Friday, December 17, 2004

the enemy

In surveying the range of current political opinion I have found a striking trend: it appears that a small group of people is working towards a tyrranical world state. Additionally, it seems that everyone else is opposed to this goal, yet are fooled into believing that this small cabal is working in the interests of democracy. (Incidentally, the Cabal has powerful undue influence in the mass media).

And what political programme does this Cabal have in mind for plunging us into an era of dictatorship and human misery? Why, its SOCIALISM! wait... no, its CAPITALISM! ... uh, no, it actually is SOCIALISM! No, its the dread ISM-ISM!

But how can this be? How is it possible that both the left and the right are defending us from totalitarianism while at the same time attempting to enact it? It seems very mysterious that one side should accuse the other of the exact same crimes. I would venture to offer an explanation that might make your face explode. Ok, here goes, don't say I didn't warn you:

Capitalism and Socialism both desire, and are capable of, democracy.

Capitalism and Socialism are both vulnerable to tyranny.

Now, just relax. Have some water. I looked outside and the world is still there.

It might frighten you to know that America finds the strength to retain its stability and democratic institutions, its culture of freedom, its love of war, its demonization and its deification of dissidents, its greed, its generosity etc. from reasons which include geography, history, education- in a word, circumstance, not ideology. The most frightening part of all is that America was founded upon Socialist ideology and prospered under Capitalistic methods.

I know it is difficult for many people to realize that most ideologies are essentially crafted, pruned, tailored into real things, and never do they exist in a pure form because the pure form is abstract and does not address a world that is busy functioning without said ideology. In turn, these ideologies can be corrupted by totalitarian designs, so take Marxist-Leninism or the prevailing thought championed by the "Captains of Industry" in the West. Both of these ideologies were defended by their respective demographics. Both of them decorated their oligarchial intentions with idealisms, both actually believed their idealisms:

Vladimir Lenin casually suggesting the next Russian leader

Henry Ford casually receiving a medal from some Nazis

Socialism and Capitalism as poitical systems conflict in many essential ways, but in my own political thought exists the possibility of fusing these two systems, or at least a world in which they co-exist, for Socialists and Capitalists surprisingly agree on democracy, and reject totalitarianism. Humanity has thrown off the twin evils of monarchy and slavery only within the last 200 years, and worldwide only within the last half-century (the end of colonialism and fascism). It is young at democracy, and has done many terrible things already in its name. We must learn to define totalitarianism along non-ideological lines, so that it can be identified under any guise, and rejected when we find it in our own selves.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

roméo dallaire

I have never seen a war. I have read enough about them, but its all just so much paper and words. But like the rumble of a storm far off, you can sense something of terrible power moving in the world just beyond the horizon. Maybe its nothing, but the feeling that it could happen, because it has happened before, is real.

I get these broken pieces of the world that are brought to me edited and translated and re-translated, and I try to put them together in some way that I can understand how all the ugly and great things of this world move. I can only express my own life in the end, but I don't mind trying to honor all life and every forgotten and abandoned person by sometimes feeling what goes on beyond me, and give you a story worth hearing.

The 1994 genocide of Tutsis by their Hutu brothers in Rwanda was one of the ugliest moments in human history, when blossomed and bared the madness we carry inside us flooded the African air with screaming and laughter.

There is Roméo Dallaire, the commander of UN forces in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. In early April of that year, the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed when their plane was shot down by unknown attackers.

The president of Rwanda was a Hutu. The Hutus were the majority of the population, and controlled the country. The minority Tutsis were led in spirit by Paul Kagame's RPF rebel army that threatened invasion of Rwanda. The two groups had done terrible things to each other throughout their mutual history, but this time, within hours of the news of the president's death, organzied militia groups of Hutus, (in terror that the attack was a prelude to invasion and retribution against them from the Tutsis), began to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Government radio and news media sent out hourly bulletins urging Hutus to kill all Tutsis.

Within 100 days

937000 people

were murdered

the majority of them

with farm tools

like machetes

Roméo Dallaire and his small force of UN soldiers were essentially abandoned by the UN despite their appeals for action. For the most part, Canadian, Ghanian and Dutch troops did what they could, but they could do almost nothing but listen.

One night I was walking alone in the forest and I thought, there is nothing more terrifying than a human being. I was wrong, of course, anything that is violent and unstoppable is just as terrifying, but I think I was sensing something else. A human being is not the most terrifying, but the most horrifying.

Because when a bear or a storm is violent, there is no hate, it is healthy. When a human being is going to do violence, you see in them their love gone black and rotten and insane. To hear that in the night in Rwanda for 100 days.

And this is no children's story. That madness that some understandably call 'evil' isn't going anywhere. I don't care if youre a socialist or a capitalist or a goddamn pacifist, if you have a family or sit in a church, at the moment of suffering all your politics, all your religion, is just so much nonsense, from the girls shivering in solitary in a North American prison to a Tutsi man hacked up in his home. They all suffer for the same black, rotten heart, but lets avoid that subject once again.

When Roméo Dallaire left Rwanda he became clincally depressed, was prescribed severe antidepressants, and was relieved of his post. One afternoon he got drunk in an attempt to kill himself, and nearly lapsed into a coma on a park bench in Ottawa in 2000.

