Thursday, September 7, 2017

Oh Lonesome Me

There was one part of Russell Brand's book that affected me. The human need for community. He says that consumer capitalism destroys so many of the opportunities for community. Brand himself mentions religions and sport teams.

I confess to sometimes casting wistful glances at the church groups/ethnic communities/extended families/workplace friends that I see cavorting merrily in Sunnybrook Park when I'm riding my bike there. Or the groups of air-head rich cyclists in their idiotic Tour de France gear yelling to each other on their early morning rides.

Alas! I'm an elitist swine. I can't make myself belief in stupid things. Two minutes listening to some child-molesting priest/con-artist preacher, ... and I start to gag. There's only so much banality that I can fixate on in a Tim HOrton's parking-lot. I don't have a lot in common with any of my family. I'm a third-generation multi-Slavic Canadian on my Dad's side and a ... I don't know, ... tenth-generation British Canadian on my Mom's side. I have no strong attachments to another culture ad I'm not a Canadian patriot. I was an NDP activist for a couple of years, but I can't make myself believe that the leader of the Nova Scotia NDP is "extremely charismatic" (which is the level of devotion and adulation that appears necessary to rise within that institution).

I'm an artist. An individualist. A loner. Whenever leftists decry individualism, I get worried.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Belated Review of Russell Brand's "Revolution"

Back in 2013 a lot of people were excited by an interview on the BBC between Jeremy Paxman and Russell Brand. There were demonstrations and riots in Britain and Brand (a comedian) had recently co-edited a magazine series about political change and BBC interviewer Paxman brought Brand on the show to comment about what was going on. At one point in the interview, Brand said he didn't vote because he thought it was a waste of time. The change that was needed in Britain wasn't going to be delivered by ANY of the traditional status-quo parties.

People I knew told me to watch the interview thinking that I'd be on Brand's side. But I wasn't. I agree with a lot of what Brand said about what was needed, but I'm past-tired of reading and listening to progressives admit that they haven't yet figured out the slightest first steps to actually putting their visions into reality. For me, the fatal flaw of leftists is that they act like the mice in the story "Belling the Cat."

So, while I'm no fan of Jeremy Paxman (He's an establishment media figure after all. Institutions like the BBC may rise above the inherent childishness and delusion of mainstream US "journalism" but they still present insane narratives wherein imperialism and capitalism are found to be noble, normal and good.) but I had some sympathy for his attempts to understand how Brand could reject voting while having no coherent alternative.

I do like Brand's YouTube series "The Trews" ("It's like the news, if the news was true."). He's done some especially good skewering of FOX News, more cutting (at times) than the best of what Jon Stewart did on "The Daily Show."

Well, one day I found that I had to take a bus trip and I had nothing to read. I thought about buying a Globe and Mail or Toronto Star in desperation, but then I saw Brand's book Revolution on the discount table and decided to get it.

If you want a book about how to make a revolution you'll be disappointed big-time. If you want a book with a number of great metaphors for how and why our system is doomed, you'll be moderately satisfied. Towards the end there are some tentative stabs at articulating some concrete ideas. (Very tentative.) If you want to read about how one man ponders the emptiness of fame and fortune and sex with beautiful (sometimes multiple) partners, ... Brand spends a fair bit of time on that.

But for the most part, I found it the epitome of the wooly-headed, optimistic delusion of leftist/progressive thinking. Brand has no clue about how ordinary people can overthrow the present system of powerful, intrusive state systems, with their billionaires, their private armies, the militarized police forces, the actual state militaries and the propaganda system and the religious delusions that divert so many people into consumerism, racism, capitalism, "conservatism" and etc. No clue at all.

I found Brand's religious-spiritual cheerleading annoying. He states that science is finding out its limitations and must admit religion's legitimacy. (Something similar to Stephen J. Gould's "Non-Overlapping Magiseria.") But here's the thing: Science and religion come from the same place, ... the human brain. Religion does not have a line into some actually existing higher, spiritual realm. Religions were humanity's first tentative steps to understanding the world we live in. They were designed when there was much less information to go on. To the extent that religions presume to make statements about wider issues of existence than someone studying how bacteria function, or how marsupials evolved, or how atoms are made-up,  does, ... to that extent it might have something valid or worthwhile to say than those narrower investigations do. But actual knowledge of the sacred or the divine? Most of the jury has decided it doesn't and there's just a couple of dead-enders stubbornly refusing to concede so that a verdict can be delivered.

