainment, distraction, and superficial pleasure rather than through overt modes of policing and strict control over food supplies, at least when it came to managing the middle classes.

Three decades after Postman’s account, when we can add reality television, the internet and social media to the deadly amusements available, “Brave New World” can still seem strikingly relevant in its depiction of the relentless pursuit of pleasure.

From the use of soma as a kind of happiness drug to the erasure of the past not so much as a threat to government, as is the case in Orwell’s dystopia, but as simply irrelevant (“History is bunk”), Huxley marked out amusement and superficiality as the buttons that control

His relentless focus on the body, too, seems inspired, his understanding of what Michel Foucault identified as “biopolitics,” extending to the individual body as well as to entire populations and, in “Brave New World,” playing out as a eugenic system based on caste, class, race, looks and size.

As for his depiction of the “savage reservation” in New Mexico, this seems to foreshadow the fetishization of the natural on the part of one of the most artifice-ridden populations in the history of the world.

A great deal funnier, subtler and darker than Orwell’s book, Huxley’s satire nevertheless has its limitations.

A World State? Games of escalator squash? In any case, why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two-evils choices of electoral politics?

There are other powerful fictional dystopias that speak to the United States of today, including a significant portion of the oeuvre of Philip K. Dick and Octavia E. Butler.

There is J.G. Ballard’s hallucinatory Reagan-era “Hello America,” with a future United States that has many contending presidents, including President Manson, who plays nuclear roulette in Las Vegas.

Why not read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star” and Anna North’s “America Pacifica” and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” and Claire Vaye Watkins’s “Gold Fame Citrus” and Vanessa Veselka’s “Zazen” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife”?

If the world is going dark, we may as well read as much as possible before someone turns off the light.

The precursor of everything that a healthy and adventurous person can do in a short life: Jack London

I watched a documentary on Jack London, the precursor of what life should be for a healthy and adventurous person.

He was Not a wanted child and his mother tried to commit suicide when she was pregnant with him. He died at the age of 40 (1917) from renal failure: He was a heavy drinker (he is remembered in alcoholic anonymous session for saying “I can quit anytime I want”).  He suffered many ailments in his long sea trip in the Pacific Ocean, malaria, lack of vitamins, and the treatment on mercury products poisoned his blood. He and his second wife Charmaine had to shorten their round the world adventure and get treatment in Sidney.

During my 2 years stint in San Francisco and the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to read most of the books of the local authors: Jack London, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Kerouac, Burroughs, Mark Twain….

Jack London wrote many novels and articles: The Apostate on the life of poor children in the beginning of the 20th century (an autobiography too), Call of the Wild, White fang, East End of London during the depression in 1903 (an excellent precursor for what George Orwell will expand on in Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm… of the life of homeless and the life of miners. And many novels on his sea voyage.

He worked since the age of 14 to supplement his family needs in various menial jobs in the industry. He was such a hard worker that the owner dismissed 2 employees who earned $40 each and paid London only $30.

At 16, he traded with illegal products after purchasing a canoe for $300 lent by his half sister. With plenty of hard cash, he got addicted to spend nights in bars. London lead the life of the homeless who travelled about the USA on foot and cargo trains and was jailed a month for homelessness.

He joined the Socialist Party and was a leading voice and wrote many articles on the situation in the USA and harangued the people everywhere he was. He sided with the Russian uprising in 1905.

At the age of 20, he joined about 1,000 adventurers during the Gold Rush in Alaska and noticed that the loners eventually died and survival is by connecting and making friends.

On his first attempt to the deep sea, his schooner leaked badly and the crew of 6 had to land in Hawaii for repair and refurbishing jobs.  Jack had to learn on board how to navigate from books he had on the boat because the designated captain turned out to be Not knowledgeable in deep sea. London took to surfing while waiting for the boat to be ready. He was welcomed by the US expatriate as a hero.

He was dispatched in 1913 to cover the revolution in Mexico and he changed side by supporting the intervention of Big Brother to institute Law and order and aided the US oil companies. He was heavily criticized for lambasting the Mexican guerrillas as assassins and war mongers. He had to resign from the Socialist Party.

He was the first ecologically minded person in running his farm (no fertilizers) and even his animals were sheltered in stone houses (Pig Castle). He was the first who began producing long movies, 7 of them, before Hollywood existed.

Jack married twice and had 2 daughters from the first marriage: His first wife divorced him after he spent an entire year covering the Russian/Japanese war in 1905. The Japanese were about to execute him when President Roosevelt warned Japan that the USA might engage in the war if London is Not released.

The second wife Charmaine joined him in all his adventure and wrote diaries of the trip around the world in sea and published them. She lost two in childbirth. The documentary didn’t tell what happened to Charmaine after Jack’s death.

London acquired a Kodak 3 and took abundant pictures everywhere he went and joined them in his books: These pictures are a history of the end of the 20th century and all these aborigine people he met in Polynesia and the islands in the Pacific Ocean.

He visited the island where Melville spent a long time (there were 12,000 people and when London landed, only a dozen lived in the village). He visited the tomb of Stevenson, another famous adventure precursor.

His publisher MacMillan refused to publish a photo of his smiling wife next to a naked aborigine and Jack wrote to him: “This is my wife, this is my photo, get on with it” And the picture was published.

 

Why domestic animals revolted against their Masters?

