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Below is a brilliant sentence. One sentence that perfectly summarizes the US today (a comment made at The American Conservative site):
Tis rather a case of a divided house living by the sum of its fears.
Fear – the great uniting force of Americans. Every horrendous policy, every mass murder, every type of exploitation, assassination, usurpation, surveillance, and torture is and will continue to be justified by mechanisms of fear at its deepest level and with material wealth as its most persuasive element. After fear, in second place comes greed.
The American system is crumbling right before the eyes of all. But most Americans, drenched in their ideological propaganda that their system is good, cannot fathom where the problem lies. Not only do they believe their system is good, but they believe it is the best and it works and therefore, by ideological diktat, it cannot malfunction. As a result, they cannot recognize that the problem lies with the very type of savage capitalism/imperialism they have. And now, additionally, this atrocious imperialist capitalism encompasses a deep layer of complete lack of morality and ethics to regulate the personal/sexuality sphere.
Add to this the two very corrupt parties that dominate the political scene – which offer no real alternative to change the system where it needs to be changed. Thus Americans having been going from populist to populist politician as their choice of president, dreaming and clamoring for hope and change, while blindly marching forward and steeping downward to greater and greater systemic malaises.
As I realized not too long ago, Hitler died, but his ideology won in the West. It brought prosperity to some – and given that the prosperity was significant in the US and Europe in the last century – it worked to camouflage a large part of the systemic rot that can never function in this type of system, along with all the people who get crushed by it along the way. Smarter Americans have realized that simply changing presidents won’t change much in the country, no matter if it’s a Democrat or a Republican administration that takes over. Yet, even these people will do very little to bring about change.
Democracy cannot function without ethics. Once you have a rotten democracy in place, such as what has happened in many Western countries, you cannot change that without enormous work from a lot of people. Americans, like most people, are stuck in their ways, their dysfunctional ideology, their attitudes, their blindness, their corruption. With each passing day, certain very valuable attitudes that they possessed, cherished, and encouraged are simply lost as part of the country’s culture. There are no more Mr. Smiths going to Washington today. Nor would they be admired if they existed. Americans traded in I Love Lucy, Jimmy Stewart, An Affair to Remember, and The Partridge Family for Grindr, Tinder, porn, and Caitlyn Jenner. It is sad – and it further underscores just how much the past is often another country.
Instead of fighting the Nazis, Americans now go murder masses of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East and Africa. Or they supply the arms and oversight for other client monsters to do the job. Or they bomb entire countries to pieces with not a thought for the suffering and destruction they inflict on defenseless populations who cannot escape.
And most of the American population supports this. They have as much concern for other people as the Germans did while gazing at the boarded trains taking those unfortunate Jews to their extermination. The threat from Stalin during “Cold War I” gave Americans the justification to commit any barbarity under the guise of fighting the particularly monstrous version of totalitarian communism that Stalin’s USSR represented. Once that fight largely disappeared, American barbarity increasingly came to the fore, naked. So new excuses needed to be created to canvass popular support. Little irrelevant groups conveniently labeled “terrorists” were presented, through a flick of a wand, to the American people as the threat that replaced the USSR communist bogeyman and who were seeking to destroy their glorious system, their way of life, their freedom – even their very lives. And here is where this circus takes on a surreal turn. While Americans will continue to scapegoat their problems on “terrorists” and “illegal immigrants” – no matter how much they murder and bomb other peoples, and no matter how much of a militarized, police state they become, with encircling walls set up along every inch of every border, they cannot stop the gradual implosion of their system, because it is there where the rot lies.
And another nice comment below left on TAC by Cosimano, that nicely finishes my own commentary above:
American ethics have always been subjective. Other than a sort of general agreement that it was not good to steal or murder everything else has always been open for discussion.
Religion was a nice veneer but it never really mattered all that much. People made up their minds and then found the appropriate Bible verse to support them. Not the other way around.
Some of these dolls are so realistic that they are creepy – not because of the realism, but because the artist has chosen to give them such a haunted expression – it’s awful.
Not all of them have this horrible expression, and I hope that in the future he might opt for less dreary faces overall. Most of them look like they have just been told they are going to die. Icky.
Beautiful craftsmanship in any case! Mikhail Zaykov is the Russian artist’s name.
I’ve been reading and watching way too many things to post anything here. Ah, where to begin. I’ve been in shock in the last few days, ever since the Paris attacks because I realized the extent of my naiveté in thinking that I lived in anything that could be called a democracy. So this is what living in Germany at the time of the Reichstag fire was like. And it’s moving fast. Europe and the US are no longer democracies. (And it didn’t just happen yesterday, but my illusion was lingering, painful as it is to realize that we are to live in the same world of 75 years ago).
I’m very distressed to understand that the problem are the proxy wars. Instead of Russia, the US, France, the UK, and the Saudis bombing each other, they are bombing “the poorest of the poorest”, including masses of civilians, which includes, even worse, always a large number of children. No solidarity from the West to all the murdered and terrorized and maimed children in Africa and the Middle East, whether the killings come from these noxious “coalitions” of mass murder governments, or the so-called terrorists. When you think about it, any of the following governments: the US, Russia, France, UK, and the Saudis are just terrorists with much more means – both in arms and in resources. And what a propaganda machine! So oiled, so shameless.
I had always thought part of the reason Hitler et al had been able to come to power around 1930 was that ‘it was a different era then’, ‘people were more stupid’, they had ‘more stupidifying education’, they had less access to information, society’s culture was more dumbed down.
Alas, nothing has changed. We live in a world with masses of morons who gladly give their support to today’s Hitlers. What then must we do? That’s what I’ve been thinking.
