Monthly Archives: February 2022

In Solidarity with Russian Antiwar Demonstrators

Across Russia, in at least 48 cities, thousands of Russians have taken to the streets to protest Putin’s invasion and war on Ukraine. They have faced bitterly cold winter temperatures and brutal arrests by police, but they keep pouring out into the streets nevertheless. And they put many of us to shame. How many of us in the West would risk the same in opposing our government’s militarism, wars and war profiteering?

My fullest solidarity with these Russian antiwar protestors. Stand in solidarity against all war, state violence and militarism, whether it comes from Russia, the US, NATO, China or anywhere else. Stand for universal human rights and the preservation of what is left of our fragile biosphere. Oppose the war profiteers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, General Dynamics and BAE Systems. Demand the global war industry be dismantled. And don’t equivocate on any of it.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

*Photographers are Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images in Moscow, Denis Kaminev/AP in Moscow, Dmitri Lovetsky/AP in St Petersburg. 

Russian Antiwar Activists Putting Western “Leftists” to Shame

There are some amongst the Western left who seem confused about how to react to the invasion of Ukraine. This is unsurprising since few of them knew how to build solidarity with the Syrian people and build an international antiwar movement, instead preferring to come to the defense of the oppressive government that they lived under simply because it was the supposed enemy of Washington. But if there is one thing this situation has shown, it is that ordinary Russian people are putting those Western leftists to shame.

Thousands have taken to the streets across Russia to denounce Putin’s invasion, and over a thousand have been arrested. None of them seem to have a problem with equivocation when it comes to war or their government’s criminality. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many on the Western left who are wringing their hands trying to find ways to defend Putin.

Without a doubt, Putin is not a 21st century Hitler as some Western propaganda outlets have inferred, and this is not World War II. We should reject such idiotic and shallow correlations. But he has invaded a sovereign country, and one that has been historically colonized by Russia in the past. One would think that would be enough for condemnation. Not so, to these leftists, many of whom have swallowed the rubbish of highly paid sock puppets on the Trumpenleft.

Being antiwar is not something we can afford to equivocate on. It is either a core principle, or else it is meaningless. Opposing Russian militarism and imperialism is as important as opposing American militarism and imperialism, as well as NATO aggression. Has the American Empire committed more atrocities and launched more wars? Yes. Has NATO expansion over the past couple decades exacerbated the situation? Of course. But this doesn’t mean that Russian imperialism does not exist or does not present a danger. And taking a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in no way diminishes a stand against American invasions, meddling or covert actions in Somalia, Yemen, Cuba and dozens of other places.

If you claim to be on the left and cannot grasp this, then I suggest you step out of the way. Because the imperative now is to join in solidarity with our antiwar allies in Russia. Not to spout empty theoretics in the defense of some government or state actor simply because that actor happens to be the enemy of the American Empire.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

*Photo is of a Russian antiwar protestor. Photographer is Peter Kovalev/TASS.

Western Militarism is Not the Answer for Ukraine

For anyone who may be tempted to support one, the solution to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not US or NATO military intervention.

The US military and NATO (along with their associated nefarious agencies) have a long list of war crimes, most of which they have never had to answer for in any way that matters. Lest we forget the carpet bombing of South Asia? Agent Orange? Supporting and training death squads in Central America? Toppling democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile. Assassinations of political rivals like Lumumba? The use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus in Iraq? Torture in prisons like Abu Ghraib? Or the recent “mistake” of a drone strike in Kabul which killed many members of one family, including children?

The war hawks are salivating for more war, but escalation into more militarism will not solve any of this, it will only add to the misery. And it could, quite possibly, lead humanity toward its quietus. No to war anywhere.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

To the “Leftists” who Think Putin is their Comrade

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it was painfully apparent within certain circles of the West that there was a thorough lack of even a rudimentary education on what the Russian government is today. Some erstwhile leftists have even been seen praising the despotic leader in a fashion that would make even Putin cringe. So let’s make a few facts clear.

Putin is the de facto head of United Russia, a reactionary, rightwing political party that dominates the executive branch and the Duma (legislative). He, and he alone, has essentially what amounts to dictatorial powers. His party is not even remotely left, progressive or socialist in the least. And he has thrived on stoking racist nationalism.

What is interesting to note is that despite UR being the dominant political party, communists have been gaining more sympathy in recent years and there is a marked longing for the days of the USSR where at least in its hay day most Russians had reliable work, good educational opportunities, housing, paid holidays and a decent living standard. Today, the poverty rate has been rising steadily while population declines, leaving a lot of elderly Russians in a bad state. And, like the United States, powerful and wealthy oligarchs run the economy to the benefit of their coffers.

So it is laughable that there are some people who identify as left who cannot stop themselves from praising Putin as an “anti-imperialist” and thinking he is their comrade. Putin, himself, would laugh at such idiocy.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

*Photograph by Sean Gallup / Getty

Oppose Them All

No one should blindly take Pentagon talking points as absolute truth. But the same applies to Kremlin talking points. Think of it this way. These battles are between the Great Imperial Houses of the 21st century vying for geopolitical dominance on the stage of a world whose biosphere is dying. It is ordinary people, and untold species, who are counted (or not) in the casualties.

