May 16th 2014

The Fire Next Time

by Colm Herron

Colm Herron's first writing career began at the age of seven when he stitched together his vampire stories on his big sister’s Singer sewing machine and sold them to classmates for a penny a piece. He was in business. Two years later he was telling cliff-hangers to the ne’er-do-wells in the local gambling hall. Colm’s abiding memory is that these wasters seemed to enjoy this weekly break from misspending their lives. When he was fifteen he had a play on BBC and later brought his short stories to Brian Friel, an emerging playwright. Friel said “Great. This stuff’s better than what I wrote at your age." But Colm was unimpressed and thought “This guy’s going nowhere. I don’t know why I came to him at all." So Colm gave up writing, deciding to live instead. Meanwhile Friel took off and, while his plays were showing worldwide for the next thirty years,stories were kicking and turning in Colm’s head. But they still weren’t ready to come out. Till twelve years ago, that is, when he said to himself “OK, I’ve lived. Maybe it’s time to do the other thing." Thus began his second writing career. And his latest novel The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next) has just been published by Nuascéalta Teoranta.

Who said these words? “You just don’t invade another country on a phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”

Was it Ambassador Joseph Wilson, former U.S. chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, who resigned from the Foreign Service in 2003 questioning the need for another war in Iraq? Or was it Glenda Jackson, prominent member of the British Labour party and former movie star and stage actress, at the onset of the Bush/Blair war?

Neither. It was John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press in March of this year. He went on to say (with regard to Vladimir Putin’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula): “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

And this is the John Kerry who voted for the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, an invasion which resulted in between 400 000 and a million deaths depending on what survey you consult. In addition to this and the untold number of people maimed there were up to five million refugees and internally displaced. There are now at least 4.5 million orphans in Iraq, six hundred thousand of whom are living in the streets.

This out of a total population of 30 million.

Not for the first time I despair of U.S. politicians, especially those charged with responsibility for foreign affairs. As Marcus Papadopoulos, commentator for ‘Politics First’ recently told RT the Russian English language news channel: “Since when does the United States government genuinely subscribe to and defend the concept of sovereignty and territorial integrity? They certainly are not doing that at the moment in Syria. They certainly did not do that when they attacked Libya. They certainly didn’t do that when they invaded Iraq. They certainly didn’t do that when they attacked Serbia over Kosovo and then later on recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. The United States government merely pays lip service to sovereignty and territorial integrity, it picks and chooses.”

He’s right of course. The U.S. is the biggest cherry-picker in the business. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So what gives America the right to be involved in the Russia Ukraine business at all? Nothing, except what they see as their manifest destiny. And what is manifest destiny? you may ask. Well, it is difficult to answer that question without coming across as absurd. Manifest destiny is the conviction that they (white Americans) have approval from God Himself to invade any country they want if it is for America’s good. Its origin is found in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, the first American military conflict fought entirely on foreign soil. American victory and the subsequent treaty gained three quarters of a million square miles for America. That’s a hell of a lot of territory and its acquisition served as a kind of model for what was to come.

On the matter of U.S. adventures and adventurism Professor Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, has this to say:

“The American public still for the most part has no idea what the United States did to that country [Iraq], and until we Americans take responsibility for the harm we do others with our perpetual wars, we can never recover from our war sickness, which drives us to resort to violence in international affairs in a way no other democracy routinely does.”

And now it’s Ukraine. Last December Senator John McCain vowed U.S. support as he dined with the leader of the far right Svoboda party which was at the heart of protests to unseat the then president Viktor Yanukovych. U.S. Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland paid three visits there in the space of five weeks in her efforts to rally the coup leaders. Joe Biden flew in with more moral backing. After the coup Barack Obama described the interim government there as “duly elected” (What is this? Some kind of doublethink? No, it’s a barefaced lie) and warned Vladimir Putin that the U.S. can “calibrate our response” based on whether Russia chooses “to escalate or to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.” The question is, who is doing the escalating? The U.S. has put into place in Ukraine what it calls a “security structure”, i.e. units from the CIA and FBI. Why are they there?

But what is this all about and how did it happen? Was it EU mismanagement of negotiations with the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last year when they failed to offer a financial package substantial enough to rescue him from his Russian debtors?  Was it the EU’s half-witted insistence that a close relationship with Brussels must exclude a close relationship with Moscow? Or was it Vladimir Putin’s fear that the EU’s demands were actually tied in with NATO’s eastward march that might sooner or later rob Russia of its vitally important neighbour, the last buffer state bordering Russia?  Could it have been his apprehension that any sign of weakness on his part might well usher in an end to his oligarchic nationalistic rule? No one should underestimate the Russian leader’s determination to hold onto power and to restore his country to its former greatness.

In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Big Brother oversaw perpetual wars among the superstates of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. By this means he controlled the minds of his people and thus sustained his popularity. At this moment in time the U.S. is locked in a deadly symbiotic embrace with arms manufacturers while conducting what they call “special operations” in 124 countries. These “special operations” are in fact secret wars. In Orwell’s novel Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia had emerged from an atomic global war. The fact that the U.S. is now taking on Russia should bring the American people – and the rest of us – to the realization that the nuclear holocaust may be closer than any of us feared.       



In the picture the author Colm Herron as portrayed by his daughter Nuala Herron. For her web site please click here.




     

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Dec 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "One of the great paradoxes of human endeavour is why so much time and effort is spent on creating things and indulging in behaviour with no obvious survival value – behaviour otherwise known as art. Attempting to shed light on this issue is problematic because first we must define precisely what art is. We can start by looking at how art, or the arts, were practised by early humans during the Upper Palaeolithic period, 40,000 to 12,000 years ago, and immediately thereafter."
Dec 3rd 2022
EXTRACTS: "As a portrait artist, I am an amateur at this compared to the technology gurus and psychologists who study facial recognition seriously. Their aplications range from law enforcement to immigration control to ethnic groupings to the search through a crowd to find someone we know. ---- In my amateur artistic way, I prefer to count on intuition to find facial clues to a subject’s personality before sitting down at the drawing board. I never use the latest software to grapple with this dizzying variety.
Dec 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "In the exhibition catalog Lisane Basquiat writes: 'What is important for everyone to understand… is that he was a son, and a brother, and a grandson, and a nephew, and a cousin, and a friend. He was all of that in addition to being a groundbreaking artist.' "
Nov 24th 2022
"The art of kintsugi is inextricably linked to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi: a worldview centred on the acceptance of transience, imperfection and the beauty found in simplicity.....nothing stays the same forever." --- "The philosophy of kintsugi, as an approach to life, can help encourage us when we face failure. We can try to pick up the pieces, and if we manage to do that we can put them back together. The result might not seem beautiful straight away but as wabi-sabi teaches, as time passes, we may be able to appreciate the beauty of those imperfections."
Oct 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "The prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, was quick to congratulate Sunak, referring to him as “the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians”. In the difficult waters of British and indeed international politics, all eyes will be watching to see how well the bridge stands."
Oct 5th 2022
EXTRACTS: "In the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw eulogized Jean-Luc Godard as 'a genius who tore up the rule book without troubling to read it.' This is a fundamental misunderstanding." ----- " As had been true for Picasso - and Eliot, Joyce, Dylan, and Lennon - it was Godard's mastery of the rules of his discipline that made his violation of those rules so exciting to young artists, and his work so influential.  But perhaps these innovators' mastery of the rules can only be seen by those who themselves understand the rules."
Sep 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For many of us, some personality traits stay the same throughout our lives while others change only gradually. However, evidence shows that significant events in our personal lives which induce severe stress or trauma can be associated with more rapid changes in our personalities." ----- "Over time, our personalities usually change in a way that helps us adapt to ageing and cope more effectively with life events." ----- " ....participants in this study recorded changes in the opposite direction to the usual trajectory of personality change." --- "....you might like to take the time to reflect on your experiences over the past few years, and how these personality changes may have affected you."
Sep 21st 2022
EXTRACTS: "It might seem like an obscure footnote among the history-making events of 2022, but the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s death coincides with the 300th anniversary of Adam Smith’s birth." ----- "As a committed Stoic, Smith had little patience for greed. The whole point of Roman Stoic philosophy was to use personal moral discipline to support the rule of law and constitutions, and to make society a better place." ----- "When we read Smith, we are better served to think of the example of Elizabeth II than of those driven by personal greed. It might sound archaic, but, as Britons’ response to her death suggests, these values still appeal to a great many people today."
Sep 14th 2022
EXTRACT: "On the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the former Prince of Wales was proclaimed King Charles III. Although it’s been known for decades that Charles would succeed his mother, there were rumours that he might, once king, choose the name George due to the contentious legacies of Kings Charles I and Charles II."
Aug 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "An over-emphasis on looking for the chemical equation of depression may have distracted us from its social causes and solutions. We suggest that looking for depression in the brain may be similar to opening up the back of our computer when a piece of software crashes: we are making a category error and mistaking problems of the mind for problems in the brain. It would be wise to observe caution with drugs whose effectiveness is not certain, whose mode of action is unknown, and which have many side-effects, especially for use in the long term."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "China uses incarcerated prisoners of conscience as an organ donor pool to provide compatible transplants for patients. These prisoners or “donors” are executed and their organs harvested against their will, and used in a prolific and profitable transplant industry."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "In the first episode of season three of The Kominsky Method (2021), there is a funeral service for Michael Douglas’ character’s lifelong friend Norman Newlander (played by Alan Arkin). By far the most inconsolable mourner to give a eulogy is Newlander’s personal assistant of 22 years who, amid a hyperbolical outpouring of grief, literally cannot bring herself to let go of the casket. It is a humorous scene, to be sure, but there is something else going on here that is characteristic of employer-employee relations in this era of neoliberal capitalism. “Making him happy made me happy,” she exclaims, “his welfare was my first thought in the morning, and my last thought before I went to sleep.” That isn’t sweet – it is pathological. ----- Employee happiness is becoming increasingly conditional on, or even equated with, the boss’ happiness. As Frédéric Lordon observes in his book, Willing Slaves of Capital (2014), “employees used to surrender to the master desire with a heavy heart…they had other things on their minds…ideally the present-day enterprise wants subjects who strive of their own accord according to its norms.” In a word, the employee is increasingly expected to internalize and identify with the desire of the master."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain – namely an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. However, our latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it."
Jul 13th 2022
"But is he “deluded”? " ---- "....we sometimes end up with deluded leaders because we ourselves can be somewhat delusional when we vote." ---- "David Collinson, a professor of leadership and organization at Lancaster University, associates this predicament with excessive positive thinking, or what he calls “Prozac leadership,” in reference to the famous antidepressant that promises to cheer people up without actually fixing what is wrong in their lives. “ ---- "In politics, Prozac leaders come to power by selling the electorate on wildly overoptimistic views of the future. When the public buys into a Prozac leader’s narrative, it is they who are already verging on the delusional." ----- "Another potential example is Vladimir Putin, who has conjured a kind of nostalgic dream world for his followers and the wider Russian public."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Many veterans, refugees and other people who have experienced trauma and have mental health issues spend little time thinking about the future. Instead, they are narrowly focused on the negative past. However, people who have experienced trauma and developed a healthy future perspective report being better at coping with life, having fewer negative thoughts about the past, and getting better sleep compared with those who have a negative future perspective. So, instead of dwelling on the past, people who have suffered trauma should be encouraged to think about the future and set goals that help them develop hope for a good life."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: " The devastation of war is a recurring theme in Turner’s work, and unlike his contemporaries Turner is willing to forego the occasion to bolster national pride or the patriotism of its fallen heroes. In “The Field of Waterloo” (1818), Turner’s great tragic vision of war, “The…  dead of both sides lay intertwined, nearly indistinguishable surrounded by the gloom of night.” Near the bottom center there are three women. The one farthest from us is bearing a child and in her right hand a torch which illumines the sea of mangled bodies. Beside her is another woman struggling to keep a third (also with child) from collapsing outright. Turner reflects not only on the dead and dying, but on the widows and orphans that war produces."
May 19th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Thus experimental creativity could be witnessed, but not verbalized.  When five leading Abstract Expressionist painters founded an art school in New York in the late 1940s, they offered no formal courses, because, as Robert Motherwell explained, "in a basic sense art cannot be taught." ------ "Conceptual artists are ...... more inclined to use written texts to accompany their works in other genres.  In 1883, Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, "One of these days I will write you a letter;  I shall write it carefully and try to make it short, but say everything I think necessary."
May 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unfortunately, it’s common for dark triad personalities to become leaders. ..... their ruthlessness and ability to manipulate means they attain positions of power quite easily. When a “dark” leader attains power, conscientious, moral people rapidly fall away. A government operating under these conditions soon becomes what the Polish psychologist Andrzej Lobaczewski called a “pathocracy” – an administration made up of ruthless individuals devoid of integrity and morality. This happened with Donald Trump’s presidency, as the “adults in the room” gradually headed for the exit, leaving no one but staffers defined by their personal allegiance to Trump. A similar decay in standards has occurred in the UK."
May 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "The proportion of US electricity deriving from wind and solar in the month of April climbed to 20%. Thus, the renewables total was 26.5 if we add in hydro. This statistic is unprecedented."
Apr 24th 2022
EXTRACT: "Every year, around 12,000 men in the UK die from prostate cancer, but many more die with prostate cancer than from it. So knowing whether the disease is going to advance rapidly or not is important for knowing who to treat." ...... "For some years, we have known that pathogens (bacteria and viruses) can cause cancer. We know, for example, that Helicobacter pylori is associated with stomach cancer and that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer." ....... "....we have identified five types (genera) of bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer." ...... "We examined prostate tissue and urine samples from over 600 men with and without prostate cancer," ..... "....men who had one or more of the bacteria were nearly three times more likely to see their early stage cancer progress to advanced disease, compared with men who had none of the bacteria in their urine or prostate."