And I’ve had the displeasure to spend this last week focusing on thoughts about war itself, and several of the concrete wars that are currently going on. One thought out of many – why are people in the West so shocked about beheadings? It’s one person killing another. Whereas a jet dropping dozens of bombs is one (or a couple of people) killing a huge pile of human beings and injuring so many others. I haven’t heard of the fighters beheading children. What are children being killed with in these wars? Modern arms. Really, who are the barbarians? While all groups use modern arms, the people who have killed the most civilians in Africa and the Middle East are the usual culprits: the US, the UK, France, Russia, and now more recently, they were joined by the Saudis, with their massacres in Yemen.
The Russians arming Assad, who used chemical weapons on people. The US and Saudis arming the Islamic State, which is now being attacked from various sides. And it’s millions of people forced to live in the hell these powers create that pay the most cruel price. It’s disgusting.
Below some good links to read – I won’t even bother to post the title first on some, because it will take too much time:
Putin hasn’t changed, but suddenly the West’s short-termist rhetoric has softened
If you haven’t seen the three movies below on the Battle of Stalingrad, the battle that turned WWII around, you really are missing something. I would start with this very good documentary with several interviews with survivors from both sides – free on youtube: Stalingrad – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0NSXHwPl68 (By the way, there are several other documentaries on the Stalingrad battle on youtube – this is another good one: Line Of Fire Stalingrad)
Then, you can watch “Enemy at the Gates” 2001 – a good, but very Hollywood, glossy version of the snipers in the conflict. It’s very well written, the characters are great, plenty of drama and suspense, but it’s too embellished. The main character (Jude Law as handsome as can be) is somewhat based on a real Russian sniper, and the central idea of the movie, the duel between the best German and Russian snipers, as well. But most other characters and events are fictional, even though they represent many of the feelings and experiences of real people. Of course, not included in the fictional content are major war events and people, like Stalin, which are real. In any case, despite these issues, it’s a good film for what it sets out to be – but this doesn’t mean it is what a movie about Stalingrad should be.
Before you get to the best movie of all times about Stalingrad (at least that I know of!), you can watch, if you have nothing better to do one day, a reasonably lousy one, just as a way to think about how a war and Stalingrad movie should not be done. Ridiculous story, characters, events, and reactions abound in Stalingrad (2013), directed by Fedor Bondarchuk. A sappy, ridiculous pastiche introductory sequence sets the movie on its way of mostly bad story writing. Many of the lackluster characters have such stupid incoherent minds and personalities. There is so much that doesn’t make sense in this movie that I kept wondering if I had misunderstood many things that were said, given how much they lacked sense! In fact, I think this group of four movies would be great material in a film production class. Show the films where they did things well and compare with this nonsense.
Lastly, we come to the best. Interestingly enough, it’s a German production way back from 1991, also called Stalingrad, directed by Joseph Vilsmaier. It is one of the greatest fictional movies about WWII. I think every adult should see this movie to understand the horror of war.
Today, when most people in the West are sitting comfortably in their living rooms while wars rage in far away places, many in Africa, often deployed to fulfill the greedy and corrupt interests of the West, sustained by its official Western merchants of death, the various military industries that are left to ravage the world unbridled, this movie should be shown every year, like they do with those Xmas and New Year’s Eve classics – I’d add the documentary above for education about the context. This German “Stalingrad” is brilliantly written, has greatly built characters, directing, and acting. It is not an “action” movie – these grotesque movies that present violence to be considered entertaining. This movie is about the truth.
A link at TAC sent me here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/may/07/daniil-kharms-strangely-funny-russian-genius/
Yada, yada, I thought, if some literary critic is saying it’s magnificent humor, I probably won’t like it, especially coming from an (assumed) affluent and comfort-infested American puffball (I have just discovered this word actually exists!).
Which in any case sent me googling for Daniil Kharms, which sent me here: http://www.sevaj.dk/kharms/kharmseng.htm
I clicked on the first one, seemed good enough, no?
It’s magnificent, I loved it. When you can write, you can write. What a criminal, tragic loss.
Symphony no. 2
Anton Mikhailovich spat, said “yuck”, spat again, said “yuck” again, spat again, said “yuck” again and left. To Hell with him. Instead, let me tell about Ilya Pavlovich.
Ilya Pavlovich was born in 1893 in Constantinople. When he was still a boy, his family moved to St. Petersburg, and there he graduated from the German School on Kirchnaya Street. Then he worked in some shop; then he did something else; and when the Revolution began, he emigrated. Well, to Hell with him. Instead, let me tell about Anna Ignatievna.
But it is not so easy to tell about Anna Ignatievna. Firstly, I know almost nothing about her, and secondly, I have just fallen of my chair, and have forgotten what I was about to say. So let me instead tell about myself.
I am tall, fairly intelligent; I dress prudently and tastefully; I don’t drink, I don’t bet on horses, but I like ladies. And ladies don’t mind me. They like when I go out with them. Serafima Izmaylovna has invited me home several times, and Zinaida Yakovlevna also said that she was always glad to see me. But I was involved in a funny incident with Marina Petrovna, which I would like to tell about. A quite ordinary thing, but rather amusing. Because of me, Marina Petrovna lost all her hair – got bald like a baby’s bottom. It happened like this: Once I went over to visit Marina Petrovna, and bang! she lost all her hair. And that was that.
Here’s another one:
On one occasion a man went off to work and on the way he met another man who, having bought a loaf of Polish bread, was on his way home.
And that’s just about all there is to it.
Update May 3, 2015
I have to say that after reading several of his short stories, that some are a bit violent – and stupidly so. So those I didn’t like.