"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Abandoned by the State: Second Israeli Man Sets Himself On Fire Because Of Debts

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

Oldspeak:”Four Israelis have attempted or threatened to set themselves on fire since Moshe Silman’s act.” –Allison Kilkenny “Mafa’i took the drastic step after he participated in a demonstration Saturday night in front of the National Insurance Institute offices in Tel Aviv. “He was desperate, and, unfortunately, did what Silman did,”  Mafa’i left home at 5 A.M., as he often does, and waited at a bus station in Yehud, not far from his home, for the taxi that takes him to a clinic that treats disabled veterans. He apparently bought a canister of gasoline at a nearby gas station, and while waiting at the bus stop he poured the gas on himself and ignited it.” –Allison Kilkenny Israelis, Egyptians, setting themselves on fire. Indian farmers committing suicide. Illegally foreclosed on homeowners killing themselves.  Countless other nameless faceless souls extinguishing themselves under the crushing weight of debt.  How many people have to lose the basic instinct to live, their desire to preserve themselves before we call in to question, seriously rethink the materialistic, exploitative, extractive, debt-fueled, anti-human, biosphere obliterating system our current ‘civilization’ is built upon?”

By Allison Kilkenny @ The Nation Magazine:

In the span of a single week, two Israeli men have lit themselves on fire because they were overwhelmed by debt.

Moshe Silman handed out a suicide letter blaming the state of Israel, Bibi Netenyahu and Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz for his desperation before he poured gasoline over his clothing and lit himself on fire during at the end of a July 14 protest in Tel Aviv.

I previously wrote about the bureaucratic nightmare Silman endured: losing his job and his apartment, and fighting to scrape by on a monthly disability pension while being crushed by outstanding debt.

Silman wrote:

I have no money for medicine or rent. I can’t make the money after I have paid my millions in taxes I did the army, and until age 46 I did reserve duty

I refuse to be homeless, this is why i am protesting

Against all the injustices done to me by the State, me and others like me

On the same day Silman was laid to rest, another Israeli man committed the act of self-immolation to escape crushing debt.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the AP that a disabled Israel Defence Forces veteran in his mid-40s set himself ablaze Sunday near a bus stop in central Israel. Like in the case of Silman, witnesses tried to extinguish the flames and he was rushed to the hospital with severe burns.

Akiva Mafa’i was recognized as 25 percent disabled following an injury incurred during a car accident nine years ago. Several years later, Mafa’i had a stroke, could not work, and relied on benefits from the Defense Ministry, and like Silman, the National Insurance Institute.

Haaretz:

Mafa’i took the drastic step after he participated in a demonstration Saturday night in front of the National Insurance Institute offices in Tel Aviv. “He was desperate, and, unfortunately, did what Silman did,” Mafa’i’s brother said.

According to his brother, Mafa’i left home at 5 A.M., as he often does, and waited at a bus station in Yehud, not far from his home, for the taxi that takes him to a clinic that treats disabled veterans. He apparently bought a canister of gasoline at a nearby gas station, and while waiting at the bus stop he poured the gas on himself and ignited it.

Mafa’i’s brother, Shlomo, remarked that he was not surprised by the act.

“I feel everything the disabled IDF veterans are saying. We grew up in a home that contributes to the state, and continues to contribute. We gave our lives to the state, and in the end they throw you out. The IDF disabled veterans feel like a burden on society; that’s our frustration. When you’re called to reserve duty, you leave everything and go to serve the state with love, and in the end when something happens to you, you’re left on your own,” Shlomo Mafa’i said.

Dudu Gilboa from the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization spoke with Mafa’i before the incident and told Haaretz his “psychological state was poor and he had lots of debt,” and “he’s been talking for a while about harming himself. He lives alone, it’s hard for him and he doesn’t know how to deal with the problems.”

