RANDOMLY FROM THE RADICAL MARGIN : MEMORiZING BODY COUNTS, NORMALIZING INSANITY

2020 has ended swiftly, but there was no magical porthole through which we could saunter into this “new age of Aquarius”—into a land of sustenance without suffering, as the bell tolled ushering January 1, 2021. Many of us were fortunate to view the crossing of Saturn and Jupiter as they continued around the sun on their designated paths, unconcerned about our global destiny as we face this curse of a nature that is alive in its bounty but equally so in its cruelty. But, as a part of that nature what WE do to OUR species and to those others disappearing fast, is altogether a different matter.

As one from the generation of Bob Dylan and company, I have been thinking of the lyrics to his 1962 composition—“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. More poignantly so, because I still hold close to my heart the feeling I had when I heard Dylan singing that song live—back in 1965. Here we are again, facing 2021 with those words uncanny.

“…I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in the front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall…”

And again, “I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it” and “…guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,” and “I met a young woman whose body was burning”, but also, “… a young girl, she gave me a rainbow. Men “wounded in hatred”, also “wounded in love.” Well, listen to the whole song. There was something prophetic in there as the Vietnam War escalated back in our youth, and something prophetic now for the youth of today— growing up in the shadow of a fierce pandemic.

So, with that in mind, as examples of impermanence and uncertainty, once again I’ll note a few numbers that will keep us vigilant about what may or may not change in 2021. The good news is that notwithstanding blunders here and elsewhere, vaccines for Covid-19 are “rolling out” across the world. Pfizer, Moderna, and now Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines have been joined by those produced in China and Russia. (Other types originating in different countries are being tested too, speaking to unity against the pandemic.) The vaccinating process is getting progressively easier, and supervision by WHO and COVAX is critical in getting vaccines to the “poorer” population—--the global South—sooner than later. At the same time, vaccine hoarding continues blatantly and unfortunately for all of us. Reminder: NO ONE IS SAFE UNLESS EVERYONE IS SAFE.

The more immediate and tragic reminder is the unruly trajectory of the virus with its unpredictable virulence. As of this writing, the Johns Hopkins comparison numbers look this way. Fatality to case ratio: UK 3.0%, US 1.7%, India 1.4%. Deaths per 100,000 of population: UK 109.28, US 104.63, India 11.00. Covid-19 infections recorded in the US: 19,906,569. Deaths from Covid-19: 344,525. There’s absolutely no room for complacency, only an urgent need for informed defense—parallel to any solace brought by the vaccines. With this kind of numbers and no end in sight, Congress continues to remain desensitized to the needs of the American people. Bargaining with a coronavirus relief package, juggling with the $2000 stimulus check which McConnell calls “Socialism for the rich!” This from the head of the millionaires’ club—also known as the US Senate. And the inane, morbid, other-worldly denial of the November election continues, urged on by some of those rich Socialists! I’m waiting to see how they fare after January 20. And Oh yes, in case you missed it, our (and the rest of the world’s) billionaire class continues to accumulate wealth and capital while we continue live inside the existential threat of this Covid-19.

Then, there are those others who proclaim justice has been served as they return to uncivil society after being rescued by this POTUS. Pardons and clemencies constitute another example of our "exceptionalism" by which Vietnam era draft resisters and many two-bit hoods unfairly locked up forever, have found legal forgiveness via US Presidents. But so too nefarious mobsters, corrupt cronies, habitual warmongers, uncommon crooks and assassins. They may all sing together, “Pardon me! I’m no common criminal.” (Language is a mile marker in the Trump era.)

Of all the outlaws he has sprung in 2020, no one else compares with the Blackwater Four: Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard. These four “security guards” were serving long sentences—after protracted, hit or miss hearings and trial—for killing 14 civilians, including two children in Baghdad in 2007, a massacre that sparked an international outcry over the use of mercenaries in war. These four bandits were part of an armored convoy that opened fire indiscriminately with machine-guns, grenade launchers and a sniper on a crowd of unarmed people in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Slatten, who was the first to start shooting, was eventually convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life, while the other three were convicted of manslaughter and given sentences of 12 to 15 years.

