zaterdag 3 oktober 2020

Chris Kijne en de Gesubsidieerde Onwetendheid 12




De Amerikaanse hoogleraar Graham Allison, alom geprezen voor zijn baanbrekend onderzoek op het gebied van defensie en buitenlandse politiek, waarschuwt in zijn boek Destined For War. Can America And China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (2017):  

Policymakers in Washington today often do not even pretend to take strategy seriously. Instead, addressing challenges posed by China, Russia, or Islamic jihadism, they say, ‘Our lines of effort are…’ Official national security strategy documents are ignored. Over the past decade, I have yet to meet a senior member of the US national security team who had so much as read the official national security strategies. 


Thus, instead of NSC-68, or the Reagan administration’s revision, NSDD-75, what guides the Washington agenda on China today are grand, politically appealing aspirations with a list of assorted actions attached. In each case, a serious strategist would judge the stated objective unachievable by any level of undertaking the US can reasonably mount. Current efforts are thus bound to fail,


met als gevolg dat de strijd om de hegemonie tussen de VS en China dreigt uit te lopen op ‘a cataclysm nobody wants, but which they may prove unable to avoid.’ Het bewijst opnieuw hoe actueel ‘Thucidides’ Valstrik’ is gebleven. Thucydides, de bekendste historicus uit de Griekse Oudheid, wees op de ‘natural, inevitable discombobulation (staat van verbijstering. svh) that occurs when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power.’ Zo zette hij ruim 2400 jaar geleden uiteen dat het ‘de opkomst was van Athene en de angst die dit in Sparta inboezemde waardoor oorlog onvermijdelijk werd.’ Dezelfde alles beheersende vrees voltrekt zich vandaag de dag onder de elite in Washington en op Wall Street. Nu algemeen wordt beseft dat ‘The end of American hegemony’ is aangebroken, zal het zwaarst bewapende land in de geschiedenis alles in het werk stellen om zijn almaar slinkende macht te consolideren. 



Voordat ik verder ga, eerst enige achtergrondinformatie: NSC 68 (United States Objectives and Programs for National Security. svh) was de blauwdruk voor de Amerikaanse militarisering van de Koude Oorlog vanaf 1950 tot de ineenstorting van de Sovjet Unie eind 1991. Wat volgde was een levensgevaarlijke wapenwedloop tussen de twee nucleaire grootmachten. Januari 1961 waarschuwde de Amerikaanse president Dwight Eisenhower, voormalig opperbevelhebber van de Geallieerde Strijdkrachten in Europa, na acht jaar presidentschap, zijn landgenoten vergeefs voor de ‘vervlechting van de belangen en de invloed van het militair-industrieel complex.’ De Amerikaanse geleerde Noam Chomsky, een gezaghebbende criticus van de buitenlandse politiek van Washington en Wall Street, concludeerde twee decennia later dat de Koude Oorlog een ‘marvelous device’ was ‘by means of which the domestic population could be mobilized in support of aggressive and interventionist [US] policies under the threat of the superpower enemy.’ Op zijn beurt bepaalde de National Security Decision Directive-75 uit begin 1983 dat ‘U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union will consist of three elements: external resistance to Soviet imperialism; internal pressure on the USSR to weaken the sources of Soviet imperialism,’ en betekende dus een aanscherping van de agressieve houding van de VS tegenover de Sovjet Unie, zeker wanneer men tevens rekening houdt met Reagan’s verdere militarisering van de ruimte, door in hetzelfde 1983 zijn miljarden verslindende Star Wars-programma van start te laten gaan. Nu inmiddels een nieuwe Koude Oorlog is uitgebroken, ditmaal gericht tegen Rusland én China, is het van belang te weten dat:


On China, American policy essentially seeks to cling to the status quo: the Pax Americana established after World War II. Washington repeatedly, and accurately, reminds the Chinese that this has allowed the longest peace and largest increase in economic well-being Asian nations — and specifically China — have ever seen. But that status quo cannot be sustained when the underlying economic balance of power has tilted so dramatically in China’s favor. So America’s real strategy, truth be told, is hope. 


To conceive and construct a grand strategy proportionate to this challenge will require senior government officials to devote not just their political capital but also their intellectual acumen (scherpzinnigheid. svh). Contrary to Obama, US national security strategy does need Kennan today,


aldus Graham Allison, jarenlang hoogleraar en decaan aan Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, en vanaf 1985 lid van de adviesraad voor de Amerikaanse minister van Defensie. In zijn functie van staatssecretaris van Defensie, verantwoordelijk voor Beleid en Planning, was hij begin jaren negentig verantwoordelijk voor het coördineren van de strategie en het beleid ten aanzien van de voormalige Sovjet-Unie. Als één van de best ingevoerde Amerikaanse insiders werpt Allison twee vragen op:


What is the single largest challenge to American national security today? What poses the single largest threat to America’s standing in the world? The answer to both questions is found in failures of the American political system.


