There is an unfortunate tendency for our society to want everything now, immediately and on demand!
This results in ignoring chronological events, not understanding the complex nature of life and as such rendering one’s point of view fundamentally incomplete.
Please have a listen to the permanent representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations, Mr. Bashar Jaafari. This was recorded in 2014. The ground realities today in 2016 relate directly to the facts and events discussed below. You will need to ‘invest’ some of your time to actually understand what is happening today.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
(Speech given in Rome at the Italian Parliament on January 29, 2016)
Friends and Comrades, it is a great honor to be standing here – at the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament.
One year ago I was driving through the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, monitoring the situation in the refugee camps there. Winter was approaching and the mountains on the Lebanese–Syrian border were covered by snow. It was cold, very cold.
Some 20 minutes, after leaving Baalbek, I spotted an extremely humble makeshift refugee camp, growing literally from the road, in the middle of nowhere.
I stopped. Together with my interpreter, I walked inside and engaged several people in conversation.
The situation was desperate. Children were hungry and could not register for schools through the UNHCR or through the Lebanese government, which, by that time, had almost collapsed. Many electronic food cards that were issued to the migrants did not function. Work permits were not offered, and without proper paperwork, local social services could not be used. In brief: a total disaster.
I was told that in this area, some Syrian migrants had already been starving.
This was Bekaa Valley, a tough place to start with, and full of ancient traditions, clans, gangs and narcotic-business. Refugees were expected to keep their heads down, or else…
Before I left, two little girls, two sisters, approached me. Both had swollen bellies, suffering from malnutrition. Both were dressed in rugs. Both looked deprived.
But after spotting my cameras, they were mesmerized, smiling at me, showing tongues, laughing.
Their country was in ruins, their future uncertain.
But these were just two little girls in the middle of the mountains, two girls excited about each and every little detail of life. Such innocence! Such hope! People are people, and children are children, everywhere, even during wars.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed too many of them; too many wars. Too many barbarities performed by NATO, by the Empire, by the United States and Europe.
Today was a good day to be out and about in Auckland. A bouquet of human values was on display that is usually confined to that, overtly distorted, place called ‘personal space’ in this ever shrinking public space.
The protests in Auckland were anticipated by the vast majority of the population in this truly unique Island in the Pacific. There is an almost electrifying blend of people from all walks of life who came out to voice their dissent.
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was signed despite the opposition of the majority of the population. It does not ,however, surprise as precisely such an outcome was predicted at last week’s Auckland Town Hall meeting. The intent of the protesters was more to do with the assertion of their right to dissent and to mark a start to their struggle as renowned New Zealand journalist and film maker Bryan Bruce noted.
Signing the TPPA is merely symbolic and no matter what the state propaganda machine regurgitates (from PR coaches), the truth is that the majority of a nation cannot be silenced. And as such, a piece of paper is meaningless. The people do not want the TPPA and they will not allow for it to steal their right to life,dignity and freedom.
The Establishment should simply give up pushing through a corporate takeover of sovereign Aotearoa. What is the point? Do they never expect to interact with the common man? Do they really think human spirit can be crushed by politics of fear,lies,intimidation and injustice?
Last night the Auckland Transport Authority ‘mysteriously’ announced that buses will not be running from 09:00am to 03:00pm. That just happened to coincide with the peak commute time for protesters from around Auckland.
This is Aotearoa and its people cannot be dominated by corporations:
To their credit the people were 100% peaceful with their protest and civil disobedience. Men, women, children and the elderly marched in solidarity cheerful,hopeful and dignified as their rights were being signed away at a casino. The government decided to sign a fundamentally undemocratic treaty in the one place they could.
The Empire has developed a complex system of slapping faces and humiliating all those who defy its dictate. It has also become increasingly generous when rewarding its allies and lackeys.
Of course no medals are distributed. But much better goodies are offered. The Empire uses all sorts of propaganda tricks, even “employing” some international organizations, like the United Nations, to reward its best pawns.
Very often then, what is obviously black is redefined and propagated as white. Something dreadful is hailed as a great indisputable achievement. And some totally collapsed, failed country or city is suddenly singled out and showered with praises and rewards.
This is exactly what took place in 2015, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) put the Indonesian city of Bandung on its newly created list of “World Creative Cities”.
There is absolutely nothing creative about Bandung. Its 2.5 million inhabitants, like the inhabitants of all other Indonesian cities, are condemned to only three “social and cultural activities”: eating, family gatherings and praying.
Not one permanent concert hall now brightens the life of this former Dutch hill station turned into some sort of “city of learning”. There are no art cinemas and not one decent museum (save one that, had it been located in the People’s Republic of China, could serve no more than a city of 50,000 inhabitants).
