Tag Archives: politics

The Politics of Opinion

I picked this piece out of a dusty cupboard and thought to myself, this is just as pertinent as it was when I published it several years ago.
CheatingDeathlaura tomei

As a reviewer, I’m regularly approached to “analyze” specific books. Sometimes it’s the publisher asking, and sometimes it’s the author. What, exactly, are they looking for? They’re hoping I will read the book provided and write several paragraphs of glowing promotional material they can show the public as proof that an informed and independent reader likes the book well enough to suggest it’s one you want to buy. But reviewing doesn’t always work that way: there are times when I dislike certain aspects of a book and, in all fairness, will write about these dislikes. I’ve often gone so far as to slam publishers and editors when the quality of their work reduces the quality of the book being reviewed.

Which brings me to The Politics of Opinion.

Generally speaking, politics is the process by which specific groups of people arrive at a single decision. For example, an “individual opinion” is an expression of something you believe in, when you don’t also provide positive proof of what you say. Such an opinion expressed by a group (including a description of how they arrived at that decision) would be the Politics of Opinion.

So, what do I mean when I use the phrase The Politics of Opinion when I’m talking about reviewing a book?

First, when I write a review, I’m not trying to change the opinion of a “group.” I’m providing information and beliefs regarding a specific book I have read, so that you, “the individual,” have some idea or reference point from whence you can move forward to make up your own mind regarding the book in question. Sometimes I provide proof for my beliefs, oftentimes I don’t. They key here is that if you respect my opinion, I may influence your decision to read said book.

Now, when an individual or individuals or organization (a reviewing company, publisher, etc) attack my reviews, my abilities, even my character, using our comments section, they’re trying to change not only my opinion but the opinions of all my readers. Our public clash puts us in the arena of The Politics of Opinion. You see, you the reader (as a group) are being offered all kinds of extra information and insights into the book being discussed, a glimpse of the reviewing process, and even a more complete idea of who I am. Good things, all. But, you’re also being asked to make a “group” decision: to ignore me.

So, when I say a book borders on pornography, someone challenges that opinion and I, hoping to offer further insights for you, provide proof and/or additional information to help you make your reading decision, The Politics of Opinion are in full force.

Anyway, in a nutshell, here’s my (generous) definition of pornography: if the format in which the book appears doesn’t or can’t stand on its own with the erotica removed (erotica is writing designed to sexually arouse the reader), then you’re looking at a piece of pornography. Using this definition, I felt Cheating Death by Annie Alvarez came very close to being pornography. Bloody Passion by Laura Tolomei, without it’s many erotic scenes, still stands up as a short story… but I’m paying for a novel! So, I ask you, my reader, if 3/4 of what I’m paying for (as fiction) ends up being erotica, doesn’t that suggest pornography to you?

Looking forward to your comments.

Clayton Bye is a professional writer and publisher with well over 50 books to his credit. He has also worked as an editor, proof writer, ghostwriter and public speaker. Clayton lives in a small town in northwestern Ontario in Canada. He refers to it as “God’s Country.”

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye

 

An Evening in 1964 Havana by Eduardo Cervino

 

Cuba

WITH the Cuban revolution in full bloom, and the deposed General Batista living in luxurious splendor amid European dictators of the time, the Castro brothers and their guerrillas force engaged in ridding the Island of all opposition. They did it in the name of the people. In time, Cubans will come to understand the code implicit in the rhetoric of the guerrilla force.

Traditionally many Native American tribe’s names meant The People, Us, Human Beings and the like. This inclusionary designation of their society indicated a subconscious acceptance of the value of human cooperation.  It was masterfully expressed in the motto Un pour tous, tous pour un (one for all, all for one) in the meeting between Catholics and Protestants in the 1618 Kingdom of Bohemia. Then, just as today, such noble ideals tend to foment disastrous consequences.

For the Castro guerrillas in the 1960’s and until today, the term The People had a narrow, less sublime interpretation. For them, THE PEOPLE referred to their supporters, their militias, and that part of the populace committed to serving the regime in exchange for privileges.

