Categories
Interview

Countercurrents: A People’s Journal

Binu Mathew, Founder and Editor of Countercurrents.org, in conversation with Mitali Chakravarty

Binu Mathew

Can you interview an online site?

You can’t. So, I did the next best thing. I interviewed Binu Mathew, the man behind the award-winning million readers a month or three million-page views a month online journal, Countercurrents. Mathew claims this is not a big thing except that his journal is based on ideology and openness. He calls it a “people’s journal” in his you tube interview.

He has also started a ‘People’s Manifesto‘, a campaign that will be released by August 15, 2020. He is asking people to give an alternative vision to the government for a post-COVID 19 India. Mathew grew up in a farm on Kerala and turned to journalism. He has talked of his life in an interview with John Scales Avery, a theoretical chemist who is a part of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Pugwash Conferences.

Mathew is a man who finds links and interlinks between major world issues from climate change, COVID to economics and politics. What impresses me most about Mathew is that while almost all writers and journalists see their journeys at an individual level, he completely identifies with his journal and lives by his ideology. Here in this exclusive, we have Mathew himself unravel his ideology.

You have been running Countercurrent.org for 18 years. Tell us how it was conceived and why?

 I was working as a journalist in Malayalam language news paper. It was a mundane job. Although the job gave me some financial security, it didn’t satisfy my intellectual curiosity. My desire to do something positive for the society kept nagging me. The job itself was a monotonous one, doing local beats and making local pages.

Some of my college mates and I had some discussions about starting an alternative weekly or monthly in Malayalam language. But the financial cost was huge, and it was beyond our capacity.

By the year 2000, internet infiltrated into our homes. There I chanced upon Znet, Electronic Intifada and many such fascinating websites. It was a revelation to me. Znet was a great source of left intellectual literature. Noam Chomsky, the rock star of intellectuals was free to read at the click of a mouse. In those days it was very expensive to buy books by Chomsky.  In other websites, I found people telling stories from Palestine and other conflict zones.

In around the same time, I read the book, When Corporations Rule The World by David Korten. It was an eye opener. I thought I had to do something more than doing the local beats for my paper. Internet gave me the opportunity to do this. I decided to start a website like Znet.

I had zero knowledge in computing language. So I joined a basic html course. I and some of our friends had a brain storming session and decided on the name “Countercurrents“. I took a loan from bank and bought a computer. It was a 20GB hard disc, 256 MB RAM computer. It cost me Rs 40,000 at 18% interest! I paid it back by monthly instalments from my salary.

It was also the time a pogrom in Gujarat against Muslims was going on, in which at least 2000 Muslims were killed. We decided to launch the site as soon as possible.

Artist Razi designed the site, Ajith Kumar B converted it into html. I translated an article from Malayalam by the well-known writer Sarah Joseph titled, “The Womb and the Sword”, on the attack on pregnant Muslim women in Gujarat, in some cases where the pregnant women’s belly was cut open and the foetuses were thrown into the fire. That’s how I became the editor of Countercurrents. It was on March 27, 2002 the first article was published. Since then more than fifty thousand articles have been published. Thousands of well-known and young people have written for CC. Some of them went on to become big journalists or activists.

Tell us about your team and what makes you tick?

I don’t have a team to speak of. Most of the editing work is done by me. There are people like K.P Sasi and Satya Sagar who help me with their intellectual inputs. There are also many other people who are part of the Countercurrents Collective who don’t like to be named. In that way, I’m very fortunate and extremely thankful to them.

What is the philosophy of Countercurrents?

Humanity is facing its greatest existential threat ever with climate change and resource depletion and environmental degradation. This is not a crisis waiting to happen in the future, but it is already here and manifests itself in the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing today. Many resources wars continue to rage in several parts of the world, rising food and fuel prices, growing hunger, natural calamities of horrifying proportions, water scarcity, debt crisis, unemployment, social tensions among communities, growing human rights violations and unprecedented ecological degradation. Unless we take urgent action to change the way we live, trashing our only home, this beautiful planet, this crisis has the potential to wipe out the entire humanity and a majority of the other species from the face of this Earth.

The objective of Countercurrents.org is to spread awareness about this crisis and search for meaningful solutions. We believe that energy intensive globalization should end and it must be replaced by a low energy, ecologically sustainable local economies.  If humanity is to survive, the destructive system of capitalism and consumerism must be replaced by an economic system which is based on just equitable distribution and need based use of resources.  

Your motto says —“Educate! Organise! Agitate!” How do you explain it?

Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906), who was an American social reformer and women’s rights activist and played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement said, “Organise, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”

In the Indian context Dr Ambedkar gave the call “Educate, Agitate and Organise.”

We combined both the slogans and took as our motto —“Educate! Organise! Agitate!”

We thought of it as a revolutionary call for caste annihilation and women’s empowerment, two of the major concerns in the world today. It also envisages a new kind of journalism which ‘educates’ instead of entertains as in ‘infotainment’. Organisation is necessary for social change. Without organisation, we cannot make any social change. However, it is not the duty of Countercurrents to establish an organisation. We hope that an organisation would emerge organically from the masses. An example is ” Fridays For Future” initiated by Greta Thunberg. Countercurrents has been educating the world about the danger of climate change from its inception. It is happy to see organisations emerge organically, especially on critical issues like climate change. Agitation is the final push for social change. It will happen or it should happen. Otherwise, we are all going to perish.

You have many hallowed names attached to your journal, like noted intellectuals like John Scales Avery, Magsaysay award winners, Sandeep Pandey and Prafulla Samantara and social activist Ram Puniyani. What do you think made them pick your journal over others?

I respect and love all these people. They are regular writers of Countercurrents too. They must have seen Countercurrents as an engine of social change. Otherwise they would not have endorsed CC.

You have recently started a section called Citizenship Amendment Act and it has won some recognition from US universities. Can you tell us a bit about this initiative and the subsequent recognition? How will this recognition help Countercurrents or your initiative?

