Thursday 28th of May 2020

how can we accept our monkey antecedence?

"Who tries to be an angel, becomes a beast” Said Blaise Pascal. It can be said that our social construct suffer from this relative dichotomy. Many works of fiction and historical records have explored this notion of dystopia/utopia. 

Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization,[2] tyrannical governments, environmental disaster,[3] or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many fictional works and artistic representations particularly in stories set in the future. Some of the most famous examples are George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-FourAldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to society, environmentpoliticseconomicsreligionpsychologyethicsscience or technology. Some authors use the term to refer to existing societies, many of which are or have been totalitarian states or societies in an advanced state of collapse.

In most modern stories, sciences are made to infuse a dystopic notion in social networks, while religions are praised for their utopic nature, offering an eternal peace. But it’s not clear cut. Sciences use knowledge. Religions use delusions. Both use imagination. Both have been the source of warfare.

So I would say that we, humans, have lived in a blend of high ideals and dystopic frames, for a long time. Our societies are thus more or less schizophrenic, as nearly all of us try to be survivors with different ideas and means, in the same place — be it family, village, country, planet. 

Governments awkwardly set the rules of the ideals, which to say the least, are never perfect and become a minefield of interpretations and eventually sad giggles or deadly outcomes… We’ve had many formats of social orders from kings’ rules, religious rules, despotic rules and people’s rules — and so far we still seem to furiously paddle in ignorance and deception, against the torrent of our unavoidable animality. We (the people) can laugh to defuse the rage and we (the people) can die fighting for what we (the governments and the people) believe in.

Matt Carr blogs at – his latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination. He wrote (published in ColdType):


To some extent the brazenness and the absurdity of the lies they tell have become part of their entertainment value Kippers, pork pies, Trump’s crazed and ludicrous rantings – all this nonsense makes us shake our heads and laugh or giggle as the next absurd claim comes and goes, only to be forgotten by the next ridiculous pronouncement.

It’s all good knockabout fun – if you like your dystopia marinated in gallows humour. But politics is not supposed to amuse us, and societies that think it should may
[be] in more trouble than they think. As Postman once argued: “If politics is like show business, then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are, which is another matter altogether”.

It is. And the unlikely triumph of liars like Johnson and Trump is another indication of how far we have moved from any conception of excellence, clarity or honesty to embrace the worst that our societies have to offer." Ct


So presently it appears we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel in Western world leadership. Johnson, Trump, Morrison, Macron, Merkel (on the way out) appear like amateurs clowns, some worse than others, while we despise Putin, Xi and Duterte. Yet most people don’t really care — as long as they have food on the table, sex on Friday and a job to be bored with, some drugs (legal or not) in the veins — or rob the rest of us with brilliant schemes of financial magic, such as using tax havens.  

Rod Dreher asks questions about this state of affairs in his continuing analysis of the French-Ahmari argument (Catholics versus Protestants, moral involvement in governments):


In his great 1951 book The Captive Mind, the anti-communist dissident Czeslaw Milosz offered a striking concept to explain why so many people of Eastern Europe who should have known better became defenders of Communism: the Pill of Murti-Bing. Tony Judt explains this briefly:

Milosz came across this in an obscure novel by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Insatiability (1927). In this story, Central Europeans facing the prospect of being overrun by unidentified Asiatic hordes pop a little pill, which relieves them of fear and anxiety; buoyed by its effects, they not only accept their new rulers but are positively happy to receive them.

I wrote about the Pill of Murti-Bing five years ago, saying:

For Miłosz, Polish intellectuals who capitulated to communism and Soviet rule had taken the pill of Murti-Bing. It was what made their condition bearable. They could not stand to see reality, for if they recognized what was really happening in their country, the pain and shock would make life too much to take.

This is why people who have no financial or status tied up in protecting abuse of corruption within an institution can nevertheless be expected to rally around that institution and its leaders. Those who tell the truth threaten their Murti-Bing pill supply, and therefore their sense of order and well-being. To them, better that a few victims must be made to suffer rather than the entire community be forced to wean itself from Murti-Bing.

You can see how useful this concept can be as a tool of analysis. People in troubled churches take the Pill of Murti-Bing all the time. So do people in some troubled families, and other troubled institutions.


The Murti-Bing pill concept is also explored in episodes of Doctor Who. People can buy forget pills, happy pills and the likes. The effects don’t last forever. New choices and purchases need to be made. 

One of the choice which has plagued our groups is delineating the level of sacrifice one has to make in order for the group to survive, while observing that some of the other people are cheating, grabbing more than their “fair share”. Defining the fair share is iffy. Some people accept shit as fair share, while others will only take gold for it. And often we have no choice in the matter, except revolt with dire consequences.