Omdat ik mij nu richt op onze NAVO-bondgenoot laat ik hier Allison’s kritiek op China achterwege. Over zijn eigen land schrijft hij:


I am a congenital (aangeboren. svh) optimist about America, but I worry that American democracy is exhibiting fatal symptoms. DC has become an acronym (afkorting. svh) for Dysfunctional Capital: a swamp in which partisanship (partijdigheid. svh) has grown poisonous, relations between the White House and Congress have paralyzed basic functions like budgets and foreign agreements, and public trust in government has all but disappeared. These symptoms are rooted in the decline of a public ethic, legalized and institutionalized corruption, a poorly educated and attention-deficit-driven electorate, and a ‘gotcha’ press — all exacerbated by digital devices and platforms that reward sensationalism and degrade deliberation. As Abraham Lincoln warned prophetically, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Without stronger and more determined leadership from the president and a recovery of a sense of civic responsibility among the governing class, the United States may follow Europe down the road of decline.



Kortom, bij gebrek aan een duidelijk omlijnde strategie trachten de Amerikaanse beleidsbepalers de status quo te handhaven, waarbij de VS ‘the Only Superpower’ blijft, een streven dat onvermijdelijk zal leiden tot ‘Thucydides’s Trap,’ die kan eindigen in een nucleair armageddon. Verwijzend naar de Amerikaanse president John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) schrijft professor Allison tenslotte in zijn ‘Conclusies’


In his words, the enduring lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis was: 'Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert confrontations that force an adversary to choose between a humiliating retreat and nuclear war.' 


To make similarly wise choices, US leaders will need to muster a combination of hard thinking and harder work… Understand what China is trying to do. Applying the logic of Kennedy’s counsel, US leaders must also better understand and appreciate China’s core interests… The more the US government understands China’s aims, the better prepared it will be to resolve differences. The problem remains psychological projection: even seasoned State Department officials too often mistakenly assume China’s vital interests mirror America’s own… China and the US would be better served not by passive-aggressive 'should diplomacy' (calling on the other to exhibit better behavior)… In today’s Washington, strategic thinking is marginalized or even mocked… Though deliberate crafting of strategy does not guarantee success, the absence of a coherent, sustainable strategy is a reliable route to failure.


Daarom is en blijft de vraag actueel of de betrokken beleidsbepalers — in de woorden van professor Allison — ‘skillful enough’ zullen zijn ‘to secure their vital interests without stumbling to war? Statesmen seeking to do so will find no better place to start than in rereading Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War.’ En als dit voor hen niet contemporain genoeg is kunnen zij altijd nog The Sleepwalkers (2012) lezen, over ‘How Europe Went to War in 1914,’ geschreven door de Angelsaksische historicus Christopher Clark, hoogleraar geschiedenis aan de University of Cambridge. Over zijn boek oordeelde de recensent van The Guardian dat Clark brilliantly puts this illogical conflict into context.’ De Eerste Wereldoorlog, waaruit de Tweede Wereldoorlog voortkwam, is inderdaad een schoolvoorbeeld van hoe, zeker in democratieën, de politieke- en economische macht een volstrekt ‘onlogisch conflict’ kunnen beginnen, waarbij in dit geval  tenminste tien miljoen mensen werden gedood. The Sleepwalkers toont boven alles aan hoe een combinatie van grootheidswaan, stupiditeit, en onverzadigbare begeerte een onvoorstelbaar bloedbad creëerden, waarbij in feite alle partijen verloren, en het massale geweld een einde maakte aan het Ottomaanse- en Habsburgse rijk, en bovendien een burgeroorlog in Rusland mogelijk maakte. 20 miljoen mensen kwamen om het leven, terwijl 21 miljoen gewond raakten, een aanzienlijk aantal van hen moest met lichamelijke en/of geestelijke handicaps zien te overleven. 9,7 miljoen doden waren militairen, terwijl ongeveer 10 miljoen ongewapende burgers omkwamen. Door de komst van massavernietigingswapens zal in de toekomst het aantal burgerdoden op zijn minst met honderden miljoenen toenemen. 