She added that Mafa’i felt that he had given his all to the state and the state had abandoned him. “The Defense Ministry and the National Insurance Institute didn’t take care of him,” Gilboa told Harretz.

The disabled veterans organization expressed concern to Haaretz that this might not be the last such case, and the organization “represents many disabled people who unfortunately feel abandoned by the system and whose legal rights have been slashed unilaterally.”

According to the AP, the organization is right to fear copycats. Spokesman Rosenfeld stated that four Israelis have attempted or threatened to set themselves on fire since Silman’s act.

The Defense Ministry responded by claiming there is no connection between Mafa’i’s self-immolation and his military disability, which the ministry calls the treatment of the “professional, responsible, and devoted.”

Advertisements

International Community, U.N. Remain Silent On Ethnic Cleansing Of Muslims by Buddists In Myanmar

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

https://i0.wp.com/salem-news.com/stimg/july192012/myanmar.jpg

Oldspeak: ” Minority Rohingya population is being beaten, raped and killed by security forces and Rakhine Buddhists. They [international organizations and UN] have never broken their silence or provided a single piece of information about what is going on there… this is a very clear sign that this work is the work of those the powerful that might is right; if you are mighty you give yourself the right to raise the issues that you want and you do not talk about the issues that do not boil down to your interests,” -Ibrahim Mousawi While corporate media work faithfully to play up the civil war in Syria to provide pretext for invasion and regime change, Muslims are being murdered by the scores in Myanmar. All while U.S. and it’s western allies continue strengthen military ties and Wall St and the IMF invest in this murderous and tyrannical regime.  The politics of naming is always whimsical…

Related Video:

Ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Burma by Buddhists

By UK Guardian/AP:

Communal violence is continuing in western Burma six weeks after the government declared a state of emergency, with much of it directed at minority Muslim Rohingyas who have been beaten, raped and killed, Amnesty International has claimed.

The rights group accused both security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists of carrying out fresh attacks against Rohingyas, who are regarded as foreigners by the ethnic majority and denied citizenship by the government because it considers them illegal settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh.

After a series of isolated killings starting in late May, bloody skirmishes spread quickly across much of Burma’s coastal Rakhine state.

The government declared a state of emergency on 10 June, deploying troops to quell the unrest and protect both mosques and monasteries. Authorities said at least 78 people had been killed and thousands of homes of both Buddhists and Muslims either burned down or destroyed.

Since then, communal violence has continued, albeit at reduced intensity. Amnesty said attacks were now being directed mostly at the Rohingya population.

Violence in the past six weeks has been “primarily one-sided, with Muslims generally and Rohingyas specifically the targets and victims”, Benjamin Zawacki, a Bangkok-based researcher for Amnesty, told the Associated Press. “Some of this is by the security forces’ own hands, some by Rakhine Buddhists, with the security forces turning a blind eye in some cases.”

Officials from Burma’s government could not immediately be reached for comment.

Amnesty also said security forces, including the police and the army, had detained hundreds of Rohingyas.

“While the restoration of order, security, and the protection of human rights is necessary, most arrests appear to have been arbitrary and discriminatory, violating the rights to liberty and to freedom from discrimination on grounds of religion,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The violence, which reached its bloodiest point in June, constituted some of the country’s deadliest sectarian bloodshed in years and raised international concerns about the fate of the Rohingyas inside Burma.

The Burmese president, Thein Sein, said earlier this month the solution to ethnic enmity in Rakhine state was to either send the Rohingyas to a third country or have the United Nations refugee agency look after them. The UNHCR chief, Antonio Guterres, said, however, it was not his agency’s job to resettle the Rohingyas.

Many people in Burma do not recognise Rohingyas as legitimate settlers – even those of Bengali heritage who came in the 19th century when the country was under British rule. The exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh in the 1980s and 1990s because of persecution, and their subsequent return, has added to the confusion over who among them are illegal immigrants.

Bangladesh also denies the Rohingyas citizenship, arguing that they have been living in Burma for centuries and should be recognised as citizens there instead.

