Image of homelessness from the now-defunct Italian blog Moving & Learning
“April is the cruellest month”, TS Eliot wrote, in The Waste Land, exactly 100 years ago, after Ezra Pound forced him to change it from February. It’s the month when hopes for a new beginning, for brighter days ahead, are so often dashed. Lots of evidence of that this year. An attitude of generosity might help. From James Parker in the April Atlantic:
It’s primal, it’s biblical, it’s the moral physics of the universe in action: The have meets the have-not. In the subway, on the street, at the traffic light, along the underpass, anywhere in America. What happens next?
You, patently, have. Warmth, comfort, accessible hygiene, a fridge, a place to go, a buffer or two against intolerable pressure. The person in front of you, patently, has not. A look suffices to tell you that. Their lack imprints itself upon your abundance. And they’re asking you for money. Do you give it? Should you? Must you? Do you want to?
We can dispense immediately with the traditional canard: They’ll only spend it on drugs. What a pernicious mingling of Ayn Randian screw-’em-ism and liberal faux concern. Maybe they will spend it on drugs. Or maybe they’ll spend it on a new copy of William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience, to replace the one that disappeared when their campsite of two years was deconstructed—in their absence—by park rangers. The point is, how they spend it is none of your business.
Let’s get back to the encounter itself. Awkward, isn’t it? The system of which you are a functioning part has thrown the person before you into a transparent condition of penury and exile. Perhaps you feel a flickering of shame. And then a flickering of annoyance at the flickering of shame. Jesus Christ, their hands are out and their tin cups are rattling—why can’t they leave you alone? Affluence is no picnic. You have a prescription to refill, a phone to upgrade, a car to get repaired. This pullulating need—it’s too much.
Here’s my tip: If you’re temperamentally indisposed, keep your money. A penny given a poor man “grudgingly,” wrote the French Catholic mystic Léon Bloy, “pierces the poor man’s hand, falls, pierces the earth, bores holes in suns, crosses the firmament and compromises the universe.” So don’t do that.
But if you are inclined to give, then give wholeheartedly. Not for charity, not for empathy, not for any groaning abstraction, but that the divine economy of giving might circulate through you unobstructed. Through your glands and through your veins. The person before you needs money, and you need to give it. Unplug the wellspring of life, and hand it over.
droughts predicted for the 2030s, per Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews, via NBC news; purple and red signify areas of severe and extreme drought
The time for action…: The IPCC has released its latest report on the fight against climate collapse, requiring at a minimum the halving of emissions within the next eight years. They dare not tell you it’s already too late. But if you read carefully…
Richard Heinberg: Is “Cap-and-ration” just another way of saying “We’re fucked”?: Richard’s newest ‘Museletter’ explains the energy and ecological implications of the Ukraine war, and then outlines what he believes is the only method of achieving the IPCC’s urgent goals in time, and concludes:
If cap-and-ration proves to be politically unattainable, then we should be honest with ourselves about the consequences. Without cap-and-ration, the world’s policy makers will most likely continue to dither with proposals that appear to reduce emissions without actually doing so. Horrific consequences from those emissions will ensue. And young people around the world, whose lives will be tragically impacted, will give up on policy solutions and look for other strategies.
Both poles break heat records, some by up to 30ºC: For the few that hadn’t heard just how crazy and frequent once-unthinkable weather anomalies have become.
Meanwhile, the Neros fiddle: In Canada, Trudeau announced approval of a major new oil mega-project off the east coast. In the US, a Federal Reserve Board nominee withdrew her nomination because Republicans said she supported a transition to renewable energy, which they described as politically unacceptable.
Edward Snowden, from Relax It’s Only Art: “people don’t realize how hard it is to speak the truth. to a world full of people that don’t realize they’re living a lie.” Original source of the image not cited.
Sci-Hub lives on: The wonderful research publishing service Sci-Hub, started by Kazakhstani student Alexandra Elbakyan, continues to circumvent attempts by greedy “academic publishers” to shut it down, and makes scientific and medical research available to all, for free.
Relax it’s only art: The Facebook group displays provocative, inspiring, beautiful, outrageous, brilliant art in many media. Photo above for example.
The illusion of being alone: Indrajit Samarajiva waxes poetic on solitude and individualism — social, political, existential. A moving reflection.
How we think about problems: Albert Bates muses on Daniel Schmachtenberger’s theory about how we usually think about problems in an illogical and unsatisfactory way that too often leads to technological solutions that actually exacerbate the problem.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
Image by the multi-award winning artist and cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, from the film The Wall
Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism Part 1: Short takes about the Ukraine war you likely won’t read in the mainstream media (thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):
- Noam Chomsky on how US policy is blocking the path to de-escalation and peace initiatives in Ukraine and on why the US is not attempting peace talks.