Countercurrents was covering the Citizenship Amendment Act from the initial days of this controversial pact and the resultant agitations across the country. We were happy to know that Ivy Plus universities in the US decided to include it in their digital library for the benefit of faculty and researchers. Their communication said, “The Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation has selected your website — https://countercurrents.org/tag/citizenship-amendment-act — for inclusion in its India’s Citizenship Amendment Act Protest Movement Web Archive. The Archive is an initiative developed by librarians at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University, under the auspices of the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation. The Archive contains material related to protests against India’s new Citizen Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizenship, and was created to preserve and expose this content for academic research in politics, religion, sociology, and interdisciplinary South Asian Studies.”

It is extremely heartening to have this recognition from such prestigious universities, especially in this age of fake news. This speaks volumes of the authenticity of the content Countercurrents publishes. By the way, Countercurrents is archived in the US Library of Congress too. That too is an immense recognition

What kind of contributors do you look for?

Whatever the articles that Countercurrents publishes have some insights, give a new perspective to the reader. We won’t publish articles that don’t fit this criterion. We have contributors from Nobel Prize winners to grade ten students. Achievements doesn’t matter. Insights matter.

What kind of readership do you have?

We have readership from around the world. I get emails from even a remote village of Nicaragua.

What do you see as the future of Countercurrents and your own?

The future is beyond our control. We do our best while we can is my motto, the rest is beyond our control. If I die tomorrow, I hope someone will be willing and capable enough to take over.

You Tube interview of Binu Mathew with Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a social and human right’s activist

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Slices from Life

What waits for Rohingyas?

By Saifur Rahman Saif

Rohingya people, who have no identity of their own, are now facing another danger. The pandemic of COVID-19 took away one of the Rohingyas, who found shelter at a camp at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on the wake of genocide in their own land in Myanmar.

United News of Bangladesh reported that the man died from coronavirus infection while undergoing treatment at the isolation centre at Ukhiya camp in Cox’s Bazar on Monday night.

Referring to Abu Toha MRH Bhuiyan, who works as a health coordinator at the Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, the news agency stated that the deceased could not be identified immediately but he was a 71-year-old man.

It was the first confirmed case of death of a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is now home for over one million Rohingyas, who fled atrocities in Myanmar to Bangladesh.

In my earlier article in  Countercurrents, I tried to draw attention of the world community so that they would come forward to save Rohingyas from probable contamination of COVID -19. I don’t know whether anybody heard my appeal. In fact, the Rohingyas are no longer safe now from the devastation of COVID-19. We don’t know what is waiting for the densely populated Rohingyas. I also don’t know who will save Rohingyas from further deaths? Is it the Bangladesh government or the world community?

Super power USA is now facing manifold adversity- destructions of COVID-19, street demonstrations across the country and, so on. Many other powerful countriesare also in peril today. And Bangladesh, with 709 confirmed case of death from COVID-19 and 52,445 infected, is has failed to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The Gono Forum came up with the allegation on Tuesday as its president Kamal Hossain and general secretary Reza Kibria in a joint statement said that although World Health Organisation on March 11 declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the government announced general holidays in the last week of the month.

They also said that although Bangladesh had enough time to determine national strategy, the government failed to implement a fruitful strategy, New Age reported.

The Gono Forum leaders said that the rate of COVID-19 tests in the country was very low and people had no confidence on government’s information on COVID-19 infections and deaths.

They also said that the late announcement of public holiday amid relaxation put impacted people’s lives negatively as it failed to control the infections.

They said that only a small part of government aids reached to the poor and vulnerable due to corruption and inefficiency while lakhs of labourers and working class people faced unemployment.

The leaders said that withdrawal of public holidays ignoring recommendations of national technical advisory committee had created much anxiety among the people and the situation was worsening for the lack of adequate number of tests and mismanagement in the health sector.

In this situation, I cannot think of a future for the Rohingyas, at least not the kind I really wished for.

Saifur Rahman Saif is a Bangladeshi journalist. He works at New Age, a popular newspaper. He contributed a story in Freelance Success Stories published simultaneously from the USA and Canada. He can be reached at saifnewage@gmail.com

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First Published in Countercurrents.org

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Essay

Can Humanism Survive the Onslaught of Hate

By Dr Ram Puniyani

Lately when India has been undergoing the massive crisis of the Corona epidemic and the offshoots of its mishandling, we have also seen the pandemic being used to demonise a particular community in India. These hate mongers, operating through powerful medium of TV, and widespread social media which also has resorted to Fake news has intensified the Hate against religious minority. In this vast phenomenon, it seemed that all is lost as far as amity between people of different religions is concerned. Despite this broad generalisation one feels happy when one comes to know of few incidents where religious communities come forward to help each other.

The most touching such incidence of amity came forward in the form of story of Amrit and Farooq. They were travelling in a truck from Surat to UP. On way Amrit, a worker, fell sick and most other travellers, asked him to leave the truck in the middle of the night. As he was offloaded, he was not alone. His friend Farooq, another worker, also came down with him. Farooq put the sick Amrit in his lap and cried for help which caught the attention of others and an ambulance landed up to take Amrit to hospital!

In another incidence one worker, who had a differently able child, took the bicycle of another person, leaving a touching letter of apology, saying that he was helpless as he has to travel with his children and there is no other means. Many a people reported it as a theft of the bicycle while the owner of the bicycle, Prabhu Dayal took it in a stride. The one who took away the bicycle was Mohammad Iqbal Khan.

In Sewri Mumbai, Pandurang Ubale, a senior citizen died due to age related and other problems. Due to lock down his immediate relative’s could not organize the funeral. His Muslim neighbours came forward and did his last rites as per the Hindu customs. Similar cases are reported from Bangalore and Rajasthan.

