Antiwar stories

Thanks to my old buddy Tom Angotti for sending his first book of fiction; you may know his earlier works on urban studies or Latin American social struggles. 

Accidental Warriors and Battlefield Myths (Berkeley CA: Regent Press, 2011) contains ten stories, most told from the points of view of unwilling or uncomprehending combattants in wars ranging from the Nicaraguan contras to Americans and Russians in Afghanistan to the U.S. invasion of Panama to Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories to the aftermath of Vietnam. Angotti is mostly interested in exploring the illusions and the subsequent deep disappointments — including terrible injuries, post-traumatic stress, or other losses — resulting from actual combat experience.  In only one of these stories, about a Cuban woman returned from serving in the Cuban intervention in Angola, does the warrior seem to have any understanding of what she was fighting for, and hers is the only story that ends more or less happily, back in Havana, when she is able to use the strength she learned in the army to correct her own personal situation ("When Adria Went to Angola").

In the final, very brief story, Angotti conjures up the fantastic Land of Accidental Warriors, where men and women like the ones he has described in the other tales find refuge, peace and harmony. This short book (96 pages, with illustrations by Sofia Vigas) should be welcome reading to all those active in peace advocacy.


America, a Spark Away From Riots of Its Own

Some readers of the blog may have got the impression that I'm a pretty smart guy; if so, I'm about to disabuse you, by talking about something I don't fully understand: the great economic collapse, how and why it is happening and what to do about it. Why? Because unless I spell out my tentative and possibly mistaken perceptions, I won't have a chance to correct or develop them.

Probably the most important post-World War II development has been the freeing of finance capital from its former bonds. As long as there have been markets, even before the birth of capitalism in England in the late middle ages (E.M. Wood, The Origin of Capitalism), there has been credit — "finance" —in some form.

But even as late as Marx (who died in 1883) or even Lenin (1924), there were some constraints on finance capital, national loyalty being one of them. Thus J. P. Morgan was hailed for his "civic responsibility," demonstrated most dramatically in the Panic of 1907.

But finance capital has broken free and now dictates to its former masters: trade, state, local authorities of all kinds, traditional loyalties.  It is a collective organism, like an anthill or a beehive or a city, e.g., London today, where the impulse toward mass action overcomes whatever rationality or notion of self-preservation its individual components may possess. Finance capital no longer recognizes any nation, but acts on its own only to aggrandize itself. And since it thinks of nothing but its own appetite, it does not hesitate to consume and destroy the industrial and commercial systems on which it feeds. If left entirely uncontrolled, the parasite will destroy its host — and then even bankers and security traders will despair.

Which is why things may not go quite to this extreme, that is, to the total self-destruction of the system. But we're getting close. Some financiers are able to raise their heads above the tumult (see links to Soros below) and see the dangers and may be willing to cede some control. But the forces of destruction are so strong and states (national governments) so timorous they (states and financiers) are acting too late to prevent great devastation — high unemployment in Europe, starvation in Africa, and turmoil everwhere.

And that of course is what is stimulating other and opposite movements of mass organisms, collective movements impelled more by rage than by sense, also overwhelming the rationality of individual participants and also possibly destroying the systems that sustain them. From Somalia to Athens to London and many other places. O, if we could just channel all that furious energy into a real revolution, establishing a truly sustainable system for reproducing social life! It will happen, surely, but  — if we continue to behave as our species has over the millennia — only at the last possible moment.

(See Ford Releases Report on German Subsidiary and WWII.) These days, such operations — financing all sides in a war, for example — seem to be simpler to execute. And with the ease of moving money instantly, globally, through the Internet, patriotic concerns and the powers of states to regulate transactions have all but evaporated.

Three steps to resolving the eurozone crisis | George Soros

Germany must defend the euro | George Soros

America, a Spark Away From Riots of Its Own

Empire’s Last Gasp — A Two-Act Scenario; Charles Degelman returns to classic texts by Marx and Lenin

It is probably true, as Charlie Degelman suggests, that Marx and Lenin provide pointers, but a lot has happened since them and so we're going to have to try to figure this out without them.

For my earlier comments on "good and bad capitalism" and related issues, click on keyword "capitalism" below.

And here's something to listen to while you ponder these problems: Ry Cooder: No Banker Left Behind - YouTube


Understanding London's civil violence

Civil violence: three steps to understanding the ‘mindless criminal’ | MICROCON

You may find Jaideep Gupte's "three steps" helpful, but for me the most interesting part of his posting were these background data:
 … here are some basic statistics to help you make up your own mind: unemployment in the UK for 16-24 years olds is up from 17.90% in the early 1990s to 19.70% in 2010, while London continues to have the highest unemployment rate for this cohort at 22%.[6] Currently, 22% of 19 year old boys in England do not have a basic education, while this figure drops to 15% for girls.[7] Black young adults (16-24 years) are four times as likely to be in prison under sentence, than White young adults, and almost eight times as likely as Asian young adults.[8] Nevertheless, the number of burglaries and violent incidents with injuries have dropped significantly since the 1990s – from 1.8 million burglaries in 1995 to 0.7 million this year, and from 2.4 million incidents to 1.2 million over the same time period. 50% of adults surveyed in 2000 believed that the crime rate was increasing, this figure has dropped to 28% now. And while 24% of adults reported being very worried about being the victim of violent crime in 2000, this year the figure has dropped to 13%.[9]