Tag Archives: Islamophobia

Resistance in an Age of Absurdity

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

 

From an incessant flow of paranoid tweets to bizarre statements about massacres that never happened or secret cameras fitted in microwaves, Donald Trump’s regime has ushered the unhinged spectacle of reality show television right into the Oval Office with stunning success.  Were this absurdity to be contained within the confines of a political thriller it might be mildly entertaining.  But in the real world, a world in which real civilians are being blown to bits by smart bombs, real children are starving to death, real refugees are being turned back to face certain death, and where the real biosphere is perilously close to the edge of catastrophe, this derangement is utterly terrifying.

 

Trump is a master at manipulating the corporate media via the manufacture of controversy and melodrama.  Of course the irony is that the very same broadcasting behemoths he routinely demonizes provide his unhinged theatrics with non stop coverage which, in turn, has given them unprecedented ratings and profits.  But behind the spectacle lurks a far more insidious method to this madness.  In a mere three months the Trump regime has managed to replace the heads of institutions like the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with individuals who wish to dismantle them.  He has codified racist xenophobia through executive orders which ban Muslims and persecute undocumented immigrants. And through his elevation of white supremacist Steven Bannon to astonishing power, he has animated the latent white nationalist movement.

The Trump regime has also demonstrated its eager willingness to expand the war machine of American Empire, pouring billions of dollars into an already bloated military industrial sector while gutting social and medical services.   In this short time Trump’s militarism has empowered the Pentagon and has claimed the lives of scores of men, women and children from Syria, to Yemen, to Iraq, and it is only just ramping up.   There is also little to cast doubt on the prospect of wars and military conflicts involving China, North Korea and Iran in the not too distant future given the administration’s unhinged saber rattling and provocation.

 

His appointment of former ExxonMobil executive, Rex Tillerson, to the State Department signifies a blatant display of the influence of the fossil fuel industry in regard to US foreign and domestic policy.  Tillerson presided over the company in the 1970s, a period in which the oil giant launched massive campaigns to deny its own research which confirmed human caused global warming.  Trump’s recent executive order related to climate change delivered a blow to reason.  It was meant to.  His absurdist view that it is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese is a hallmark of his risible ignorance and, remarkably, still has currency in many conspiratorially minded circles.  But in this Age of Absurdity facts and the truth itself have become the first victims.

As a resurgent fascism stands poised to sweep over the West we can expect increasing brutality against dissent; and it would be foolish to think the repercussions of this would remain localized.  We will be increasingly asked to choose between compliance with monstrous state repression or bold resistance. The protests which have sprung up against the onslaught of misogynistic and xenophobic polices have been encouraging to see, but there are already a slew of laws in the works designed to stifle direct action. And the Democratic Party establishment is not interested, nor is it equipped to offer up any kind of meaningful resistance since it has acquiesced to the demands and interests of Wall Street, corporations and the war industry long ago. Their role has been one of normalizing the ruthless exploits of global capitalism.  Indeed, the Clinton and Obama administrations championed the brutality of neoliberal capitalism and weakened civil liberties and gutted social safety nets for the poor while deporting millions of undocumented immigrants and bolstering the imperialistic war machine.  

 

If there is anyone to look to in these dark times for inspiration it would be the ongoing struggles of Black Lives Matter, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), and Standing Rock Sioux which largely began during the previous administration and are international in scope.  These movements have endured and weathered police and state intimidation, brutality, violence and arrest; and it is their fortitude and integrity which offers us all a living example of how bold we will need to be in the face of an ever more oppressive tyranny.  They were born of the historic struggles of indigenous peoples against colonialism, police brutality and environmental racism.  And with the perilous times that lie ahead solidarity with them is needed now more than ever before.

Thanks to the convergence of a climate ravaged world and a fragile biosphere that is teetering on collapse and extinction, the global despotism rising today will be unlike anything we have ever seen before.  The flames of nationalism and xenophobia will be fanned by fascists who will ride a rising and unfortunate tide of climate chaos.   They will use famine, austerity and social unrest and uncertainty to justify brutal authoritarianism, repression and state violence; and they will have no problem employing chicanery, scapegoating and dehumanization to achieve their end.  Indeed, their embrace of absurdity, or its pretense, is their strength.

 

In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt said: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”    The more fascists are permitted to make a mockery of justice, humanity and protection of the living earth, the more easy it will be for them to manipulate the deepest fears and prejudices of the public.  They will continue to launch mendacious smears against climate scientists, assault the poor and the most vulnerable, advance racism, expand war and militarism, disparage the press, and promote the inversion of reality to their favor even as the planet burns.   And if we continue to allow them to bend the arc of truth we will most assuredly see truth itself begin to die.   Our resistance to tyranny begins the day we refuse to allow this to happen on our watch.

 

Kenn Orphan 2017

Beware, the Misanthrope

There is, perhaps, no sadder or more dangerous a thing than when misanthropy overcomes the human heart.  It is a malady no less deadly than cancer, and when it is allowed to fester too long it claims the soul itself.  The body may follow but often not for many bitter sodden years.  It begins quite innocently with otherizing, but moves rapidly to full blown demonizing and dehumanization. Throughout the process it whittles away empathy for the suffering or plight of others and denudes a person of their capacity for solidarity with the oppressed.

