Inside the souls of wealthy men bleak famine lives
While minds of stature struggle trapped in starving bodies
This is a quotation by Orestes in Euripides’ play called Electra. I often wonder how much human progress was lost through the centuries by people trapped by dire poverty and debt, while the nobles, kings and hierarchy of the Catholic Church lived in luxurious splendor. I reme mber that Mozart had a rich patron and when that patron withdrew his support Mozart’s health suffered, although he still composed, until he died and was buried in a pauper’s grave. How many more brilliant minds went through life without rich patrons and their potential contribution to the human race was lost?
It first occurred to me to title this article: “What is to be Done?,” but that is already a famous title used by a man who was much more intelligent than I am. His name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. I sympathize so much with Cindy Sheehan’s disenchantment about the lack of effect of demonstrations against the wars; three wars now the ruling class of the US has created, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was going to state it was the most I could remember the US ruling class had instigated together, but then I remembered Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I remember being in demonstrations in the 1960s so large that one could look back and see nothing but solid people for miles and never could see the end of the demonstrations. The Port Chicago vigil tried to do what Mario Savio suggested and put oneself on the gears of the machine. We tried to talk the workers out of delivering weapons to Vietnam and we chained ourselves to the trucks delivering weapons through the gates of the weapons facility. We had a permanent presence just outside the gates of the plant where weapons were loaded on ships for Vietnam. Every once in a while, at night,a few people on the vigil would get beat up by either plant workers or local thugs.
After the Vietnam War, US military planners realized that in future wars preference would be given for being short in duration, if possible, decisive and very low in American casualties. Otherwise, even with effective propaganda, it would be difficult to mobilize the public to support wars of long duration with significant US casualties. The Panama invasion, the Grenada invasion, the overthrow of Aristide, the first Persian Gulf War and the bombing of Yugoslavia were all successful, relatively short in duration with few American casualties, and so, confidence grew that the so-called Vietnam Syndrome had been overcome.
Although the killed and wounded American soldiers of the first war against Iraq were few in number, the number getting sick, becoming disabled or dying months or years later was considerable. Joyce Riley of the American Gulf War Veterans Association has estimated that approximately 400,000 of the 697,000 military personnel serving in the first Persian Gulf war are sick, roughly 200,000 of these young men and women are disabled and receiving a small monthly payment of ninety-eight dollars from the federal government and over ten thousand have already died.
In ancient Greek mythology Hesiod describes 5 ages of man: the golden age, the silver age, the bronze age, the heroic age and the iron age. The heroic age is often left off as that is just about the heroes in the conquest of Thebes and Troy. In these ages mankind degenerates in his admirable characteristics and is progressively more warlike, acquisitive and unwilling to sacrifice to the gods and so forth. In the Golden Age, men were essentially very sympathetic and compassionate toward one another and things were arranged so they didn’t need to work but could live off the bounty of the land. Disease was unknown and death was simply going to sleep. It reminds me of a quotation by John Milton in Paradise Lost: “Not to irksome toil, but to delight he made us, and delight to reason joined.” Then, Zeus replaced Cronus and the Titans and the Golden Age ended. Consequently, for a variety of reasons, the other ages ended, except for the iron age in which we presently reside, according to the ancient Greeks.
Among the numerous conditions afflicting Third World people today are starvation, disease, war and injurious devices or substances left behind by invading armies like land mines, cluster bombs, Agent Orange and depleted uranium. A little discussed occurrence, which makes life extremely miserable for many people, is a tactic of counterinsurgency and intimidation called low intensity warfare. It depends for its success on torture, mutilation, disappearances and other methods designed to shock and reduce the civilian population to docility and acceptance of the conditions imposed on them. These conditions often have much to do with facilitating the extraction of wealth from these Third World countries by multinational corporations, i.e., sweatshops, structural adjustments and so-called free trade.
Initially, the Bush administration said that it had no warning that jet airplanes could be used as missiles to attack buildings in the United States. Then, CIA and FBI documents came to light indicating that they had investigated this possibility, and the Bush administration was forced to back off on this assertion of ignorance. Even more disturbing is the fact that after the first plane was hijacked and deviated from its prescribed course, more than an hour transpired with no fighter jets being dispatched to protect the nation’s Capitol. As a comparison, after the jet carrying golfer Payne Stewart flew off course, the response time for F-16 fighters was only 21 minutes. Only after two jets had crashed into the World Trade Center and another one was headed toward the Pentagon were F-16s sent up to intercept and then from Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles from the Pentagon, rather than from Andrews Air Force Base, less than ten miles from the Pentagon. Why? These are just a couple of the discrepancies in the official story of what happened on 9-11.
Most Americans have a stereotypical image of a terrorist as a religious fanatic from the Middle East who straps explosives around his body or flies airplanes into buildings. I have a few more definitions of the word terrorist.
One who drops cancer-inducing substances like Agent Orange and uranium-238 on civilian populations.
One who trains foreign soldiers in torture techniques at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia and organizes death squads to assassinate leftists and union leaders.
One who uses the CIA to overthrow democratically elected leaders like Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala and Allende in Chile, leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
It has been often claimed that Social Security was the third rail of American politics. No one dared touch it because it affected old people so much and their wrath was something not to be desired. Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House for many years, coined the phrase when he was fighting Ronald Reagan’s attempts to privatize Social Security. Well, they are touching it in a big way now and making many American seniors a lot poorer, although in a camouflaged way. They have frozen cost of living increases for two years and are increasing the amounts taken out of checks for Part B and Part D of Medicare. If one is already down at the $700 to $800 dollar a month range in monthly Social Security checks, this puts one, after rent and medicine are paid, down at the hay eating level. It reminds me of the old Joe Hill song: “Work and pray, Live on hay, You’ll get pie in the sky when you die, That’s a lie.”
