Sunday, November 21, 2004

homage to catalonia

The following is a passage from George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, a memoir of his time serving in the "International Brigades" - foreign volunteers fighting on the side of the Communist/Anarchist Republican government of Spain - during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Here he makes what I think is the best description of socialism:

...The workers’ militias, based on the trade unions and each composed of people of approximately the same political opinions, had the effect of canalizing into one place all the most revolutionary sentiment in the country. I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality.

In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life—snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.—had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect upon anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word ‘comrade’ stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality.

I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy ‘proving’ that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me.

For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In that community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no privilege and no boot-licking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of what the opening stages of Socialism might be like. And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to make my desire to see Socialism established much more actual than it had been before. Partly, perhaps, this was due to the good luck of being among Spaniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance.

Republican Militia

Monday, November 15, 2004


The sky is a blue veil, and night is when the veil is drawn back upon the real world. Then you can see the hundred thousand million stars shining in the great dark, and understand that truth is big. The universe is greater and huger than anyone suspected. It is where we live, it is our home, and like Gary Crow said, it probably just goes on like that forever. There is a story told about these two Indians hunting one morning on the hills of the Great Plains and standing on top of a hill and contemplating the horizon at the edge of their lands. They say, "that is the edge of the world." They decide to walk to the last hill and look over the edge. They walk for many hours but when they climb the last hill of the horizon they look and see more hills, and the horizon just as far as it had been before. They say to each other in wonder,

"This is (The Great Spirit)."

Out among them stars is Saturn, a giant world composed mostly of hydrogen gas. You could fit about a hundred Earths inside of it, but because Saturn is made of such a lightweight gas, if it were dropped into an ocean big enough to hold it, it would float. I get hung up on that image some days, it makes me want to find a place with an ocean that big and watch Saturn bob around in it.

There is a moon that drifts around Saturn called Titan. Titan is the largest moon in the solar system, bigger than the planet Mercury. It has a thick atmosphere made of shifting orange clouds. No one knows what is on the surface. Thanks to the natural wanderlust and ambition of the Americans, they will drop a probe (Huygens) through the clouds and look around the land of Titan in January, if you're interested click -here-

Titan looks kind of haunted.

Why shoot things into space? Because space is life. There are many things to be learned about this place that we are born into without explanation, and most of them are beautiful. The stars are the raw bones of god, whatever god there is. There are things going on such a huge scale in the universe that the entire history of humanity does not amount to much more than the building of a single spider's web.


It is said that Titan's atmosphere is very similar to that of early Earth, so one reason for going is to see if anything is crawling around the surface of the moon. Titan's chemistry is such that it is likely that hydrocarbons form there, which are the precursors to biochemical structures, (living things). Discovering other forms of life would not only be profoundly fucking great, but knowledge of other life would tie us closer to the great universe and make us feel less isolated. Another reason is to learn more about how things work, in terms of orangic chemistry and the evolution of planets. It is said that to do these things is a waste of time and energy.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

the eyes of honeybees

Never let anyone tell you that cities are natural. Cities are huge aneurysms of human imagination, spilling out into sprawled tangles of concrete and euclidean geometry. They are beautiful and they spread like cancers, they destroy the sky with a sickly orange air and make the ground pale. But ghostly are lonely smokestack lights blinking at night, ghostly it is to smoke out of a 15th storey window and that weird airy sound of the traffic on your cheeks, ghostly is making out in the alley behind the bar by a dumpster, kicking the broken glass. I would not tell you these things are not Good and Right, but it is the same beauty of the craters on the moon, dead and loveless grey. Quite a sight, yes, grand and all, but let’s not call it paradise.

With such evil grey brains as cities eating the world, can there ever be paradise? Sure, why not. It’s right here now anyway. It's everywhere, it grows in the cracks in the pavement, it bulges against the sides of abandoned lots bearing flowers, the edges of night highways when the bellies of trees are lit up. I’m here to tell you that All Our Countries Will Fall, All Our Religions Fade, Our Parents’ Houses Will Crumble, there will be Golden Ages and Dark Ages, we will learn and then forget, build up and then annihilate and leave a black stain, we are fat now but one day we'll be lean, but the meaning of paradise is not some eternally clean place where you always get what you ordered… ask the eyes of honeybees

You see, you and I are like abused children, we’ve been treated like shit for all our lives so we don't really, sincerely believe there are other ways to be. We vaguely sense Good things sometimes, but we grew into our crutches, and to drop them and just walk feels like madness. But we were raised insane, but its not like it matters, go lie on your floors in the rosy telecommunications dawn, laugh with your friends in the downtown blues, because a bee has got one sting and 50 days to live.

But at the edges of cities are the trees, going on across the land green and heavy with light. The deer and the bear, the fox and the beaver, the grandaddy rocks that gave birth to us and them. Flowers come up in spring and in the fall it explodes into red and yellow.

It took us 10000 years to survive the jungle and now nothing can kill us. But we are afraid of it, and love how steel shines like an angry mother. Maybe it is that humans need to strive, and that cities are too valuable to dismantle. But I think rather it is that we are at war against everything

The flowers are at peace, the war is over. They live until they die and do not build fortresses.

The world of trees and land is far greater than anything humans could invent. It is the world of paradise, it will endure for millions of years, flowers grew where stood the first city, and they will grow atop of the bones of the last.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

america has spoken

abu ghraib

Today, roughly 60 million Americans are celebrating. There will be parties, there will be laughing. Drinks will be served, and televisions watched. For these 60 millions have deliberately chosen a murderer to command at will their nation's vast arsenal of weaponry, every nuclear warhead, every daisy cutter, every depleted-uranium shell. All the death falling from the blue cloudless skies of Fallujah, Najaf and Khandahar has been given a seal of consent, for liberation was always an excuse, and American interests always the priority. We all know that rescuing suffering people was never the cause of these wars: they were wars of fear and revenge.

In doing so these 60 million people have branded themselves as accomplices to murder, for they have said, "you have killed many in cold blood for our benefit, and we reward you." They have finally done what al-Qaeda could never have done: they have justified 9/11.

We will never know how many died or suffered over the last four years because they don't care, but it is at minimum ten times over the number who died on Sept. 11, and could easily be forty times.

For having sanctioned these acts of violence, and sanctioning the violence we all know is to come, these millions will have black oil poured into their bloody mouths like baby birds. Unlike Iraqi or Afghani, (or Haitian) civilians, these 60 millions have chosen their monster, and have done what al-Qaeda could have never done: made themselves legitimate military targets.

It is for us to ask now -if we choose to take up the defense of our people and our earth- if we will take the path of their justice and go to war against these people who have inflicted 9/11 ten times over across the earth and are so obviously begging for another on their own soil, or if we shall listen to our small and ragged conscience, which asks of us, I believe, total nonviolent confrontation of cruelty and aggression.

It seems to me the great failure of the 2004 election was not to persuade 5 or 10 million people to dislike Bush, but the failure to persuade these people to take seriously the suffering of other human beings.