In Tihar jail, the Hindu inmates joined the Muslim in keeping the Roza (fasting). While mosque in Pune, (Azam Campus) and a Church in Manipur has been offered as a place for quarantine. In another lovely incident a Muslim girl takes shelter in a Hindu home and the host gets up early in morning to prepare and give her food for Sehri, a pre morning meal before Rosa begins.

One can go on and on. Surely what is reported must be a tip of the iceberg as many such incidents must be going on unnoticed and un reported. The feeling one was getting after the section of media jumped to communalise spread of Corona, coined words like Corona bomb, Corona jihad, one felt the efforts to break the mutual trust between Hindus and Muslims may succeed totally after all. The deeper inherent humanism of communities has ensured that despite the Hate being manufactured and propagated by communal forces for their political agenda, the centuries old amity and the fraternity promoted by freedom movement will sustain itself somewhere, though it is suffering deep wounds due to the religious nationalists.

India’s culture has been inherently syncretic, synthesising the diversity in various forms. The medieval period which is most demonized, and as many of the sectarian ideologues are presenting it as a period of suffering of Hindus, the fact is that it is during this period that Bhakti tradition flourished and literature in Indian languages progressed during this period.

Even Persian, which was used in the court of kings interacted with Awadhi and produced the Urdu, which is an Indian language. It is in this period when the most popular story of Lord Ram was written by Goswami Tulsidas. Tulsidas himself in his autobiography Kavaitavali writes that he sleeps in a mosque. As far literature is concerned many outstanding Muslim poets wrote wonderful poetry in praise of Hindu Gods, one can remember Rahim and Raskhan’s brilliant outpourings in praise of Lord Shri Krishna.

The food habits, the dress habits and social life emerged with components from these two major religions. The sprinkling of Christianity in different aspects of Indian life is as much visible. It was the symbol of deep interaction of Hindus and Muslims that Muslims followed the Bhakti saints like Kabir and many a Hindus visit the Sufi Saint Dargahs (Shrines). This interactive element is vibrantly visible in Hindi films. Here one can see the outstanding devotional songs in praise of Hindu gods composed by Muslims. One of my favourite’s remains, ‘Man Tarpat hari Darshan ko Aaj’ (My soul is longing to see Hari). This song was written by Shakil Badayuni, composed by Naushad Ali and sung by Mohammad Rafi. The latter must have sung innumerable devotional songs.

Our freedom movement, despite the divisive role of British, the Muslim communalists and Hindu communalists, brought together people of all religions, in the struggle against colonial powers. Many a literary people painted the beautiful interaction of diverse communities. During freedom movement, and in the aftermath as communal violence flared up, the likes of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, and towering above all Mahatma Gandhi tried to douse the fire of violence through exemplary efforts, efforts in which Muslims and Hindus both reciprocated despite the hate spread by the communal forces.

One recalls here the efforts of those friends, who laid down their lives to combat the fire of Hate. In Gujarat the names of Vasant Rao Hegiste and Rajab Ali will always be remembered as they laid down their lives, as a team, to restore sanity. This interaction is very deep and the present Government cannot tolerate the impact of Islamic-Muslim component in our culture. That’s precisely the reason that attempts are on to change the names of cities (Faizabad-Ayodhya, Mughal Sarai-Deen dayal Upadhyay etc).

The deeper interaction of communities is present in all facets of our society. The examples during Corona crisis have again brought to fore the fact that Indian culture is essentially a product of synthesis of different aspects of many religions prevalent here.

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: ram.puniyani@gmail.com

This article was first published in Countercurrents.

Categories
Essay

Rebellious Thoughts At The Café de Flore

By Gaither Stewart

Whether revisionists and debunkers agree or not, the Café de Flore on Paris’ Boulevard Saint Germain is a living institution. Since its founding in 1870 it has existed as a café and a second home for French-speaking writers, artists and intellectuals of the likes of Apollinaire, Camus, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and frequented by Hemingway and Truman Capote. In the 1920s and 30s, the Flore was the meeting place of the Right, after World War II of the Left. Forming a triangle with the famous but touristy Deux Magots (today taboo for the Parisian intelligentsia) and the Brasserie Lipp just across the street, the history of the Flore has always been linked with Paris, culture and political ideas. A remarkable vocation!

For purposeful urban walkers like Henry Miller certain cityscapes like Parisian coffee houses palpitate with the violent ideas that have made great cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, Berlin, Munich and Budapest. It is impossible to pass the Café de Flore without pausing a moment to imagine Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre ensconced at a back table in that left-bank citadel of thought on a rainy November day, in fervent discussion of the rage and the alienation and the revolt and the urge for revolution of their age.

In their works those existentialist intellectuals wrote the biography of European rebellion born with the French Revolution. Much of their thought was discussed or born in the Flore. Now, out on the boulevard just looking in, you might pause to wonder who is going to write the history of the great modern American Revolution, perhaps im gestation. When will it begin, some now wonder? Or has it already begun somewhere in the guts of America? The Flore stirs such thoughts in some minds.

There in the Café de Flore the two bold intellectuals, Camus and Sartre re-hashing again and again the idea of the metaphysical rebellion born in the western world after 1789, certainly evaluating also the year of 1848, the year Michael Bakunin and Friedrich Engels witnessed in a delirium of hope the second wave of revolution sweep across Europe, from Paris to Berlin and Vienna. Wave after wave of rebellion and revolution.

Sitting on the terrasse of the Flore today you can still evoke images of Paris 1968 here, right in front of you on this boulevard where many of the mobile scenes passed, an explosion only vaguely imagined by Sartre and Camus. The year that briefly, so very briefly, changed the world began here—until the tide of reaction rebounded, sweeping the eternal liberal bourgeoisie back into place in the world.

But readers of Camus will recall his conditioning in his books every Sartrean provocation with his own conviction of the Greek idea of limits. And you wonder who was right.