The UN estimates that 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma. Thousands attempt to flee every year to Bangladesh, Malaysia and elsewhere, trying to escape a life of abuse that rights groups say includes forced labour, violence against women and restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction that breed anger and resentment.

Amnesty called on Burma to accept Rohingyas as citizens, something the government has staunchly opposed because it does not consider them an ethnic group native to Burma.

“Under international human rights law and standards, no one may be left or rendered stateless,” Zawacki said. “For too long Myanmar’s [Burma’s] human rights record has been marred by the continued denial of citizenship for Rohingyas and a host of discriminatory practices against them.”

International Community And UN keep Silent On Myanmar massacre: Analyst

By PressTV:

They [international organizations and UN] have never broken their silence or provided a single piece of information about what is going on there… this is a very clear sign that this work is the work of those the powerful that might is right; if you are mighty you give yourself the right to raise the issues that you want and you do not talk about the issues that do not boil down to your interests,” Ibrahim Mousawi told Press TV on Friday.

He also added that people all around the world should voice their anger at the mass slaughter of the minority Muslim group in Myanmar and “tell the whole world they do not agree with the silence of their governments” over the matter.

The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas, who it claims are not natives and classifies as illegal migrants, although the Rohingya are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Burma as early as the 8th century.

The UN says decades of discrimination have left the Rohingyas stateless, with Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education and public services.

Reports say 650 Rohingya Muslims were killed as of June 28 alone during clashes in the western region of Rakhine. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced.

Referring to the acts of violence committed against Muslims in the southeastern Asian country, the analyst added that “this is a matter of racial [prejudice], this is a matter of religious prejudice… The [Myanmar’s] authorities they don’t want to have more Muslims there, we all know that; this is something that has to do with religious backgrounds and with ethnic cleansing.”

This is while even Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has kept quiet on the atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims.

Ironically, just days after she received a peace prize, Suu Kyi told reporters she did not know if Rohingyas were ‘Burmese’.

 

Moshe Silman Israeli Man Who Set Himself On Fire In Tel Aviv Anti-Government Protest Dies

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm

An Israeli man sets himself on fire during protest in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2012.

Oldspeak: “Moshe chose to harm himself in protest. It’s terrible when a person has to commit an act like that to explain their situation to people.”  R.I.P Brother.

Related Story:

Man Sets Himself On Fire During Tel Aviv March

By Revital Hovel and Dan Even @ Haaretz

Moshe Silman, the Israeli activist who set himself on fire during a social justice protest in Tel Aviv one week ago, succumbed to his wounds on Friday at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

SIlman was suffering from second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body.

From Friday morning, activists and close friends of Silman were informed by his family that he was in his last hours. His family wanted to be surrounded by close friends, and announced that they would sit Shiva, the seven-day mourning period of an immediate family member required by Judaism, in the house of his sister in Rishon Letzion, where a mourner’s tent would be set up.

The  57-year-old son of Holocaust survivors, did not have an easy start. He lived alone, and according to friends, tried to get ahead in life and live in dignity. But a small debt to the National Insurance Institute grew and sent him into an economic and bureaucratic tailspin that ended in self-immolation Saturday night on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street in front of the cameras.

“Moshe was simply not willing for the State of Israel to run him over anymore,” a friend said.

Silman’s friends were not surprised to hear what he did. The decision to set himself on fire because the state would not help him overcome his economic difficulties was in character for him, they said, especially considering his despair. “There was protest in his soul,” said a friend who went to rallies with Silman in Haifa. “He waited for it to break out and was glad when it did,” the friend added.

Two years ago Silman moved from Bat Yam to Haifa. As his economic situation deteriorated he became more and more involved in the protests in Haifa. The activists he met at the protest tent on the Carmel last summer became his best friends. “He was a man of action. He said you have to be political and get elected anywhere possible,” said Yossi Baruch, a Haifa activist.