Charles Kernaghan, an anti-sweatshop activist noted for his confrontation with television hostess Kathie Lee Gifford, has vividly described conditions in Third World sweatshops.
He describes the factories as uniformly austere concrete buildings topped by razor wire and with armed guards who search the employees on entering and leaving. Employees are often teenage girls made to work as fast as possible by brutal foremen. These foremen verbally abuse or beat the girls to enforce compliance or sometimes use the threat of firing for sexual favors. The workers are allowed only two bathroom breaks a day. Hours are very long and forced overtime occurs with violations costing a day’s pay or termination. If a girl gets pregnant, she is fired. If workers attempt to form a union, they are fired and blacklisted, or even become the victims of death squads. There is presently a case in a US court brought by the United Steelworkers of America on behalf of workers in Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, who have had several of their union leaders assassinated by death squads. Toxic chemicals are used in these sweatshops with no precautions. and the air in garment factories is filled with dust and lint.
In the past 30 years Americans have been openly robbed by capitalists so many times that it is difficult to keep track of all of them. There was the Savings and Loan heist, the fraudulent accounting schemes of Arthur Andersen and others, which led to a stock market crash and wiped out people’s savings, there was the blatant thievery of Enron and the rest of the energy companies, costing billions of dollars in public money, and finally, there was the sub prime mortgage debacle, which put the whole world into a depression, cost millions of jobs and made numerous people homeless and penniless.
When I was a student of chemistry in college I did a lot of extracurricular reading about politics. I particularly read about the history of the Russian and Chinese revolutions. I read about Narodnaya Volya and their leaders like Sophia Perovskaya, Zhelyabov, Mikhailov and others and their eventually successful attempts to assassinate Czar Alexander II. Stepan Khalturin, working under the cover of a carpenter, blew up part of the Winter Palace, but had failed to kill the Czar.
I know how hard and long Lenin worked in his hotel rooms in Switzerland and London to bring about the Bolshevik revolution, along with his early comrades like Martov, Vera Zasulich, Axelrod and Plekhanov. They smuggled thousands of copies of Iskra or the Spark, a revolutionary newspaper, into Russia. Vera Zasulich was a very interesting woman. She shot the Governor of St. Petersburg, Trepov, for flogging severely a revolutionary comrade named Bogolyubov, who had failed to tip his hat to Trepov. She escaped from Russia. Two very important men, Trotsky and Stalin joined the revolution. Later, gold shipments were robbed to finance the revolution.
There are many living organisms on planet Earth which sustain themselves by leaching nutrients from other plants or animals. These are known as parasites. There happen to be human institutions, which operate in the same manner, but their nutrient is money and their prey are other human beings. Considering the trillions of dollars the federal government spends to rescue corporations, when their schemes to defraud the public go awry, I guess one could consider all corporations parasites to one degree or another. Some do produce useful products, but don’t pay their workers the true value of their labor and many receive government subsidies, export promotions and other grants of government money. Consequently, it is not “welfare queens,” mothers who need government money to feed, educate and cloth their children, who are the parasites on society, but the large corporations. I believe most people agree that children are an asset to society. Since we are all mortal, they are the future of humanity, and their well-being is paramount in importance.
Once upon a time many, many years ago, when I was growing up, I saw actual news reports on that latest invention called television. It is true that I knew a lot of it was propaganda because I had a socialist father, who explained to me the real causes of world events and that great myths about the evils of socialism and other things were being created by the media. It was the age of Joe McCarthy, who was finding communist sympathizers everywhere and forced many brilliant Hollywood writers to flee the country.
Most Americans know enough about the Nazi holocaust to thoroughly despise the horrible events that occurred-the torture, executions, concentration camps, forced starvation, gas chambers and the attempted extermination of the Jews. I wonder what Americans would think if they knew that the part of this Nazi terror apparatus which operated on the Russian front was incorporated into the CIA after World War 2. The Nazi SS officer was Reinhard Gehlen, and he and his group were employed by the CIA for their knowledge of the Soviet Union. The SS death squads called Einsatzgruppen that followed the German advance into the Soviet Union were very brutal, killing any communists and Jews they found and conducting mass executions. The CIA used Nazi war criminals like Klaus Barbie, Walter Rauff, Otto Skorzeny and others in South America to impart their knowledge of torture techniques and concentration camps to the police and military forces there. Klaus Barbie was involved in the 1980 Bolivian coup known as the “cocaine coup” that is described in former DEA agent Michael Levine’s book The Big White Lie.
Venezuela may be the world’s best hope for a brighter future. Do you know they have a children’s orchestra formed by taking poor children from the slums and teaching them music? They are so excellent at playing their instruments that this orchestra is world famous. They are taking unused farmland, owned by the rich landlords, and distributing it among the peasants to farm. They have built schools and educated the poor, provided them with health care, built them better homes, built sewage treatment plants and done things for the poor that only one other country in Latin America has done (although a few others are trying) and that is Cuba. They have nationalized factories and increased wages. Venezuela has brought in many Cuban doctors and poor people in rural areas who never had medical care before are now getting it. They certainly don’t deserve to be invaded by the United States under some pretext like running drugs, supporting the FARC or some other filthy excuse to rid us of our only hope in this world and that is socialism. The United States is evidently preparing for an invasion by getting their patsies in Colombia to provide 5 new military bases for US forces.