- Former UK ambassador Craig Murray on making sense of the situation in Ukraine.
- Indrajit Samarajiva on how US financial sanctions are destabilizing the global financial and monetary system and Ellen Brown explains how that is leading to the abandonment of the US dollar as the currency of choice as financial sanctions get increasingly deployed for political and military purposes.
- The Atlantic attempts to whitewash Biden’s admission that his real goal is regime change in Russia while the NYT, in an act of truly Orwellian doublespeak, insists “The minimum [that the US must take care to do when implementing “sanctions”], to reassure other countries and avoid escalation, is to emphasize that the measures are not intended to provoke regime change in Russia.” Uh, huh.
- Robert Reich on the need for a windfall profits tax on surging oil prices.
- John Mearsheimer on what could be done now to bring about peace in Ukraine.
- Harold Meyerson wonders why there aren’t food-and-medicine airlifts going into Ukraine.
- Yanis Varoufakis on the folly of attempting regime change in Russia through propaganda and “sanctions”.
- Allison Morrow on what happens if US/NATO financial sanctions and seizures prevent Russia from paying its current international debts.
- Caitlin Johnstone on how “international law” only applies to enemies of the US , laments that the US has had no contact with Russian leaders since February, and describes the revived US Cold War strategy to use regime change in Russia to advance similar regime change in China.
- Noah Y Kim at Mother Jones on citizens’ dangerous misunderstanding of what a ‘no fly zone’ really means.
Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism Part 2: Short takes on other corporatist things going on while we’re distracted by the war:
- An article in the BMJ laments the illusion of evidence-based medicine, that has been “corrupted by corporate interests, failed regulation, and the commercialisation of academia“. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
- John Pilger on the long history of US/UK political interference in Australian affairs including ousting elected Prime Ministers.
- Gideon Lewis-Kraus on the FBI/CIA harassment and prosecution of Chinese scientists in the US, stemming from the US governments’ decades-long Sinophobia.
- Stephen Semler notes that the US under Biden spends 2/3 of its entire discretionary budget on the military and law enforcement.
- NPR’s Brian Mann explains how mega-corporations like J&J routinely use a loophole in US bankruptcy law to escape prosecution for corporate wrongdoing
- Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein describes Amazon’s proposed new “employee chat” app that bans the use of “negative” words including ‘union’, ‘restrooms’, ‘pay raise’, ‘diversity’, ‘fairness’ and ‘freedom’. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.
- The Tyee’s Paul Willcocks reveals that in BC, an unelected ex-cop provincial civil servant is overriding municipal governments’ police reform measures if they entail any defunding.
- David Slack satirizes the racist, misogynist, McCarthy-style attacks by “leading” neofascist Republicans on Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:
- Matt Taibbi interviews Pulitzer-winner Chris Hedges, who has now been censored and his content removed by Google. George Galloway has also been taken down. The Clinton advisors are now going after Caitlin Johnstone. I wonder who will be next.
- Indrajit Samarajiva explains that when terms like “preserving democracy” are used meaninglessly as a propaganda hammer, the truth is always the victim, and that Silicon Valley and other private interests are now actively involved in promoting western propaganda and deciding which ‘inconsistent’ reportage to censor. And he describes the real reasons why his homeland, Sri Lanka, is now in crisis.
- Caitlin Johnstone reveals that US government officials are freely admitting that much of their “intelligence reporting” is made up for propaganda purposes, and that these lies are not limited to anti-Russian “reports”, and says “It’s not okay to be a grown adult in 2022 and believe the same western media institutions who’ve lied about every war are now telling the truth about this one.” And she says by its own definition Elon Musk’s newly-acquired toy, Twitter, is a “state-affiliated medium” and should be labelled as such.
- Yahoo’s Zach Dorfman reveals that the CIA has been training the Ukrainian military to fight Russia for years. I guess Yahoo must be a “Russian state sponsored organization” too. Don’t even get me started on how the CIA knew all about biological research facilities in the Ukraine and precisely what they were and, if you believe the CIA, were not doing.
- Benjamin Norton describes the Ukraine government’s criminalization of socialist organizations, seizure of all independent media outlets, and its praise for white supremacist Neo-Nazi National Guard members who tweet about their atrocities against Muslim Russians.