According to friends, Silman lives in a neglected two-room apartment on the edge of the poor Wadi Salib area of the city. The refrigerator is empty. The neighbors do not know him at all.

Friends say he believes in action and took his belief to the extreme. He was born in Israel, and has two sisters, Bat Zion Elul from Rishon Letzion and Naomi Angel, a member of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. Angel would visit him in Haifa from time to time, always bringing food. Elul said yesterday of her brother: “He was in despair. He was mired in debt. Until the last moment we helped him. But he didn’t want it. Since the day he lost everything, the day they took everything, the house, his trucks, the money, my parents’ house, he has been going downhill.”

Silman never married and had no children and so his request for public housing was repeatedly denied. He worked at odd jobs and spent a few years in the United States. On his return, he established a messenger service and things finally began to look up. But then, toward the end of 2000, his business was hurt by the outbreak of the second intifada. He moved the business to a smaller warehouse and his office to his home in Jaffa. It later turned out that the National Insurance Institute’s debt notices never reached him, because they were sent to his former address. In 2002, the institute seized one of the four trucks he used for his company. The reason: a debt of NIS 15,000. Silman paid a third of the debt to reclaim his truck, but then he was asked to pay a further NIS 1,200 to cover towing expenses. Silman could not reclaim the truck due to a strike at the institute, and says that it led to the business’ collapse. Later, in 2005, he was forced to evacuate his apartment.

A history of court battles

Together with his mother, Sarah, Silman decided in 2008 to sue the National Insurance Institute. He and his mother claimed damages of NIS 8 million because of the seizure of his trucks that he said led to the loss of his business. But to file the suit he needed to pay a court fee, which he said he could not afford.

The court turned down his request to waive the fee and the case was never heard. The court registrar called Silman’s claim “baseless.” Silman appealed the decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, but it was turned down in 2010.

In a Facebook post last March, Silman urged his friends to organize protests against the institute: “I think that considering the upcoming appointment of a new director general of the NII, which is actually the Anti-Social National Insurance Institute, which has throughout the years caused the most cases of injustice by any governmental service to the weakest segments of society − and continues to do so daily − we should organize protests in front of NII offices,” he wrote.

Silman began working as a taxi driver, but made very little money, according to an affidavit and documents, submitted with his damages claim against the institute. Meanwhile, as his financial situation worsened, his bank account was seized, and all his savings and insurance benefits were either seized or used to pay his debts, estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels. Silman’s mother, a guarantor of his debts, was also left without savings. In order to save her apartment, she legally transferred it to her daughters, free of charge. The court registrar who rejected Silman’s plea to be exempt from the court fee to file his damages suite wrote: “Someone who used this route of property smuggling cannot be heard afterward saying that he cannot pay the court fee.”

After losing his driver’s license because of his debts, his health began to deteriorate. The NII assessed his loss of ability to work at 50 percent and gave him only a limited allowance. Avri Raviv, who went with Silman several times to the institute said: “Like the cliche says, the handwriting was on the wall. Silman threatened suicide more than once to them. The representative of the psychiatric committee told me that people who threaten, don’t do it.”

But then, last summer’s social protest put wind in Silman’s sails. He began to participate regularly in rallies and became well known in Haifa’s small activist community. Idit Lev, who was one of the people closest to him, said: “He was always trying to turn over one stone and then another, to see if he could move ahead somehow.”

He spent his days looking for work, in endless lines at the health maintenance organization and in attempts to fight the Housing Ministry for help with rent. He filed four such applications with attorney Becky Cohen-Keshet, all of which were rejected on the grounds that he once owned an apartment and had no children. A fellow activist said after Silman set fire to himself Saturday night: “Moshe chose to harm himself in protest. It’s terrible when a person has to commit an act like that to explain their situation to people.”