There are a few parks in Bandung, but they are tiny, dirty and disconnected. There are several malls and commercial cinemas showing the lowest level pop Hollywood junk.
The rest is, as elsewhere in Indonesia, an over-commercialized and desperate urban sprawl with no planning.
Of course there are hundreds of “boutiques”, or more precisely, of makeshift, badly put together shops selling fake goods to both locals and foreigners. These fakes are so openly ‘forgeries’ that the sellers are even rating them; depending on how closely they resemble the originals. To be precise, there are 5 levels of “forgeries”.
One wonders whether these mountains of counterfeit garments and apparels are what UNESCO actually considers to be an expression of “creativity”, as in Bandung there seems to be very little else.
Certainly, the inspectors and investigators of the World Trade Organization (WTO) would raid the city, were it on the territory of a Western foe, like China or Vietnam,
But since the 1965 massacres orchestrated by the West, during which between 2 and 3 million local Communists and intellectuals were slaughtered, Indonesia is firmly considered a friend and a trusted ally.
Bandung has seen its share of massacres. Could those slaughters be considered “creative”, could they still be hailed and commemorated by the “international community”, after all those years? Am I being too cynical, or is it the UN that is cynical?
Bandung has no public transportation to speak of. Imagine a city the size of Amsterdam and Brussels combined, or like Nagoya, choking on its fumes, over flooded by stinking scooters, a city without subways, without a heavy-duty train network, without trams, without underpasses.
But it gets much worse: there are no large libraries, no art projects except for one or two decent galleries located on the outskirts of the city.
When my Chinese-Indonesian friend (a concert pianist and a graduate of the renowned Manhattan School of Music) was forced to return from New York to Bandung by her conservative Christian family, she tried to resist the deep gloom by working and trying to enlighten her city. She bought a keyboard (no tuners were found for concert pianos) and she practiced day and night. And she played concerts, at least once a year. These concerts were of the highest world caliber. But she did not last long. Her art went totally unappreciated. The last blow came during her appearance at the French Cultural Institute, where she was attempting to play Chopin. The dirty and small hall was rat-infested, but it was the only option available with a concert piano. During the concert, the public would get up and come up to her. People were sticking their mobile phones and cameras straight into her face, with the flashes blinding her. After this, she sold everything and began losing her hair. That was it for her, life as a musician in Bandung, “a creative city”.
There are several bizarre institutions in Bandung, like an extremely popular Nazi bar, called “Soldaten Kaffee”. It is full of Swastikas and portraits of Adolf Hitler. Is this really what UNESCO means by “creativity”?
There is also an outdoor amphitheater, which periodically performs Angklung, a traditional form of Indonesian music, an art form based mainly on bamboo pipes, which has made it on to the list of intangible world heritage. The problem is that the place has cannibalized, literally perverted its own heritage, as the orchestra mainly performs Western pop music using traditional instruments. You can hear plenty of Delilah and I did it my way, and very little of the great original West Javanese music. UNESCO should complain and threaten, but it doesn’t.
Yes, a city of 2.5 million, almost entirely stripped of creativity, is now declared a “World Creative City”.
Life without great music, without theatre, daring architectural concepts, parks, public places; it is all the result of 50 years of horrendous turbo-capitalism and anti-intellectualism injected there by the West and implemented by the treasonous cadre – General Suharto – and his cohorts. This is exactly how things are supposed to function in the Empire’s colonies. Brainless television shows, pop music, crappy films, urban fragmentation, collapsed infrastructure, all sorts of religious and oppressive family structures. No variations, no escape. This is where Indonesia has ended up.
So let’s celebrate the great “creativity” of the city, which has redefined boredom and tastelessness!
Right near the city center, there is a huge statue of Rambo holding a shoulder missile launcher. There are Hitler’s posters sold by the road. There is a poor tiny blindfolded little monkey forced to dance to a Sudanese tune, right next to the highway entrance into the city center. And there are child beggars and vendors and deformed people, all calling for our attention.
I would like to see UNESCO’s criteria for this inscription. I would like to meet the person who worked on putting Bandung on the list; a person no doubt so thoroughly obsessed with promoting a fascist state and concept implanted by the Empire. “Shame on you!” I would say to him or her.
There is one place in Bandung that UNESCO should be interested in, but isn’t. It is perhaps one of the most important structures in Asia, and it is called the Museum Of Asia Africa Conference in Bandung. This is where the great 1955 conference of the non-aligned movement was held, bringing together nations that were resisting imperialism.
But it is not even inscribed as a world heritage site.
This magnificent tropical art deco building is where the roots of Bandung and Indonesia’s collapse really lie. This is where the great Indonesian leader, President Ahmed Sukarno spoke against colonialism. And after that, the West decided: it is time to destroy the country and its government!
