ABOUT YOU FACEBOOK PEOPLE

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ABOUT YOU FACEBOOK PEOPLE

Much as I hate FACEBOOK, I have learned much about people from it. There is a very wide variety among you, which should be obvious because there is such a wide variety of individual types within our common species: homo sapiens.

But also, I took the policy of being fairly liberal in who I accepted as “friends” (and FACEBOOK labeling has so desecrated that noble word) with the result that my FACEBOOK contacts are quite varied even though I, like everyone else, have definite preferences as to the kinds of people I want as (“to”) “friend.” So from all of you and your associated contacts who post comments, I get to see a wide swathe of human types: good, mediocre, innocuous and irrelevant.

Who is who I never say because I have a policy of not making personal characterizations, which either are or could be taken as insults. Everybody takes themselves to be the measure of “reasonableness” and their opinions, especially political opinions, to be the measure of “correctness” and “accuracy.” I am no different in that regard, though I do try to be conscious of my own “settings” to try to avoid fooling myself when evaluating new information, since it could possibly teach me something new and worthwhile.

I attribute this last cautionary attitude to both a natural inclination and to my long years of rigorous training in the sciences (the real sciences), the scientific method (European Enlightenment thinking), and many years of actual scientific investigation (and with mathematics and physics). As a result, I find most of what you’all post to vary from logical, well-documented and erudite, to pathetically self-centered and idiotic.

I remind myself that many people are afflicted, lonely, poorly educated, and have unfilled emotional and psychological needs, and their FACEBOOK posts may mask cries for help and solicitations for acceptance and compassion, and just be outbursts of sorrowful anger and frustration. I avoid poking into all postings that initially strike me as stupid and pathetic, because they may be harboring deeper layers of emotional murkiness that their breezy superficiality does not hint at.

All of this informs my policy on “unfriending.” Basically, I only do that when I have finally decided that an individual is irredeemably tiresome, or insulting, or obdurately stupid beyond what their innate intellectual capabilities should allow for. It is so much easier to just ignore such people until (and if) they become insufferable, and in that way I can avoid being unnecessarily hurtful. As to me being “friended” and/or “unfriended,” you’all can do as you like.

Long ago I learned that people believe what they want to believe because those chosen beliefs let them feel good about themselves. Belief is emotional because the chosen beliefs are taken to be ego-defining, and hence people become very defensive, even quite hostile, when you challenge their “ideas” because they take such criticisms as attacks on their egos — on their actual being. This can be avoided between interlocutors disciplined in the scientific method, because they know that their ideas are not “them,” they are separate abstract constructs. Such constructs are retained as long as they are practically and morally useful — that is, validated by objective reality — and discarded when found to be erroneous, and improved constructs can be adopted. But most dialogs on FACEBOOK are of the intellectually undisciplined emotive-reactive type. So the best responses are most often none.

The postings I find most interesting deal with societal and political issues, with art, music, literature and photography, with Nature and our grand geophysical context, and with deep insights into human psychology and the human experience. A small sprinkling of trivial amusements is also enjoyable. I don’t expect others to share my interests, but I find others more interesting if they do.

From my perspective, the most important political struggle in the world today is that between “Democracy” and “Fascism.” By “democracy” I mean secular societies of wide inclusiveness and with a high degree of personal freedom/liberty, and which are organized under government regimes that are democratic/parliamentarian, and have a significant portion of their domestic policy being that of a social-welfare state (the more the better) and with as little corruption as possible. By “fascism” I mean the exact opposite of “democracy.”

The next most important political struggle in the world today is that between “Socialism” and “Capitalism.” By “socialism” I mean that the entirety of the state apparatus and the economic paradigm of its society are organized for the benefit of ALL its people, without regard to the desires of economic special interests for preferential treatment and exclusionary protections to give them a “leg up” in their self-aggrandizing contentiousness. By “capitalism” I mean governments owned by an agglomeration of corporate and financial institutions, and managed by the collective political arms of those organized capital interests, primarily for the benefit of the self-aggrandizing activities of those capitalist institutions and the careerists manning (and ‘womanning’) them.

Most of the nation-states in the world today are capitalist (I can’t think of a purely socialist one, except perhaps Cuba), and some of the capitalist nation-states are more “democratic” and some are more “fascist.” From my perspective, and broadly speaking because all nation-states are flawed to some degree, The United States, Latin America and Western Europe are primarily democratic, while Russia under Vladimir Putin is fascist, Syria under the al-Assad family dictatorship is fascist, and China is authoritarian, which for me is equivalent to fascism. Authoritarian regimes are also common elsewhere in the world, and they always include oppressed populations, sometimes even of majority numbers, but segregated by ethnicity, or religion, or physiological attributes (a.k.a., “race”), or language, or relative and enforced poverty. The ultimate logic of fascism is genocide (“The ultimate logic of racism is genocide” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).

