Object: ON LOGICAL POSITIVISM AND PRESIDENT OBAMA'S TOO-SMALL-TO-SUCCEED "TUNNEL VISION".
1 June 2010
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Public anger in New Orleans against British Petroleum and the US Federal Government has gone beyond the city limits, and now demonstrators in every capital city in the civilized world are protesting, as well, against US corporate alliances and their wars against humanity.
Civil society is organizing in what will historically be recognized as the largest educational project to date in The Humanities. This is the future of higher education. By contrast, the world can see the products of the old educational system in the self-destructive behaviors and obsolete thought patterns of such traditional over-achievers within the capitalist education establishment as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu, etc., etc. . . . The old system has produced what can only be seen today as a cruel farce, both for those who are victimized by their inadequate preparation for the real world and for the rest of us who are made to suffer their shortcomings.
Former French deputy and "alumni" of the German concentration camp at Buchenwald, David Rousset (1913-1997), noted in his famous book, L'univers concentrationnaire (1946), the cruel buffoonery of fascist culture --a mocking, cynical, vicious pleasure in observing the suffering and death of others.
Le but des camps est bien la destruction physique, mais la fin réelle de l'univers concentrationnaire va très au-delà. Le S.S. ne conçoit pas son adversaire comme un homme normal. L'ennemie, dans la philosophie S.S. est la puissance du Mal intellectuellement et physiquement exprimée. Le communiste, le socialiste, le libéral allemand, les révolutionnaires, les résistants étrangers, sont les figurations actives du Mal. Mais l'existence objective de certains peuples, de certaines races: les Juifs, les Polonais, les Russes, est l'expression statique du Mal. Il n'est pas nécessaire à un Juif, à un Polonais, à un Russe, d'agir contre le national-socialisme; ils sont de naissance, par prédestination, des hérétiques non-assimilable voués au feu apocalyptique. La mort n'a donc pas un sens complet. L'expiation seule peut être satisfaisante, apaisante pour le Seigneurs. Les camps de concentration sont l'étonnante et complex machine de l'expiation. Ceux qui doivent mourir vont à la mort avec une lenteur calculée pour que leur déchéance physique et morale, réalisée par degré, les rende enfin conscients qu'ils sont des maudits, des expressions du Mal et non des hommes. Et le prêtre justicier éprouve une" sorte de plaisir secret, de volupté intime, à ruiner les corps.
Cette philosophie seule secret explique le génial agencement des tortures, leur raffinement complexe les prolongeant dans la durée, leur industrialisation; et toutes les composantes des camps. . . . .
Une telle philosophie n'est pas gratuite et ne contribue pas seulement à l'assouvissement de déséquilibre nerveux. Elle remplit une fonction sociale éminente. . . . . Les camps, par leur existence, installent dans la société un cauchemar destructeur, éternellement présent; à portée de la main. La mort s'efface. La torture triomphe, toujours vivante et active, déployée comme une arche sur le monde atterré des hommes. Il ne s'agit plus seulement de réduire ou de paralyser une opposition. L'arme est d'une efficacité singulièrement plus grande. Les camps châtrent les cerveaux libres.(pp.113-116)
Such was the mentality of Übermenschen of the first half of the 20th century, and such is their mentality today: narcissistically smug in their hierarchical niche, and invulnerable to ordinary emotional experiences which might provoke feelings of empathy and an appetite for rational thought. [For a more complete understanding of the institutional support behind the "concentration-camp-style" of management science, readers may find helpful John Cornwell's study, Hitler's Pope, The Secret History of Pius XII (1999) and Gordon Zahn's book, German Catholics and Hitler's Wars, A Study of Social Control (1962).]
Today, we are either persuing our own education in "classrooms without walls", or we must abandon our human intelligence, with all the risks which that implies. The illusion of security, the violence of overreaction will not save us from our ignorance, which is reproduced by endlessly abstracting from abstractions, ad nauseam. We either keep our heads above the horizon to see the material relationships which have created the Madness we now are living, and the manipulations by which this madness is being perpetuated, or we sink into Nothingness, with the smug, dull satisfaction that the eschatology we somehow inherited from someone, sometime, has been confirmed, with the illusion that we are capable of logically explaining "the inevitable," and the certitude that we have nothing to learn from real life experiences other than our destiny.