“Bandung world creative city”, is nothing other than a stamp of approval UNESCO has given to the terror that Indonesia has been suffering by the United States, Europe and its own whoring elites.
And how paradoxical and cynical this stamp really is! UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. During and after the 1965 coup, education, culture and science were thoroughly destroyed in Indonesia. Today, this fourth most populous nation on earth does not have one single writer, thinker or scientist of international caliber.
It is important not to overlook the very real economic war being waged by the U.S. and its allies in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.
This morning I saw the sun rise over Venezuela from 30,000 feet, my flight descending to Caracas in the early dawn light. As the darkness retreated, a rugged, majestic coastline came into view: the small waves lapping against the rocky shore, perceptible only by a thin streak of white foam set against the dark brown of rock, and deep green of the lush hillside just above it.
This was my first glimpse of Venezuela, a country I have been following since the early days of my political development, when a man named Hugo Chavez was elected and shook the very foundations of Latin America, challenging the hegemony of the U.S. Empire in its own “backyard.” Soon I was in the airport, sipping strong coffee from a small plastic cup with a few members of my delegation from the U.S. and Canada. We all came to the Bolivarian Republic to bear witness to the all-important elections scheduled to take place Sunday, as well as the violence and destabilization that is likely to follow if the U.S.-backed opposition loses.
From the back seat of the car taking us from the airport to the center of Caracas, I gazed out the window, drinking in the landscape, the people, the juxtaposition of modern public housing high rises and small, dilapidated homes lining the hillsides. But as I observed the surroundings, there was one pair of eyes that seemed to be gazing back: El Comandante.
Click the picture below to go to counterpunch and play the audio!
This week, Eric welcomes two brilliant guests to the show. First, Eric speaks with Don DeBar, independent broadcaster and Senior Producer at Community Public Radio (CPRmetro.org). Eric and Don discuss the state of the independent media, and how it has been rapidly transformed in recent years. Don presents an inside account of the corporate takeover and purge of Pacifica Radio and its NYC flagship station WBAI, pulling back the curtain on how Pacifica operates, and why some of its good work has come to be overshadowed by the bad, especially when it comes to issues of war and peace. Eric and Don also touch on the war in Libya and how that exposed much of the media for being aligned with the US-NATO war agenda.
In the second half of the show, Eric welcomes Laura Carlsen, Director of the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy to the program. Eric and Laura discuss the 2014 Ayotzinapa massacre of student teachers in Mexico, and the obvious government cover-up of the incident. Laura explains what happened in late September 2014, what the circumstances were leading up to the massacre, and the inconsistencies in the initial government investigation. Eric and Laura also discuss neoliberalism and privatization, and how this massacre should be understood as part of a broader political process ongoing in Mexico with direct US involvement.
Musical interlude from Boukman Eksperyans – “Jou Nou Revolte”
Intro & Outtro from David Vest
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
IDF soldiers are a constant presence in the Old City, providing cover for the approximately 500 Israeli settlers who lord over and terrorize the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live in this part of Hebron.
Hashem was not someone who could be cowed or silenced by fear. Even after being sentenced by the IDF to house arrest for several years, a punishment that caused him to lose his medical job with the UN, Hashem did not stop advocating for the liberation of his people.
He managed a psychological support group for members of his community, encouraging them to speak about the trauma that was a part of their daily lives. Together with his wife, Nisreen, he created a social enterprise for Hebron’s young Palestinian women, helping them to learn skills and earn money to support themselves and their families.
Last year, I stopped travelling to Indonesia. I simply did… I just could not bear being there, anymore. It was making me unwell. I felt psychologically and physically sick.
Indonesia has matured into perhaps the most corrupt country on Earth, and possibly into the most indoctrinated and compassionless place anywhere under the sun. Here, even the victims were not aware of their own conditions anymore. The victims felt shame, while the mass murderers were proudly bragging about all those horrendous killings and rapes they had committed. Genocidal cadres are all over the government.
Don’t get me wrong: there is really nothing wrong with maturity. But instead of maturing elegantly into something noble, like a precious wine, Indonesia just decayed into disgusting vinegar, or spoiled milk, or most likely into something much, much more sinister – a monstrous decomposing carcass in the middle of a once socialist, progressive and anti-imperialist Asia.
After the 1965 coup backed by the US, Australia and Europe, some 2-3 million Indonesians died, in fact were slaughtered mercilessly in an unbridled orgy of terror: teachers, intellectuals, artists, unionists, and Communists vanished. The US Embassy in Jakarta provided a detailed list of those who were supposed to be liquidated. The army, which was generously paid by the West and backed by the countless brainwashed religious cadres of all faiths, showed unprecedented zeal, killing and imprisoning almost everyone capable of thinking. Books were burned and film studios and theatres closed down.
Women from the left-wing organizations, after being savagely raped, had their breasts amputated. They were labeled as witches, atheists, sexual maniacs and perverts.