Mohammad Kinani, whose nine-year old son Ali was the youngest to die in that massacre, describes how couldn’t believe at first that these pardons had been given by Trump. He could never rid himself of memories from that terrible event. He said, “Today he broke my life again. I lost my son and I feel I’m nothing.”

In this context, it is important to reflect on the development of a war machinery without the discernible, visible role of our military in combat. Toward the end of 2020, the US Navy decided to add hundreds of new warrant officer billets over the next decade to fly a carrier-based drone that can refuel other aircraft mid-flight.

Navy Recruiting Command will begin accepting applications in October for warrant officer candidates who want to fly the MQ-25 Stingray, the service's first aircraft carrier-based UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE. Officials say there will be 450 new warrant officer billets established over the next six to 10 years. THE WARRANT OFFICERS WILL BE TRAINED AS AERIAL VEHICLE OPERATORS, and will be awarded aerial vehicle operator wings once they complete their flight training, LIKE THOSE WORN BY PILOTS AND FLIGHT OFFICERS.

With this trend in mind, what will J’Biden do? Will our citizenry figure out that we are moving away from “messy” encounters where real humans may be accountable, to a clinical use of weapons where no one will peer into those billets?

A couple of reminders about 2020. That was the centenary year for American women getting the vote, and now we can talk about “suburban women” and “soccer moms” come election time. More importantly, about countless working women, often heads of households, very much in the news right now as frontline combatants against Covid-19, and also food and shelter givers. In all capacities, they remain victims of patriarchy, misogyny, economic disparity, but also champions all the way.

Also, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of America’s use of nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9—--uranium LITTLE BOY and plutonium FAT MAN. The only two nukes to have ever been used with purpose and diligence, on live human beings.

Thinking about this at the year’s end, in a world ravaged by Covid-19, it occurs to me how detached those names were and still are from normal human discourse. After all, how much damage could a sweet little boy or a languid fat man do?

Like every other year, I had listened to the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 2020, as they made their annual plea for an end to nuclear weapons. A few things come to mind now. On this anniversary, a couple of Hibakusha (survivor) women described the horror of their experience as children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Even in the year of a pandemic, one of them shook her head in the end and whispered, “I can never feel the war has ended”.

Some years ago, I had made a pilgrimage to Hiroshima, and this sentiment about an endless war is expressed in many ways in the Peace Museum, specially by those who were children in 1945. I am one of that generation as well, and I remember map-watching with grownups as I saw Hiroshima for the first time in print on the map of Japan, on the morning of August 6, 1945, a few hours after “detonation”. The adults in my life seemed to agree about a catastrophic event which exposed America’s genocidal global undertaking. For all the hue and cry about a Japanese adversary, the war had been over a month ago. I remember my grandfather saying something like that. He was a journalist—a newspaper editor.

At the end of this genocidal year, it is specially significant to remind ourselves how the then POTUS Harry Truman championed the “Atom Bomb” afterwards:

“BUT THE GREATEST MARVEL IS NOT THE SIZE OF THE ENTERPRISE, ITS SECRECY, NOR ITS COST, BUT THE ACHIEVEMENT OF SCIENTIFIC BRAINS IN PUTTING TOGETHER INFINITELY COMPLEX PIECES OF KNOWLEDGE HELD BY MANY MEN IN DIFFERENT FIELDS OF SCIENCE INTO A WORKABLE PLAN….WHAT HAS BEEN DONE IS THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF ORGANIZED SCIENCE IN HISTORY.”

In fact, this is how the end game was played by “organized science”. The US military wanted advice from the scientists, and at last the final solution was presented by the all-powerful “Science Panel” headed by Robert Oppenheimer. The other members were Arthur Compton, Ernest Lawrence, and Enrico Fermi. This panel wrote on June 16, 1945 that after considering all options “WE CAN PROPOSE NO TECHNICAL DEMONSTRATION LIKELY TO BRING AN END TO THE WAR; WE SEE NO ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE TO DIRECT MILITARY USE.” After this “direct military use” Compton is reported to have observed that the success or failure of the atom bomb was A TECHNICAL QUESTION.

