Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Appeal of Denying Climate Change

Our Earth

An article (“Burning Down the House;” August 15, 2019), by Alan Wiseman, in The New York Review of Books, repeats and reaffirms the bad news that all climate change believers (including me) already know and agree as true:
Climate scientists’ worst-case scenarios back in 2007, the first year the Northwest Passage became navigable without an icebreaker (today, you can book a cruise through it), have all been overtaken by the unforeseen acceleration of events. No one imagined that twelve years later the United Nations would report that we have just twelve years left to avert global catastrophe, which would involve cutting fossil-fuel use nearly by half. Since 2007, the UN now says, we’ve done everything wrong. New coal plants built since the 2015 Paris climate agreement have already doubled the equivalent coal-energy output of Russia and Japan, and 260 more are underway.
Climate deniers or skeptics, however, are unlikely to be convinced or persuaded one whit by this article or any other published, whether today or in the last 20 years, when the evidence started to become increasingly overwhelming—to the point that one would have to close his or her eyes to any and all scientific evidence to believe otherwise and carry on as nothing is wrong.

I am not really surprised that many can do this, because the evidence does not project a pretty picture of what we humans have done to the planet, particularly in the last 200 years of our fossil-fuel economy, coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. Our collective records of stewardship is quite frankly dismal. I am not pointing any fingers at any particular individuals, although the fossil fuel industry and its advocates are not looking good. It would be smarter if they dedicated more resources to the green energy revolution, and thus be a part of the solution.

But short-term thinking and greed predominates, with expected results, most not good for us. If we continue as we have been, our planet will eventually become uninhabitable. Money, and its acquisition and accumulation, will be an exercise in futility, which seems counter-intuitive now. You can’t eat money, which is certainly true with Canada’s plastic-based bills, which itself feeds the fossil-fuel economy. The beginning of the end might start in 2030, it might start in 2040, or it might start later. It is only a matter of time. Given the age of the Earth, a few decades is not much time in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, there is a kind of necessity to denying the evidence; and I can understand its appeal, which includes not making any changes to one’s way of life and not worrying about any dreadful consequences. I get it; there is already so much to worry about. Everyday stuff like paying the bills, which always pile up. Why add to the pile? Why make unnecessary changes, when we have been through so many disruptive changes? Yet, as much as I understand this, much of it, I also think that such an approach is neither prudent nor wise. Sure, it is appealing and beguiling.

After all, this is one of those arguments that if we avoid the catastrophe ahead that deniers will say, “you see; it was all a hoax and we were right all along.” Yet, if the events transpire as believers say they will, which includes the great majority of the world's scientists, well, it won't really matter, because we won't be around to say that we were right all along. Or if somehow some of us manage to survive, it will not really be much of a victory.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Life After the Bombing of Hiroshima

Second World War

Hiroshima Ruins (October 1945), two months after an atomic bomb was dropped on it. This is a view from the top of the Red Cross Hospital looking northwest. Most of the land is bleak and desolate, and yet some wooden houses are still standing, as well as some infrastructure and trees, a reminder of the life that existed before. 
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

It was on August 6th, 1945, early in the morning around 8:15 a.m. when the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb—the first nuclear weapon—on Japan, a country which it was at war. The residents of Hiroshima were its first victims. An estimated 150,000 died or were wounded as a result; this is a conservative estimate; other atomic scientists say it might be as high as 240,000 dead and wounded.

The U.S. would drop another atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later, with another estimated 75,000 deaths or wounded; or as high as 149,00 dead and wounded. Accurate numbers are not possible to ascertain, but these give a good idea of the results of atomic warfare. These are the only two cases when atomic weapons were used, and I can confidently say that all sane humans hope it is also the last.

The first was Hiroshima, a name that will always be synonymous with the first atomic bomb and what it did to a nation and its people. The stories have been written down and published, as they ought to be. Not to be forgotten. Not to be minimized. Not to be misunderstood.

Towards that effort, there is a fine piece of reportage by John Hersey [1914–1993], published in The New Yorker on August 31, 1946, a year after. It looks at the lives of six survivors. It looks at the human cost of war, which bears repeating. The article was then turned into a slim 160-page book of 31,000 words. If any book will change your mind about war, it is Hiroshima  (1946).

