Monthly Archives: December 2020

A Tribute to John le Carré

I wanted to write a tribute to a person who was very instrumental in my writing, and who died just this month, John le Carré, author of several famous spy novels, but I couldn’t find adequate words to describe this man. So I have decided, instead, to repost his epic essay “America has Gone Mad.” It was written in 2003 when the American Empire, under the war criminal George W. Bush, lead a war of destruction against Iraq, a country that had never attacked it, yet sat on the world’s second biggest oil reserves. Nearly two decades later and that war based on lies is still reaping carnage in the entire region. Sadly, I have yet to see any concrete evidence that any of what he has written has changed in the least.

“America has Gone Mad”

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell you which is which. What Bush won’t tell us is the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn’t, won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America can hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us — to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all of this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay a glove on him. But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. …

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect’s sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

“But will we win, Daddy?”

“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him.”“But will people be killed, Daddy?”

“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people.”

“Can I watch it on television?”

“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”

“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”

“Hush child, and go to sleep.”

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: “Peace is also Patriotic”. It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.

John le Carré (19 October 1931 – 12 December 2020)

Rest in Power.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

It’s true. 2020 is a year most of us will be glad to bid farewell to. For frontline workers, those in healthcare and essential services like grocery store workers, delivery, and transportation, the year has been the most difficult and terrifying. Government and corporate services have been scant and fall far short of the adequate protections working people need, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. But artists, poets, musicians, writers and independent journalists have also found this year especially challenging because we are all too often forgotten or marginalized within the ranks of society’s labour force. The contributions and services we provide for mental, emotional and spiritual health, as well as toward continued independent, critical thought and analysis of our political and social landscape, are generally looked at with an indifferent eye under the paradigm of late capitalism. And many resources have been either reallocated elsewhere or simply do not exist.

Therefore, it is with great humility that I ask for donations this year. I understand most of us are struggling; and there is absolutely no obligation or guilt implied with this request. As with previous fundraisers for this site, this one does not place any requirements upon the reader. Whether one is able to donate or not, all articles and access will remain free, and there will never be any government or corporate advertisements, sponsorships, or underwriters. Also, my editorial support from the exemplary Elena Baudelaire and technical assistance from Patrick Hanaway will continue.

We are all looking forward to 2021 as being a fresh start. We look forward to an end to the pandemic, but also for a beginning of meaningful dissent and liberation from our existentially devastating status quo, including militarism and endless wars, economic disenfranchisement, political and corporate tyranny, social oppression, and the ecocide of our precious biosphere. Personally, I look forward to working with other writers and activists, continued writing and critical analysis for this site, more guest writers, poets, thinkers, philosophers, bards and other artists, as well as a few other exciting and fascinating prospects, including a fiction I am currently working on.

I wish you all a truly magnificent Solstice and New Year. And thanks in advance for your support, whether it be in sharing my pieces, the contribution of ideas or informed criticism, monetary assistance, or any of the above.

If you would like to donate monetarily, simply click on the link below and use PayPal.
https://kennorphan.com/donate/

Kenn Orphan December 2020

*Title art piece is The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.

Only the Broken Heart can Expand

My heart is sore today. The pain is raw and it feels as if a giant chasm of emptiness stretches out in front of me. The loss of my gentle companion, a feline that provided me immeasurable comfort and joy for years and in some of my darkest hours, has struck me deeper than I imagined. There are layers to this pain, indeed. But our modern life often robs us of the agency to express our pain or sorrow out of fear of judgement or ridicule, especially when it is related to the loss of a non-human being. It is all too often trivialized. And this trivialization has become normalized.

But of course, I am reminded that this is the same societal paradigm that has trivialized the living biosphere itself. It is a pathology which has allowed for its wholesale destruction for the accumulation of coin and the lure of convenience for the few. If the cries of the billions of species it crushes under its busy, productive feet were made audible, the entire human species would be permanently deafened from the colossal lament.

Whenever I am in pain, I retreat to the world of imagination, and music, and art. Today I came across this self portrait of Frida Kahlo done in 1940. I have a small replica I bought as a souvenir in Mexico City years ago. As is the case with most of Kahlo’s paintings, this one is drenched in symbolism.

