Noam Chomsky – on Terrorism

Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT – political activist, writer. I am in the process of reading 2 of his books relating to the 9/11 attacks. One is called simply “September 11″… and the other is called “Power and Terror” – post 9/11 talks and interviews.

I will do a review of the books in a few days time. Meantime, here are a few quotes from Professor Chomsky concerning Terrorism…..and the role the USA plays in it.

Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”

It’s only terrorism if they do it to us. When we do much worse to them, it’s not terrorism.”

The number of people killed by the sanctions in Iraq is greater than the total number of people killed by all weapons of mass destruction in all of history.”

Violence can succeed, as Americans know well from the conquest of the national territory. But at terrible cost. It can also provoke violence in response, and often does.”

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Time to accept responsibility. Silent Spring – Silent People – Silent Planet.

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27th September 1962 was the day that Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published. It documented the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting the industry’s marketing claims unquestioningly. Since then, things have undoubtedly become worse for the environment. Governments are in the pockets of large corporations. The tail is wagging the dog. Disinformation and profit at all cost is King.

Yes there are small pockets of environmentalist minded people, organic farmers and the like who strive to do the right thing for our planet. BUT most individuals and governments alike turn a blind eye because to do otherwise would affect companies profit margins, drive down share prices, countries economies and our (in the western nations) comfortable lifestyles. But at what cost?

The scientists at the U.N. tell us we have 11 years left to make the changes needed to prevent the planet heating past it’s tipping point. The climate, weather, temperature of this planet we call Earth is regulated by the ice-caps and by ocean currents. Once the ice has melted, it’s game over. The temperature rise will be rapid and without control and it is projected to rise beyond 60 degrees C….some scientists say beyond 80 degrees C. Meat will cook at 50 degrees. Think about that for a moment.

Others claim we have less time than that to make the rapid changes we need to make to survive….even as little as three years. YET, turn on the TV and we are still being bombarded with advertisements to buy, buy , buy. Keep that consumerism wheel turning like the hamsters in a cage that we are! Gotta have the latest gadget. New and improved. Chuck the old one in the landfill.

The project of promoting maximum economic growth is the most vulgar ideal ever put before suffering humankind. And yet we have taken it on board totally. Because it’s easier than fighting it.

I find it strange that there is a multi-nationally funded study in place to scan the universe to check for possible earth bound asteroids that may impact the earth creating conditions for extinction – something that could happen in the time that you could snap of your fingers. Whoosh, boom and goodnight!

At the same time we are, and have been it seems, quite happy to allow the slow creation of the same extinction environment over the last few decades. We have one decade left – if we are lucky – to prevent this……so why are companies and governments still pushing the growth economy and consumerism? And why are we following blindly along? For fucks sake wake up! Look around you at all your “stuff” – the products of the throw away/disposable society. It’s all unnecessary rubbish. You don’t actually need it. The products made these days are made to break down after a certain time frame so you have to buy new ones, updated ones – so we simply throw the old ones away. But there is no AWAY. It all stays here….polluting the planet.

Meantime, the banks give us loans and credit cards – those magical square bits of plastic – that mean we can buy more and more stuff today and worry about actually paying for them tomorrow, or next year….add mortgages that run for 30 years, an economy that favours the rich and pushes down the poor, and we are totally trapped and in debt to the system. 99% of us are slaving away to pay for the profits and lifestyle of the 1% at the top of the food chain, wrecking the environment and creating extinction conditions in the process. Oh well done Human Race….great way to show our intellectual superiority.

We seem prepared to trade our lives and the lives of all species on the planet for something that is an artifice – money and the economy are simply a cunning trick, falsehoods. They are like the emperors new clothes – they don’t exist – don’t really have a real value. We can live without them…we used to live without them for thousands of years. We can’t however live without clean air, clean water or healthy soil to grow our food – FACT!

The kids know this, but us dumb adults who run things – and ruin things – are still following blindly on because we can’t turn away from “progress”. How the hell can we call what we are doing to the planet…what we are inflicting on the planet and everything on it “PROGRESS?” It’s the kids who will suffer the most. Your children, your grand children will look at you when it’s all too late and ask “why didn’t you do something to stop this madness?” Are you prepared for that? Will you accept responsibility for your complacency? Will you be able to look them in the eye and honestly say “I did everything that I could”?????

