Living (and dying) in the age of barbarism By William Bowles

31 January 2009

Israeli Soldiers Play ‘Sophie’s Choice’ With Palestinian Mothers
“…Out of all the devastation I have seen so far, there is one story in particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children to “give as a gift to Israel.” As she screamed in horror they repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in front of her…”[1]

“Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. [Let us] Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience. Look at them today swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration…” Franz Fanon ‘The Wretched of the Earth’

It surely cannot have escaped your attention that our much vaunted ‘democracies’ are in fact barbarian states masquerading as civilized. And if you haven’t noticed then it’s time you did not only because they do their ‘civilizing’ in your name but when they’ve done ‘civilizing’ the brown and poor people of our planet, it’ll be your turn next to get ‘civilized’.

The greed of the few would seem to be the underlying cause and of course greed needs power and to paraphrase, (private) power corrupts and total (private) power corrupts completely. Looked at historically, the crime against humanity committed by the ‘Chosen People’ in Gaza is but the tip of an iceberg but it is most definitely as brazen a piece of ‘civilizing’ as we have witnessed recently.

In turn, this brazen and murderous use of power reflects the complete separation between the rulers and the ruled. They claim to act in ‘our’ names but as long as they are accountable to no one, they can claim to represent anything they choose to.

What makes my blood run cold is the arrogance of these ‘masters of the universe’. Take for example the following extract from Turkish prime minister Erdogan’s ‘exchange’ that took place this week at the Davos conference:

Moderator: There was a heated debate here. This is a discussion that can last for hours. We are already out of time.

Erdogan: One minute.

Moderator: Mr. President, well, you know…

Erdodan: One minute, one minute! No! One minute.

Moderator: Ok, but I want you not to speak more than one minute.

Erdogan: Mr. Peres, you are older than me. Your voice is very loud. I know that you are speaking aloud because of the requirement of a sense of guilt. My voice will not be that loud. About murdering, you know killing very well. I am well aware how you murdered children on beaches. Two former prime ministers of your country had important sayings to me. You have former prime ministers who say When I entered Palestine over armed combat cars, I consider myself more and more pleased. I can give their names, maybe some of you wonder. Besides, I condemn those of you who applaud this persecution. Because applauding these killers who murdered those children, who massacred those people is, I believe, also another crime committed against humanity. Look, we cannot disregard a reality here. Here, I jotted down a lot of notes, but I dont have time to answer all of them. But, I will say you only two things:

Moderator: Excuse me Prime Minister, we can’t start the debate again.

Erdogan: Excuse me. First, excuse me, do NOT interrupt me! First, The Old Testament says in the 6th commandment: You shall not kill! But there is murder here. Second, this is also very interesting. Gilad Atzmon, a Jew himself, says: Israeli barbarity is far beyond even ordinary cruelty. Besides, Avi Shlaim, Professor of Oxford who performed his military duty in Israeli army, says in the Guardian the following:

Moderator: Prime Minister, Prime Minister. I wanna ask to our host.

Erdogan: Israel became a gangster state. (to the moderator) I thank you, too. For me, Davos is done for me from now on. I will not come again. You all know this in this way. You are not letting us speak. (pointing to Shimon Peres) He spoke for 25 minutes, but you let me speak 12 minutes. No way!

Now I don’t know who the ‘moderator’ is but I assume he or she is a European talking to the prime minister of Turkey! (Watch the video).

For us regular folks conditioned to be deferential in the presence of POWER, the Davos display should be an indication of what we are dealing with here, actions that are in actuality expressions of weakness and weakness that leads to desperation and desperate and murderous actions in defence of POWER.

The problem we confront is in linking the greed of our ruling classes to their actions, hidden as they are behind all manner lies and half-truths about ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, words that have been debased and cheapened to the point where they cease to have any meaning.

Worse still, the real culprits are, for the most part, hidden from view, instead they are represented by a professional political class that utilizes all the trappings of its power to bury the reality. It maybe a cliché but all one need do is follow the money.

All of our major politicians are either in bed with big capital or will be once their public offices come to an end. We call it revolving door politics. They sit on the boards of corporations, retained as ‘consultants’, become lobbyists and/or are part of an intricate network of cross-connected directorships, thinktanks, they even marry each other, thus dynasties are created of the ‘high and mighty’ that extend across the generations.

Many are overtly corrupt, receiving kickbacks and payoffs for ‘services rendered’, in short a Corporate Mafia that makes the ‘mafia’ of the movies small potatoes indeed as the recent revelations concerning the House of ‘Lords’ shows, with as many as 140 ‘Lords’ on the receiving end of gifts for fixing legislation or other services rendered (the four names recently revealed is but the tip of the iceberg).

Without any kind of oversight except lip service to the idea of transparency or accountability, never mind absolutely no democracy, over time they have become brazen in their contempt for the working man and woman, flaunting their wealth in our faces. The examples are everywhere especially of late with literally billions being paid to what are actually a bunch of cheap crooks and shysters, these so-called captains of industry.

In the final analysis however, it is our own total lack of political participation that has allowed this situation to come to pass. It is argued that we have no real choice when it comes to who we have to vote for, but the vote is only a small part of the democratic process, it’s what leads up to your vote that counts.

For nearly a century we fought for the universal franchise, eventually forming our own political parties that we trusted to represent us and fight for our interests, a trust that has been betrayed over and over again. Thus we have become cynical and fatalistic about the political process to the point where we have opted out in our droves, preferring instead to consume. But the party, as they say, is over.

On the face of it, as so many say, ‘it’s always been this way, there’s nothing we can do about’ but history tells a different story even right now as the events shaking France reveal. And the reason the French are in revolt is simple, they have trade unions and political parties that may not be the best but they are vehicles through which citizens can act collectively, so much so that Sarkozy ignores them at his (political) peril. (Watch the video ‘Working Class Fightback: Lessons of the Last Great Depression’.)

The BBC disguises it when it talks of “social unrest”, newsspeak for revolt (see ‘Crisis may ‘spark social unrest’’).

The BBC piece quotes France’s finance minister Christine Lagarde who tells us that “trust in the financial system needed to be restored.

“Leaders needed to send a clear, understandable signal to ordinary people about how governments were intending to act, she added.”

Laughably and in direct contradiction, another BBC piece quotes that buffoon Gordon Brown, “Gordon Brown says there is no precedent for the “first financial crisis of the global age”, (‘PM says ‘no clear map’ for crisis’). What they really mean is that there is no capitalist solution to the crisis as crisis is fundamental to capitalism.

By contrast and to illustrate the point, here in the UK we turn against our fellow workers, incited by Gordon Brown’s cynical calls for “British jobs for British workers”. The contrast could not be greater and once more revealing the total bankruptcy of those who claim to lead us.

If we are to put our trust in political parties once again, they are going to have to prove to us that our trust is deserved by not being opportunistic and making promises they cannot deliver on.


1. The term ‘Sophie’s Choice’ originates with the ordeal of an inmate in Auschwitz who had to make the choice as to which of her two children should be put to death.

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