We are thus in compromised territory, where illusions of values are leading us to behave like a pack of infighting dogs. 

So, from time to time, a social system will go beyond the oscillating balance between utopia and dystopia, by being one or the other. More often than not it will become dystopic with ruthlessness at its core with delusional utopic ideals to make us accept the process. The other way is more confused, as we have tried so often, becoming a system of freedom and equality ideal when most of us are naturally selfish thieves. 

Understanding why this is the case can become a scientific matter which for all intent and purposes can help us discover why this is so, but often scientists are declared evil geniuses who try to remodel utopia into the monster of Frankenstein. We still love our smartPhones though. 

The concept of the evil scientists comes from our fear of discovering our ordinariness. We are plodders with dreams of stars and suns — and of eternity, while we’re living to eventually become dry bones and dust. Thus we get confused and often refuse to accept reality, even if reality is a relative truth that is framed by our own matter/mind conundrum. We want to escape this envelope. How can we accept our monkey antecedence?...  It hurts! We are better than this! Sure but everything we do and think is in relation with the environment we’re in and the long-drawn evolution of such environment. The concept of sin is horrid in this context. 

And global warming is real and anthropogenic… We need to see...

stand up when spoken to...

big brother

a heroic figure, flawed for fighting an unjust system...

Guest Post from Richard Drayton, Professor of History at King’s College, London.

Robert Mugabe is a hate figure in the West, especially in Britain, where the political right had such important family, economic and political connections to white-minority Rhodesia. And he did his own memory no favours: he was a man with very serious flaws, whose regime was marked by episodes of state violence and many authoritarian mutilations of Zimbabwe’s democracy.

But while the word ‘dictator’ is bandied about, he was not a dictator: Zimbabwe retained elections, opposition parties and an opposition press, a surprisingly independent judiciary, and in fact the preservation of white capital’s ownership of most of the economy.

Mugabe deserves to be examined with more care than he seems to be. For what we have here is not just a man but a document of 20th century history: his achievements and failures were the products of historical forces which he was only partly the master of.

I remember vividly the one time I saw Mugabe in the flesh. It was December 1983, and he was speaking to the Harvard Law School Forum. Sanders Theater was packed to the rafters, and its wooden floors and benches resounded to our cheering, and he and his entourage applauded the audience in return. It was the early years after independence in 1980, and there seemed every reason to applaud. Here was the poor Shona boy from the dirt poor hill town who had made it to Fort Hare University, had spent a decade in grim imprisonment, then had led a war of liberation which had won.

Mugabe appeared to have managed a peaceful transition from the terror of the white minority regime in Rhodesia to a democracy in which significant new initiatives in education and healthcare were accompanied by economic growth. The Zimbabwe army was helping Mozambique fight the Renamo terrorists who had been created by South Africa and the CIA. Zimbabwe’s success was clearly strengthening the pressure on apartheid South Africa.

Little did we know that as he was speaking to us and we were cheering in 1983, his 5th Brigade, the North Korean trained Praetorian guard, were conducting a murderous crushing of a revolt in Matebeleland which resulted in the deaths of 10,000-20,000 people.

What is interesting is that the Western states and media were quite silent at the time about this early dark turn. So long as he kept the white minority and their property safe, keeping the bargain he had made in the Lancaster House negotiations with the British, they didn’t really care.

The British however did not keep their side of the bargain. At the Lancaster House negotiations, it had been agreed that the British government would provide the funds which would allow for white farmers, who occupied the best farming lands after seven decades of British colonial landgrabbing, to be bought out to allow land reform. The tape recordings of the negotiations, which were in the care of the British government, mysteriously disappeared.

For people who had suffered immensely in the liberation war to find themselves as poor as before created great discontent. Mugabe tried to get land reform going with state revenues, on the willing buyer willing seller model. But nothing worked. In the 1990s it was still true that 1% of the population, almost all white, owned 70% of the arable land. Popular discontent was met with force. He decided that he would take the step of encouraging people to squat allow armed squatting of farmland.

By 2000, the state was encouraging reverse landgrabs. It is in that late 1990s moment that the IMF decided to put the squeeze on Zimbabwe, and he became the ‘African Hitler’ of the British right wing press. The people in Britain who had fervently backed white minority Rhodesia now became very concerned about the fate of democracy in Zimbabwe.

This 1990s and early 2000s period was accompanied by high levels of violence of all kinds, and a collapse of the economy. Trade unions and demonstrations met state repression. Opposition politicians were harassed. Ndebele Zimbabweans felt this was a Shona-biased regime, while White and Asian Zimbabweans were made to feel unsafe, and to have their membership in the nation brought into question.