Get your hands on it and read it. You will not be the same person. You will be a better person for it, I think. Or at the very least I presume to hope, because this (knowing and understanding our shared humanity) seems the better way, the way of sustaining and nourishing life for all on the planet that we all humans share. War is the antithesis of life; one day of war is one day too much.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Guess Who: On the Johnny Cash Show (1970)

The Guess Who: On the Johnny Cash Show (between June 7, 1969 and March 31, 1971 on ABC-TV), which was broadcast at the Ryman Auditorium, formerly the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee). This episode aired on October 21, 1970. Here the Canadian rock band, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, sing “Hand Me Down World” and “Share the Land,” which are tracks tracks 3 and 5, respectively on the album, Share the Land, released on October 5, 1970.
Via: Youtube

The Guess Who

Burton Cummings: lead vocals, keyboards
Kurt Winter: lead guitar, backing vocals
Greg Leskiw: rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Jim Kale: bass, backing vocals
Garry Peterson: drums, backing vocals

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Don’t Look Now (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Don’t Look Now ”is the second track on Side 2 of Willy and the Poor Boys (1970). Who will take the coal from the mine?/Who will take the salt from the earth?"
Via: Youtube

Trump Governs Through Spectacle

The Cruel U.S. Administration

“For the trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods.”

Hannah Arendt [1906–1975];
“Lying in Politics” in The Life of the Mind (1978)

An article (“Trump’s Day of Terror;” July 12, 2019), by Matt Ford, in The New Republic explains what the mass immigration raids are hoping to achieve. It is not to solve the immigration problem, but to both instill fear in the “other” communities of undocumented immigrants, and to also assure his supporters that he’s on the right track in his campaign of cruelty. Ford writes:
The Trump administration forecasts its deportation raids not to make them more successful, but to instill fear in disfavored communities and to signal to his supporters that he’s doing just that. Trump constantly strives to slake his base’s unquenchable thirst for harsher policies toward immigrants. I’ve written before on how the border itself, and all the social ills that Trump ascribes to it, acts as a white whale of sorts for his presidency. The Cops-like show drama of the upcoming raids is red meat for Fox News viewers and Breitbart readers alike.
It does not matter to such people whether or not these immigrants are a security risk or what their lives are like or what they are escaping; what matters, and the president and his administration says so, is that these persons, including children and babies, need to be removed and deported back to where they came—even if where they came from is dangerous, even if where they came from is dangerous because of blunders in American foreign policy—the kind that hurts the poor, the working class and the non-wealthy. 

No, none of that matters for people like Stephen Miller, “the immigration warlord” who counsels Rasputin-like the president, who Ford says, “governs through spectacle.” Nor does it matter for his base of fans. Yet, there is a real problem in such callous and superficial thinking, one that is bound to fail. It is hard for me to fathom why anyone in the working-class would want to support this wealthy president, when his economic policies are aimed solely at the wealthy. He takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

The working-class is being used and duped, since the working class has few “friends” in Washington and none among the Republicans. This reason alone makes me doubt that Trump & Co,—who grew up with silver spoons in their mouths, who never suffered hardship, and who disdain the poor—give two hoots for the working class. No, they care as much for the working class as they do the other desperate masses of people trying to make a better life in America. For them, it is all about political spectacle; and it matters not for these “wealthy ones” that its policies are cruel, that its policies are immoral, that its policies are unjust.

Can you imagine what could happen if the nation’s leaders considered as good the virtues of love, of truth, of mercy, and of justice? If it would welcome the stranger with respect and treat him or her with dignity and with kindness? Can you imagine the outcome? Such small gestures alone would move the nation in a completely different direction than the one it is now going. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

HIAS & ADL: Witnesses at the Border (2019)

HIAS & ADL: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Two prominent Jewish organizations with broad social justice mandates, and with long histories in advocacy (HIAS; 1881 & ADL; 1913) join together in a common cause to act as Witnesses at the Border, that is, the U.S. southern border with Mexico. I agree that the status quo is not good; there has to be a better way than the cruel tactics—of mass detention, forced family separation and deportation—currently employed by the U.S. government agents (“only following orders”) against people crossing the border. The vast majority are simply looking for a better life than the dangerous one they would like to escape in Latin America. Some die of heartbreak, having given up any hope.
Via: Youtube & HIAS & ADL

Freedom to Do Good

Latent Goodness

There is an oppressive goodness found in the Bible, in that humans are instructed to follow a number of rules and laws in order to be viewed as “good.” There is also, at times, an oppressive goodness found outside it when authoritarian human-made institutions, even in western liberal democracies, tend to make other rules and laws to limit the freedom of its citizens.