We should pity and pray for Obama (if we are on speaking terms with some god). He was not born blind; but blind he is . . . .
The vision at the end of his narrow tunnel is only a chimera (a change we cannot believe in!); the damages his peripheral vision does not take in –on Wall Street, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Middle East, and on the high seas, etc. . .-- are the realities which will bring meaningful social reforms, sooner or later.
The 5 items below offer CEIMSA readers case studies on the human condition. Those of us who are not yet mentally and emotionally mutilated should study, remember, and draw reasoned conclusions from the paradoxes and contradictions which appear in these excerpts taken from real life situations in the contemporary world.
Item A., sent by Professor Edward S. Herman, is an article on the May 28 arrest of the U.S. attorney Peter Erlinder by the US supported dictator of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.
Item B. is an article by Christopher Bulstrode about the "sadistic constraints" on operations at the Nasser Hospital in Gaza.
Item C. is a Financial Times conversation between Martin Wolf, the FT's chief economic commentator, and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading US thinktank, in a two-part interview, "The Eurozone Crisis and its Implications for the US and the Rest of the Global Economy."
Item D. is a series of documentaries on the 8 June 1967 murderous attack of Israeli cannons aimed at the unarmed American ship, the USS Liberty.
Item E. is a report from the Electric Intifada on the Israeli criminal attack on the "Freedom Flotilla" in international waters, which began at 4 a.m., Monday morning, 31 May.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to review the evidence of Israeli murders on the unarmed "Freedom Flotilla" in international waters in the early morning hours of Monday 31 May 2010, beginning at 4 a.m. :
A couple of years ago my wife told me that I was getting pompous and boring and too entangled in the politics of senior medicine. So I signed up with the British army to go to Afghanistan, treating injuries in the field, and have since worked in other hot spots, including Haiti. Last December, the charity Mdecins du Monde (MdM) asked me to go to Gaza to help local surgeons. It wasn't a frontline mission, rather a ten-day stint working through the backlog of wounded from battles with the Israelisthe last big one being the December 2008 invasion, which the Gazans say left 1,000 people dead and 5,000 wounded.
When I arrived in Jerusalem my Palestinian driver, Ibrahim, took me up the Mount of Olives. He showed me how to tell the houses apart. Those in the Israeli part of Jerusalem have a small white tank on the roof. They need nothing more as they have no shortage of water. But the houses of Palestinians have roofs crenellated with big black water tanks. The water supply is under Israeli control and, apparently, is cut off most of the time.
Then he pointed out the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque shimmering across the valley below us. He told me the Israelis are excavating under the mosque looking for remains of their original temple. But he thinks that they are undermining the foundations of the golden-domed mosque, the site where Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven. If the mosque collapses, he said quietly, there will be a world war.
The next day we set off through verdant farmland to the only entrance into the Gaza Strip, that narrow band of Palestinian territory tucked between the sea and the Egyptian border. This is Hamas country, run by the democratically elected but violent opponents of Israel.
The new border post is huge and looks like an airport terminal. Before the 2008 war, 170,000 Palestinians crossed every day to work in Israel. Then, one day, the gate was shut and has never opened again. Only aid workers are now allowed to cross.
After entering Gazawhere I got a new driver and car, a white four-wheel drive with an MdM flag flying boldly on the roofwe set off down the coast to the Nasser hospital, 15 miles south of Gaza City in a place called Khan Yunis.
At the hospital I was met by a quiet, elderly consultant wearing a tie (having decided not to wear one, I felt a little underdressed). Dr Mohammed eyed me carefully. His English was good but he spoke so softly it was hard to hear. The hospitals waiting room was packed. There was a lot of shouting and pushing and mobile phones trilled out Arabic songs. We weaved through the throng to the consulting room. Once inside, the door had to be closed against the crowd to prevent everyone outside from joining us.
