Monday, January 25, 2021

Stop the Lucrative Cruelty in Yemen

There was an online rally with some impressive speeches about the war on Yemen today, what Yanis Varoufakis referred as a form of "lucrative cruelty." Here's the full video, and below are some of the words I found most impactful.

Biden was front and center when the US got involved in 2015 as the US war machine aided a unilateral attack on Yemen led by Saudi Arabia and UAE with American military support. Trump made it all much worse, but Biden is back with promises to stop it. (A good run-down of the beginning is here by Al-Adeimi.) "Biden needs to stop the logistical, intelligence, and military support to Saudis and lift the blockade so food and medical services can enter Yemen" (Ro Khanna). 

A third of bombing missions strike hit non-military targets, and 9.5 million children have no access to water, food, or basic sanitation (Finucane).

Ahmed Al-Babati, a soldier who was arrested for protesting the war, said we "must sacrifice our comfort for others' survival."

Cornel West gave an impassioned speech linking the police murders in the US with Wall Street crime and the Pentagon militarism. "It doesn't matter the color or gender of the President or Vice President. The poor, the workers, the hungry, must be the center of their focus."

Esa Mighty followed that with some spoken word that is worth hearing at 27 minutes in. 

Daniele Obono: "It's complicated, but not inevitable. These are the fruits of political choices. Don't complicate what is simple. 250,000 are dead. 80% are living in poverty. Two-thirds depend on aid."

Shireen Al-Adeimi: "In Canada, we need to stop arms manufacturing in London, Ontario [GM Defense]. In the U.S., Biden must lift the blockades. Every ten minutes a child under five is starved to death."

Jeremy Corbyn ended it: "$90 billion of arms have been sold to Saudi Arabia, and even more to neighbouring countries. We must act to stop the supply. In the U.S. Senate, Sanders helped passed the War Powers Resolution. In Britain, the government refused to act, but a lawsuit suspended sales temporarily. But the War Powers Act is not enough. It means that parliament can decide IF we go to war. Profits are being made from the killing of children. . . . We need a global movement with the confidence of a vision of a world without conflict. The U.S. can afford anything except levels of inequality that exist. . . . No child's life should be ended by bombs raining down on them from worldwide companies."

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Freedom at Any Cost

I believe it's not a coincidence that the UK, US, and much of Canada - the trio that promoted neoliberal free market politics - are not doing enough to restrict the spread of Covid. The rightwing in our countries (and some centre and left players) still act on the dogmatic ideology of freedom at ANY cost, so they're loathe to restrict hours of business. And God forbid they affect profits.

Reading George Monbiot's Guardian article today has strong parallels with a review of Timothy Snyder's latest book, Our Malady, about American healthcare system. And they could both be talking about Ford's treatment of Ontario.

Monbiot on Johnson:

"Here's the chilling, remarkable thing that should be inscribed on everyone's minds: there is no plan. . . . A government with any level of competence would have explained from the outset where we need to be before it lifts this lockdown. It might have stated what the R number should be. . . . It would have committed not to end the lockdown until such conditions have been met. . . . Without a plan, we are likely to remain trapped in a perpetual cycle of emergency followed by suppression. . . . From the outset, the government has tried to persuade us that there's a trade-off between protecting public health and protecting our social and economic lives. But there is no trade-off. . . . Every week brings a new scandal, as the government shows a generosity towards profit-seeking corporations that's not extended to the rest of the population. . . . But if you get the system right, you free the nation from both uncontrolled disease and lockdowns. This is the lesson from Taiwan. . . . The government could have used the first two lockdowns and the school holidays to carry out an emergency refurbishment programme in schools, fitting them with ventilation . . . Astonishingly, it did nothing."

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Painting for Community

 I did these fun little puzzle pieces as part of a local community initiative, "Belonging Together," with the aim of an ever-expanding mural from people across the region. I based all mine on photos from my neighbourhood. It's likely the last creative thing I'll do for fun before diving into online teaching. 

Gertz's Nihilism

A year after coming out with Nihilism and Technology, Dr. Nolen Gertz wrote just plain Nihilism, an "examination of the meaning of meaninglessness: why it matters that nothing matters." It's a really short book, but it took a while to wade through it all. Here it all is even more briefly assembled with my own understanding here and there.

We typically think of nihilism as very simply meaning, "we believe in nothing" (4), but he counters that from the start with the polar opposite definition of Russian nihilism via Wendell Phillips in 1881: "the righteous and honorable resistance of a people crushed under an iron rule . . . the last weapon of victims choked and manacled beyond all other resistance" (2),  and then takes us through Western philosophy to get to a view that, "Nihilism is about evading reality rather than confronting it, about believing in other worlds rather than accepting this one, and about trying to make ourselves feel powerful rather than admitting our own weaknesses" (73).


I didn't love this epistemology section, but the book picks up speed afterwards. 

First, on Socrates, Descartes, and Hume and nihilism via our inability to know stuff: Anti-nihilists "inspire others to question and ultimately reject the foundations of their beliefs" (21). Socrates (a social reformer) provoked people to question everything. Then Descartes (a self-reformer) warned that can lead to "inextricable darkness" (21). "For Descartes we embrace illusions because our reach exceeds our grasp, because our desire to know (the will) exceeds our power to know (the intellect)" (22). Then he gets to Hume's fork: For Hume, we can only know things we experience directly and things that are true by definition, and, Hume famously said, all else must be committed to the flames, so  "supporting an idea may not be so different from supporting a sports team" (25). Gertz's conclusion so far: "From a Socratic perspective, nihilism can be overcome by enlightenment. From a Cartesian perspective, nihilism can be overcome by self-restraint. But from a Humean perspective, nihilism cannot be overcome. It is simply a product of human psychology" (28).