quarta-feira, 23 de novembro de 2016

8 Reasons to Love Trump

Augusto Zamora R

Shirts of every stripe (except neo-fascist ones) were torn in anguish over the election to the US presidency of the outsider Donald Trump, and as tends to happen, the passions of the moment have crowded out the space available for analysis. From this spot, we had already pointed out  that Trump, although he was no Bluebeard the Pirate (nor Hillary any Joan of Arc) certainly was addressing himself to whites –that is, to 69% of registered voters– and that topics such as immigration aimed to pull votes  away from Hillary, whom various surveys had predicted would lose.

We will still insist that Trump is not Bluebeard, and that Hillary is no Joan of Arc. Beyond all of the screeching, it may be that Trump turns out to be the better option, and that, given time, we will apply the words of Matthew “by their fruits will you know them” (Matthew 20).  Without forgetting what we have said previously that “whoever wins, once anointed, will be incorporated into the establishment” – a less passionate and more realistic analysis of Trump’s actions in the Whitehouse will show that the wolf is not as scary as he is made out to be. So let us review:


Trump affirmed that he will carry out a huge deportation of immigrants. In the US, that is synonymous with Latin Americans (latinos or hispanics, putting it simply). Now he says it would be only be one million (there are more than eleven million), but that they would be immigrants with criminal records, which, if true, would be just a handful. The whole song-and-dance over Trump has created the impression that there were no deportations before. Nothing could be further than the truth. The “benevolent” Obama exercised, in his term, the most severe anti-immigration policies of the past thirty years. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data, 2,768,357 people were deported between August 2009 and August 2016. In 1986, under Reagan, the figure was 24,592 Hispanic immigrants; in 1996, under Bill Clinton, 69,680; in 2006, under Bush Jr. 280,974; in 2012, under Obama, 435,498 people. When Barack ends his term, he will have expelled 3 million immigrants whose only crime was to be hungry. Trump, in excluding –for the moment- immigrants with clean records from the threat of deportation, is exempting 95% of them. Next to Obama’s “wholesale deportation for everyone” there will be Trump’s “wholesale deportation of those with records” which will greatly improve the situation of ordinary immigrants.


We reiterate our belief that the wall will never be built. Trump has said that he will only build parts. Neither is this a novel subject. The first wall was built in 1990, with 20 kilometres in the area of San Diego. En 2005, the US Senate approved an extension of 1,123 kilometres to the 600 kilometres of the wall already in existence by that year. In 2006, the same Senate adopted a new amendment to build 595 kilometres of wall and 800 kilometres of fences. In 2009 similar walls and fences covered more than one thousand kilometres. Today, there are 509.5 kilometres of wall for those on foot and 482.4 kilometres of fences against those in vehicles (which those on foot can leap over) and 58.4 kilometres of a double or triple wall in the San Diego section. Walls come and go, but immigration will never be stopped. From 1990 till present, some 20 million Hispanics have crossed the border, showing the futility of the barriers. Unlike the previous governments, which built walls and barriers without making a fuss about it (and dismissing Mexico’s protests), Trump has laid the subject on the table, and –surprise!– he will meet with the Mexican president about it. No other US president has done so in order to address this issue. We will see how it is eventually watered down and will end up remaining more or less as it is, but with some extra fencing for appearances’ sake. The only novelty will be in Trump discussing the wall with Mexico.


 A little bit of history. Free trade deals (originally called ‘free exchange treaties) were an invention of England in the 19th century in order to benefit its industrial production, this at a time when Great Britain was the world’s factory. Latin American countries were the first victims: the continent’s “liberators” agreed to sign free trade deals which exempted British products from taxes. Those treaties destroyed the economies of whole countries and gave rise to neo-colonialism. Today, the premise is the same. ‘Globalisation’ is only for capital and multinational companies, not for workers. The free trade agreements have undermined working conditions, including those of the US middle class which voted largely for Trump. The multinationals took their industries to Asia or Mexico and closed their US installations. Trump’s promise to reindustrialise the country can only be criticised by the corporations that want the free circulation of goods and capital, but their workers without rights, as has been happening in Spain for years. The TTIP, which Trump has labelled “madness”, is a treaty that puts states on their knees before big business and capital. To defend economic and social rights is the struggle of the Left. If Trump helps in that, then we should let him.

