Archive for November 2010

Chalmers Johnson: the “Blowback” man

November 24, 2010

He was an Asian scholar, the most pre-eminent of his time, a true blue cold warrior who broke ranks with his country when it failed to change after the Fall of the Wall and the Russian empire. His three latest books have become dispassionate classics on the subject of Amertican hubris, exceptionalism This trilogy described in detail the pathologies of a democratic country caught in an imperialist trap. The three books are “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire” (2000), “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic” (2004) and “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic” (2006).

The first of these three books Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire deaot with the American failure to adjust its thinking and ec onomy after the Russian empire dismantled itself under Gorbachev. Why, he asked, are we paying for 700 strategic bases around the world if we no longer have an “evil empire” to confront? The answer for Johnson was starightforward—and the reason why the US still has the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad—global hegemony; strategic bases to control the global fuel supply and allow Americans to consume in unsustainable ways.

The constant meddling in other countries affairs created “blowback”—unintended consequences—like 9/11. Chalmers pointed out that the self-styled leader of the democartaic world had in recent decades abndoned its reliance on international institutions, diplomacy and international law. It had in effect, to the hidden surprise and ignorance of most of its citizens, become a bully relying on military power and unsavory alliances with local thugs. This created “Blowback.” and part of the answer to “Why do they hates us” cthe common plaint after 9/11.

The wrong dreams

November 19, 2010

Soulpepper, the brilliant Toronto theatre company,  packed them in for 6 weeks with the production of the American classic Death of  a Salesman. It was an outstanding production with Joe Ziegler as the pathetic Willy Loman.

Arthur Miller’s play written in 1949 as the US economy was beginning to boom and the flight to the suburbs  was in full flight is as relevant today—maybe even more so–than it was when the prolific Miller penned it.

What accounts for its powerful resonance today? Why does it grab people in such an arresting manner?

it is simply because Miller gets at the basis of the hollow American individualist dream.

As Biff, Willie’s son looks back on the pathetic shell of his salesman father, he states the obvious: “He had all the wrong dreams.” The man’s whole weltanschaung was bereft of any deep meaning. Willie staked his whole life on the externals of “a smile and a shoeshine”, nothing deep, nothing meaningful or transcendent.He is indeed a “Low man”, a poor one dimensional figure who has bought the cultural bull shit so evident in the collapsed “me first”  world of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.

Wrong dreams personified in the life and career of avatars like George Bush are more abundant today than in the late 40s.The ad biz has managed to implant these nightmares in the heads of much of the population.

It reminds me of Native elder Art Solomon’s comment when he would visit the overly-incarcerated Indian population in Toronto’s Don Jail.Solomon’s first word of advice: “Turn off the box(the television).Don’t let those dreams invade your life.”

Jim Prentice rewarded by corporate Canada

November 12, 2010

Only the corporate Globe and Mail could hail  Calgary MP Jim Prentice as a model of a public servant. As we know Prentice is leaving to a $2 million dollar gig with CIBC. As an environment minister he has been a total flop, putting on a sober face  and doing nothing to reverse Canada’s embarrassing record as a global polluter.

Wherein lay his public service? Certainly not to the deteriorating environment.

Prentice was a dud as a friend of the environment, a decent guy putting nothing but spin out in a friendly, affable way.

The Globe’s editorial of Nov. 4 should be read as either humour or irony.It fails the smell test of reality. Only in Calgary, only in the Globe and Mail.