 

World’s Faith in “Free Market” Capitalism, Hard Work, Eroding. As Global Financial Crisis Continues, Pervasive Gloom About World Economy: Survey

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Oldspeak:”The world is getting wise to the hustle that is Free Market, casino capitalism. Money is being pumped into military spending, “Too Big To Fail” Banks and other multinational corporations.  Everyone else gets “Austerity Measures” Billions of  ordinary people work soul crushing jobs for slave wages their whole lives to barely survive.  Something has to change. This monetary system is unsustainable and breeds corruption, greed, and economic violence.”

By Common Dreams:

The financial crisis that has bred unemployment, austerity, and economic pain across the global for nearly fives years is also battering the reputation of the system many believe to be its main cause: “free market” capitalism.

According to a new global poll by Pew Research, only half or fewer — in 11 of 21 nations surveyed — now agree with the statement that people are better off in a “free market” economy than in some other kind.

In nine of the 16 countries for which there is trend data since 2007, before the financial crisis began, support for capitalism is down, with the greatest declines in Italy (down 23 percentage points) and Spain (down 20 points).

Support for capitalism is greatest in Brazil, China, Germany and the U.S, says the report. The biggest skeptics of the free market are in Mexico and Japan.

The survey found only four countries in which a majority of people were happy with and optimistic about the economic situation: China (83 percent), Germany (73 percent), Brazil (65 percent) and Turkey (57 percent). The Chinese are a particular exception to most of the questioning on economic optimism with Pew observing that, overall, the people of China — which runs a single party, state-controlled economy — “have been positive about their economy for the past decade.”

The survey also showed that the prolonged global economic slump has depressed the public mood about their national economies. In only four of 21 countries surveyed does a majority say their economy is doing well.

Anger at government was shared in most countries, but banks and financial institutions were frequently – in Spain (78%), France (74%) and Germany (74%) – seen as the culprit behind the poor performance of national economies. And in two instances – France and Spain – significantly more of the public blamed the banks than blamed the government.

Read the full poll results here.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama To Sign Secret Treaty That Will Offshore U.S. Jobs To Slave-Wage Countries; Decimate Corporate Regulations

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

A group photo of leaders from the member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP). (Photo: Gobierno de Chile)

Oldspeak:”While Obama is touring the country assailing Mitt Romney’s record on offshoring and yapping about creating jobs in America, and regulating banks, he’s working on a treaty that will do THE EXACT OPPOSITE. It will give companies incentives to move jobs out of the U.S. to slave-wage countries, severely limit government regulation of financial services, zoning and land use, product and food safety, energy and other essential services, tobacco, and more.  It will consolidate corporate control over public resources and services. It’s basically NAFTA on Andro. “The TPP negotiations have been going on for two years under extreme secrecy, no information has been made available to either the press or Congress about the US position. But on June 12, a document was leaked to the watchdog group, Public Citizen, revealing the current US position and the reason for the secrecy. The contents are surreal, shocking and prima facia evidence for how corporations have become the master puppeteers of our government.” –Dr Brian Moench No surprise, universal silence in corporate media on this.  Also no surprise that Mitt Romney has demanded that this treaty be signed months ago. Both of these men have consistently proven themselves to be wholehearted Transnational Corporate Network Shills. This Illusion of choice make me think of the words of Dr. Howard Zinn “If the gods had intended for people to vote, they would have given us candidates… If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” Democracy’s gone, America is a one party Inverted Totalitarian Kleptocratic State. “Ignorance Is Strength” “Freedom Is Slavery”

Related Stories:

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Negotiations Seal Obama’s Pro-Corporate Approach to Foreign Policy

Growing Attention to Obama Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Threatens to Undermine Offshoring Attack on Romney as TPP Talks Wrap Up Today

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway

By Dr. Brian Moench @ Truthout:

This may be one of the most important stories ever ignored by the so-called “lame-stream, liberal” media. It’s unlikely you’re losing sleep over US trade negotiations, but the unfolding business agreement among the US and eight Pacific nations -the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – should cause every US citizen, from the Sierra Club to the Tea Party to get their pitch forks and torches out of the closet and prepare to “storm the Bastille.”