Gezien het feit dus dat de komende decennia het voortbestaan van de mensheid wordt bedreigd door een genocidale Derde Wereldoorlog tussen de huidige grootmachten getuigt de hetze tegen Rusland en China — die nu al in gang is gezet door de westerse ‘corporate press’ — van een pathologisch gebrek aan verantwoordelijkheidsbesef en gezond verstand. In zijn column van 11 november 2014 op de website Project Syndicate, die zich richt op het wereldpubliek dat Engels leest, beweerde Buruma:


Much has been written about post-communism in Russia and China. But two recent films reveal the social and political landscapes of these countries more clearly than any scholarly book or serious journalism has been able to do.


The times we live in are often most clearly reflected in the mirror of art. Much has been written about post-communism in Russia and China. But two recent films, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, made in China in 2013, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, made in Russia in 2014, reveal the social and political landscapes of these countries more precisely than anything I have seen in print.



Maar in tegenstelling tot wat opiniemaker Buruma met grote stelligheid verkondigt, benadrukte de regisseur van Leviathan zelf dat zijn film wel degelijk een 'universeel' thema behandelt, dat, ik citeer Andrej Zvjagintsev:


overal kan plaatsvinden. En vanuit die gedachte besloten wij om het in Rusland te laten spelen. Omdat het leven hier ons nader staat, net als de levensstijl en de realiteit, dan een verhaal over een Amerikaanse boer. Het Westen wil de film graag als een politiek statement zien. Juist nu het actueel is. Maar dat zou kortzichtig zijn.


Het spreekt voor zich dat Buruma’s ‘kortzichtigheid’ onverenigbaar is met ook maar een greintje ‘kosmopolitisme’ dat hem door de jury van de Erasmus-prijs in 2008 werd toegedicht. Wat Zvjagintsev ook mag zeggen of in beeld brengen, Buruma weigert diens zienswijze te accepteren, aangezien in Ian's manicheïsch wereldbeeld nuances en universele fenomenen onbestaanbaar blijven. Hij is alleen bij machte in zwart-wit beelden de wereld te registreren, waarbij het Kwaad altijd De Ander is, terwijl ‘Wij’ vanzelfsprekend altijd het Goede vertegenwoordigen. Deze stoornis is des te gevaarlijker omdat het verwrongen ‘realisme oppermachtig heerst' in 'de journalistiek. Die geeft zich zonder voorbehoud uit voor naakte werkelijkheid,’ zoals ruim drie decennia geleden de auteur Frans Kellendonk verklaarde. Buruma laat zien dat in het bewustzijn van de provinciaal het complexe van de werkelijkheid onzichtbaar blijft. Als sycofant van de neoliberale macht ontbreekt het mijn oude vriend Buruma aan het besef dat corruptie en geweld eeuwige, universele thema’s zijn, en dat ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ zoals de Britse politicus, Baron Acton, in de negentiende eeuw formuleerde. Desondanks prees Buruma meer dan een eeuw later het Amerikaans ‘imperialisme’ als ‘betrekkelijk goedaardig,’ een ‘force for good,’ en tot het aantreden van president Trump, een ‘ideal of American openness and democracy still worthy of admiration,’ alsof het voortdurende grootscheepse geweld van de VS en de grootschalige schendingen van het internationaal recht niet veel typerendere kenmerken zijn van het Amerikaans streven naar hegemonie, en het in stand houden van wat Buruma de ‘Pax Americana’ betitelt. 


Hoe kunstzinnig en subtiel een ‘art film’ als Leviathan ook mag zijn, nooit zal Buruma, die door een ideologische bril naar de wereld kijkt, het tragische van het menselijk lot kunnen waarnemen, laat staan doorgronden. Dit overigens in tegenstelling tot de Russische bevolking, die met haar mens- en wereldbeeld uit ervaring weet dat corruptie en geweld tragische constanten zijn in de wereldgeschiedenis. Het wezenlijke verschil tussen een Rus en een Nederlander als Ian Buruma is dat laatst genoemde er niet van doordrongen is dat overal op aarde de mens altijd onmachtig is gebleven om de macht in toom te houden. Met zijn kinderlijke Vooruitgangsgeloof beseft hij niet dat wij slechts ‘spectateurs sans le savoir’ zijn, zoals Jean Cocteau opmerkte in ‘Machine Infernale,’ een moderne bewerking van de Oedipus-mythe. Tweeënhalf duizend jaar eerder jaar al liet de Griekse toneelschrijver Sophocles in Koning Oedipus zien hoe tragisch ons lot is. Mei 2003 wees een andere grote Europeaan, de van origine Tsjechische auteur Milan Kundera op het volgende:


Freeing the great human conflicts from the naive interpretation of a battle between good and evil, understanding them in the light of tragedy, was an enormous feat of mind; it brought forward the unavoidable relativism of human truths; it made clear the need to do justice to the enemy. But moral manicheism has an indestructible vitality. I remember an adaptation of Antigone I saw in Prague shortly after the second world war; killing the tragic in the tragedy, its author made Creon a wicked fascist confronted by a young heroine of liberty.