This earthbound, self-serving interpretation breeds resentment, division, and envy. It lowers the peoples’ essence until they become the masses, and a large portion of them devolves into a mob, and the mob turns into a sounder of swine wallowing in the mud.

In 1962, a friend gave me a copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell. After that I saw the animated movie. Dejected, I left the theater and rode home. I realized I was already a citizen of Orwell’s imaginary state. It scared me. Two years later, imagination and reality merged.

 DSC_0016 copy

The telegram arrived at the house on the second of April. I came home late. When opening the door, the grandfather clock’s gong marked the half hour past twelve. My sister Rita waited for me in the living room, listening to the huge vacuum-tube radio my mother had purchased before I was born.

“A soldier went around the neighborhood today delivering those envelopes,” she said without preamble, pointing to one on the mahogany table. “A small mob chanting political slogans followed him.”

“When was that?”

“This afternoon.”

I reached for and read my name on the manila envelope.

“Grandma and I heard the street noise from the dining room. All she said was, ‘bad news.’ Then we stood up and came to the living room.

“I looked out through the window, and recognized some of them. The soldier knocked at our neighbors’ doors. The mob quieted down and pushed each other to see who opened each door.

“Let’s go to the porch,” Grandma said, and we watched them come closer. The soldier was that red-haired guy you used to be friends with. Most recipients took the envelope and quickly shut the door; some acted nervously, except Rafael, our next-door neighbor.”

“What about Grandma?”

“You know her. She walked to the garden’s iron gate, looking at the soldier’s face like a general.

She said, ‘Good morning, Miguel.’ And smiled.”

Miguel and I had been friends since we were ten-year-old boys playing in the tree house in our mango tree. He dropped out of high school. I went on, but our friendship cooled. Now, at twenty-four, in fatigues and carrying a pistol, he had become a fanatical follower of the new strongman, regardless that he joined the rebel army after they won the war.

Rita continued. “He hesitated, and said, ‘Good morning. Here, take this and give it to him’. He didn’t even mention her name or yours, Ed.”

My sister clung to my arm. Together we ambled through the house in search of Grandma Josefina. colonial_havana

That day, I had worked until five in the afternoon. After that, I walked to the historical district, where four-hundred-year-old colonial plazas, palaces, convents, and military castles erected by the conquistadors, still stood. Massive, weathered wooden doors guarded the entrances to the moss-covered stone buildings. My favorite watering hole resided in the area.

Centuries-old cobblestones had been polished and grooved by horse-drawn carriage wheels. History’s ghosts prowled about me as I walked in shaded galleries supported by rows of stone columns and arches. On the Plaza Cervantes, pigeons refused to yield the road; the coo-cooing little beggars gathered around my feet.

Havana catedral

I plunged into the narrow streets beyond the plaza. Twilight shadows clawed their way up the walls. This evening, as in the yesterdays of my great-great-grandfathers, embracing couples inhabited the wide portals’ shadows.

I raised my eyes toward the still, cloudy sky. A seated, elderly, bronze-colored woman with a red scarf tied around her white curly hair stared at me from an ornate balcony.

She seems old and frail.

For a second, a flying bat distracted me. I looked at the balcony again. The woman was gone.

Old couples strolled the streets. They ignored the contemporary concrete sidewalks in favor of walking on the cobblestones that shared with them the scars of time. The balmy air wafting from the Bay carried the tang of the sea.

I can’t decide if I like that smell or not.

bodega

At the watering hole and restaurant, one could always be sure to find a quorum for a lively interchange of ideas, as well as rumors proliferating around the city like cockroaches in the sewer. Not all members of the group were present each night. I had been coming in for years.

No one knows when these reunions had started. Over the decades, faces changed but the tertulia had continued in the same locale.

Of late, although no one had requested it, the conversation was conducted in low voice. The political atmosphere dictated prudence.

Calvert Casey, the writer, was speaking when I sat. “Today at the paper they brought a new guy. All written material must be approved by him before going to press.”

“No surprise in that,” responded Carlos, a well-known young actor. “Since the beginning of the year, all television and radio programs must have socially meaningful content. ‘Young worker denounces brother for Contra-Revolutionary activities and becomes hero of the people.’ That sort of crap. Where have you been?”

“Not watching television, that’s for sure,” Casey said.

Raul, an abstract painter, interrupted, “They removed some paintings from the National Gallery. Non-figurative works, and…”

Casey interrupted: “All of them? Including the contemporary room?”

“Of course not,” said Raul. “They left the work of the young friend of you-know-who.” He tapped his left shoulder with the index and middle finger of his right hand.

Fearful of mentioning names, the people had developed a sign language. This gesture indicated the shoulder pads of a particular commander in the armed forces. The high-level officer was rumored to be attracted to young males of mixed race.

Irma, a singer-dancer with a contagious laugh and waist-length hair, smoked a cigar out of the corner of her mouth. She was explosive in manner, delicious in appearance, and free of spirit. Her voice had made famous more than one composer on the island. She exuded sexuality, but only the few of us she had invited to her inner sanctum knew her mastery over the world of satin sheets.

She drew on her cigar, blew a smoke wreath toward the high ceiling, and watched the fan blades dispel it. The ritual was meant to gather attention so she could speak uncontested.

“The painter you are talking about lives in my building’s penthouse. It’s being renovated. The officer in question comes around.” She drew on her cigar again. “By the way, both are married.”

Amador, a young musician, changed the subject. “You have noticed that tonight no one is playing. It’s the first time in two years the musicians have missed their show.”

We all looked in the direction of the small stage. With a lonely guitar on the chair by the piano, its silence was a loud call to the customers’ ears. Many came to drink and listen to the house trio—guitar, piano, and drums—whose records sold all over the world and with whom Marlon Brando had shared raucous nights of drinking and bongo playing during his Havana escapades.

“What happened to them? Do you know?” I said.

“They escaped the island during the night after their last performance,” somebody in the group said. I did not see who it was, and did not care about how he knew.

“Lucky bastards,” I said.

Raul looked at me. “Shhh, not so loud; the waitress has been paying attention to our chat.”

I glanced in the direction. “She is young, maybe eighteen.”

“The younger they are, the easier to train as throat-cutters,” Irma said.

Casey continued. “I’ve heard the UMAP is rounding up dissidents and homosexuals. So just in case, it’s been a pleasure to have known you all.”

“I can’t figure out what the State Security department has to fear from homosexuals,” I said.

He lifted his glass; filled with mojito, above his head. He had consumed several of those and his voice was beginning to garble. He kept gazing at the century-old marble table of the venerable bar and restaurant.

“As you can see, I’m practicing to drink my hemlock.”

The marble table had her memories too: I’ve heard thousands of stories. Famous hands, from Errol Flynn to Meyer Lansky and Josephine Baker, have dulled my surface. The poet’s pen, the artist’s pencils, have rested on me. Novels and plays have been written on top of me, but now, all I hear is sorrow—no creative ideas, no passionate prose are discussed around me. The times are changing, and fear is all I hear.

“Time for me to go,” I said. “Goodbye.”

 * * *

Cuban Author Eduardo Cerviño Alzugaray was born in Havana, Cuba. His latest novel, Cuba the Crocodile Islandis based on real events in the life of the author, and for that reason this work is published under his real family name.

The characters’ names, except his own, have been changed to protect the identity of those persons still residing in Cuba. Although a few of those persons have passed away, they are still present in the author’s memory, some with enormous, and others as a significant part of his spiritual growth.

The author has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. He has lived in several countries, but his principal residence has been in the US since 1968. He resides in Arizona with his wife and writing collaborator, Les Brierfield. The author appreciates with all his heart the time you may dedicate to reading his work.