The TPP negotiations have been going on for two years under extreme secrecy, no information has been made available to either the press or Congress about the US position. But on June 12, a document was leaked to the watchdog group, Public Citizen, revealing the current US position and the reason for the secrecy. The contents are surreal, shocking and prima facia evidence for how corporations have become the master puppeteers of our government.

The leaked document reveals that the trade agreement would give unprecedented political authority and legal protection to foreign corporations. Specifically, TPP would (1) severely limit regulation of foreign corporations operating within US boundaries, giving them greater rights than domestic firms; (2) extend incentives for US firms to move investments and jobs to lower-wage countries; and (3) establish an alternative legal system that gives foreign corporations and investors new rights to circumvent US courts and laws, allowing them to sue the US government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for lost revenue due to US laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges or their investment “expectations.”

Despite the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) failures, corporations are arm-twisting the federal government to pursue trade agreements as inevitable and necessary for economic progress. But 26 of the 28 chapters of this agreement have nothing to do with trade. TPP was drafted with the oversight of 600 representatives of multinational corporations, who essentially gave themselves whatever they wanted; the environment, public health, worker safety, further domestic job losses be damned.

Residents of the West should be particularly alarmed. TPP would allow the plunder of our natural resources by foreign corporations allowed to bypass US law. Disputes over Western land contracts for mining and timber, for example, would be settled by international tribunals. Even if you are oblivious to environmental concerns, you should be outraged at the total circumvention of national sovereignty. Foreign investors could bypass our legal framework, take any dispute to an international tribunal and pursue compensation for being denied access to our resources at fire-sale prices – with much of the West on fire as we speak.

It gets worse. Those tribunals would be staffed by private-sector lawyers that rotate between acting as “judges” and as advocates for the corporations suing the governments. American taxpayers could be forced to pay those corporations virtually unlimited compensation for trying to protect our air, land and water from much looser standards than current US law allows.

This agreement could directly affect efforts in my home state of Utah to hold the international mining giant, Rio Tinto, accountable to the Clean Air Act. A consortium of public health and environmental groups including WildEarth Guardians, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Sierra Club have filed suit against Rio Tinto for mining more – and polluting more – than the amount allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency via provisions in the Clean Air Act. This agreement would allow disputes about their pollution to be settled by foreign “judges” who don’t live in Utah, aren’t personally affected by the outcome, aren’t even US citizens and could be attorneys for mining companies. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the chickens.

The original TPP nations were the US, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. But Mexico, China, Japan and Canada are expected to be invited to join, so there is no comfort to be derived from the thought that only a few minor, foreign corporations will be given these extraordinary free passes to profit at our expense. Of course, American corporations will get the same opportunity to “invade” other countries, as if that makes this agreement any less grotesque.

TPP is much worse than NAFTA, which eviscerated middle-class jobs and wealth in the US. And this sellout to foreign corporations is not just a rogue brain cramp of President Obama. Mitt Romney demanded this agreement be signed months ago, and the notorious “climate change denying” US Chamber of Commerce can’t get it signed fast enough. Romney has called Obama’s the most hostile administration to business in recent history. If the TPP trade agreement is “hostile” to business, god help us if we have an administration, presumably Romney’s, “friendly” to business.

If you thought that with Citizens United we had hit rock bottom in surrendering our democracy to the power of money, this TPP “trade agreement” would throw our democracy into free fall. Foreign corporations will be allowed to feast like termites upon America’s natural resources, trash our environment and public health, violate our rights as American citizens and make us pay them if we try to protect ourselves.