THE MASKS

Social masks are a threat. Yesterday, as today. In peace or war. In Fascism or in the revolution of workingmen. The bourgeoisie’s support for liberals has always been and always will be a great mystification to confuse the revolutionary. That is the reason for our mistrust of bien-pensant liberals, yesterday as today. The more liberals turn to the Right, the happier the bourgeoisie and the greater its support for “liberal” causes. And therefore the marriage of liberal democracy and market capitalism.

As it stands the gap between the people and what we call bourgeois capitalism is unbridgeable. Protest does not count a whit. Though the ultimate tremendous effect on the people of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria is unimaginable, popular protest meanwhile still goes unheeded. Actually, the conclusion is simple: superpowers should never be confused with democracies.

Rebellion is a story of saying ‘no!’ But rebellion is not revolution. Today more than ever before rebellion against the current state of affairs and the transformation of rebellion into revolution is the task of the socially aware. With your back to the wall, in an over-loaded era, when the necessary decisions quiver and vacillate and become elusive, you nonetheless must choose.

Revolution is not only the explosion. Revolution is a long up and down period of drastic social change. Of the final reversal of everything that once was and its breath-robbing transformation into the new. Revolution is the new. Reaction to it represents the old.

REBELLION OR REVOLUTION?

Therefore the difference between rebellion and revolution is fundamental. Protest, peace marches and sit-ins are rebellious, not revolutionary. It’s a kind of either/or. However, rebellions do form a chain. In explosive ascendance. For there is no revolution without goal-conscious rebellion at the start, without saying “no!” to what was before. On the other hand, we see over and over that rebellion does not automatically produce revolution. As a rule it subsides and disappears until the next time.

So where do we stand today? Where are we in America? In Europe?  “An armed uprising anywhere is an absurd proposition”, an important person in my life recently wrote me. Those words underline the fundamental condition, the point of departure: consciousness. The consciousness, the awareness of one’s desperate situation makes rejection of that situation possible. Refusal to continue along the same old dead-end paths, refusal to accept them any longer. That awareness can lead first to rebellion, and from there it might mushroom into revolution. Might, because the three steps are not automatic and consequential. One does not necessarily lead to the next.

Unfortunately, social awareness is yet to be born in a concrete form in America. But that first basic step is in active gestation in today’s pandemic crisis. Some people are thinking. Why no public health care? Why no employment? Why the wars? You can imagine its bursting forth. To be followed then by contagious rebellion. And then, revolution can be made. Revolution is not a spontaneous affair; it is a result.

The events of 1968 on Boulevard St. Germain parading before Camus and Sartre were spontaneous and in time sputtered and extinguished amidst waves of predictable reaction. Spontaneity however helped plant the seeds of rebellion which each time splinter into a little streams and die out if minor objectives are achieved. But an overturn of everything that was and still is has to be nourished and managed.

Meanwhile, we of today have to deal with the very first step. With awareness. Without awareness of our real condition every act of rebellion is gratuitous and infantile, like. stamping one’s foot and saying “no” just to be ornery. Essential is the awareness of the real reasons for rebellion.

That is where 99% of Americans and Europeans stand today: dissatisfied but enmeshed in a cloud of unawareness of our real situation. Afraid to look into a mirror and see ourselves for what and where we are.

LIMITS

I try to imagine them today, the post-World War II intellectuals, in the Café de Flore, arguing, discussing, plotting, distinguishing. But ours are other times. New times. More complex times. They are not discussing revolution in Parisian cafés today. Maybe un petit peu of rebellion. Un petit peu of protest. Sneers and accusations against the reactionary, austerity-loving, European Union. Some lament the evaporation of the French-German-Italian Left. Staring into the Café de Flore from the street I imagine Sartre and Camus’ disappointment in the European Left, steadily losing ground to the nationalist, fascistic right everywhere.

But revolution? Non, merci! The only visible signs of even revolt against multinational Europe governed by its great banks subsidized by the taxes of the working classes are disgruntled Italy’s complaints against the European Union for its failure to help in the time of need when Italy was the only EU country infected by the coronavirus.

The French philosopher, Alain Badiou, once said in an interview with Rome’s La Repubblica that “often revolt remains entrapped in the modern world, reduced to a mere symptom of the illness. In the West, revolts are for the most nostalgic persons who aim at conserving the golden epoch of welfare in the name of an already superseded past.” The Occupy Wall Street movement, though with praiseworthy intentions, represented a handful of the endangered middle class. It was a petit bourgeois protest, in the absence of a link with the real disinherited of the planet. Few even remember it today.

DISTINCTION BETWEEN REBELLION AND REVOLUTION

In his book The Rebel, Camus deals with the Greek emphasis on “limits”. Even revolt (rebellion) has limits. In Camus’ vision “bad revolution” knows no set limits. On the contrary, so as not to degenerate into terror, the “good” revolution relies on the true sources of rebellion. Therefore, the “good revolution” must draw its inspiration from a system of thought which is faithful to its origins: thought that recognizes limits in the first place. Camus was not Robespierre.

Marx and Engels and Lenin spoke at length about this tricky topic. It’s good to refresh one’s thoughts at the source. The classical distinction is that made between a non-Marxian, spontaneous “insurrection” or “rebellion” or “uprising” and a formal revolution according to communist precepts. Of historical spontaneous insurrections, the classical case is the Spartacist revolt in post-World War I Germany, whose ill-conceived program soon met with defeat. The justicialist peasant revolts throughout the Middle Ages, which Luther denounced, shared that semi-anarchic aspect, even though at times they were led by charismatic figures, Spartacus himself being one.

One might say: My heart is with spontaneous insurrection, my reason is for eternal rebellion morphing into revolution.

This however is a false contraposition. For eternal rebellion is bound to morph into revolution, which perforce becomes “permanent revolution” or “constant revolution”. Rebelliousness without a real cause is a juvenile or neurotic disorder, a waste of human potential.