4. NATO: 

According to Trump, Europeans should meet their “defence” expenditures, since the US economy is not now in any condition to finance NATO’s aggressive deployments. Since 1999, Europe has experienced an unprecedented militarisation which, if not halted, will sooner or later lead to war with a Russia that is being territorially boxed-in further and further. That Trump should openly address Europe being in a state of war, a subject deliberately avoided by the media, is a welcome thing. A note for our followers:  in the coming months, the deployment of 6,000 soldiers to Eastern Europe is envisioned, together with hundreds of tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy ordinance. Also approved is the Armoured Division of the Fourth Division Infantry sending another 4,000 soldiers in January of 2017.  According to the newspaper Stars and Stripes, the US will also deploy 60% of the personnel and equipment of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade of New York, made up of 1,750 pilots and 60 planes and helicopters, amongst them the UH-60 Black Hawk and the CH-47 Chinook, (“2 brigades of nearly 6,000 troops head to Europe amid growing Russian tensions”). Stars and Stripes is an army daily which reports on troop movements, military exercises and other themes related to the US armed forces. If there’s going to be a war, let them give us a heads-up first.


A whim of the Soviet leader Nikita Krushev, himself of Ukrainian origin and a hero of the Battle of Stalingrad, passed the historically Russian peninsula to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine in 1954. He did it to commemorate 300 years of Russian-Ukrainian unity and out of his belief in the eternal survival of the Soviet Union, then at the height of its power. The death of the USSR put within NATO’s reach the old German dream of bringing Ukraine into its orbit in order to use it against Russia.  The 2014 coup d’etat, promoted by the US and NATO, threatened to bring Ukraine into the Atlanticist organisation  –and with it NATO’s control of Sevastopol, the historic base of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. But in Moscow, it was no longer the drunken Boris Yeltsin in power, but Vladimir Putin. Putin had already declared that he wouldn’t accept NATO bases in Georgia. In 2008 he invaded Georgia and put an end to the Atlanticist project. With this precedent, it was already obvious that Moscow would not accept the loos of Crimea. Last July, Trump declared that “the people of Crimea…prefer to be with Russia, instead of where they were before, and that has to be taken into account.” He also expressed his opinion on what could happen if anyone tried to return Crimea to the Ukraine: “And now you want to start World War Three in order to give [Crimea] back?” Trump recognising Russia’s recovery of Ukraine would be a political defeat for NATO and the EU, but it would help to shore up the continent’s precarious peace.


It is common knowledge that Ukraine is submerged in an interminable swirl of corruption and mismanagement. The country’s poverty has caused salaries to dip to 50% those of China. The ruling institutional clique has placed Ukraine at number 1 in Europe’s corruption index. Trump, during his campaign, labelled Ukraine a “country in chaos”, which provoked angry reactions in Ukraine’s leaders. Interior minister Arsen Avakov, called him a “dangerous outcast” whilst a government MP called him “a complete idiot”. Ukraine is a geostrategic borderland for Russia, and it is not going to let NATO take it, at least, not without a war. Crimea and Ukraine are part of the same package. Neither of them is worth a nuclear war. Except for the suicidal, nothing can justify a nuclear war. Reinforcing peace, however, is worth everything.  


 “Obama is the founder of ISIS and Hillary Clinton is the cofounder”, said Donald Trump on numerous occasions. He also said that he would finish off the Islamic State in one hundred days. Even if it’s 200, it won’t matter so long as it brings peace to the destroyed and martyred Syria. With Hillary that would not have been possible. With 250,000 dead, the country almost completely destroyed and eight million displaced, a thorough accord between the US and Russia is required. The announced meeting between Trump and Putin can at least deliver that deal. NATO won’t like it, but Syrians will. With the country pacified, hundreds of thousands of them will be able to return and, with international aid, rebuild their country. Is anyone against this?