Turning A Blind Eye To Catastrophic Truths In The Age Of Unreality

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Oldspeak:Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures . . . they may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities. George Gerbner  Fear. It is a powerful motivator. It is a powerful captor.  It drives us to greatness & calamity.  It captivates us with ubiquitous illusions of safety, stability & sanity. It plays an essential and ironically unseen part in our refusal to see truths like those imparted by Osho – ‎”Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.” We’ve been socially engineered to not see that which is. To not think, just react. To avoid all that is real. This engineering has one fatal flaw. It has not taken into account the unavoidability of reality and the natural world we are a part of.  It it only a matter of time before we are no longer able to turn blind eyes to catastrophic truths.” “”Ignorance Is Strength”

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster. Members of this intellectual and artistic class, who are usually not welcome in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant, serve as prophets. They are dismissed, or labeled by the power elites as subversive, because they do not embrace collective self-worship. They force us to confront unexamined assumptions, ones that, if not challenged, lead to destruction. They expose the ruling elites as hollow and corrupt. They articulate the senselessness of a system built on the ideology of endless growth, ceaseless exploitation and constant expansion. They warn us about the poison of careerism and the futility of the search for happiness in the accumulation of wealth. They make us face ourselves, from the bitter reality of slavery and Jim Crow to the genocidal slaughter of Native Americans to the repression of working-class movements to the atrocities carried out in imperial wars to the assault on the ecosystem. They make us unsure of our virtue. They challenge the easy clichés we use to describe the nation—the land of the free, the greatest country on earth, the beacon of liberty—to expose our darkness, crimes and ignorance. They offer the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation.

Human societies see what they want to see. They create national myths of identity out of a composite of historical events and fantasy. They ignore unpleasant facts that intrude on self-glorification. They trust naively in the notion of linear progress and in assured national dominance. This is what nationalism is about—lies. And if a culture loses its ability for thought and expression, if it effectively silences dissident voices, if it retreats into what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories,” those reassuring mixtures of fact and fiction, it dies. It surrenders its internal mechanism for puncturing self-delusion. It makes war on beauty and truth. It abolishes the sacred. It turns education into vocational training. It leaves us blind. And this is what has occurred. We are lost at sea in a great tempest. We do not know where we are. We do not know where we are going. And we do not know what is about to happen to us.

The psychoanalyst John Steiner calls this phenomenon “turning a blind eye.” He notes that often we have access to adequate knowledge but because it is unpleasant and disconcerting we choose unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, to ignore it. He uses the Oedipus story to make his point. He argued that Oedipus, Jocasta, Creon and the “blind” Tiresias grasped the truth, that Oedipus had killed his father and married his mother as prophesized, but they colluded to ignore it. We too, Steiner wrote, turn a blind eye to the dangers that confront us, despite the plethora of evidence that if we do not radically reconfigure our relationships to each other and the natural world, catastrophe is assured. Steiner describes a psychological truth that is deeply frightening.

I saw this collective capacity for self-delusion among the urban elites in Sarajevo and later Pristina during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. These educated elites steadfastly refused to believe that war was possible although acts of violence by competing armed bands had already begun to tear at the social fabric. At night you could hear gunfire. But they were the last to “know.” And we are equally self-deluded. The physical evidence of national decay—the crumbling infrastructures, the abandoned factories and other workplaces, the rows of gutted warehouses, the closure of libraries, schools, fire stations and post offices—that we physically see, is, in fact, unseen. The rapid and terrifying deterioration of the ecosystem, evidenced in soaring temperatures, droughts, floods, crop destruction, freak storms, melting ice caps and rising sea levels, are met blankly with Steiner’s “blind eye.”

Oedipus, at the end of Sophocles’ play, cuts out his eyes and with his daughter Antigone as a guide wanders the countryside. Once king, he becomes a stranger in a strange country. He dies, in Antigone’s words, “in a foreign land, but one he yearned for.”