The hummingbird, usually a symbol of life and vitality, is dead and hanging from a necklace of thorns. Thorns which pierce Frida’s delicate skin. Perhaps it is reminiscent of Christ’s crown of thorns and the pain he suffered carrying the weight of the world’s sorrows. Or perhaps it is Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, and perhaps it is its weight that is causing her injury. And the butterflies and dragonflies on her head may be symbols of resurrection or renewal. But the neckless is being held by a black monkey, perhaps a symbol of the indifferent torment she endured throughout her life. And a black cat, one very much the appearance of the dear loved one I just lost, stands just to the back of her. Although she is undoubtedly in pain from the thorns, Frida stands calmly, stoically, as if daring the world to hurt her more.

As I pondered the meaning of this portrait I thought about her life, one fraught with disappointment, rejection, grief and extreme physical pain from a horrendous streetcar accident when she was only 18 years old. Along with a tumultuous relationship with artist Diego Rivera, she had to endure at least 35 agonizing surgeries on her spine and body throughout her entire life. She was often bedridden for months at a time. And yet there she is, staring it all down. Through the pain into quiet dignity. Frida actually had a monkey and a black cat, among other animals, birds and plants. I marveled at the many photographs of her holding them and caring for them when I visited her home, Casa Azul, in Mexico City.

Frida lived her life as an open wound, open for the world to see. She displayed her pain as one would display an accessory to wear out to the market or to a concert. It was beautiful because it was true. And this gave me a peculiar sort of strength. We cannot traverse this terrestrial plane without facing pain, and loss, and sorrow. Again and again and again. Bursting through the walls of our heart. These are the very signatures of life and of love. And in a time of unprecedented ecocide and endless assaults on our biosphere by a society unable to face or grapple with its demons and shadows, continuously numbed by distraction, and spectacle, and avarice, and substances, and cruelty, and materialism, unable to feel its pain, we are called to do just that. Face it. And express our pain, and loss, and sorrow. Publicly. Daring the world to hurt us again. Because, without a doubt, it will. It will break your heart. But remember this, it is only the broken heart that has the capacity to expand.

Kenn Orphan December 2020

Epilogue for a Dying Star

Today, I am deeply honoured to feature a poem by one of the most prolific, talented and graciously human thinkers of our time: poet, singer/songwriter, playwright and political journalist, editor, and activist, Sandy Leonvest.

 

 

          Damn the world

and all its pain.

 

          I am feeling light

at the moment,

so just let me be.

 

          Lighter

than the child

with a gift for song,

who spent

long summer nights

spinning threads of sorrow

into grace notes,

and weaving

bright white lies

into snowflakes,

while dancing

for her life;

 

          Lighter

than the moth

who once imagined

herself

a butterfly

in the fleeting reflection

of a mother’s eyes …

 

          Lighter than dust

drifting amid the soaring souls

of the newly departed,

where I once followed

my mother

into the womb

during a moment

of dreaming;

 

          Lighter even

than a cloudless sky

just after a summer storm,

giving rise to a brand new star,

Or the first moon of December

waxing faithfully

over a war-weary world,

to share its luminous nature

with snow-capped mountains

and rivers of melting ice.

 

~Sandy LeonVest has, over the course of her writing career, been a poet, playwright, singer-songwriter, political journalist – radio and print – and the editor/publisher of SolarTimes (solartimes.org), a groundbreaking energy publication and newspaper distributed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area from 2006 through 2013. Today she spends most of her time writing poetry and fiction, which she believes was “who she meant to be all along.” Sandy’s poems capture the spirit of the 21st century, with all of its circularities and contradictions – fathomless beauty and incomprehensible ugliness; infinite joy and endless grieving; and the inevitability of “the ever-spinning circle.” Sorrowful endings followed by new beginnings. Her poetic voice seems to channel the poets of long ago, at once emanating from another era, yet echoing universal and timeless themes.

 

Title photo is the Helix Nebula, a dying star that is 650 lightyears from our world. Source: NASA.