Tag Archives: Canada

Shaping an Image of Europe: Half Way Over Iceland (George Bowering: “Discoloured Metal”)

One of the main objectives of shape prose is to show weaknesses and limitations of written language or to emphasize the descriptive power of visual language. Text is physically transformed into illustration(s) to re-introduce the authority of the visual. This provides authors with endless possibilities of expressing the third entity of meaning, and this expands the freedom of interpretation on the part of readers of multimodal texts. The third entity of meaning is a term which I coined in the course of my doctoral research to refer to the new and semantically largely independent meaning derived from the interpretation of the verbal and the visual meanings in a shaped (or in some other way multimodal) texts, in other words, the meaning which is created through the semantical interrelations of the verbal and visual. How is the reading of the text influenced by its multimodal shape? Hallet writes: [visual forms of gesture; a.r.] direct the reader from written discourse to visual elements in the margins of the page and urge them to interrelate the different semiotic elements, thus breaking up the linear continuity of the verbal text and transforming the act of reading into a hypertextual activity (Hallet 2014, 157). Indeed, reading a multimodal shaped text always is an interdisciplinary task which requires from readers a certain sensitivity for both the verbal and the visual, and the meaning that arises from their interaction.

Shaped prose is sometimes referred to as shaped-prose, pattern prose or visual prose, analogous to classification of poetry that features similar visual elements of layout. All these terms describe short prose which can be defined as short stories, and which feature the following types of graphic devices of artistically altered graphic layout (the typology is taken over from my Dissertation defended at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria, May 2018. Tutek, Nikola (2018) Visual and Verbal Interrelations in Canadian Short Fiction, Dissertation, pg. 299.):

  1. Rendering literary message through the usage of fonts, punctuation (for example, Bowering’s consistent disregard of apostrophe in contractions in The Rain Barrel), interpolation of paragraphs and other sections of text by numbering and lettering. This type of graphic devices is focused on typography and structure of integral texts.
  2. Rendering a literary message through physical re-arrangement and negation of integral texts. This type of graphic devices partially focuses on spacing, that is, on the usage of negative spaces. Negation of texts is achieved with parts of texts which are crossed out but still fully legible (for example, in Bowering’s “Staircase Descended”). Sentences and words which are arranged in this manner are never physically disintegrated, and no textual message is lost or hidden.
  3. Rendering a literary message through physical layout which fractures the text. This device features ‘gorging’ negative or colored spaces which do not respect the border of a sentence, a word or even a character. Parts of texts covered by ‘gorging’ negative or colored spaces cannot be retrieved (for example, the white circles covering the text in Bowering’s “Discoloured Metal”), hence, some of the textual meanings are deliberately lost or hidden.
  4. Graphic layout of the text, which is printed in a shape that alludes to a semantic feature of the text. This type of graphic devices can but do not have to cause a part of the textual message to be lost or hidden (such is, again, Bowering ‘s “Discoloured Metal” where the gorging white circles hide parts of the text and also allude to an airplane window).

The difference between the third and the fourth types is in the fact that the third type hides parts of the meaning of the text by erasing them, and the erased, blank spaces inevitably take certain forms, while in the fourth type these blank forms are not random, they carry a reference to the meaning of the text (or its parts), and they actually reveal parts of the meaning of the text. The third and the fourth types of devices of artistically altered graphic layout will be the most important for the further analysis of Bowering’s short text, namely, the analysis of the meaning of the circular blank and textual fields in the body of the text.

Bowering’s short story “Discoloured Metal”

George Bowering’s short story “Discoloured Metal” from his 1994 collection of short prose The Rain Barrel is a seemingly simple account of a voyage by airplane over the polar route to Germany and back to Canada retold by an unreliable first person narrator. The interesting intervention into the graphic of the text starts on the second printed page of the text with a little blank circle placed in the middle of the page. The blank circle becomes bigger on each following page, eventually making the full understanding of the text impossible. The seventh and the eighth pages of the printed text are entirely blank. On the ninth page an interesting switch occurs; now we can see only the text within a small circle, and the rest of the page is blank. The circle with the text becomes bigger on each subsequent page providing an opposite effect: now with every new page we see more text and get more insight into the meaning of the story. The story ends on the fourteenth page which again features an intact text form.

Bowering’s intervention into the graphic layout of text first provides growing whitened circular forms in the text, and then repeats in negative: the text is reintroduced in expanding circles, we might say black circles, of text. In that way, the text of the story takes on the appearance of a Gestalt image. White and black circles are juxtaposed in apparent weighing of their cognitive powers; the visual authority of whiteness erases parts of narration, and then the whole of it, while circular patches of broken text reinstall the rule of meaning by restoring narration. (The description of George Bowering’s “Discoloured Metal” is based on my Dissertation defended at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria, May 2018. Tutek, Nikola (2018) Visual and Verbal Interrelations in Canadian Short Fiction, Dissertation, pg. 317-320.)

Two important questions emerge. The first question deals with the semantics of the story: What happened in the blank part of the text? The second question deals with the multimodal interrelations between the semantics of the texts and its altered physical layout: Why white and black circles, what is their meaning, and how do they relate to the semantics of the narration? The answer to the first question is speculative; we can only suppose that the narrator started a conversation with someone, and that the conversation continued to some point where the voyage took a different course. In her analysis of “Discoloured Metal”, Löschnigg writes the following: “This mysterious remark about ‘the very bad thing in the middle’ may refer to a plane accident, the memory of which the protagonist wants to obliterate” (Löschnigg 2014, 244). The second question is more important for my analysis. White circles are reminiscent of the two notions introduced at the beginning of the story: the airplane (windows) and the poles. Are white circles actually airplane windows which, at the departure, narrow our view, and expand it during the return, which is expressed by textual circles? In that case, an interesting visual and semantic opposition is constructed: during the trip to Europe, the story is within the airplane, while the window offers the outside, frozen world, while during the trip back to Canada the situation is the opposite, whiteness is in the airplane, and the story is outside, partially visible through the window. Or do the white circles represent the whiteness of the polar circles, and are textual circles representations of the planet Earth? The blank circles are also reminiscent of the whiteness of the snow. Under snow the landscape loses every feature except the shape, and that’s exactly the effect produced reversibly by the blank and textual circles. Besides gaps in the narrator’s memory, Löschnigg provides the following possible explanations of the meaning of white circles and their relations to the narration:

The expanding circles of emptiness and their subsequent filling up could also visualize the loss and gain of time which affects the traveller between different time zones. […] On yet another level this gradual dis- and re-appearance of words could also be seen as a reflection of the precarious hyphenated situation of the German-Canadian passengers on board, or of the protagonist’s feeling of alienation as the plane tears him away from his home country and his wife (Löschnigg 2014, 245).

There are other literary explanations to this graphical intervention and its interrelations with the semantics of the narration. The first is the semantic connection between the story title, more precisely, the word discoloured with the discoloured circular parts of the text. The second explanation connects the introductory quote at the opening of “Discoloured Metal”, where Bowering cites Henry James: “It’s a complex fate, being an American, and one of the responsibilities it entails is fighting against a superstitious valuation of Europe.” (Bowering 1994, 91). The story provides an account of a young Canadian person travelling to Europe and back, while most of the middle of the trip, depicting Europe, that is, most of Europe itself is erased. It seems that the story, in strong contrast to the opening quote, tells a story exactly of a North American man who could not or did not want to give any account of his experience of Europe. And most importantly, there is a presumption that the blank holes are actually holes in memory, circumstantial or deliberate. In that case, textual circles represent the victory of remembrance over oblivion or, if the holes are deliberate, the white circles represent a successful attempt to tell a story while keeping one part of it a secret. There are at least four references to remembrance and memory in the text to support this interpretation. The landscape and memory get equally discolored by the circumstances, and these notions, essential for the narration, are reflected in the physical form of the text.

I will now provide some instances from the text on which I based my previously stated remarks on the multimodal interrelations in “Discoloured Metal”. Firstly, the notion of the airplane and the earth’s poles is introduced by a sentence that sounds as if taken from the brochure the main character is reading: “The DC7B, the brochure from the pocket on the back of the next seat declared, is the newest of the non-jet airliners, and we are very lucky indeed to be riding over the polar route in a DC7B.” (Bowering 1994, 91). Having the setting of the story introduced right at the beginning perhaps lessens the surprise in the reader when encountering the first, smaller white circle in the text of the next page. The reader might right away associate the white circle with plane windows, or even the earth’s poles. A possible reference to the earth’s shape is given in the following sentence:

“Iceland                                   portion of the earth’s surface.” (Bowering 1994, 96).