27th September 2019 – the 57th anniversary of Carson’s book is the day that the kids want us to join them in a world wide general strike. A bid to force corporations and governments to listen to them…and to us….and to make them realise that change is needed NOW. Follow the link here for details https://www.earth-strike.com/

Do something to make your kids and grand-kids proud of you. Rise up. Join in the protest. Protest to Survive. For the sake of the planet, for your sake and for theirs.

Please watch this video of 16 year old Swedish school-girl Greta Thunberg’s emotional plea to the politicians. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWsM9-_zrKo

Small Acts of Resistance – How courage, tenacity and ingenuity can change the world – Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson

I thought that this book was quite a fitting book to mention in view of what is happening currently in Hong Kong – with the people protesting changes to Hong Kong laws allowing extradition of citizens to mainland China to face charges against the State.

Image result for Book Cover Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World

This little book is full of examples…..around 80 or so very short stories, many of which I knew nothing about, where individuals or groups of citizens have stood up against corrupt government officials and changed the way that their countries legislate. With a forward written by Vaclav Havel – a Czech poet who was banned from publication in Czechoslovakia under the communist state – who helped start the Velvet Revolution which saw the communist regime overthrown in a short and bloodless revolt and Havel elected as President.

It’s a book that shows that ordinary people can make a difference. How the power of the human spirit can defeat and depose dictators by acts of resistance, defiance or even acts of witty disobedience, sometimes in the most dangerous of circumstances.

It’s not only about over throwing governments though, its also about making large corporations rethink their strategy…..to do the right thing….and if they don’t do the right thing, to embarrass the hell out of them.

Some of the hero’s who stood up and were counted in the face of overwhelming odds were murdered for their beliefs….but others then stood in their place. And then there are the whistle blowers – those who defied their own governments to get the truth out – to their own citizens who are being kept in the dark about government corruption – and out to the worlds press. Many got prison time, or worse for their efforts. BUT most of the stories in this book have happier endings. And throughout the book are numerous little quotes that inspire. They tell the story about events that start with a whisper and end with a mighty roar as people power comes of age.

I’ll end with a few of these quotes…..

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” – Martin Luther King Jnr.

“General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It crashes down forests and crushes a hundred men. But it has one defect: it needs a driver.” – Bertolt Brecht

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” – Elvis Presley

“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert Kennedy, speaking in South Africa in 1966

Goodread’s gives it a very healthy 4.08 out of 5. It’s a very easy book to read. The length of the stories makes it a handy book to dip in and out of when you have a few minutes to spare.

Truth and fiction, and Truth IN fiction.

I read all sorts of books, some fiction and some non-fiction. Almost without fail, if I am reading a novel, my wife (who only reads non-fiction) will comment “I don’t know why you bother with novels – what are you going to learn from them?”

My argument is that not only do I read novels as a way to escape from our day to day reality, but quite often there is something to learn from a novel – be it a story of morals or something else. Take the book I am currently reading “Afterlight” by Alex Scarrow.

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It’s a post-apocalyptic story, set in the UK, about the chaos produced by a sudden oil shortage……especially when the shortage turns into a total lack of oil, and the consequences associated with that – no transport so no food deliveries. The power grid unable to take the load demanded once oil powered power stations were no longer on line etc etc. Rioting, looting, disease and depravity took hold – the result being a dramatic reduction in the population. The main story-line begins 10 years after the oil ran out and follows a small band of survivors who have taken up residence on an oil rig in the north sea, off the coast of Norfolk. Every second chapter however, tells the story from when the chaos first started, ten years earlier. The British Government initially declared martial law and set up “safe zones” in sport stadiums with emergency supplies guarded by the police and troops.

So far (about a third into the book) it’s following a very stressed government employee who is in charge of one of the safe zones, but as more time passes a military coup seems inevitable…..as that is what has happened in safe zones in other parts of the UK. As supplies start to dwindle, the soldiers took over and started to kick out non-essential civilians such as the old and sick……eventually raping the remaining women and killing the men as chaos and disorder took over.

There is a page from the book I’d like to share with you where a recent refugee who has been taken in by the community on the oil rig is discussing the “progress” made by the community in that they have now engineered a bio-digester – It feeds on human and animal waste and old food scraps to produce methane which then powers a small generator to give them electricity for lighting and to play a small stereo for 3 hours every evening. Some of the younger people on the rig are hoping similar progress has been made on the mainland and that soon the cities will be up and running again with street lights, video games and TV’s. The older members and the newcomer are less enthusiastic about a return to the status quo of before the oil crisis. This extract from the book is when Valerie (a French speaking male from Belgium) is talking to 2 teenage boys and a young girl about how things were leading up to the oil crisis.