Lenin, Mao and Fidel suggested “constant revolution” or, “constant cultural-political revolution,” as the cure for the gradual corruption of a revolutionary project. Under conditions of “eternal revolution” (which the bourgeoisie caricatures as constant chaos) the masses do not retreat from the direct exercise of power as can easily happen. They do not sit back and become spectators of history, leaving all power in the hands of representatives who, with the passing of time, become a new privileged stratum, not a CLASS, as many claim!” (Milovan Djilas, The New Class)

BRUSSELS

The European Union (EU) appears today as the bourgeois restoration following the signs of rebellion that spread across the world after 1968. Some years ago the then French President Sarkozy in his role as rotating President of the EU assured his political model, George Bush, that the situation in Europe was under control. Aggressivity and rigidity were things of the past. The twenty-seven European nations had a common position. No more divisions. No more sass. Europe now spoke with one voice. Albeit a reactionary voice. And today reaction continues to sweep across Europe from Paris to Budapest, from Berlin to Rome.

This reactionary Europe is in a quiet, still subtle revolt against its brothers in the United States. This capitalist, reactionary Europe, though wounded by American hegemonic measures, wants to be heard, not however in disagreement with American capitalism. I fear it just wants more of it … a bigger piece of the cake.

The typical customers at the fashionable Café de Flore are no longer the intellectuals. Before the virus epoch began, tourists camped out on the heated veranda were looking for celebrities. Also on the terrasse and at the window tables inside the old café were the TV celebrities and the chic graduates of Paris’ elite schools like the ENA (Ecole National d’Administration) or the ESSEC business school, all dressed in their uniform, body-hugging black clothes and short black topcoats and fashionable stiletto pointed shoes. These elite school graduates—many of whom are the heirs of 1968—in our crisis situation today demand more and more lenient laws on firing and hiring. They evoke the American and British systems. Their motto is that of elite capitalism: “Fired today, a new job tomorrow.”

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Gaither Stewart is a veteran journalist, his dispatches on politics, literature, and culture, have been published (and translated) on many leading online and print venues.

First published in Countercurrents

Categories
Essay

COVID-19 and The New York Times as an Ideological Gatekeeper

By Gary Olson

“Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets.”

— Karl Marx

I’ve been negligent in failing to acknowledge my gratitude to op-ed writers at the New York Times for their frequent doses of insidious misinformation which demand disassembling and refutation. They didn’t disappoint on May 5, 2020. In the lead op-ed, “Will We Get Used to the Dying?”, Editor-at-Large Charlie Warzal expresses his gut-wrenching feeling that Americans are already beginning to adapt to Covid-19’s deadly consequences. After informing readers that the Federal government has ordered an extra 100,000 body bags and that a reliable computer model projects 3,000 deaths per day in early June, Warzal suggests that most Americans are likely to “simply carry on with their lives” and finds parallels with the indifference now shown toward mass shootings across the country.

Warzal goes on to offer a detailed and accurate laundry list of Trump’s sins of commission and omission on Covid-19. He blames American citizens for their childlike notions of personal freedom “where any suggestion of collective duty and responsibility for others becomes the chains of tyranny…where the idea of freedom is also an excuse to serve one’s self before others and as a shield to hide from responsibilities.” He concludes — rightly I think — that “this kind of freedom has a price that will be calculated and then set by a select few. The rest of us merely pay it.” Setting aside the fact that Mr. Warzal opines from his laptop in Missoula, Montana and in all likelihood will not be one of those “paying the ultimate price”, what else can we learn from this article?

What we see here is an honest explication of horrific symptoms but a troubling, almost “blame the victim” explanation in lieu of addressing the actual cause of the problem. First, the narrow notions of “freedom” that Warzal skewers didn’t arise out of thin air but have been carefully cultivated. This rapacious system logic overtook the nation in the post-Reconstruction era of the Gilded Age and has remarinated the world of business and finance since the time of Thatcher and Reagan. Today the muting of empathic impulses is almost complete as the “common interest” is subjugated to the cultural construction of selves based entirely on market values. Even morals have been deregulated.

The “freedom” Warzal cites but fails to connect to the larger system is only the freedom to pursue economic self-interest as a hyper-competitive, perpetual consumer. As Noam Chomsky has asserted, “[T]he very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about one each other, that we have a responsibility to one another, that’s sort of frightening to those people who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient.” Or, as the famed primate scientist Frans de Waal succinctly puts it, “You need to indoctrinate empathy out of people to arrive at extreme capitalist positions.” The United States is not unique in this regard but the extreme difference in degree almost makes it a difference in kind.

Second, what we see in Warzal’s piece is the ideological demarcation line which can never be crossed by journalists who aspire to reaching the profession’s elite echelons. In this case, he leaves the impression that Trump and a “select few” others made the decisions about opening up the country but in fact it’s an entire class of people. who, paradoxically, also don’t have a choice of sending a certain percentage of workers to needless death. Wall Street and the politicians who serve it are compelled to take this action under the ineluctable logic of ceaseless capitalist growth and profit-making — or watch their system totally collapse. This is the dirty truth that can never rise to the level conscious thought much less ever be uttered.

Third, in perusing the online Comments section (1,085 and now closed) we find an entirely predictable response that’s confined to debating gun control and trashing Trump. The latter attribute our problems to Trump’s ego and personal ambition. A tiny fraction condemns Americans for the selfishness but if there’s a single comment that raised any deeper questions, I missed it.

Now, lest I be misunderstood, I’m not suggesting the Times’ editorial board gathers around a virtual table like a coven of diabolical conspirators and conjures up creative narratives to deceive the paper’s readers. Quite the contrary is the case. They are enablers for a class of individuals who behave according to system which has an inherent dynamic: expand or perish. As such, these cultural coordinators for the powerful, take on beliefs that are deeply entrenched and congruent with their perception of journalistic integrity and the responsibilities accompanying it.