Words between Iceland and portion are whitened by the circle. The form of the white circle might be brought into an associative connection with the shape of the earth’s surface as seen from an airplane.

As far as the issue of memory is concerned, the key for its understanding is offered in the starting paragraphs of the story, just before the first white circle: “Anyway, this is what I remember of the trip. And the bad thing in the middle, which we had eventually to stop discussing.” (Bowering 1994, 92). What is the bad thing in the middle? Interpretations might vary from the one about the plane accident, suggested by Löschnigg, to narrator’s bad experience of Europe, to explanations that involve his relationship with his wife Bernice waiting for him back in Canada. Important for this analysis is that the narration acknowledges his unwillingness to tell the central part of his story, and this plays along perfectly with the usage and the function of white and black circles. Further in the text the narrator discloses: “Before this I have been in three North American Lands. I wager that I will refer to them, necessary memory, in whatever this enscribing is.” (Bowering 1994, 94). What is this necessary memory? This notion might refer to the narrator’s experience before the voyage, the experience of North America, but it inevitably refers to his experience after the voyage, the experience of Europe. It is necessary for the narrator to remember but it is not necessary to tell the whole story. While his references to North America are numerous, Europe remains a mystery. It is interesting that in this sentence, and other instances in the collection The Rain Barrel, Bowering uses a misspelled word enscribing (inscribing), detracting even more from the credibility of the narrator’s discourse.  Finally, Bowering writes the following sentence partially covered by the third white circle in the story:

“Flying t-           -here is a Europe inside Europe. Inside memory and human meat.” (Bowering 1994, 94).

The narrator is describing passengers on board, some of them of European descent. By yet another category of memory provided by the narrator, the memory of identity, he covers the intrinsic experience that determines people, and that people always take with them, no matter where they go. The narrator offers us the memory of his own identity that reveals him to be a person belonging to the North American cultural circle. On the other hand, he does not openly reveal how the European experience influenced his memory (or vision) of identity. This might be connected to the previously mentioned point that at the beginning of the voyage this memory seems to be concentrated within the airplane, while during the return, memory is pushed outside.

The narrator’s prejudices connected to Europe (in opposition to the introductory quote) is provided right at the beginning of the story, and with a humorous effect: “Dont get me wrong, we did not snub Germany. But you know, an inexperienced yet southern-valleyed young fellow, well, Mediterranean swim suits, palm trees, wind blowing them inside out-”. (Bowering 1994, 91). This sentence depicts the narrator as unprepared for the experience he is about to have, and maybe this is the reason for his refusal to reveal what happened in Europe.

We might suppose that the European part of the story is omitted because it is simply not important, and the focus of the narration is on the trip itself. That might be partially true, but the European part of the trip is not really omitted, it is there, but it is hidden. White spaces in “Discoloured Metal” are an illustrative example of presence expressed through absence, of meaning expressed through the absence of meaning. If Bowering really wanted to hide the central part of the story, he would structure the story in that way, focusing on departure and arrival. Instead, he represents the central part of the story by its physical absence.

There is yet another interesting example of ‘disappearing text’ in “Discoloured Metal”, which is positioned outside of the white circles. On page 96, just under the largest white circle (after which entirely white pages follow), there are these lines:

“So we have come

As trippers North

Although the continuation of the text is blank, unlike with the white circles, it can be reconstructed because of the intertextual reference that it provides. Löschnigg writes: “Almost certainly the ‘educated’ reader will try to fill the empty space with the remaining lines from W. H. Auden’s and Luis MacNeice’s Letters from Iceland. However, this would again be only one of the many paths the text invites the reader to follow” (Löschnigg 2014, 247). MacNeice’s poem “Iceland” (the fifth stanza) offers the following lines: “So we have come/As trippers North/Have minds no match/Fort this land’s girth;/The glacier’s licking/Tongues deride/Our pride of life,/Our flashy songs.” The stanza implies that the traveler is unable to fully grasp and understand the land whose whiteness hides all clues and mocks the travelers’ bewilderment. This perfectly reflects Bowering’s intentions in “Discoloured Metal”; the next two entirely white pages and the following pages where the text reappears in expanding textual circles provide little ground for accurate interpretation of the story. Bowering’s usage of lines from an acclaimed poem might be seen as a clue to the reader (provided just before the complete disappearance of text), but the clue itself speaks of absence of clues in the great whiteness and that certainly implies irony.

 

“Discoloured Metal” and a Traveler’s Vision of Iceland

How does the literary usage of Iceland as a neutral territory, a place to refill (not just kerosene), function in Bowering’s short story, furthermore, how does that reflect a Canadian perception of Iceland and Europe and, finally, the main character’s perception of himself?

Let us go back to the three previously mentioned crucial points of consideration: 1. The Henry James quote, 2. Mentioning of Iceland in the text, and the position of the word Iceland in the physical layout of the text, and 3. Intertextual connection to W. H. Auden’s and Luis MacNeice’s Letters from Iceland.

The introductory quote by Henry James prepares the reader for a text sensitive to complex cultural issues of which a careful traveller is very well aware, and a text which is, hence, free from prejudice. However, the text is everything but free of prejudice, actually, it deliberately mocks the ideas expressed in the introductory quote. This is most obviously seen in Bowering’s ironic mentioning and descriptions of Germany and German people. Although not directly introduced, the positioning of Iceland in the short story as well follows Bowering’s ironic take on travelers’ prejudice. Firstly, mentioning Iceland marks the middle of the narration, and it is physically placed in the middle of the text, hence confirming the usual notion of Iceland being in between, a land that divides and connects the two worlds. More importantly, it is after the first mentioning of Iceland that the white spaces, and then white circles, appear. In fact, most of the narration that happens over and in Iceland is lost in whiteness. Whiteness reconfirms the widespread prejudice of the unforgiving artic climate which allows little action and even less memory. However, it is the whiteness in the shape of airplane windows that provides the main insight into the traveler’s perception of Iceland. Bowering’s irony regarding the human nature is reconfirmed; although the main character is an educated and married person, as a traveler he is too weak to avoid the usual prejudice (and supposedly a love affair) because his view is radically narrowed by the frames of white circles, the frames which expose his deepest limitations. This coincides with Bowering’s idea of lost or hidden memory. If something negative, or even a love affair, really happened to the main character in Europe, it is a very common spot that this unwanted memory is eliminated exactly in whiteness over Iceland. In that respect, Bowering is masterly using some basic cultural notions (we can call that prejudice) about Iceland to achieve (self)irony, to portray the main character, and to structure his narration into two main parts (before and after Iceland).

Iceland is mentioned three times in the story. First mentioning is in complete sentence just before the appearance of the last white circle, and the sentence that marks the beginning of the medial part of the narration:

As we all together approached Iceland there was still a little thin light in the sky, no real darkness this far north, and then the sun came flying up in the northeast. (Bowering 1994, 96).

In the following line the main character seemingly starts a conversation with someone, and that conversation is partially or entirely hidden by the white circle from the next line on. The white circle possibly symbolizes the polar sun and its light which erases one part of traveller’s memory. The second mentioning of Iceland can be found in the bottom of that same white circle.

“Iceland                                   portion of the earth’s surface” Pliny M (Bowering 1994, 96).

Although a large portion of the text is missing, thanks to the readable name Pliny we can easily reconstruct the following quote by Pliny Miles from his 1854 work Norðurfari, or, Rambles in Iceland:

 “But Iceland is not a myth, it is actual and real, a solid portion of the earth’s surface” (Miles 1854, 15).

This quote reaffirms Iceland as one of the key elements for understanding the text. Although Iceland is only mentioned, and its appearance simply marks the middle of the trip, it seems that Iceland is one of the main characters in the story. Iceland actively hides something which is not a myth but something that really happened to the main character. What really happened, be it travelling difficulties or a love affair, we might never know.

It is interesting to mention that the quote from Letters from Iceland follows right under the same white circle, and the next two pages (Bowering 1994, 97-98) are completely blank, leading the reader to complete oblivion. Parts of words reappear on the page 99 in a small textual circle in which we can reconstruct words cigars and probably yellow, and […]erbia which probably stands for Serbia, a country mentioned in other Bowering’s stories. That means that after the blank the main character is already on his way home, and the secret of his trip was successfully concealed.