At the same time, the political elite appeared to be living well, through their access to the state, and there was the rumour of corruption. Zimbabwe’s intervention in the Congo civil war was linked to army officers getting rich from diamonds and metals they returned with.

How are we to make sense of this collapse of the promise of the moment of Zimbabwe’s independence?

First, we need to understand that political independence and democracy mean nothing if they are accompanied by extraordinary economic inequality. The land and inequality crisis in Zimbabwe has its partners in every postcolonial country, in particular in Africa, where independence in Kenya and the end of apartheid in South Africa left almost unchanged the structure of wealth and poverty created by white supremacist regimes.

This is why there remains across Africa, and indeed in the wider African diaspora, great compassion, if not even in many quarters outright support, for what Mugabe was trying to do, in his chaotic and often violent way.

Second, we need to take stock of the legacies of one hundred years of violence and undemocracy in Rhodesia. The 1990s turn in Mugabe’s policy was undoubtedly provoked by memory of the 1890s uprising, which was crushed with extraordinary brutality by Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa company troops. That 1890s defeat led to the first land grab, followed by a century in which the space of land claimed by whites was ever expanding.

And it was not just the violence of conquest:  colonial power and the farming economy were accompanied by extraordinary private physical violence. Beatings of blacks were  a standard part of ordinary life. I don’t have the figures for Rhodesia, but I know in Kenya that no white person was ever convicted of murdering a ‘native’ until the decade before independence.

Colonial rule resulted in economic precarity, extreme poverty and hunger. Those who know deprivation early in their lives will spend the rest of it seeking compensations. Apart from this physical violence, we need to take stock of the psychic violence of white supremacy – over on Africa is a Country there is a sneer about how Mugabe hated reggae and only valued western classical music – but in this I am reminded of Marcus Garvey’s refusal of jazz and Eric Williams’s contempt for carnival.

We should not forget how even the anticolonial leader was formed by the colonial experience, by a culture of contempt and self-contempt, which could only be conquered by wearing a suit, acquiring first hand taste of ‘high culture’ and showing you were the civilised match of the white man.

Beyond all of this, whatever ideas he was exposed to, Mugabe learned about authoritarian rule by looking all around him as he was a child: the military dictatorships of Pakistan and the distorted democracy of India carry within them the memory of the colonial experience, much as the state formed in Russia after 1917 continued the czarist traditions of secret police and political prisons.

The Mugabe who stood before me in 1983 was thus bearing wounds which we could not see, was knotted by scar tissue which stiffened him and made his movement through the world awkward. That Mugabe, with all his horrors, we bury with regret and compassion, to be absorbed by Zimbabwe’s future history. May he in death be healed, or at least separated from that experience of pain and mutilation.

But there is another Mugabe, the little boy who said to himself this is not fair, this is not right, I will fight, whatever the cost, we will demand freedom and justice. That Mugabe who lent his help to the making of freedom in Angola, Namibia and South Africa. That brave big-hearted man is an object of great interest to me. For his courage is shared by many, even are many of his wounds and scars. Mugabe is in no simple way a hero, but there was much heroic about the man.


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Read from top.

US nose into other people's business...

A Sino-Russian firewall against US interference


by M. K. Bhadrakumar*, India

China has explicitly accused the United States and Britain for fomenting the “pro-democracy” protests in Hong Kong. Beijing has taken up the matter via the diplomatic channel demanding that the US intelligence should stop inciting and abetting the Hong Kong protestors. Last week [beginning of August] photographic evidence appeared in the media showing the political counsellor in the US consulate in Hong Kong Julie Eadeh confabulating in the lobby of a local luxury hotel with the student leaders involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. 

Washington has taken umbrage that Julie’s cover has been blown. She is apparently an expert who organised “colour revolutions” in other countries and it has been disclosed that she was involved in plotting “subversive acts” in the Middle East region. The Global Times wrote a blistering editorial. It said: 

The US administration has played a disgraceful role in the Hong Kong riots. Washington publicly supports the protests and never condemns violence that targets police. The US consulate general in Hong Kong is stepping up its direct interference in Hong Kong’s situation. The US administration is instigating turmoil in Hong Kong the way it stoked “colour revolutions” in other places worldwide.

Is the Chinese allegation plausible? Writing in the Asia Times, the noted Canadian academic, economist and author Ken Moak made a good point recently that the protests are lavishly funded and their logistics and organisation are of a scale taxing resources that “only foreign governments or wealthy individuals who might profit from them” would commit. He detailed past instances of Anglo-American attempts to destabilise China.
Moak anticipates “more intense and violent” subversive operations against China by the US in the future. 