Advancing views of elite interests is a prerequisite to attaining and retaining these positions. And there’s an enormously satisfying symmetry between their beliefs and their self interest. Their role of frontline, ideological gate keepers affords them substantial economic rewards, privileged lifestyles and immense status among their peers. And just to be clear, these folks are sharing their genuine convictions. Psychologists tell us that people experience cognitive dissonance from lying repeatedly so they come to believe what they’re writing and saying. They don’t lose sleep over it and it’s safe to describe their behavior as psychopathic.

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is EMPATHY IMPERILED: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (New York: Springer Publishing, 2012). Contact: olsong@moravian.edu.

First published in Countercurrents.org

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely that of the author.

Categories
Interview

An Interview with a COVID 19 Virus

by Abdul Rashid Agawan

ARA: Well Mr Covid-19, it is said that you are born and brought up in Wuhan.

Covid-19: I don’t know exactly. Some say I was created by Zionists to reduce the world population. There is also an opinion that CIA has launched me to destroy Chinese economy, whereas USA blames that a Chinese lab has fathered me as a biological weapon. Muslims believe that Allah has created me to punish their enemies. Some vegans are of the view that I am an incarnation of God assigned to eradicate omnivores from the Earth. Really, not sure who I am? I remember that when I saw the world in my first encounter with it, I found myself stuck on a toilet wall in the Wet Market of Wuhan from where a lady vendor transmitted me to others and soon I have become almost omnipresent.

ARA: What is your mission?

Covid-19: I feel an internal urge to reform the world. I see how race, nationalism, religion and history are causing sufferings to vast majority of mankind. I see how a section of mankind is devastating nature, its own home. I am against divisive tendencies. Of course, I am against a mankind that failed to respect other kinds of the world. I don’t give value to nationalism. I don’t care for religious hypocrisy. I am not even bothered by masses who elect tyrants. I would like to teach them all a lesson or two.

ARA: You may perhaps agree that there is a natural diversity among people on the ground of race, geography, religion, history and the like.

Covid-19: In my view, they are all differently-one. A tree is a one unit though its roots, trunk, leaves, flowers and fruits appear differently. There is no doubt that mankind is one race with 99.9% common DNA. National boundaries are fictitious. All religions claim their origin from one supreme being. History is just a story book of the past. If they cannot be sure of a few months-long history of my origin then how can they passionately believe in their distant past, including prehistory. Alas! Man lives in his self-made illusion. I am forcing him to come out of this illusion.

ARA: How much you have succeeded in your mission?

Covid-19: First of all, I have prisoned the culprit – man – to further harm anyone or each other. Those who will unfollow my dictates, will suffer. With this global lockdown and two billion homebound prisoners, nature is reclaiming its space. Air has been purified. The rivers are clean. Animals are free to move. The green carpet of the earth is expanding. The ozone layer is healing. Crimes have come down. The shallowness of religious bigotry has been exposed. The ideological polemics are becoming redundant. So much so far.

ARA: But, millions of people are suffering, thousands are dying every day….

Covid-19: I am not to be blamed. It is their own chosen fate. They are free to adopt better system, better leader and better code of life. However, their greed is unparalleled  in nature and almost insatiable, which distracts them from taking a right decision. If man is diminishing thousands of species with billions of life forms in a year, he has no right to claim mercy. There is no one to weep for men.

ARA: What is your advice to people who care?

Covid-19: Man should develop a global system based on justice, freedom, dignity, mercy, equality, knowledge and brotherhood, not only within human society but transcending to all life forms on the earth. Everything has its due share in nature and that should be respected. Greed is catastrophic. Let man learn during my reign the lessons of caring and sharing. Let him break his shell of greed or face the consequences, as I am not going to rest until I fulfil my mission. If I fail, there are more like me in store to join the onslaught. As I have said, whatever is occurring represents a human choice. Man has an option to choose a pleasant future. He will, if he is wise as he claims.

Abdul Rashid Agwan is a social activist, political analyst and author of many books.

First published in Countercurrents.org

Categories
Essay

Global Pandemic And Global Warming

By Binu Mathew

The COVID-19 has taught us that we are in an emergency. In 2019 a teenager named Greta Thumberg was crying hoarse that we are in an emergency and no one was listening. It’s time for us to take stock of the matter. Which is the greater emergency, this COVID-19 emergency or the climate emergency that Greta Thumberg was warning about?

UN report by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published in May 6 2019 reported:

Up to 1 million: species threatened with extinction, many within decades

>500,000 (+/-9%): share of the world’s estimated 5.9 million terrestrial species with insufficient habitat for long term survival without habitat restoration

>40%: amphibian species threatened with extinction

Almost 33%: reef forming corals, sharks and shark relatives, and >33% marine mammals threatened with extinction

25%: average proportion of species threatened with extinction across terrestrial, freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups that have been studied in sufficient detail

At least 680: vertebrate species driven to extinction by human actions since the 16th century

+/-10%: tentative estimate of proportion of insect species threatened with extinction

>20%: decline in average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes, mostly since 1900

>6: species of ungulate (hoofed mammals) would likely be extinct or surviving only in captivity today without conservation measures
Food and Agriculture

Yes this is an EMERGENCY that very few are talking about.

Why are all these species going extinct? Just because of the actions of this invasive dominant species called homosapiens!

The same UN report points out that:

1 degree Celsius: average global temperature difference in 2017 compared to pre-industrial levels, rising +/-0.2 (+/-0.1) degrees Celsius per decade

>3 mm: annual average global sea level rise over the past two decades

16-21 cm: rise in global average sea level since 1900

100% increase since 1980 in greenhouse gas emissions, raising average global temperature by at least 0.7 degree

40%: rise in carbon footprint of tourism (to 4.5Gt of carbon dioxide) from 2009 to 2013

8%: of total greenhouse gas emissions are from transport and food consumption related to tourism

5%: estimated fraction of species at risk of extinction from 2°C warming alone, rising to 16% at 4.3°C warming

Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly.

