woensdag 23 april 2014

De Mainstream Pers 196


For 1 in 6 people in the United States, hunger is a very real struggle. Many people believe that the problems associated with hunger are confined to small pockets of society, certain areas of the country, or certain neighborhoods, but the reality is much different.
Right now, millions of Americans are at risk of hunger. These are often hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot always make ends meet and may be forced to go without food…
In 2012, 16.1 million or approximately 22 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
Feeding America. Hunger Facts. 2014

De Russische annexatie van de Krim en de permanente onrust in Oekraïne hebben in het Westen langzamerhand een begin van paniek doen ontstaan. Na de Koude Oorlog heeft wat we toen de Vrije Wereld noemden bij gebrek aan de volgende globale tegenstander haar defensie verwaarloosd. In het begin werd dat in dit deel van de wereld als een geweldig voordeel beschouwd. 
H.J.A. Hofland. Provinciaal Europa. 2 april 2014

Mainstream-opiniemaker Hofland stelt impliciet dat het 'gebrek aan de volgende tegenstander' geen 'geweldig voordeel' was, want daardoor is de 'defensie' verwaarloosd van 'de Vrije Wereld,' met hoofdletters. Niet de armen en hongerigen in 'de Vrije Wereld' veroorzaken 'paniek' bij de economische en politieke elite en haar woordvoerders, maar 'het gebrek aan de volgende' vijand. Goddank is er voor de elite nog altijd Rusland om de aandacht af te leiden. De neoliberale zegeningen kunnen na het verdrijven van de democratisch gekozen regering van Oekraïne nu ook daar met geweld worden doorgedrukt. Twee vliegen in één klap, de wapenindustrie heeft een nieuwe klant, én  Oekraïne kan als 'vrije markt' gebied een lage-lonen-land worden dankzij de shock and awe-doctrine van het neoliberalisme. Bovendien kan de westerse bevolking door zijn 'politiek-literaire elite' via de oude en beproefde Koude Oorlogsretoriek wederom gemobiliseerd worden en het westerse militair-industrieel complex kan opnieuw worden gelegitimeerd. Zonder NAVO hadden de Russen hier al op de stoep gestaan, zo suggereert de propaganda. Dat deze bangmakerij lariekoek is, blijft onbelangrijk voor de commerciële massamedia die het nu eenmaal moeten hebben van sex, spanning en  sensatie, oftewel, in de woorden van de Britse auteur John Berger 

Consumptie en communicatie zijn tegenwoordig verenigd in een diabolische vennootschap, en uit deze vennootschap bestaat datgene wat wij kennen als de media. Eerst en vooral vertegenwoordigen de media een economisch contract waardoor alles wat er in de wereld gebeurt wordt gekoppeld aan het mechanisme van de verkoop. (Stemverheffing 1992) 

Al in 1949 concludeerde de redactie van het Amerikaanse Fortune Magazine zonder een greintje ironie dat

it is as impossible to imagine a genuine democracy without the science of persuasion [i.e. propaganda] as it is to think of a totalitarian state without coercion. The daily tonnage output of propaganda and publicity... has become an important force in American life. Nearly half of the contents of the best newspapers is derived from publicity releases; nearly all the contents of the lesser papers... are directly or indirectly the work of PR departments.


Als opiniemaker is Hofland een klein schakeltje in de grote propagandamachine van de neoliberale religie. Aan dat feit heeft hij al zijn werkzaam leven lang het imago en inkomen te danken dat hij nu heeft. Zo ver, zo goed, geen vuiltje aan de lucht. Dat wil zeggen: voor hem, maar niet voor zijn slachtoffers. Voor hen heeft Hoflands intens leugenachtige voorstelling van zaken vernietigende consequenties. Het al vijf eeuwen durende agressieve expansionisme van het Westen gaat nu onder aanvoering van de VS nog steeds door. Niet alleen leidt dit tot grootscheepse bloedbaden, verwoesting en traumatisering van de overlevenden elders, maar ook tot de psychische verwoesting van de westerse militairen die het moorden daadwerkelijk moeten uitvoeren. Omdat deze feiten geen rol van betekenis spelen in het werk van de 'vrije pers,' zoals de commerciële journalistiek zichzelf graag noemt, zal ik hier eerst enkele feiten geven:

. Depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (an anxiety disorder that follows experiencing a traumatic event) are the most common mental health problems faced by returning troops.
. Psychiatrists project that 1 in 3 U.S. soldiers will suffer from PTSD after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan (or both). The rate for PTSD is two times higher for those men and women who served two tours, which makes up approximately 40 percent of all U.S. troops.
. 30 percent of soldiers develop mental problems within 3 to 4 months of being home.
. An estimated 20 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans turn to heavy drinking or drugs once they return to the U.S.
. Between 10 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Possible consequences of this internal injury include anger, suicidal thoughts, and changes in personality.
. In 2010, an average of 22 veterans committed suicide every day. The group with the highest number of suicides was men ages 50-59.