To repeat: Science and religion are both creations of human minds.

Any scientist who thinks we're even close to understanding the infinite is deluded. By definition, the infinite is beyond our abilities to grasp. There are doubtlessly infinite things going on around us that we don't even have the sensory capabilities of even perceiving. But the unknowable is (self-evidently) unthinkable and we would do well not to speak of it.

Brand spends a lot of the book going on and on about how he was always searching for deeper meaning. First, as the chubby son of a poor single-mother, he tried to believe in consumerism and then pornographically inspired compulsive masturbation. In his late-teens, it was heroin that filled up his life. Then, when he became a successful comedian, it was fame and fortune and sex. But all of these things were found hollow.

He's walked away from his addictions. He's walked away from the Hollywood scene. He's trying to be a more philosophical comedian and a voice for progressive values. In this he's assisted by adherence to East-Asian philosophies and pseudo-philosophies. (As well as the 12-step program of AA.)

Some quick observations:

Yes. We are all stardust. We are part of existence made up of parts of that existence. Atoms, etc., ... we are part of this collective whole that have temporarily assembled into these particular forms and identities of human beings. So, YES, our individual goals and aspirations are unimportant to the great scheme of things. YES, in the long-run we're all dead. But does that necessarily mean that we must deny ourselves? If our identities and desires and dreams are so pointless, isn't our dedication to physical survival equally meaningless? The universe doesn't care one way or the other if we get that high-paying job. It also doesn't care if we die of cancer.

I'm not sure why that means we should all embrace apathy or suicide or why Brand and others who think like he does fail to realize that pointlessness is the end-result of their philosophy.

Brand says we are meant to be happy and are only being frustrated by a sick political system. But Science and me say that we are animals. Look at animals in the wild. They are made from stardust, just like we are. They live closer to their origins than we do. They live in the moment. Are they happy? Do they know joy? Perhaps some of the higher life-forms know brief spasms of genuine joy. But they also know a lot of fear, hunger, pain and terror. Most all of them suffer horribly at the end. They're either killed (sometimes eaten alive) during those times when they're too young or too old to escape predators. Or they die of slow starvation when they've devoured their surrounding food resources and are too weak and sick to move on to greener pastures or to catch prey.

For the most part, I don't think they experience much inner emotions at all when things are going decently for them.

So if they have no right or experience of lives of bliss, why should we expect human beings to?

Sadly, Brand spends a lot of time on crack-pot ideas of Transcendental Meditation. He puts a lot of stock in a supposed "experiment" a couple of decades ago, in Washington D.C., where a large group of TM devotees meditated and tried to project good vibes to the surrounding city. And lo and behold! The crime rate actually went down!!!!

First of all: Even if there was a correlation between the separate events, that the TM'sters meditated and the crime rate went down, that doesn't mean it was the meditating that lowered the crime rate. Experiments need to be repeated and results replicated, before you can even start to make claims like Brand is trying to make.

But, ridiculously, the crime rate didn't even go down. The murder-rate in the city hit an all-time high! What happened was the TM guru-dude predicted what the crime rate was gong to be at the time the experiment would be conducted, and then praised his work when the rate was lower than the one he predicted.

In short; laughable, embarrassing garbage.

Russell Brand is (despite his ex-junkie religious delusions) an intelligent man. He's got a good heart and (forgive me) a good soul. He says a lot of things that I agree with. But he's as far away from helping us transform our societies as is every other starry-eyed, optimistic idealist. And that means too far away to have any impact whatsoever.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Free Speech for Fascists?

 Quick thoughts: Should people we disagree with have free speech and other rights? More precisely: Should fascists have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and the right to hold their views and not be fired for them?

Some will argue that leftists would be chumps to stand up for the free speech rights of fascists. First of all, they wouldn't do so for us. (With the right-wing's perpetual amazement when the ACLU defends their rights and freedoms, they wouldn't even remember and would therefore be immune from recognizing their hypocrisy.) Secondly; the fascists actively state their contempt for the rights and freedoms of leftists and that they would eliminate them given the chance. Thirdly; the neo-liberal state already gives fascists a fair degree of freedom and if leftists protect fascists' rights (as being the same as the rights of all) it won't prevent the neoliberal state from violating ours. So we'd be chumps again.

Others argue that we are fools to celebrate the arbitrary restrictions on the rights of fascists (or other disagreeable people). Refusing to allow them to assemble, to say and write their noxious beliefs, to express their views without fear of losing their employment, is just going to make it easier for the neo-liberal state to do the same to us. Certainly the neo-liberal state will violate our rights. But to not even insist that everyone has those rights in the first place will do more harm in the long run.

Finally, ... is it the case that the fascists' beliefs are just so self-evidently dangerously bad that a special case can be made for restricting them? I believe that the 70% of Germans who NEVER embraced the Nazi party (even if they might have been pleased ... pleasantly surprised ... by Germany's military victories by 1940) and especially the 30 - 40% who actively opposed them and were imprisoned or harassed by them might have looked at the horror and ruin that Hitlerism had brought to their country, and decided, that their views were self-evidently dangerously bad. And so it is officially banned.

But what about in Canada or the United States? We haven't formally banned fascism here. Should we? What about the horrors of Stalinism? Do they make communism self-evidently so dangerous that it should be outlawed? Because it wasn't just Stalinism. Mao's "Great Leap Forward" famine could also be said to have been the result of communist ideas. Of course, the slaughters and famines of imperialism and the slavery and misery and death of capitalism are also bad.

I honestly don't know at the moment.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ezra Levant Had Always Been an Idiot

So, it appears that third-rate huckster/shitty lawyer/anti-Arab, anti-Roma racist/obnoxious asswipe Ezra Levant has been done-in by his own stupidity and sleaze. Conservative Party politicians (who had done so much to fill his coffers, both recently with his hate-site "The Rebel" and formerly with his attempt at a "FoxNews North" called the "Sun News Network") are disavowing him like the proverbial rats leaving a sinking ship.
Apparently, Ezra sent white supremacist Faith Goldy down to Charlottesville to cover a rally convened by her soul-mates that was happening there. Then, one of these lumpen masses of lard-covered melting snowflakes, fired-up by his own confused hatreds and the violent rhetoric that these bullies use amongst themselves and on the internet, drove his car at top-speed into a crowd of anti-racist counter-protesters, killing one of them and injuring more than a dozen more.

First of all: These out-and-avowed white supremacists have always been a much smaller contingent than their internet activities and subsequent media attention had made them seem. Oh sure, there's plenty of racism in the USA, and Canada, and everywhere else. Lot's of systemic racism that keeps people down to maintain the political-economic status-quo. But these imbeciles have always been a tiny minority. The sizes of the counter-demonstrations against them and the wholesale revulsion against them, is proof of that.

Let me put it this way: Trump's victory was made possible by the vast bulk of traditional Repug voters amongst the wealthy/greedy/dim-witted/evil proportion of the population staying with him.  A crucial, but not too numerous swing of many average income people attracted to Trump's commonsense criticism of job-exporting trade deals and of Washington D.C. corruption in general; most importantly, large numbers of traditional Democratic supporters staying home as a result of decades of betrayal that Hillary Clinton seemed enthusiastic about perpetuating; and, finally, the mobilization of the internet "keyboard kommandos" of racist losers.

Most people, god bless 'em, don't think about politics too much. Most people, god bless 'em, are not deliberately racist. All these "alt.right" blow-hards, trolls and losers; ALL OF THEM, with their appropriation of Pepe the Frog, and their Breitbart and their FoxNews and their Daily Stormer and their Return of Kings; ALL OF THEM: Roosh V, Davis Aurini, Steve Bannon, ... they are all put together, a relatively tiny number of people. Vastly greater numbers of people are concerned more with Ariana Grande, Brie Larson, or Rob Tringali, than comprise the entire "alt.right."

It's the same up here in Canada. Remember when I told you all how I actually saw Ezra Levant in the flesh? My first response was to look away in disgust. But then, I turned back, wanting to be sure it was him and (having composed myself) wanting to discover what such a vile species of humanity really look like. A couple standing between myself and Ezra thought I was looking at them and, when I apologized and told them who I was looking at, DID NOT EVEN RECOGNIZE HIS NAME!!! (God bless 'em!!!!!)

You see, the nice thing about ordinary people, is that while they don't have much interest in people beyond their immediate family and friends and/or a grasp of the workings of the wider world,  share more in common with us on the Left than they do with those losers on the Right. The Republican Party of the USA gets about 25% of vote. The Democrats get another 25%. 40% consistently refrain from voting. And, often, the two parties compete for people so clueless or flighty that they could go either way between the neo-liberal corporate shill Democrats or the neo-liberal corporate shill racist, fundamentalist, closet-case Repugs. (A further 5% vote for quixotic other parties that have no chance of winning anything.)

Both Ezra Levant's separatist-funded "SUN News" and his online hate-site "The Rebel" had about 500,000 to 800,000 supporters. About that many Canadians will watch a CBC series. We don't worry about the viewers of "Kim's Convenience" taking over the country by force and neither should we fear the racist (and often senile) loons of Ezra's fan-base.

Ezra Levant has ALWAYS been a marginal figure. A stupid, untalented, obnoxious creature. Just another pig trying to cram his snout into the wingnut-welfare trough. From his days as a "youth activist" for the discredited hacks at the anti-medicare "Fraser Institute" to his Glib-n-Stale assisted career as a right-wing Reform Party gadfly, to his failed "Western Standard" to his failed "SUN News," to his many failed law-suits, to his failed (oil-industry subsidized) book, to his (soon to be) failed "The Rebel." Ezra has had the sense to know that he's marginal. That he has to make a lot of noize to stay relevant with the intensely loyal but intensely stupid people who gravitate towards white supremacy, hysterical Islamophobia, homophobia, militarism, and free-market delusions.  As the continued failures of capitalism make more and more people question the system that Levant supports, the distractions of race and terror and other kinds of bullshit have had to intensify, and Levant has been forced to debase himself more than he would have otherwise. I'm sure he's dimly aware how unacceptable his views are to decent, ordinary people. But his fans are people who tolerate him as a Jewish man, only because he's got the biggest, most organized and established outlet for them to hear their views. Perhaps, thought Levant, if he gave enough red meat to the white folks who actually make Hitler salutes at his events, they won't eat him alive. Methinks his loathing of these anti-Semites/genuine Nazis is what made Levant try to gouge as much money from them in unending campaigns to raise funds and make a fine living for himself.

Hopefully it will all come to an end. Maybe stephen harper (having been given an office and a salary in a law-firm, when he has no law degree and no discernible abilities) will invite Ezra Levant up to his neglected corner of the building and offer to pay him $10 to suck his dick.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

CounterPunch Needs To Get a Grip When It Comes to Caitlin Johnstone

Caitlin Johnstone is an online blogger with a journalism degree. She's mainly concerned with the Defeat-o-crats' and the MSM's attempt to gin-up conflict with Russia, and potentially start a nuclear war. She was a Bernie Sanders supporter. (Supporting from afar since she's Australian.)

She has, occasionally, advocated sharing some stories from right-wingers that are critical of the MSM. (I, for instance, loath Tucker Carlson and James O'Keefe, but when the former reduced a Democratic Hillary-bot to stuttering incoherence by asking plainly for evidence about the Trump-Putin hijacking of the USA's non-existent democracy, and the latter recorded a CNN producer admitting that "Russia-gate" was mostly bullshit that they've been ordered to obsess about, it ought to be cause for reflection.)

You see, if you're the sort of person whose priorities bounce around like a pinball: ("Eeek! ISIS is the vilest group of killers on the planet! We have to DO SOMETHING!!! "Eeek! The dictators Assad and Putin are doing something about ISIS! Innocent civilians will be killed!" "DAMN TO HELL the psychopaths creating all those Syrian refugees and causing so many of them to drown in the Mediterranean!" "Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in charge of the mercenary-backed rebellion in Syria that has created all those refugees, but they're not Donald Trump therefore they're progressives and our friends!" "Eek! Trump is going to start a war with North Korea!" "Eek! Trump doesn't want a nuclear war with Russia! It's TREASON!!!") Then you'll find yourself forever doing stupid things, believing stupid things, and contradicting yourself and your values on a regular basis.

Trump has ties to the Russia mafia. That's what he's trying to hide. The DNC files were leaked not hacked.

This is the sort of stuff Caitlin Johnstone writes about it. And, for reasons known only to themselves, CounterPunch has decided that she's Public Enemy Number One. It started with a really stupid article questioning her credentials as a journalist (when she's mainly writing opinion pieces) which was written by a fucking psychologist. And it's been continuing on for weeks on end, slandering her as advocating making common cause with Nazis when she's only talking about the same sort of stuff that Glenn Greenwald writes about when he agrees with Ron or Rand Paul about rejecting interventionist foreign policies and state surveillance of private citizens.

"Eek! Did you know that both Ron and Rand Paul are RACISTS!!! Do you want to associate with such scum???"

Meanwhile, mass-murderers Obama and Clinton are your allies?

Caitlin Johnstone has probably slipped-up here and there. Sometimes I have my doubts about her. Especially her having written a book about astrology for christ's sake! But this obsession of CounterPunch to bring her down is unfortunate and makes them look like bitter, irrelevant pompous asses.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Canadian Racism

I've worked with at least three people in three different places who were quite vocal about how they hated Blacks. Back in the 1970's I remember an inordinate hatred of South Asians amongst some WASPY-type friends and acquaintances. (To hear them tell it, "Pakis" were the dirtiest, sleaziest people who ever existed.) Among fellow white people, French Canadians and Maritimers were derided as people. The French Canadians were lazy, cowardly whiners and spongers. Maritimers came to Ontario and stole people's jobs. (When they weren't staying at home collecting welfare that Ontario paid for via equalization payments!)

But the biggest example of the racism of Canadian society is our treatment of the First Nations.

It's the thing you do when you want what other people have but don't think you should have to pay for it. You dehumanize the people whose assets you covet and this mental trickery allows you to maintain certain delusions about yourself and your culture and etc., as you rob them.

In the good ol' US of A, ... while they very much did steal the land of the Aboriginals and slaughter and massacre them, ... it was the employment of African slaves in the millions that did the most to form the country's character and values for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. (The "Indians" are very much impoverished and abused there, but their numbers are relatively small and they're isolated in remote areas for the most part. It is the Blacks, and now, more and more, the Latinos, who have white pieces of shit like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Donald Trump the most fired-up.)

The point that I'm trying to make is that Canada is mainly founded upon the theft of Indigenous lands and the subsequent attempts at (first) outright genocide (such as John A. Macdonald's deliberate starvation policies and the residential schools) and (later) slow-motion genocide (with the suicide epidemic being the most grisly feature). Conservative and Liberal governments and occasional provincial NDP governments, have all participated in this. Because the nation-building project of "Canada" is still not complete. Much of British Columbia is unceded. Treaty rights in other places still hamper wholesale "development of resources" in the North. Canada is ten times smaller than the USA. Therefore the "Aboriginal question" looms larger for us.

Yes. The marching of the white supremacist losers in the USA under their grope-n-fuhrer (the "Cheeto Benito" as the Mound of Sound is want to call him) is alarming. But don't let that distract you from the enormous tasks for anti-racists here at home.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Humanity Is Too Stupid To Survive - Part Infinity

Further evidence that humanity is just too stupid to survive: All the people simultaneously shitting in their pants about con-man Trump's blustering buffoonery with North Korea while also saying we should have voted for Hillary Clinton.

You remember Hillary Clinton don't you? The psychopath who wanted to shoot Russian fighter-jets out of the Syrian skies?

So, please, tell me, ... if you're one of those people: What is the qualitative difference between Trump's brinkmanship with North Korea and Clinton's desired brinkmanship with Russia? How does one threaten all of humanity while the other doesn't? I plead with you; by the sweet name of Jeeziz Kee-Riced, TELL ME!!!!!

Because when I walk amongst my fellow man and hear this stuff, it sounds like stupid bullshit drivel. Contradictory, incoherent raving. Am I missing something? Is there some unseen truth and wisdom behind condemning Trump's childish trash-talking and ignoring Clinton's snarling at the leash whilst she was Obama's Secretary of State?

Or (what's more likely) is it the case that you're just a symptom of the human race's incapacity to survive past this particular stage of technological development? (Don't be too embarrassed. You've got plenty of company.)