Peace in Syria – nearly there?

A cessation of hostilities is set to commence in Syria at sunset on Monday 12th Sept. The US and Russia have come up with a plan. It is excellent news but makes a mockery of the idea that this was a ‘civil war,’ when negotiations take place between outside nations.

In October last year, when Russia entered the Syrian conflict, I predicted that it would bring an end to this horrific war. I re-iterated this in March, when Islamic State were kicked out of Palmyra.  At the time it looked to me as if some key players were primarily interested in conflict and as it Russia actually wanted to end the war, not support the arms industry. It now looks as though they have.

Before Russia, there were countless forces on the scene, like when a bunch of drunks in a club pile into a fight that started between just two of them. When it’s escalated into a brawl it can be difficult to discern who is on what side.  After a year this particular brawl was going nowhere and in danger of fizzling out when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived with sacks of cocaine and a tanker of Jack Daniels – figuratively speaking, of course.

Why was Hillary so keen to stoke-up this conflict, pumping in loadsa money and expertise? Thanks to Edward Snowden we now see that it was being done at the behest of Israel, as a tactical move against Iran. As she put it in her leaked memo, “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.” The majority of people in Syria supported Assad before this conflict began and still do. Our ‘side’ was against Assad and we were conditioned to see him an insufferably evil tyrant to be deposed, despite the fact that there was no exodus from Syria before this conflict erupted. Now, we should see a reverse exodus as refugees return to their homeland and rebuild, as humans do.

Syria is a beautiful country and the one from which my father’s parents emigrated to America. The images we see are all of death and destruction but much of Syria has not been so terribly affected. Normal street life and night life and village life does go on but pictures of it don’t sell newspapers. Syrians are smart, industrious, and equipped for the task of rebuilding their nation.  Parts of London were obliterated by the Blitz in World War 2 but most of it survived intact and the city rose again. But why do we have to go through this shit?

We have been suffering at the hands of psychopaths who get to the top of our governing system for a few millennia now. The earliest state was conceived as a means to transfer money from the many to the few, because the few have the power to take it by force, having passed laws saying they can. Today’s state still transfers wealth, still upwards, despite a fraction of it getting sprinkled back. Whether by ballot or bullet, how rulers acquire power is irrelevant in the broader scheme of things. If they survived in their seized territory for long enough, Islamic State would get their seat at the United Nations. Rulers will from time to time be fighting over who rules which resources, including us, and when they do, we are the collateral damage. They are not a necessary evil. I feel a rant coming on, but since I wrote a book, there’ll be no need for that.

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the wheel needs a new hub, not just another revolution

From the BBC 

Russia and the US have announced an agreement on Syria starting with a “cessation of hostilities” from sunset on Monday. Under the plan, the Syrian government will end combat missions in specified areas held by the opposition. Russia and the US will establish a joint centre to combat so-called Islamic State and al-Nusra fighters.

The announcement follows talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The plan would need both the regime and opposition “to meet their obligations”, Mr Kerry said in Geneva. The opposition had indicated it was prepared to comply with the plan, he said, provided the Syrian government “shows it is serious”.

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What flavour of sh*t will voters select?

As America decides upon a new leader is it not bizarre to find ourselves debating whether a narcissistic psychopath, with no political experience or corporate sponsors, would be preferable to a bad actress pretending to be human, in the pockets of bankers and corporations? And we’ve still got Bernie in the mix, a man of the people and one just as capable as any to crash the ship of state onto the rocks. Ted Cruz is now out of the picture.

Why all the excitement this time? It’s as though decades of Americans have had the choice of either dog shit or cat shit on their political menu. They’ve come to dislike the taste of both, decrying the evils of the political process while validating it with their vote. This year, for the first time ever, there are two new options on the menu – pig shit and horse manure. The simple logic for many is that however unsavoury these new excrements may be they “can’t be any worse than what we’ve already got so why not?”

Those who hate the straw of horse manure getting caught in their teeth might opt for pig shit, the nutritionally denser option. Those who’d prefer the vegetarian source will opt for horse manure, needing more chewing to extract its nutritional value – but better for the planet. And many will stick with the same old shit, hoping it might taste better coming from a female animal. Some even profess to like their chosen diet and argue its virtues. I like a lot of what Bernie says and some of what Trump says but recognize that words and deeds rarely link together in politics, even when they are heart-felt.