William Shakespeare in “King Lear” plays on the same theme of sight and sightlessness. Those with eyes in “King Lear” are unable to see. Gloucester, whose eyes are gouged out, finds in his blindness a revealed truth. “I have no way, and therefore want no eyes,” Gloucester says after he is blinded. “I stumbled when I saw.” When Lear banishes his only loyal daughter, Cordelia, whom he accuses of not loving him enough, he shouts: “Out of my sight!” To which Kent replies:

See better, Lear, and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.

The story of Lear, like the story of Oedipus, is about the attainment of this inner vision. It is about morality and intellect that are blinded by empiricism and sight. It is about understanding that the human imagination is, as William Blake saw, our manifestation of Eternity. “Love without imagination is eternal death.”

The Shakespearean scholar Harold Goddard wrote: “The imagination is not a faculty for the creation of illusion; it is the faculty by which alone man apprehends reality. The ‘illusion’ turns out to be truth.” “Let faith oust fact,” Starbuck says in “Moby-Dick.”

“It is only our absurd ‘scientific’ prejudice that reality must be physical and rational that blinds us to the truth,” Goddard warned. There are, as Shakespeare wrote, “things invisible to mortal sight.” But these things are not vocational or factual or empirical. They are not found in national myths of glory and power. They are not attained by force. They do not come through cognition or logical reasoning. They are intangible. They are the realities of beauty, grief, love, the search for meaning, the struggle to face our own mortality and the ability to face truth. And cultures that disregard these forces of imagination commit suicide. They cannot see.

“How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,” Shakespeare wrote, “Whose action is no stronger than a flower?” Human imagination, the capacity to have vision, to build a life of meaning rather than utilitarianism, is as delicate as a flower. And if it is crushed, if a Shakespeare or a Sophocles is no longer deemed useful in the empirical world of business, careerism and corporate power, if universities think a Milton Friedman or a Friedrich Hayek is more important to its students than a Virginia Woolf or an Anton Chekhov, then we become barbarians. We assure our own extinction. Students who are denied the wisdom of the great oracles of human civilization—visionaries who urge us not to worship ourselves, not to kneel before the base human emotion of greed—cannot be educated. They cannot think.

To think, we must, as Epicurus understood, “live in hiding.” We must build walls to keep out the cant and noise of the crowd. We must retreat into a print-based culture where ideas are not deformed into sound bites and thought-terminating clichés. Thinking is, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “a soundless dialogue between me and myself.” But thinking, she wrote, always presupposes the human condition of plurality. It has no utilitarian function. It is not an end or an aim outside of itself. It is different from logical reasoning, which is focused on a finite and identifiable goal. Logical reason, acts of cognition, serve the efficiency of a system, including corporate power, which is usually morally neutral at best, and often evil. The inability to think, Arendt wrote, “is not a failing of the many who lack brain power but an ever-present possibility for everybody—scientists, scholars, and other specialists in mental enterprises not excluded.”

Our corporate culture has effectively severed us from human imagination. Our electronic devices intrude deeper and deeper into spaces that were once reserved for solitude, reflection and privacy. Our airwaves are filled with the tawdry and the absurd. Our systems of education and communication scorn the disciplines that allow us to see. We celebrate prosaic vocational skills and the ridiculous requirements of standardized tests. We have tossed those who think, including many teachers of the humanities, into a wilderness where they cannot find employment, remuneration or a voice. We follow the blind over the cliff. We make war on ourselves.

The vital importance of thought, Arendt wrote, is apparent only “in times of transition when men no longer rely on the stability of the world and their role in it, and when the question concerning the general conditions of human life, which as such are properly coeval with the appearance of man on earth, gain an uncommon poignancy.” We never need our thinkers and artists more than in times of crisis, as Arendt reminds us, for they provide the subversive narratives that allow us to chart a new course, one that can assure our survival.

“What must I do to win salvation?” Dimitri asks Starov in “The Brothers Karamazov,” to which Starov answers: “Above all else, never lie to yourself.”

And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.