Well, WWII ended, and the race for nukes commenced with a bang. Eventually, the race sorted itself out mainly along the “north-south” axis. Weapons of mass destruction, like natural gas, rare coins and multigrain bread, are principally stocked by the “the haves”, with a few exceptions. Possession here is assured destruction—the politics of fear.

Real nuclear disarmament remains elusive. The US and others have never relinquished the right to a “first strike”. Trump has abrogated old treaties, championed a “Space Force” while underground testing goes unchallenged in many countries. In 2007, CANDIDATE Obama wanted “urgent new actions” to ensure a nuke free world. In 2016, before he left office, PRESIDENT Obama proposed $1 Trillion be marked for upgrading US nukes over a 30 year period. What will J’Biden do with all that money?

Reduction of the number of weapons globally and some limitation set on their delivery systems have produced false consolation and cynical predictions through staged negotiations. Rest in peace, say the negotiators, because now we can dictate global catastrophe, natural calamity and social disintegration only some 300 times over, instead of 600 times as we could before—or something like that. So, in a way skepticism, even cynicism about the legacy of the coronavirus has been set up by an appeal to the military power of nations. Anything nature can do, we can do better. This is the State speaking, not the people. Here is how, in actual terms. America’s B83, 1.2 Megaton warhead is roughly 3300 times more powerful than our old friend Little Boy. And power consists of the ground zero blast, followed by firestorms, then over time radioactive fallout, nuclear winter, nuclear famine and nuclear electromagnetic pulse. Here in the US, it is frightening again to see how a dominant, cynical, xenophobic perspective about a natural calamity brought to the surface quite quickly the bitter fruit of injustice and inequality spearheaded by the disease of Racism.

Think about it. When Harry Truman extols “the greatest achievement of organized science in history”, would we conclude immediately that he is referring to the first weapons of mass destruction? Would we think he may be predicting endless wars without victors, yet wars where slaughter can be planned without any of OUR boots on the ground? Or, would we demand of organized science developing safe and effective vaccines, remedies for yet incurable diseases, and alongside that undertaking real solutions for global hunger and climate change?

2020 also ended with a significant international transition. Namely, the departure of UK from the European Union—--the final Brexit deal. This shift requires a discussion of its own. Here, I’ll refer to the brilliant analysis by George Monbiot, columnist for the Guardian and contributor to other forums/publications. Monbiot’s piece “Caught In the Crossfire” posted in ECONOMIC JUSTICE on November 27, begins with, “Brexit isn’t about Europe, and isn’t about the UK. It’s the outcome of a civil war within capitalism.” He ends by restating the main thesis, “Brexit, treading on the heels of the pandemic, is likely to harm the lives and freedoms of millions of people in the UK. But it’s not about us. We are just caught in the crossfire of capitalism’s civil war.” You can find the full text on Monbiot’s website: www.monbiot.com
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This is a special day for some of us because of that New Year’s Day “birthday boy” Satyendra Nath Bose. A great mathematician to be sure, but truly a reservoir of wisdom—where his unparalleled intellect and his profound compassion mingled.

Looking ahead from inside the stillness of today, I know there WILL be music in 2021, and forever Maradona!

January 1, 2021

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Raggedy Ann's picture

the universe is in charge of all that happens, I remind myself to be the water for all I can do is accept what is presented to me. If I can be nothing but love (which is not as easy as one thinks), I can help to bring about unity one soul at a time.

We are in a shift of consciousness. Thus the exposure to covid by the entire earth population. We cannot change if we continue in the “normal.” Change is upon us. Surrender to it. Open your mind to the transmissions of the new consciousness.
Pleasantry

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Fear is the opposite of love. "Ignorance creates fear. Fear creates hatred. Hatred creates violence. We fear that of which we are ignorant. Cure ignorance to cure fear. If there is nothing to fear there's nothing to hate." Daryl Davis

the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, what . . . a week or two ago? Just by accident I looked up and there they were, and I was like "Hmmm . . . that's very unusual". Saturn looked red, so initially I thought it was Mars until I looked it up online later.