The last mentioning of Iceland can be found on top of the last and the largest textual circle (hence closing a symmetrical composition), and it reads:

[…]opped again to refuel at Keflavik, and […]

[…]ere in the little survivalist coffee shop.

The rest of the visible text shows that the main character is eager to return home as if haunted by a certain bad memory. The two main notions of Iceland presented earlier in the text are reaffirmed in the first two lines. Firstly, Iceland as place in between where kerosene and hope can be refilled before reaching the destination on either side of the Atlantic. Secondly, the word survivalist again emphasizes the isolation and deceptive simplicity of the place, but also it tells a lot about the main character’s existential anxiety.

In the end, the idea of survival in a very rough climate (or at least the idea how outsiders perceive that climate) is directly connected to the quote from MacNeice’s poem “Iceland” (the fifth stanza) from Letters from Iceland. It is interesting to note that quotes from Letters from Iceland are also featured in the 2006 Canadian drama Away from Her, written and directed by Sarah Polley, and based on Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”. Clearly, this short travel book, and indirectly Iceland, are well represented in Canadian art and culture as something far, isolated, and detached, a place where survival is at least equally as important as it is in Canada. Letters from Iceland features a great deal of appreciation for Iceland but also a lot of parodic, humorous comments on the place and its people, and that coincides perfectly with Bowering’s perception of human nature.

 

Conclusion: Iceland as a Mediator and a Catalyst

I will conclude this short analysis, let us consider a quote from W. H. Auden’s poem Journey to Iceland featured in Letters from Iceland:

And the traveller hopes: “Let me be far from any

Physician”; and the ports have names for the sea;

The citiless, the corroding, the sorrow;

And North means to all: “Reject”.

Bowering’s story is a story of rejection and the triumph of weakness. Firstly, Bowering rejects the power of language, and exposes its weaknesses by the usage of non-verbal white circles. Secondly, he proposes a non-biased cultural consideration in the introduction quote but he renounces that in the story, exposing general human weaknesses of the main character. Thirdly, he rejects and mocks human technology and culture through ironic descriptions of the airplane and its travellers. In spite of all cultural knowledge and awareness, a trip from Canada via Iceland to Europe and back remains simply a trip into main character’s inner longings and fears. Finally, he rejects unwanted memory, whatever that memory might be. This could be further expanded to refer to a general experience of immigrants leaving their homes for a new world, and trying to get rid of bad memories half way, however futile that is. Bowering describes Europe by rejecting to even talk about it as he basks in forgiving whiteness in and over Iceland. This might be both an ironic comment on the American understanding of Europe (and vice-versa) and a comment of the personal misconceptions of the main character, with Iceland serving as a mediator. So much rejection and weaknesses exposed are best placed in a medial position in a story, and in hard conditions of an extreme climate. In that manner, Iceland becomes the main setting of the story, one of its main characters, and the main philosophical catalyst of the narration. And all that after being almost completely visually erased from the pages of the story.

 

References

Auden, Wystan Hugh and MacNeice, Louis (2002): Letters from Iceland. London: Faber&Faber.

Bowering, George (1994). The Rain Barrel and Other Stories. Vancouver: Talonbooks.

Hallet, Wolfgang (2014). “The Rise of the Multimodal Novel: Generic Change and Its Narratological Implications”. In Storyworlds across Media: Towards a Media-Conscious Narratology. Lincoln and London. University of Nebraska Press.

Löschnigg, Maria (2014). The Contemporary Canadian Short Story in English. Continuity and Change. Trier: WVT.

Löschnigg, Maria (2016). “Transatlantic Dimensions in Canadian Short Story Writing”. In Handbook of Transatlantic North American Studies. Julia Straub ed. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Miles, Pliny (1854): Norðurfari, or, Rambles in Iceland, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Private e-mail correspondence with George Bowering. April 2017.

Tutek, Nikola (2018) Visual and Verbal Interrelations in Canadian Short Fiction, Dissertation (defended at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Austria, May 2018).

Jarich Oosten & Barbara Helen Miller (eds.), Traditions, Traps and Trends. Transfer of Knowledge in Arctic Regions (Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2018)

Indigenous knowledge – or traditional knowledge – has recently gained more and more attention, especially within the Arctic context. Large and complex bodies of knowledge(s) are thus acknowledged, which are mostly acquired in non-verbal ways: a learning by doing, or better, a learning by living (it), ensuring survival in the harshest environments of the globe for millennia.  Such a knowledge includes skills and “attitude that encourages perceptual rather than judgmental forms of knowing”, leading to a life oriented toward service to community. It is a knowledge that still today struggles with the Western concept of “science”, still deeply anchored to classic dichotomies, as “our way of thinking” vs ”their way of thinking”, or the Cartesian paradigm whereby mind and body are essentially separate entities.

The scope of this book, outlined by the editors Jarich Oosten and Barbara Helen Miller in the introduction, is to overcome the classic definition of “Western science” and “mak[e] a place in scientific discourse for contributions from Indigenous authorities”.  This cognitive place is therefore created by eight interdisciplinary case-studies, written by different authors, that explore knowledge transfer and knowledge practices of the Inuit in Canada, East and West Greenland, and the Northern Sámi of Norway. There is no given methodological explanation regarding the selection of Arctic regions treated in the book, but probably it is the result of the geographical areas of expertise of the authors, all members of the Research Group Circumpolar Cultures.

After a dense introduction, aimed at clearing out both the theoretical background and the histories of the peoples involved, the book is divided conceptually into two parts: the first one comprises five chapters on the Inuit of Greenland and North America; the second one three chapters on the Northern Sámi of Norway.

The first part considers the Inuit concept of IQ, “knowledge that has proven to be useful in the past and is still useful today”, in different contexts, historical times and geographical areas. Although following separate patterns, all the authors come to highlight, on the one hand, the disruptive effects that the introduction of Western education, with missionaries first and national school systems later, has had on individual, social and family relations. On the other hand, the dynamic and flexible nature of this IQ makes it still today a valuable body of knowledge(s) (inclusive of its spiritual component) for the younger generations’ well-being, both mental and physical. A correct transfer of this knowledge (or IQ), however, faces today several challenges, as for example the impossibility of extracting this knowledge from its material support, that is to say, the environment, and teach it in a classroom; obliging educators and researchers to experiment and find more suitable solutions (some of them are addressed in the book).

The second part takes the reader to a completely different location, Northern Norway, and into a different culture, the Sámi. This second part focuses on a variety of topics, yet connected with the main area outlined in the introduction, i.e. transfer of knowledge and knowledge practices.

Presented as a book for “students and scholars in anthropology and ethnology and for everyone interested in the Circumpolar North”, this collection of essays offers indeed different reading levels. However, probably due to a general lack of coordination among the authors of the first part, where the five essays share the same main topic, IQ, and different yet similar background (Inuit), make the reading often repetitive and redundant, hampering a fluid reading. The second part, while being definitely more diverse, sometimes struggles in showing clearly its connections with the overall scope of the book, leaving the reader a little lost.

Some peculiar design choices – such as the font and its size, slightly smaller than usual, and the left-side alignment – make the reading not easy, as they give the feeling of an endless footnote. On the bright side, this book includes also some interesting historical figures and drawings, such as those (pp. 166-167) illustrating stories related to “tupilat” (i.e. “evil spirits” in the form of small sculptures carved out of bone, ivory, wood or stone, depicting monstrous figures and believed to have destructive and sometimes lethal effects on rivals).

A question, however, remains unanswered.

Why is no essay in this book openly written by an indigenous scholar or an “indigenous authority” of the actual Arctic communities that are discussed therein, a child of their lived experiences and living cultures?  The feeling is that one very important classic dichotomy was not addressed at all, that is to say, indigenous cultures and indigenous peoples as proactive “subjects” of research rather than “objects”. If this dichotomy persists, can then the authors’ competent scientific approach really achieve the declared aim of the book’s editors, namely to “mak[e] a place in scientific discourse for contributions from Indigenous authorities”?

Shawn Selway, Nobody Here Will Harm You. Mass Medical Evacuation from the Eastern Arctic, 1950-1965 (Hamilton, Ontario: James Street North Books, 2016)

Shawn Selway has written a thoughtful, and in many places disturbing, account of the policies and ensuing actions taken by Canadian leaders to control the tuberculosis epidemic in the Eastern Arctic. Over a thousand Inuit and Cree were evacuated to Mountain Sanatorium in Hamilton, Ontario between 1950 and 1965. While authorities were clearly concerned about loss of life, reviewing their actions shows that sometimes providing help can also have negative repercussions. When assistance is rendered without proper understanding of the culture of the people and without adequate planning, the assistance itself can have unintended consequences.