Let’s admit it; even though it has a touch of demagogy about it, this is an honourable gesture which shouldn’t be dismissed. With this gesture, the multi-millionaire Trump says that he earns so much money that he doesn’t need a publically-paid salary. Has any other millionaire done this before, even though many of them have filled public posts? The first US President George Washington, despite being a slaver and a millionaire, assigned himself a salary that was 2% of the national budget.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there are 268 millionaires in Congress, all of which faithfully receive their salaries, together with perks. The Texan Michael McCaul has a 500 million dollar fortune. Doesn’t Trump’s gesture say something to the ‘black card’people or to the sports club managers who spend 737,000 Euros of public funds in restaurants, amongst a never-ending list of such people?

There is also a ninth reason: Trump has banned the ‘revolving doors’. No member of his cabinet may profit from the exercise of his public position until five years after he has left it. Let Spain and Europe take note.

Let’s ask the EU to expel only those immigrants with criminal records and give papers to those that don’t. Let’s tear down the barbed wire fences built by democratic governments and bring back the free movement of people. Let’s end the ridiculous militarisation underway and let us secure peace on the subcontinent. Let us put an end to the criminal policies that destroyed Libya, Syria and Iraq, and let us help to rebuild those countries. Let us criticise less and lead more by example. Trump is not worse than what we have here in Europe. To believe anything else is utter self-delusion and blindness. In Europe the racist extreme right already governs: in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Ukraine… These are realities, not speculation.

Translated by David Montoute from the original:


Although generally a good article, a few caveats should be added:

Russia's 2008 intervention in Georgia cannot accurately be described as an "invasion", but should be understood as an appropriate and proportional response to an unprovoked attack upon South Ossetian civilians and Russian peacekeepers alike by the Georgian government then headed by Mikheil Saakashvili.

Augusto's first sentence also leaves us with the impression that only neo-fascists cheered Trump's victory -a pretty extraordinary claim when 50% of the voting public chose him. In fact, Trump's support came from a broad swathe of opinion and included both Leftists, diverse anti-interventionists (such Justin Raimondo's excellent Anti-War site), Paleocons, and simply those disgusted by the sociopathic warmonger Hillary Clinton. Contrary to media hype, the far-Right and its racist ideologues were a distant voice and an essentially irrelevant factor in Trump's truimph. It has been noted than a great number of those who previously elected Barack Obama (twice) this time opted for Trump. 

Did they all become "racists" overnight?

In a sane and rational world, Jill Stein's Green Party would now be steering the United States' away from its costly and destructive empire. But as our author has reminded us, serious analysis begins with the world that we have, not the one that we want. 

domingo, 17 de agosto de 2014

Homo Sedens

by Marcia Tiburi
To treat the act of sitting as if it were culturally relevant might sound like a mere jest. But to take it seriously for a moment, a person who actually asks himself how many hours of our lives we spend sitting down, or how many chairs there are in the world is not going to reach the crux of this unusual question, however many statistically impressive answers he may find. It is a question that causes us to think about the different forms of sedentarism as a feature of our culture. Contrary to nomadism, sedentarism forms part of the history of our civilisation. But more than just a part of our culture, it is an attitude that characterises our present time. Most of our bodily gestures end in a sitting position; we spend many hours a day seated and everything in our lives invites us to sit down. But this pleasant invitation to rest has more complex implications: we sit at home, in the street, in schools, we sit in front of machines and, above all in today's world, we sit in front of computer screens.

In his 2012 book O pensamento sentado, São Paulo PUC professor Norval Baitello Junior wrote about the place of the "seat" in sedentary culture. His critique is directed at a seated way of thinking that - for him - is an accomodated thinking. Taking up the German expression used by Nietzsche to describe "sedentary life"– Sitzfleisch – the author explores the translation of “carne de assento” (sitting flesh) which literally leads to the habitual "bunda" (ass, backside). The word "bunda" has a vast usage in Brazil. However inelegant it may sound, it would not be a mistake to ponder the current relevance of an "assed thinking" - that tired way of thinking which, taken to the extreme, expresses what we commonly understand as the irresponsibility of the asshole (bundão).