These laws are now increasing, often on the pretense of security or any other considerations viewed as important to the state. Although not nearly as restrictive as those found in theocracies or theocratic-like states, both tend to view the restriction of freedom as a “common good.” Of the two world systems, however, I still prefer the liberal western state, founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. It is the nearest one can now get to achieve the principles of human freedom, dignity and goodness.

This does not mean it can’t be improved or made better in our modern times. Let’s consider a thought experiment. That there is the freedom to be good, because that is what humans see as good and beautiful. Being good out of fear of punishment is no doubt effective, but it is nowhere near the same as being good, because the notion of being good is a better way to be.

Both work, but in different ways: the former, because of tradition, and of the fear of not meeting the dictums of an authoritarian deity and his many representatives here on Earth; whereas the latter gives individuals the freedom to decide for themselves, autonomously as is humanly possible, the ways of goodness, which are many. The moral imperative to do good is a moral imperative that is not one of religion alone.

The basis to do good is found in human freedom, the lack of which contributes to many societal ills. Confirming such thinking is Albert Einstein, the great physicist and humanitarian, who said as much in his commencement address (June 6th, 1938) to the students and faculty and other guests at Swarthmore College, a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania:
This conception implies one requirement above all - that every individual should have the opportunity to develop gifts which may be latent in him. Alone in that way can the individual obtain the satisfaction to which he is justly entitled; and alone in that way can the community achieve its richest flowering. For everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. Restriction is justified only insofar as it may be needed for the security of existence.
This is an ideal, undoubtedly and hard to achieve, since humans are either beholden to a religious idea or to a state idea, more often than not a learned response, but not always. There are also people who are not in any way good, who are inherently selfish in a pathological sense, and who see no need to do good for others. There are many factors that come into play, yet I sense that such people are very small in number, and such persons should not set policy for the whole. They are, for reasons that are not always clear, destructive and dysfunctional, and cause chaos around them. Such persons are separate and exceptional cases and need to be viewed in such manner.

We are here talking here about the vast majority of persons, who have a desire and want to be free to develop their latent gifts; these are people who want to be individuals within a community, who want to be part of something beyond themselves, and as a result to do good. Freedom of goodness, to be good and free, is in many ways like walking a thin tightrope between the two large edifices of Religion and State.

But as Einstein has noted above, it can be done if you believe it to be true and necessary and find it a desirable and enviable way to live.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Flip Wilson Show: Diner Sketch (1972)

The Flip Wilson Show and the Diner Sketch (NBC; March 16, 1972) with Flip Wilson as the owner of a diner, Tim Conway as a truck driver, and Bing Crosby as a plumber.
Via: Youtube

The Temptations: Ball of Confusion (1970)

The Temptations: Ball of Confusion (1970), as performed on “The Flip Wilson Show (on NBC from September 17, 1970 to June 27, 1974; 94 episodes), which starred comedian Flip Wilson [1933–1998].
Via: Youtube

Our family used to watch this hour-long variety show regularly and faithfully every week it was on. As for the song, “Ball of Confusion” is a single, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong; Berry Gordy Jr’s Motown released it as a single on May 7, 1970. The lyrics describe clearly the times it was written, I would say; and yet it seems to feel current today.

Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)
by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong

People movin' out, people movin' in.
Why, because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sho' can't hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I'll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on.
Well, the only person talkin' 'bout love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation,
humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball Of Confusion that's what the world is today (yeah, yeah)
The sale of pills is at an all time high
young folks walkin' 'round with their heads in the sky
Cities aflame in the summer time, and oh the beat goes on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
Shootin' rockets to the moon, kids growin' up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve ev'rything, and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows.
Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a
Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today. (yeah, yeah)
Fear in the air, tension ev'rywhere
Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record's a gas,
and the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation,
and the band played on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors, mod clothes in demand,
population out of hand, suicide too many bills, hippies movin' to the hills
People all over the world are shouting end the war and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows.
Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a
Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today
Let me hear you, let me hear you, let me hear you
Ball Of Confusion that's what the world is today

Monday, July 22, 2019

Bob Dylan on CBC Quest (1964)

Bob Dylan [born in 1941] performs solo for the Canadian show “Quest” on CBC-TV, recorded on February 1st 1964.
Via: Youtube

00:06: The Times They Are a Changin’ 02:43: Talking World War III Blues 07:36: Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll 13:01: Girl From The North Country 16:20A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall 22:22: Restless Farewell