At my Uncle Floyd’s farm in Nebraska (circa 1958) I recall how the pigs lined up behind the cattle, feeding on their waste, while the chickens gathered to recycle the pig’s poo and the chicken shit helped feed the maize that became food for the cattle. Hippie-era Goa was famous for its ‘pig toilets’ (ashrams could identify drug users when the pigs fought over their poo position). The point is – excrement contains nutrients and believe me when everybody else is picking through the shit for something valuable it will seem normal and okay.

I’m just saying that it’s kind of like picking through poo today, searching for something we can eat. Trump doesn’t like the TTIP deal and isn’t in corporate pockets. I’ll swallow that. Hillary Clinton is a woman and has experience in the fetid quagmire of corporate American politics. Most of all, she is not Donald Trump. Bernie Saunders is wise, compassionate, honest and outspoken (note to Brits – even commie-hatin’ rednecks might admire these qualities in what they view as horse manure).

For many today, much of government itself seems generously endowed in bullshit, with politicians consistently ranking as the least trusted of all the professions, below estate agents and bankers. But people are not so much upset about having to search through the bullshit to find things of value, as at the reduction in good stuff to be found, as less and less of our taxed wealth gets sprinkled back in valuable and essential services.

Very few like the wars, corruption, infighting, corporate control, appalling waste, callousness, loss of freedoms and underlying brutality of the state apparatus that rules this nation of people. But they accept it as “the way it is” and hold up gems like worker’s safety and the NHS, building standards and the laying of roads, in the assumption that humanity could never have arrived at those desirable places by any other means. Of course, we the people do all this stuff and get paid for with our own money – you don’t see politicians or civil servant laying roads or performing heart surgery. For decades they never bothered to check whether their vehicle testing data bore any relationship to real life, with Volkswagen or any other vehicle manufacturer.

Before assuming the state to be a necessary evil consider that it was not the state that built canals, railways, the London Underground and laid telegraph cables across the Atlantic; it was people who set up the first charities for alcoholics, the homeless, single mothers; people who created product and service certification standards such as the Fairtrade Mark and Soil Association; people who created wine, airplanes, jewelry, radio, TV, bread, the personal computer, buttons and smartphones. Britain’s Royal National Lifeboat service is charity and volunteer based, as are many of America’s rural fire services.

We complain constantly about out-of-touch bureaucrats making daft rules; spending billions, our billions, on pointless wars, failed NHS projects, obsolete-at-birth nuclear submarines, overpriced rail schemes and a fiscally disastrous nuclear power establishment. We desperately wish that our rulers would stop waging wars and pandering to the power of corporations, bailing out the bankers who supply them with thin-air money. We want them to help the disadvantaged, create rewarding employment, and defend the rights of their people. But when it comes to the crunch, this is not what ruling is about. We keep hoping that some savvy saint will get to the top and transform government into a caring and compassionate enterprise, will make a barrel of rotten apples fresh and crisp again. Dream on.

I am the proud author of a book about all this, and won’t try to summarize it here, but mention that there have been many successful cultures that progressed without a set of rulers setting the rules and telling us what we may or may not think, do or consume. Human civilization and trade preceded the concept of a ruling class, whether in South America or early Mesopotamia, tribal Europe or the Indus Valley. Cities and civilizations developed and functioned in freedom, without rulers, for thousands of years in some cases. You have to create wealth before plunderers arise.

You can imagine how difficult, often terrible, it must have been for those first generations to come under the yoke of a ruler claiming authority over their lives at the point of a sword. Today’s rulers rarely need to wave their swords, such is the compliance of their subjects to be governed, subjects who equate freedom with occasionally having influence over what flavor of ruler they get. This is not democracy, this is not self-rule or true freedom.

History shows us that when people are connected they come up with solutions to life’s social challenges while responding to all sorts of other wants and needs. Today we are more connected, and wealthier, than at any time in human history. We have the tools and the skills needed to govern ourselves from the bottom up, to supersede the power of those giant corporations in bed with government. We need to understand this and realize we are already doing the work we see as essential and still could, even if the inefficient middleman of the state were to crumble in a global financial collapse, as nearly occurred in 2008.

In short, as much as we may think this shit is essential to our lives, we may one day discover that we can live without it. There is another way.

 

 

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Politics may look like the only game in town, but it isn’t even the primary one. People are.

 

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