Remember that last point, because it is what matters the most to everyone of us, no matter where we live.

Oppose them all.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

#NoWarAnywhere #Ukraine#Russia#NATO

In Solidarity with Russian Antiwar Activists

Never equate an entire people with their government.

Tens of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets in scores of Russian cities, in frigid temperatures and against brutal crackdowns, to oppose Putin’s invasion and war against Ukraine.

The task of people of conscience is to link arms with them in solidarity and in opposition to ALL war everywhere, whether that be in Ukraine, the Middle-East, Africa or anywhere else.

Photograph is of an antiwar demonstration in St. Petersburg, Russia, by Anton Vaganov of Reuters.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

The Urgency of Embrace

If we cannot connect with each other beyond the political chicanery and sheer idiocy of those who rule over us at this stage in our evolution, we will not grasp the urgency of our collective situation in any way that will matter. There is no national anthem, colourful flag, marching army or well worded propaganda that will stop the oceans from warming, the coral from dying, the seas from rising and drowning our cities, the fields from going barren, the people moving in enormous masses for survival, the forests from burning and countless species from going extinct.

That we still court war as any solution in this era of biospheric catastrophe speaks to our fatal disconnection from this earth and to each other. Do we dare deny the impermanence of our existence? Do we dare think we are beyond the warm embrace of the other?

Photo is of a young couple sharing an embrace at a train station in Kyiv following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The photographer is Daniel Leal for AFP.

Kenn Orphan. February 2022

Of Starships, Futuristic Cities and Dreams Deferred

“Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. …Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don’t know what they’re talking about.” ― Ray Bradbury

When I was a little boy, between the ages of 7 and 10, I would make starships out of construction paper. I would fly them all around my room making the sounds I had heard from one of various science fiction shows I had watched on television. Star Trek, Battlestar Gallactica, Buck Rodgers, Star Wars. I loved anything that was sci-fi. I would spend hours drawing futuristic cities set on earth or different planets I would create in my imagination. I would invent alien languages and symbols. Devise plots that had to do with characters encountering other species. I had built an entire galaxy in my head.

In those years, I wanted so badly to live on one of those fictional worlds. If a time travel machine suddenly appeared I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I would be whisking myself away into the future. At night, I would lie in my bed thinking of space and alien planets. And I would try to force dreams to involve this fantastic universe I had thought up.

Like most kids, I shared some of my creations with my parents. And, like many kids, I experienced the pang of disappointment when they either seemed disinterested or would laugh. The laughing was the worst. It made that small boy feel even smaller. My mother was loving, but I knew she thought most of it was silly and didn’t have any curiosity. My father would often call the books and programs I loved “fairy tales.” And this was not a compliment. It was a way to disparage and denigrate them. Fairy tales, beloved by children since time immemorial, were not held in high regard in my home growing up.

When we grow older, we often think we have surpassed the impact of those formative years. We think the wounds we experience when we are young are gone because they often become layered with the concerns and responsibilities of adulthood. But this is a falsehood. More often than not, those wounds still sting when we encounter something that reminds us of them. A remark or an askew glance, and suddenly I can see that little boy again in my mind, desperately trying to act nonchalant and hide any tears that might be welling up inside.

Those kinds of things have an impact. For me, they crushed any ambition I had to write science fiction. Later in my teenage years, I briefly entertained working on the sets of sci-fi movies because I have always loved making dioramas and miniatures. But that notion fled rapidly from my mind thanks to the conditioning I had received and had internalized. I would go on for a “proper” education in a “respectable” field that provided the means for living a life like everyone else.

I gained a lot from the career I chose, but writing never left me. And over the years, I have been fortunate to have written a lot on things I care about. Our ecological crisis, human rights, war, art and culture. I don’t regret any of this, but I do regret not pursuing the life I really desired. Lately, I have tried to explore this further and work on some new projects. But I’ve come to realize that the hurt feelings of that little boy sometimes linger.

I was afraid of my father when I was little. Without a doubt, he was a good provider and he sacrificed so much for us. There were also tender moments. But he was easily angered and I mostly thought of him as a bully to be avoided. It was only later, when I was in my senior year of high school and then college, that we began to grow closer. He had mellowed and I had gained confidence to stand my ground. It is those later years that I cherish. And I think he began to feel some regret for the missed opportunities he had in encouraging me more.

He was a child of the Great Depression and his parents, immigrants from Greece, were dirt poor. He was born in a tenement in Manhattan and had to get a job as soon as he could to help. He didn’t have toys and I doubt his father encouraged him to play very much. Later, after serving in the US Navy, he worked for decades at a job he hated because it provided a good salary for our family. But I think he may have begun to question if that narrative was entirely true or more of what society told him was true. I was able to gain empathy for my father. But that didn’t mean that I could forget my wounds, because I know they altered my path.