Such political productions of Antigone were much in fashion then. Hitler had not only brought horrors upon Europe but also stripped it of its sense of the tragic. Like the struggle against nazism, all of contemporary political history was thenceforth to be seen and experienced as a struggle of good against evil. Wars, civil wars, revolutions, counter-revolutions, nationalist struggles, uprisings and their repression have been ousted from the realm of tragedy and given over to the authority of judges avid to punish. Is this a regression? A relapse into the pre-tragical stage of humankind? But if so, who has regressed? Is it history itself? Or is it our mode of understanding history? Often I think: tragedy has deserted us; and that may be the true punishment.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/may/17/featuresreviews.guardianreview34 


Op zijn beurt zette de Britse auteur John Berger  uiteen in zijn essaybundel Stemverheffing uit 1992:


De veronderstellingen waarvan het mediabedrijf uitgaat namens het publiek zijn behalve blind ook verblindend… Misschien is het precies op dit punt dat onze vorm van democratie een langzame dood sterft. Als dat zo is, dan als gevolg van een weigering. De weigering van het mediabedrijf om het feit te erkennen en te laten doorwerken dat het publiek in zijn hart weet hoe de wereld in elkaar zit… De reden van deze weigering die een bedreiging is voor onze vorm van democratie, de reden waarom het mediabedrijf stelselmatig onderschat wat we gemeen hebben, die reden is steeds dezelfde: de normloze drang tot verkopen.


Berger benadrukt: 


Wat ik wil is dat mensen zich ervan bewust worden hoe smerig het mediabedrijf ze bedient als publiek. Smerig, omdat met de waardigheid van kijker en bekekene de vloer wordt aangeveegd. Herstel iets van die waardigheid — gun mensen de tijd, verschuif het gebruikelijke zwaartepunt — en slecht nieuws wordt van een onderbreking de waarheid. Er zijn tal van waarheden waarvoor geen directe oplossing bestaat. Het woord ‘oplossing’ raakt niet aan het tragische. Wíj moeten in aanraking komen met het tragische en ons erdoor laten raken. We zouden er misschien door veranderen als we het benoemden. Ook benoemd blijft het tragische tragisch, maar slecht nieuws zou het niet worden. Alleen van daaruit is een realistische politiek mogelijk.


Concreter gesteld: in 2002, voorafgaand aan de misdadige Amerikaanse inval in Irak, stelde Berger in het essay ‘Written in the Night’:


People everywhere — under very different conditions — are asking themselves — where are we? The question is historical not geographical. What are we living through? Where are we being taken? What have we lost? How to continue without a plausible vision of the future? Why have we lost any view of what is beyond a lifetime? 


The well-heeled (welgestelde. svh) experts answer: Globalization. Post-Modernism. Communications Revolution. Economic Liberalism. The terms are tautological and evasive. To the anguished question of Where are we? the experts murmur: Nowhere! 


Might it not be better to see and declare that we are living through the most tyrannical — because the most pervasive — chaos that has ever existed? It's not easy to grasp the nature of the tyranny, for its power structure (ranging from the 200 largest multinational corporations to the Pentagon) is interlocking and diffuse, dictatorial yet anonymous, ubiquitous yet placeless. It tyrannizes from offshore — not only in terms of fiscal law, but in terms of any political control beyond its own. It’s aim to delocalize the entire world. It's ideological strategy — besides which Bin Laden's is a fairy tale — is to undermine the extent so that everything collapses into its special version of the virtual, from the realm of which — and this is the tyranny's credo — there will be a never-ending source of profit.


Dit is de wereld van de cynicus, die, aldus Oscar Wilde, ‘overal de prijs en nergens de waarde van kent,’ en die ons het rijk van het nihilisme heeft ingevoerd. In Hold Everything Dear. Dispatches On Survival And Resistance (2007) wees John Berger erop dat: 


Nihilism, in its contemporary sense, is the refusal to believe in any scale of priorities beyond the pursuit of profit, considered as the end-all of social activity, so that, precisely: everything has it price. Nihilism is resignation before the contention that Price is all. It is the most current form of human cowardice…


The worst cruelties of life are its killing injustices. Almost all promises are broken.