We saw about 50 cases. Gunshot wounds through the thigh, the back, the arm. Infected wounds. Young men with hopeful eyes and damaged bodies, shy smiles and dark beards. They were Hamas: the terrorists who stood against the might of Israel and were slaughtered. They are portrayed in the western media as crazy fundamentalists, but they were just kids with fluffy beards hoping their lives hadn't been ruined before they had barely begun. Dr Mohammed seemed pleased that we agreed on almost all the cases. By the end of the day my head was whirling with pictures of faces and shattered limbs.
The following two days were spent in the operating theatre, working through the cases. Dr Mohammed has good hands. I assisted and made noises of appreciation, wondering how I would feel if a foreign doctor came into my operating theatre and did little more than murmur. Between cases, I was pulled out into the noisy corridor to do television interviews. All the while, a scrum of patients waited at the door of the operating theatre suite, hoping to speak to Dr Mohammed. He was never hurried, never angry.
MdM had told me that the surgeons at the Nasser hospital wanted to be taught some of the latest orthopaedic techniques. I had my reservations, not only because I'm not sure how useful these techniques are, but because ten days isn't long enough to teach such complex work. I also wasn't confident the hospital had the resources to back up such high-tech medicine.
Its not that there is any lack of motivation to practise medicine. A few years ago, I was told, the Israelis stopped Gazan medical students continuing their studies in Jerusalem, so the Islamic University of Gaza started a medical faculty. Its centerpiece was a six-story laboratory block, but when I visited it was a pile of rubble. It had been destroyed by an Israeli air attack in December 2008.
Despite this, the students were as keen as mustard. When I met the dean, an ex-surgeon, he told me that if they had selected their students purely by grades then the whole intake would be female. But obviously this would have been impossible, because how would we have any surgeons? I tried not to reveal my feelings about this ridiculous rationalization of reverse discrimination.
Back at the hospital, I quickly realized there was little I could teach Dr Mohammed, even if he wanted to learn. The registrar certainly didn't. He was a fly boy, with shifty eyes and a faint sneer. He pretended not to understand English and fumed at my attempts at Arabic.
The fourth day brought a difficult operation. The patients thigh had been broken in the middle by a bullet. It had become infected and the break hadn't knitted properly. A previous surgeon had cleaned out the infection but, six months later, the bone still hadn't healed. Inside, we found that much of it was dead and the operation slowed as we realized the complexity of the problem we were facing.
If someone breaks a thigh, there are several ways you can treat it. The old-fashioned way is to string the patient up in traction. This is safe, but recovery takes three months. Since then, the Swiss have designed metal plates, and the Germans have invented clever nails that allow you to fix the fracture and get the patient up on his feet the next day. But if you get the plate in the wrong place, or the nail is badly inserted, you can do terrible damage to the bone. And if bacteria get in, infection will spread and the repair will fail.
In Britain, we do these operations in super-clean rooms. The Nasser hospitals operating theatre was supposed to be sterile but there was blood everywhere, the anesthetist was away for long periods, and there were too many people bending over the wound and brushing our sterile gowns. My worst fears were realized when, after five hours spent fixing the plate to the patients broken femur, a fly landed on the bone. I could have wept. The wound was now contaminated. But the surgeons around me just brushed the insect away and carried on, unaware of my horrified expression under my face mask.
My eyes followed the blood-frenzied fly across the operating theatre to the annex where the stainless steel sinks stood for surgeons to wash their hands. There, the anesthetist had taken his shoes off and was washing his feet under the taps, lifting one leg into the sink, then the other. This is part of the cleansing ritual that precedes daily prayers, but for a surgeon the scrub sinks are sacred in a different sensepart of the ritual of cleansing before surgery. There was a collision of cultures here. If I said I did not think using the sink in this way was appropriate would I find myself accused of insulting their religion? Did it matter that someone had washed their feet in the sink meant for sterilizing hands? I'm not sure. Perhaps I was the one being unreasonable. I bit my tongue.
The lack of a sterile environment was far from the only difficulty facing Gazas doctors. One day, the lights in the operating theatre went out five times during surgery; the back-up generators weren't working because of fuel shortages. During the rounds of the ward, I saw dressings taken off patients with no sterile precautions, the wounds left dripping in the bed. I had washed my hands but others had not. Eventually I physically guided one of the nurses to the sink. He glowered at me and grudgingly washed his hands.
It is always tricky working in a foreign country, but Gaza was more difficult than usual. Some of the older people seem resigned or have taken refuge in religion, but many of the youngsters radiate anger. They drive like lunatics, as if they are going to die tomorrow. They shout at each other even when they are not arguing, but when they do argue, it is with guttural rage. They are not just angry with the Israelis, but with the rest of the world for not caring. They are even angry with those who are trying to help, perhaps because they feel we are patronizing them. Maybe we are. One thing is certain: you cannot get it right. I felt very uncomfortable.
On day eight we couldn't operate because of some administrative problem. Dr Mohammed was furious and for the first time I saw him lose his temper. But in typical Palestinian fashion, the rage and frustration suddenly subsided. He decided to make a virtue of necessity and declared we would have a picnic instead. It was beautiful weather and he had an open invitation from a local farmer (whose son he had treated) to picnic on his land.
We drove south from Khan Yunis towards Rafa, a town that is bisected by the Gaza-Egyptian border. This is a dangerous area. The crossing is closed for all but one day a month, so it presents a dismal, derelict sight. The customs building is riddled with bullet holes. Shortly before we reached the border we turned off down a dirt track that runs just inside the Gaza boundary fence. We entered a gentle world of horse-drawn carts, farmhouses set in groves of grapefruit trees, and beautifully manicured and irrigated fields of peas, tomatoes and fruit trees. The farmer was happy to see us and eager to show us his farm. The peas were as sweet as any I have tasted, the clementines melted in the mouth, the grapefruits were heavenly.
Yet the rural idyll was marred by sporadic shooting in the distance and, high above us, an Israeli balloon with reconnaissance cameras continuously surveyed the area. Between us and the Egyptian border fence 200m away there were massive earthworks, as if a herd of giant moles had gone to work. These are the mouths of the famous tunnels that lead into Egypt. They are the lifeblood of Gaza through them comes cement, flour, fuel and the other goods it needs, which the blockade of its land and sea borders prevents it importing.
Throughout my stay, sleep was difficult. The windows rattled in the wind and any loud noise made me imagine a group of militants was picking the locks to take me hostage. Just as I would finally drop into a troubled slumber, the faithful were called to prayer at 5am.
On my last day I met with the medical director of the hospital, a young pediatrician who was given the post because he is a Hamas party member. He asked me what I thought. I started to tell him, but then stopped at once. His eyes had glazed. He didn't want to hear. Our conversation was only a formality. We shared offers of undying gratitude and, clutching my gift of a Hamas scarf, I left.
from The Financial Times :
Date: 31 May 2010
Subject: THE GLOBAL ECONOM.
A conversation between Martin Wolf, the FT's chief economic commentator, and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading US thinktank, on the eurozone crisis and its implications for the US and the rest of the global economy.
Date: 19 May 2010
Subject: The History of the American Ship, the USS Liberty, 8 June 1967.
During the Six-Day War, Israel attacked and nearly sank the USS Liberty belonging to its closest ally, the USA. Thirty-four American servicemen were killed in the two-hour assault by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats. Israel claimed that the whole affair had been a tragic accident based on mistaken identification of the ship. The American government accepted the explanation. For more than 30 years many people have disbelieved the official explanation but have been unable to rebut it convincingly. Now, Dead in the Water uses startling new evidence to reveal the truth behind the seemingly inexplicable attack. The film combines dramatic reconstruction of the events, with new access to former officers in the US and Israeli armed forces and intelligence services who have decided to give their own version of events. Interviews include President Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, former head of the Israeli navy Admiral Shlomo Errell and members of the USS Liberty crew.
Early this morning under the cover of darkness Israeli soldiers stormed the lead ship of the six-vessel Freedom Flotilla aid convoy in international waters and killed and injured dozens of civilians aboard. Israel had been openly threatening a violent attack on the Flotilla for days, but complacency, complicity and inaction, specifically from Western and Arab governments once more sent the message that Israel could act with total impunity. [MORE]