Sunday, December 30, 2007

Looking Back

Recapturing the film of 2007, many things happened, in many places of the world. But then, it’s also true that events take place all over, all the time. We live in constant flux and movement, and this very constancy of change is one of the things that tell us we’re alive, and that our world is alive.

A planet without volcanoes, without earthquakes, is a dead piece of rock with nothing but perhaps fossils or stones for the collectors to examine at their leisure. A planet with volcanoes, with earthquakes, with moving plates is alive, even though those phenomena kill and inflict such terrible loss and pain on those it strikes. Chaos is a very much needed part of life, and without it, Order would simply entomb us in stillness. Entropy, beyond being the focus point of the famous second law of thermodynamics, is the one force that sparked life to everything we know: to the stars we see in the night sky, to this fantastic, ever-developing universe we’re such a tiny, tiny bit of, minuscule ants that we are, and who often delude ourselves into thinking we’re the center of everything--helped in this by the monotheistic religions, which in this aspect as in many others, do nothing other than flatter us and mirror back what we want to hear.

But enough with philosophy.

So 2007 was, like any other year, a year of change. However, looking back I can’t help wondering if the changes that took place aren’t mostly in a direction I’d rather avoid. Of course I’m biased, and I’m sure a great many people would disagree with me, but still.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

In France, the population elected an openly populist, demagogic president. Since then, this man has done little else but turn the political existence of the country into some gigantic, badly written TV soap where he’s the lead actor. This change has allowed him to start on profound changes, most of which are aimed to enact a very, very strong rightwing policy, and also to unravel all the laws and all the social rights that the French workers had won after so many battles since the 19th century. But people don’t see, it, refuse to see it, under the glamour of the huge reality show the current tenant of the Elysee puts out for them. What amazes me, and disgusts me, is that it works, and that so many people are all too willing to fall for it, that so many people are all too willing to start drooling and wagging their tails whenever they stumble upon an authoritarian figure who then simply has to bark something for them to believe it’s some kind of absolute, divine truth. Mr Sarkozy has done everything from staging his ex-wife as the savior of the famous Bulgarian nurses who were held in Libya, trampling from underfoot and denying all the efforts made by European diplomacy, stealing the stage in such a gross fashion that everyone in France should have screamed “fake”, to going into hiding and uncharacteristic silence during the social conflicts in Autumn and then arranging to have himself and his newfound “love” photographed by paparzzi in Eurodi$ney to draw attention from the fiasco of his welcoming Kadhafi like a hero. And people bought it.

In the US, the subprimes crisis has ruined many families. Many people have gone bankrupt, and are now homeless, all because the US system has gone beyond any kind of sustainable balance, and because this system has taught generations of American people that, yes, they should live beyond their financial means, and that they should live indebted up to above their necks, that it’s perfectly okay. The inexistent social security and health care system has once again demonstrated how retarded the US are in that regard, where millions of families, of kids, had better not fall ill, because nobody will give them proper treatment, their only choice being to go to hospitals to be treated by students in their first year of practical field exercise. The crumbling of the middle-class has left dozens of millions with no label of “poor” enabling them to have a minimum of access to any kind of health care, and leaving them at the tender mercy of private insurance companies, which propose contracts those families can no longer afford. But then, I guess that when you embrace a system that glorifies individualism, says you shouldn’t pay taxes, and you shouldn’t have to insure yourself or pay for stuff you think you’ll never need (and it is well known we never get sick, we never grow old, we can never get fired from a job, of course), well you have to take responsibility and accept the consequences of the choices you make for the society you live in. The American Dream is dead and buried, but I wonder if the US people even realize that.

In Iraq, the population has drowned deeper into chaos and terror, all consequences that had been detailed and exposed to the US, and to Mr W Bush, who still decided to go and “liberate” Iraq, a decision among the worst and most ill-advised of these last centuries. Never has the US had a worse president, a president who was reelected nevertheless, by a part of the population who’s either deaf, or blind, or perhaps simply too self-centered and uneducated to see what’s happening beyond the borders of what no longer is a land of hope and dreams. Every single step along Iraq’s nightmarish descent into hell has been forewarned, foretold by this “old Europe” the fools called neo-cons so loved to deride. And now, what? With elections looming near in the US, all the candidates want to get out of the quagmire. But that’s all too easy. Is the US so callous as to barge in, spark chaos and death and terror, and then when all that they had been warned comes true, horrible step by horrible step, they’d just gather their things, leave good guards around the oil reserves and then scamper away like thieves, justifying this rout with claims like “the Iraqi need to take responsibility for themselves, they’re free”? The Iraqi are simply free to wither and to die, their country is in chaos, and all that courtesy of the “liberators” the US claimed to be through the voice of a fool named Georges W Bush, a man with a mission from whatever god he believes in , a man mad enough to invoke crusades in what betrays an incredible lack of historical knowledge and understanding, and, if you stop and think about it, a man whose words and actions aren’t that far removed from what a fanatic would do or say.

In Iraq, bombs explode and shred bodies into bloody pieces of flesh and bones. Families and friends weep, despair, and fall into this ages-old cycle of hatred and revenge. Blood calls out for blood, death calls out for death, all sparked by the folly of a nation who elected a fool, a puppet of very particular corporate interests, and a puppet of madmen who wrongly thought that the world is their playground, where they can build and install whatever society THEY think is best “for everyone”. The neo-cons are, along with religious hierarchs of any kind, those I despise the most, because they claim they know better, because they claim they know the one and unique truth, because they feel entitled to “save us” in spite of ourselves, because, by their way of acting and their way of moving, they show that they believe themselves superior to us, common mortals, when in fact they’re no different, no better, and simply crave power and wealth, same as your next door neighbor.

In Belgium, the June 10th election gave birth to a six months-long crisis, which showed how obsessed with themselves and their greed for power some politicians are, chief among them Mr Leterme and Mr Reynders, who’d sell every single citizen of Wallonia to the Flemish interests if it could give him the dubious “throne” of Prime Minister. It served as a revelation of the way Flemish media and extremists maneuver by the nose the “mainstream” parties, who are now little more than pawns in a dirty nationalist extremist game. It showed the Walloons that they should perhaps envision the day when there will no longer be a country named Belgium, although a great many among us do not want this to come to pass.

It also showed, as it has in France, that the weaker social classes, the worker class and all those who lack in wealth and security in their jobs and their lives, tend to be duped by the simplistic speeches of the right. They elect the right in power, even though they will the first to suffer from its actions. Deaf and blind to anything other than populist speeches, people bark with the dogs and refuse to see beyond the edge of their noses to envision the consequences of their actions. As unbelievable as that can be, still it happens, again and again. Jobless people vote for those who will shape and vote laws that will authorize the hunt for people like them, who will authorize the withdrawal of what little help they have that enables them to keep on living. They put in power people who will unravel all the laws, all the covenants that allow them to live, that their grandparents fought, bled and sometimes died to tear from the powers-that-be of the time. All because people no longer think, no longer take a step back, no longer question. Because it’s so tiring to do so, because it’ so much easier to watch whatever crap is on TV, as long as it doesn’t demand any kind of reflection, as long as it takes us elsewhere, and doesn’t remind us of the mediocrity of our lives…

In Pakistan, a woman with a shady past dared to come back, in spite of all the threats on her life and on that of her family. This woman came to a land now ruled by fanatics in the streets, and by a military dictatorship that parades as a would-be candidate for democracy in the official seats of power. Benazir Bhutto was certainly anything but a saint. It’s more or less sure she benefited from money, that corruption used to sit comfortably on her shoulder. That’s as may be, but she was brave, this woman. She returned to a country where she knew she’d be the target of both the current government, and of all the foaming at the mouth religious extremists Pakistan shelters. On the very day of her return, they almost managed to get her. Still, she didn’t give up. She continued organizing public gatherings, she went to open places, to speak to people, unveiled. A woman in her own right, free and undaunted, she showed those barbarians who proclaim themselves servants of a fictional deity what bravery truly is. In spite of the fear that must have twisted her gut every single moment of every day of her final stay in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto never gave up. Fools in the US believed her to be their pawn, but they never understood the complexity of the East. Fools in the US have had the gall to try and take advantage o her death in their own selfish quest for power in their own little presidential race. In the end, it doesn’t matter. In the end, what matters is that this woman denied all the extremists, never yielded to fear, and never gave up on who and what she was: a woman, without a veil, a true woman, a strong personality, someone with ideas and strength, ready to do what it took to win the hearts of a population and to be elected in a fair democratic process. Nobody can take that from her.

And, last but not least, the brighter stuff.

As for me, 2007 allowed me to discover a land of wonders, on the other side of the equator, a land of beauty called Namibia. In spite of a true, and rather “interesting” brush with death over the Namib desert, images of this fantastic journey will stay with me. Nature undaunted, landscapes that take your breath away, gentle people, most of them living in a poverty we have difficulty imagining, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Namibia.

In New Jersey, people’s representatives took a courageous decision. They abolished the death penalty in a state of a country where many still hold backward beliefs like “an eye for an eye”, and where some will tell you, unashamed, that it’s better to kill criminals, because feeding them costs money. New Jersey brought hope to a country that’s so often been a cause for despair or sadness. It’s the proof that there’s always a potential for good, for things to get better.

A potential for hope.

The world, when you look at it, is a place of beauty and wonders. When there’s ugliness, you always find people at the source. We are, all of us, hope and despair, light and dark, stillness and movement, order and chaos. We can move. We can think. We can choose. We only need to decide to do so. We only need to take a step back, to take off our blindfolds, to look at ourselves, to look at our world, at our society, and ask this question: is this the way we want to live? Is this the way we want to be? The answer doesn’t have to be “yes”. The answer is what we decide, nothing more and nothing less. There is no foreordained course. No Fate written that we blindly follow. No bearded old man watching from above the clouds. No economical divine law dictating that our lives should be this or that.

We are what we choose to be.

We are strong, much stronger than often we know, or even suspect, but not alone. We are strong when we gather, around ideas, around ideals. All along our history, we have toppled tyrants, unmade monarchs of divine right, brought down castes which oppressed us. How many times have simple people risen against powerful oppressors? Too many to count. Time and again, we’ve done this.

We can do it again.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Looking Forward

Bombs may blow bodies and lives to bits, bullets may kill and fools may precipitate the downfall of countries and the welfare of whole populations, but still, Time trickles by. It drips by, droplet by droplet, and brings us ever closer to this year's end. And with this obvious consideration, comes the usual question: is there anything worth looking for in the coming of the year 2008?

I'd say yes, and as proof, here's a partial list of what might be of interest in the coming months:
  • Anime-wise: the beginning of 2008 will see the broadcast of the last part of the Saint Seiya Hades chapter: Elysion-hen. Oh, yes, I know how many have scorned the preceding chapters, and how many are already cursing what they haven't yet seen. In some things, I suppose I am and remain a stubborn optimist, and also, that my love for this series remains intact after more than a score of years since the moment when I chanced upon an episode on French TV. It may also be that I have always loved Saint Seiya for what it is, not for anything else. And also, that I do not turn coat and say the opposite of what I have always said: that the Hades chapter is the best part of the story, along with the battle of the Twelve Houses in the Sanctuary. I havce always said that I wanted to see the last part of the manga animated, and I won't go back on that. I can regret the lack of creativity and the fact that the current director sticks to the manga more faithfully than an adolescent mooning over his first love, but I think honesty demands that many who spit on the anime adaptation acknowledge that, yes, they loved the Hades, and that, yes, the anime is faithful to what they loved, to what they read in the manga, all those years ago.

    [oh, and while I'm babbling about Saint Seiya, allow me this little space for a bit of self-advertisement: I've just put online the latest fanfiction I wrote over the Summer months in Greece. If you've ever read some of my pieces, you know that it's been a long time since I went ahead and took ownership of the Saint Seiya universe and started playing with it, envisioning it far into the future in particular. This year, it was the turn of the past to be tampered with, and more exactly the moment of the rise of a new faith called Christianity in the slowly crackling world of a decaying Roman Empire - Beware that my lack of love for the institution of the Christian Church hasn't varied, and that the story does reflect that. When Blackbirds Sing is an 8 chapters fanfic you can find inside my web home, among other things. ]

  • Elections-wise: weeell, there we have quite a few things to look forward to.

    In Pakistan, January will tell us whether it was possible or not to prevent chaos from totally engulfing the country after the cowardly assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It will also give us the answer that's most likely to who orchestrated the whole thing. My best guess is the Islam extremists (be they Qaeda or not, it's inconsequential), helped by a bit of negligence of the Pakistaniese government (lack of security provided for Mrs Bhutto comes to mind, but it's so not Mr Muscharraf's fault, so not his fault, you see... Ah, the wonders of the passive role in such a coup...)

    In the US, the first months will at last put an end to the primaries in both Democratic and Republican parties. And November will at last see the end of the worst president the US has ever had. Mr. W will go, and good riddance, and leave his successor a situation and a country in shambles, so badly managed during eight years that the gift of the White House is not going to be "rulership over the world's greatest power" but "rulership over a gutted and chaotic country which now more than partly belongs to owners in China and other interesting countries in the world" (yes, in case you didn't know, the interesting thing about the US' debt, is that it doesn't belong to its citizens, but to foreign investors, a great many of them Chinese, I'm sure they'll be good with you all once you start being unable to pay the interests of that ever-growing debt...)

    On a personal note, I'll be watching the first five months of the year with a particular interest, and it's likely to be a rather wearying and worrisome moment. Still, when one chooses a path, one shoulders all the consequences that go with it, be they good, or bad.

  • Politically-wise, it'll be fun to see what happens after Easter: will Belgium explode? Will Leterme seal his position of no-good, incapable would-be prime minister, or will he be saved by some angel or other come from Rome to reinstate a Catholic party in power here?
    And what about France? Will people just drool , wag their tails in happiness at their omni-president, little N Sarkozy when he starts unraveling for good all their social laws and starts tackling the legal limit of the number of hours you can work per weeks? Or will they at last remember they have a backbone and will they fight? Will they remember that they have one weapon, and one weapon only, named "strike"?

  • TV Series-wise, I'll be waiting for more from shows like House, M.D., Battlestar Galactica, Ashes to Ashes, spin-off from the excellent Life on Mars, Heroes, a great many others. And, yes, I hope the screenwriters get their due, and I hope you guys all the best in your battle against the producers. The strike may endanger some shows I love, but hey, if only the producers would be fair, it wouldn't be happening, so go for it!

I could go on like this for quite a while, but it's best to leave a bit of surprise and sense of wonder at the things that may, or may not come to pass in 2008.

One last thing before I go, a small, probably useless piece of all too obvious wisdom:
When blackbirds sing, it means that rain is near. Whether it's just been blown away by the wind and the blackbird's song is joyful, or whether charcoal clouds are hugging the sky and the blackbird's song is a warning and the portent of dark things to come, it's for us to decide. And often, we decide according to our current mood. One day it will be good, and the next it will be bad. The one thing that matters, is never to forget that the two exist, and that there is no universe, no world in which only the one holds sway. There is always another possibility, always a potentiality for better things, and for brighter days.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Call It What You Will...

But please, do not ever call it "Christmas".

The first, obvious reason for that, is that Christmas is a pure fabrication of Christianity, this master among thieves and liars. It's well known that they simply glued a new label on older, ancient celebrations and rituals. Be they Sol Invictus, or the celebration of the god of light Mithra. Be it a celebration of the victory over the darkness, when the days start to lengthen again and the night is vanquished, the celebration is ancient, and we do it no justice when bowing down and letting the oh-so-nice Church blindfold us and lure us into thinking it's got anything to do with the birthdate of a man who supposedly lived and died, and then lived again.

But then the Church is probably the most educated, the most learned and the most talented liar of all times. The thing that saddens me is that people still blindly follow like good sheep, and forget that any religion no matter where or when, only has a single agenda: gain dominion, absolute, on people, because they get their legitimacy from what they claim is a "divine will", and thus, they bow or recognize no right of freedom of thought to anyone. It doesn't matter that Christianity has bowed its head these last centuries. Had there not been a French Revolution, and had heads not rolled, no matter how savage and cruel that time period was, we'd be living in a very different world.

We wouldn't be free.

We'd be forced to "believe" in whatever we'd be told is the truth. There would be no discussion, no reflection nothing.

And, contrary to what it tries to make you believe, Christianity isn't done with dreams of converting and dominating the thoughts and all the aspects of our lives. It is no different from all the other "extremist" cults. It simply has been forced to bow its head and to wait. And so it does wait, patiently, showing us how tolerant, how good and benevolent it is. It waits, for the right time, for the moment when fools like Georges W Bush or Nicolas Sarkozy will start doing enough shows of allegeances, spewing out speeches about "values" and "the need for people who believe and hope", so that governments will have done its job, and put it back in the center stage. When the econolic and social situation will have deteriorated so far, when the oh-so perfect "free market" and "capitalism" lures will have reduced people to poverty, and the governments will have no power left to propose any solution to the populations, when riots and chaos will start, as they have started in some places of our own very much developed and rich countries, what will the populist, moronic and incapable governments like Bush's and Sarkozy's do? Why, they'll call on "the old sets of values", they'll call to "the need for people who hope and believe". They'll travel to Rome, and meet with the snake who patiently waits for its hour to come again.

And once it comes, it will be too late.

Christianity never chose to withdraw and yield back to humanity control over its life. It was forced to do so. It was battered and killed into yielding. Do you think it has forgotten? Are you that stupid?

It watches. It waits. It smiles.

Every time we foolish voters put the right in power, and hasten the fall into poverty and gloom for ourselves, we hasten its return. And when it comes, it will not be grateful. It will have a job to do, a dominion to regain. And if we let it, it will.

Just like Islam is doing in some part of the world. Did you hear? They killed Benazir Bhutto. I didn't like this woman, she had more than a few stains on her political record, but she had guts. She returned to Pakistan, and she challenged the extremists. It took them two trials, but they got her in the end. And the world's light dimmed yet again.
I look at those who rejoice of her death and shout that this is the proof that god exists, that he's showing them the one true way, I look at those who mourn yet another act of barbarism committed in the name of god and shake their head, saying that this isn't god's will and that god is light and love. I look at them all and I say: aren't you tired of always referring to the same cruel, jealous and sadistic anthropomorphic figure invented by people who needed an easy way to control whole populations? I look at them all, and I feel sick.

People so like political correctness, that the learned like to make differences, like nuances: they say we should never associate religion with extremism. Islam isn't fundamentalist Islam. Christians aren't fundamentalist madmen who spend their time foaming at the mouth claiming that whatever divine thingy out there made the universe in seven days some five thousand years ago. Christians aren't all terrorists who kill and torment women who have the "gall" to want to control their bodies and decide when and how they should or shouldn't have children. Christians aren't all self-righteous bastards who claim to have a say over the choices you'd make with your own life, to continue it, or to end it if you so choose.

Well, I'm sorry, but I've had it with political correctness. Religions, all of them, are always so awkward when they talk of atheists or agnostics. They're so embarrassed, that most of them simply ignore atheists and agnostics. They gather, sign great, wonderful treaties that talk about recognizing and respecting each other's faiths, and all that jazz. They never talk about acknowledging the weird people who have doubts, or the strange ones who do not believe. But then, it's not so strange that atheists and agnostics are always either ignored, or ridiculed. And when you tell them that, or when you tell them that separation of church and state means stay the hell out of all temporal matters, what is the answer? Ah, but the answer always invariably is "be tolerant", "be secular in a positive fashion". "Respect us". And I say to them: where is your respect for us? When will you stop spitting your religious beliefs in my face during political debates? When will you stop lording it over others with your self-proclaimed higher values?

Still, as mentioned, it stands to reason for religions and their lackeys to ignore or refuse to admit the existence of atheists and agnostics, since those are the people who do not recognize any kind of higher power and who do not bow their heads. Maybe they're all dangerous anarchists, people who do not think with blindfolds on their eyes, or fetters and chains around their limbs.

The truth is that all religions are extremists. That all religions claim they act on behalf of a divine entity or other, and that they alone know its will, its laws and its rules. And, as they take their power from this divine whatever, they are logically empowered to impose this on everyone and everything. Freedom doesn't make sense in a system where there is a divine something and an absolute truth that derives from its words, thoughts, you name it.

Faith is an individual matter. Religion is a structure of power, that uses "divine will", "divine truth" to gain absolute power over everything, and it's all perfectly reasonable. To pretend otherwise, for a religion to pretend at tolerance, and at "letting people think and decide for themselves" is nothing other than a sham, a lie, a mask this religion has been forced to wear by circumstances. But memories run long and deep, and nothing is ever won forever. So this politically incorrect post is here to disturb whoever will read it. To anger whoever will stumble upon it.

To make whoever will have the bad luck of reading it think.

To remind you, whether you like it or not, that religions and Churches are not nice, kind and tolerant. That they merely pretend. That they wait, patiently. And that if we forget, they do not.

In all the history of humankind, religion has always been, and will always be nothing but the tool of dictators, of powers-that-be, and the pretext for wars, for slaughters, for extermination and for torture, for intolerance. and if you read this and shudder, or grimace, or yell that I'm a heretic who should burn in hell, or shake your head and think that I'm a poor lost soul who doesn't understand the depth of god's love for the world, then you'll have proved me right.

I end this post with an excerpt from a fic I'll soon be posting online.

“You’ve lost this war.” I stiffened. Afraeil was staring right at me, all of a sudden. All trace of mockery was gone from his tone, and an unreadable mask had descended upon his face. “You lost it three centuries ago,” the smile frozen on his lips softened, “all of you, when the Romans were mad enough to make a martyr out of a man, and to allow his followers to weave a fantastic myth around his life. There’s nothing,” he went on in an eerily gentle voice, “nothing you can do to prevent this from happening. The shadow of Christianity will enshroud the world, bit by bit. It will do so, because it echoes people’s fears and hopes, and gives those all back to them a thousand fold. It will win their hearts and their souls, because it places them at the center of everything. Because it gives them the answers they want to hear. Because it makes promises everyone dreams of, and nobody can check. Still,” he drew in a breath and I shivered, refusing the urge to hug myself when I realized that the kind undertone in his voice was sorrow, “one day its veil will lift from people’s spirits. Humanity will again open its heart and its eyes. One day far, very far away from now. In the meantime, your people will have to bow and adapt.”

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Big Bad Boomerang

(the following dialogue is pure fiction, and of course, all resemblance to real people would be the domain of pure parody)

- Say, Didier, mon ami, I think we’ve got a problem.
- Mmm, yeah, Yves,
mijn goed vriend, I think we’re stuck. This whole institutional reform business, with BHV on top of it… *sigh* if only you hadn’t based all your campaign on that. Now, look where we’re standing.
- A hair’s width away from the abyss, I know, I know. Look, I tried to avoid discussing all this, I tried delaying it, I did all I could, and now.
- Now we’re gonna crash into the wall and fail in a pathetic fashion. And then I’ll be stuck having the Socialists on board to make a governmental coalition. You know I don’t want that. You know we had a deal, mijn vriend!
- Well, yes… I don’t want the Socialists either, I mean, your Socialists, mine are not a problem after the beating they took at the polls.
- We’ve got to find a way out of this…hey! I’ve got an idea! Why not let the whole thing roll and your pals in the parliamentary commission vote all together against the French-speaking community?
- Huh?
- Oh, come on! You know we have safety mechanisms! We’ll use them, the vote will be frozen, but it’ll have happened. Then your Flemish nationalists are happy because they’ve humiliated the morons of my dear Wallonia, the king will have no choice other than to “relieve” you of the duty to get an agreement on institutional matters. He'll have to dump that mess to some workgroup or other where it’ll rot away. And in the meantime we get our beloved Blue Orange, I rule all alone and I can spit in the face of Elio and his pals! I’m so smart!
- Erm, but, what about Joëlle? She won’t like that, she has much to lose…

- Look, Yves, Joëlle is a goose, and she’s nothing, she doesn’t weigh anything on the political scene. I need her to maintain a semblance of “social image”, and she’ll shut her trap if she wants to be in power. And even if she doesn’t want to, her political friends DO want to. And she’ll do as I say.

- If you’re sure…

- Yes, I am.

- OK, let’s do it, then.

And of course, we all know what happened. The vote was carried out, one community against the other. The shock in the Walloon population was immense. And in the morning after, “strangely” enough, Yves looked good and happy, and Didier wasn’t all to angry, all things considered. The populations were surprised, because they expected a very strong reaction on the Walloon part. After all, the Walloons had just been badly slapped in the face, and the Institutional Nuclear Bomb had been used by the Flemish parties. And yet, Didier looked rather satisfied with himself.

The king confirmed Yves was still the prime-minister-to-be, and “relieved” him of the burden to negotiate all the institutional matters.

Everything was going according to the plan.

But the two associates had forgotten one thing: the Flemish media doesn’t cater to any political party, no matter how powerful, no matter it is the “invincible” CD&V/NVA cartel. The Flemish media cater only to Flemish nationalism in all its shades, from mild to rotten brown extremism. And those same Flemish media quickly grasped that the one and only objective of the nationalists would be defeated by this little game, and that they’d be the suckers, as well as the humiliated Walloon population. And that, of course, they had to thwart.

So the Flemish media published the information they had, and revealed the whole game behind the vote in the parliamentary commission, and the use of the Institutional Nuclear Bomb. They revealed that both populations, Flemish and Walloon, had been played for suckers by Didier and Yves.

And the day after, the whole Walloon media published the news as well.

And of course, Didier was forced to take a firm stand, to denounce “rumours which amount to nothing else but insults”, and to reaffirm that he’d never, ever be part of a government as long as the Flemish side didn’t give guarantees concerning the respect of the Walloons.

Meanwhile, Yves disappeared the gods know where, being the brave and courageous leader that he’s shown everyone that he is, multiple times. But his party, the CD&V/NVA cartel was also forced to take a firm stand and announce that they’d never give any guarantee, and that on the opposite, Didier and to give guarantee that he’d keep on catering to the Flemish side and yield on the institutional reforms.

And today, the Flemish press is gunning down poor darling Yves, and his party.

And maybe, just maybe, something is about to go right in this country.

Maybe everyone will realize in Wallonia just unworthy of any trust our dear Didier is. Maybe everyone will at last realize that man is only lusting after one thing: power for himself. Maybe people will at last understand that there's only one thing he pursues: his personal ambitions, and everything else be damned.

And maybe Yves and Didier will learn one thing:

When you throw a boomerang in the air, if it misses its target (say because you didn’t take into account all the parameters, such as how the Flemish media operates), it tends to come back to you, and smack you right in the face.

So please, my dear Yves, my dear Didier, stand firm like the good alpha males you roleplay. Stand firm, do not try to evade, and take that rushing boomerang head on. I'll be watching you.

With glee.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deceit, Humiliation, Shame and Blue Oranges

In French, there is a funny sounding expression, with a very ominous and grave meaning: “to cross the yellow line.” When you cross the yellow line, you go past a point of no return, you do something that is irremediable, and you had better be prepared to take responsibility for your decision.

In Belgium, three linguistic communities coexist—coexisted until yesterday. Their pacific coexistence was insured by unspoken rules such as “all the important decisions which might change even the tiniest little thing in the rights of any one community, or change the structure of the state will always been taken solely when there is a majority in favor in every single community.”

Yesterday, that essential principle was trampled from underfoot, and the Flemish community used what is known as the “Institutional Nuclear Bomb”. The Flemish community, which represents 60% of the Belgian population, voted a law that all French-speaking people and the French community opposes. The Flemish political parties did so in spite of ongoing negotiations, after delivering an ultimatum for getting a “suitable result” to these ongoing negotiations. Of course, it also happens that Mr Leterme, the person in charge of those negotiations to form a government, who is the candidate to the position of prime minister, is also the one who:

  • deliberately delayed talking about the problem which “triggered” the Flemish vote until the last minute, every time it landed on the table. This problem was thus not discussed, because of this oh so wonderful and worthy candidate prime minister, until two days prior to a moment when a parliamentary commission would be able to seize the matter and pass a vote on it.
  • is one of the figureheads of the main Flemish party, coupled with another, extremist and nationalist Flemish party. And he has been either unable or unwilling to hold his troops in check and prevent them from going ahead with a vote in parliamentary commission that is tantamount to a true, hones-to-god war declaration with the French community.
  • already proved his worth and more by stating in an interview in a French national newspaper that the Walloons were intellectually unable to learn Dutch, meaning mentally retarded.

I should add, that our sublime, outstanding candidate for prime minister also demonstrated his amazing qualities of leadership when he fled a meeting of the Flemish political parties (including his own, which weighs the most in these negotiations) and left them to decide for themselves what they’d do come the morning of the vote: consider that their demands had been met, or go ahead with the vote and detonating the institutional nuclear bomb. So brave of him! Running away, instead of staying, rising above his own community and showing that he can, really, be the prime minister of all the Belgian citizens, of all the communities.

Because of his inadequacy, of his ineptitude, the yellow line has been crossed. The Flemish parties have voted, along side with a fascist, far-right and nationalist extremist party. The Flemish side of Belgium has sold its collective soul to worse than the devil, all for three letters, BHV, and to satisfy a stupid, unwarranted thirst for vengeance due to their being stuck in the past, and a false imagery of “French-speakers domination” (it’s so easy to forget that their own upper class was the one which humiliated them, and their own upper class spoke French, while the people on the other side, as poor as they, and as humiliated as they, spoke the Walloon dialects, and were crushed under the boot of a French speaking elite, meaning that all the elites in Belgium spoke French at the time, while the people on every side spoke dialect, be it Flemish or Walloon, but they so like to forget about that).

Worse, there are insistent rumors that this whole scenario was co-written with Mr. “I want POWER NOW and without the socialists” Reyndens, in order to get rid of the BHV problem. If that were to be true, then Mr Reynders deserves to be sent back into the opposition for a very, very long time. Mr Reynders is unworthy of holding any position of power, at any level whatsoever. There are prices you just CANNOT accept to pay, no matter how much you lust after what is offered in exchange.

The decision of the king to keep Mr Leterme as the head of negotiations to form a government is alarming. More, it is shameful, and humiliating for the whole French speaking population. The very measured response of the Walloon political parties called upon to form the “Blue Orange” government is also more than distressing. They are fast losing all credibility and I’m not sure people here will love being represented by ass-kissers who’re so happy to continue licking the boots of those who just kicked them in the mud.

Mr Leterme has disqualified himself for the position of prime minister. He will never be the representative of Belgium, he has shown that more than clearly. He’s unworthy of it, irremediably so. He must go, if there is to be a federal government.

And quite frankly, if the Wallon parties accept to paly in the current game of the Flemish parties, the coalition they will form will maybe be an Orange, but it will not be Blue.

It will be a Brown Orange.

And Brown, in this context, is the color of the far-right, fascist parties.

So, Mr Reynders, Mrs Milquet, if I were you, I'd think well, I'd think long before yielding to any kind of temptation to get power in your hands. Some things come with a price I'm quite sure you can't afford to pay.

If you forget about this, you can be certain that the voters won't. The next elections are in 2009. And that's already knocking at our door.

See you then...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Don't You Hate Obituaries ?

I do.

I hate them.

Not only because they’re a pain to write, but also because they mean you’re giving a final farewell to someone. And final farewells don’t sit well with me, agnostic though I am, the more so when they concern people this rotten world needs alive and present. Not gone.

Benedicte Vaes was a master at her art. Her sword was the pencil, then the keyboard. Her finely honed mind always led her arm unerringly, allowing her to knife through deceit, through lies and to shed a stark light on all the questions she analyzed. Without compromises, aiming only for the truth. Rejecting convenience, and all sides in a matter be damned.

Benedicte Vaes was one of the finest voices of journalism in Belgium. I have read many of her papers in Le Soir, and I can hear her voice echoing in my mind, from radio debates she used to participate in. She was an expert in social and economical matters. She denounced unfairness in laws, in decisions made by the government, the union leaders, or the corporate business associations. She exposed the high and mighty when they destroyed workers’ lives to make their already considerable fortunes grow bigger. She rang the bell when things were getting bad.

She was a voice everyone knew. Everyone respected.

She was a voice people heard. They might not like what she had to say, because she was one of the mightiest voices for the left, although I’m quite sure she wouldn’t like to be qualified that way. She stood for fairness, for justice, and for all that’s good in our human hearts. And when she drew out her sword and wrote, the high and mighty read. They grumbled, they complained, they crushed the paper in their hands before dumping it in the nearest bin. But they read it.

And the truth came glaring out at them all, shaped by the pencil and keyboard of Benedicte Vaes.

Now that fate has struck, as it so loves to do, I sit here at my keyboard wondering: whose voice will rise to replace hers? I sit here, and I hope someone will. Until someone does, the light will shine a bit less bright on this forsaken planet. Unless we do not let ourselves forget.

Unless we do not allow the voice of Benedicet Vaes to fade into silence.

Unless we remember that even though she is now out of our reach, she has left us gifts that will forever remain with us. Gifts that Time will not, cannot erode or take away.


Web pages.

Benedicte Vaes’ weapons were the pencil and the keyboard. Her sword and bow which supported the cause of justice, of fairness, and upheld all that is good in all of us.

What her weapons shaped, wrote and crafted will always remain with us. It’s all still with us. We just need to google her name, and read.

So I will not say farewell, or “I’ll miss your voice”. But I will say, “I’ll remember” and “I’ll keep on reading and forcing my lazy mind to work out the truth behind all the spin of the days.”

Here’s to you, Mrs Vaes. I, for one, will not forget.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

And Nothing Changes

In the end, when all is done, when all the fighting, all the struggling through grief and loss, when all the discovering of all the destruction brought about by a sick mixture of fate, negligence and criminal intent, what you find is a feeling.

A feeling so heavy, so strong that it smothers almost everything else.

Nothing changes. Nothing really, truly changes.

The Greeks re-elect in power those who locked up the hundreds of millions of Euros given them by the European Union so they could invest in the prevention of fires. The Greeks re-elect in power those who promised they’d sell off the beaches and beautiful coastlines of the land of the gods to the highest bidder. The Greeks re-elected to power those who bought off their votes by offering “relief money” to anyone who’d come to a bank and would promise they’d have suffered damages in the fires, without even requiring proof. What happened then is known: thousands of people rushed to the banks, many of whom were people who never suffered in the fires. People who greedily took that fake blood money and accepted that their votes were so coarsely bought by people who don’t vie a damn about anything other than their own, continued ascension to power.

And so it goes on. And so nothing changes. There will be no change in the laws to prevent avid property developers to feed on the ashes and the scorched land to build high buildings of concrete that will scar the land of the gods forever, oozing their tainted streams of tourists who will be al too happy to stomp on the remains of what was once beautiful and wild. Nobody in the re-elected majority will vote a law forbidding any building of hotels and other complexes upon sites which have been torched and often deliberately burnt to the ground for at least 10 years.

And the oh, so righteous Orthodox Church so benevolently lends its hand to the bereaved. Its priests gather in a semi-circle to receive the poor people who have lost everything. They get the Holy Church’s mighty help, there’s just a very, very small thing to do to earn that help: kneel, bow, and kiss the many-ringed fingers of those self-proclaimed speakers for the divine. And the charitable Church will hold out its hand to the many burnt down villages, and it will give to the people, but there is only one tiny little catch: they will give only to those who are worthy, to those who have sworn allegiance, they will select those worthy to receive on their willingness to bow to the Church and to do its bidding.

And yet people bow to this, people continue to accept being reduced to beggars, humiliated by an institution as corrupted and as greedy for its own power than the politicians it put in power. Perhaps you will smile if I tell you that, even as I write this, the newly re-elected government is sworn in power, not before the parliament, not before the people, but before the Orthodox Church. So backward is Greece. So tightly bound are the politicians with the Orthodox Church, that they are merely the puppets of priests, who send them voters after the Sunday preach. I hear this, I hear the beautiful songs, and my insides clench with revulsion. I feel like throwing up.

Perhaps one day the Greek people will finally lift up their heads and win free of the heavy, heavy fetters set on them by a Church so obsolete its teachings and precepts are antediluvian. Chained up by a Church who feels a need so strong to control every aspect of its “faithfuls” lives that it will frown and set shame on any who would dare marry before a secular authority before marrying before its priests. Shame and scorn on those bold and crazy enough to marry outside of a Church that will not tolerate anyone marrying before any other institution than it, the secular authorities like a mayor’s included.

And, finally, I get to what prompted me to write this piece even though I’m in Greece and I usually keep well away from the Internet: the last volume of Harry Potter. And here as well, when all is done, nothing truly changed: muggles are still muggles, lower lifeforms, gentle educated pets the wizards smile upon, protect from the knowledge of their presence with a veil of secrecy instead of taking the long, hard road of trying to find a way to live together. Even though the book contains one or two sentences explaining that muggles and wizards are both human, still the difference remain. Still people, normal people are not to be trusted, still normal people are to be protected, and “muggles’ rights” laws have to be passed, as if people were a threatened species of whales or dolphins.

And also, when all is done, when Severus Snape’s role is revealed, still Harry’s children taunt each other with the shame of entering Slytherin. Still they dread this “awful” possibility. Still, the author clings to a hierarchy of “valor” and “goodness” between the four Houses of Hogwarts. It spills out of every page where the students are gathered. That carefully established hierarchy remains in the words of the author herself, in the numbers of students from each House who decide to remain and fight the final battle against Voldemort beside Harry.

Griffyndor remains the one and only place to be. Godric Griffyndor’s shadier acts during his life aren’t explored. They’re barely hinted at, and then quickly forgotten since the one because of whom those doubts are brought about ends up “betraying” Harry.

I do not like this hierarchy of valor. I do not like these “casts” or “social classes” of sorts that Rowlings established and, as far as I can tell, upheld to the very end. All the characters of the other Houses will ever have been are shadows in the background, even during the last battle against Voldemort. All the wit, all the intelligence, all the courage and all the strength are and remain in Griffyndor. I would ask why, and I would ask why the three heroes all belong to the same House. My only hope is that we are supposed to think the way I’m thinking, and that what she pictures is nothing more than this sad truth of humanity: we never learn or, if we do, it takes us such a long, terribly long time.

Still, I would be lying if told you I didn’t enjoy the book. Harry irked me to the very end, but still I found myself wiping off the beginnings of tears when I closed down the book for good, and bid a final farewell to the universe of Hogwarts. I regret the useless deaths during the final confrontation, which really serve no true purpose, and could easily have been avoided. They felt like an overkill of tragedy to me. But I am not the author, and the author is god, so I guess I have to bow my head, and say thank you, for all the good times that the Harry Potter books brought me over the years, in spite of my being more than annoyed by Harry, from the 4th book to almost the end.

After all, how could I dislike a story which had Severus Snape in it?

Perhaps one day we will learn. Perhaps one day we will be able to rise above what we are. What choice have we but to hope this will happen?

And anyway, as many wiser people have said before me: it’s the journey that counts.

The quest. Not the unreachable goal.

Friday, August 31, 2007

To Those Who Stand Between Fire and the Land of the Gods

I want to bow deeply.

I want to say thank you.

I want to tell you that no words can be adequate to convey the gratitude of all those who love this beautiful country of our beginnings.

I want to tell you that no words can be adequate to convey our sorrow and grief for those among you who lost their lives fighting against Hell itself.

Tomorrow, I will be there, and I will cross the Peloponnese. I will see for myself the devastation, the desert of ashes where forests and nature held dominion.

I will see the wasteland caused by people’s criminal and murderous intents—created by people’s criminal negligence. I know Greece. And I know that while a good number of fires were deliberately lit, a good number of others might as well have been deliberately lit. Because Greece is plagued by a terrible bane: negligence.

An absence of ecological consciousness.

In Greece, people throw cigarettes out the windows of their cars even though they’re still alight, even though it’s more than 40°C outside and the wind is blowing.

In Greece, people clean up areas used to dry their small grapes by lighting fire to those areas, no matter that the temperatures are beyond 40°C and the wind is blowing.

In Greece, junkyards are everywhere, in the open, and authorities set fire to them during Summer so as to have more space to store the waste created by the hordes of tourists who flood this beautiful country. And it doesn’t matter if it’s above 40°C outside and if the wind is blowing.

And so, beyond the anger and the sorrow I feel, I hope that this catastrophe will at least be useful in sparking this ecological consciousness to life in the general Greek population. I hope things will be safer, cleaner, more rational.

But whether or not that happens, most of all, to all of you who stood and keep standing between Fire and the Land of the Gods, I wanted to say:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the Realm of Injustice and Absurdity

On August 30rd, a man is going to be murdered. He’s going to be murdered with the blessing of the Texas laws and pseudo-judicial system. Forget for just a moment the debate around the use and concept of the death penalty and of what it implies for those who advocate its use. What is this man’s, Kenneth Foster’s, crime?

Well, he witnessed a murder.

Yes, that’s all he did. He drove a car in which criminals were sitting, he drove a car from which one of those criminals got out, argued with someone and ended up killing that person. And as the murderer came back into the car, Kenneth Foster, the car’s driver, started the car and took off, terrified.

That is the extent of Kenneth Foster’s crime. Oh, he’s certainly guilty of association with law-breakers. He’s unwittingly helped a murderer flee the scene of the crime. And he deserved to be tried and convicted for that.

But Kenneth Foster never killed anyone.

Kenneth Foster never even envisioned that someone would be killed that fateful night.

And yet, Kenneth Foster has been found guilty of the murder, and stands in Death Row to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. A crime everyone knows, the judicial system and the victim’s parents included, that he didn’t commit.

And yet I am yet to see a single paper concerning this horrifying prospect in any US newspaper. I am yet to hear that the news that a human being is going to be killed for a crime everyone knows he didn’t commit.

What does this silence say concerning the US media? What does this silence say concerning the moral high ground the US media, politicians and associations so loves to drape themselves into?

That they’re nothing more than a thin veil of smoke, a cracking layer of varnish that cannot hide the ugliness lying beneath.

What does this verdict say about the US judicial system? What does this planned execution say about a country that boasts it’s has the best judicial system in the world, the fairest democracy in the world?

It says that this is just hypocrisy, another puff of smoke that many in the US are content to stare at with vacant gazes.

Whether or not you support the death penalty, the fate that awaits Kenneth Foster isn’t justice. It’s not an execution.

It’s murder, plain and simple.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Land of the Gods Ablaze

Greece is burning.

Since Friday, fires have been roaring in the land of the gods. Flames leap high to reach the sky, and thick, heavy clouds of acrid smoke blot out the sun. Powerful winds blow, feeding even more the blazes’ frenzy. It’s August, and the Meltemi sweeps across Greece, as it always does at this time of year.

Satellite images show the Peloponnesus as an erupting volcano. The Taygetos mountains are burning. The beautiful Taygetos mountains I watch from my writing spot whenever I’m in Greece. The beautiful Taygetos mountains I’ll be watching a week from now. What will be left of the forests draping their flanks? Desolation? Charred stumps of trees? Grey and black everywhere the eye can see?

Yesterday I watched the Greek satellite TV, and couldn’t bring myself to switch channels. My heart wrenching, I watched people howling their despair and their rage at this unspeakable catastrophe. I watched people threatening the roaring fires and being forced to withdraw at the last minute, on the brink of throwing themselves into the flames to fight them hand on hand. I watched an old woman explaining she had spent the night alone in a village ravaged by the flames, unable to flee. She was standing in the middle of the ruins, in front of the devastation that’s all that’s left of her life. I listened as she explained she got no help, she got no one to help her evacuate. I read reports of people in remote villages phoning radio and TV stations and pleading to be sent help so they could be evacuated before the fires caught up with them.

I listened to the people explaining that a great many fires had been started during the night between Friday and Saturday, which can mean only one thing: arson. Arson, dozens of them, even as all the rescue teams, planes and helicopters, were already stretched far too thin. Arson. This is beyond a simple crime linked to building speculation. This is deliberate murder. These are deeds foul and vile, the murder of people, the murder of a land which is the Western civilization’s beginning.

Cowards, fucking greedy cowards have brought hell on Earth, have transformed the land of the gods into the realm of Hades. Oh how I hope they get caught. How I hope they get tried, publicly. How I hope they spend the rest of their wretched lives in prison, and working to undo the damage they’ve done.

Greece is my second home. It’s the one other place in which my heart beats and my dreams soar high. It’s a place of peace, of serenity. And now…well, now, Greece is ablaze.

Popes try to cower the fires into quiescence, threatening them with their god’s power. There’s so much despair, so much empty courage in their pitiful, absurd attempts that I do not know whether to laugh or cry.

Greece has appealed for the EU’s help, and already countries have answered and sent water planes, helicopters and men. I can only hope that their added strength will help Greece to prevail. I can only hope the Meltemi’s powerful gales will abate and allow the rescue teams a chance to fight the hellish fires. I can only hope, when all is done, that the land, the earth, will lend its strength so that new life can grow. New trees, new plants. I can only hope those who have lost everything will have a way of rebuilding homes for themselves. I can only hope those who lost loved ones will somehow find the strength to endure and to go on.

Athena, if you’re listening and if you have a minute to spare, the land that is yours could really, really use a little bit of divine intervention.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Power, or not Power ?

What Price are you willing to pay ?

When you want to get to a concert, you have to pay, when you want to go somewhere far away, you have to pay. When you want to have power, you have to pay.

The one thing you usually focus on in these moments, is the price.

But what if you want something really badly? What if you want it no matter what?

This is the situation we’re watching unfold in Belgium. It’s been more than 60 days since the elections, and we’re still very far away from getting a government deal. The “government shaper” (or head of the negotiations process designated by the king according to rules which bind the king’s hands) we have is not working for Belgium, he’s working for Flanders (he is the former president of the Flanders region, and the ex president of a Christian and Nationalist alliance of political parties).

On the Flemish side, the two parties negotiating have very clear demands for more independence, their program looking more like a tearing down of the Belgian state than like a path for everyone working together toward a common goal. They can be seen as working hand in hand.

On the Walloon side, we have the two “sibling” parties of their Flemish counterparts. One, the MR, wants power. It wants it with such greed and avidity, that it’s pushing, rushing, delivering somber warnings to its would-be Walloon partner. The MR’s president, Mr Reynders, is so engrossed with the prospect of reaching power inside a coalition without the Socialists—a coalition which would give him free reign at last to unravel our welfare system and our way of life, a coalition in which there would be no counterpart sufficiently powerful to thwart his moves and alert the public opinion—that he’s standing on the verge of yielding to the outrageous demands of the Flemish parties.

And to obtain this, Mr Reynders must somehow force the other Walloon party to yield as well, to bow down to absurd demands which mean nothing more than the end of Belgium. To understand what’s going on, you need to know that the fundamental changes in the workings of the Belgian state demanded by the Flemish parties cannot be voted by a simple majority in the Assembly. These changes demand a change of the Belgian Constitution, and thus demand a special majority of 2/3rd of the Assembly.

This special majority can be achieved with the two Walloon parties vying for power, and with a union of all the Flemish parties (who wouldn’t hesitate to unite, as they all share nationalist and selfish elements). But to achieve such a majority, composed of more Flemish allies than Walloon, would mean to tear down all the unspoken rules that keep Belgium together. It would be what we call an “institutional bomb”, which might herald the true end of our country. It would never be accepted in Wallonia, on the French-speaking part of Belgium, and any party which would take part in such a scheme would suffer heavily for its betrayal of its voters in the next elections.

The second Walloon party knows this, and thus it’s balking, and refusing to yield—not to mention that it is far from sharing all of Mr Reynders’ dreams of destroying our social security system and welfare state.

And so, all the Flemish parties, as well as the Flemish media, are calling the second Walloon party an obstacle, a chicken, and are demanding that it yields and accepts to swallow the fish.

Of course, at this point, you’re wondering what’s going on through the MR party. You’re wondering whether Mr Reynders hasn’t taken leave of his senses, and you’re thinking that he too, would have to face the next elections, and the rebuff of the voters. But it’s not so easy. Mr Reynders is contemplating twisted ways out, like cajoling one of the smaller parties, the Walloon ecologist party, into voting with the majority on these aspects. Mr Reynders is so famished for power, a power he wouldn’t have to share with the Socialists, that he’s willing to stoop so low as it takes. He’s already doing so, hinting at the second Walloon party’s “squeamishness” at its “lack of courage and willingness to enter a government”.

He’s already doing so, playing dangerously close to what amounts to betraying all the French-speaking population. And I have no doubt he’s ready to step beyond the line and go all the way.

So here I stand, watching the news, analyzing and hoping that the second Walloon party will not be intimated, and will hang in there.

Here I stand, hoping that all the political parties in Wallonia, Socialists and ecologists alike, will not land their power and their representatives’ votes to help destroy Belgium.

Here I stand, hoping that Mr Reynders will fail, hoping that Mr Leterme will be forced to resign, and that the king will be free to name a true man of stature to shape a government. A government which cannot be limited to only the MR and the CDH, not if it is to be balanced with the Flemish side. No, this government must include the Socialist party, if Belgium is to survive. If our welfare state and its social security system are to survive. There is no other way.

And some prices are not worth paying, even if it’s to gain power.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Poudre aux Yeux

The French saying simply means "spraying powder before people's eyes so they won't see what's happening in front of them.

And this is exactly what's happening in France, with the touching complicity of the French media. Sarkozy's government has laws infringing the rights to go on strike, to force minimal penalties in judgment, to drastically cut down the number of civil servants, teachers included, and to organize tax cuts that will benefit only the wealthiest classes of citizens. Do we hear about that?

Oh, just a small paper here or there, in the back pages of the newspapers. A thirty seconds interview in the TV news, but no more. No, what occupies the front pages and the headlines TV news is a stupid, phony controversy of Cecilia Sarkozy being "sick" and thus unable to attend the lunch with W and family in the US. And journalists wonder at this woman's actions, wonder if Sarkozy's worst enemy isn't his wife, and spin absurd tales of Cecilia being a rebel. In touching unison, right wing and left wing media paint the portrait of a free woman, wonder if she couldn't be the next candidate for the French presidency...all ludicrous and groundless.

All completely fabricated and futile. Useless--unless of course their aim is simply to focus people's minds on those moronic tales not even worth the worst of romance novels, while the true harm is done in the "unfortunately" less glamorous chambers of France's assembly rooms.

Where laws are voted.

Where essential freedoms and rights are scraped at, slowly but certainly.

While Sarkozy gently, softly, weakens the state, lessens the strength of the administrations and systems that organize and carry out the essential services to the citizens. While Sarkozy discreetly takes the citizens' tax money and hijacks it from its purpose so it can be put to good use: to allow the richest layers of the French society to get even richer at the expense of everyone else.

While Sarkozy carefully prepares the ground to have people accept his plans of forcing them to work more, longer, to take away their rights at decent retirement income past 65 years of age, prepares the way for turning the jobless into criminals in the group mind of the French population, thus opening the path for true exploitation of those unlucky enough to be the victims of corporation who aim at nothing but rising their profits, whatever the cost.

While Sarkozy gingerly paves the road to total market domination over our lives. Gentle, kind, tender and oh, so benevolent market which will regulate itself and make us all happy of course.Oh, yeah!

And while these delicate thefts and unraveling of France's essential rights is being carried out, the whole French media is swooning over the French first lady.

And I stand there watching them, and wondering: has France stooped so low as to imitate the way the US does politics? Have the left wing media taken leave of their senses? Has it come to such a point that they don't even dare talking about the true subjects of information, to debate the true actions taking place in the French Assembly, because all the people care about is empty people-isation of politics? Because all that people care about is who fucks whom and betrays whom? Because people don't care anymore what happens to their lives, or will care only when it's too late?

What is it that the news media and the lambda, average citizen find so fascinating in Nicolas Sarkozy's holidays in the US? What is it that interests them in the billionaire house he's using for the holidays? Who cares that he does his jogging everyday? This is bullshit. This is lies, fabrications for brainless people who are too lazy to actually think and reflect on what's happening around them.

This is an illusion, an illusion the media are all too happy to mirror and cast over everything else.

This is pure poudre aux yeux.

And still, I stand there and wonder.

I read Libération and Rue89, I listen to what the French opposition party leaders say, and I don't understand.


Friday, August 03, 2007

I Will, I Will Arm You !

In essence, this is the message sent by the White House to quite a few countries in the Middle East, except for Big, Bad Iran and Evil, Evil Syria.

Of course, if I were a little kid bored of watching his toy soldiers get rolled down one by one, yawning at the sight of yet another terrorist attack killing scores of innocent, fortunately nameless and alien Iraqi people (at least since they're just aliens, people in my little country won't relate with their slaughter and won't feel any kind of empathy), maybe I'd come up with a plan to make things a little more colorful in that really uninteresting area.

This plan would really be neat if it involved arming arch-enemies, and if this "arming" implied giving the opportunity to enrich in an obscene fashion all the armament companies in my beloved "land of the free" (companies which are already obscenely fat and rich thanks to the deaths of innocents, money reaped on blood, pain and despair, on death, but hey, who cares, right?).

And of course, if the "selling" of arms were to be carried through subsidiaries to the countries my nice friends who're all CEOs of the weapons companies and helped me so much when I had to get money to become Almighty Emperor of the World, it'd be a really fun bonus. Why, you ask? Ah, silly! Subsidiaries mean that I'd pay for all the weapons, or a part of them, using the tax money of all the poor dupes who voted for me and were stupid enough to believe in me and my empty promises of diminishing taxes. Yeah, taxes for schools, for social services, for health and retirement, for the jobless, for the maintenance of roads, bridges (hello, Minnesota, by the way), all that is completely worthless. And people wouldn't pay for them, they're too stupid to realize it'd help them one day.

Nah, I'd just wave a stupid flag before their noses, they'll react like good dogs and start barking, and giving away their precious money. Id' say "Homeland Security", and those fools would come running with their tails wagging. I'd say that "the defense of our nation demands a sacrifice", and they'd pay a new tax with tears of joy and gratitude in their vacant eyes.

They'd pay so I can arm those unstable arch-enemies and then watch while tension rises, and eventually blows into a real, nice little regional war over there. Much funnier than all those random terrorist attacks and some of my soldiers killing off innocent people because they feel frustrated and cheated of doing in real bad guys.

Yeah, it'd be a really, really good plan. Get my stupid, brainless citizens to pay taxes so I can arm countries which harbor the same bitter hatred for each other. Yeah, arm Israel and Saudi Arabia, arm Egypt as well, and the Emirates... Yup!

Ah, I'd so look forward to all the funny slaughter this would lead to!

Lucky for the world, I'm not a kid bored with watching his toy soldiers get toppled on the gameboard.

A little less lucky for the world, Georges W Bush is.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Words and Hearts—Hey, Where are Our Minds?

Words. Sounds. Syllables. Powerful things, they cajole us, they frighten us, they comfort us, they make us laugh, they make us smile, they make us cry.

They make us think.

Words are power, and the tone used to utter them adds to their might, to the imprint they leave inside our minds—or should that be our hearts?

Two words used by writers and journalists, and all those who write to indicate the same thing. Mind, heart…those two words both speak of the grey matter beneath our skulls. This mysterious bit of grey matter where the intellect resides. Where emotions and feelings reside.

Always, in all times, people in power have tried to separate what is in fact one. People in power, be it in churches or other temples, be it in palaces or parliaments, or White Houses, have tried, and tried again to tell us that our hearts and our minds weren’t in the same place.

And incidentally, those nice people in power have always warned us of the treachery of our minds. The heart is oh, so much more trustworthy. So much nobler. So much better.

The mind is a fishy thing, a thing that demands a minimum of focus, of work, of reflection. A minimum of effort, while emotions and feelings rise naturally in response to things happening around us, to things said around us.

Heart and mind are two faces of the same whole. Two complementary elements. Together they give us balance. They make us whole. Separate, they make us prey to either inhumanity, or to the honeyed words flung our way by authorities either secular or religious.

Authorities, politicians, priests like to appeal to our hearts. They do not want our minds to come into the equation, and it’s so easy for them to do so: we’re all lazy, and lazy means we don’t feel like making the effort to listen and to analyze what we’re being told. We prefer being lulled by the song of the words, by the musical tone of voices. We let ourselves drift in the music, and we simply go along with the flow.

And we are duped. Like small children who’d go anywhere so long as they’re being handed out candies.

And the irony in all this is, that there are still decent people in politics, decent people in religions, but we rarely heed them. We rarely support them…or we aren’t enough to do so. Because those people do not want to trick us, and as they want to convince us, as they want to truly have our support, they appeal to our minds. They tell us important things, facts, numbers and reports they want us to analyze with them. They give them to us, so we can focus on them, and draw our own conclusions, make our own decisions.

But not enough of us want to do that. Not enough of us want to think, and get headaches figuring out what is going on around u s, the mechanics of our world, and devise a way to make it better, or at least ponder and decide who’s most likely to try and herd the world along the best path open to us.

As it has come to France, it has been in the US for a long, long time: the thinking crime has been imprinted in a great many people’s minds. People are taught to be wary of their minds, to be wary of intellectuals, of politicians, leaders who use precise, complicated words. People are taught that those who appeal to their minds, who ask them to make an effort, to think and analyze, are in fact elite snobs who have nothing but contempt for them.

People are taught to feel and emote, and they are taught to shun thinking. People are taught obedience and submission. People are aught to bow down their heads and to go work, work and work, so that when they get back home they’re so tired they don’t want to do anything other than to drown in whatever brainless reality show that’s airing when they drop into their sofas.

And of course, this is all very logical. While you can control someone through a shrewd use of emotions and feelings, appealing to the mind is taking a risk. The risk of understanding. The risk of disagreement. The risk of opposition. The risk of rebellion. The risk of revolution.

And of course, all those who have an authoritarian streak do not want that. They do not want that at all. So they appeal to our hearts, they use simple words, they do not tell us the truth of what they want to do. Instead they tell us that they have children and dogs, they tell us they’re good people who go to church, they tell us their opponents are bad people who do no respect this or that. They do not refute the contents of what their opponents stand for, they have no need for that. They’re appealing to our feelings and emotions, not to our minds. They do not want us to understand, they do not want to convince us. They want us to react on instinct, on emotions and feelings their words trigger. They want us to separate from a part of ourselves. They want us to be unbalanced, and soft, easy to shape and manipulate.

And so often, we are all too happy to oblige. Because it’s so much easier. Because we’re tired, and because thinking requires embracing the bleakness of our situations and of our lives, because it requires gathering the strength to rise beyond initial despair to think further, to find a way to make things better.

Because it requires a strength that can only come from the combination of what makes us truly human: our hearts and our minds.

And we need this balance, we need our hearts. We need our minds. We need them, if we are to outgrow old reflexes, if we are to win free of the leashes we accepted for so long. If we are to go beyond the simplistic rejections some words provoke in us, like “liberal”, or “socialist” or “communist”. What do we know of the true meaning of those words? What do we know, beyond the mental images they call up, mental images created by the very people who do not want us to think, and who want us in their control?

We know nothing…unless we decide to use our brains, and think.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Thinking Crime

There, it’s said at least. Now the truth is out, and criminals had better beware!

We think too much. It’s unseemly, it’s unproductive, and we should be ashamed. So the extremist minister of economics Mrs Lagarde said before the French assembly when defending the project of France’s new Enlightened Great Leader.

Thinking is obsolete, thinking is useless, fruitless and futile. It’s time we stopped, and high time we focused instead on the one important thing: work, work, work more, work without thinking, without reflecting, without analyzing. Work more, so that the Great, Wonderful and All-Powerful Economic Machine can prosper, and dump the tiniest crumbs of its profits into the held out hand of the working masses—and, please, give up on thinking about where the huge majority of the generated profits go, we told you already: thinking is a CRIME.

“Work more to earn more.”

This has been a mantra of Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign. And of course, the Exalted Leader, the Savior of France would accompany this mantra with warnings that thinking is outdated, really far too much elite, and so contemptuous of the hard-working masses. It’s only natural to for him to flatter the populations and rub them the right way by claiming that he’s like them, he’s not an intellectual, he doesn’t waste his time thinking.

And so his minions are using the same argument. How could they not?

How do you expect to sell a rotten package like “work more to earn more” while allowing people to think and reflect on what they’re being told is good for them? If people indulged into the thinking crime, they might unravel the honeyed lies spun around the new French president’s mantra. They might add two and tow, and come up with the truth. They might balance one law with another, weigh the consequences of what one would entail for the other.

People might understand that “letting them work more to earn more” by erasing the taxes on extra-hours while passing law that will allow employers to fire employees without reason, on the spot and with a ridiculously short notice, will have interesting consequences:
  • Negating the proferred lie, “of course, doing extra-hours will be solely on a voluntary basis”: of course, you will have to volunteer to work those extra-hours. If you don’t, well your employer will be free to fire you, and replace you with someone who will volunteer.
  • Once you’ve established that pattern, and in reality forced people to all become volunteers to work extra-hours, you can lower the normal time, fixed income for people who work full time without extra-hours, to focus on the brave, courageous workers who deserve to earn more because they work more, and in so doing, insure that the “volunteers” will be trapped, will drown deeper and deeper in the swamp you created.

It’s no wonder that Mrs Lagarde came to the Assembly spewing out her rant on the thinking crime. If people indulged into thinking , they might deduce the truth behind the slogans and mantra, the truth behind the “Saviors of France’s” claims to lead the country and its population toward better times.

And that truth is so easy to find, if you just care to think about it: where does Mrs Lagarde come from? What does Mr Sarkozy love so? What is the model they admire and are pushing, carefully working to eradicate the French and European cultures and ways of seeing the world?

The US.

The US, Mrs Lagarde just came back from.

The US, where most of the medias, politicians and other voices heard in the country have cultivated for years the submission of people to the Holy Market’s will, the submission of people to All-Knowing, All-Powerful and Loving God of Economy. Economy, the US’ true God, the Sacred Entity which will make everything all right. And it does, if you’re happy with your scores of millions of people living in poverty, ignorance, blind and deaf, their lives dedicated to working in bad condition, focused on paying their bills, and being able to afford to pay for their kids’ school, while a very, very thin percentage of the population reaps it all and feasts on the sweat and work of hundreds of millions.

The US, where it works, for one good reason: politicians (mostly republicans), mass-media (Fox News and other “fair and balanced” obscurantist TV channels, radios or newspapers of the same vein) have carefully, very carefully fed the One Truth that allows people to be lulled into obedience, into stupid beliefs that this is the way the world should be, and that the laws of Almighty Economy are as absolute as the sun rising in the East every morning: intellectuals are elite which spit on the people. Thinking is bad, thinking is for nerds, for geeks, for those people who look upon all of you with such contempt. For elite people who do not know anything of true lives.

Yes, thinking is a crime. A crime against the people. And thinking is bad. Thinking is nasty. Thinking is evil.

Once you’ve established that truth into people’s minds, it will feed itself. It will need a bit of care now and then, but just a bit. The US has more than demonstrated how well that works. In the US, thinkers have been turned into pariahs, lowly forms of life to be shunned, people it’s so comfortable to hate.

And of course, what better way to reach their goal for Mr Sarkozy, for the Enlightened Guide of France and his goons than to follow the US example?

What better way than to outlaw thinking?

Outlaw reflection, outlaw analysis, and promote jogging, promote the descent of politics into the pure swamp of love affairs, glamour, rich parties and celebrations where you take care to be photographed close to the “hard-working populace”. Promote idiocy, promote the hatred of intellectuals, promote blind obedience, promote brainless belief.

Chances are it will work, and people will choose the quick fix, the easy path. In a galaxy far, far away, Georges Lucas once warned us that doing so led to the Dark Side.

History told us time and again, that it leads to obscurantism, to dictatorship. To hate thinking, to condemn and outlaw those who think, those who analyze and those who reflect on what it being claimed, announced and said means a very simple thing: you don’t want anyone to find flaws in your plans. You don’t want anyone to contradict you, you don’t want anyone to think other than you do. You don’t want opposition. You don’t want debate.

You want brainless tools which follow your will blindly. You want slaves, you want beasts of burden. You want the foaming at the mouth, unconditional admiration and consent of the populace. But one thing you don’t want.

You don’t want democracy.

You want a religious dictatorship, where all will bow down to the One True God: Economy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Some believe that Georges W Bush will succeed. Some believe that that instrument of bad luck and great blunderer is a success.

Some believe Nicolas Sarkozy will save France, and bring happiness to its people.

Some believe that they will find revenge and a renewal of pride and honor through honorless terrorism, the murdering of innocents, of women and children.

Some believe that keeping women under the status of slaves and breeding mares is the will of whatever god they worship.

Some believe that contradictory “laws” of economy will ensure humankind’s welfare and happiness. Some believe these so-called laws will be enough to bring a balance to a world that’s slowly, inexorably falling into chaos.

Some believe that things can go on as they are, that their reign is forever.

Some believe that reining in the desires to adapt to modernity inside the Catholic Church, and clamping down on much-needed reforms, giving signs of going backwards, of reverting to hard lines and obscurantism will bring back the crowds of faithfuls inside the churches for Sunday masses.

Some believe that all is well with the world, and that global warming is but a small problem, whose solution must not hamper the advance of economy, and the exploding production and consumption rates everywhere.

Some people in France believe that presenting the fact that the higher revenues have had an increase of 43% over the year 2006 while the poorer fractions of the population had only an increase of 4.3% in their revenues (barely above the increase in the costs of essential goods one must buy in order to survive) is not a big deal.
43% over a yearly revenue of, say, 500,000 €, meaning an increase of 215,000 € as opposed to 4.3% of a small revenue, say, 20,000 €, meaning an increase of 860€.
215,000€ to the rich layers of the population, versus 860€ to the poorer layers of the population. Since when is that insignificant? Since when isn’t that denounced, and clearly set on the table of Nicolas Sarkozy’s government? Ah, of course, since the moment when Mr Sarkozy’s been catering to the very rich layers of people in France, which means, since the beginning. But fools have voted him in power. Fools see the numbers on TV news, they see the percentages, but they do not take the time to convert that in terms of real money. They do not see, they do not realize.

And they believe.

And the populist, authoritarian Nicolas Sarkozy continues on his way, lying through his teeth, helped by the French TV media, who cater to his every will and whim, who broadcast the lies spun by his communication experts, who transform hard disputes and complains against Mr Sarkozy made by the Europeans who forced Mr Sarkozy to step back on his outrageous demands into a “lightning quick visit during which the president obtained almost everything France wanted”.

And his wife Cecilia goes to Libya to visit the Bulgarian nurses, in a transparent move to snatch at all the gains earned through months and years of diplomatic hard work done by the European Union. A visit heralded by the French media as “a humanitarian visit by the first lady of France”, conveniently forgetting the fact that it is nothing more than a brutal move to usurp the result of Europe’s hard work.

And people believe an image created by the media, a lie spun by communication specialists, while the world moves on, and the reality is the opposite of the honeyed tales sold to gullible crowds who want simplistic answers to hard problems.

And the Bush administration goes ever onward, denying the utter failure of everything it has undertaken.

And the mullahs, and the religious fanatics of Islam, the Talibans, go on stoning women, killing women, raping women, beating women who “do not wear the veil properly”, primitive apes that they are. Cowards. Gelded fools with no balls.

And people keep wanting simple answers, easy answers to hard questions.

And the Vatican keeps plunging down the road back to the dark times of obscurantism, of mass said in Latin, of exorcisms that leave their share of broken victims, of deaths. It’s so easy to think that praying to something will cure you of problems.

It’s so easy to shrug off responsibility to someone else. It’s so easy to claim that killing off the bad guys will turn the world into something better.

It’s so easy to follow Kira, and to cheer every time Yagami Light uses the Death Note.

It’s so convenient.

So mediocre.

So cowardly.

We all want a better world. But what is “a better world”?

Who is going to write the criteria that define “a better world”?

Who? Representing whom?

Georges W Bush?

Nicolas Sarkozy?

Joseph Ratzinger?

A nameless mullah in Tehran?

Theirs aren’t my world. And besides, nobody can build anything on sand. Nobody can build anything on lies…well, anything that lasts, anyway.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Aliens Among Us

Aliens. Apart from reminding everyone of the movies starring Sigourney Weaver, “Alien” is a word you can find everyday in an all too real context.

What is an alien? Had I never been to the US, I’d tell you an alien is an extra-terrestrial entity, sentient or not. And more often than not it’s a hideous monster out to devour/destroy/enslave/you-name-it humankind. All in all, what best defines an alien is a living being that’s not human (emphasis on “not”). That’s what I always thought, and it was logical enough.

But when you cross the ocean to get to the US, you discover that the alien is you. You, the foreigner, the stranger. You’re an alien in the term of vocabulary chosen by the US customs to designate someone who isn’t a US national. Shocking though that is in itself, in what it indicates as to how the US customs administration views the outside world, there is worse.

Many ordinary people in the US refer to foreigners as aliens.

And I wonder why. There are other words for people who do not share your nationality. Words which do not also carry the meaning of “beings so different, they’re anything but human”. Foreigner is one. Stranger is another, but I tend to go for foreigner, which does carry the intended meaning of “not being one of the country’s nationals”. Of course, I’m sure some people would argue with me that when the term started being used, science-fiction didn’t even exist, except in the minds of Jules Vernes, and wasn’t a mass market production. That may well be, but the times have changed. And it’s been a very long while since they changed.

When you hear “alien”, you do not think “stranger” or “foreigner”, you think “non human being”. And the “out to destroy humanity” usually isn’t far behind.

Calling people “aliens” is not only shocking, it’s insulting. It’s denying the fact that we’re the same, we’re people, even if some papers say that we do not belong to the same “nationality”. Terms like that serve to keep barriers, gaps and distance between people. Tell me, what do you feel when you hear “alien”? What do you feel when you hear “foreigner”?

On a subconscious level, we do not feel the same thing when we hear those words. One is definitely threatening. Remote, and irremediably different. Alien, in short.

Do people consider these things? Do people realize how important the choice of words can be? Do they understand all the subtext, all the feelings and emotions simple words inevitably trigger deep inside us, no matter whether we admit to this or not?

“Aliens” is one of the things I wish the US and its customs administration would change. It shows how remote and different from the rest of the world the American culture considers its own. Oh, it may be completely unconscious—although I kind of doubt that—but it’s there. It betrays this urge to close in upon oneself, to close to the world outside, and to focus only on oneself. It’s a very human thing to feel. A very human urge to have. But it’s one that must be overcome, especially when one intends to be the leader of “good causes” around the world.

Of course, there are many other things the US needs to change if it wants to embody the “forces of good”, but still “aliens” should change. It’s a small thing, so easy.

When you call me an “alien”, you push me away, you insult me, you deny me. When you call me a “foreigner”, you simply state the fact that I’m not a national of your country. “Alien” is a debasing term, one that denies your existence as a fellow human being. As long as the US administration refers to foreigners as “aliens”, it will strand itself apart from the world. As long as ordinary people within the US use the term and consider it normal, they will back up the growing feeling in the world that the US willingly and deliberately estranges itself from the rest of us, sets itself apart and above the rest of us.

If anyone with a bit of understanding as to how important words can be, as to how deep their meanings run inside our minds and hearts reads this naïve bit of rambling, consider getting over “aliens”.

We’re not “aliens”. We’re people, just like you.

Foreigners, certainly.

But not aliens.