CoVid-19 Becomes the Pandemic (mostly) of the Unvaccinated: Short takes:
- Not much new to say. The politicians have muzzled the health experts and abandoned most mandates. Biden has mismanaged the pandemic as badly as Trump did. (Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.) It’s still insane, as the predicted and inevitable sixth wave gets underway, not to wear a mask indoors, and not to get vaccinated and a booster. And equally insane, at this critical juncture, to abandon testing regimens. Early mandates and the vaccines may have halved the death toll, but it’s still rising globally at, per best estimates, 10,000 people dying unnecessarily every day — that’s over 3M more people per year on top of the ~14M who’ve already died from this terrible disease. This does not bode at all well for how we’re going to handle even worse crises as global economic and ecological collapse worsens.
Inside the palace with MBS: The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is more complex than you might think, and he’s a hero to millions of his citizens who’d suffered under the brutal and arbitrary Wahhabi religious police, which he has all but abolished, and struggled with harsh restrictions, especially for women, or were victimized by rampant corruption, which many think he’s dramatically curtailed. But he’s no hero, and has terrified his opponents. A great article by Graeme Wood.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
cartoon from Will McPhail‘s own website
What do we want our children to learn from us?: Indi writes about the loss of our capacity to imagine. In another fascinating article, he muses about the relationship between ritual and hierarchy/caste.
Bullshit job title generator: Absolutely hilarious. See if your job’s on the list. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.
How to fix Daylight Saving Time: Hank Green humorously ponders our incapacity to get rid of twice-annual time changes.
Standard model of the universe fails again: The model, which was already riddled with holes (not all of them black) suffered another setback this month when, based on 750 trillion observations, researchers acknowledged that the W Boson particle actually has a mass far greater than the model predicts. Of course, the response of many scientists was to question or fault the measurement process.
From the Beaverton (spoof headlines of the month):
- “Canada to ban foreign homebuyers who refuse to set up dummy corporations.”
- “Vanilla yogurt holds slight lead in Conservative leadership opinion polls.”
- “Oscars present lifetime achievement award to Toxic Masculinity”
- “Poll asking Canadians what we should do in Ukraine reveals majority of Canadians not military strategists”
- “Nation’s conspiracy theorists celebrate False Flag Day”
Dancing religiously: Responding to a global challenge, hundreds of religious groups have made videos of their congregation leaders dancing to the South African hit song Jerusalema. Some of them got the moves. Thanks to John Whiting for the link.
THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH
image by Anton Batov, from a series on how Egyptian hieroglyphics might translate into modern language
From Cornel West, on what’s wrong with America and the Biden administration:
You’re not dealing with deportation. You’re still locked into a very knee-jerk defense of NATO so that the militarism still goes on—everybody knows if Russia had troops in Mexico or Canada there would be invasions tomorrow. He sends the Secretary of State, telling Russia, “You have no right to have a sphere of influence,” after the Monroe Doctrine, after the overthrowing of democratic regimes in Latin America for the last hundred-and-some years. Come on, America, do you think people are stupid? What kind of hypocrisy can anybody stand?
That doesn’t mean that Putin is not still a gangster—of course he is. But so were the folk promoting the Monroe Doctrine that had the U.S. sphere of influence for decade after decade after decade after decade, and anybody critical of you, you would demonize. Yet here are you, right at the door of Russia, and can’t see yourself in the mirror. That’s spiritual decay right there, brother, it really is.
From Nina Khruscheva, great-granddaughter of Nikita, who lives and works in the US, and says she despises Putin, about the situation in Ukraine, in an interview in The New Yorker:
I think it could have been done differently. In my experience, once again—you’re writing for The New Yorker, so I’m supposed to be very politically correct here, but I’m still going to say it. I’ve never seen America be a gracious victor, because once it wins, it just jumps on your grave like there is no tomorrow; even the dead bodies would come out with anger. So yes, it was not a gracious winner, and being the only superpower only added to an American sense of superiority, which certainly influenced the Russian approach. I’m not taking away from Russia’s own responsibility, its own horrendous anti-American rhetoric because it was a loser. It just basically maligns the winner, and America as a winner maligns the loser. They are mirror images in a sense.
From Tom Waits’ website:
After a rain in New York all the dogs that got caught in the rain, somehow the water washed away their whole trail and they can’t get back home so about 4 in the morning you see all these stranded dogs on the street and they’re looking around like – won’t you help me get back home, sir, please – excuse me sir – excuse me sir – can you help me find my way back home – all makes and models, the short ones, the black ones, the tall ones, the expensive ones, the long ones, the disturbed ones, they all just want to get home.
Most of the things you absorb you will ultimately secrete.
We are just monkeys with money and guns.
From Confucius: “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”
From Indrajit Samarajiva:
This was supposed to be about apocalypse skills to teach my children, but what do I know? My main skills are filling out forms and filtering search results, and that’s not really relevant now. I’m starting from the same place as my own children, and I’m old and slow. So I guess it’s not about raising children anymore. We have to raise each other now.