When Countercurrents.org started in 2002, the CO2 level in atmosphere was 370 ppm. Now it stands at 412 ppm. Dr. Andrew Glikson, a climate scientist has pointed out in several articles in Countercurrents that total green house gases in the atmosphere in the atmosphere including CO2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone etc has topped 500ppm.

The Paris Agreement’s goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C.

Coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation which is also backed by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United in Science report released in September 2019 estimates global emissions are not likely to peak before 2030 on the current trajectory. It says policies to reduce emissions must triple to meet the 2°C target and increase fivefold to keep heating to within 1.5°C.

With the forced COVID-19 lockdown we are well on track to reach the Paris temperature goals. The COVID lockdown taught us what is essential for our sustenance. Most of the carbon emitting vehicles and airplanes are grounded. Our consumption has come down to our basic essentials. Continents jumping tourism has come to a standstill, so has the neoliberal globalisation. It is good time for globalisation to fail and save our planet. Pollution has come down. Cities have become serene. Rivers have become clean. We’ll have to wait for authentic studies to confirm how much carbon footprint did we reduce.

We were living a reckless life like there is no tomorrow, consuming as much as we can and travelling as far as we can. COVID lockdown has put a break to this reckless lifestyle. In fact  it is so much better for the  environment. The COVID lockdown has taught us how much wastage we were making. It also taught us we can live better life with much less than we usually consume.

The COVID lockdown has also taught us we have to do a lot more work to do make our economy resilient. We have to make our local economies resilient. We have to grow our food in our neighbourhood. It will create more local jobs and stop the long haul migration to the cities. The cities too have to become resilient by producing its own food. May be cities itself may not be a good idea and wither away.

The COVID lockdown has given us a sneak preview into the future if we are to meet the global temperature goals. We have no other choice if we are to believe our science experts. Scientists like James Hansen predicts that even the human species may go extinct if we can not control global warming.

Human civilization has seen many pandemics and have won over all of them. We’ll overcome this pandemic too. But I’m not so sure about the battle against global warming. The COVID-19 lockdown has taught us that we can win the battle against global warming too. With a little bit more planning we can do even better.

Binu Mathew is the editor of Countercurrents.org

This article was first published in Countercurrents.org

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely that of the author and not of Borderless Journal.

Categories
Essay

Rebuilding After Corona

By John Scales Avery

A better world is possible!

It is hard to predict how long the terrible COVID-19 pandemic will last, but at some time in the future it will end, and we will be faced with the problem of rebuilding the world after the enormous economic and human destruction which the disease will have left in its wake. The pandemic has thrown light onto the world’s political and economic systems, and has shown them to be wanting. Most people today do not wish to return to the old normal. That “normal” was part of the problem. The post-pandemic world must be a new and changed world!

Is a better world possible? Of course it is! Our present world is filled with an almost unimaginable amount of injustice, greed and folly. Why is our present world so full of glaring faults? One reason can be found in the slow rate of change of genetic evolution, compared with the lightning-like rate of cultural evolution. We face the problems of the 21st century with an emotional nature that has not changed much since our ancestors lived in small tribes, competing for territory on the grasslands of Africa. Our emotional nature contains an element of tribalism to which militarists can all too easily appeal.

Recovery offers climate action opportunities

When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, governments will be faced by the task of repairing the enormous economic damage that it has caused. The situation will be similar to the crisis that faced US President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he took office during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Roosevelt, encouraged by John Maynard Keynes, used federal funds to build much-needed infrastructure around the United States. His programs, the New Deal, ended the Great Depression in his country.

Today, the similar concept of a Green New Deal is being put forward globally. This concept visualizes government-sponsored programs aimed at simultaneously creating both jobs and urgently-needed renewable energy infrastructure. The Green New Deal programs could be administered in such a way as to correct social injustices.

A sustainable economic system

Economists, with a few notable exceptions, such as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Aurelio Peccei and Herman Daly, have a cynical tendency to confine their discussions to the short-term future. With self-imposed myopia, they refuse to look more than a few decades into the future. This allows them to worship growth, and to advocate perpetual growth. But endless growth of anything physical, on a finite earth, is a logical impossibility.

Our present financial system is unsustainable, and it works for the interests of a few very rich people.  For the sake of the long-term future, we must build a sustainable, steady-state economic system, an economic system which reduces inequality, and which serves the broad public interest, an economic system with both a social conscience and an ecological conscience.

A new freely downloadable book

I would like to announce the publication of a book, which discusses the changes that we must make to create a better world after the pandemic has ended. The book may be freely downloaded and circulated by clicking on this link.

http://eacpe.org/app/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Rebuilding-After-Corona-by-John-Scales-Avery.pdf

Other books and articles about  global problems are on these links

https://wsimag.com/authors/716-john-scales-avery

https://wsimag.com/authors/716-john-scales-avery

I hope that you will circulate the links in this article to friends and contacts who might be interested.

I hope that you will circulate the link in this article to friends and contacts who might be interested.

John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (19881997). http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com. To know more about his works visit this link. http://eacpe.org/about-john-scales-avery/

First Published in Countercurrents.org

Categories
Essay

The Economy, Lemurs And Us

By Sally Dugman

The underlying human horror and destruction from the nearly worldwide COVID-19 disease is truly daunting. Not to undercut the seriousness of the devastation, but this type of happening is hardly new. For example, consider the Black Plague that wiped out half of Europe and the fact that many British people are immune to Smallpox unlike many Native Americans whose ancestors were never exposed to the disease.

All the same, there are many other horrific events afflicting people and members of other species. Indeed, we all face floods, famines, pestilence, tornadoes, hurricanes, water shortages, tsunamis  and more. It seems that these sorts of events have existed since almost times immemorial for some dire happenings.