Misanthropy is like a drug.  Seeing the world with all of its innumerable sufferings, the cruelty, personal failings, the destruction of the living earth by our species, and our dire, collective trajectory can create a deep anger toward our fellow human beings and a longing for separation from the pain. But instead of channeling that anger toward a greater love many succumb to the strong temptation to hatred of the other.  It enables an illusion of supremacy making it intoxicating, at least for a while.
Rohingya Refugees Source The GuardianThe ones who elevate it to an art form, or use it for entertainment, or employ it for success in politics or business or career, will often entice mobs or crowds of other misanthropes or the disaffected or alienated to follow them. Feeling quite empty themselves people are often drawn to the swoon of incendiary screeds, pitchforks and trials against a much needed scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong in the world.  It has the power to kill movements for justice, extinguish the desire for a more equitable or decent world, or even sweep entire societies into the maw of maniacal totalitarianism.

In truth, we all have misanthropic feelings or thoughts on any given day. We can and should look at what is happening and be realistic about our situation. We can and should criticize our actions and apathy. We can even come to accept, as I have, the possibility that the human species may not survive given our trajectory. But the hardcore misanthrope sees the suffering of the world and the failings of human beings and instead of choosing solidarity with them, they choose its opposite.

women-prisoners-at-auschwitz-1944-photo-source-the-holocaust-museum

In the dark days ahead humanity will likely see the rise of a myriad of misanthropes each vying for one last bit of attention. They will seize on the chaos of a biosphere in peril and the collapse of economies and empires. The despot and the tyrant will use this kind of hatred for their own ends; but far more insidious are the misanthropes within the masses; for they may decry hypocrisy and damn the powerful for their excesses, hubris or murderous legacy; but in an instant they will turn on their comrades, allies or followers.  To the hardcore misanthrope all disagreement or dissent from their worldview is cause for suspicion and scorn.  And this has the potential to turn to marginalization, banishment or even extermination.

Refugees waiting for hours to cross the border to Macedonia. Photo by Erik Marquardt.

Many of them will inflame emotions and suggest or encourage violence by innuendo or spreading scandals and falsehoods dressed up as truth.  And this has the tendency to pave the way for atrocities, pogroms and genocide.  Others will suck the oxygen out of dissent faster than any state crackdown could via invective, indifference or indignation at the struggles of ordinary people to make a difference in the world around them.  Some will tap into base passions and bigotries, others will dress up their contempt in pseudo-intellectualism, and will insert doubt, derision and ridicule into discourse in order to demoralize and dampen the spirit of resistance.  A few are looked at as leaders of a movement even while they crush the soul of it under their heel.  And much of this is done without them being even barely conscious of their motives or impact.   Make no mistake, though, the seasoned misanthrope garnishes a similar pleasure from inflicting misery or doling out abuse as the sadist.  All of them are menacing specters to our species and are to be pitied.

But beware.  If we countenance their cynicism for too long we will most assuredly court our own doom.

Kenn Orphan 2017

One Dark Night in Orlando

Practically any member of the LGBTQ community understands the power and sense of place that the night club holds.  It has always been a place where one can let down their guard for a few hours, dance like crazy with friends and feel the joy of being free.   All that was shattered in Orlando on Sunday, June 12, after a gunman opened fire in the crowded dance club “Pulse” in Orlando, Florida.   But it wasn’t just shattered there, it was shattered everywhere.

LGBTQ people, in whatever culture or society they belong to, identify with each other in very tangible ways.  Even in the most tolerant of societies it is dangerous and often lethal to be outward about ones sexuality in public.  Holding hands, kissing or dressing in accordance with your gender identity often leads to slurs, threats and violent assaults.  Most of these go unreported or are dismissed, but they occur every single day.   The club offered a sanctuary from the dangers of the street.  Now that has changed.

Grief following the massacre at Pulse dance club in Orlando Florida. Source APIn time the club will once again become a place of freedom and the joy of expression. But for now the global LGBTQ community is in mourning.  Every tragedy like this inhabits its own sphere of injustice, sorrow and pain; but they are related to one another in that they emerge from a common place, the dark underbelly of supremacist thinking.   This kind of thinking can unhinge a small few who may already struggle with mental illness and its stigma, and have relatively easy access to extremely lethal weapons.  But it is not limited to homophobia.  It is a vicious infection that fuels all paranoid bigotries, including Islamophobia.

In the aftermath of this tragedy Muslims from all over have come forward to denounce the actions of this man who self identified as being a Muslim.  They should not have had to do this since no one asks Christians or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus to denounce violence done in their names.  But many volunteered to assist with helping families and loved ones and many more gave blood for the victims even though it is the holy month of Ramadan and doing so meant not being able to replenish their bodies until after sundown.  It is this kind of solidarity that we must focus on.  It is this common humanity that we must choose to believe in.

Not in My Name, Muslims condemn Orlando attack.In the coming weeks and months this atrocity will be exploited by pundits and political leaders.  Indeed, it has already begun. The language of discrimination and bigotry is being employed to stoke fear and suspicion at home, and justify more war and military aggression abroad.  It is therefore imperative for people of conscience to expose the fear mongering for what it is and shun it.

The LGBTQ community is in shock.  It has witnessed unspeakable horror and it is hurting.  But it will heal.  And I have every confidence that it will emerge stronger and embrace its intrinsic humanity more than ever before.

Kenn Orphan 2016