According to historical and governmental records, Canadian officials determined that the best way to protect the most people was to evacuate anyone who tested positive for tuberculosis to the South. Several reasons were provided for why they chose to evacuate instead of treating them in the North. First, it was difficult to get the necessary specialists to go to the Arctic. Second, with effective treatment, the number of cases was expected to decline. Therefore, spending money building new treatment facilities would be a waste, particularly since many beds had recently opened at the sanatorium in Ontario. Finally, the ultimate goal was to remove the source of the infection from communities. Allowing infected individuals to remain close to the community increased the risk of the infection spreading.

However, the medical evacuations were plagued with problems. The author explained some of the logistical problems faced because the communities lived in the Arctic. For example, transportation was difficult to plan. Initially, only ships transported patients. The ships ran on tight schedules based on weather and ice conditions, allowing very little time for the medical professionals to test everyone. Once they had the test results, they did not have the time to obtain proper consent from patients and their families. While people were not exactly forcibly removed, consent was not exactly given either. This rushed schedule also led to lack of proper documentation. Records were lost and so were people, particularly when the patients were young children. Once these patients were cured there was no way to get them back to their families. Even after helicopters and planes were employed, there were still weather and logistical conditions to consider, and the trips were not always pleasant for patients.

Another error discussed in the book dealt with faulty patient services after they were relocated. No one considered how vitally important it would be for patients to be able to communicate with their families. Without any contact from home, patients were depressed and their families grieved for the loss, not knowing if they would see their family member again.  This harmed the patients and caused communities to lose trust in the medical professionals, and after their stories spread, some people refused to be examined or go near the ships.

The evacuations impacted these Indigenous communities in similar ways to the residential schools. Children were taken at young ages, and by the time treatment was over, they no longer remembered their language or cultural practices. When they returned home, many of them did not feel comfortable in their own communities. The longevity of culture, language, family, and community structures were just as threatened by these medical removals as the educational ones.

Selway compared these Arctic evacuations with the approach used to fight tuberculosis in the Navajo Nation. Among the Navajo, people were treated without being removed from the community. However, the distances are greater and conditions more severe in the Arctic. The Navajo model could not have been replicated under these differing circumstances.

A good point was made in the preface. It is easy to look back on historical events with a moral superiority because we have the benefit of hindsight. We now recognize how damaging the evacuations were on the Inuit and Cree. We can see where actions were not planned well and understand what should have been done. The communities suffered and even now their views on what happened have been largely discounted. By recognizing that the officials were working with technological limitations and a genuine fear of the epidemic does not change the negative impact of their decisions, but it might help contemporary society understand the history of the Arctic, acknowledge the damage that was done, and come to terms with the legacy of this era.

Sadly, after the evacuations, the Canadian government then focused on resettling Indigenous Arctic communities. As with the evacuations, the resettlements were not well-coordinated and they made life harder. Sled dogs were shot in settlements destroying dog teams, but snow machines were too expensive for everyone to purchase and maintain, making food and materials scarce and costly. The very communities that they claimed to be assisting were once again the victims of unintended consequences.

The height of irony in this story is that in 2010, the rates of new tuberculosis cases in Nunavut hit an all-time high (p. 209). The very disease that these evacuations and resettlements were supposed to eradicate is on the rise. As stated in the book, “[t]he resettlement policy carried through in part in order to improve access to medical services inadvertently produced the living conditions that have allowed TB to persist and even flourish.” (p. 216)

My biggest criticism of the book is structural. Some sections jumped around in time, making the account difficult to follow. Also, the author went on tangents that, while interesting, could have been shortened. Sometimes I found myself lost in the technical details and not sure whether I would get back to the human story that the book is telling. However, even with these criticisms, the book includes important details and reveals pieces of a story that has received too little attention over the years. Indigenous communities in the Arctic are still living with the consequences of poor governmental policies and actions made in response to the tuberculosis epidemic. In order to learn from the past, wrongs and harms should be acknowledged so that communities can heal and poor decision-making will not be replicated in the future.

Erik Westholm, Karin Beland Lindahl & Florian Kraxner (eds.), The Future Use of Nordic Forests, A global perspective (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015)

Nordic forests play a key role in the establishment of the Nordic welfare states. They also play a key role in a global perspective when looking at factors such as energy, climate, land use, ecosystem services and other subsistence uses. In this book the aim is to address how global changes are likely to affect the conditions for future Nordic forest use.

Continue reading Erik Westholm, Karin Beland Lindahl & Florian Kraxner (eds.), The Future Use of Nordic Forests, A global perspective (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015)

Mapping the Unknown – North as threshold: a meditation in three examples

This essay is a personal attempt at introducing a possible creative history of the idea of North. This is presented via three different examples through which notions such as those of limit and experience are thought of as preliminary phases and yet, combined together, also as something essential to better understand the sense of threshold qua notion which, as I suggest, can be used to describe and depict the North in contemporary terms.

Continue reading Mapping the Unknown – North as threshold: a meditation in three examples

Beyond the Cold-War Reprise of the Arctic Super-Powers. Decoding the Structural Meaning of the Ukrainian Crisis

 

 

In fact, one more US-directed violent overthrow of an elected government has carved off the biggest country of Europe from next-door Russia. Yet Russia gets all the blame for “brute force” in reclaiming Crimea – although 96% of a voluntary turnout of 82% voted to rejoin its traditional mother country. While denounced as “violation of international law”, the Crimea referendum choice expresses the “self-determination” of a society guaranteed under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Ukraine’s coup government, in contrast, has prohibited any referendum on its rule – especially the Eastern regions where popular uprisings with no mass deaths or beatings (as in the Kiev coup) call for self-determination against illegal rule from Kiev.  

 

The uprising cities of East Ukraine – beginning with Donetsk, then Kharkiv, Luhansk, Slavyansk (the Slav has been removed from the Westernized Sloviansk),  Kramatorsk and other centers and villages – all demand a democratic referendum for their future status as equal citizens in a Ukraine federation. Integration with Russia is not favoured by Russia, but the dominant popular feeling unreported in the media is peaceful and pragmatic. Ukraine’s government has been broken by the US-led coup and cannot provide what people need in jobs, healthcare, income security and pensions. Certainly “the Greek model” planned for Ukraine is not in its people’s common life interests. Under the coup government of prime minister Arseniuy Yatsenyuk, a banker who is already prescribing mass dispossession by austerity programs, what will happen to Ukraine is foretold by has happened in Greece.   

 

The EU’s financial rule by banker mechanisms has already been almost as great a failure as the oligarch-marketization of Russia after 1990. It is a complex system of one-way powers of life deprivation and social ruin which I define in The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure (1999, 2013). Elected governments lose all control to the new absolute and overriding imperative of European rule – to grow and multiply private transnational money sequences. In accord with the ruling formulae, the Greek economy has been slashed by 25 per cent, unemployment is an official 28 per cent excluding the unpaid, the public health system is dismantled to pay foreign banks, wages are cut by a quarter, the public sector is sacked and privatized, and jobless youth rises to 60 per cent even with mass emigration. These outcomes now await Ukraine.

 

Those in Ukraine who are not under the spell of its father cult, oligarch riches, and post-1991 dispossession know better. Outside of Kiev they have had enough, and that is why the election and presidency of the Party of Regions and its allies whose popular support lies outside Kiev have been repeatedly overturned. It is also why their decentralized federal alternative has been removed from the table. The murderous insurrection in Kiev and violent coup of elected government reveals how far the Kiev oligarchy and plotters are prepared to go backed by the US. Yet this time Russia has drawn a red line. With near-unanimous support of the Crimean people and the uprising of the Eastern cities and villages as I write, Russia has stopped the US-led transnational corporate-machine and NATO from further expansion for the first time in 25 years.