You are invited to visit: www.ecbrierfield.com

Musings And Checkers by Kenneth Weene

 b

What eight-year-old boy doesn’t want to do things with his dad? When my father told me to hop in our black four-door Ford, I was happy to oblige. That we were going to the general store made it all the better. I loved roaming that store—cram packed with scythes, guns, food, ice cream, clothes, notions, even the local post office. The entire place redolent of Maine. Voices filled with flat “R”s and twang. Local folks stopped in as much to socialize as to shop.

The wood-burning stove would be cold—summer was not a time for roaring fires; but there was sure to be a checkers game in progress, the board sitting atop an upturned pickle barrel similar to the one from which I would, if Dad was in the right mood, fish a crispy dill for a special treat. Checkers was a religion almost as important as the Boston Red Sox. Its devotees were the old men who gathered at Maynard’ store; its practice was simple, red and black.

My father never asked to play, nor was he ever asked; but I loved to watch those geezers huffing and puffing their way through each game as if it were mortal combat.

While Dad and Maynard, the proprietor, worked on our order—much of which would have to come from Portland or even Boston and would arrive in perhaps a week, I wandered through that wonderland, trying as children do to soak-up everything that was being done and said.

Elvira, Maynard’s wife was talking fabrics with Hortense Clark. Usually, I would have skipped the women’s talk, but Hortense mentioned my family name. “How come Maynard lets that kike Weene order things; I wouldn’t do business with a Jew.” She spat the last word out so it hung in the air.

“Hortense,” Elvira answered, “Joe’s a White Jew.”

“What the hell did that mean?” Instinctively, I knew it was not a question to ask aloud. That was well over sixty years ago, and I am finally ready to answer my unspoken question. My answer is not, as some might expect, about anti-Semitism, although anti-Jewish prejudice certainly underlay Hortense Clarks’s comment. Rather, it is about race or at least the American concept of race and how that concept affects our social and political discourse. It is about what has been termed by some the American dilemma, but that dilemma is not about the role of Blacks, African-Americans, Negroes, or whatever term you have learned to use when referring to people who can trace their roots back to Africa. Rather it is about how early Americans came to see themselves, how those first British-Americans came to define their world.

Perhaps a bit of history would be helpful. Well before slavery had become the mainstay of what is now the Southeast United States, it took root in the Caribbean. England had discovered sugar and the insatiable European sweet tooth demanded plantation after plantation of cane. Sugar was a backbreaking crop and labor intensive; what better way to produce it than employing the cheapest possible labor, slaves. But the Africans brought to Jamaica, the Barbados, and other islands were not agreeable to the plan or to their treatment. There were rebellions. Vulnerability to French and Spanish intrusions and to the depredations of pirates and privateers added to the sense of unease in those island colonies. Better to move lock, stock, and slave holdings to the mainland where there was comparative safety. So the Carolinas were settled. If sugarcane did not do as well in the new plantations as they had in the islands, tobacco and rice coupled with fur trade with the Indians made up the difference.

However, the plantation owners still didn’t feel that safe. The slaves were no happier with their conditions in the new setting; they still wanted freedom; and the Spanish in Florida encouraged slave rebellions. The enslaved Black population outnumbered the plantation owners and their hired hands. Then, too, displaced Native Americans brooded in the forests. There was a boding sense of danger. The solution of British troops being garrisoned in the communities was too expensive and was certainly unacceptable to the plantation owners who wanted to be their own royalty. Better to find other, poorer Europeans to share the risk, to settle the lesser lands and provide the services in the towns and villages.

The attraction of the New World to impoverished working class recruits was land. If they had none in Europe, at least in America they would now have some. So they came. Of course there was a selection process that went on. French and Spaniards were not welcome. After all, England was in almost perpetual war with those two Catholic monarchies. While Scots, Welsh, and Scots-Irish were the most welcome, there were too few of these; so other Europeans were welcome: Greeks, Albanians, Germans, and so forth. They came to find themselves an economic underclass, many indentured, often burdened with debt, and seldom able to obtain land worth the farming.