Het is het collectieve verraad van alle normen en waarden. De Amerikaanse dichter en vertaler van Griekse tragedies, wijlen Robert Fagles, stelde in de inleiding van Sophocles’ tragedie Oedipus the King met betrekking tot koningin Jocasta, moeder en echtgenote van Oedipus:


Jocasta thought that there was no order or design in the world, that dreams and prophecies had no validity; that man had complete freedom because it made no difference what he did – nothing made any sense. She was wrong; the design was there, and when she saw what it was she hanged herself. But the play now seems to give us a view of man’s position that is just as comfortless as her acceptance of a meaningless universe. What place is there in it for human freedom and meaningful action? Oedipus did have one freedom: he was free to find out or not find out the truth… One freedom is allowed him: the freedom to search for the truth, the truth about the prophecies, about the gods, about himself. And of this freedom he makes full use. Against the advice and appeals of others, he pushes on, searching for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And in this search he shows all those great qualities that we admire in him – courage, intelligence, perseverance… This freedom to search, and the heroic way in which Oedipus uses it, make the play not a picture of man’s utter feebleness caught in the toils of fate, but on the contrary, a heroic example of man’s dedication to the search of truth, the truth about himself. This is perhaps the only freedom, the play seems to say, but there could be none more noble.


Dit tragisch levensgevoel wijkt fundamenteel af van het geloof in een verlossing via de weg van het christendom of via de Vooruitgangsidelogie van de geclaimde rationele Verlichting. Robert Fagles:


ignorance can be remedied, the ignorant can learn, and the force with which Oedipus now reasserts his presence springs from the truth he now understands: that the universe is not a field for the play of blind chance, and that man is not its measure. This knowledge gives him a new strength which sustains him in his misery and gives him the courage needed to go on living, though he is now an outcast, a man from whom his fellow-men recoil in horror… The catastrophe of the tragic hero thus becomes the catastrophe of… man; all his furious energy and intellectual daring drive him on to this terrible discovery of his fundamental ignorance – he is not the measure of all things but the thing measured and found wanting.



Ook in dit opzicht zijn de thema’s van de oud-Griekse tragedieschrijvers 2500 jaar na dato nog steeds actueel.


Sophocles’ play has served modern man and his haunted sense of being caught in a trap not only as a base for a psychoanalytic theory which dooms the male infant to guilt and anxiety from his mother’s breast, but also as the model for a modern drama that presents us, using the ancient figures, our own terror of the unknown future which we fear we cannot control – our deep fear that every step we take forward on what we think is the road of progress may really be a step toward a foreordained rendezvous with disaster… Nothing mortal can resist the changes Time brings: not bodily strength, not friendship between man and man, still less between city and city. No man can be confident of the future; human confidence is based on total ignorance.


Gemeten naar de kennis van de goden, of de natuur, zo u wilt, is ‘human knowledge at its greatest ignorance.’ Sinds Auschwitz en Hiroshima kunnen zelfs de meest oppervlakkige opiniemakers weten dat de mens in ‘a universe’ leeft, aldus Fagles, ‘governed by powers in whose justice man must assert, in ignorance and with little hope of confirmation, a desperate belief.’


Dit voert mij terug naar Ian Buruma’s leugens over de de film Leviathan van de Russische regisseur Zvjagintsev. Het probleem van de broodschrijver is dat hij zijn opdrachtgevers moet blijven behagen, waardoor mijn oude vriend zelfs de meest voor de hand liggende zaken niet kan registreren. Het spreekt immers voor zich dat een  kunstenaar als Zvjagintsev nooit een film zou maken die — na het verdwijnen van Poetin — onmiddellijk gedateerd is. Een kunstenaar zoekt per definitie naar het universele van 'het menselijk tekort.’ Daarom ook heet de film Leviathan, een 'monster, stammend uit de oertijd,' dat al bekend was in 'de Fenicische mythologie van het oude Kanaän onder de benaming Lotan of Lothan (afgeleid van lawtan), een slang.' 


Als Sophocles zich, net als Buruma, met de waan van de dag had beziggehouden dan zou hij vandaag de dag natuurlijk niet meer worden gelezen. In tegenstelling tot een mainstream-opiniemaker moet een kunstenaar het juist niet hebben van de waan van de dag. Maar omdat de beleidsbepalers in de VS opnieuw een Koude Oorlog zijn gestart, ditmaal tegen zowel Rusland als China, staat Ian Buruma als broodschrijver onmiddellijk paraat om het Grote Kwaad aan te wijzen en schreef hij naar aanleiding van onder andere Leviathan in november 2014:  


Property, construction, and land are the common currencies of power in mafia societies — in China and Russia no less than in Sicily. One reason China has been transformed into a gigantic building site, with huge new cities emerging almost overnight, is that this drives a red-hot and highly corrupt economy, ruled by a Leninist party that has monetized political power by asset-stripping and construction.


It is irrelevant that President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party, unlike the CCP (Communistische Partij van China. svh), makes no claim to any form of Marxist ideology. The way both governments operate is quite similar: party bosses, tycoons, and corrupt bureaucrats divide the spoils, while promoting chauvinism and ‘traditional values’ — whether those of the Orthodox Church or Confucianism. Judges are bought or intimidated to ensure that bosses remain above the law.

https://en.prothomalo.com/opinion/Russia-and-China-the-movie-2


Meer hierover de volgende keer.




Russia and China 'mafia societies'?






vrijdag 2 oktober 2020

Lying and Liars: The Corporate Media

 

Lying and Liars: The Powerful and Obnoxious Odor of Mendacity

Region: 

“Mendacity is a system we live in.” – Paul Newman, playing Brick in Tennessee Williams’, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

A profusion of philosophical, psychological, and political ink has been spent on the subject of lying and liars.  The toll in loves lost and relationships destroyed from lying is incalculable. All the war dead are victims of government lies; what Marine Major General Smedley Butler called a “racket.” Lies are poison, slow or quick working, and they kill both body and soul.

We are living in a country of lies.  A country where propaganda is disseminated around the clock and lies are the air we breathe.  Is it any wonder that most people are confused as to what to believe and whom to trust?  But it goes much deeper.

I have recently read a number of perceptive, truthful articles that have gotten me thinking further about this subject, although I must add that I have been preoccupied with the issue since I was very young and my father took me to see Pinocchio in the movie theater and subsequently told me improvised Pinocchio stories before bedtime.  Whether he knew it or not – and I think he knew – he set me on a lifetime’s quest to try to distinguish truth from lies and embrace the former.  Then as a teenager, I appeared on a very popular television show, To Tell the Truth.  I was recruited to lie, to play the part of an impostor, which I did quite well. I lied for the money and probably would have made a good lying politician if fate hadn’t interceded. It was only later that my actions and the show’s title kept reverberating through my mind, echoing down my days to the present and my interest in truth, lies, and propaganda.  From my father came a love for the redeeming nature of stories.

***

“More and more often there is embarrassment all around,” wrote Walter Benjamin in The Storyteller, “when the wish to hear a story is expressed.  It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences.”

***

It was getting dark on the street as the young man emerged from his high school on New York’s Upper East Side after basketball practice.  He had lost track of time as he dreamed his basketball dreams and headed to the subway for the long ride home.  It was December, 1961. A man, dressed in a cashmere overcoat and carrying a silver bowl, was walking his dog on the street.  The boy asked him for the time.  The man told him, adding with a grin that his watch always ran fast.  The boy recognized the grin from what seemed like a dream.  He pet the man’s dog, and the man asked him about the imposing school next to them.  He asked the boy his name and the boy said “Eddie.”  While the dog did its business in the street, they chatted for a few minutes.  The man wished him luck with his basketball and said his name was Paul. As the boy hustled toward the subway, Paul Newman shouted after him, “See you later, Fast Eddie.”

The next week the boy went to see Paul Newman playing Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler. He always remembered Paul’s words about mendacity and his words from The Hustler:

Fast Eddie: How should I play that one, Bert? Play it safe? That’s the way you always told me to play it: safe… play the percentage. Well, here we go: fast and loose. One ball, corner pocket. Yeah, percentage players die broke, too, don’t they, Bert?

Lies are a common way of playing it safe.  Except they kill the liar.

***

In an article by Mike Whitney, “Betrayal, Infuriating Betrayal,” in which he writes about the Democrats’ ongoing efforts – Russia-gate, etc. – to remove Trump from the presidency, efforts based on a string of lies they know to be lies [ my emphasis] and have been proven to be so, he wonders thus toward the end:

It’s surprising that this doesn’t piss-off more Democrats, after all, it’s the ultimate expression of contempt and condescension. When someone lies to your face relentlessly, repeatedly and shamelessly, they are expressing their loathing for you. Can’t they see that?

Of course, that’s a very good question.

I read Jonathan’s Cook’s piece, “The Guardian’s deceit-riddled new statement betrays both Julian Assange and journalism.”  Cook rightly excoriates The Guardian  for lying about Assange and betraying him to the British and American governments, long-standing lies [my emphasis] that continue to today as Julian sits in a British kangaroo court where injustice is being served to extradite him to the USA.  Here is one point he makes;

Nauseatingly, however, the Guardian not only seeks to blame Assange for its own mistake but tells a glaring lie about the circumstances. Its statement says: ‘No concerns were expressed by Assange or WikiLeaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. WikiLeaks published the unredacted files in September 2011.’

Then I read another fine article at Asia Times, by MK Bhadrakumar, “Permafrost descends on US-Russia ties,”  about a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at demonizing Russia.  The bill is led by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.  Bhadrakumar writes:

The fallout of all this is going to be profound for the Sino-Russian alliance. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hit out last week: ‘It is time to stop applying Western metrics to our actions and stop trying to be liked by the West at any cost … the West is wittingly or unwittingly pushing us towards this analysis.

It is likely to be done unwittingly [my emphasis]. However, it is a big mistake to think that Russia will play by Western rules in any case, just like thinking this in terms of China.’

I was struck by Lavrov’s word “wittingly or unwittingly” – diplomatic speech – since he knows the Senator’s bill is filled with lies but suggests otherwise – “It is likely to be done unwittingly.”

Finally, I read an article by Philip Roddis, “Julian, Guardian, and the Law of Volitionality.”  As a lead-in to his announced topic, he tells a little tale about his step-mother that struck me.  It is worth quoting in full:

Indulge me a moment, will you? At fifteen I acquired a stepmother. We never got on. Her and dad’s insistence that she be called “mum” didn’t help. For the two years we spent in the same house – I left home weeks before turning seventeen – I never addressed her by name or title.

She had dad round her little finger. One ploy was to badger him into making a ruling against me. Once she’d done so, she’d beg him to relent. “Oh it’s alright, Frank. Let him … ” [do/have whatever it was she’d got him to forbid]. But no way was he going to u-turn at this point. A matter of pride, you see. I saw this little comedy for what it was but dad fell for it every time.

And here’s the thing. Maybe she did too. She got her way, but I don’t rule out her motives for that post victory appeal being hidden to – and by – her. My flawed but brilliant teacher said that everybody knows what they’re doing. Indeed, it was so fundamental a tenet he gave it a name: The Law of Volitionality. Yes, he took it to absurd and at times cruel lengths but for all that he was onto something. To manage cognitive dissonance – to maintain a sense of being fundamentally good – we play games with ourselves. Stepmother was likely fooling herself almost as much as dad with her tiresome shenanigans.

It’s not that she wasn’t being manipulative. Just that an essential ingredient of the manipulation, vital to maintaining self-esteem, was a decision – volitionally squirrelled away, out of sight from everyday awareness – to hoodwink herself. [my emphasis]

You can find such examples every day.  Articles about lies tossed about by all sides of the political spectrum are commonplace.

I think it fair to say that everyone has lied at some point, but only the most manipulative are proud of it.  “The essence of the lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre.  This cynical consciousness that knows the truth but denies it to others is a perfect description of  politicians, propagandists, intelligence services, and their media mouthpieces. They know they are lying and are proud of it, but of course they will never admit it.

Most people are not that manipulative.  Sartre says there is another type of liar who suffers from bad faith.  While they lie to others, they also try to lie to themselves and hide the truth from themselves.  People often say that this person and that one really believe their own lies, that they are deluded, but this is not possible.  For “the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as a deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.”

I have recently been thinking that many people who are adamantly insistent on the efficacy of mask-wearing against SARS-CoV-2, the virus associated with COVID-19, and  those who are always quoting the official statistics, are of this sort.  They either know there is good evidence against mask-wearing and the official statistical game, but try to convince themselves this isn’t so, or they avoid reading about the possibility to save face and live with themselves  – both acts of bad faith.  Such people are like Philip Roddis’s step-mother.  But in this case, the bad faith is about a Big Lie, just as the fake fight between Trump and Biden has induced many people to take bad faith sides in a scene from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

“Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Agreed to have a battle;

For Tweedledum said Tweedledee

Had spoiled his nice new rattle”

So Tweedledee and Tweedledum

Had their scrum

All about the rattle.

When it was done

Only the dumb

Gave a shit about their battle

***

Last year, I was at a large library book sale and came upon an odd box of typed manuscripts of stories that lacked the author’s name.  They were free and so I took a few.  There was one very short story, entitled “Fear,” that struck me for its haunting connection to the issue of lies. “Death is the sanction of everything the storyteller can tell,” wrote Benjamin, which seems so true with this anonymous story. Here it is:

Listen, that’s what I want to say to them.  Listen, this is one of those stories hard to believe.  When I first heard it, I doubted it completely.  Of course I was telling it and that might have been a factor.  It’s hard, once you hear your own voice, to believe it’s you.  After a while, however, I became convinced it had to be true.  I couldn’t make up anything so odd, so sick if you prefer.  At first the voice sounded strange, but once I realized it was really mine, I understood I was revealing this pathetic tale under great duress and it was understandable that my voice sounded foreign.

You should take that into account.  I am a very sick man.  I realize that now.  In the beginning, I thought I was surely dying, until, that is, I saw that I was already dead.  Dying was beside the point.  I was dead.  Naturally this came as a great surprise to me.  Now you might reasonably ask, how did this absurd situation come about, and how can a dead man write words?  Let me tell you.

It began when I was born while the world was engaged in one of its periodic slaughters. No, periodic is not true.  Those slaughters are constant.

So you wonder what my astrological sign is?  The mushroom cloud of course.  A cancer born under the sign of the mushroom.

Anyway, I have been living for decades now and you’d think I would have seen the obvious.  I didn’t, or that’s what I told myself.  Not for the life of me.  I kept going on as if I were alive when I was dead.  It’s obvious now: the dead never know they’re dead until… But I didn’t know it, and you can imagine, I hope, how this caused me many problems.

Don’t laugh.

That was the year I disappeared.

She asked me: “But are you content?”

– No, I wouldn’t say that.

– So you’re not?  It’s hard to tell?  Tell me.

– No, not really.

– Not really what?

– Not really content.

– What would give you contentment?

– I’m not sure.

– You mean to say you have no idea?

– No, not that.  I guess if I thought about it …

– Do that, that’s what I’m asking you.  You must have thought about it before.

– Sure I have but…

– Why the but?  You’re so hesitant about everything.  You don’t know, you doubt, maybe, but, perhaps.  Why are you so unsure?

I had no satisfactory answer.  I could only stumble over my words.  I was afraid they would trip me up, especially if I spoke without premeditation. I was used to hesitating so I could control things.  That’s not exactly true.  When I realized I was dead, I also realized it was because I had always been a liar, to myself and others.

It was then I disappeared.

Since coming here, I have been resolved to change.  Yes, the outside world was making me sick with all its lies and deceptions.  Mendacity, mendacity, mendacity – I heard someone in a play scream that out once. I never forgot it, and I felt I was going mad because of it.  But I too was a liar, so I resolved to change.

No more bullshit.  That was my number one resolution.  It sounded crude but was true. Next to it, I listed euphemisms for bullshit: exaggeration, manners, civility, tolerance, modesty , mental reservations, kindness, and of course lies.  Bullshit was lies and self-deception.  Simple as that. I couldn’t admit that I was dead; that was bullshit, and I was dead because I was a bullshit artist and just wanted to be an artist and write stories that were true.  I have always lied so much because, like everyone else, I was afraid of the truth. Saying it, hearing it, or seeing it.  I much preferred ideas of what should be true rather than what was true, or what I really thought was true.  I was afraid if I gave up lying I would feel lonelier than I did before.  Where did it get me anyway?  Where does it get anyone?  I have always hated myself for it.  This all seemed so weird to me; how everyone nodded at truth, just as they nodded to each other, and then went on lying their ways through life.  And if you asked them if they were lying, they would invariably deny it.  Oh, it’s so twisted.  I am sick. I don’t know where I’m going with this story.  It seems to have a life of its own, unlike me.

I didn’t really disappear.  They took me here.  I am so afraid.

That was it.  Short and eerie.   It reminded me of Kafka, who wrote in his diary: “The strange, mysterious, perhaps dangerous, perhaps redeeming comfort that there is in writing.”

***

“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

That’s what the CIA has inscribed on the wall of its headquarters: The George Bush Center for Intelligence.

More appropriately, as a description of not only the CIA but American society as a whole, are Ken Kesey’s words from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: “You seem to forget, Miss Flinn, that this is an institution for the insane.”

That’s not a lie.

Yes, “Mendacity is the system we live in.”

And the odor here is really loathsome.

https://www.globalresearch.ca/powerful-obnoxious-odor-mendacity/5725447

Foreign mercenaries were burned to the ground

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