So, I see struggle #1 as Democracy versus Fascism, and struggle #2 as Socialism versus Capitalism.

The singular existential threat of planetary scale and of alarming immediacy that we face today is human-caused Global Warming Climate Change. I have written volumes about this since 2003, but that is no longer necessary. In the last two or three years, the last shreds of climate change ‘denialism’ have all fallen away. Everybody now accepts the fact that global warming is reality, but humanity has yet to do anything real in response to it. So both fossil fuel use and the average global temperature keep rising at accelerating rates.

The only effective response to tamp down global warming, and in the ideal to permanently stop emitting carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, would necessarily have to be a cooperative and coordinated worldwide effort. In order for such an effort to be mounted and sustained indefinitely, it would be necessary to equalize the standard of living around the world, so as to offer all people everywhere an equivalent degree of protection from economic hardship and natural disasters, and to equitably tax all people around the world for the resources needed to maintain our linked programs of environmental preservation. In essence, we need World Socialism in order to be able to effectively counteract Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC).

The immediate reaction by “the rich” on hearing this is: “you want to take wealth, luxury and comfort away from us to pay for poor people,” and the immediate reaction by those “poor people” is: “we are suffering the brunt of this deadly climate change, which you are causing, so you owe us!” But ‘we are not all in it together,’ so the rich will continue to claw fossil fuels out of the Earth and burn them up because that is the source of their physical, and thus military, and thus financial power, and therefore of their overall political power domestically and internationally; and the poor will continue to seek to acquire fossil fuels and burn them up because that is the quickest way to move themselves out of grinding poverty, brute labor, and lives of precarious survival. Because the idea of worldwide human solidarity is too challenging and too frightening for most, we are relegated to a fractious “law of the jungle” (and actually the animals of the jungles are not as unnecessarily bestial as narcissistic humans can be).

Therefore, in order to have any chance of slowing and ultimately stopping Global Warming Climate Change we first need to have World Socialism, or a high degree of it; and before we can develop that we need a predominantly democratic world, because socialism will never emerge from a world strangled by fascism’s grip.

That is why the support for the Ukrainians’s defensive war against Russian aggression driven by Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy is so important. Defense of Ukraine is of course essential to protect the lives, culture, and liberty of individual Ukrainians and of their nation-state, but it is also important in the defense of democracy generally against the attacks on it by fascism. There are many places around the globe besides Ukraine where that struggle is taking place, Palestine, Syria, Myanmar easily come to mind, but at the moment Ukraine is a particularly intense flashpoint in that struggle that has galvanized much world public attention (including mine).

My contention is that the global “we” — especially in its most privileged nation-states — should do our best to support and arm the Ukrainians, and other oppressed people facing similar existential threats from fascist aggression, to help liberate them, and then expand those initially bilateral bonds of human solidarity into a broader international bond of human solidarity that is democratic and then socialist (as I have characterized those terms). In that way we erode the extent of fascism while expanding the domain of social justice and moral humanism, and simultaneously increase the extent and effectiveness of humanity’s Global Warming Climate Change counteractions.

To say that this is idealistic and impractical in our realpolitik civilization is simply to make excuses for preferring to sink into ignominious defeatism and dishonorable opportunism. There is no shame in ultimately failing to reach our desired goal in this tiered and multi-faceted global struggle, there is only shame and dishonor in failing to give that struggle our best collective efforts and to continue them.

Novalis paraphrased Herakleitos’s observation on the karmic drift of the unexamined life, as “Character is fate,” but it is important to realize that the nature of that personal moral character can be defined by the kind of fate one seeks to aim at by intentional actions. The world that humans inhabit never passively nor spontaneously improves (or not for long at least), but the worst possibilities can be prevented, and the sporadic catastrophes can be helpfully responded to after the fact, when the global we is more integrated through bonds of human solidarity: democratic socialism.

So all that goes into my thinking as to the value of my posts, and of yours, on FACEBOOK, not that I have any illusions that any of our posts actually “change people’s minds” (you can only do that for yourself, in reaction to your experiences in life), let alone influence the potentates and “change our world.” But we can stimulate each other’s thinking by what we choose to share on “social media,” and some of that might lead us each to reexamine prior assumptions, and even possibly decide to replace some of them with new and improved idea-constructs. In that way we improve ourselves.

So that is how I go about using FACEBOOK, and why, and how I view you’all in general.

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’Stateless’, an Australian Television Drama about Refugee Detention

’The Trojan Women,’ a play by Euripides, was first performed in Athens 2,436 years ago at the height of the disastrous Peloponnesian War. It is considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter of its men and the enslavement of its women by the Athenians earlier that year, 415 BCE.

This play focuses on four women awaiting their fates after the fall of Troy (~1,200 BCE, in northwest Turkey near the Dardanelles): Hecuba (the wife of the slain king, Priam), Cassandra (the beautiful virginal daughter of Priam and Hecuba, who was blessed and then cursed by a lustful Apollo, with having a gift of prophesy none would listen to), Andromache (the wife of the great Trojan hero, Hector, who was slain by Achilles), and Helen (the Achaean queen and wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, who ran off with Paris to Troy, and which elopement was the purported cause for the Achaeans’s war against Troy).

The three Trojan women would all be made concubines and slaves by the Achaeans (mainland Greeks), and Helen returned to Menelaus. Because the Greeks wanted to ensure there would be no surviving male heir to the Trojan throne, they took Astyanax, the infant son of Hector and Andromache and the grandson of Priam and Hecuba, up to the high parapet of Troy and tossed him down to his death on the rocks below.

In 5th and 4th Century BCE Athens, the playwrights were known as poets and called teachers, and in ’The Trojan Woman’ Euripides was desperately and dramatically striving to teach the Athenians that the horrors of the Peloponnesian War were destroying the soul of their society, and that they should find ways of extricating their city-state from the war. His vehicle to convey that larger message to the Athenians was this dramatization of the final days in the death of the Trojan city-state eight centuries earlier (if in fact it was a single real historical event), as told in Greek myths recounted by legendary poets like Homer and his many forgotten colleagues.

’Stateless’, an Australian 6-part television series that was launched in 2020, is about a refugee and ‘illegal immigrant’ detention center, and strikes me as being similar to ‘The Trojan Woman’ as a societal teaching drama. It is both a searing depiction full of human and political insights about the current refugee crisis in Australia, as well as a close analogy for similar tragic realities along the US-Mexican border, in Libya and southern Italy, in Syria and the Greek Islands; and in other places where minorities and disfavored ‘others’ live precariously without stable statehood and are internally displaced or incarcerated, as in Syria, ‘Kurdistan’, Palestine, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The writers of ’Stateless’, Elise McCredie and Belinda Chayko have done a magnificent job. The directors, Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse have made an absorbing and compelling visual work (https://www.netflix.com/title/81206211).

How many refugees are there around the world? The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR (https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html) states that: “At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. At [this] time 1 in every 95 people on earth has fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.”

We must add that the deleterious effects of climate change — crop failures and lack of drinking water from extended droughts, and the loss of land, housing and employment due to violent weather and flooding — has also spurred refugee streams.

Those refugee streams flow out of the tropical and sub-tropical latitudes: from Africa northward across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, up from Central America and Mexico and across the Caribbean Sea to North America, southward from Eastern Asia to Australia, and from the arid interior of the Middle East westward toward the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.

Americans, Europeans and Australians see these refugee streams as incoming waves of impoverished humanity comprised of dark-skinned people with cultures, mind frames and languages vastly different from their own, and thus a threat to American, European and Australian prosperity, and their existing ethnic balances, if too large an influx. We must realize that these refugee streams course back up along the gradients of wealth leading from the Global South to the Global North (and Australia), propelled by the pent up pressure of economic disparity created by over half a millennium of conquest and imperialism with over three centuries of slavery, by the White people of the north: the Europeans and the descendants of their American and other colonists.

The Australian television series ’Stateless’ is composed of a weave of four sub-plots, each about a person caught up in and then piteously twisted to the breaking point by the day-to-day reality of escalating crisis in the asylum-seeker Braxton Detention Center. All these stories are based on actual case histories. Threatened men and women become refugees and are driven to acts of desperation, they are victimized, families are torn apart, some eventually find sanctuary while many others languish indefinitely or perish. Low-level workers in the host countries looking to hang onto paychecks are shoved by higher level bureaucrats and policy-makers to go in and do the dirty work of “keeping a lid on” and also “making it look good for the public.” And the sanctimonious of all stripes on the outside are more often than not “virtue signaling” for their own ego boosts, than having any useful empathy for all the individuals mired in the toxic tangle of “the system.”

One story in ‘Stateless’ is based on the real case of Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman citizen who was emotionally disturbed at the time and who was inadvertently — and unlawfully — incarcerated by the Australian government’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), and held for 10 months during 2004-2005 under the country’s mandatory detention policy for refugees, until Cornelia was traced to Braxton by a relative, and correctly identified and released to a hospital.

Another sub-plot focuses on an Afghani family fleeing the Taliban, being cheated and robbed by criminal human traffickers in Pakistan, being separated while attempting to make the perilous sea voyage to Australia in rickety boats, with the survivors eventually finding each other at Braxton. But the effort of the Afghani father to gain entry visas for his surviving family proves to be a very heartbreaking and essentially impossible effort. Despite some commendable humanitarian impulses by Australian workers tasked with maintaining the day-to-day operations of the center, and of some right-minded procedures embedded in the immigration policy, that policy is nevertheless largely fueled by a great deal of officially mandated bigotry and prejudice.

The conflict between offering a welcoming humanitarian response to the desperation of the trapped refugees terrified of being deported back to certain death, and the politically motivated mandates from the central government to maintain this bureaucratic structure for continuing exclusion, and without arousing public attention to it, is personified by the story of the woman appointed as the new director of the center. She is emotionally torn apart by the inherent cruelty of the job, and her political expendability to the remote higher-ups.

The last of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ centers on a local rural freelance mechanic who seeks to leave precarity behind and support his young family with a steady paycheck earned working as a ‘prison’ guard at the detention center — though he is instructed that it is a refugee center and not a prison since its residents, despite having no freedom of motion, have not been placed there for the commission of crimes. This individual is a good-hearted fellow who quickly comes under unrelenting strain because of his repulsion at the cruelty toward unruly refugees by a sadistic guard, and because of the numerous requirements for him to perform rough enforcement actions on people exhibiting outbursts of anger, fear and madness. Both the emotional and physical traumas sustained in doing his job while trying to thread the needle between the frayed edges of UNHCR compassionate supervision of a precarious population, and the barbed razor sharp edges of bureaucratically enforced nationalism, nearly deaden his heart and rip apart his family.

Each of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ is populated with many supporting characters who enrich the presentation, and the entire ensemble presents the full spectrum of human experiences that take place in the turbulent focal point of mixing-nonmixing between Australian society and Asian refugees at the Braxton Detention Center.

The ultimate solution to the world’s refugee crisis is so far out of view: ending all wars to establish a lasting world peace, and ensuring intelligent economic development up to decent standards everywhere so that people can remain in their countries with their families experiencing physical and economic security and good health down through the generations. Achieving these conditions would obviate the need for anyone to become a refugee and seek foreign asylum.

Yes, this is idealistic (naïvely so?, impossibly?), like wanting equitable worldwide cooperation to stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions so as to tamp down the acceleration of global warming. But neither of these ideals is intrinsically impossible to actualize, and that is why the continuation of the refugee and climate crises are such tragedies: they are fundamentally unnecessary sorrows, open and festering wounds on the body of humanity.

What we have today is a compounded system of exploitation through tiered victimhood, a system commanded by über capitalists and nationalistic warlords living luxuriant lives, and served by hierarchical cascades of lower level petty boss bureaucrats, their functionaries, and in turn their laborers and armed enforcers. This system is so abhorrent that Nature itself has abandoned us, and is trying to burn us off the land and wash us away into the seas and oceans we have thoughtlessly poisoned with our wastes. An added cruelty to this accelerating rejection of humanity by Nature is that those who are suffering now, and first, and will suffer the most from the increasing hostility of Earth’s climatic conditions to human life are the people of the Global South (the Third World), the regions from which today’s refugee streams emerge, the poorest of Earth’s people, those who lead the most precarious lives, and those who contributed the least to the creation of the global climate crisis.

Coda: a Meditation on ’Stateless’

Must I have a stone heart to preserve a sane mind in a world of pure suffering I am luckily insulated from — for now? How does one combat compassion fatigue and empathy burnout? Does one sink into survivor’s guilt for blamelessly being born lucky?; for living in a bubble of comfort, freedom and justice that is much rarer than one had previously imagined?; and that seems to be diminishing by national policy out of view of its lucky inhabitants confident in their unawareness? But of those lucky people who do become aware, how do they survive and stay human without deadening their souls? We have become a race of monomaniacal blind cyclopses raging about our freedoms because we cannot conceive of anything beyond our own frustrated infantile selfishness. Becoming aware of the sufferings of others is the first step in the very long journey of personal redemption. That journey has many perils, and no one completes it unscathed.

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