We also have another type of trouble and it involves decimation of the natural world. There is nothing new in that pattern either except that we have ever so many more people than in earlier times trying to eek out a living by dismantling the world’s forests, meadows, waterways and so on to have self-economic advances for oneself, family members and others.

In relation, it seems to me that desire for great self-gains indirectly accounts for greedy money mongers, people with giant homes filled with belongings and ditto for their vacation homes, vacation travel and other perks associated with having wealth.

Further there exist game shows in the USA wherein people compete for money. In some shows, the money to be potentially gained is a lot and in others — a little.  And some of the people in these programs act covertly or overtly savagely to get that moola for themselves. How nasty! … Civility can be quite far from the surface in these programs, and you can see the lack through body language, eyes, tone of voice, pretense, etc. (Such behaviors can sometimes be fascinating to watch as they show some degree of depravity in my opinion.)

All considered, it is not surprising one iota when a friend sent me this analysis titled “Your brain evolved to hoard supplies and shame others for doing the same.” It demonstrates in a way the desire to get ever more for oneself.

Two excerpts:

“The media is replete with COVID-19 stories about people clearing supermarket shelves – and the backlash against them. Have people gone mad? How can one individual be overfilling his own cart, while shaming others who are doing the same?

As a behavioral neuroscientist who has studied hoarding behavior for 25 years, I can tell you that this is all normal and expected. People are acting the way evolution has wired them.

“At the same time they’re organizing their own stockpiles, people get upset about those who are taking too much. That is a legitimate concern; it’s a version of the “tragedy of the commons,” wherein a public resource might be sustainable, but people’s tendency to take a little extra for themselves degrades the resource to the point where it can no longer help anyone.

“By shaming others on social media, for instance, people exert what little influence they have to ensure cooperation with the group. As a social species, human beings thrive when they work together, and have employed shaming – even punishment – for millennia to ensure that everyone acts in the best interest of the group.”

So let’s look at lemurs in this ravenous backdrop:

I saw in an environmental documentary that there are only around 20,000 left in the world with numbers dwindling (as their land is increasingly snapped up by humans) as compared to around 7.8 billion humans with the number of the latter kind growing. And blood samples were taken from them for study and possible drugs to be developed for humans.

Why? It is because they get many of the same ailments like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as people do and how could that be so?

Look at your juxtaposed thumb. It came from natural selection based on a mutation and it is from lemur ancestors. In other words, the wild lemurs are your very distant cousins.

This has long been suspected as being the case. Yet it was only recently that two, yes — two, fossil samples prove it. After all, we are the only species with the opposed thumbs, which are very useful in myriad ways. And the fossilized evidence satisfactorily proves it since they have our thumbs.

Now, it is fine enough in my opinion that some people want to literally believe that humans derived from Adam and Eve. It is fine that they believe that life originated from some being standing on a turtle shell or aliens from outer space seeding our planet with life.

All power to them if such ideas bring comfort and joy. Good for them!

Meanwhile I like looking at my thumb while marveling at its origins. That view in light of empirically derived facts suffices for me.

Sally Dugman lives in MA, USA.

This piece was first published in Countercurrents.org

Categories
Editorial

Let’s Celebrate in the Spirit of Ubuntu

The date Borderless Journal completes its first month, 14th April, coincides with Poila Baisakh, or the first day of the Bengali new year, the Tamil New year, Sinhalese and Nepali New year, the second day of Songkran, the Thai new year (April 13- 15), the start of Bohag Bihu (an Assamese festival commemorating harvest and the new year, April 14 to 20), the second day of the Indian new year, Baisakhi. Let us celebrate along with the journal’s first month birthday this profusion of festivals, which would have been big with celebration for many but shrinks to online greetings because of the pandemic. Hey, did I use the word ‘shrink’? It actually grows bigger because there are so many more of us celebrating the occasion together in a virtual world.

The good news is though the pandemic continues to infect the globe, some areas look hopeful with the curve flattening. The way this virus has unified mankind is unprecedented. Bill Gates has acknowledged this in an interview with CNBC by just mentioning 7 billion doses of the vaccine… thus gathering all mankind into one-fold, beyond all boundaries. It was wonderful to have a world thought leader reach out to the whole humanity, even if for a moment — the thought of all of us being considered as part of an aggregate made for a feeling of inclusion.

This is the inclusivity that one hopes to highlight in Borderless Journal.

Today, borderlessjournal.com completes a month of its existence in our virtual world connecting all of us beyond all borders. Hopefully, it will be a virtual journal for all seven billion people that populate this wonderful green planet we call the Earth. We have travelled with writers to various parts of the world — many still remain unexplored. When some of the contributors ask me, which country does the journal belong to — I tell them — we are where you are. When astronauts watch the Earth from outer space, what do they see? What do clouds see?

The first month of the journal has been promising with many writers sharing their narratives — poetry, essays, short stories and musings. Readers have come back to us with wonderful feedback. I hope you will keep visiting us. Our editorial board has been active sending writers and their own writing too. They are all fabulous writers much like all of you. The resultant effect is Countercurrents.org has offered content sharing — where we exchange content. A number of our essays and musings have been republished in Countercurrents.org. A couple of articles have been quoted, one was in an Urdu journal with credits acknowledged to Borderless. One of our articles was also republished in another online journal with an acknowledgement to us. We also discovered our name in a Canadian listing (Mississauga Writers’s Group) for submissions — a pleasant surprise. We are crossing borders without a passport!

We have had a good start — perhaps you can call it a beginner’s luck, or will it continue?

That depends on all of you! Because this journal is yours, ours and belongs to everyone. I wish, I dream of 7.8 billion humans living in equity with access to food, potable water, housing, education and internet — reading and contributing to Borderless Journal in the spirit of “oneness to humanity” or ubuntu.

Let’s make it happen!

Mitali Chakravarty

Founding Editor, borderlessjournal.com