 

It is true that Ukraine – the biggest country and bread basket of Europe – has now been pried wide open for transnational Western banks, agribusiness, Big Oil and NATO to feed on. And it is true that all talk of “land grab” has been projected onto Russia even as US Greystone  and Blackwater mercenaries – now called “Academi” in the Big Lie lexicon – move on the ground in Ukraine as the US and NATO propagate ever more threats of force and embargo against “Russia’s aggression”.  Reverse blame is always the US geostrategic game. “Russia’s designs to take the whole of Ukraine” is again US projection of its own objective, as in the old days when “world rule plot” was attributed to the former USSR. Yet a line has been drawn at Crimea, and drawn again in Eastern Ukraine, and it is backed by a country that cannot be arm-twisted, propaganda invaded, or air-bombed with impunity. That is why the one-way threats never stop. It is the first line yet drawn by an historical power outside of China against the exponentially multiplying US-led private transnational money sequences devouring the world.  

 

People now have a chance to reflect on who is the aggressor and who stands for democratic choice as events unfold. They can observe the patterns of Orwellian distortion day to day. Never is the other side presented. The US and NATO alone continuously denounce, lie and threaten. Financial contracts and assets are violated by one side alone. Hate campaigns without evidence go one way. Uprisings have been mass murderous from the US-coup side and without harm from the resisting side. Russia is behind its own borders, and the US deploys threats, covert operations and mercenaries from thousands of miles away. But this time US-NATO-led corporate globalization cannot destroy nations at will. Sometimes history can happen as it should.

 

 

The Mechanisms of Reverse Blame to Justify Destroying Societies

 

Reversal of blame is always the US method of pretext and justification. This is why Russia is pervasively vilified in the mass media, and another significant Arctic actor, Canada’s big-oil regime, joins in along with the UK.   As always, denunciation rules without reasoned understanding. As always, the US-led financial and military forces of private money-power expansion move behind the abomination of designated enemies. Any nation or leader not serving transnational corporate control of resources and markets across borders is always the villain. This is the ruling meta program.

 

Thus too in Ukraine. When Europe tried to broker a peace deal between the opposition and elected government of Ukraine, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continued to  court the neo-Nazi coup leaders to overthrow the state, instructing  “Yats” (appointed PM Yatsenyuk) to consult with the main putsch leader Oleh Tyahnybok “at least four times a week”.  When she is reminded of the EU peace talks and agreement to stop the bloodshed, her response is telling, “Fuck the EU”. The coup peaked after three days of murder by the neo-Nazi faction. When former “Orange revolutionary” and gas oligarch leader of the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko, then got out of jail for criminal embezzlement of state property, she expressed the logic of power shared with the US regarding Russia. She says without denial of the words: “take up arms and go and wipe out these damn katsaps” [Russian minority] – – – so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia.” Yet in every Western media of record, it is Russia who remains “the aggressor”, “the growing threat”, “the source of the rising crisis”, and “the out-of-control power that must be stopped”. 

 

There are exact thought governors at work throughout. I have analysed these structures of delusion in learned journals as ‘the ruling group-mind’ (collectively regulating assumptions that are false but taken for granted) and, sustaining it, the ‘argumentum ad adversarium’ (the diversion of all issues to a common adversary). The “escalating crisis in Ukraine” expresses these fallacious operations in paradigm form. So does the false claim of “Syrian use of chemical weapons” which almost led to US bombing of Syria’s civilian infrastructures a few months earlier. The mind mechanics at work form the inner logic of the lies which never stop. The grossest operations go back to the Reagan regime naming Nicaragua as “a clear and present danger to the United States” to justify US war crimes against it which in turn fed the ever- growing corporate-military complex and murderous covert operations. Always the mind-stopping mendacity and criminal aggressions are justified through the ruling group-mind and enemy-hate switch which form the deep grammar of this thought system.

 

At the most general level, the “Russian threat to Ukraine” diverts public attention from the really fatal problems of the world and their global causal mechanism – transnational money sequencing – which is metastasising further in Ukraine. The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade from its transnational corporate looting and polluting. The climates and oceans destabilize from the same cause at the same time. Species too become extinct at a spasm rate, and the world’s forests, meadows and fisheries are cumulatively destroyed. The global food system produces more and more disabling junk as commodity diseases multiply. The vocational future of the next generations is eliminated for a growing majority of people. All these trends and more are one-way, degenerate, and undeniable. All are driven by US-led private and transnational money-sequence multiplication which now moves into and through Ukraine. Without Russia’s past financial and energy assistance worth tens of billions of dollars and completely destabilized by the US-led violent coup, Ukraine verges towards collapse. That is where the Greek model comes in – the stripping of Ukraine to pay for what it has lost from Russia by the US-led coup which further enables military advance to Russia’s borders.

 

 

As usual, such geostrategic intervention is life destructive at every level of its consequences, but the underlying causal mechanism is unspeakable in official culture. From Africa to Europe to the Middle East to Latin America, the unspoken master trend is systematic society destruction. Look, for example, forward and backward from the last manufactured crises geared to enable US-led destabilization to bombing – the “weapons of mass destruction of Iraq”, the “genocidal plans of the dictator Gadaffi”, “Assad’s chemical weapons used on his own people”, or, across the ocean, Venezuela’s “despotism” which prioritizes the elimination of public education, healthcare and poverty elimination. Always the victim society has more developed social programs than its neighbours.  The ultimate enemy is social life bases themselves. 

 

Observe the common pattern of social destruction. It begins with US covert forces sponsoring opposition forces in the society featuring fascist and jihadist terrorists, mounting global media campaigns against the targeted leader, murders committed by snipers pretending to be state agents, growing civil division and hate towards civil war, and absolutely one-sided reporting of the US point of view, and reverse-moral justifications for what ends as society destruction.  The US bombing stage has not yet been reached in Syria because Russia led the alternative of UN chemical-weapons destruction, even though Syria had never used the weapon. Not long after destroying Iraq and Libya on known false pretexts, the US proclaimed again and again the mass-murderous gas used in Syria was by “Assad the war criminal” although the evidence kept disconfirming the big lie mega-phoned by John Kerry. It went all the way to a White House plan to bomb civilian infrastructures as in Iraq and Libya. In revealing contrast, Russia “the world bully” has never bombed a city. Yet US reverse projection rules. As for Assad’s “war crime”, the truth found by multiple analysis was that “kitchen sarin” manufactured in Turkey and crude-missile lobbed by the al Nusra jihadists allied with the US and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar was the source of the gas massacre (as Seymour Hersh has finally made public). 

 

Much the same generic script of engineered civil conflict and war combined with false threat and crimes of the constructed foreign enemy has been used over and over again against Iran and its “nuclear threat” with no evidence, while Israel has an illegal stockpile of them threatening to use them to stop Iran’s “nuclear threat”. In all, the reverse-projection tactic has become the signature of everything the US and its allies allege of others to ruin them. 

 

 

Ukraine in Motion as Another Paradigm Example of US-led Society Destruction

 

Serial false allegations and pretexts thus unfold again against Russia in regard to Ukraine. The US-led mayhem and violence varies widely, but the dots have not yet been joined on what is always achieved beneath the political-ideological shows – the tearing apart and dispossession of one society after another by US-led financial and armed means.  Here it is Ukraine and the set-up of Russia at once. Not only is the society decapitated, as in Ukraine or Libya or Iraq or as demanded in Syria. That is the official script. Much more deeply the society’s civil bonds are rent asunder, its productive base is sabotaged, its social life supports are stripped, its environment and resources looted and its future despoiled. Always. There is no objective fulfilled except social life-system destruction. But the connections still go unmade. As General Rick Hillier, commander of Canada’s forces helping to bomb Libya said afterwards: “We did it because we could”. As CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard acknowledges about the permanent US war, but still without the consequence named: “It will be won by forces you do not know about, in actions you will not see, and in ways you may not want to know about”. 

 

The supremely evil truth becomes testable by its continuous repetition. Dismantling or destroying society’s very life bases is the innermost meaning of US-led “freedom” and “globalization”.  It includes even US society itself by ever more monstrous misallocation of public resources away from what serves life bases to what deprives them. If one reviews the post-1980 trajectory of ruin of nations, the objectively evil pattern becomes clear. No other actually working goal has been achieved since the Reagan-Thatcher turn. It is the DNA of the global cancer system. Try to think of exception. Since the war-criminal destruction of poverty-ridden Nicaragua’s new schools and clinics by the signature method of covertly US funded and armed forces within, the society-destruction method has only grown and multiplied by terrorist as well as financial means. When Obama says “every society must chart its own course”, he follows the reverse moral syntax at work. The deliberate mass-diseasing of 500,000 children in the first manufactured crisis of Iraq as the nearby Soviet Union collapsed revealed what we could expect from the US without another superpower to contain it. In all cases, there has been one underlying principle of outcome – US-led civil disintegration of societies across the world. That is how a cancer works at the transnational level of life organization.

