Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Denunciations Abound

The irate, humanitarian-inspired responses to Israel's air raids on Gaza, from sources throughout the world continue to tumble over one another in righteous indignation. The outright temerity of a country that would undertake to defend itself from the violent depredations of a viciously-determined military group funded through the kind auspices of neighbouring countries adamantly determined to expunge it from existence, is simply not to be contemplated as right and just.

It would be far more reasonable and seemly were Israel to patiently sigh, sit there and accept that pounding. Jews, after all, should be accustomed to that sort of thing; they've had plenty of practise, it's history for them. Unfortunately, the citizens of Israel who are on the receiving end of those violent regards from Iran and Syria via Hamas, simply don't appreciate the niceties of international demands for forbearance. That they must, instead, think of the poor Gazans whom their very existence across the border, irritates beyond endurance.

Those poor Gazans, indeed, who have been steadily indoctrinated to blame and hate their across-border neighbours. Else why would they accept the intolerable living conditions imposed upon them by their defending heroes? Their suffering is to stand as a living reminder of the brutality of an occupying force stationed across the border to ensure the safety and survival of its own people against the murderous intent of Hamas. Absurdly circuitous but who said logic ever had any impact on impulse and emotion?

The international community laments the state of penury and want that innocent Palestinian civilians live under. It is demanded by the international community - and by Hamas - that all border crossings be summarily flung wide open for the passage of needed supplies and consumer goods to enable Gazans to live decently. Yet Hamas will not offer to cease firing rockets into Israel. This one-way deal is to be accepted at face value, for there is nothing in it for Israel's assurance but to garner the grudging appreciation of the international community.

That same international community that steadfastly clings to the peculiar idea that Israel must submit to these innumerable daily assaults on her territory and her people. For truth is there are no organized protests at the street level anywhere, no riots and demands that Palestinians halt their violence and come to the peace table with Israel. The one-sidedness of these expectations is truly amazing - or not, given their predictability owing to historical repetition.

Israel has been uncovering the presence, and destroying, countless tunnels whereby Hamas has been busy during the now-ceased cease-fire - and before it - smuggling contraband, which included drugs and tobacco and alcohol. All means by which Hamas's coffers could be enhanced further. But the true measure of the value of these tunnels is their use for the importation of weapons and munitions and the raw materials for the manufacture of other weaponry.

This is puzzling, for if the plight of the Palestinian people weighs as heavily upon their Hamas leadership as they claim it to when appealing to the international community for help and to denounce the inhumanity of Israel, why haven't the tunnels been used to bring in food, clothing, pharmaceuticals? And, oddly enough, when border crossings have been opened to permit the passage of humanitarian supplies to reach Gazans, they've had to be closed again because of the danger of Hamas taking advantage of opportunities inimical to the interests of Israel.

Logic would have it that no one can have it all their way. Reality proves otherwise.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

To The Bitter End

Unending push and shove can be endured for just so long. It's amazing how perception differs when one looks in from the outside, not directly involved, not being forced to endure terror-inspiring assaults from beyond one's borders. For the country continually under violent assault, things look somewhat different. The threat is extremely here and now, immediate in a way that others looking on from a distance appear unable to adequately evaluate.

It is no little thing, no minor irritation, no untidy irrelevance to daily living to exist under the ongoing reality of rockets firing down on a civilian population. With the very obvious intent to destabilize and to instill fear. And just incidentally destroy buildings, and if fortunate enough to hit a living target, cause the death of people trying to go about their normal lives.

Rockets aimed seemingly at random, with the hope they will strike a target. A target of value, say a nursery, a primary school, a supermarket, a farm, a manufacturing outlet, an apartment building. Anything is possible, and in fact, all these targets have, over the years, been hit, one after another. Desperate people are encouraged to build useful shelters to which they must flee with a five-second clearance.

One does not require accuracy and great loss of life. Incidents causing injuries, the occasional death, the destruction of property will do. The community becomes gravely unsettled, fearful, unable to sleep at night, wary of doing anything that might conceivably place them in a position of danger. On the other hand, there is no distinguishing where that place of danger might be, to be avoided; it is, potentially, anywhere and everywhere.

Children are traumatized and fearful, and their parents hardly know how to comfort them. Since they are themselves emotionally unsettled, incapable of finding their own comfort anywhere in the places they call home. Familiar and beloved, but all the same, representing a place of danger, of imminent death falling from an implacable sky, responding to the assault from a sworn enemy. An enemy that the targeted people would just as soon call neighbour, if they could.

And so, finally, after eight years of bearing the brunt of an anger and a violent intent not to be placated by any other means, Israel launched its air attacks on Gaza. Targeting not civilians, but the tens of thousands of Hamas militia members forsworn to erase the State of Israel from the map of the Middle East. In the process, readily sacrificing the safety of Palestinian civilians, men, women and children. In effect, terrorizing their own people for the greater good of provoking Israel to defensive retaliation.

And, in the process, ensuring that their people, the embattled Gazans, appreciate the dedication of Hamas to their well-being. It is, after all, the Israel Defence Forces that rain down death on Palestinian civilians, living in close proximity to Hamas weapons depots and rocket launchers and Hamas headquarters buildings. That Hamas deliberately installed these emplacements deep in their midst is to be overlooked; their defenders are under attack now, and so are the innocents who believe and trust in their defenders.

Alas, even the Islamic University in Gaza - supportive of Hamas to the extent that its laboratories are busily employed to perfect longer-range missiles to rocket into Israel, and its alumni dedicated to the advancement of the Hamas agenda, joining its martyrdom-seeking forces - has been crushed by Israeli bombs. An institute of higher education dedicated to the elevated spiritual ideal of crushing an enemy occupier which itself wishes nothing better than to be left in peace.

Muslim countries from further afield have taken great pains to let the world know their fury at Israel's response to deadly provocation. Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malaysia firmly condemn Israel's response to Hamas. Public anger in the Arab world is redolent with the kind of hypocrisy that only the blindly righteous are capable of. It is of no moment whatever that the 'victim', Hamas, violently provoked a response. At no time did the Muslim world utter even a quiet word of caution to Hamas, or suggest it cease and desist.

Mahmoud Abbas, momentarily abandoning political caution, expressed his pique with Hamas at its ongoing provocation, but he must answer to the fury of his reluctant followers and those whom the Palestinian Authority represents, in condemning Israel's actions, and warning of the collapse of the rather moribund peace process. "There can be no negotiations while this Israeli aggression is continuing", warns the senior Palestinian negotiator. Really, can that be so?

The United Nations representatives who love to scold Israel about the plight of the Palestinians living in squalid poverty and miserable want, experience a peculiar type of amnesia, in conveniently forgetting that Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005, the result being that anarchy ensued, until Hamas stepped in and eventually brought some order to the area, imposed as a rigid authoritarian mandate, which included an increase in the lobbing of rockets across to Israel.

Lift the message of hate and destruction and what would result would be the opportunity to create an autonomous and forward-looking community which would be empowered to learn how to govern itself, advancing the futures of the nascent country and its population. Somehow, altogether too reasonable and simplistic. The culture of blame, anger and hatred is somehow too valuable to summarily abandon. Think of the loss of face in a tradition that values the rhetoric of belligerence and assault.

The government of Egypt, and specifically Hosni Mubarek, has done what it could to attempt some level of accord, or rest of violence between Hamas and Israel. Earning the wrath of violent Islamists everywhere, particularly the livid leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, who urge the Arab community everywhere to rise up in brotherhood with the Palestinians, and strike down the enemy, calling for a third intifada.

Lebanon particularly is the source of much irate blame and hatred against Israel.
Where Hezbollah has been successful in joining the government, ensuring that the country has become a de facto Islamist state-in-waiting, with its uneasy alliance with Syria. Lebanon, allowing itself to become a vassal-state of Iran, under the thumb of Iran's proxy army of jihadists.

The European Union has pledged to meet to discuss the potential for some manner of workable intervention to halt the process of revenge, avenge, assault, offence and defence. And the Arab League is also set to meet to discuss this new conflict. Their refusal to condemn the attacks against Israel from Gaza has been extremely unhelpful.

Pushed to a hard and bitter place of defence, a country must determine to defend itself to the bitter end.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ghandian Forbearance

Jews reached a singular place in the minds of a world looking in on the horror visited upon them through Nazi Germany's attempt at total annihilation, when the world, in its inimitable way, absorbed the enormity of the holocaust, and felt limitless compassion for the Wandering Jew. European Jews, no longer wanderers, settled throughout Europe, considering themselves legitimate and comfortable citizens of any country they resided in for centuries. Much like German Jews, who considered themselves cultured and enlightened, and German first, Jews second.

Hitler handily disposed of that little affectionate conceit, revealing to the Jewish diaspora how expendable they were, how foreign, how exotic, how different, and how insignificant their lives. That newly-found responsibility toward and even low-grade affection - or at the very least tolerance - for Jews slowly dissipated after WWII. In concert with the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel, and its ongoing, often-desperate attempts to defend itself from the equally-determined assaults of its neighbours to unseat it from the geography.

Now, with Israel no longer battling in self-defence against the Arab and Muslim countries of the Middle East - with the notable exceptions of Iran and Syria - instead, defending itself from the violent depredations foisted on its people by Islamist militias, concern for Jewish well-being from within the international community has reached its low ebb of tolerance. Israel, goes the phrase, has a right to defend itself and its people - BUT.

That equivocation speaks volumes about the larger esteem in which Jews, as a whole, are held globally. It was ever thus. The Arab population of the original area of Palestine is now, in public opinion - dispersed among other Arab countries and internationally and held within the Palestinian Territories - seen as undeserving victims of Jewish entitlement to land granted to the State of Israel at a time of international emotional upheaval and guilt.

This is a situation not lost on Arab Palestinians. They have embraced a culture of grievance, complaint and resentment, exerting their own quotient of guilt upon the countries of the United Nations to support them economically as refugees in perpetuity. Adamantly refusing to accept the reality of proportional geographical entitlement, and using their portion to establish a viable state to advance the interests of the Palestinians, autonomous for the first time in history.