‘You want to live in a big city, full of noises and lights?’
‘Yeah, ‘course,’ replied Nathan.
The man shook his head with incredulity. Both Nathan and Jacob stared at him, bemused.
‘I believe the world was sick then,’ he continued. ‘And people were sick with a disease of the soul. You understand me?’
Neither boy did. Not really.
‘Most people were not happy. Most people were sick in their heart, unhappy lives. We all lived our isolated lives in our little homes and saw the world beyond through a tiny…..digital window. People did not talk to each other. Instead they typed messages to complete strangers on the internet. The more things we had the unhappier we became because there was always people on the TV who had very much more.’
Valerie shook his head and smiled sadly. ‘You do not see how much better your life is now, do you?’
Jacob, Nathan and Hannah continued to stare at him in bewildered silence.
‘I think your mother understands this. It is not things – and all the electricity that makes those things work – that makes a good life. They are just things; distractions, you know? Shiny little amusements made to look so wonderful and fun and the answer to your unhappiness. But you get the shiny things home and unwrap them, you hold them in your hand…..and they are just shiny things, that is all. They mean nothing.’
Valerie looked at the generator. ‘You know what it is that really destroyed the old world?’
They shrugged.
‘It was greed.’
Nathan and Jacob glanced at each other.

‘You know children killed each other for things like training shoes? Or mobile phones?’ Valerie continued. ‘The time just before the crash was mankind at his most evil. There were wars for oil, wars for gas. People killed for things, for power. Killed for oil. It was a world filled with jealousy for all the things we would see others have on the TV. A world of greed. Anger. Hate……..All the bright shiny lights and noises…..video games, the TV, the internet, music, the shopping, the arcades…..these things were made by governments to distract us; to keep our minds full and busy….so we did not realise how unhappy we all were.

The fact is that although this book is a novel, the breakdown of society, of law, of morals – brought about by a severe shortage of oil – could easily happen. We are so dependent on transportation, on shipping and air freight, on imported goods, to provide us with everything we need. Fiction often mirrors fact. There are lessons to be learned from this book about how once civilised people treat one another after as little as three days without food. How important a true sense of community is – take the time to talk to and get to know your neighbours. How important it is to have personal plans in place in case of emergency, rather than depending on the government to take care of you. And of alternate ways of living other than the consumer driven, oil dependent lifestyle we currently cling to. The consumer/capitalist/growth economy model is destroying the world that we depend on. All that disposable crap that we can’t live without – and yet we end up throwing it into the landfill or into our oceans – will be the death of us….and we’re taking thousands of other species with us.

None of the above is news to me, but it would be to some people. The ones who are easily distracted by the shiny baubles of life. The duplicity of governments and high ranking government officials, who are basically in the pockets of the corporate businessmen, is not a surprise….. but it is a reminder to me not to become sucked in to the world of corporate smoke and mirrors. To be seduced by the lies, damn lies and statistics produced to back up any argument. The so called ‘war on terror’ – pushed on the western world by the Bush Administration was no more than a political smokescreen to justify the invasion of oil rich, non-white, non-Christian countries. The sad thing is that it’s been carried on by subsequent governments and they are still playing the sleight of hand game with the civilian population even today (who are too busy playing with their shiny toys to notice or even care) – justifying invading other sovereign nations and stealing their natural resources due to some fictitious crime that they are meant to have committed. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction – that never actually existed – justified the invasion of Iraq. Both America’s Bush and Britain’s Blair swore that they had “undeniable evidence” that these weapons existed. The world believed them and a nation was destroyed – in order to get at their oil supplies. Then the invading countries tell the world that – Whoops our mistake, no weapons of mass destruction, (but he was a nasty guy with a bad moustashe anyway) and it’s OK that we’ve bombed the hell out of Iraq and destroyed their infrastructure and murdered thousands, possibly millions, of civilians (collateral damage), because we are now investing millions of dollars in the country to get them back on their feet again. What they don’t say is that the money invested is being spent mainly on setting up their own refineries and oil wells, pipelines and railways and roads to link the refineries to the ports and harbours, for American and allied tankers to come into and fill up with plundered oil. Meantime the Iraqis are still living among the rubble. And the action of the western powerful and power hungry nations in destroying these oil rich countries is creating more terrorists out of what were peaceful people. This increase in people angry at the west and what has been done to their home lands and their economy then justifies the War on Terror and perpetuates it. The only way to defeat terror is to not take part in terror. But the powerful governments know that as long as there is a perceived terror threat, its people will willingly give away their rights and freedoms in exchange for perceived safety and security. It’s a sick world alright!

I think one of the biggest things wrong with the world today is that we have given away our right to think for ourselves. The government have been given too much power, too much control over how we live our lives. The media are controlled by big business so we only see on TV what they want us to see. “Good evening and here is the news that we want you to know about and here is how we want you to perceive that news.” There are too many rules and regulations that restrict our lifestyle choices, where we can live, what we can build, what we can teach our children, whether we have the choice to vaccinate our kids or refuse vaccinations, what we can grow in our gardens…..our movement from one place to another. We have become dependent on government to provide for us rather than being responsible for our own lives. We have given away so much of our freedom in exchange for baubles and shiny toys and they have buried us under a mountain of unnecessary legislation and taxation. We’ve been tricked into living on credit…credit cards and easy loans…which keeps us deeply in debt and therefore slaves to the system. If we’re going to survive, we need to turn this on it’s head and have a return to community reliance where small communities are self governing, have minimal rules and where the individual can have control over their own lives. Unfortunately many of us will be too busy messaging strangers on the net, searching for the latest shiny distraction to buy or streaming the next series of mind numbing, so called, reality TV, to care.

Please give serious thought to how you live your life. If you are concerned about how we’re damaging the environment on which we depend use your purchasing power positively and be wise about what you buy. Vote with your wallet. Try to move toward renewable energy sources, avoid plastics and look toward using only renewable materials to make the things that we need, and protect the planet. I don’t want to sound patronising or cliche, but we do need to be the change that we want to see in the world.

My earlier post about Anarchists nicely dove-tails into this discussion.

Just a thought on Anarchy. is it as bad as it sounds?

This is somewhat different to my usual posts…..

Mention the words Anarchism or Anarchist to most people and the image that immediately springs to mind is that of a rioting youth, a lone wolf, wearing heavy boots, a hooded jacket and an anarchist t-shirt resplendent with the letter A in a circle….and a petrol bomb in hand ready to throw either at Police or through a shop window. To support anarchy – to be an anarchist you must be a Yob…the dregs of society right? AND to be honest with you, that’s what I initially thought too.

Look up Anarchism on the all knowing Wikipedia and it tells you this:-

Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that advocates self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions and the rejection of hierarchies those societies view as unjust. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful. Anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular worldview, many anarchist types and traditions exist and varieties of anarchy diverge widely. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism.

I’m not sure about you, but to me that sounds very reasonable…..ideal even. You may have been surprised to see the words – self governed societies and voluntary cooperative institutions – because for a society or institution to exist it follows that there would be rules and regulations surely, and that would be against what Anarchists want, wouldn’t it? The answer is – Anarchists operate on principles or ideals rather than rules and regulations, they are very much against RULERS. (The etymological origin of anarchism derives from ancient Greek word anarkhia. Anarkhia meant “without a ruler”). What they want is TRUE EQUALITY.

Personal autonomy and human rights are highly connected and cannot exist without one another. This reflects not only the equality of all individuals but also their autonomy, their right to have and pursue interests and goals different from those of the state and its rulers. Naturally as far as Anarchism is concerned there would be no rulers or state. Just true equality and personal and/or group autonomy….just as our ancestors would have had back when they were gathered into loose groups of hunter gatherers – equality with common aim.

Throughout history anarchists have been very much un-Yob-like. Lets take a look at a few of them. Respected thinkers, writers, intellectuals and even a few celebrities have followed the anarchist path. Take Plato for instance.

Or how about Charlie Chaplin?

Or…Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, the Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. His books War and Peace and Anna Karenina are still lauded as classics of literature and yet…..another anarchist thinker.

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To come finally right up to date with one of today’s great thinkers, writer, intellectual, political commentator and critic….Noam Chomsky. Chomsky believes anarchism is a direct descendant of liberalism, perfecting the ideals of personal liberty. Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called “the father of modern linguistics”, Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. Professor emeritus of Linguistics at MIT…doesn’t seem like the preconceived idea of an anarchist does he?

So….is anarchy a bad thing? Your comments, opinions etc are most welcome.