 

Engineering civil war is the favored method with effective genocide the long consequence. This is true not only in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria, but Somalia, Sudan and the Congo. Direct US invasion may lose the war from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but its defeat is, more deeply, another US-led success at destroying another society. The Wall Street metastasis to EU banker-run Europe has worked without invasion or even proxy uprising, but society destruction is still achieved by the small print of corporate treaties and bank powers people never see. Greece, Spain and Italy are effectively ruined, and behind the dismantling of these and all victim societies is the same transnational corporate system multiplying itself through societies. Big Banks, Oil, Military Contracting, Big Agri-Food and Pharma are themselves only vehicles of the one underlying economic disease of transnational money sequences self-multiplying across all borders without life limits or functions. They feed on ruined societies as their carrion.  

 

Ukraine follows this macro pattern. It comes into the fold of the EU through a US-led fascist coup posing as “freedom” and “revolution”, but in fact hollowing out the society’s lifeblood and bases as the US-led coup and EU financial straitjacket suck it dry. This is the unseen law of transnational money-demand multiplication to the top. In Ukraine the method features similar tools – increasingly armed and destructive oppositional forces on the ground, US bankrolling and direction of the opposition’s factions in orchestrated destruction ($5 billion under aid guises, $20 million for the street reported by Secretary Nuland in a speech to business), and pervasive transnational corporate propaganda about the constructed civil war as a “struggle for Ukraine’s  freedom” – decoded, transnational corporate and bank freedom to loot and pollute. As always, inside allies include  fascist and terrorist forces – the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor factions in Ukraine which now have key executive posts in the coup government and trace their history back to the Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) led by their hero Stephen Bandera who allied with the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941 and helped to round up Jews.

 

The worst is yet to come. Never is there any US building of the victim society’s economy and life support systems, and so too Ukraine. Again we might compare Russia here to the US in Afghanistan over 14 years. The self-multiplying corporate money sequences which reap all gains have no committed life function or obligation including to the imperial state itself. They pay ever fewer taxes to it, and bleed ever more public money and resources from it. There is only one pattern of consequence and Ukraine too is now almost occupied by its ruling mechanism to impoverish the people further to feed the rich. As always, society’s common life capital bases will be further defunded, privatized for profit, and saddled by unpayable transnational bank debts. The real economy will be flooded with more junk foods, media products and social-dumping commodities, and bred to a violence culture already hatched by the coup. Collective life capital bases will be further laid waste for multiplying private money fortunes across borders.

 

 

The Life-Blind Thought System Behind Global Society Destruction 

 

Since using the spectacular 9-11 event as pretext for the new PNAC plan of “full-spectrum domination”, falling on the anniversary of the destruction of Chile’s society in 1973, the U.S. has been on a non-stop crusade of destroying societies across the world. The hollowing out of social bonds and bases includes the US itself. Its impoverishment grows as non-productive riches multiply at the top, middle classes fall to ever new levels of debt, the growing majority of youth is without a future, public squalor spreads across the land, and over 2000 million dollars a day is spent on armed force threat and operations with no real enemy to justify them.

 

It all goes back to first principles. “There is no such thing as society” declared the fanatic Friedrich von Hayek who was mouth-pieced by his disciple Margaret Thatcher. “We owe our very lives to capitalism”. But deeper than words, the principle of no-society is built into the ruling economic paradigm. Without notice, every life coordinate is erased from account. There are no life needs, no environment, no society, no children, no relations with others, and no history in this life model. All unpriced life goods from water and sewer infrastructures and services to universal public education, culture and healthcare to social security support in age, unemployment, and disability are blinkered out except as “cost burdens”. The very terrestrial biosphere on which everything depends is ruled out of this moronic frame of reference. Demand itself is never people’s needs or necessity. It is private money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back it to indebt the great majority and to gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being as far as corporate globalization extends.  Ukraine can look forward to this US-led thought system ruling over it from within the financialized European Union which is now as banker-run as America.

 

The ruling value mechanism can be crystallized into natural language equations:  Freedom = freedom for private money demand = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.  Even more generally, the underlying master equations of the globalizing system now moving to rule Ukraine into Russia can be defined as follows: Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice = Always More Money-Value for Self is Good = Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top = All Else is Disposable Means to this Pathogenic Growth. This is the innermost value logic of the US-led global system and it has no limit of dispossession and ruin if not stopped. It is perhaps emblematic irony that the favorite for Ukraine’s post-coup President is a billionaire sugar-commodity maker producing no food value, but more and more obesity and diabetes.

 

 

World Empire or Globalizing Disease?

 

Left critics coalesce around “US imperialism” as the common cause of the global meltdown on organic, social and ecological levels. Yet it is strange to call a system an “empire” whose imperial center is increasingly hollowed out on every plane; whose interventions and wars destroy productive forces at every level; and whose outcome is not more amenities for the poor, as apologists like Leo Strauss claim, but ever more societies as black holes with life support systems cumulatively devoured.  “Sometimes I think they feel like they’re in a lab and they’re running experiments on rats and not understanding the consequences of what they are doing,” Vladimir Putin wonders in partial sense of the derangement at work.

 

More clearly, the states which the US planned to destroy in 2001 (as reported by General Wesley Clark in his memoirs) – Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Syria – are now in fact destroyed societies.  All but Iran are left with civil war and majority destitution where once they had been relatively prosperous and life secure. For example, before Western bombing of Iraq under the usual blame-the-enemy diversion to its leader (a paid CIA agent implanted in office by the US), Iraq led the Middle East in free public healthcare and higher education, and Libya provided free downpayments for young couples’ housing as well prior to its bombing. U.S.-led interventions and aerial bombing have destroyed the social life-organization of both nations without even the electricity and water back on. Syria was also a middle-income quasi-socialist nation, but was independent, friendly with Russia, and capable of fighting an expanding Israel. So Syria too was marked for destabilization. Its internal protests received US-Israel covert support, and turned quickly into civil war with US special operation forces and orchestrated funding of rival camps including jihadists still incinerating the country. As usual the national leader is blamed for everything. All the while, Iran is periodically threatened with annihilation while Venezuela across the ocean is subjected to US-led destabilization too as in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.

 

While gas bombs have been thrown freely in Venezuela and Ukraine with US support against democratically elected states, Venezuela’s government serves the poor while Ukraine’s has been  oligarchic on both sides. Putin thus understands Ukraine’s protestors as “tired of seeing one set of crooks replacing another”. In contrast, no common life interest at all exists for the US. When bribes of officials, street gangs and press slander are not enough, US-led destabilization by financial system levers, covert operatives and civil war follow behind reverse-projection cover stories.  One can imagine if Molotov cocktails were thrown during the Wall Street uprising as in US-financed protests in Ukraine and Venezuela. “Violence-threatening protestors” is all they can say about peaceful demonstrations at home however just the cause. Concern about people’s lives, in short, never arises except as a media mask. This is why the US-led coup in Ukraine murdered people and usurped democratic process and legal warrant without a pause. It is also why it demanded the sieg-heiling violent thug Oleh Tyanybok of the Svoboda Party to be a chief advisor to the coup government although he blamed a “Muscovite/Jew mafia” for Ukraine’s problems and “Germans, Kikes and other scum” who want to “take away our Ukrainian state”. He is a symptom of the deep-structural derangement of US rule. In all cases – from Honduras to Paraguay, Egypt to Mali – covert funding, forces of destabilization and chaos are the modus operandi with US special operations leading the repertoire of financial destabilization, demonization of resistance, and armed civil-war training. Unlike classic imperialism, the system spreads by greed and fear, never by productive force development and universalizing rights and laws.   

 

Invasive war in 2014 is not so acceptable to the world after the obliteration of the societies and life infrastructures of Iraq and Libya. So drones, suitcases of money, special operations, propaganda campaigns and whatever else can sabotage resistance are deployed to pry societies open for competitively self-multiplying transnational corporations to exploit foreign resources, labor and forced markets. This is known as “the free movement of private capital and commodities”. Until 1991, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still the biggest block and resource treasure of all to US-led global financialization. Thus military encirclement, pervasive international slander, ruinous armaments races and illegal embargoes followed for 50 years. It eventually worked to cause the intended collapse of the Soviet Union by spending it bankrupt on the armaments race, and forcing repression by perpetual war threats from richer societies. But US market magic and miracles for the world’s biggest country and its neighbours did not work at all. So the GDP’s of the Soviet republics fell by 60%, and polls today show that 56% of Ukrainians would prefer to be governed as before. Social priorities and universal life necessities matter more to them than majority dispossession and glitz for the rich. But no Western journalist dares say it. And so the spectacularly failed global capitalist experiment has passed without a word of notice from “the free world”.  It remains unspeakable to name.