Een ter zake kundige is de Amerikaanse onafhankelijke journaliste en fotografe dr. Ann Jones, van wie het werk in tien talen is verschenen. In haar boek They Were Soldiers. How the Wounded Return from America's Wars — The Untold Story (2013) schreef ze over het opvallend hoge percentage moorden en zelfmoorden onder Amerikaanse veteranen:

the killings continued, month by month, year after year, covered mostly in local newspapers. Many of the murders smacked of something truly threatening — a kind of private warfare waged by soldiers who had got the hang of killing and the habit. 

Zoals gebruikelijk in het neoliberale kapitalisme wordt bijna elk maatschappelijk probleem geïndividualiseerd en daarmee politiek onschadelijk gemaakt. Dat is ook hier het geval, door 'het medicaliseren' van de problemen wordt voorkomen dat 'inconvenient political and moral issues' aan de orde komen. Jones:

So far have we come from the days when moral principles had something to do with the conduct of our wars and our soldiers that even when veterans set a 'trend… for being involved in killing' right here at home, as one newspaper put it, advocates will speak up to blame not the homicidal soldiers, nor the officers who misled them, nor the presidents who threw them into needless wars of choice, nor Congress or the citizens who looked the other way, and certainly not war itself, but Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)…

How then is a soldier burdened by guilt to expiate the wrong he has done to himself and others? How is he to share it with those who sent him to war? How is he even to know that a numbed society still subscribes to the moral principle he learned as a child? 'Thou shalt not kill,' for example.

Remember that PTSD is said to arise not from the psyche of the stricken individual but from the emotional trauma inflicted by a catastrophic event in the real world.

Ann Jones die zelf langere tijd tussen Amerikaanse soldaten in Afghanistan doorbracht en langdurige berichtte over conflicten in het Midden-Oosten, Azië en Afrika weet, in tegenstelling tot de leunstoel-strateeg Hofland en zijn 'politiek-literaire elite' in Nederland, van nabij waarover ze schrijft. Haar kennis is niet gebaseerd op een theoretisch model, maar berust op de werkelijkheid. En anders dan een opiniemaker als Hofland sprak zei met direct betrokkenen: 

A Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan told me that a VA therapist (VA. Veterans Administration. svh) labeled her with PTSD though she had neither experienced nor complained of a traumatic event. Instead she had spoken of feeling 'a kind of moral revulsion from life in the U.S. after seeing how people in the rest of the world live.' Many returned soldiers have that same feeling, coupled with a smoldering rage at having lost the lives that once, in their innocence, would have contented them — the family trips to Walmart, the Happy Meals at McDonald's with all the kids. That's a world they can't fit into anymore because, as the Marine veteran said, 'We've seen the price the world pays for "The American Way of Life."' They are unable to resume their old lives, not because of injury or trauma, though that's part of it for some, but because they know too much. She said, 'Try to get a little help for hyper vigilance and the VA hands you a medical diagnosis and a bunch of prescriptions to shut you up. We've seen a lot and learned things that Americans ought to know. But we're the last people they want to be on the loose — the "crazy vets of Vietnam," back again.' 

Dezelfde weerzin van de Amerikaanse veteranen herken ik als journalist. Telkens wanneer ik als journalist uit conflictgebied terugkwam, werd ik in Nederland onmiddellijk met de zelfgenoegzame betweterigheid geconfronteerd van politici en mijn collega's die vanuit alle comfort en veiligheid geen enkele empathie bezaten met hun slachtoffers elders. Zonder de feiten te kennen hadden ze al een volstrekt vrijblijvende mening die ze overal rondbazuinden. Consequentieloos voor henzelf, niet voor hun slachtoffers. Ik wist wat ik zelf voelde en sinds ik in 1974 tijdens een reis door de VS met Vietnam-veteranen was opgetrokken, wist ik hoe zij zich voelden. Het liefst had ik de Nederlandse betweters een geweldige schop onder hun achterste willen geven. Het onvermogen van de polder pers om zich te verplaatsen in de positie van haar slachtoffers is weerzinwekkend. De oorlog, die de opiniemakers op hun schaakbord spelen, is virtueel en zonder bloed, zonder uitpuilende darmen. De werkelijke oorlog, die de soldaten in de praktijk brachten, is georganiseerd moorden, stukken lichaam die door de lucht vliegen. Bovendien zijn in moderne oorlogen de meeste slachtoffers burgers. Jones:

it was generally things the soldiers did of their own volition — things not strictly part of their job — that truly got to them. They confided some of these things to a young reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette. They said that discipline broke down, and they were 'so mad and tired and frustrated' by the elusive enemy that 'You came to close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.' (That's a 27-ton armored vehicle on tracks, easily mistaken for a tank.) Soldiers hit by an IED fired machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction to 'light the whole area up.' One soldier said, 'If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em.' Others said they 'shot random cars, killing civilians. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.' 

Some soldiers reported that they regularly used stun guns and hollow bullets, outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, but easily purchased online from the United States and received by military mail. The reporter wrote:

'In the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many [soldiers] said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished. Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.'

Other soldiers killed themselves.

Het psychische resultaat van alle verschrikkingen die op het geweten van individuele jonge mensen rust, wordt verhuld achter de letters PTSD. Jones:

Those four magic letters can now paper over the hole in a soldier's soul and cover that seeping wound in his conscience with a shiny stick-on label: 'psychological disorder.' Demeaning as that tag may be for a suck-it-up warrior, it may also be a relief for him to think the pain is only in his head after all. There are pills for that. But apparently for… many others, the wounds went deeper. They seem to have penetrated to that place inside where memories lurk of violation and betrayal, war crimes witnessed and performed — crimes against others and crimes against the moral self — the kind of memories some guys brag about, some keep secret, and some can't live with anymore. […]

The damage that the catastrophic events of war inflict upon soldiers assumes a darker irony when traumatized soldiers return home to traumatize their partners and children — soldiers like moody husbands of wives who gather at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center. svh) to learn from mental health experts how to handle their partners with kid gloves: soldiers like the parade of rapists, batterers, and murderers from Fort Bragg, Fort Carson, Fort Hood, and Joint Base Lewis McChord who march through these pages. 

De eigen daders, tevens slachtoffers van het het westerse neo-koloniale expansionisme vindt men niet terug in het geopolitieke schaakspel van Hoflands 'politiek-literaire elite,' waar volgens hem geen 'natie zonder [kan].'  Het individu, de mens achter de pionnen, is in een neoliberale 'democratie' onzichtbaar, volstrekt onbelangrijk, hij maakt geen geschiedenis, maar ondergaat die slechts. Democratie is voor de woordvoerders van de elite een propagandistische term voor de ware macht.  

In 1984 schreef de Amerikaanse historicus Marvin Olasky dat de grondlegger van de public relations-industrie, de Amerikaan Edward Bernays, in het begin van de twintigste eeuw 'een van de eersten' was geweest 'to realize fully that American 20th Century liberalism would be increasingly based on social control posing as democracy, and would be desperate to learn all the opportunities for social control that it could,' terwijl zijn vakgenoot, Stewart Ewen in zijn studie PR! A Social History of Spin (1996) tot de slotsom kwam dat al vanaf de jaren twintig van de vorige eeuw 'the mass media, dominated by commercial interests, would provide subservient channels through which as broad public might be schooled to a corporate point of view.' Ewen, die de vercommercialisering van de politiek intensief bestudeerde, constateerde dat

It is not the people who are in charge, but that the people's desires are in charge. The people are not in charge, the people exercise no decision making power within this environment. So democracy is reduced from something which assumes an active citizenry to something which now increasingly is predicated on the idea of the public as passive consumers. What you essentially are delivering them is doggy treat.

Zo worden zowel hondenhapjes als presidenten op de 'vrije markt' verkocht aan een  massa van wie verwacht wordt braaf te gehoorzamen. En de schakel in dit geheel is de mainstream journalistiek, die via een mainstream-opiniemaker als H.J.A. Hofland verneemt dat door Rusland 'een begin van paniek' in het Westen is 'ontstaan,' terwijl tegelijkertijd geen 'paniek' ontstaat wanneer in het rijkste en zwaarst bewapende imperium in de geschiedenis 1 op de 6 inwoners honger lijdt, en dat de 'U.S. MIDDLE CLASS NO LONGER WORLD'S RICHEST' is, als gevolg van de neoliberale doctrine die de kloof tussen rijk en arm wereldwijd almaar groter maakt. Hoewel de

United States will spend an astounding $653 billion on the military in 2014, more than 56 percent of the entire discretionary budget,

waarover het Congres kan beschikken, én de Amerikaanse 'defensie-uitgaven' sinds de val van de Sovjet Unie zijn verdubbeld, beweert opiniemaker Henk Hofland met een adembenemend 'populistisch alarmisme,' dat 'Na de Koude Oorlog' de zogeheten 'Vrije Wereld' door het 'gebrek aan de volgende globale tegenstander haar defensie [heeft] verwaarloosd.' Daarentegen is de realiteit van het neoliberale fundamentalisme, waarbij 85 miljardairs evenveel bezitten als 3,5 miljard wereldbewoners tezamen,  voor Hofland en de andere westerse mainstream-propagandisten geen enkele reden om in 'paniek' te raken. Die werkelijkheid is voor de woordvoerders van de gevestigde wanorde een natuurlijk gegeven, een waarheid waaraan niet kan worden getornd, net zo min als in de middeleeuwen het bestaan van God ter discussie kon staan. Elk systeem heeft zijn eigen dogmatici, Henk Hofland is de bekendste geestelijke van de polder. Later meer. 





The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External

(Reuters/China Daily)
This is a story about bad timing.
One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.
The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, threatening a number of health and fertility impacts. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates.
Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing—us.Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world.Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.
This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions, just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policy-makers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.
Confronting these various structural barriers to the next economy is the critical work of any serious climate movement. But it’s not the only task at hand. We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real—let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.
And little wonder: just when we needed to gather, our public sphere was disintegrating; just when we needed to consume less, consumerism took over virtually every aspect of our lives; just when we needed to slow down and notice, we sped up; and just when we needed longer time horizons, we were able to see only the immediate present.
This is our climate change mismatch, and it affects not just our species, but potentially every other species on the planet as well.
The good news is that, unlike reindeer and songbirds, we humans are blessed with the capacity for advanced reasoning and therefore the ability to adapt more deliberately—to change old patterns of behavior with remarkable speed. If the ideas that rule our culture are stopping us from saving ourselves, then it is within our power to change those ideas. But before that can happen, we first need to understand the nature of our personal climate mismatch.
› Climate change demands that we consume less, but being consumers is all we know.Climate change is not a problem that can be solved simply by changing what we buy—a hybrid instead of an SUV, some carbon offsets when we get on a plane. At its core, it is a crisis born of overconsumption by the comparatively wealthy, which means the world’s most manic consumers are going to have to consume less.
The problem is not “human nature,” as we are so often told. We weren’t born having to shop this much, and we have, in our recent past, been just as happy (in many cases happier) consuming far less. The problem is the inflated role that consumption has come to play in our particular era.
Late capitalism teaches us to create ourselves through our consumer choices: shopping is how we form our identities, find community and express ourselves. Thus, telling people that they can’t shop as much as they want to because the planet’s support systems are overburdened can be understood as a kind of attack, akin to telling them that they cannot truly be themselves. This is likely why, of the original “Three Rs”—reduce, reuse, recycle—only the third has ever gotten any traction, since it allows us to keep on shopping as long as we put the refuse in the right box. The other two, which require that we consume less, were pretty much dead on arrival.
› Climate change is slow, and we are fast. When you are racing through a rural landscape on a bullet train, it looks as if everything you are passing is standing still: people, tractors, cars on country roads. They aren’t, of course. They are moving, but at a speed so slow compared with the train that they appear static.
So it is with climate change. Our culture, powered by fossil fuels, is that bullet train, hurtling forward toward the next quarterly report, the next election cycle, the next bit of diversion or piece of personal validation via our smartphones and tablets. Our changing climate is like the landscape out the window: from our racy vantage point, it can appear static, but it is moving, its slow progress measured in receding ice sheets, swelling waters and incremental temperature rises. If left unchecked, climate change will most certainly speed up enough to capture our fractured attention—island nations wiped off the map, and city-drowning superstorms, tend to do that. But by then, it may be too late for our actions to make a difference, because the era of tipping points will likely have begun.