Regardless of what happens, I always take comfort in seeing things like that--planets passing, mountain ranges, rain storms. There are some things that humanity is likely to be unable to change or destroy, and that gives me hope. Also, as I wrote in an essay here maybe a few years ago, there are likely hundreds of billions of other intelligent life forms out there in the universe. If we cannot, as a species, get our crazy under control, perhaps there is another out there that can and make outstanding and wonderful things!

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Lookout's picture

and I'm posting it again in my Sunday column. It is a well spent hour that expresses my view so closely. Your mileage may vary.

SUMMARY: The stability of the biosphere for mammals has been in decline for centuries and in unstoppable, out of control mode for decades. This “Great Acceleration” of biospheric collapse is an easily verifiable fact. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Evidence is also compelling that the vast majority of people will deny this, especially those still benefitting from the existing order and those who fear that “accepting reality” means “giving up.” The history of scores of previous boom and bust (progress / regress) societies clearly reveals how and why industrial civilization is dying. Accepting that Homo colossus’ condition is incurable and terminal may be key to not making a bad situation catastrophically worse.

APPLICATION — TO AVOID BECOMING EVIL on a geological timescale, we must…
1. Minimize deadliest toxicity (nuclear, methane, chemicals).
2. Assist plants (especially trees) in migrating poleward.
3. Invest time, energy, and resources in all things regenerative, including thriving with LESS (less energy, stuff, stimulation), learning from and supporting indigenous wisdom and experience, and nurturing community eco-literacy and resilience.

CORE MESSAGE: Without an understanding of ecology, energy, and history, good people with the best of intentions will unknowingly propose and support policies likely to make a bad situation catastrophically worse. Or as an ecologist friend of mine likes to say, “If you don’t 'get' overshoot, you’ll misinterpret or misdiagnose virtually everything important.”

Thanks for the essay!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout

Watched the first 20 minutes of the video, and honestly it doesn't do it for me, unfortunately. I know what he is *trying* to say, but the way in which he does it undermines his message (in my opinion).

He almost creates his own language using terms like "good" and "evil" and "fidelity to the future" and "collective intelligence" and "Homo colossus" (and many, many more), which makes his arguments extremely hard to follow, even for someone scientific and educated like myself. I can only imagine someone with a much narrower worldview will be baffled by the terms and tune him out, and unfortunately, everyone really needs to be onboard in order to achieve his stated goals.

Just take one of those lines you just posted "TO AVOID BECOMING EVIL on a geological timescale, we must . . ." What does that even mean? It would be easy to spell out if he really wanted to, but he doesn't, so nobody can really be sure about what he is trying to say. (Define geologic timescale evil, please!) Does he mean "to achieve a world in which human activity doesn't destroy our coexisting environment so that humans can thrive in the future"? Some variant of that? Why not just say that outright?! Why create a religion around it?

Also, I disagree with many of his foundational statements. He says we cannot tackle these problems using technology or politics, yet those are two of the central tenets of humanity and civilization! Sorry, whatever humans do in the future, technology and politics will be involved in major, major ways (unless what he is saying is that we should not have civilization).

I do agree with his list of 3 points you provided above--all are essential to correcting things, and I support those goals fully. However, I can tell you he's not going to achieve what he is setting out to achieve.

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Nukes, seeing the perfect pairing of science and mass destruction.
All for capitalism.
Science matters for GMOs and nukes, not so much for climat.e change or pandemics.
I intend to may my respects to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities one day before I die.
I am so glad you had the chance, and how moving you thought it was.
While I am not willing to give up, give up control to the universe, to a god, or to any authority that I can't understand, define, or with whom I agree, I will always love my fellow man wherever they may be, and put their well being above my government, and work to undermine the the bain of the world, capitalism.
Please take comfort you have an admirer.

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