The Mediterranean is Becoming a Killing Field

I’d like to take you on a journey. Up in the mountains behind Malaga lies the small town of Alameda. It’s only a little place, around 5500 residents, but it was my home for 5 years. Many of you may also have spent time in similar-sized towns, regardless of where you’re from on this world. Now imagine that over the course of one year, over half of its population died. You never knew where they’d gone, but you knew they were dead. Then imagine that in the first four months of this year, nearly all of those remaining died.

All those people, with their own individuality, hopes, dreams, desires, loves, talents, skills, irreversibly removed from this world. The devastation you would feel would be intolerable, and yet death of this scale is happening as we speak, as so chillingly put by Dan Hodges in his blog for The Telegraph.

Since January last year, 3750 people are thought to have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe. Some are fleeing a wrecked state that the US and EU have barely helped since the Civil War ended. Others are fleeing Somalia, or Eritrea, or other countries in desperate situations. In the latest incidents, 1300 people have died in a single week. You’d think that such “civilized” nations would be trying their hardest to stem the flow of blood that is seeping into the Mediterranean from the bloated corpses of those who had the temerity to wish for a better life, but no.

Instead, Britain and the EU have cut search and rescue. Through some perverted reasoning, it is believed that instead of saving people, search and rescue actually causes more people to die. That they’re enticed across as the refugee believes they’re more likely to survive the crossing. In the perfected Machiavellian logic of conservatives, it must make sense – “this way we can pretend to care and cut costs at the same time!” Either the conservatives, who have likely never experienced such a crisis don’t understand the desperation of those fleeing a conflict zone, or simply see it as a way to seem hard on immigration, appeasing xenophobes.

The rise of the anti-immigrant UKIP political party in the UK, and the racist vitriol found in the right-wing press went some way to creating this policy too. It is possible that by the end of the year, 5000 or more people will have died making the crossing. Killed by this policy. The “immigrants taking our jobs and benefits” idea is riding high going into the UK General Election next month. Will any change come, regardless of who takes power? Looking at the parties, it seems unlikely. Even the ostensibly left-wing Labour Party are promising to be tough on immigration. This toughness has already killed thousands.

David Cameron, Nigel Farage, the Daily Mail, right-wing peddlers of hate of all European nations – thousands of people, with their own individuality and dreams of a better life, are now dead by your hands. How do you plead?

JECC – Nerja, Spain – 22/04/2015

The Need for a Counterculture

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to find an actual reasoned discussion in the comments on Youtube. I was looking at the clip of the High Water Mark speech from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, since it’s what got me into this mixed-up business in the first place. Someone was making the argument that we should make this decade our 1960s, a shout against the world. In response, someone else was arguing that the energy that fueled the 60s can never come around again, that cultures are so diverse that one single counterculture can never exist.

I couldn’t help but wonder, just where would we be if we held this negative idea as a species? Adopting such a massive negative as your thought will only bring about negative results. The counterculture of the 60s wasn’t just some being that sprang fully formed from the primordial swamp of our minds. The counterculture came from the beat generation, a full decade earlier, and grew and grew. We can make it, or at least something very similar, happen again, if we wanted to. The internet and the modern world are not something that builds barriers, but breaks them down, unifies people from around the world, like nothing else has before. There still is a worldwide feeling of rebellion against the old order, cast your minds back just three years, to the peak of the Occupy movement. There we saw people uniting, from across the spectrum of humanity, all united in wanting change, all using the internet to become stronger.

The need for such a reaction is stronger now than ever before, and grows stronger every day. Every day we see the rise of bigoted politicians around us, the militarization of police, the rich laughing as the poor try and survive. The need to shock, and expand the minds of all straight ‘law-abiding’ people has almost never been stronger. We need to shock our opponents, give our love freely, and not be afraid to express ourselves fully, never gagging our essential natures like the world wants us to. Being a defeatist, and saying that it can never happen, only gives our enemies the strongest weapon they could hope for – apathy.