The question was how to keep these poor Europeans from forming a natural affinity with the slaves who often worked beside them all for the landed gentry. How to keep them from seeing themselves as oppressed. It was in that context that the notion of a “White Race” was born.

“Why do they call themselves the human race? Do they think somebody is going to win?” The line from a television sitcom haunts this topic. Just what do we mean by race and how do the word’s two meanings intersect?

Race in the sense of rushing or competing comes from the Norse or perhaps Old English.

Race in the sense of “people of common descent” comes from the Middle French, possibly before that from the Italian. It was originally used to describe people and other things that naturally grouped together, including wines of particular flavor, a generation, a group of people with a common occupation, or people who had a common background as a tribe.

There is no evidence that race referred to people being divided on the basis of physical differences before the late eighteenth century. In other words, those colonists—rich or poor—did not come to the Americas thinking of a “White Race.” They may have thought of Africans as different from themselves, but only in the way they may have thought the same of Russians or Slavs as not being like them or perhaps of Welsh and English being different.

It was essential to the landed gentry of the colonies to alienate the poor Europeans from the Black slaves. The easiest way to do that was to play up the sense of difference and the clearest difference was the color of skin. Hence whiteness became a political tool.

That night in Maine I lay on the grass and looked up at the stars. I could see so many of them—no light pollution to interfere. I did not know even then if I believed in God or Heaven, but I do know I believed in possibilities and the future. I looked up and like many young Americans of that day I saw a world that could be better. It did not occur to me that there were many who could only see the ground beneath them, who lived in desperate fear of things getting worse.

“Keep your eye on the prize.” What a great evocation. But for those who cannot know if their children will have enough to eat, there is no prize. They cannot look to the stars; they are far too busy watching for the pratfalls along the path. For those who are living in quiet desperation there is no possibility. For them it is the simple maxim, “Look back, the Devil may be gaining on you.”

Fear becomes anger, and anger becomes rage. The Devil is coming and has to be defeated. And if that Devil is represented by the descendents of the slaves whom their ancestors were supposed to look down on, by the Black-skinned Americans whom their culture came to call a different race, why it is clear where the rage must be directed.

For a person who sees himself as a member of the White race who lives in a terror of downward social mobility, a terror known only too well by those who are just holding on to their rung of the ladder, the mythical other, the Black, becomes a threat beyond the tolerable.

From the first gleaming of the American character this terror of the not-White was mixed in— added intentionally by those plantation owners looking for allies just in case of a slave rebellion. Once it existed towards the African slaves, it was easily displaced onto other groups, groups that at some psychological level were identified as not-White. As descendents of early French settlers migrated from Eastern Canada down into Maine and New England, they became the non-Whites. The Irish who were carried to the New World by the waves of the potato blight were often labeled “Black Irish.” Obviously, to Hortense my father was not “White,” but Elvira set her straight, albeit about just that one person, not all Jews.

Today, for most Americans, the French, Irish, and Jews have been assimilated into the class of Whiteness. African Americans are still not white. Neither are those of Hispanic background. Consider those wonderful questionnaires one is so often asked to fill out, for instance satisfaction surveys after Internet purchases and services. The classifications offered for self-identification make it clear that Hispanics are not White.

A short time ago I saw a picture of four children on the social media; they were labeled Black, Yellow, Brown, and Normal. Normal, that is the label given to the white child. Perhaps there was no intent; after all the purported message of the picture was “Everybody deserves to be treated equally!” Equally to the normal, to the White.

Another recent event sends the same message. An exit poll of voters in South Carolina asked, “Are Blacks getting too demanding in their push for equal rights?” Too demanding, how can one be too demanding in the expectation of equality?

It is many years since I heard my father referred to as a White Jew. At the time, I suppose a part of me was happy with that distinction; it meant that my dad was accepted, that at least to some small degree we were part of the community. But he was not asked to play a game of checkers.