Indeed, agents provocateurs are calibrating the protests almost on daily basis such as burning the Chinese flag and occupying the Hong Kong airport. The game plan is to force Beijing to intervene so that the deluge follows – western sanctions, et al. 

With the 5G technology just about rolling out, this is an opportune time for the US to frogmarch its western allies into an economic boycott of China when countries like Germany and Italy that have flourishing trade and investment ties with China are loathe to get into the American bandwagon. 

The well-known Italian journalist and author and long-time China watcher based in Beijing, Francesco Sisci wrote recently that Hong Kong is in reality Beijing’s “safety valve” and choking it can cause asphyxiation to the entire Chinese system. Sisci compares Hong Kong with “a compensation chamber, a safety valve between the closed economy of mainland China and the open economies of the rest of the world.” 

If China could globalise avidly and yet keep its economy closed, it was because it had Hong Kong, which was completely open and provided the third-largest financial market in the world. If large-scale capital flight ensues in Hong Kong, China will have to work its future financial arrangements through countries over which it it doesn’t have political control. To quote Sisci, “Hong Kong’s present status can help Beijing buy time, but the crucial issue is still the status of China. The time of being both in and out the global commercial system thanks to a complex architecture of special agreements is rapidly running out.” 

Simply put, the unrest in Hong Kong becomes a template of the US’ maximum pressure approach to break China’s growth momentum and its ascendancy as a rival in technology globally in the 21st century. The influential China hands in the US are already opening the champagne bottle that “revolution is in the air in Hong Kong” – and, it will mark “the end of communism on Chinese soil.”

Enter Russia. Coincidence or not, small fires are being lit lately on the Moscow streets as well, and they are spreading into significant protests against President Vladimir Putin. If the extradition law was the pretext for the Hong Kong turmoil, it is the election to the Moscow Duma (city legislature) that has apparently triggered the Russian protest.

Just as there is economic and social discontent in Hong Kong, the popularity of Putin has declined lately which is attributed to the stagnation of the Russian economy.

In both cases, the American agenda is blatantly “regime change”. This may seem surprising, since the Chinese and Russian leaderships appear rock solid. The legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party over which President Xi Jinping presides and the popularity of Putin still at a level that is the envy of any politician anywhere in the world, but the doctrine of “colour revolutions” is not built on democratic principles. Colour revolutions are about upturning an established political order and it has no co-relation with mass support. The colour revolution is coup by other means. It is not even about democracy. The recent presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine exposed that the colour revolution of 2014 was an insurrection that the nation disowns. Of course, the stakes are very high when it comes to destabilising China and Russia. Nothing less than the global strategic balance is involved. The US’ dual containment strategy against Russia and China is quintessentially the New American Century project – US’ global hegemony through the 21st century. The US wagered that Moscow and Beijing would be hard pressed to cope with the spectre of colour revolutions and that would isolate them. After all, authoritarian regimes are exclusive and into the sanctum sanctorum of their internal politics not even their closest friends or allies are allowed in.This is where Moscow has sprung a nasty surprise for Washington.


The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in Moscow on Friday that Russia and China should exchange information on the US interference in their internal affairs. She flagged that Moscow is aware of the Chinese statements that the US interferes in Hong Kong affairs and treats this information “with all seriousness.” “Moreover, I think it would be right and useful to exchange such information through respective services,” Zakharova said, adding that the Russian and Chinese sides will discuss the issue soon. She added that the US intelligence agency is using technology to destabilise Russia and China. Earlier on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry had summoned the head of the Political Section in the US embassy Tim Richardson, and presented him with an official protest against the US encouraging an unauthorised opposition rally in Moscow on 3 August. Indeed, Moscow is far more experienced than Beijing in neutralising covert operations by the US intelligence.


It is a hallmark of the great skill and expertise as well as the tenacity of the Russian system that through the entire Cold War era and “post-Soviet” period, there has never been anything like the turmoil on Tiananmen Square in Beijing (1989) or Hong Kong (2019) triggered by the US intelligence. Moscow’s message to Beijing is direct and candid – ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ No doubt, the two countries have been in consultation and wanted the rest of the world to know. Indeed, the message Zakharova transmitted – on a joint firewall against US interference – is of epochal significance. It elevates the Russia-China alliance to a qualitatively new level, creating yet another political underpinning of collective security.•


* M. K. Bhadrakumar has worked for about three decades as a career diplomat in the service of the Indian Foreign Ministry. He has served as ambassador to the former Soviet Union, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany and Turkey. His texts mainly deal with Indian foreign policy and events in the Middle East, Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia and Pacific Asia. His blog is called “Indian Punchline”.


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