 

Yet reality catches up. The US-led empire was itself unravelling in historical time without recognition. Its most gigantic failure has come back to haunt it – running the once relatively well-off societies of the USSR into productive and cultural ruin. “Well and good”, one is taught to think. “The Soviet Union repressed free speech”. But like Cuba today, a state which is continuously threatened with war, plague, assassination and hate by richer states reverts to tight control. But if one considers all the universal sciences, arts, pensions, education, and health-care provision of the Union of Socialist Republics which have been systematically destroyed, the meaning takes on a different complexion. It remains unspeakable but lies at the heart of the Ukraine-Russia crisis today. Nothing is better but only worse in collective life capital evolution.  

 

Many prefer the language of the imperial past. In this way reality is categorized as familiar, not mutant, backward and chaotic. The repetitions are not from “tragedy” to “farce”, as Karl Marx memorably observed in the case of Louis Bonaparte III of France. Today there is nothing but tragedy. It may all seem to be about oil and imperialism, what opponents focus on. Yet possessing others’ oil and territory are comparatively rational objectives compared to the actual performance of metastasising destruction. Far more is spent on unproductive technologies of killing and terror than has been won in new oil and territory. Both land and energy sources have been largely despoiled and wasted. The oil produced in Iraq, for example, is not close to pre-1990 levels and the oil in Libya is the site of unending civil war. The pattern is destroying not producing through generational time.  Corruption and insecurity are universalized, not life as human. Ukraine’s coup now binds it in the pathological direction – more civil strife towards war, more mountains of bank debt, more lack of affordable energy, more ethnic hatred, more mass homicidal weapons, and more rot of dysfunctional wealth inequality.

 

Can this be an advance of empire? Or is it the next sign of morbid overreach, corruption and fall? An empire has a unified center, a state in control of its subjects and private enterprises, a productive capacity that leads the societies within its imperial reach, an historical civilization of architecture, art, and culture, and most of all enduring public infrastructures and great works across its domains of command. The US global system has ever less of any of these. Its imperial center is divided into gridlock, its productive powers have been increasingly exported or surpassed elsewhere, its architecture, arts and culture are increasingly mindless and violence-ridden, its capacities of civilization and public infrastructures are defunded and collapse at every turn. The US now leads only in monopoly of world currency issue, capacities to destroy life and life conditions, and mass propaganda methods. Its transnational corporations are no longer subservient to any imperial center or purpose but multiply their private money sequences on the back of monopolies of force and money-issue paid for by increasingly impoverished citizens.  

 

The collapsing US civilization cannot comprehend its derangement. Its money-party leaders can only see more opportunity for transnational corporate profits – the moral DNA of the cancer system. This is why the destruction of Russia has been long planned by the geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski – first in Afghanistan where he rallied the original jihadists to fight the Soviet Union along with tens of billions in US cash and weapons which developed into 9-11 and the 9-11 wars. In Ukraine the US continues the strategy. In Afghanistan the route to the ex-Soviet oilfields, the US funding was the beginning of the Taliban and al Qaeda forces whose US-manipulated function was and remains destroying societies by armed civil war to complement financial bleeding. This same method bled Yugoslavia and then the USSR dry and has worked from Afghanistan through Iraq and Serbian-Kosovo wars to Syria to Somalia, Mali and Nigeria under many names, but almost always it turns out the terror is manipulated by US money, arms and connections. Today Brzezinski has former Harvard graduate students who strategically game for the Obama administration to smash Russia into ungovernable pieces – the long game.

 

This is not an exaggerated sense of danger, but a long track record. Wrecking the society in crisis is the testable generalization of all US interventions. More exactly, the unseen law of the ruling system across borders including those of the US is: Ever more public money is hemorrhaged into private money sequences with ever more ruined societies the result.

 

Consider Ukraine with this diagnostic principle in mind. We can predict from this system law that only more disintegration of society and mutual life support systems will occur in Ukraine with more US-EU bank and corporate feeding on the post-coup remains. US and EU countries themselves will come apart more in the process, and the US will bleed vastly more public resources to keep metastasising the unrecognized fatal disorder while 90% of its own people and the world grow poorer, more malnourished and life insecure.  

 

 

US Script of Democracy and Freedom versus Facts of Violence and Society Destruction

 

To put the matter in one sentence, the collapse and overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has been financed and directed by the U.S, cored in violence by the Nazi roots of the uprising linked with the US-selected coup leaders now in power, and after the swift take-back of Crimea by Russia fanned into hysteria by the corporate media. Revealingly, the Bandera-loving Nazis on the street leading the chaotic terror of Feb 22-24 caused the overthrow of the legitimate government exactly when the civil battle had already been won.   The elected President Yanukovych made concessions on everything – his PM was fired, the new protest laws against helmets, metal shields, and masks were revoked (even although banned everywhere else), with legitimate democratic turnover of government plainly in sight and further brokered by the EU in presidential succession. But there was no assurance of electoral victory of the US-allied Kiev forces. They had already lost two elections to the federalist Party of Regions and its alliance governments. It was then the US-led violent overthrow happened in bloodshed return of the Nazi past proclaimed as “freedom” and “revolution”. The violent coup was instantly validated by the US state, but the EU paused for days before diverting blame to Russia too.  No media of record appeared to notice that the US had criminally led the coup, and selected and instructed the new coup-government leaders with no vote, no election, and no public discussion. All the while the democratic referendum so abused in Crimea was never imagined for Ukraine by “the free press” and “leaders of the democratic world” even when eastern Ukraine popular uprisings demanded it.

 

The coup was precisely rushed ahead to avoid any election. The US-backed forces had already lost two in a row. No reports mentioned this in the Free World.  The track-switch of attention was instead to Russia. How could the strategy fail? If Putin draws the line at Crimea, he forwards the plan of blaming Russia. If he does not, the long game to dismantle Russia moves faster. If Putin calls a sudden referendum in Crimea to show its citizens’ overwhelming support, he can be ridiculed for “the farce”, “the region under military occupation”, “the gun to the head”. If almost all the people of Crimea want in fact to join the historic mother country in a peaceful vote, just keep repeating “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”, “brute force”, “Russian aggression”. The violent putsch in Ukraine is thus erased from view. It disappears into reverse projection. The most basic reality test is always blocked – Does the society rise or fall in life means available and produced, social life infrastructures and services, employment levels, youth life purpose, and ecological integrity after US-induced “regime change”. It always falls. Is there any exception?  

 

Crimea joining historic Russia again after it was won from the Ottoman Empire centuries ago revealingly goes the opposite way.  Bridges, roads and tunnels are promised and planned in immediately in the wake of the Olympic building spree. Pensions, minimum wages and healthcare are invested in to “raise life standards”. Exposure of the world to Crimea’s historical treasure begins. In contrast, the opposing US-led forces silence the EU agreement for presidential succession in Ukraine, lead coup of the elected government with neo-Nazi snipers and violent chaos, direct IMF austerity and social dispossession for the people’s collapsing life support systems, set the main languages, cultures and identifications of citizens into irreparable division and civil war footing, and proclaim virulently against Russia taking an opposite path.  

 

Dividing society from within with no common or productive goal but only more tearing apart is the generic meaning – as in Yugoslavia before it, Libya and Syria in between, Honduras, Paraguay, where does it stop?  Direct the destabilizing in the street with billions for the purpose, play on real and invented problems, insert special forces to lead the mounting violence, bribe the people with dollars and bananas, divide classes and cultures to the death, proclaim freedom and prosperity, and run the country into the ground with no life construction undertaken nor any life base any longer secure for 90% of the people. The special forces at work here incredibly included Israelis trained in Gaza allying with the legacy of Ukraine Nazism. But the stakes are large and undiscussed. Ukraine is the biggest land mass of Europe, a leading global grain producer, and home to newly found gas-reserves of possibly trillions of cubic feet. The US-led lockdown on all of it is clear in the new coup state.  A neo-liberal banker is Prime Minister, a violence script-writer and chief aide to the Fatherland Party is President, and various neo-fascists are in cabinet positions with none elected. To complete the destruction of democratic legitimacy of Ukraine took only a few hours. But public panic and appointing banker presidents has already been managed in Italy and Greece, why not here too? With no mass media noticing the growing reversal of democracy and freedom in their name, Putin-bashing is the corporate-press game.  