Take Allen Ginsberg. Here’s a man, a gay Jewish man, who society could scarcely have looked down upon more. He responded to this subjugation by writing his own works, expressing his desires and thoughts completely. He helped create the hippie movement of the 60s. If he’d been apathetic and refused to express his own thoughts, a whole generation might have been deprived that same hope. We need more people like him right now, not people who wonder ‘what’s the point?’

The 60s were a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but the key is in that phrase. Once-in-a-lifetime is not the same as ‘once in history’. The world can have its counterculture again, we can make our voices heard again. The high water mark is not something that stands for eternity, never to be equaled. Its something that is our peak so far, but we can do better. We must.

A Burning Double Standard to Set the World Ablaze – Surveillance, Censorship, and Privacy

So following Chelsea Manning’s leaks a few years ago, came Edward Snowden’s. For those who have been living under a rock or in an NSA internment cell for the past year or so, Snowden’s leaks exposed a huge global surveillance network systematically invading people’s personal lives on a daily basis in the name of national security. Although most of the documents that were released concerned the US, other countries’ secret documents have also been leaked, including some from Britain and Australia. GCHQ, a British Intelligence Agency didn’t take too kindly to having details of their activities released to the public, and issued a DA-Notice, advising editors at “the BBC and other media groups” not to release any more documents for vague reasons of national security. GCHQ agents later arrived at the guardian and supervised the destruction of the hard drives containing the documents.

Silencing – or at the very least, effectively silencing – the press shows an interesting double-standard on the part of those who carry out surveillance and surveillance apologists – why, if they should be able to see us, are we not allowed to see just what of ours is being looked at? Why must we stand in the corner facing the wall while our possessions are ransacked for anything deemed unwholesome? Why does the famous apology for invasions of privacy everywhere – “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – not apply in this case? What do our governments fear so much that we can’t see them doing it?

Government is often a delicate balancing act between keeping things from the people, burdening the people down, and releasing necessary information to the people. If any of these things are much larger in magnitude than either of the other two, people are going to be pissed off, the third purely because it reveals the deception inherent in the other two. While it may be understandable under some circumstances not to reveal all the details, completely destroying files that are, for all intents and purposes, now in the public domain shows a different kind of fear, and that is one of losing grip on that greasy pole known as power.

There is nothing a political party wants less than to be out of power, and perhaps in their frenzied scurrying for the angle-grinders and drills, they showed a deeper secret than they ever intended. That what was on those drives was worth seeing, and would have posed a danger to them and their power, not national security. I wonder if Snowden has a backup copy…

Crimea Crushed Under Boots of Glass – Subjugation on the Black Sea

Again, this multi-headed mellifluous bastard chimera of sham democracy has reared it’s head in the east, now Putin’s tentacles reach and grope not only his own scared population, but those of a foreign land with a bloody history, Crimea. There were many raucous and public celebrations on Sunday night in Simerfopol and no doubt across the rest of the province, but just how many private sobs and beating of breasts took place across the area too, one wonders. Of course those are not good images for the world to see, and not good visages for the Crimean people to show the dark, old new face looming over them, as the motherland takes them in her cold embrace.

Any fool, any fool could see that these results are fraudulent. A turnout of 80% with a result, once over 50% of the votes had been counted, of a 95.5% in favour vote of joining the Russian Federation. A result like this wouldn’t have occurred had God himself came down and asked people to vote for the angels against the demons in the grand political campaign of Armageddon. Of course, a deity wouldn’t have armed men in the streets and warships in harbours.

Pro-Russian separatists are now quoted as saying “Crimea is only the beginning”, daunting words, the sentiment of which has not been heard in many years in Europe. Whom will the dead mother take in her arms next, clutching close with one hand, but readily armed with a sword in the other, to quell any attempt to fly the nest. Crimea’s own deputy prime minister has said that 75% of people in Eastern Ukraine wish to join the Russian Federation, and who is to argue when the main method of argument is null and void?

Numerous reports of threats and fraudulent practices emerge from the Crimea, maggots oozing from a fresh wound struck to the heart of self-determination. The options given to Crimeans and other Ukrainians, who are willing to see through the fog of intrigue shrouding the ballot boxes appears to now be limited to either violent resistance, or sabotage. To those brave souls who will be no doubt willing to try, I wish the best of luck in their endeavour, and fear for them. An option which I’m sure some will be quick to suggest is another Maidan, but anyone with an eye on international affairs knows how Putin and his ilk treat protesters, and the prisons of Russia are cold and cruel and littered with shattered bones and hearts.