It has taken decades for me to face these things with some measure of honesty. My father died several years ago, so I no longer have the option of discussing them with him. And now my mother has dementia and is unable to talk about such things at all. So, it often feels like a betrayal to divulge how I felt when I was a kid. Indeed, we cannot blame others for the choices we make in life, but children absorb every bit of our bitterness, anger, disappointment, ridicule and shame. And they unconsciously guide how we decide things.

Years into my adulthood I was lucky to discover a host of science fiction writers who defied critics of the genre and wrote brilliant pieces of literature that explored difficult and complex topics of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, homophobia, war, ecological destruction, technological conundrums and capitalist exploitation. My favourites, Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula K. Le Guin, all helped me release any morsel of embarrassment I might have held on to from my childhood.

It isn’t easy to face the shadows of our past, especially from our childhood. But I think it is necessary if we want to attain any peace or perspective about who we are in this life. I don’t know if I would have been successful at writing science fiction. And I don’t know if I will attempt it now. But I know that material success or notoriety isn’t really the goal. Fulfillment is. And I have gained too much compassion for that little boy with his paper starships and drawings of futuristic cities to give up just yet.

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

Title painting is entitled Sanseriah and is by me.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Beneath all Grief, the Most Fundamental of Realities is Joy Itself

Several years ago I went to hear a talk on abstract and ancient art. The speaker was a delicate woman frocked in a black and white habit with round, owl-like glasses and possessing a bubbly, yet soft and lispy voice. Unexpectedly, her words changed how I looked at art. She made artists that sometimes seemed cold, inaccessible or even forbidding come alive with humour, wit and a generous dose of humanity.

Sister Wendy Beckett emerged from a life of quiet prayer to bring this world of art to others. She died in 2018 at the age of 88, but lately I have been revisiting her books and clips on Youtube featuring her commentary. She was famous in art circles for her documentaries, but her spirituality was of a kind that is rare in this modern world. Her hermit life was a response to caring for humanity, not the opposite. She said: “it’s one reason I have to live in solitude, I can often pick up what’s going on inside somebody, what they’re really like, and it can be distressing when someone is being cheerful and you’re picking up signs that there’s something gravely wrong inside them.”

Solitary, contemplative and personally devoted, yet fiercely critical of the church, the trappings of religious life, and of those who use it to batter or repress others. She was not afraid to take bold stances either, whether it was fighting the censorship of art, defending reproductive choice, or supporting marriage equality.

But it was the communication of her deep love of art and its essential importance to being human that stands out the most to me. She understood that art conveys our fears, hopes, failings and ecstasy to each other. That the mysteries that bind us together are sacred. And in this world of increasing ugliness, despair and bitterness, remembering this has been an invaluable balm to my soul.

“This is the real power of joy, to make us certain that, beneath all grief, the most fundamental of realities is joy itself.”Sister Wendy Beckett (25 February 1930 – 26 December 2018)

Kenn Orphan, February 2022

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Fascism is a Fire that Will Burn the Entire House Down

This past weekend, I attended a rally in my home city of Halifax. It was organized to counter the so-called “Freedom Convoy” which continues to hold cities hostage around Canada. Our gathering was intended to build solidarity and care for community. It was encouraging to see so many people come out to oppose fascism. I only wish more showed up.

Even though the other side is a minority in Canada, there were still many who came out to support the “Freedom Convoy.” They not only convened in parks. They were everywhere. In all honesty, I haven’t felt that uneasy since I lived in the States. Trucks with enormous Canadian flags drove down every street blaring their horns which, for some of the vehicles, was deafening.

I had already known that organizers of this convoy had a history of white supremacy and far-right ideologies. However, being present amongst them, it became very clear to this was not a movement, but a mob. The tactics they used were classic fascist bullying. Most didn’t care if people supported them or their cause or were interested in learning more. And most seemed more interested in intimidating people. What was also striking to me is how the authorities were friendly with many of them. I saw some of them chatting with them in a familiar and friendly manner. I’ve never seen that kind of thing happen at any of the protests I’ve attended that were anti-capitalist, against ecocide, antiwar or for Indigenous rights.

One thing I witnessed really disturbed me. An old man stood in the Grand Parade amongst the Convoy protesters silently holding a sign that read “support healthcare workers, go home.” He wasn’t shouting or getting in anyone’s face. But he was approached by several people who took a menacing stance toward him. One man approached him with his pit bull straining at the leash. The old man retreated. But the imagery had historic resonances that were undeniable.

The far-right has no answers to our problems except fear and the threat of violence. It thrives on the “us vs. them” or “good vs. evil” narrative because otherizing is so much easier than building community care and fostering solidarity between people.

Like the attempted coup in Washington a year ago, this Convoy has inspired similar far-right uprisings in Europe and elsewhere. And it seems evident that this is not going away anytime soon. If history has taught us anything, it is that fascism must be met with strong and unwavering opposition everywhere and every time it surfaces.

We cannot afford to think “oh this is Canada, not the States. It would never happen here.” Because the seed of fascism exists in every human society. And it only needs a combination of circumstances to explode into a raging fire. And if that fire isn’t contained at the start, it has the power to grow quickly and burn the entire house down before anyone can stop it.

Kenn Orphan, January 2022

*Photo is of signs at the rally opposing the Convoy.