He has dedicated himself to keeping what happened in Rwanda alive in the hopes of preventing future horror from happening. It must keep him alive to try. He just happened to be standing in the heart of madness and lived like few others have. He is a good and brave man who nearly broke, and in some ways broke forever, because he felt empathy, he loved.

In some ways he is a haunted house.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Science is really nothing more than just asking questions and paying attention to what is going on around you. Discoveries are handed down to descendants, and if they are not destroyed by accident or on purpose, they accumulate and increase knowledge of the world and how to do things. And we who live in rich and stable countries are lucky to have been born in an age where the discoveries of modern science have exploded.

Modern Science is only a kind of science, with its own strengths and limitations. It cannot take the place of morality or philosophy, things of the heart, but neither can they take the place of science, and ultimately, I think, all these things are but gestures of the same Great Spirit. In science I have found things of beauty that rival anything I have felt in religion or art.

The emergence of modern science in the history of civilization has transformed humanity in ways both good and evil, but the essential point is that it has transformed it. It appeared in the form that we understand it during only the last few centuries. Its roots drew from different nations across the world, especially from Mediterranean cultures like Persia and Greece, but it flowered in Europe.

Why Europe? Who knows? It is probably a combination of everything. Sciences of different kinds are found in every culture. The Papua New Guinea Islanders know every single kind of plant and its uses in their world by memory. Chinese explorers made contact with the West long before Marco Polo, even sending ambassadors to ancient Rome when Rome thought it knew the geography of the whole world. Curiosity and creativity do not belong only to Europe.

Of the kinds of science, Modern Science is the most powerful. Its core principles are not unique but they are taught with new emphasis: amorality and inquiry. Amorality in the sense that value judgements are prohibited on the grounds that they corrupt accurate observations. Clouding one's impression of the world to suit one's agenda is considered bad science whereas it is called "conviction" in other systems. This principle echoes Nature, she who gives birth to and kills all living things without judgment. It is also profound. Only when you ask what something is without assuming you already know do you learn anything.

Also the principle of Inquiry: Modern science, in its purer moments, teaches that asking lots of questions is good, and that there is no such thing as a question that should not be asked. The spirit of curiosity exists in all cultures, but modern science encourages it and crowns it at the head of its beliefs.

Science is naively criticised for being cold and spiritless, but this is nonsense. A system of thought is cold and spiritless if it is expressed in a cold and spiritless way. Religion can be as dead and heartless as any materialist. A sense of awe and holiness is a feeling, and I can feel it in science as easily as in religion, by the genuine love with which many scientists study the world.


Friday, December 03, 2004

year zero

I came around when Pol Pot took power in Cambodia and declared year zero. Vietnam was on fire. A dam in China collapsed after a typhoon and killed 200000 people. broke their necks and drowned the rest of them. Indonesia was carrying out a genocide of the East Timorese. It was in that year that five journalists who decided to stay and cover it were executed there.

When I was born a handful of African countries gained independence, most of which fell into civil war the same year. Humans had begun to study the behavior of whales intensively for the first time, just out of curiosity. Voyager was being built, a thing of metal and wires that would one day become the farthest thing humans have ever sent out from earth. It drifted outside the solar system a few years back. It will probably drift for a few million years, alone in the great spaces between stars.

So I do not expect paradise of earth. My earliest memories are of the north country. Big, silent places. Trees stretching out to the horizon, big ceilings of sky. The world will still be the same storm of war and sorrow and peace and beauty when I leave as when I came. The leaders of the world want you to believe it is they who keep the lion at the gates, that without democracy or communism or theosocialanarchocapitalism humanity is doomed to some apocalypse that will steal all your airconditioners and escaped prisoners will force everyone to convert to nazism.

This should come as no surprise: we are dealing with people who have spent their lives believing that the world is changed from the top down. What they cannot know is that the most of the really good things that ever happened came from the bottom forcing the top to change... and some pretty awful things too.

I wandered into this invariable apocalypse pale skinned and I will leave scarred. I have spent my life trying to find ways to keep myself from being twisted the same way I see everyone around me being twisted, to untwist myself into something resembling a living being.

Now that may be asking too much, but I accept my scars. I don't consider them part of the rabies that seems to take hold of everyone.

There is this underlying assumption that somehow people are at fault for being such cruel whiny egotistical idiotic shallow pathetic conniving monsters, but I disagree. Its got nothing to do with the religions we invented, the guilt of original sin or mistaking the earth for a turtle, or our highly dubious moral speechmaking, it has more to do with being born fucked up and ignorant to fucked up and ignorant parents who send you to school to be taught by fucked up and ignorant teachers who are inspired by fucked up and ignorant role models, and everyone acts like it isn't happening, or that there's no relation between being fucked up and ignorant and blowing apart civilians halfway across the world.

In all this you might be inclined to think that that by pulling back the earth and revealing to you the millions of grubs squirming underneath, I think the world is a fucked up and horrible nightmare, but I don't, or ok rather I do but I don't have the reaction to it that a fucked up nightmare might be expected to deliver.


Because while Pol Pot was building a pyramid of skulls on my first birthday, the gentle forests of the north country nursed a new generation of bear cubs, I wandered into a paradise on fire, and any love I can give you is only in a day that comes and goes among a million days.

I have beautiful dreams sometimes, but I am mortal.