The "accomodated" or comfortable character is that of a "settled and predictable discourse" which turns the act of thinking in our age against its very own most intimate nature. The body's "decline in mobility" is - he says - also a decline in thought, whose unpredictability and ability to surprise are diminishing. We are well acquainted with this accomodating comfort. We know that it is necessary for power, for the political and economic system which requires docile bodies and stunted minds comfortably repeating more of the same, in order to keep everything in the same place: seated.

To ponder the leaps in thought of  Baitello's book is a dynamic attitude, as the movement of our bodies would be, restless and prone to walking, jumping, running and leaping. The human being's capacities  –which are related to our entire learning process in life and our need to explore our surroundings– are diminished when everything is reduced to the "seat". Our primate selves resent not being able to move.

A rule of culture

Baitello reminds us that to sit and to sedate both have the same etymological root: sedere.  And so, he comments, we are “Homo sedens”, and the atrophy of our muscles and movements appears as a kind of rule of our culture. When we observe our day-to-day lives, sedentary on all sides in front of computers, television, in our cars, we realise that the physical mobility that should characterise us –and which is still our potential– gives way to the strange, disembodied immobility of the machine. The machines move for us and we become immobile: seated, we wait for the machines which substitute us. In a certain way, we passively participate in an immobile "becoming" which doesn't take us anywhere except where we've previously been placed.

And finally, as we are forced to sit, we experience the homage to discipline and we hold out in the name of making an effort. We praise the individual who is capable of enduring the classroom or the chair in the bureaucratic office. We are victims of what Baitello calls a "perverse conjunction" in which the sedentariness of our bodies is allied to a visual hyperactivity. Anaesthetised in front of machines, we live contrary to our own nomadic capacities.

Perhaps escaping from this world is a desire that is buried by a squashy avalanche that our bodies get used to, out of fear of their own potential. It is important to remember that escape is always an option.

Original in Portuguese:


sexta-feira, 4 de janeiro de 2013

TABOO: Guarding the Interstitial Realm

An excerpt from George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal

COMMENT: Over a decade ago, when I first became deeply acquainted with Sufi literature, one recurring figure struck a discordant note amongst the beautiful stories of mystical gnosis: this was the character known as Khidr. Considered to be an immortal prophet, Khidr (“the Green One”) appears in Sufi literature as an irrational and capricious figure making apparently arbitrary decisions, decisions which often have disastrous consequences for those he comes into contact with. This character was a constant source of disturbance for me at this time, but also a source of fascination as I could never fathom his true role or purpose. Now, after reading George P. Hansen’s marvellous book “The Trickster and the Paranormal” (2001), the archetype represented by Khidr has come sharply into focus, as have the broader conventions and prohibitions that this trickster habitually violates. The following discussion is an excerpt from Hansen’s book. Here, the Trickster archetype is examined in worldviews characteristic of “primitive” (i.e. non-literate) peoples. As Hansen says, the Trickster represents the anti-structural forces which blur binary oppositions and bring liminal (intermediate, threshold) conditions to light. Enjoy.

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Turner notes “that liminal situations and roles are almost everywhere attributed with magico-religious properties . . . [and these are] often regarded as dangerous, inauspicious, or polluting to persons, objects, events, and relationships that have not been ritually incorporated into the liminal context.” He explains that: “all sustained manifestations of communitas . . . have to be hedged around with prescriptions, prohibitions, and conditions.”  The sacred is surrounded by taboos, and there are innumerable examples.

Anthropologist John Middleton investigated binary classification schemes among the Lugbara of Uganda and found that breaches of the schemes are regarded as uncanny and dangerous. He tells us:  “The confusion of order and disorder is seen as the confusion of authority (which is seen as moral, responsible, controlled and predictable) and power (which is amoral, perhaps immoral, irresponsible, uncontrollable and unpredictable). The people associated with this confusion have in common the characteristic of themselves being incomplete and so representing the essential nature of disorder itself. These people are diviners, prophets, witches, rainmakers.” David Hicks reports in his book Tetum Ghosts and Kin (1976) that similar patterns were found in Indonesia. Persons ambiguous in binary classification schemes (e.g. hermaphrodites) were viewed as having supernatural power.