Professional militant Christian cadres from Holland and other Western countries landed in Indonesia well before the coup. They were entrusted with the radicalization of Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, Catholics and the Indonesian military. They labeled Communists and other leftists as “dangerous atheists” and began an indoctrination and training campaign aimed to liquidate them.
The Butterfly Prison begins slowly, combining seemingly disconnected stories that are taking place in poor neighborhoods of Australia. The stories are like tiny vignettes; shy, modest, minimalistic but always significant and beautifully told. A fear here, a bitter humiliation there, a dream of a child interrupted by a police officer.
Then suddenly, the stories begin to interconnect, intertwine, and the novel gains speed. Real pain – deep and overwhelming – emerges. Profound hurts, bitterness and injuries are slapping the faces of the characters, and somehow, we are drawn in and begin suffering with them.
It is Australia that we don’t know; that we are not supposed to see. After some 40 pages I thought, “it feels little bit like Carpentaria”, but then, just a few pages later, it did not feel like anything else, it only felt and read like the “Butterfly Prison”.
“Then they dreamed the same dream. The whole world had been stolen, and people tumbled about on it like hungry and lost refugees in a foreign land. All spaces seemed to be owned by private companies. And the world had fences in strange places. And many long walls.
Paz couldn’t move, and his real leg jerked as though he had fallen down stairs. Mella murmured. In the stolen world they walked carefully, trying not to upset anything, like visitors. Because it wasn’t their home. Barbed wire between their toes. They bumped into another wall and got a new bruise, and it seemed that there were bluebruised people everywhere discovering new walls.
A queue then to buy back a bit of the world: a little bit of space for $2.5 million, so they could have somewhere to sit down. But they had no money, so they walked and walked and bumped into walls.”
“A stolen world”! That could easily be the second title of the novel.
Tamara Pearsen is my friend, and my comrade; she is a true revolutionary.
She is a person who spent several years fighting for the Latin American revolutions, for “the process”, first in Venezuela and then in Ecuador. She gave everything to the revolution, never looked for privileges, and never demanded special treatment. She is pure and she is really strong. She saw it all, from the bottom, from the angle of real people.
When she told me that she wrote a novel, I was almost certain that it would be about South America, based in Venezuela, Ecuador or Bolivia.
But Tamara decided to write about Australia, about her complex homeland.
We sat in a Vietnamese restaurant in Quito, Ecuador, when she said, simply:
“After all these years, it is time to go back; to visit Australia… I am scared.”
But she already went back. Butterfly Prison is her great return home. Instead of explaining Latin American revolutions to Australian people, she depicted an Australian reality through the eyes of a Latin American revolutionary.
An oppressed and humiliated woman, a child living in hopelessness, adults with no future, a chocking and merciless consumerism, a country that already reached its zenith but without managing to bring zeal, enthusiasm and happiness to its people: those are some of many images of Australia that will stay in our sub-consciousness after reading the “Butterfly Prison”.
Australia – the land where native people were robbed of everything and where they are, until now, living in appalling destitute. Australia, which belongs to the elites; Australia where one has to comply with the ruling-class narrative, or to be crushed and humiliated.
Tamara told me why she wrote the novel, “The Butterfly Prison is life and soul wrenched out and turned into a tale, as a way of saying some things that need to be said – of screaming them in fact. It is unravelling dominant ideas so that beauty, for example, can be what it really is, and we can get some hope from that. Its my grain of sand of solidarity with so many others who have been made invisible in different ways, and I hope that it can reach some of those people and connect with them in that magical way that stories do, and even inspire them.”
In this, she definitely succeeded.
The Butterfly Prison is filled with compassion and solidarity. It is also full of beauty: not that cheap sentimental beauty of the popular literature of the 21st Century, but of profound, lasting beauty found only in life itself, and in the great works of art.
Two lives of Tamara Pearsen have merged in one powerful novel: one of her childhood and sadness of her native land, Australia, and the other, that of her epic battle for better world which she has been fighting for many years in Latin America.
As the novel progresses, it becomes fully international, with many stages built into its pages: those in India, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina… The battles rage… But at closer look, there is really only one battle: that for our humanity, for human dignity, and for human kindness.
Life, as temporary as a kiss on a cheek: already gone, but a little tingle that lingered behind. Mella thought of the things people of her generation had grown up to believe would last forever: countries, poverty, and capitalism. Yet all those things were gone now. Nothing was forever, nothing was so powerful, except for change.
Now a Latin American writer, or more precisely “an internationalist” writer, a socialist realist, a revolutionary, Tamara Pearsen, returned home, on the wings of imagination, through her powerful novel “Butterfly Prison”, uniting several realities into one. She demands change and she does it determinedly but affectionately. And the result is stunning.