This avenue of achieving normalcy and becoming a united people, capable of fending for themselves, using their vast energies and potential to become a proud nation of achievers was rejected. Thanks in no small part, initially, to their use as a pawn of universal Muslim resentment against the incursion of a 'foreign' religion in the land of Islam. That the ancient heritage of Israel and Jewry preceded that of Islam, and that the historical record supported this was immaterial.

Ongoing provocations by proxy militias comprised of piously violent jihadists posing as messengers of Allah whose sole purpose in life was to attain divine martyrdom on behalf of Islam, has kept Israel busy defending its existence. No amount of placatory offerings have been seen to suffice to encourage Muslim countries to accept the legitimate presence of Israel in the Middle East. No appeals to reason and co-operation to achieve a peaceful settlement to allow the two solitudes to go their separate ways have reached success.

Goad a country too far by continual attacks, and any country, however reluctant, has to recognize its existential duty to itself and to its people to respond in kind. After having reached a modicum of success in reaching a peace agreement with Egypt and with Jordan, and reaching out to Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf States, and now Syria, for a reasonable level of mutual accommodation, Israel had no option but to respond to continual rocket attacks against its people from Gazan terrorists.

Hamas obviously feels itself to be invincible; its verbose rhetoric of defiance and promise of the ultimate destruction of Israel, encouraged by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, had its effect. A placebo of power unequalled by the conventional military of the state next door. The useful myth that Hamas encourages the Palestinians to believe, that its purpose is to defend their best interests, gives them the support of the people, even while Hamas is singly responsible for the dire plight of that same people.

Any population can be successfully manipulated; even though Josef Stalin tyrannized and brutalized the Russian population with purges, deportations and labour camps that resulted in the deaths of over 20 million Russians, popular opinion now in Russia has elevated him to the position of being named among the greatest Russians ever to have existed. Much like the reverence bestowed upon Yasser Arafat, the accomplished political terrorist who could have achieved everything for the Palestinians and chose instead to undermine their best interests.

Now that the Israel Defence Forces have launched their air strikes on Gaza, attempting to strike at all of the Hamas offensive positions, rocket launching sites, system of tunnels whereby weapons have been smuggled into the territory, Israel is once again perceived by the international community as a brutal aggressor. It is the Hamas leadership which planned and placed munitions depots and rocket launchers within heavily civilian-populated areas, with the distinct knowledge that should Israel strike, it would be impossible for it not to harm civilians.

This represents their transparent, but ultimately successful ploy to evoke sympathy from the international community at the plight of the Palestinians, and pointing out the courage of violent Islamists at facing off against a powerful enemy. Measures certain to create a greater outcry internationally and within the Muslim world, and increasing the prestige of Hamas in the process. The Palestinian population, caught between the offenders and the defenders, ally themselves naturally with those of their own culture and traditions, preparing themselves to support those who purport to support their interests.

And, remote from the reality of the situation, world leaders express their dismay and condemnation of Israel, and its 'disproportionate' response to unendurable provocation. Everyone is 'deeply concerned'. Everyone demands an immediate cessation of hostilities. And Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is more than a little comfortable with the idea of obliterating Israel from the map of the Middle East, claims "Whoever is killed in this legitimate defence is considered a martyr".

Oh, right, the first portion of that statement from the spiritually enlightened lips of Islam's holy warrior was: "All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible." Perniciously serene at the prospect of encouraging further and endless conflict in the name of Islam.

Whereas the other messages from world leaders distinguish themselves by their ambiguity, their biased 'neutrality', their malicious obloquy, their pathetic irony. As, for example, China's foreign ministry spokesman: "China expresses serious concern about the escalation of the tense situation in Gaza, denounces actions that cause injuries and deaths to ordinary people, opposes the use of military force in resolving disputes, appeals to related parties to exercise maximum restraint and to settle differences through dialogue."

Most certainly the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama would approve of the statesmanship of that declaration. Or, as the Turkish foreign minister has stated in his great good wisdom: "It will be more difficult to carry out Israel-Palestine peace talks healthily in 2009 under these circumstances. (Israel) might aim to weaken Hamas with the operation in Gaza. We do not share this view. Many people, some groups in the Muslim world, who see this tragedy in Gaza will feel more sympathy for Hamas because they are the victims now."


Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Defensive Response

What is it exactly that the world cannot get its mind around when it comes to Israel defending its soil, the lives of its citizens? Against a collective pathology of poisonous hatred, a psychosis of viral grievance, blame and intent to shed Jewish blood. Hamas saw no further utility in prolonging a hudna with Israel, and unilaterally declared it null and void. Immediately commencing to send dozens of rockets across the border from Gaza into Israel.

Reinstating a barrage of fear and terror that had formerly beset the Israelis within range. Although the rocket fire had not entirely ceased, it represent a six-month lull in volatile hostile action. The towns like Sderot which have had to live under a constant barrage of rockets, destroying buildings, harming residents, traumatizing children, resulting in a total collapse of communities' existence, can no longer be held under siege by an intransigent group of moral felons.

Hamas's actions, its belligerent rhetoric and outright refusal to accept anything less than Israel's demise identifies it as a recalcitrant partner for a future independent state of Palestine, living side by side with a neighbour in peace. It must be destroyed, for it will never be willing to accommodate itself to the presence of Israel. For all the bravado of its leaders, they're outright cowards. At the first sign of force to meet the violence it metes out, they disappear into safety.

Leaving the helpless population, and Hamas's militia foot soldiers, to face the wrath of a country no longer willing to contain its response, to abide with patience in the hope that the insanity will cease. The fearless spiritual leader, hiving himself off in Syria in a secret hiding place, unwilling to be seen in public, spits the venom of pure bile at the very thought of the existence of Israel. His stalwart Gaza-located first lieutenant swiftly seeks shelter at the first sign of Israel's defensive actions.

Hamas knows full well what it does in placing its various installations in Gaza; the vulnerability of the population is of no concern to them, other than for their value in being able to claim that, in striking back at Hamas, the Israel Defence Force is heartlessly attacking helpless civilians. Israel agonizes over the difficulties facing it in combating a viciously determined enemy while at the same time trying to avoid civilian casualties.

There is the very real possibility of a two-front conflict resulting from this assault, with Hezbollah reaching out from Lebanon to launch its own rocket attacks against northern Israel. Its leader, terrorist chief Hassan Nasrallah has issued a promise to that effect, claiming it will visit upon Israel what Gaza is now experiencing. Israel may very well be faced with attacks from that source; a week ago Katyusha rockets, fully armed, were discovered pointing toward Israel from Lebanon.

Hamas appeals to the world to condemn the defensive actions of Israel, terming the IDF action analogous to genocide, an 'ugly massacre', promising retaliation of the kind common before the erection of the wall, when suicide attacks within the heart of the country atrociously, horribly, illustrated how committed Palestinian terrorists are to consigning the country and its citizens to utter destruction.

A new Palestinian peoples' uprising against Israel is being cultivated, as Hamas and Hezbollah encourage the Palestinians to rise against their oppressor. "We will not leave our land, we will not raise white flags and we will not kneel except before God", according to Ismail Haniyeh. This god whom the Islamists faithfully pay obeisance to is not one commonly envisaged by most faithful, but is portrayed instead as a vengeful, blood-lusting, martyr-demanding spiritual demon.

As Hamas and Hezbollah and lesser militias have interpreted Islam for their singular purpose, so have they modelled themselves, after a demented version of a slaughtering deity of overpoweringly relentless hatred. The Islamist jihadists busy themselves propitiating a god of unambiguously deadly conflict. They have themselves reverted to a primal surge of incandescent animus against other people.

They reverence violence, and have no compassion for the people whom they claim to represent. Treating the civilian population as dispensable fodder in their violence-inspired defence of a vicious-spirited god whose purpose and meaning they have fashioned to suit their end-game of war without end. Israel's unilateral withdrawal of its settlers from Gaza - much as its withdrawal from Lebanon - taught it a grave lesson.

Nothing will appease the unappeasable. Peace will not develop from a goodwill withdrawal to entice those whose activities were controlled by force of arms to seek a more reasonable alternative for all concerned. The militantly devoted militias are interested in one thing only; to disrupt and ultimately disable the infrastructure of the Israeli state, to utterly destroy the potential for peace between the two solitudes, and to completely pulverize Jewish life

For the meantime, the defensive assault by the IDF, one promised by Israel's government should Hamas not cease its offensive assaults has been partially successful in its mission; to uproot and destroy personnel and infrastructure of the Islamists. Through the process, and given the crowded conditions of the land, and the placement within the population of Hamas posts, there have been civilian deaths and casualties.

The poverty and misery of the Palestinian Gazans is completely inexcusable, and utterly avoidable. Their plight has resulted from the intransigence of ruling Hamas, confident in their righteousness, and unconcerned at the burden they have placed on ordinary people in Gaza. The responsibility for the damage done to civilian infrastructure, the dire conditions in which people live there, and the harm now being done to the populace is directly attributable to Hamas's actions.

Along with the destruction of Hamas's security headquarters and training camps and weapons depots, there have been civilian casualties. It would be impossible to mount a defensive incursion and assault without incurring casualties, and Hamas, in its violent belligerence, its vile agenda, knows this very well. It simply does not care, has proven in the past, just as it does now, that it is prepared to do what it wishes, regardless of civilian safety.

The anguish of Palestinians with their insecurity, their misery, their unfulfilled needs, is solvable. The will of their leaders to move toward a solution acceptable to both the Palestinians and the Israelis is simply absent. The world's heart bleeds at the prospect of increased Israeli measures to protect the citizens of Israel, but what solution does the world have to offer?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Taken On Trust

As humans we are capable of so much, and yet so little. Most people instinctively trust other people, particularly those who share a common background, culture and tradition. But then there are always within any society, a significant number of individuals who trust no one; these are society's sociopaths and among their number psychopaths whose often random and destructive paths wreak havoc in any community. How to adequately and sufficiently judge peoples' characters?

No one has yet written a simple manual whereby people can pick up hints to identify character traits that would mark the personality of a psychopath, someone who has, by their inability to care about the welfare of others, placed themselves at an emotional remove from the rest of society. The social compact of beneficence toward others completely eludes these pathological, emotionally vacant people. They care for nothing but their own perceived comforts and needs, absent a conscience.

The agony that these social misfits can cause to society on a small or a grand scale, can be devastating in impact, yet no one is immune to becoming a victim, simply because we are collectively innocent, as opposed to the utterly blank depravity of those without conscience. There are several Greenpans in the United States, one whose first name is Alan, and who headed the Federal Reserve, now seen as culpably responsible through lack of foresight for the global meltdown.

The other is a developmental psychologist named Stephen Greenspan who wrote "Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It", writing knowledgeably about peoples' propensity to trust and in the process, get dreadfully stung. To his chagrin, despite his academic and professional credentials, he failed to follow his own advice, and has become yet another victim of a notably notorious sociopath, Bernard Madoff. Through a kind of social mentoring, a social 'trust' called word-of-mouth assurance.

The collapse of the U.S. - and global - financial market, and the additional spectacular loss of $50-billion of investment funds entrusted to the tender care of a morally sterile money manager, reflect one and the same circumstances. People in places of trust who made little to no effort to ensure that their machinations of financial instruments would have no victims - let alone on the grand scale seen today. They played the game their way, relying on opaqueness to mask their unsupportable gains, through peoples' trust in them.

In the greater scheme of things, one could ask, what is the more formidably unfortunate fate; to lose one's financial stability, or one's life and that of loved ones through the misadventure of trusting too freely and unquestioningly. A book-end to the global financial collapse and the following Madoff revelations, both intertwined in levels of manipulative malfeasance, each on its own, and then in combination wreaking world wide crises of financial insecurity, there is another example of human psychosis.

Just one of many that occur, when enraged men or women, but most often men, undertake to wreak personal revenge on the world around them, by targeting and eliminating the lives of those who somehow moved close to them and were singed as a a result. The result of which, in the short term, those burnt by close association, disassociated themselves, earning the violently bitter enmity of a psychopath whose further actions would spell extermination of those who spurned him.

It starts out innocently enough, with a friend of a friend introducing an acquaintance to a potential date. People are always trying to accommodate and to accomplish a ritual of matching unattached males to available females; another human instinct informed by human compassion. In this particular instance, a match, as often happens, ensued, and a single mother of three enjoyed a two-year courtship with a man she had been introduced to, and they lived cordially together for an entire two years of less than bliss.

Many personal traits are slowly revealed when living in close physical and psychological proximity to another person. Pertinent bits of data that, had they been known previously, might have prevented a woman from committing to a relationship. Her husband, she discovered, had once long ago had an affair with another woman, which produced a physically disabled child. As men often do, her husband moved on, did not commit to supporting the child or its mother, let alone binding emotionally with either.

Yet he unflinchingly used the child he had left behind as an income-tax dependent. When his wife discovered this unsavoury, truly unpalatable dimension to her husband, she realized the calibre of the person she had exposed and twinned her future to, and in the process her children, as well. A bitter separation ensued with a divorce to settle. The husband lost his job at Northrop Grumman Corp. where he had laid unsupportable claim to a master's degree from University of Southern California on his profile with the company.

This was the man who, on Christmas Eve, dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and fitted out with three handguns and a canister of flammable liquid, visited the home of his former wife's parents where a party was taking place. The eight-year-old child who answered the doorbell was shot directly in the face with a semi-automatic. Other revellers were shot, the flammable liquid distributed and the house set aflame. Among the nine people killed was the 17-year-old son of the friend who had introduced the murderer to his wife, Sylvia.

The killer, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, drove to his brother's house where he committed suicide. His plan had gone slightly awry; he had meant to leave for a flight to Canada directly following his murder spree, with $17,000 in cash, but suffering unanticipated burns from the fire, took his life instead. Not before booby-trapping his rental care with a home-made bomb. Exhibiting a hatred so intense that he planned to kill as many people as possible, including anyone who might happen to retrieve the car.

This is just a discrete example of the kind of dread misery people in all their innocence can visit upon themselves in the act of surrendering to the very human impulse of trusting and caring for others. Although these are discordant notes in human society, hardly representative of most peoples' actions and emotional disorders, their very grimness and the toll they take on the human psyche spreads in a pool of emotional disorder far wider than their immediate victims.

Solution? There is none. Hope? There is an entire universe of more emotionally fulfilling, life-accommodating stories that ensure we recall ourselves to the memory of those who gave us life through a long continuum of human devotion one to the other. The aberrations that so direly affect society are just that; aberrations. Normative associations express the best of humanity's potential.

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fallout From The Fallout

As though the global economic meltdown wasn't enough of a worrying mess, sending financial markets into a tailspin, manufacturers into insolvency, and consumers into a panic, with governments equally rattled, trying to spend their country out of financial doom. Rising unemployment, home losses, retail sales plummeting, and consumers unable to obtain bank loans - we're facing a tight situation for the near future, in the hopes that this sacrifice of quality of life will see its worst through the coming year, delivering us into normalcy by 2010.

And then a high-roller, a much esteemed and inordinately trusted investment house sees its principle informing his family that he has managed, single-handedly, to embezzle $50-billion dollars out of the world economy, leaving the financial community reeling, and the people and businesses and institutions he impacted in a nightmare of disbelief. Those investors in his interest-high-return scheme who withdrew some or part of their funds within the last six years, for whatever reason, might have breathed an initial sigh of relief at their escape from beggary.

But the lawyers, sharpening their wits and their pencils in an all-out series of ground-breaking lawsuits will do their utmost to ensure that those funds, inclusive of original investment and interest, be returned to the pot for what might be considered to be a fair distribution - of, actually, not a hell of a lot, considering the size of the original pot, now melted. And in a notoriously litigious society, lawyers must surely be salivating, sitting on the edge of their seats with excitement over the new potential for fat fees in prosecuting money managers who bought into Madoff Investments on behalf of their clients.

One such fund investor who heavily funnelled his clients' fortunes into the sure-fire high-interest return guaranteed by Bernard Madoff's reliably sterling company, was J. Ezra Merkin, through his two investment companies, Gabriel Capital LP fund and Ariel Fund Ltd. At this very moment, his many, and storied clients, are none too amused that the Angels of the Old Testament, Gabriel and Ariel, whose names truly were taken in vain, have proven to be devilishly unlike the remunerative angels they thought Mr. Merkin and Mr. Madoff represented.

Talk about slovenly professional conduct; all those smart money managers who took funding from their fabulously wealthy and trusting clients to re-invest with Madoff Investments without an inkling of an idea how it might be even remotely possible that - with universal low interest rates - Madoff Investments was able to grandly guarantee a return on investment of 10%, goes unanswered. As pithy a question as could be imagined, but logical explanations are not to be found, other than that they speak to the greed of people not really wanting to know how and why, just eager to collect.

The largest private university in the United States, New York University, has been stung by Madoff's scheming, along with fabulously wealthy men and women, celebrities, philanthropic societies, and more bedevilled unfortunates being unveiled day by day. Yeshiva University, also ponzied, did not really have to politely ask both Mr. Merkin, chairman of GMAC LLC and the now-disgraced Bernard Madoff to resign from its board of directors. One does wonder, however, how both men, particularly Mr. Madoff, resigns himself to his growing reputation as the most disreputable, detested investment guru in history?

And one wonders, does he give a thought to the ruined lives of frantic people trying to figure out how to forge ahead for their now-bleak futures? Granted, those with stacks of money, invested a portion of it with him, and will have plenty to live on, while ruing the day they ever heard of him. But there are others with vastly more modest wealth now left bereft. And the blackened reputation of otherwise respected money managers like Theirry Magon de la Villehuchet who did business with Madoff International was enough to bring him to suicide.

Does Mr. Madoff have a conscience? Wouldn't anyone be fascinated to hear the words of uplift and encouragement emanating from the lips of his loyal wife, his two sons whose reputations and future in the industry - let alone the society and the world they live in - he has destroyed?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Islamist Maghreb

Islamic countries within Africa are facing their own crises with the increasing presence of fanatical fundamentalist Islamists. Somalia, for one, has been in such a state of civil disarray, with fragmentary civil control of the country throughout a long series of disruptive and vicious wars it is now ripe to surrender to the demands of yet another Islamist insurgency.

A country whose people once again face the dread face of famine and war, can find comfort nowhere. Its government is hardly existent, marginalized by ineffectiveness and an incapacity to offer any measure of security to its people. Supported by Ethiopian troops which fought against the Islamist militias, it will soon be left to its own hopeless devices as the Ethiopians prepare to leave.

The coast of Somalia thrives with the activities of pirates, upsetting shipping through vital shipping channels, holding crews of captured vessels hostage for long months, awaiting rescue by shipping companies tiring of paying handsome ransoms. The world shipping community, and the countries who depend on the shipping trade for their export and import communities are fed up with the lawlessness.

An international flotilla of military vessels representing various countries of the world whose cargo ships have been attacked, and often taken into the custody of the Somalian pirates who see their pirating craft as just another business, extracting what they see as legitimate freight for passage in waters they control, cannot exercise control over that vast body of water.

The government of Somalia, unable to bring peace and order to the country as a whole, is helpless to act. Medecins Sans Frontiers describes the plight of Somalia as representing one of the world's worst humanitarian and security crises. Over a million of the country's nine million population are homeless as a result of fighting, with another three-and-a-half million on the brink of starvation.

The population lives in a war zone, so that aside from homelessness and starvation, injuries by mortar rounds and indiscriminate firing of weaponry result in thousands of serious casualties, and the finality of death. The country's transitional government is unable, on its own, to fend off the Islamist insurgents, now in control of huge swaths of Somalia.

The African Union, with its paucity of peacekeepers, poorly trained and equipped, is unlikely to present as a force of deterrent to the intent of the Islamists to take over the entire country. The United Nations will not send a peacekeeping force to Somalia, for, as Ban Ki-moon states, there is no peace, therefore there is no practical use of sending a peacekeeping force; their role is not defensive.

The Muslim militants represent a radical group of younger Islamists who sundered alliance from the original Union of Islamic Courts. The group, al-Shabab, include in their midst three high-ranking al-Qaeda-linked terrorists wanted by the United States for their engagement in and responsibility for bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Islamists have imposed sharia law on all the areas of Somalia which they now control. Inspired by their righteous victories over the hopelessly inept government, and defiant of the concerns and interference of the West, they enact their own version of sharia by beheading local aid workers whom they accuse of collaborating with the United Nations.

And true to the values of fanatical Islam they impose penalties of death by stoning in their primitive cleansing rituals, claiming that young girls and women who have been raped are unclean "having committed adultery". There seems to be no rescue in sight for the people of Somalia from their dire fate, helplessly surrendering to the anti-humane proponents of fascist-Islam.

Certainly no version of Islam that faithful Muslims the world over recognize as one of compassion and brotherly love. The steadily emerging double face of Islam - belying the beliefs of moderate Muslims - offers its nightmare presence of a bleak underworld of terror and mass murder wherever it raises its bloodied banner.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All Matters Being Equal

There's little doubt that the Palestinian people living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffer a miserable life, bereft of normal freedoms, without the dignity of a free people, unable to advance their lives because of ongoing occupation and uncertainties for the future. Theirs is a life of occupation, where the politics and military of a country adjacent their territories reduce the meaning of their lives, offer social and political and military insult, interfere in the achievement of 'normalcy' in every conceivable way.

It need not have been this way. The occupying country, exhibiting a level of cruel behaviour toward their neighbours would far rather prefer it also, to be vastly otherwise. Jews are not comfortable being placed in the role of the neighbourhood bully, practising a militant rigidity of social and political indignities toward another people. That they do, in fact and reality, represent a brutal occupying power is reason for inner anguish, a truly troubling reminder that they are reacting and acting in a manner they've themselves been made to suffer, historically.

So, how is it that a population of pitiable refugees has been unable or unwilling to advance their futures in their best interests? That they've abandoned all reasonable and legitimate efforts to bring themselves into a normal stream of living and livelihoods, raising their children to anticipate a better world for themselves? They represent the single most heavily supported refugee population in the world today, and the lengthiest duration - heavily and solely dependent on the charity of world funding bodies to prop up their everyday lives.

It's an undeniably true fact that a greater number of Jewish refugees resulted from mass expulsion from Arab countries where they had lived for generations before being recognized by the ruling overseers of those countries as "enemy aliens". Their properties and goods were confiscated, and they were thrust penniless and stateless, in the 1940s, out of a familiar world they had considered they were an integral part of. They represent a far greater body of refugees forcibly displaced and expelled than do the Palestinian Arabs.

Assistance they were given to help resettle themselves, to assist them in finding a new place for themselves, new opportunities to begin anew, was far less than what has been monumentally expended for the same purpose for the Palestinians. The Arab world holds steadfast to the demand that the Palestinians who fled the immediate geography of the newly-proclaimed State of Israel, must be compensated by right of return - inclusive of the millions of their progeny. Should not, then, the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced to flee Arab and Muslim states see like compensation?

More to the point, however, is not merely the unequal treatment and the apprehension of the two situations - where one group can be forgotten and the other held as an example of human rights having been trampled and restitution being required - is why, exactly, the Palestinians have themselves expended no energy in ameliorating their situation, in looking forward, in taking responsibility toward advancing their own interests, beyond grievance and demanding the world consider it the ultimate victim.

Perhaps it's a matter of scarcity of able and responsible and honourable leadership. When Yasser Arafat came close to reaching a grudging agreement with his Israeli counterpart in searching together for a solution to finally reach a settlement beyond defiance, despair and aggression, the more militant factions of his PLO denounced him and he felt encouraged to renege on the agreement, and to foment violence anew against the State of Israel.

Through the process unerringly ensuring that no meeting of minds could take place, as the Palestinians were encouraged to reject passive acceptance and take up the cudgel of violent resistance instead. And when rock-throwing morphed into suicide bombing, then the logical conclusion was that the embattled state had a larger obligation to protect its citizens, erecting the world-despised Wall whose erection functioned as a protection from incursion, as fences are wont to do, and at the same time, eroded property and social rights of the Palestinians.

Is it logical for a large group of people to remain complicit in their own downfall? To accept the vile propaganda about Jews' intentions to destroy the Arabs, to teach impressionable young people that they may never consider their neighbours to be potential neighbours with whom they may live in peace? How can efforts toward a peaceful solution of the aggression between two disparate peoples, religions, politics and traditions be successful when each is not prepared to sympathize one with the other, and tolerate their differences?

The plight of the Palestinians is a dreadful one to be imposed on any group of people. But an alternate must be found to be acceptable to both people, the Arabs and the Israelis, to distrust, suspicion and fear. As long as Israelis have good reason to feel threatened by the ongoing determination of those leaders in the Palestinian territories who profess to have the best interests of their people in mind, and express their dedication by ongoing assaults, nothing can logically advance in meeting the needs of each side.

Sometimes, verily, people are their very own worst enemies.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trials and Tragedies

It isn't unknown, throughout the developing world, for children to be sacrificed by their parents, through dire necessity. To be handed over, as valuable possessions, to others who barter for them to accomplish their own ends. It's a situation that has been repeated throughout the history of humankind.

Destitute parents with too many children to adequately care for, dispossess themselves of one or more of their children. In Japan, comely young girls were often sent from their fishing villages as paupers, to spend long years as apprentice geisha, or concubines or serving maids, abandoned to their fate.

Often enough, in the British Isles, young children were sent by their impoverished families into servitude - or service. To be trained as housemaids or cooks for wealthy families. Their meagre salaries sent back home to help their parents raise their brood of younger children.

Or children sold into servitude to work in factories, to be trained so their clever little hands could produce objects that mature hands could not manipulate into being. Even yet, small hands weave intricate patterns on fine fabrics, and costly rugs, earning a pittance for their labours.

In most civilized countries child labour is no longer considered legitimate. Children are no no longer sent down into dank, deep and dark mines. They are no longer sold as apprentices to do hard labour for often uncaring masters.

But this kind of trade of children still occurs elsewhere on the Globe. As does another kind of child slavery, when children are abducted by militants throughout Africa, to be trained as fighters, killers, struggling for a cause they know nothing about.

In China, Malaysia, India, and throughout Africa - as well as many other parts of the world in countries that consider themselves free, mature, wealthy and democratic, children are sold into slavery as sex objects.

And then, of course, there's a thriving market for young children to be sold by their parents for adoption by wealthy and sterile couples.

In Afghanistan currently, children of wealthy parents are often kidnapped for ransom. Their abductors feel little pity for the children, their concern is for the ransom they're able to extract from the parents of the abducted.

In that country too, young boys are given over as sex slaves for the use of older men. It's an old tradition, one practised freely enough, horribly victimizing young boys, maiming them for life in the process.

And young boys are also sold to rich women, themselves unable to conceive, and anxious to have the experience of raising a child. These activities take place, for the most part, in rural areas, far from whatever laws are enacted for the presumed preservation of human rights in the country's capital.

It presents as a cut-and-dried business opportunity for a woman able to pay the freight, to take a child from its family. The parents of the child grieve, yet are complicit, because they have other children to feed and haven't the means to do so, otherwise.

One such woman, whom a television cameraman, shooting footage for a documentary, was characterized as behaving badly when she ordered the child, 8 years of age, to peremptorily take his leave of his parents, had a ready self-absolution.

"Yes, you're right", she admitted. It's cruel. But I have two aims here. First, to give this boy a bright future and a good education. And second, to save their other children. The winter's coming and I've given them money so the children don't die of hunger."

The father of the child explained "I sold a piece of my heart to stop my four other children dying of hunger. I don't have an elder son. I'm also sick. My kidney is failing. My body is in pain."

These are the choices made in desperation by indigent parents. Children never have any choices of their own to make. They are disposable and dispensable, mere material fodder in a world of misfortune and dire poverty.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Scruples There Are None

While the geopolitical world looks on nervously at the activities surrounding the Islamic Republic of Iran in its stated journey toward nuclear sufficiency, there are other political and geographical considerations that lift the situation into an altogether new realm of potential danger. Iran - though it has its many detractors, those who fear and abhor its ferocious agenda entirely disruptive to the world at large - also enjoys the helpfulness of its friends.

Friends who just happen to reflect some of the very similar values and moral imperatives, and see value in assisting Iran's aspirations. Friends who find themselves listed as human-rights-abusing nations whose activities are directly harmful to their populations and promise to do great future harm to the world surrounding them. Their adverseness to the social order of decency and care for others stands them apart from the democratic nations of the Globe.

Pakistan's sinister nuclear weaponry expert saw fit to ensure that unfit countries shared the critical knowledge it had attained to enable it to produce nuclear armaments. North Korea, which starves its people, and lavishes funding on nuclear development and arms acquisition, proved a great help to Iran and Syria in spreading nuclear know-how.

And Russia, not to be outdone, has encouraged Iran in its manifest destiny. Helping it materially, scientifically and diplomatically, to defy world order and United Nations' sanctions, in its trajectory toward nuclear self-fulfilment.

The Kremlin, and specifically Vladimir Putin, has been outraged at the desertion of its former partners in the dissolved U.S.S.R. Their cleaving to Western notions of democratic governance, and aligning themselves with the European Union and NATO has caused a friction of unappeasable ferocity between them and Russia.

The decision of the United States - in the face of Iran's aspirational goals and its loudly expressed and direct threats to its neighbours - to place anti-missile sites close to Russian borders in former allies' geographies has infuriated Vladimir Putin, who sizzles with white-hot anger. Russia's newly rediscovered allies in Venezuela and Cuba serve as counter-measures to restoring its pride.

As does its assistance to Iran in providing it with its own advanced anti-missile apparatus, now in the process of delivery, to confront and challenge the United States and Israel with the reality of its realpolitik. Denying its intent when confronted with it initially, it now brazenly allows that the transference of the new technology is reality.

This is Russia, newly facing its economic disruption as a result of fallen oil prices, where it has newly imposed high tariffs against importation of foreign vehicles to extract from its people the necessity to buy home-produced vehicles. Vehicles that Russians recognize as inferior, more costly and mechanically dangerous - than the Asian products they prefer. Producing riots and violent government responses.

Russians now accuse their governing elite of squandering Russia's new wealth on their own personal aggrandizement, instead of investing it in public infrastructure and advanced technologies to benefit the country as a whole. The growing numbers of the unemployed and the steadily depreciating currency is fuelling true social discontent, long in coming.

Iran, that bastion of social development, has seen fit to close down the office of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre in Tehran, operated by the Nobel Peace laureate and women's rights activist Shirin Ebadi. Heaven knows, Iran is in dire need of courageous Iranians to dedicate themselves to easing the plight of Iranian women, and to defend the human rights of gays and Baha'i in the country.

Together, they represent a world-class duo of socially unsavoury and politically dangerous playmates.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Facing Up to Losing Face

How truly unfortunate. German industrialists made use of manpower opportunities that beckoned throughout the Second World War, with the serendipitous presence of prisoners of war. Prisoners of war have no choice; they perform the tasks they are ordered to do, on pain of death. They become slave labourers. They exist on scant provisions, stagger from a bare pallet, nourished on thin gruel, diseased and unkempt, to the factories where their labour produced output for the war effort.

Germany earned its place in collective infamy among civilized countries of the world with its debasing inhumanity. It was not alone. Its ally, Japan, in invading China and Korea and slaughtering and imprisoning countless numbers of their populations, still staggers under the weight of distrust, anger and antipathy thrust its way from both countries.

Germany did ultimately express its profound regrets over the unforgivably stridently vicious injuries it caused to humanity through its own regrettable loss of humanity. Japan has experienced far more difficulties in facing up to its militantly destructive past.

The matter of Korean comfort women remains unresolved. But stiff apologies have been voiced through diplomatic and political channels toward those of its neighbours whom the country preyed so destructively upon. The Japanese treatment of allied prisoners of war incarcerated in remote areas, from their capture to the end of the war has been well documented.

There are no conceivable reparations for the kind of brutality meted out by the Japanese military toward defenceless prisoners; their treatment was legendarily miserable. And now, the Prime Minister Taro Aso himself has been implicated in just such prisoner atrocities through his family's use of prisoners of war as forced labourers in its coal mines.

He was a mere child at the time. It was his family that had used Allied prisoners and some ten thousand Koreans as slave labourers. Twenty-five years later, Mr. Aso took charge of his family's industry, re-named and re-invented as Aso Cement. He has steadfastly denied rumours of prisoner of war slave-labour as unauthentic, brushing them off as unproven allegations.

It is not really that he was personally implicated that causes such perturbation, but the obvious fact that he would be quite aware of the truth, and yet, has chosen to deny it. Obviously, for his own purposes. For to accept the allegations as verifiable truth would be to potentially eliminate his aspirations to political control of the country as the head of the LDP.

A political party which has ruled the country almost without interruption since the end of WWII. Japan, a beautiful country with industrious people, a marvellous culture and fascinating history and traditions, still struggles to achieve a status of trust within its geography.

Its prime minister's response to the unveiling of the reality of the past, does him no credit, and does a grave disservice to the country, blemishing its moral status through association.

Labels: , ,

A Veritable Prince of a Fellow

With a reputation like his for responsible financial management, who could doubt the veracity of his promises, his ability to take funds and safeguard them, make them grow, gift the owners with greater comfort in the security of the knowledge of their steadily accumulating wealth? And, psst! he's one of ours. Right, a real mensch.

A prince of a fellow. Experience? He's had it, throughout his illustrious financial career. Looking for more assurances? Well, he's a former head of the NASDAQ stock market. Good enough? His moral integrity simply cannot be questioned; his financial acumen there, in black and white for all to study. Impressive, isn't it? And, psst! he's one of ours.

Success? Don't you know it. Multi-million-dollar homes in Manhattan, Long Island, Palm Beach. Worth plenty. He knows how to grow money; smart investment is his forte. If this guy can't be trusted, then who can? And, predictably, the allure of doing business with this man ran after his sterling reputation.

European banks and wealth managers, all bought into his funds for their rich clients. And wealthy families, and well-funded charitable organizations, always on the look-out to make money out of their endowments, gave him their wherewithal to do with as he would. And he graciously accepted the trust they placed in him - hard earned trust - and proceeded to do as he would.

Injuriously, implacably, criminally. No mere scoundrel, he. Now, he's receiving death threats.

And no one appears to be unduly concerned about his well-being. He's wearing an electronic ankle bracelet; house arrest, you know. The authorities are trying to figure out what to do - how to apportion his assets of about $300-million. Whoops, that's a lot of loose change. And that's just what it is compared to the $50-billion he has bilked; loose change.

What a peach of a fellow. All that unquestioned trust in his financial genius, his professionalism, his experience, his integrity.

He manipulated thousands of investments world-wide. Fraud is such a nasty word, fraught with condemnatory scorn. It isn't scorn that's weighing so heavily on the minds and hearts of those he scammed, the high-net-worth investors who entrusted their life-savings to him, it's pure, unadulterated hate. He violated everyone's trust.

How could he? How could he descend to such a low place, completely eschew ethics, have no regard for the destruction his manoeuvrings wrought on peoples' hopes for their futures, for the capabilities of charitable organizations to continue with their life-enhancing work? What could he have been thinking?

What could possibly have motivated this man? He's a Jew, did you know that? Have I mentioned that already? Well, did I mention the huge numbers of wealthy Jews and Jewish charities that he has bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars? True, it's true, he did that.

His fraud reached across oceans, resulting in the single largest Wall Street failure - scam, ever perpetrated. Might that have been his purpose? The Guinness World Record? The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity has lost tens of millions, "substantially all of the foundation's assets". Nice going, fella.

The 'Jerusalem Post' claims that the losses incurred through Mr. Madoff's schemes "may amount to the most spectacular financial disaster to hit Jewish life since the Great Depression, with unconfirmed losses totaling up to $1.5-billion." Will that engender sorrow in the larger community that has lost, let's see, roughly $48.5-billion? I think not. People will sneer about a Jewish conspiracy.

Too much money vested within the Jewish community, anyway. The Jewish losses are likely a screen; the wealthy Jews will recover their lost funds eventually, through the distribution of the vast riches wrenched from the Christian world, representing that latter, immense sum of ostensibly missing money.

That'll encourage the backlash. It'll come.

Wait for it.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Legends of our Times

The world's latest example of a living legend exerts the prowess of his intellectual decision-making in the choices and installations he selects to surround himself with cerebral, practical and experienced individuals, outstanding in their public endeavours, now being elevated to positions of collective political influence and power. President-elect Obama has been steadily drawing people to him, to assist him in the executive administration of the world's single most powerful, and wealthiest country.

He has dedicated himself to fulfilling the promise he held out to the American electorate; that he would undertake to produce for them, a fairer, more empathetic and just society. He would accomplish this new world order - for no one has any doubts that whatever social, political or economic journey the United States embarks upon will impact the rest of the world's fortunes - by advancing an new structure, a new imperative upon that republican democracy.

The critical function of his appointments bespeaks the eventual success of his aspirations on behalf of his fellow Americans. The choices he makes and the directions he takes are of prime importance to the world outside, looking in. And there's an odd, niggling little doubt in the process. Surely, democracy is celebrated for taking its guidance from the people, the population that elects its final, considered choice to represent their interests.

Yet it is a commonplace occurrence for the incoming executive body to be personally selected from among a coterie of individuals, outstanding in their fields of endeavour, be it industrial, academic or professional, or just simply as good and trusted friends of the incoming president, rather than be represented through the electoral process. That seems quite at odds with the precepts and values of a democracy.

President-elect Barak Obama has made his selections through the ranks of elected officials in both the Democratic and Republican parties, but he has also carefully elevated to high public office people in industry, academia, other levels of government, and his own political supporters. That doesn't seem consonant with democracy; rather presenting as an admixture of democratic action wedded to autocratic embellishment of opportunities.

When George W. Bush selected his close cabinet colleagues, he reached into private industry for his Secretary of Defence and his vice-President. As history tells us, upon the assumption of the identification of an "axis of evil" the president turned truth upside down in his determination to invade Iraq. The consequences of that war has materially benefited the bottom-line coffers of armaments and reconstruction and private militia groups his high-ranked officials represented.

Dwight D. Eisenhower knew well of what he spoke when he warned Americans to "beware the military-industrial complex". Enlarged to include compliant government, as a trifecta of questionable purpose resulting in a failed enterprise but an economic windfall for the usual suspects.

There are cultivated categories of public celebratory renown that the public at large renders obeisance toward as superior beings existing in the sea of mediocre talent and aspirations surrounding them. The cult of celebrity, wealth, power; that triad of aspirational achievement standing as the pinnacle of perfection in society. And when one has celebrity and wealth, then there is just the power to be aspired toward. In the case of America's traditional political aristocracy, the convention thrives.

Here is the daughter, now past the half-century mark, invoking the cherished memory of her father, John F. Kennedy, he of "Camelot" fame never quite realized. She has achieved her position in her society through her descent. She has busied herself with the usual do-gooding imperative of the idle rich, in cultural philanthropy. An obligatory social noblesse oblige. Power and public duty adds another dimension entirely to one's lifetime resume and personal legacy.

She wishes now to be acclaimed and elevated to a now-vacant position in the Senate to represent the State of New York; a nice little temporary occupational plum, despite her utter lack of personal political experience. The political dynasties of the Kennedy and Bush families do so very much resemble the banana-republic antics of self-entitlement seen so often in underdeveloped, democratically-challenged countries of the world.

One can only ask, with a modicum of sincerity, how different Caroline Kennedy's resolve to sit in the Senate, as an untried and inexperienced political leader, is from the now infamous debate swirling around Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's attempts to "barter" to the highest bidder, former Senator Barak Obama's Senate seat. In Caroline Kennedy's case old favours are being called in; in that of the Illinois governor's, filthy lucre.

Is there really that much difference? A question of the medium of exchange. The results being similar. What a truly peculiar set of situations and complex undertakings under the guise of a participatory democracy.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 19, 2008

Long Past Time

It is long past time in the Arab and Islamic world for governing and social maturity. That maturity could be expressed in a governing hierarchy, an academic elite, a clerical leadership to take ownership of their singular responsibility to the vast numbers of people whom they collectively represent. Those people who groan under the weight of a culturally-determined life cycle repeating itself endlessly with little gain in the social compact, or advance in the political structure, thanks to the clutch of fundamentalist interpretation of Islam on every facet of human endeavours in those lands.

Thus the thin veneer of civilized concern for the well-being of the populations whom theocracies and kingdoms and authoritarian governments oversee remains just that; a conceit of caring, where none actually exists. Where respect for human rights is an unknown, an unrecognized quality of life known to exist in countries of the degraded West, but quite unnecessary in the lands of Islam. Where an incautiously expressed dissent relating to politics or religion is cause for imprisonment, sometimes worse.

Where blasphemy or even more dire, the shedding of belief in Islam for the acceptance of another religious belief renders the individual ripe for imprisonment, occasionally torture, and sometimes the death sentence. Where religious minorities are harassed and sometimes their presence strictly forbidden on pain of incarceration, torture, and perhaps disappearance. Where the cure for homosexuality is simple and direct; social torment, incarceration, sometimes the death penalty.

Where women are enslaved as mere social and practical appendages of men. With no direct social or human rights of their own, everything revolving around the men who own them. Where a woman imprudent enough to be seen in public with a man not her father, brother or husband can be accused of improper conduct verging on loose morals occasioning banishment from the family hearth, and sometimes worse, in the assuagement of outraged family honour.

Where a woman, or a girl, having been raped, is considered unclean and somehow personally responsible for the brutal assault, then committed to prison or, as has been practised commonly, put out of her misery by a family member restoring family honour. Or sentenced to a grisly publicly-attended stoning death by a cleric whose stern admonishment to the community is that such an assault on Islamic values will not be tolerated.

Where unemployment is high, and so is corruption. The corrupt live handsomely and are highly respected in their civil service and teaching and clerical positions, while the unemployed are perfectly free to starve, or beg, or thieve in desperate attempts to feed their malnourished children. And when brought to justice as a commonly-despised thief, suffer limb amputation, or, occasionally, a public flogging or a death sentence.

Order, above all, must be maintained. And respect for authority. And it must be seen to that the population cleaves faithfully to the precepts and ordinations of their Divinity and His esteemed Messenger, obeying the Koran and praying multiple times daily to ensure that they submit entirely to Allah's will. For His will must be done. It is just and moot and simply as things are, not to be questioned, but faithfully accepted. Giving purpose and meaning to otherwise meaning-scant lives.

Islamic precepts and the hallowed love for the people toward their God is foremost in mind and represents the very reason for existence. Another unifying principle of Islamic brotherhood is the integral and shared detestation of foreign elements; above all the burning antipathy toward Jews, Zionists and the abhorrent State of Israel, offensive to Allah by its forbidden presence on Arab land.

For it is as Saudi columnist Turki Al-Hamad, writing in the London Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, that the existence of Israel has become the single unifying geopolitical issue of the Arab world, dominating Arab life and politics, giving fresh ammunition by its very existence in the Middle East, to hate-spumed threats and ongoing intimidation in useless attempts to banish its presence from the territory.

The presence of Israel, and the plight of the Palestinians has been one of Islam's precious gifts to its nations. A people, an ideology and a religion beyond contempt, one which can be looked down at with justifiable anger and disgust, so far removed from the splendid righteousness of Islam that it qualifies as a distinct failure in human existence. Israel, the dread occupier, the bestial overseer of poor landless Palestinians.

Those very same Arabs, the Palestinians, that other Arabs love to patronize for their perceived value in the struggle against the Zionist Imperialists. This is their value to the greater Arab and Islamic world; as a living symbol of the wrongs done by Jews to Arabs. The wrongs done to Palestinian Arabs by other Arabs by their unwillingness to absorb and welcome them into their societies, to grant them legitimacy and stature and opportunities in those lands is inconvenient and irrelevant.

Jordan, alone among the Arab countries, has absorbed and bestowed legality upon the Palestinians, but not before a bloody civil war took thousands of lives. Now, a Palestinian woman shares the Jordanian throne. Other Arabs just happen to be suspicious about the civility and proneness to violence that appears to distinguish the Palestinian male character. Which appears to be the reason that they are held at arms' length, denied citizenship, employment, equality.

There is always the example of Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees live in sprawling, squalid refugee camps, scorned by Lebanese Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, as well as the Druze, as human refuse. That human refuse assembled itself under the banner of an Islamist jihad-aspiring champion, presenting as a very real threat to established Lebanon, aided and abetted by sinister elements representing government interests in neighbouring countries.

Hezbollah now has been absorbed into the government of Lebanon. That country desperately trying to balance its sovereignty against the grasping intentions of those very same neighbours for whom Hezbollah represents a proxy army of militants with a social and political arm - warriors with a twofold purpose; to upset the legally constituted government of Lebanon and to make endless war on their common enemy, the Zionist entity. Lebanon attempts to wrest armaments from the hands of Hezbollah, to no avail. It remains a country viciously divided.

How is it that the elder-statesmen-countries of the region do not exert their influence; political, financial and religious, to greater purpose in establishing peaceful relations between all nations in the Middle East, inclusive of Israel, determined to remain where ancient history installed them and modern calamity established them? The inertia of customs and traditions, the comfort of the wealthy Gulf States in looking inwardly, never outwardly.

And the usefulness of Israel in never having to explain to their national dependants why and how they establish and maintain their economies, their blemish-free governments, by reminding all who will listen that the enemy is in their midst and must be vanquished. The classical dodge since time immemorial of self-availing tyrants and dictatorial overseers; produce a victim so that all may pounce upon him for ultimate satisfaction and complementary clouding of vital issues.

So, it is as Turki Al-Hamad claims in mourning the lack of maturity evidenced in Arab life: "Israel has been, and to a great extent still is, the cornerstone of modern Arab political culture and the primary measure of politics in the region. Despite the fact that the Palestinians themselves, whose cause this is first and foremost, have in effect lost consciousness of their cause, and have entered a stage of political infantility and childish quarrels over trivial matters - despite this fact, the status of the 'cause' in political culture and modern Arab political behavior has not changed much in many respects.

"This is similar to those 'revolutionary' regimes that come in the name of the people and for the benefit of the people, and then kill off the people and the people's interests - yet continue to speak in the name of the people and about the people. In this case, 'the people' becomes a political myth justifying anything and everything - even though it does not exist outside of the mind, [and remains in the mind] even when what is in the mind contradicts what is in the real world.

"Israel and Zionism have always been the axis around which the other components of modern Arab political culture revolved, and the measure against which the compass of Arab politics was largely set. This is in addition to the fact that [this axis] has been the primary 'justification' for every failure and disaster in modern Arab life: from the failure of the project of the great Arab renaissance and of the great Arab unity, to a child's death by starvation in Basra in Shatt Al-'Arab and an emigrant's drowning in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic, to a woman's death from poverty on the banks of the Nile in the Nile river valley.

"For were it not for Israel and Zionism, and the colonialism, imperialism, and occupation they brought in their wake, there would not have been any division, backwardness, ignorance, illness, or wretchedness, and thus no one would have died of starvation, drowning, illness, or poverty. Israel was always sought out [for blame], to the point where one can't imagine that the Arabs are really serious in their hostility to Israel, since if the real, earthly Israel were to disappear, how could they preserve the Israel of the mind and the imagination, without which Arab political life would be choked off, as it would have lost its justification and there would be no longer any direction towards which the Arab compass would point.

"In modern Arab political life, Israel and Zionism have become the be-all and end-all, just as the past, and the glorification of it, became the unquestioned givens of 'modern' Arab culture."

So it is, so it has been. Will it continue to reflect modern reality?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congratulations Dear Colleague!

Beware the hidden agendas of those with whom you share a workplace. All may not quite be as transparent as the facade presents.

If you have been naughty, not at all nice, there may very well be a deep and abiding, simmering resentment among your co-workers. Who may seek in some measure, at some time, to retaliate. To invest you with the knowledge that you have not impressed those people with whom you have shared many working hours in an entirely agreeable manner.

So tread lightly. Be a kind and compassionate individual, empathize with the travails of your colleagues. Be as one with them. Do not be demanding, do not demean them in any way, or cast doubt on their capabilities. Trust them, and turn a friendly face to others, for your life, yes your very life may, at some future time, depend upon their goodwill.

Their goodwill is yours for the asking, for the taking, be cognizant of that. Here is a trifling little story with extremely unfortunate overtones. As a case in point.

In central Japan, in a small town near the ancient capital of Kyoto, a retirement party took place at an inn in Ritto, in celebration of the retirement of a 60-year old man, an employee of a transport company. Traditionally, Japanese depend upon their employer as a source of emotional and social support. Taking employment is seen as devoting one's life to the employer, and vice versa.

Their very lives, traditionally, revolve around the company for which they labour. The company represents a true life-line in the social system of the country. It offers a decent living wage, an honourable occupation, a dependable social system, one that takes itself seriously, treating its employees to company picnics and parties, as an extended family.

But human beings are just that, and bad feelings and poor relations among co-workers can result, perhaps particularly among those who are thrown together in a working, plus an integrated social relationship where inner feelings must be suppressed in favour of presenting a unified, pleasant front.

Japanese society requires no less, for to cause any kind of fuss, express dissent, is not favoured as part of the social construct. In Japan, the square peg is pounded into the round aperture, taking its place with the other, compliant round pegs.

And Japanese are really socially aware, skilled in presenting a smooth, untroubled exterior, extending courtesy to one another, very aware that nothing unsettling should occur in public. Japanese men enjoy going out of an evening to imbibe liquor. And they do not hold their liquor very well, although they enjoy drinking, and enjoy the atmosphere of drinking with friends in a social venue.

There are not very many mean Japanese drunks; instead the demeanor is unremittingly pleasant, although certain social reservations become relaxed. At this celebratory party for the retirement of this individual, matters may have got slightly out of hand. But you know how it is, when you're in the midst of a crowd of well-wishers and suddenly hands surround you, and lift you, and then there's a friendly toss?

Yes, you're quite helpless to defend yourself, physically overtaken by the collective weight of a larger physicality that subsumes your own.

Thus it was that this man preparing to retire to a quiet life of retrospection and introspection, simple pleasures and relaxation - perhaps even to undertake a long and leisurely temporary retreat in a temple, or to finally surrender to a life-long wish to undertake a pilgrimage to a sacred shrine, had his intentions interrupted.

His boisterous work colleagues, doubtless in their cups, riotously lifted him and threw him into the air. What an exhilarating feeling that must have been, to fly through the air like a bird... Except, no one, it would appear, thought it might be a cautionary step to also catch him, interrupt his fall, set him back on his feet, averting the potential for a nasty collision with the ground.

And thus it was that he fell, his neck and backbone shattered. He was paralyzed, and died ten months later, of blood poisoning. His widow is rather upset. She has filed a complaint with the police.

Labels: ,

Reaping Rewards of Intervention

Six years the "Coalition of the Willing" have been stationed in Iraq, a country far removed in geographic distance, politics, religion, traditions and customs from those of most countries who had agreed to help the United States remove Saddam Hussein from his totalitarian aeryie. Well over one hundred thousand foreign troops helping to invade and occupy a country riven with sectarian hatred, controlled by the iron grip of its murderous dictator.

Well, the world is full of vicious dictators whose impact on their populations is despotic and soul-destroying. Benevolence is not a virtue that most totalitarian governments extend to their long-suffering populations. And these countries, whose values and human rights are trampled into the dust of history by a succession of ruthless self-empowering tyrants somehow muddle along from one social disaster to another, the world looking on, pityingly, while the UN issues its useless appeals and sanctions.

For reasons known best to himself, and perhaps involving his father's unfinished business with an irredentist Baghdad, in a demonstration that he's a more unflinching champion of the underdog and America's oil investments than his father in rescuing Kuwait from Saddam's clutches, George W. Bush would not be dissuaded from his intention to turn his vast armed resources on that country. And to cajoling others to join his adventure, giving it the legitimacy that the UN's denial revoked.

Now, a new Iraq, still beset with violence, still faced with simmering sectarian resentments, is ushering out on a note of self-confidence, its former occupiers. Suicide missions continue in the country, relatively abated in occurrence. But Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced a departure date of May 31, when 4,100 British troops will leave for home. Relief, and smiling faces all around. It only cost the British the lives of 178 of its military.

No word as to the wounded, those adjusting to life bereft of some critical limbs. Those whose mental state will never again be quite what it formerly was. Those whose marriages and families have been shattered, reflecting the state of their own now-fragile personalities. Pity also, those lives lost to the peculiar phenomenon of "friendly fire". They're soon to be on the move though, those troops, going home.

Their sojourn in Iraq was the cause of much internal anguish in the country; so many in the population rejected the theory that there was a need to deploy there, in Iraq. And that military operation from the British perspective, cost its treasury almost $13-billion, funds that might have gone a very long way in other areas, invested in Britain itself. International obligations, don't you see...

However, there's much satisfaction in a job well done. And Mr. Brown said as much, stating that British forces, in leaving that embattled country would be leaving Iraq "a better place". Tell that to the families of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who perished throughout those occupation years, whose lives were rent asunder through the impact of lawlessness, societal breakdown, indiscriminate and gruesome murder.

"It is important to remember we have been engaged in the most difficult and challenging of work: the task of overthrowing a dictatorship, the work of building a democracy for the future and defending it against terrorism. And of course the work of giving people an economic stake in the future of Iraq. We leave Iraq a better place as a result of it."

So much is perspective, isn't it? How one interprets events and outcomes? That overthrown dictatorship, bloody as it was, was a construct of the people for the people. Any population that has been as deeply impacted through the loss of human rights as that of Iraq, has the option of gathering internal strength from one another in a collective repudiation of the status quo.

This is, after all, a geography where two neighbours felt justified in going to war against one another, sending their young men, and then finally their youth, to certain death on a battlefield sodden with the useless spilling of their blood. Both Iraq and Iran lost countless of their populations - always expendable during times of traditional Middle East tribal wars of attrition - settling disagreements in their pathologically customary manner.

It is a silly conceit for any Western influences to believe that they have succeeded in altering the conscious beliefs and values of a civilization, a religious and political order so far removed from their own, that it reflects their own values, entirely deserting those of the occupied country. Yet Mr. Brown is complacent in his belief that British presence achieved mission objectives they had set for themselves.

Their presence had the primary purpose of unseating a dictator whose dental fixtures left him incapable of biting as large a portion of the geography as he threatened. In an ongoing demonstration of typical Arab bravado, posing no real threat at all, in the final, embarrassing analysis. The secondary purpose; training Iraqi security forces, political progress in economic re-building and a return to normal civil aviation at Basra, simply represented an issue of patching up what they had rent asunder.

Now, the new parliament of Iraq, a democratic, Sunni-Shia alliance of fragile co-operation, has the satisfaction of bargaining with an upper hand in dismissing the presence of foreign troops representing countries as disparate as Australia, Romania, Estonia, Singapore and El Salvador.

The world is an exceedingly strange place.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tribal Warfare - by any other name

South Africa, it certainly appears, hit its apogee of political and social success under the tutelage, influence and political ascent of Nelson Mandela. Its morals and ethical underpinnings sustained by Bishop Desmond Tutu; truly a formidably respected pair of celebrated heroes. They responded handsomely to the desperate needs of their country at a critical time in its development after the fall of the detested Apartheid regime, denounced the world over.

South Africa's love affair with itself, with its vision of its place in the world as a defender of human rights, a surging adventure into the future of stable government ensuring fair treatment to all its people, wedded to justice and equality appears to have peaked. Perhaps the descent began as early as the ascent to the leadership of the country of the aristocratic but uninformed Thabo Mbeki.

Whose blighted understanding of the horrendous plight awaiting his people through the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS was responsible for enabling the disease to orphan so many of the country's children through ignorant neglect and deliberate governmental inaction. His support of a minister of health whose own ignorant stupidity far surpassed his own was unforgivable.

His government's slow and inadequate response to the needs of its vast impoverished underbelly, despite the fervent promises of steps to be enacted geared to meet the critical needs of decent housing and employment was another failure. And, latterly, his personal involvement in supporting the presidency of Zimbabwe's lunatic destroyer was truly unforgettable as the morally bankrupt behaviour of a failed political elder.

The election of Jacob Zuma to the party presidency of the African National Congress thumped another nail into the coffin of a responsible government. The tribal pugnaciousness that led Zulus to enthusiastically support a politician known for the level of his corruption, and besmirched irredeemably by his rape of a family friend suffering from HIV/AIDS, excused by his admission of having "protected" himself by showering, nailed the coffin lid into place.

So now, the politics of South Africa have become somewhat more complex, with the ANC split now into two, with the advent of the dissenting Congress of the People. Many of the ANC's original supporters, inclusive of founding members, have deserted their old anti-Apartheid party, to form one they describe as multiracial and multicultural, advocating a return to democratic values, lost within the current mandate of the ANC.

Where, according to the new party's leader, Mosiuoa Lekota, formerly South Africa's defence minister, dissent and liberating discussions are no longer tolerated, and where "intimidation and paralyzing fear is now gripping sections of society" illustrative of the new ANC's repressive ways of destabilizing its opposition by threat and intimidation.

Each party claims itself the rightful inheritor of the new South Africa, the stout defender of the poor and the trade unions. The party leaders cast hostile aspersions on one another, and it's clear that the two parties are conducting a public opinion war against each other's claims to legitimacy, each claiming to be the trustworthy and moral choice to reflect Nelson Mandala's inheritance.

Where some see dismal failure, in a modern apparition of tribal antagonisms and self-destruction, others, like the editor of South Africa's 'Times' newspaper, claim that these divisions are demonstrative of political maturity. "We are finally becoming the democracy we promised the world in 1994."

Guess you just have to start looking at things through rose-coloured glasses.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dissent In Russia

Dissent there is, but perhaps not for much longer, as the Kremlin moves to criminalize its critics, labelling their political malfeasance in raising objections to authoritarian rule as treason. Critics of the state are now to be considered fair game to be charged with treason, according to a new bill to be presented to the Duma. Which will exercise its collegiality with Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin by passing the bill into law.

Law-abiding citizens of the country, then, need have no fear. Those who dare to criticize the country's "constitutional order" must needs now tremble in anticipation of their unhappy fate should they continue to constitute an irritation to the ruling elite. Above all, should they dare raise their voices to express opposition to Vladimir Putin's shedding of the prime ministership to once again take up his rightful office as president.

The bill is nicely over-arching, and seems to express the need of its authoritarian governing body to protect itself from criticism. Defining treason in its enlarged interpretation as "a deed aimed against security of the Russian Federation, including her constitutional order, sovereignty, territorial and state integrity". Got that? A reflection of the Kremlin's respect of its neighbours' sovereignty, territorial and state integrity.

Additionally, there is a growing worry of restiveness among the population, as Russia, much like countries the world over, wrestles with a growing financial crisis. Its oil and gas revenues, so recently enriching of the economy and productively enhancing the reputation and popularity of its ruling regime, now threatens, in its inconvenience collapse, to unsettle the country in grumbling complaints.

Now too, any Russians choosing to align themselves with the interests of foreigners may be seen as guilty of treason for "rendering financial or material and technical or consultative support" to foreigners. Watch out, all those enterprising international conglomerates who have chosen to invest in that great country, believing that material confiscation will no longer take place as it has in the recent past.

Lest anyone be in doubt as to the seriousness of this turn of events and the return to the country of a stern resolve to arm itself well, Andrei Lugovoy, sly murderer of dissident Alexander Litvinenko, claims that anyone whom the state considers to be a traitor is fair game for assassination. For means and methods they need but consult with him.

Labels: , ,

All Systems Go

Hamas and Hezbollah, succored, trained and financed by Syria and Iran as their proxy militias ready to do battle with the hated Israelis, have been inordinately busy of late. Scurrying about their clandestine yet quite transparent schemes of securing and tucking away in underground bunkers stocks of arms and munitions with which to arm themselves for yet another attack on the hated Zionist presence.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, hiding out in Syria - like the brave commander of his intrepid forces that he represents - has issued another of the region's time-honoured belligerent rhetorical warnings. "We in Hamas, and in most of the factions, think that after December 19, the truce ends and it will not be renewed". After all, if the time-and-opportunity-buying ease in attacks has served its purpose, what practical reason to prolong it?

Might as well get down to the business that exemplifies their reason for existence. One must be practical, after all; the resumption of holy jihad must take precedence over the irritating presumptuousness of Egypt wishing to successfully broker a peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Israel, complains Khaled Meshaal, has not eased its border blockage of Gaza.

"We are studying the issue of the calm with our allies ... and, God willing, we will reach a vision within the coming days", said Mr. Meshaal. How statesmanlike, how God-adoring. It is no trifling thing, after all, for a cleric, a man of God, a visionary, to conclusively alert his militias to action once again. However, having the blessing of Allah, matters will proceed as they must.

The enemy must be faced once again, and humbled through the fighting prowess of Hamas. A fighting force ferociously determined to wrest the territory on which the State of Israel stands, from its grasp, to leave it with nothing, to dissolve its presence in the geography, and leave it with the memory of its ancient presence, and its failed modern-day reality.

For its part, the enemy is more than satisfied to have the truce continue, despite its understanding of the purpose behind the "calm". "Israel has been, and continues to be, ready to abide by the understandings negotiated through Egypt. But it is clear that we won't be doing so unilaterally" cautioned the Israeli prime minister's spokesman, Mark Regev.

"As long as Hamas continues to use terror from Gaza, Israel will use its own means", warns Tsipi Livni. The truce to which Mr. Meshaal refers has been disrupted violently on quite a number of occasions. Occasioning Israeli Defence Forces to react to a plot to abduct Israeli soldiers for unending ransom leading to death, in a repeat of previous Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah stealth-and-hostage successes.

Israel's military has also seen fit to interrupt tunnels construction and the surreptitious passage of explosives and arms on an underground journey to top up Hamas's invaluable offensive caches, along with the passage of 'fighters'. The "calm" also has not prevented ongoing barrages of Palestinian rockets into Israel's border areas and beyond.

The noble leadership of Khaled Meshaal, authoritatively interpreting Allah's will to re-absorb Islamic territory and remove the insulting presence of an occupying affront to Islam will carry their martyrdom-loving movement to triumph. For, truth is, there is nothing that the State of Israel could promise and carry out, for its presence as a non-Muslim country to be acceptable to jihadists.

The very presence of Jews on what was once indelibly and unmistakably Islamic holy ground presents as an assault on the sanctity of Allah's presence in his holy land. The terror militias are his right hand of avenging might. Their will shall prevail.
But Israel too has its dedication to the spirit and the justice of its existence; it is a haven for world Jewry and will remain so.

Israel too has its supporters, those to whom the presence of Israel in the very land of its ancient awakening as a distinct people dictates its longevity, its authentic right to the justice of recognition and peace. Some of its friends do not hesitate to speak their mind, and speak too of the very real threat that militant Islam poses not only to Israel but toward the rest of the world.

In the words of Geert Wilders: "My most important message to Israel is to remember that this is not a territorial conflict, but ideological. You gave up Gaza, and what did it give you? Nothing good. Regarding a Palestinian state, I would say there already is one, and it’s called Jordan.

"But if you feel that this will help, I would tell you that this is an illusion. It will not bring about the end of the jihad; it’s rather the start of jihad. We see it here, and in Europe, and in the United States. However, whatever Israel decides, I will always be your friend - but make sure that you are not fooled by people who say it’s a territorial dispute.

"You must defend yourselves.”

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Turning The Screw

Human greed and aggrievement leads to corruption of the spirit. The vital intangibles of human values dissipate into a vicious fog of mindless battle for acquisition of satisfaction, or for some tangible symbol satisfying an inner need completely disassociated from from an obligation to the larger society. Serving the brute emotions of vanity, ego, aggression and greed. At the expense of kindness, empathy and compassion; all universal emotions, but spurned in the need for self-empowerment.

The brute force of unbridled human greed and anger drowns the humane in the human. What ensues is a conscienceless automaton of consummate destructive force. the cult of drug-dealing violence bears some resemblance to religious or political cults revelling in hatred, denunciation and rampant bloodshed in support of an ideology. Each of these cults inspire in their supporters, contempt for sane, orderly and secure societies.

Their mission is to destroy the assurances of freedoms in societal underpinnings, the accepted norms anchored in society to benefit entire global communities, and replace them with their own versions of a normative existence, based on tyranny, fear and control. Fascists, Communists and now Islamist jihadists threaten world order, all in their turn at opposing the accepted currency of society.

Nazi Germany stood the free world on its head for years, but failed at its targeted Thousand-Year reign. Communist totalitarian states still plague the world with their determined dehumanization of their societies and threats toward the larger world. Islamist jihadists claim to be obeying divine directives to destroy an unworthy and degenerated global society in their zeal to blood-thirstily replace it with a spiritually-approved and entitled global Islamic rule.

Drug lords create their very own singular measures of instability in their own nihilistic way, destroying confidence in the ability of the state and its functionaries to protect civilians, leading police and the military on wild chases to restrain their depredations on society; wreaking havoc and leaving mutilated corpses in the wake of their violent upheavals toward the goal of destabilization.

All these manifestations of human rejection of established rules in free societies have their champions who paint a picture of democratic failures. Freedoms are somehow confused with license to indulge in illicit, unethical or immoral behaviours. The results of which have their consequences; breakdowns of a society's belief in and attendance on religious precepts, always a stabilizing factor in society helping to guide the faithful toward meaningful values.

Unbridled capitalism with insufficient oversight to control avarice, resulting in another facet of societal inequalities, and a corruption of the common weal that occurs when democratic governments act in close league with powerful industrial complexes, creating wealth for the elite, ignoring the plight of the underprivileged. We are led to believe that these failings are the causative underpinnings of insurgencies in many guises.

Osama bin Laden, son of a wealthy Saudi industrialist, conceived a burning disgust and hatred for the ruling House of Saud, themselves religious Wahhabist fundamentalists, yet seen by bin Laden as selling out the patrimony of the Arabs to the societally corrupt Americans. Not all that far removed - but for the extreme level of violent bloodshed - from the violence currently taking place in Greece by rampaging youth and their supporters throughout Europe.

The irony here being that Saudi funding of Wahhabist-inspired madrasses existing in Pakistan primarily, and churning out thousands of religion-compelled youths dedicated to the concept of spiritual jihad transmogrified into violent war against the West has been an unparalleled aid to al-Qaeda's quest for supremacy in the world order. Those same funding grants through Saudi Arabia establishing fundamentalist institutions in countries of the West to entice vulnerable Muslim youth to the cause of global jihad, welcoming them to Pakistan's jihadi training camps.

And the United States, in its war on illegal drugs, destroys the livelihoods of Afghan poppy farmers in an abysmally poverty-stricken country, whose crop sales benefit farm families, but also the Taliban. The very same Taliban conspiring with al-Qaeda to the Islamist struggle to defeat the West, sending their martyrs to confront foreign troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Colombia was wracked with bloody violence while the U.S. forced it to eradicate its drug trade and hunt down its drug czars, crimping the thriving illicit business of production and export. Colombia has freed itself to an appreciable degree from its former reputation as the fount of illegal drug trafficking, and is attempting to move onto civil normalcy.

It's now Mexico's turn to experience stomach-heaving civil war, between the government, its policing agencies and military, against the inter-battling drug kingpins, the business thriving, yet in complete control-disarray with the removal of the top drug elites, leaving the remnants of their cartels to try to wrest control one from the other, and in the process martyr civilians to their drug-profiting cause.

The largest economy in the world, possessed of the most powerful, well-equipped army, still the world's sole, most influential superpower, cannot compel its own population to desist from importing, distributing and using illicit mind-altering chemicals that become the bane of everyone's pitiful existence. So it exerts its influence on a neighbour, to halt their booming drug manufacturing and lucrative export, to an anxiously-awaiting American market.

In the process, sowing a near cataclysmic series of ongoing brutalities that Mexico struggles to cope with. The Mexican drug cartels are responsible for the transportation and distribution of multi-tonne quantities of cocaine and marijuana, along with huge quantities of heroin and methamphetamine. Canada, too, is a supplier of marijuana, and yet Canada presents as a bit of a problem for the U.S. government and policing authorities.

There is a far more sanguine attitude within the Canadian public and its governments as well, along with its policing agents, for the use of marijuana. The medical use of marijuana is fairly well accepted, and actually supported by the federal government. There was a strong move, suspended for now, for the legalization of modest marijuana use; at the very least a strong relaxation of prohibition, along with arrests and charges, with the realization that its casual use is no more injurious than that of alcohol and tobacco.

It is to Mexico that the United States turns its demands. It is simply vexed and disgusted with Canada's attitude. In Mexico, countless murders of musicians and entertainers by drug lords made the news for a while; it seemed a senseless conundrum, never quite explained. More currently, minor players in the drug distribution arena have been murdered, their mutilated and often headless corpses left in prominent places to be witnessed by society at large, as a living symptom of a sick society.

"Narcoterror" has been imposed on the lives of ordinary Mexicans, trying to go about the business of surviving in the struggle to surmount economic difficulties; difficult at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. One gang after another fights for control of drug territories, instilling terror in the population, as bodies are discovered in public places, obviously having been meticulously tortured before death.

The government of President Felipe Calderon is struggling to succeed in his vow to crack down on the gangs whose business it is to supply the vast U.S. market; 90% of all drugs coming into the United States arrive through Mexico. Virtually all of the methamphetamines used in the United States come from Mexico. Military troops numbering some 36,000 of determined (occasionally corruptly complicit) individuals have been deployed to the eradication mission.

They conduct raids, destroying drug crops and seizing supplies in nine of the country's most affected states. In the process down-sizing the amount of territory left to rival cartels to fight over, while increasing the sheer level of brutal atrocities, bringing horrible deaths not only to minor dealers and those hired to work in the drug fields, but to innocent civilians.

Hit squads in Tijuana, the scene of much heavy activity by the cartels, have killed 50 people in several months, including ten children. In 2008 some seven hundred people have been murdered in that city alone. Cinema shootings, in pool halls and restaurants, are a regular occurrence, where gunmen in body armour, armed with assault rifles, storm the places and open fire indiscriminately.

Young children attending primary school are exposed to the dreadful view of a dozen corpses in their schoolyard, lacking tongues. Although authorities worry that the traumatic level of violence children are exposed to may result in their desensitization, it's abundantly clear that the greater the violent offence against human dignity offered to innocent and even involved individuals through gruesome murders have utterly desensitized members of the drug cartels to their own humanity.

The cartel members, defiant of control by state authorities, submissive only to the imperative to control drug profits, on the way to which they celebrate the brutalization of human values, present as another facet of humanity's failures, in producing fanatical elements of groups dedicated to the obliteration of civil society.

Labels: , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet