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.”