 

 

Media Censorship and the Violation of International Law

 

Crimea joining Russia was the lightning rod for the defining US operation of reverse projection, always blaming the other side for what one is doing oneself as the reason for attacking it. Since the Reagan regime made this the signature operation of US propaganda which is always repeated by the media as fact , an Orwellian rule of big lies has been normalized. Reverse projection combines with the earlier defined ad adversarium fallacy and ruling group-mind to overwhelm all reasoned understanding with cartoon-like masks of good (US) and evil (Them) where fact never interferes. Media-conditioned publics are in this way stampeded through one US-led war and civil war after another with official oppositions rationalizing the same belligerent stupefaction. With only the point of view of the US or its allies reported, only the US story line and point of view can be seen or heard by the great majority.

 

So too in “the Ukraine crisis”. That Russia “invaded Crimea and annexed it against international law” has been the basic story for global denunciation of Russia.  In fact over 80% of Crimeans voted, over three times the electorate participation in the US, and almost all of them for integration with Russia not “annexation by it”.  The striking fact is that given the accuracy of these figures which is not denied, it is far more than could enable Quebec to legally secede from Canada even with universal language rights lacking in Ukraine. By mathematical deduction, the referendum also included the great majority of the nearly 40% identified as Ukrainians and Tatars. How is it that all you ever heard or saw in the mass media were selected opposing voices from Ukrainian and Tatar minorities? This is the ruling censorship by unseen means – selecting out of public view all facts that are not consistent with the ruling script. More exactly, the corporate media select for public showing only what sells the transnational money-sequence system. This is why we never hear of the US placing itself above all international laws as it enforces this ruling program. Its entire record here is blinkered out a-priori. So blame of others easily enters the ruling group-mind internalized by mass media audiences

 

This point is worth pausing on because the US is the very “rogue state”, “international outlaw”, “criminal violator of human rights” and, above all, perpetrator of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” which it is always projecting onto other states. It has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court to uphold the law against war crimes and crimes against humanity, and publicly repudiated the Court’s right to investigate US criminal violations including the “supreme crime” of a war of aggression. While it is always invoking international laws to falsely blame others of violating them (e.g., Syria’s use of chemical weapons), the US has systematically undermined virtually all international laws to protect human life – treaties and conventions against landmines, against biological weapons, against international ballistic missiles, against small arms, against torture, against racism, against arbitrary seizure and imprisonment, against military weather distortions, against biodiversity loss, and against climate destabilization. Even international agreements on the rights of children and of women have been sabotaged. Yet this unrelenting profile of lawless US right to terror and destruction is nowhere published. This is how censorship by selection works without people knowing it.

 

What then are we to say about “Russia’s brutal invasion and seizure of Crimea”?  In fact the number of Russian soldiers in Crimea were fewer than agreed by contract with Ukraine long prior to the referendum.  Crimea is and was also an historic Russian port and strategic peninsula even under Ukraine’s interregnum, and its place in Ukraine occurred only by a 1954 decree of the now-defunct Soviet Union. All of these facts are selected out by corporate media and states which only repeat “Russian brute force”, “illegal seizure of territory”, “war of invasion”, and even “what Hitler did back in the 1930’s” (Hilary Clinton). There is no limit to the absurd hypocrisy of accusation. Thus attention is diverted again and again onto the latest enemy as lawless and the US as law-abiding in contradiction to the facts.

 

In reality, no injury occurred in the peaceful and overwhelmingly popular integration of Crimea with Russia. Ukrainian troops yielded in peaceful transition and were extended offers to stay. There was no bloodshed with one exception – a soldier in Sebastopol murdered by two men at night in masks and a getaway car tied back to the Ukraine coup leaders. They called it “the entry into the stage of military conflict” and the corporate media reported it without evidence or question. But the sniper murders of 21 people in the Kiev uprising by US-led coup agent was already diplomatically registered by March 4. Predictably, every detail was gagged in ‘the free press’ and the official ‘Free World’. Even the EU’s Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to whom the facts of the mass murder were communicated by a fellow Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet of Estonia, remained silent. He reported that in fact the medical and forensic evidence proved all 21 murders were by “the same type of bullets” and from “the same handwriting” which could only be from “the new coalition” [of the coup government]. “The new coalition”, concluded Foreign Minister Paet in English, “don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. So that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”

 

Such mass murder is grounds for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and prosecution by the International Court. But due process of law and criminal prosecution are repressed at the same time as the known diplomatic evidence is silenced in the public sphere. Group-mind, reverse projection and blame-the-enemy operations have become so automatic that the most important historical facts and heinous crimes do no register through their prism. Thus Russia goes on being accused of the “violations of law” and “international law” with John Kerry bawling loudest against the evidence. That the violent coup itself was propelled by mass murder of protestors perpetrated by the US-led insurrection to blame on the elected government has thus never made the news. The murderous logic was again evident in microcosm when troops of the coup state opened fire on unarmed citizens approaching their barracks to talk on the Easter eve of the Geneva agreement to repudiate armed violence. The day after the Geneva accord a worse attack exploded in Slavyansk with gunmen (named as Right Sector, the fascist armed group behind the coup whose activities the accord banned)  racing up in jeeps to a checkpoint killing at least three people including a bus-driver before disappearing. As always the US-orchestrated government in Kiev projected all attacks onto Russia with no evidence.

 

All the while heavy Ukraine armed forces moved into eastern Ukraine blocked by citizens while Kiev’s own central street still remains occupied by coup forces. “Putin’s threats” continue to be manufactured along with “Russia’s forcible annexation of Crimea” despite the inhabitants voting peacefully and overwhelmingly for re-unification with Russia in affirmation of a relationship over two centuries old. Altogether erased from reports are the facts that the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter and “the right of nations to self-determination” (Article 2, Chapter 1), the very right Ukraine invoked in seceding from the USSR in 1991, and the same right invoked for the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Also erased is the UN International Court ruling in July 2010 that “general international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence” Once again we find on closer inspection that what is proclaimed as fact and law by US leaders and allied states is yet another level of a big lie system.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Ukraine crisis is another variation on the great crisis of the world – the undeclared global war of transnational corporate money sequences to multiply themselves through human societies and life on earth in the diagnosable form of an invasive cancer. Yet what is different in Ukraine is that eastern Ukrainian citizens and the world’s largest nation have stood against the new metastasis across traditional borders and cultural regions. Activists with weapons and massive local support across Donetsk region hoist their own flag and demand referendum for constitutional independence from the fascist-led coup state. The elected Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the equivalent of the US Congress, has given unanimous approval for defense of eastern Ukraine protestors against armed assault from the coup government, already underway with NATO flexing armed power all around. Yet this time the resistance cannot be just overrun or bombed. And this time the system DNA begins to be recognized – US-led destruction of societies to ensure their servile dependency and open borders for hollowing out.

 

The very words “Russia” and “Putin” may provoke ruling group-mind reactions pro or con, so analysis here sticks to track records, trends and policy directions – the defining past, present and future lines of system decision on both sides. What is clear now are set-point differences and shifts towards recognition of the society-destroying forces. The most visible shift has been set into motion by the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, big-lie pretexts and serial murders in another US-made civil chaos. But Russia has moved decisively to stop it in the historical process still unfolding. The never-named enemy behind the coup and behind the collapse of evolved social and natural life systems across the planet has been blocked on the ground. Neither Putin nor Russia are a model, but like Venezuela and much of Latin America, they now stand against the invasive disorder overrunning life bases and needs in every region. The deepest issue is the US money-cancer system. In murderously destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government and advancing towards Russia’s borders in the latest metastasis, the pathogenic forces are now confronted by the world’s largest country, the longest-tested army and once socialist superpower. All the lies in the world cannot overwhelm this resistance. Everywhere the US-led collapse of world life security is being decoded outside corporate states and media. The Ukraine crisis, perhaps linked to Russia-China movement from the US oil-dollar, could be a new turning point against the Great Sickness of our world.

 

 

N.B. This contribution is based largely on an essay by John McMurtry published previously on GlobalResearch.ca.