Years later I am not so happy. I wish I had known then what I know today. I would have spoken up. Voice cracking with youth and emotion I would have said, “My father is a person. He is honest and trustworthy. Beyond that, there should be no labels. We are Americans, and we should know better. We are the children of revolution, of the natural human drive for freedom, a goal that can never be realized while we are willing to classify ourselves as if we were talking about the flavors of wine.” I would have taken a bite of that pickle clutched in my right hand and added, “Besides he’s a great checkers player.” Yes, I would have added that.

At least now I know that it is my responsibility to say such things, to make those comments in the social media, to stand up for that idea in my life; that is the responsibility of a free person. For if we are not equally free, then freedom will no longer have meaning.

If there is a Devil who will gain on us, he will not be in the guise of those with a different shade of skin but in the guise of those who tell us that we must fear others in order to protect ourselves. We can defeat that evil spirit. The place to start? Might I suggest a game of checkers? Might I suggest that we set up that overturned pickle barrel and start to play—making sure that everyone gets a turn.

 

Besides his work organizing The Write Room Blog aand co-hosting It Matters Radio, Ken Weene writes and writes. His latest book Broody New Engander is now available in print and Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002M3EMWU

To care or not to care. Are these the options? by Eduardo Cervino

Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Whether it is possible for a fair, reasonable person to remain oblivious to current political trends in the US. Or to abhor the hatred and jingoism vomited by righteous porters of bibles and guns.

If this sentence strikes a chord, make no mistake. It’s meant to provoke you.

Can you pass beyond the cheap literary hook?

Can you share with me the outrage against those forked-tongued politicians, preachers and televangelists poisoning people’s minds?

What can I do to awaken empathy for the millions among us at the margin of society?

Are we becoming a nation of psychopaths?

A nation where puppets of the rich govern for the benefit of the rich.

A nation where legislators criminalize poverty, and police arrest good men who feed the hungry.

A nation so arrogant that it takes pride in bucking the trends of the industrialized world. Refuses free education and affordable health care for all. Reduces child welfare, increases control of women’s reproductive rights, and promotes inequality.

A nation that revives the discredited philosophy of Ayn Rand, thereby raising the pursuit of money to the level of a satanic cult.

A nation that tramples over honest but less fortunate citizens

The majority of Americans refuse to see that abstaining from voting allows the nation’s oligarchy to solidify its control over our system of laws.

We agree that congressmen are for sale to the higher bidder, like whores in a Wild West bordello. But our refusal to vote gets them re-elected by 13% of eligible voters.

How many legislators enter office possessing a moderate net worth and leave as millionaires?

Coolidge, the 30th president of the US, said, “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” That canon served the interest of the entire people well.

Now, however, the avarice of the 1% has created despicable new sources of revenue. It has converted education of the nation’s youngsters into a business.

Have we forgotten that education is the foundation of the country’s future?

It’s no coincidence that incarcerated citizens in the US exceeds the number in other industrialized countries combined. Sweden has closed four prisons for lack of inmates. But in the US, prison construction is a growth industry more profitable than home building

Greedy CEOs have converted the pharmaceutical industry and health services into businesses dealing with life and death. It’s more accurate to say dealing with preserving the lives of those who can afford the best at the expense of hurting those who cannot.

The war on drugs is another profit center. A large sector of the armed forces pursues smugglers. Those resources could be allocated to rehabilitation of the users. This is crazy, the equivalent of trying to cut the supply and let the demand increase.

Millions of citizens have died of tobacco smoking. When was the last time you heard of anyone dying from smoking marijuana? Yet we subside the tobacco industry while resisting legalization and taxation of marijuana in most states.

Does all this sound to you like a successful, exceptional society or a failed one?

How can we fix the future if we believe things are perfect, contrary to all statistical evidence? In reality, we are number seven in literacy, twenty-seven in math, forty-nine in life expectancy, but number one in defense expending and religious belief.