Cambridge anthropologist Edmund Leach has given some of the best exposition of the issues. His 1962 essay “Genesis as Myth” notes that God-man is a major opposition, and he explains that “’Mediation’ (in this sense) is always achieved by introducing a third category which is ‘abnormal’ or ‘anomalous’ in terms of ordinary ‘rational’ categories. Thus myths are full of fabulous monsters, incarnate gods, virgin mothers. This middle ground is the liminal, the interstitial, the betwixt and between, the anti-structural; it provides contact with the supernatural realm.

The same issues are found in religion today, and the writings of religious scholar Rudolf Otto illuminate these matters. In his seminal work, The Idea of the Holy (1917), he explores the concept of the “numinous,” a realm peculiar and unique to religion. Otto explains that this domain is an objective reality and not just a subjective feeling, though it has nothing to do with the rational. A primary function of religion is to deal is to deal with this aspect of existence. Otto explicitly recognizes that miracles come from the numinous. The numinous evokes an awe and fascination with an extra-rational power, the mysterium tremendum. But there is a negative aspect, sometimes referred to as the wrath of God. Otto notes that “this ‘wrath’ has no concern whatever with moral qualities...It is ‘incalculable’ and ‘arbitrary’; it is encountered in the “grisly”. There is a duality to the divine.

Otto notes that a much-subdued experience of this wrath is seen in the fear of ghosts. Ghosts are liminal (interstitial) creatures. They exist in the netherworld between life and death, and they challenge the idea that there is a clear separation between the two. The dread evoked by such beings can be profoundly disturbing. Surprisingly, parapsychologists have largely neglected this, but folklorists have drawn attention to it. William Clements’ papers “The Interstitial Ogre” (1987) and “Interstitiality in Contemporary Legends” (1991) give a helpful introduction. Linda Degh and Andrew Vazsonyi noted that encounters with such entities raise primal questions such as “Is there anything one can hang onto? Is there a solid basis on which one can base one’s trust in this confusing universe...? It is not the individual who is separated from his ‘security base’...The world itself has lost its protective familiarity.” It is precisely this that evokes such intense hostility to claims of the paranormal by some, and extreme anxiety in others, though it is rarely recognized consciously.

British anthropologist Mary Douglas addresses perils of the liminal in her frequently cited book Purity and Danger (1966). Speaking of restrictions and taboos, she says “some are intended to protect divinity from profanation, and others to protect the profane from the dangerous intrusion of divinity. Sacred rules are thus merely rules hedging divinity off, and uncleanness is the two-way danger of contact with divinity.” The supernatural’s intrusion must be limited. Douglas later comments: “Ritual recognizes the potency of disorder. In the disorder of the mind, in dreams, faints and frenzies, ritual expects to find powers and truths which cannot be reached by conscious effort. Energy to command and special powers of healing come to those who can abandon rational control for a time.” In disorder comes power, too, in disorder is danger.

Even though many other scholars could be quoted about the supernatural dangers associated with liminal conditions, scientists today pay them little heed.  Such ideas are viewed as quaint superstitions. Any scientist who took them seriously would invite derision, and loss of status. Understandably, parapsychologists rarely discuss these potential risks of their work.

All this is directly applicable to the trickster because he is a denizen of the interstitial realm, and a few analyses of the trickster give clues to the dangers. Laura Makarius’ discussions are some of the most disturbing. She called attention to the peculiarities and incongruities so frequently encountered in trickster tales and commented that “they have been introduced for the express purpose of concealing some secret fact striving for expression.” Explicit recognition of this is crucial to deciphering the meaning, and then she goes on to say: “What that hidden fact is, it is the goal of the student of folklore to discover. But he cannot do so without a knowledge of that deeper contradiction in the behaviour of primitive peoples between what they may do and what they may not. The contradiction manifests itself when forbidden acts are committed for the same basic reasons for which they are forbidden. That is why they express themselves only if at the same time they are suppressed...The deliberate violation of taboo constitutes one of the deepest contradictions of primitive life. Its purpose is the obtainment of magical power.”