The elderly and most clever pig Major summoned all the animals in the farm and delivered this speech:

” I had a longer life than I expected in this farm, and I dare say that I fathomed the nature of our animal life on earth.

Our lives on this farm are miserable, harshly laborious and extremely short. We are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies in order to be forced to work to the last atom of our strength.

At term, we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty.

No animal farm in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old.

Is this supposed to be the order of nature? No.

That the land cannot afford a decent life for us? No.

The soil is fertile and can feed many fold our number and we could live in far better comfort and dignity that are now beyond our imagining. Why is that?

The whole of our produce is stolen from us by human beings who consume without producing much of anything.

Mankind does not give milk, lay eggs, run fast enough to catch rabbits, not strong enough to pull the plough… Our dung fertilizes the soil, our labor tills the soil… And yet, He is the lord of all the animals.

He set the animals to work for him, gives back the bare survival rations, and the rest he keeps for himself.

How many thousands gallons of milk have you the cows given last year? How much was left for you to breed up sturdy calves?

Milk, eggs, honey…have gone to market to bring in money to Master Jones and a few of his men helpers.

Where are the foals mare Clover you bore? Each one was sold at a year old.

Our miserable lives never reached their natural span and we barely escape the knife in the end.

You young porkers will scream your lives out at the block within a year.

Even the horses will end up fodder for the fox-hounds. Old dogs will be drowned with a brick tied round their necks.

All our evils spring from the tyranny of our real arch enemy Man.

Never believe that Man and animals have any common interests.

Never fall prey to the propaganda that prosperity comes from our cooperation with Man.

Get rid of Man and live longer.

Get rid of man and enjoy the plenty of everything and lots of rest.

My message to you is: Rebellion

Fix your eyes on the rebellion. Let the future generations carry on the struggle until it is victorious.

All farm animal species are comrades and united against our common enemy Man.

Now join me in this song:

“Rings shall vanish from our noses

And the harness from our backs

Bit and spur shall rust forever

Cruel whips no more shall crack

Purer shall England waters be

Clover, wheat, oat and hay

Barley, beans and mangel-wurzels

Shall be ours upon that day

Beast of England, beast of Ireland

Beast of every land and clime

Hearken well and spread my tidings

Of the golden future time.”

 

Note: Read “Animal Farm” of George Orwell

Animal Farm? Is Mankind about ready for a couple Animal Farm stories

Have you read or recall the Animal Farm of George Orwell?

Do you recognize the pig Squealers (the propagandist), the pig Napoleons (Stalin), the Snowballs (Trotsky), the pigs in our society, the watchdogs, the donkeys (Ben), the raven (Moses), the carthorse (Boxer), the pigeons… and the capabilities, limitations and functions in our midst?

The farm animals revolted against Master Jones.

The pigs are ruling the new community because of their superior knowledge and are assuming the running of the farm according to new system of equality among all.

Squealer is taking the podium:

“Comrades. You do not imagine that we pigs are drinking the milk and eating the apple harvest in a spirit of selfishness and privileged status. Many of us don’t even like milk or apples.

But milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well being of the pig brain to keep this farm well managed for all.

If we fail in our duty, master Jones would come back. Surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones back…”

Snowball is of the opinion of sending out more pigeons to stir up rebellions among animals on the other farms

Napoleon is adamant that priority is to procure arms and get military training and  (rounding up the counter-revolutionaries)

Snowball is driven into exile. Napoleon is the new dictator.

A goose came forward and confessed to having secreted a few ears of corn from the last harvest.

A sheep confessed to have urinated in the drinking pool…

The slogan inscribed on the barn read “All animals are equal” and a new qualifier was added “But some are more equal than others

The carthorse represents the good natured common people, particularly the peasants.

The raven points to the priesthood class: They disappear in hard times and return as times are better

The donkey is the intellectual who normally rejects fuss and demonstrations, but clearly see what’s going on…

The Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet communist system crumbled, but Animal farm suits all kinds of political systems and is applicable to all of them.

Orwell was well placed to observe and analyse how the communists during the long Stalin reign functioned. He enlisted with the Republicans during the Spanish 1936 civil war and wrote Homage to Catalonia (published in 1938).

During his stay in Spain, Orwell was totally frustrated how the communists (Stalinists) turned their coats to the leftist Spanish parties and did their best to disunite the various factions and participated in the disintegration of the popular front and the victory of the fascist Franco..

Stalin had signed the partition of Poland with Hitler and in return, Franco had to take over in Spain.

So far, I read 6 of Orwell’s publications and extensively reviewed two of them: Down and out in Paris… and 1984.

A few of the publication of this awesome author:

1. Burmese Days, 1934: Orwell enlisted with the British army in Burma before the WWII

2. A Clergyman’s Daughter 1935

3. Keep the Aspidistra Flying 191936

4. Coming up for Air 1939

5. Animal farm 1945

6. The Road to Wigan Pier 1937: He witnessed very closely the life of the miners and their families in Birmingham

7. Homage to Catalonia 1938

8. Inside the Whale 1940

9. The Lion and the Unicorn 1941

10. James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution 1946

11 Critical Essays 1946

12. Shooting an Elephant 1950

13. England your England 1953

14. Down and out in Paris and London 1933

15. 1984

Note: Down and Out  https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/down-and-out-in-paris-and-london-by-george-orwell/


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,376,979 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 720 other followers

%d bloggers like this: