Author Archives: larsschaff

Peace in Korea doesn’t serve US interests

“Kim threatens to abandon talks with Trump.” That’s the message my newspaper wants me to focus on. I’m supposed to get the impression that Kim Jong-un is a whimsical, unpredictable dictator impossible to negotiate with. North Korea’s real reason is mentioned only in passing, and as if it was just a prevarication.

I watched TV with some friends the day the presidents of North and South Korea embraced and walked across the border back and forth. My first reaction was: “US will not allow that to go any further”. I didn’t have to wait many days to have that prediction come true.

The means by which US showed its intention was to launch a military maneuver in the South, in the middle of a sensitive peace process, fully aware of what reaction to expect from North Korea. That was a demonstration of arrogant condescension beyond decency, but an action our “civilized media” hardly observed.

There is no possible interpretation of this brazen action other than that the United States don’t want peace in Korea. Short of unconditional surrender, regime change and North Korea joining the other US puppet states, there will be no peace. That’s a low-odds estimate.

Peace in Korea could threaten one of US’s important strong-holds in a region where the Chinese competition becomes increasingly critical. And the US military-industrial complex will have nothing to gain from peace, either.

A no-brainer guess is that US will keep the Israeli-like, perpetual and low-intensive conflict alive in Korea. That will best serve the interests of the global hegemon. Peace-loving people may perhaps have to wait for the 90 percent of world’s population that don’t live in US or EU to put an end to war-mongering (and join China in peacefully “conquering” the world with aid, investment and trade).

What about whataboutism? It’s not a simple club to hit others with.

It has become equally popular to use whataboutism in defense of one’s own errors as to attack those who do. But the concept is not one-dimensional; it’s use can be motivated under some circumstances.

The moral implications of the crimes my country commits are not affected in any way by whatever crimes other countries are guilty of. Thus “what about the crimes of others” has no moral legitimacy. The other way around though, the question becomes more interesting.

Chomsky has taught us the basic principle of moral universalism, found in all religions and cultures. It’s so fundamental that it must have its roots deep in our genes. It simply says that we must apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others. Those who don’t do so “plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil.”

So when our media and politicians excel in condemnations of other governments, the question “what about our own crimes” is not just legitimate, its compulsory for everybody who wants to have “a moral leg to stand on”. Clearly, a government who has ordered (and ignored) the killing of thousands cannot condemn some other government for murdering a dozen. It must first rectify its own misdeeds.

That’s not to say that atrocities can’t be discussed and even compared. Some murderous regimes are certainly worse than others. Mechanism that foster militarism is definitely important to discuss, regardless of whom it concerns. And there are naturally many other aspects of violence in the world that should be penetrated and analyzed.

But one thing is self-evidently impossible: I cannot morally condemn others for the same crime a committed myself.

False information in serious media is poisonous

Western propaganda about the despicable Communist hordes during the first Cold War was a no-brainer. There was no Internet; the Russian language was understood by no one but a few pundits, who used their skills to pick detached sentences from Russian media out of context to create the correct misimpression. The demonization went on as if Stalin never died.

Today it’s hard to even fathom such a propaganda-friendly environment. Technology has change the world radically. Now the Internet is a potent tool for enlightened, intelligent progressives to reach out to interested listeners and viewers globally. Measured against all the fact-based and rational information online, much of mainstream media products appear as propagandist demagoguery.

It’s hardly surprising that our self-sufficient media have painted a picture in which “fake news” and “disinformation” are characteristic of the Internet. They find the claim easy to “prove” by citing some knuckleheads or conspiracy theorists, of which there certainly are a few. (Spam is everywhere but is easily disclosed even by young teenagers.)

But the real purpose of defaming Internet is the threat from innumerable, informative sites, often free of charge at that. Already the media carriers – printed paper and fixed TV schedules – are rapidly becoming outdated. The young generation stick to their laptops for most of their communication and media consumption. What already has started to happen is that corporations move their advertising from the old to the new media, which will increase the pressure on newspapers and old-time television.

It could seem as if traditional media have the upper hand in the combat against dissident truths. People tend to believe the same old faces, backed by huge recourses with which to produce impressive presentations – on the surface. And some people certainly are sincere conservatives, though often against their own real interests.

But when corporate media slowly is pressured into the Internet world the level field may perhaps be leveled for the dissident sources. Propaganda lies don’t live forever and truths can’t be suppressed forever. Progressives just have to keep on working and never give up. Enlightenment, knowledge and truths will prevail, though it may take some time.

It took the Catholic Church 400 years to accept Galilei’s description of the solar system. Our corporate, conservative careerists are not that persevering. We just have to keep on grinding to separate the truths from the lies.

Human Rights is for others to abide by

Volvo Cars is about to start a new factory in Charleston, South Carolina, employing around 4,000 people who will produce the new S 60 model. The Swedish union tradition is set out to meet the South Carolina union busting tradition. Let’s see how that turns out.

Nikki Hailey, now famous for saying peculiar things as US representative in the UN Security Assembly, is a former governor of South Carolina. In that position she maintained that her state would welcome more manufacturing jobs, but no unions.

– We dissuade all corporations with unionized employees to come to South Carolina, Haley said to USA Today.

There is nothing decided on the matter yet. According to Dagens Nyheter there are discussions going on with United Auto Workers. The factory will be inaugurated next month so the outcome is probably to be expected in a near future.

The corresponding Swedish union, which has very good relations with Volvo Cars, has urged the company not to take part in any union busting operations.

Maybe the most serious allegation that United States and other countries in the (so called) free world direct against China is that it has no respect for human rights. But there is more to human rights than just freedom of speech, for instance Article 23, mom. 4 in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

Gore Vidal once said that England invented hypocrisy. Since then the western world seem to have perfected the grisly concept.

 

Kim playing chess with Trump

How far from simple common sense have we come when we hear from our media about the possibility that the Peace prize could be given to Trump. The peculiar rationale would be that Trump has put pressure on Kim Jong-Un to make him compliant enough to cancel his nuclear weapons program.

Are we blind or is it just that Asians on average have a few points higher IQ than we? The whole scenario is of course a strategic triumph for the North Koreans. They have an enemy that never have hidden their wish to defeat or even obliterate them. This enemy is the strongest military power in history, performing regular maneuvers in which nuclear attacks on North Korea are simulated.

Despite its strength, this overwhelming power prefers to attack defenseless countries, for every possible aim (except legal once). The militaristic nation in question has declared North Korea one of its prime enemies. What would a North Korean leader with his head screwed on do in that situation?

He would to begin with see to it that his country gained enough military strength (to avoid the fate of Iraq and all the other victims of the merciless aggressor). A nuclear weapons program is the ultimate deterrence. Any aggressor is forced to think twice before doing anything stupid.

When the nuclear weapons are functional, and the defender has shown to the world that they have missiles to carry the warheads all the way to their most threatening adversary, there is a position of strength from which to negotiate. And so did North Korea.

One possible outcome of such negotiations could be that United States takes its military forces out of South Korea, an important prerequisite for a peace treaty. Without nuclear weapons as a trump card (sorry!) in the talks an outcome like that would certainly be unthinkable.

This seemingly self-evident scenario is obviously too difficult for western media to grasp. Or more likely perhaps: they don’t want to grasp it. It’s important to stick to the dramaturgy of children’s fairy-tales: the evil one is always evil and cannot do anything benign. The good ones are us.

 

Liberals attack populists – after creating them

There is a war going on against liberalism, asserts my newspaper today, reviewing a book (The Shipwrecked mind) by a US historian (Mark Lilla). The attackers are the “neo-reactionary” right-wing populists, including Putin and radical Islamists, who all “have a contempt for liberal values”.

There’s just one hitch: liberalism is in itself to a large extent responsible for propagating the right-wing populist movements.

Today’s liberalism is perplexed and ostensibly unable to understand what happens. Its pundits mostly confuse surface with content, thus wasting energy and media space on futile “analysis”. (But it would be somewhat premature to conclude that their pseudo analysis is purely unintentional.)

The Trump phenomenon sparked the latent interest in right wing populism and extremism in liberal media., whose prime tactics has been to condemn the leaders and supporters of these movements (which has had the anticipated effect of instead strengthening them).

Well-intentioned liberal writers and thinkers try to teach the uncultured the importance of accepting immigrants, gays, feminists, colored people and other deviant individuals. They also devote their didactic skills to avert online abuse in the form of hate comments, fake news and deceptive information from “enemies”.

All this will lead nowhere, and I presume intelligent liberals are aware of that, and the reasons are obvious. Right wing extremism doesn’t come from nowhere, it has real roots in the real world. Apart from the fact that humans have some innate tendencies to xenophobia and racism, it normally requires real grievances for people to abandon what they know is good behavior. Those grievances are today created by neoliberalism.

There is consequently a need for abolishing dysfunctional manifestations of the capitalist societies, and that is something liberals won’t do. Their very function in our societies is to defend and protect the established order and its masters. They are assigned to herding in the more mild-mannered citizens, while real conservatives take care of the more hard-core (and religious) part of the population.

The 1970s can in many ways be regarded as the peak of western capitalism. Economic growth had been record high since the war, and the growth was distributed quite equally between labor and capital. Ordinary workers in North America and (northern) Europe could live comfortable lives, their organizations were usually strong and there was a sense of parity in the social fabric.

Temporarily baffled by the popular and democratic break-through these years, the owners of the world eventually realized that they had the economic power, that overrides other forms of power, and launched a counterattack on all fronts: think tanks, media, politicians etc. Soon the right-wing tide drenched all resistance. Liberals (and even Social Democrats) betrayed their constituencies and removed obstacles to unfettered capitalism by means of deregulation, privatization, cutting of social spending and much more.

Neoliberalism put its gloomy hand over the lives of ordinary people, while those who didn’t need more money got perversely rich. That’s in one sentence the basic motivation behind right-wing populism. Liberals denied people the means to oppose this detrimental development by refusing to respond to the grievances in any other way than to enhance them. The only answers people got were from crackpots who told them to blame immigrants, minorities, gays, liberals, anti-Americans and all the rest.

Why the liberals chose this way is no mystery. They serve their masters by sheer instinct, and that decides their highest priority: oppose everything “left” that breeds from the moral insight that we should care for each other through solidarity, welfare and preservation of the common good at large.

We have been through this before, most notably in Weimar Germany in the 1930s. The liberals of that time helped the Nazis to power with the expectation that Hitler would take care of the communists. We know how it ended. Our liberals are again playing with fire, and for the moment we don’t know how it will end.

Why bother about climate when Jesus is coming anyway?

The threat to the world posed by U.S. climate policy, as it is now established by the president, cuts even deeper than usually discussed. According to polls, almost half the U.S. population (40 percent) expects Jesus to return to the earth – in their lifetime – to bring all true believers to Paradise and destroy everything else. This mind-blowing conviction is held also by many members of Congress and other powerful individuals.

(Imagine half a billion Chinese seriously convinced that a Holy Dragon is coming down from the sky in a near future, salvaging all faithful communists and killing everybody else, before trashing the whole world. We would naturally consider them complete lunatics.)

If the believers in the Second Coming possess even a touch of rationality (which we thus hopefully may question) they cannot possibly care about global warming or any other conceivable catastrophe. They can live in the happy anticipation of their own near entrance into Paradise, safe in the thought that nothing can be done to rescue the infidels and the world anyway.

Why this creepy superstition, haunting almost half of U.S. voters, isn’t addressed more, or at all, is a matter of speculation. Does the establishment assume that people really don’t believe what they say they believe? It would be a risky assumption. These believers are obviously the people who constitutes the basis of G.O.P. voters, thus enabling the present state of affairs.

A more plausible speculation is that the establishment has no objections at all to religious stupidity. As a strategy in the class war it is just suitable that the masses are kept in faithful ignorance: “Suffer your meager fate on earth while the rich and powerful robs you blind, and you’ll be rewarded in heaven (‘you’ll get pie in the sky when you die’)”.

This strategy has been operative in holding back popular uprisings in Europe and elsewhere. In the U.S. it has even been successful in suppressing the development of peaceful worker’s movements.

When we look at the Middle Ages in retrospect it is more than obvious that religion and the church was a branch of the power exerted by the elite. People were convinced by the priests that God’s rules weren’t possible to change by humans. Thus, all kinds of insubordination were pointless.

That’s the root of the animosity between religion and socialism, and why the prelates hated popular movements working for enlightenment, equality and worker’s solidarity. Europeans solved this by shoving religion out of politics through worker’s struggle. U.S. has this act of maturity left to do. Let’s hope they do it before a final climate catastrophe hits us all.

Violence breeds violence. When will we finally learn that?

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their relatives. Just as they are with the millions of victims that western terrorism is responsible for, by unlawful use of force and wars of aggression.

Since the terrorist deeds hitting us are, beyond reasonable doubt, induced and provoked by our violence, there is a self-evident way to counteract them: stop our own crimes.

We should instead try the Chinese – peaceful – way to conquer the world: by aid, trade and investments.”

I posted those words on the NYTimes Readers Comments to an article about the Manchester attack, with to date not one “Recommend” from readers. On the other end of the list, with almost 700 Recommends, one finds the following sentences:

“When my son heard about this horror, he looked at me and said ‘Why, Mommy? Why would somebody do such a thing?”

“in the end I just said, ‘I don’t actually know. I don’t know why.'”

“we all so desperately want this to stop and we don’t know how to make it end.”

One can’t blame this woman since she is misinformed by our media like most of us. But on the other hand it should’t take much imagination to picture oneself in the same situation as a fellow human being in the Middle East, in countries torn apart by the merciless war machine hitting them from “the free world”. And if thinking alone doesn’t work, the Internet is abundant with testimony from the suffering people.

Take the interview with the Yemeni boy in his lower teens who had lived in the U.S. and moved back to his village, where he managed to convince his countrymen that America was a fair country. Then came a drone-strike killing innocent people, and all his efforts were in vain. They then naturally hated the U.S. and lived in constant fear of the drones, praising cloudy days because drones can’t fly then.

Or take the bombed wedding parties (at least eight such U.S. bombings since 2001, according to The Nation), together killing more people than all terrorist attacks in Europe in the same time-span. The human beings we threaten with immediate death are more eligible to “don’t know how to make it end” than we are. The only response some of them can think of is terrorism (they are in other words just as vindictive as many U.S. citizens after 9/11). These are just minor examples, the number of killed in Iraq alone exceeds one million by now.

It seems impossible that their terrorism will achieve any productive goal whatsoever. It will just induce even more atrocities from “the free world”, provoking further terrorism, in a never-ending loop. Contrary to what the woman above thinks, there is a simple way to break this loop: stop our violence!

Europeans and their offshoots in America have for 500 years dominated the world with military power. We have killed millions and millions of poor, innocent people through the centuries (besides shortening the lives of hundreds of millions through economic suppression.) Violence has worked as far as the western well-being is concerned. For those at the wrong end of the club it has been detrimental in all aspects. The new terrorism by the oppressed is a clear sign that our violence doesn’t work the way it used to.

China has demonstrated a way forward, we just have to achieve the same cultural and rational level as them. It should be easy: see and learn! A new era is dawning, as long as we can prevent the lunatics from incinerating the globe into nuclear ashes, or clean the planet from human beings through a climate catastrophe.

And yes! We can!

Anti-colonialism that we call colonialism: China in Africa

Europeans and their offshoots have colonized the world for 500 years, enslaving, killing and robbing indigenous people on all continents. My schoolbooks 60 years ago taught us that the pagans should be grateful to us for giving them Christianity, which we considered the height of civilization (to which Gore Vidal famously said: yes, we gave them Christian burials). What we did was to exchange one superstition for another, destroying ancient cultures in the process.

The progress we now see in the South is closely correlated to the West losing its neo-colonial grip on the developing countries. In Asia this happened earlier and coincided with rejection of western neoliberal dogmas. In Africa and Latin America it’s a more recent phenomenon, and the pace of development is impressive. Extreme poverty is rapidly diminishing.

Now there really is a change in paradigm going on in the world, in which China is showing how a country can gain power without using power. The peaceful and large-scale “invasion” with investments and aid in Africa and elsewhere is a forceful refutation of the western idea of violence being a sustainable way to obtain influence in the world.

China’s efforts benefit themselves as well as the receiving countries. The advantages of peace will be enforced by every new railway, school, road, mine, hospital etc. that’s being built. At a first glance it could look as if pacifists’ centuries old dreams have turned into reality.

Since no one can be against such benevolent enterprises, our media has chosen its first line of defense: to ignore them. The philistine Swedish media are masters in that art, while papers like the New York Times sometimes opens a minor vent to the real world. And that’s what they did the other day on China’s industrious ventures in Africa, and particularly in the small, desert country of Namibia.

The NYT article is long (18 typed pages) and mostly informative, but naturally not lacking insidious fault-finding and hyper-criticism of the kind we save for our enemies. The story focuses on the Husab Uranium Mine, a §4.6 billion investment to construct the second largest uranium mine in the world. It’s intended to support China’s rapidly expanding nuclear power program, also casting light on another benign effort: to reduce CO­2 emissions, benefitting the environment, not just for China itself but for the entire globe. When fully operative, the mine is estimated to increase the Namibian GDP by 5 percent.

The special relationship between the two countries goes back to the 1960s when China supported the liberation movement Swapo, who struggled against an apartheid regime (ruling the country in a way that even US nowadays condemn). China is not pacifist but upholds a strict policy of non-interference, meaning that they oppose military actions against other nations. Consequently, it supports the Namibian military and its ability to defend its own country.

“China’s gravitational pull can be felt today in every nook of the globe” says NYT article. Then it devotes considerable space to ransack all kinds of problems that inevitably follows from international operations on this scale. Friction between cultures, assiduous strangers giving orders, there are all kinds of possible difficulties, most thoroughly examined by the author.

“Is China the World’s New Colonial Power?” the headline to the article reads. To compare China’s efforts of improving the economies in poor countries with our enslaving, robbing and murdering colonialism is of course a disgrace. It’s equivalent to compare a surgeon with a knife killer.

This patronizing and contemptuous attitude in our mainstream media and public narrative is of course despicable. We are overrun by China’s peaceful offensive, while we continue to destroy everything that gets in our way. The West has turned the entire Middle East into a complete disaster, bombing it to rubbles, leading to the death of millions and forcing even more millions to join a refugee flood. And we are still unable to show even a trace of humility (except among dissidents in the margin).

Our way of treating the world is not sustainable in the long run. Luckily the human species has been endowed with a rather potent brain which inevitably will figure out that China’s way is far better than ours. When that materializes maybe even the future of the human species can be saved.

Begging in a welfare state – just neoliberal logic

If anyone in the 1970s had said that we were going to have beggars in the Swedish streets 40 years into the future, we would have presumed that some catastrophe, like a third World War, had to have taken place in between. But there are beggars here today, and the disaster that happened wasn’t a war but neoliberalism and globalization. And it’s not a few people shaking paper cups; they are deployed outside every supermarket and – particularly – at the doorstep of every liquor store (where the Swedish conscience already is sensitized).

It’s said that most of them are from Romania, and as EU citizens they are fully entitled to be here and try to make their living. The problem is that begging is so remote from Swedish social habits that there is no law saying anything about it. But there is an ongoing discussion on whether or not to ban begging.

We must go back to the 19th century to find visible begging in Sweden. Then it disappeared, but in the harshest years of the 1920s, poor people tried to get by through selling shoelaces and matchboxes in the streets. That was the closest we got to begging in that century. Until 1965 there was a law against vagrancy that could have been used for prosecution of beggars, but it was obsolete long before that year.

I think begging in most Swedish minds is a sign of a dysfunctional society. Poor people should be helped in more civilized manners. In the minds of neoliberals on the other hand, begging may be an example of private initiative, of people showing their will to take care of their own problems and not become a burden to society. On top of that, beggars serve as a warning to lazy people what can happen if they don’t accept the depressing and dirty jobs they barely are qualified for.

Neoliberalism didn’t just create the positive view on begging, it created the beggars themselves. Romania never was a rich country, but people were not left entirely by themselves in the old days, and they had no beggars. It was a poor but inclusive society. Then, like the other countries in eastern Europe, Romania was smashed to a pulp by the robber capitalism western powers introduce them to. The blessings of the free market shoveled most of eastern Europe back to the third world from which it came 70 years prior. And they all have a bumpy road back to some kind of normal standard.

The neoliberal “philosophy”, viewing the beggar as a responsible individualist, is of course self-serving for the wealthy, but is contrary to human nature. With Marx’ profound words (my translation): “A human is a zoon politicon (a political animal), which only in a society can isolate itself.” In the long run (provided the human species survives) socializing will defeat narcissism, firstly because it’s in accord with our deepest traits, secondly because it’s rational, thus follows from pure logic.