The situation is dire. Sanctions may be given, but they will pass like so much else. Crimea is dead, and Putin’s ego lives on, brighter, bolder, and slightly larger, knowing he has taken a small piece of another country as his own. Will the hollow container of Sevastopol and Simerfopol live on as anything beyond another piece of yet another morally bankrupt state?

And the Skeletons of the East Did Shake

Note: article originally written and published in March 2014

Ukraine, borderland, butchered breadbasket of the world, having just gone through bloody protests on a scale not seen since the Arab Spring, is now facing unknown horrors. No rest for the wicked they say, and what Ukraine must have done in a previous world is apparently evil unknown by this one. Independent for just two short times in history, it now looks like the second brief flame of separation may soon be snuffed out by a leader who has revealed more and more in the previous years, that he has not forgotten what he learnt from the Lubyanka. Both Chechnya and Georgia know the sound of the bear’s roar, and it seems that next it may be Ukraine who knows the terrible wounds such a beast can leave.

It was with horror and dismay I watched the government decide that their people were not their employers, or even subjects, but in fact merely an annoyance standing in front of a dickless wonder of a dictator who wanted his place in a regional and temporary sun, creating an eclipse of questioning visible the world over. It was also with dismay I learnt of the fascists who made up a not-inconsiderable amount of his opposition. However, in all honesty, it was not with surprise that I learnt that the darling of the oligarchs, Putin, had decided that Crimea was in fact going to be part of his own personal dominions, and not allowed it’s freedom after all, and, using the same excuse that Czechoslovakia found itself lumped with in 1938, and a piece of paper bearing a request, written with blood and signed with a bullet, from one dictator to another, the bear made it’s first confident step into old stomping ground. The more surprising thing itself, was the support for his imperialism that Putin surprisingly found amongst some communists. Quite why these people feel that an invasion by a right-wing bigot is a good thing is beyond the minds of people such as myself, what this would save the long-suffering denizens of Ukraine from is unknown, and how it would help anyone, even less so.

In worrying times, people show their true selves, and the amount of westerners who would call themselves “liberal” (although god knows I have problems with these people anyway, see my previous piece) who show their apparent eagerness to jump in and spill Russkie blood is worrying (not themselves, of course, but someone), this is a group of people who grew up during, or in the shadow of, the Cold War, a group, who should know the fear of international conflict more than anyone. Has the knowledge and fear faded so quickly? Also worrying are the amount of people who are happy to see Ukraine’s fragile independence broken already. What solution do I have? None whatsoever. Any solution that is not simply Russia withdrawing is tainted in some way or another, and that shall be the route not taken, whatever the outcome. Both the soft power and the hard will hurt some people, and deprive some people of their essentials, that is happiness, comfort and life. Either economic sanctions are pressed, which will hurt the ordinary people of Russia and the West, or war will once again know the plains of Eastern Europe, and atomic scars potentially seared onto the world.

What options await Putin? Capitulation to the West’s demands that he leave? Not unless he wants to potentially lose his support base, and also not achieve his aim. Unthinkable. Accepting economic sanctions is an acceptable price to pay for such, and both Britain and Germany have already said they would not do such a thing. So a war with Ukraine, which Russia would win without much trouble? Also acceptable. A war with NATO? Extremely unlikely, and it is doubtful whether he would back down at all until it was too late, regardless.

What options await EU leaders and the US? Pissing into the wind with condemnations, as has happened will do nothing. So economic sanctions, or other soft power options? Very unlikely to occur, and pointless if they do. So war? Unthinkable. There is only one option common to both parties, the most fearful of all.

Dawn draws close on my own corner of this bloodied piece of land called Europe, and it draws across a world full of fear not known since the Cold War. What will happen next is anyone’s guess, what must not is obvious. The fate of the world and it’s people is in the hands of paper tigers, idiotic hawks who screech at the promise of more blood, and murderous madmen. The world is right to be fearful.