We Tried: Kind Of

I read an article a while ago somewhere on the web entitled something like “What Happened to My Country?” (referring to the US, but the same question could be asked by pretty much anyone anywhere the US has managed to colonise in one way or another) and while I agreed that there might be more than a few others asking themselves that same question, I had to admit that any reasonable appraisal of what our country might have been has been answered by any number of researchers and historical figures who have pointed out that the United States, in spite of its rhetoric, has never been a place of which one could be proud.

For most of its history, from the moment the first Europeans stepped ashore on what is now known as North America, it has represented the absolute worst tendencies of the human race. There is nothing revolutionary about genocide. Every empire, since time immemorial, has used this barbaric means of theft. You can give it any label you want, discuss the various “-isms” that may or may not have justified outright murder and theft, but it comes down to, in my opinion, something very simple: The Few against The Rest. And that isn’t very profound, nor should it be news to anyone.

The situation in the US, and ever more so in The West (or its vassal states, wherever they may be) in general, has become so toxic (in every sense of the word), and dangerous to The Few, that they no longer even attempt to hide their disdain for the rabble. Major crimes of all sorts go unpunished. They simply do what they want to. Right out in the open, as if to say, “Whatcha gonna do about it, huh?”

They’ve managed to divide what could be an international coalition of peace-loving people into distinct socio-political straight- jackets, fighting amongst themselves for the right to lead what’s left of The Left or The Right (there’s little difference these days), an exclusionary and divisive tactic that has largely succeeded.

A lot of people (most people, probably) think that the internet, and social media in general, have been a boon to society. I tend to disagree for a number of reasons.

(1) Speed kills. Whether you drive too fast or indulge in the chemical known under that name, there’s a good chance you’ll end up dead or physically or mentally handicapped.

With optic fibre and constant increases in the speed of wireless communications, we are inundated (overloaded?) with information. And I would reckon that most of it is pretty much useless. How many updates do we need, for example, on the lives of celebrities, on Trump’s latest mood, or even the suffering of the Palestinians or Yemenis?

In the first case, who cares what celebrities are up to? They don’t care what you think.

In the second case, it’s just The Donald being The Donald, even though now he’s President.

In the third case, we’ve known about the plight of the Palestinians since 1948 and no one seems to care. At least not enough people to inculpate/stop the Israeli slow genocide.

So what good has all this instantaneousness provided? I’d say not much. Since the inception of the internet, aside from an initial buzz in the public sphere, its monetisation has pretty much destroyed any hopes the same public had for the Net, and has gone the way of most “technological miracles”. Into the hands of a tiny elite, and their acolytes, their “good little Eichmanns”, whose only goal is to become rich.

If you think about “speed” in the mechanical sense, it’s the result of the compression of molecules which creates heat which creates “work”. It’s a desireable outcome if it eliminates arduous tasks. Or so they say. But at what price? Or cost, if you prefer. Economists refer to these costs as “externalities”. I refer to them as “collateral damage”. Neither the bankers nor the bombers give a rat’s ass about these externalities, the peripheral damage done by their choices. See Nick Davies about the bombers, Michael Hudson (or Paul Craig Roberts, the Galbraiths, Bill Black, or any other not bought, honest economist) about the bankers.

If you consider the idea of the compression of molecules relative to the number of people on the planet, you might get the idea that too many people in a finite place might cause the same kind of combustion that occurs when molecules are compressed in the cylinder of an automobile motor. It’s called an explosion. I don’t particularly want to be part of something like that. At least in the physical sense. Which leads to a second point.

(2) Continual or constant growth. The idea behind Ponzi schemes and a core tenet of capitalism.

Ponzi schemes are pretty simple. Promise investors above average returns, and as long as you attract a continued increase in investors, you can pay the previous investors the promised returns with the money coming from the new investors. Until the number of new investors declines or, in the vernacular, until the shit hits the fan. Ask Bernie Madoff.

Capitalism is a big subject, to say the least. The Canadian film, The Corporation, gives a pretty good idea of the psychopathic nature of capitalism, its total disregard for anything resembling a humane way of looking at, and participating in, the world. And it, too, is based on continual/constant growth: the very characteristics of a cancer.


One of the reasons I’m writing this is that I’m finally coming to realise that I really no longer believe that all this speed, all this “stuff”, all this screen gazing is going anywhere good. I have the privilege, being retired and able to spend rather quite a bit of time in this hamlet, without TV, of having to face myself and the small things that affect my daily life.

For example, there are days when I don’t speak with anyone, except for an occasional word with the lizards who inhabit the cracks and crannies of the stone walls of this two hundred year old house and become less and less timorous as the season progresses. Or several kinds of birds who frequent the place, flying in and out of the open windows (mostly swallows), or the plants in the vegetable garden. Of course, there are no replies, except in the form of a strange complicity, or so I imagine. The lizards quickly gather at the stone sink on the terrace when I fill the slight depression with water. The birds nest and sing. The garden grows, the flowers bloom, the bees provide a humming background to it all.

The other day, as I sat in the shade of the open shed roof after lunch, I came across a passage in the book I was reading, Ma Provence d’heureuse rencontre, by Pierre Magnan, that struck me as being pretty appropriate in these times. I’ll cite the original, in French, then attempt a translation.

Venez respirer Forcalquier quand la nuit tombe. Vous y gagnerez à ses terrasses la vacuité de l’âme qui convient au repos et je crois qu’à partir d’ici vous serez à même de comprendre pourquoi ce pays me convient et pourquoi, y étant admis, je peux en toute quiétude être atteint d’incuriosité totale pour le reste du monde.

Come breathe Forcalquier at nightfall. Its terraces offer a sense of existential peace and quiet and I believe that from here you might be able to understand why this place appeals to me and why, once accepted, I can easily become infected by a total lack of curiosity for the rest of the world.
— Pierre Magnan, Ma Provence d’heureuse rencontre, Denoël, 2005

Now, if I could just convince Odette to lend me a couple of sheep to trim the grass.


13 September 2018

That was three months ago, and Odette never agreed to lend me the sheep. Our veering out of control, make believe world had left me pretty much speechless until I came across the Beattie piece cited below, along with other stuff by Paul Haeder, John Steppling, Robert Hunziker, and Ed Curtin.

So as a post-scriptum, I added the following.

10 September 2018


Missy Beattie had a piece this weekend about the frustration involved in writing just about anything having to do with the US these days, using the refrain “words get in the way”. And while I’m just another old guy with a need to scribble, I think I get what she means.

The opportunity for changing things has come and gone. Raised in a world divorced from reality, it took us way too long to realise that we’d been had, that too many of us were too comfortable to go beyond our feeble, non-threatening protests and demonstrations, or to join those who did put their lives on the line for a chance at change.

In other words, we blew it. Thus our frustration and anguish at what could have been had we been more courageous.

We can still send a message, however late it might be. We can create a huge BDS movement against the media and retail giants who are taking control of pretty much everything simply to let them know that we’re on to their game. But I sincerely wonder how many screen-gazers are inclined to go into detox. On the other hand, if Robert Hunziker isn’t crazy, we probably don’t have enough time remaining to do much of anything since our Planet is just about ready to get rid of us.

Thus our frustration and anguish at our own stupidity and cowardice. And yet here I sit in this fifty person hamlet, tapping away at this ecocidal device, trying to make sense of it all. It would probably be better to simply find a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and put a message in a bottle: “We tried. Kind of.”

Steve Church is a former teacher, skipper, and sheep herder living in France. Email him at: steve.church@orange.fr. Read other articles by Steve, or visit Steve's website.