By now you may say, complaints, complaints. What can we do?

We should start by removing the For Sale sign from the Capitol building. About 150,000 wealthy individuals in the country contributed the great percentage of money spent in the races in an effort to manipulate the uneducated masses. They invest billions of dollars to buy loyalty from senators and representatives.

The average legislator spends thirty to seventy percent of his or her time in office raising money for the next campaign. What do you think they give away in exchange for the money they receive?

Their yearly salary increase, or cutting taxes for the 150,000 donors?

Increasing regulations of the banksters and larcenous Wall Street speculators, or cutting the peoples’ right to heath care and education, children’s’ Head Start programs, and soldiers’ mental health care?

Please, my fellow Americans, teach your children to vote. Better still, take them with you when you vote. Stop the madness before we regress to the times of the pre-industrial revolution, if we are lucky, of those of Genghis Khan if not.

 

Eduardo Cervino was born in Havana, Cuba, where he studied art and architecture. The Castro revolution failed to deliver on its promises of freedom, prosperity, and peace. Eduardo refused the communist regime’s indoctrination. Instead, he voiced his opposition and ended in an agricultural forced labor camp. In time, he moved to Madrid, Spain.

To leave his loved ones hit him like a ton of bricks. The pain seeded his heart with an overwhelming desire to give a hand to the fallen and join any group dedicated to healing the hurting.

After arriving in the USA, he wrote his memoirs. Eduardo found great satisfaction in writing. In New York City, he renewed his painting career. Since then, he has combined painting, architecture, and writing to quench his curiosity and express his awe for life’s wonders.

He has traveled throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Canada. In the USA, Eduardo has resided in Havana, Cuba; Madrid, Spain; New York City, Denver, and Phoenix.

“Life’s ups and downs make it a marvelous experience,” he said. “But only if we cultivate an ever-growing circle of friends to share it with.”

http://tinyurl.com/cultofiona

Solidarity or ‘supremacy’? by Bryan Murphy

 

Many of you reading this, especially if you live on the American continent, are likely to be the children or grand-children of immigrants, if you are not first-generation immigrants yourselves. You will know all too well, from family history or direct experience, the heartbreak that migrants feel on leaving their homeland, and the hardships they withstand when trying to build a better life for themselves and their family in a new country.

No doubt you will feel empathy with new generations of emigrants seeking to escape poverty and persecution. But what about the inhabitants of your ancestral homeland, which is now likely to have progressed to become a magnet for people experiencing even worse conditions elsewhere?

Unfortunately, solidarity is not the automatic response. There are those who feel that “we are the masters now” and it is time to enjoy treating new arrivals as badly as their own ancestors were treated when they sought refuge abroad.

In Italy, where I currently live, the situation is complicated by history. Go back a few centuries and Italy was a collection of tiny states jealous of their own independence. Unification only came in 1861 and, even today, the regions of Italy show enormous disparities and antagonisms, which clash with a far longer tradition of hospitality and openness towards strangers.

In the rich North of the country, there are local supremacists who want to carve out an independent state for themselves and get rid of both old and new immigrants. What would happen if they succeeded? In my stories, “Breakaway”, “Goodbye, Padania” and “Linehan’s Trip”, I look at that possibility.

Frankly, I don’t think they have thought things through. Expelling foreigners now or in the future would make them a pariah state, threatened with both economic and social collapse.

Moreover, history shows that the groups you identify as “the enemy” come increasingly nearer home – in this case, going from “non-whites” to “non-EU citizens” to “foreigners” to “Southerners” to people with “bad blood” to  those from across the valley, until you and your remaining neighbours are fingering each other.

The message: solidarity with others, rather than the pursuit of some imagined supremacy, is the best way to serve our self-interest. Mutual aid is the key to all of us surviving and thriving.

Bryan Murphy is a man of Kent who left the United Kingdom shortly after graduating and has spent most of his adult life elsewhere, notably in Italy, Portugal, Angola and China. Since retiring from his most recent job, as a translator within the United Nations system, he has concentrated on his own words, publishing many poems and several e-books. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu .

A Statement of Outrage By Delinda McCann

 

 When we, Americans, talk of government officials we often call them leaders.  We speak of the leaders in industry and leaders in banking.  They are leaders, but in what directions are they leading our nation?  How have they cherished and protected the country our forefathers have passed into their keeping?  Where does our patriotic duty to respect our leaders end and the need speak out in outrage against the corruption of elected officials and the abandonment of just laws begin?

Do We The People have the right to live in a capitalistic economic system based on free markets?  Our big corporations, banks and Wall Street say no.  We have left capitalism behind for corporatism where the biggest corporations control the majority of the markets for food, household goods, energy, money and investments.  Is there a safe place where those who want to save for their retirement can place their money with the expectation of a return that will keep them ahead of inflation?  It appears that the banks and investment markets are so controlled by a few moneyed interests that the small investor is simply food for those who manipulate markets.  Is our government supposed to protect free markets by limiting monopolies, thuggish behavior and hostile business practices?  Is it the role of the government to protect the population from manipulative investment practices?  Big banks and Wall Street say no by buying influence to eliminate the regulations that once prevented monopolies, predatory lending, gambling by banks, and speculation in the stock market.  Why isn’t the current mode of operations called corruption?  Does loyalty to our country demand loyalty to a few big industries or should we speak out in outrage?

Do We The People have a right to be truthfully informed through our media?  Should we be loyal to the corporations who control most of our media?  Is that loyalty to our government?  What happened to ethical investigative journalism?  Recently I saw a documentary about the press in which our president made a speech.  The three major news channels showed about two minutes of the speech before they cut in with their news hosts commenting on what they thought the president would say, what he ought to say, and their understanding of what he was saying.  The public was not allowed to hear the speech on a major network.  Is that a free press?  Does corporate controlled media inform or does it manipulate through biased reporting?  Does this behavior demand our loyalty or should we speak out in outrage?

 Do We The People have a right to a safe, healthy food supply?  The Monsanto Company says no and they will fight tooth, nail and pocketbook to protect their right to feed unsuspecting people chemicals and altered food that may cause cancer, digestive problems, asthma, autism, obesity, and dementia.  For many years, Americans did have a safe and healthy food supply.  Many assume that this is true today.  Food safety has been eroded away to the point that agri-business together with Monsanto controls the regulatory processes that once protected our food supply.  They now propose regulations that target those with healthy farming practices to make selling their farm products challenging to impossible.  The latest such proposal is to declare that only chickens raised indoors are healthy.  This is the most insane example of backward thinking I can imagine.  Yet this is the backward direction our food industry is traveling.  Does loyalty to our country demand that we accept living with food related illness or should we speak out in outrage?

Do We The People have the right to access to safe drinking water?  Oh surely people in the United States have access to safe drinking water.  Neither of my daughters can drink the water that comes out of the tap in their homes because the water is contaminated.  One daughter lives in downtown Pasadena CA and the other lives on Vashon Island—neither of these communities is considered poor, yet they live with outdated water systems that nobody wants to keep up to date.  Many older communities face this problem.  Still, some areas face a greater problem.  Our governments don’t seem to be funding or issuing permits for updating aging water systems, yet officials choose to issue permits for fracking despite growing evidence that the chemicals and gasses used in the fracking industry do enter our water supply.  The solution we are given for compromised water systems is to add more chemicals to the water to try to make it cleaner.  It seems that nobody is minding the store when it comes to providing safe clean water to drink.  Is it time to speak out in outrage yet?

While I am loyal to the country my ancestors built, I consider loyalty to a government that is subservient to a very few special interests with money enough to bribe officials to be a betrayal of the country in which I grew up.  It is time for us as citizens to set aside petty differences and speak out in outrage at being betrayed by the system our ancestors built to protect us.

If you would like to know more about Delinda McCann visit her web site at:   http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html