The Four Desires Driving All Human Behavior: Bertrand Russell’s Magnificent Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

“Nothing in the world is more exciting than a moment of sudden discovery or invention, and many more people are capable of experiencing such moments than is sometimes thought.”

The Four Desires Driving All Human Behavior: Bertrand Russell’s Magnificent Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Nov 4, 2020

Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) endures as one of humanity’s most lucid and luminous minds — an oracle of timeless wisdom on everything from what “the good life” really means to why “fruitful monotony” is essential for happiness to love, sex, and our moral superstitions. In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” On December 11 of that year, 78-year-old Russell took the podium in Stockholm to receive the grand accolade.

Later included in Nobel Writers on Writing (public library) — which also gave us Pearl S. Buck, the youngest woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, on art, writing, and the nature of creativity — his acceptance speech is one of the finest packets of human thought ever delivered from a stage.

Russell begins by considering the central motive driving human behavior:

All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths.

[…]

Man differs from other animals in one very important respect, and that is that he has some desires which are, so to speak, infinite, which can never be fully gratified, and which would keep him restless even in Paradise. The boa constrictor, when he has had an adequate meal, goes to sleep, and does not wake until he needs another meal. Human beings, for the most part, are not like this.

Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen from ‘Homer for Young Readers,’ 1965. Click image for more.

Russell points to four such infinite desires — acquisitivenessrivalryvanity, and love of power — and examines them in order:

Acquisitiveness — the wish to possess as much as possible of goods, or the title to goods — is a motive which, I suppose, has its origin in a combination of fear with the desire for necessaries. I once befriended two little girls from Estonia, who had narrowly escaped death from starvation in a famine. They lived in my family, and of course had plenty to eat. But they spent all their leisure visiting neighbouring farms and stealing potatoes, which they hoarded. Rockefeller, who in his infancy had experienced great poverty, spent his adult life in a similar manner.

[…]

However much you may acquire, you will always wish to acquire more; satiety is a dream which will always elude you.

In 1938, Henry Miller also articulated this fundamental driver in his brilliant meditation on how money became a human fixation. Decades later, modern psychologists would term this notion “the hedonic treadmill.” But for Russell, this elemental driver is eclipsed by an even stronger one — our propensity for rivalry:

The world would be a happier place than it is if acquisitiveness were always stronger than rivalry. But in fact, a great many men will cheerfully face impoverishment if they can thereby secure complete ruin for their rivals. Hence the present level of taxation.

Rivalry, he argues, is in turn upstaged by human narcissism. In a sentiment doubly poignant in the context of today’s social media, he observes:

Vanity is a motive of immense potency. Anyone who has much to do with children knows how they are constantly performing some antic, and saying “Look at me.” “Look at me” is one of the most fundamental desires of the human heart. It can take innumerable forms, from buffoonery to the pursuit of posthumous fame.

[…]

It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the influence of vanity throughout the range of human life, from the child of three to the potentate at whose frown the world trembles.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak for ‘Nutcracker’ by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Click image for more.

But the most potent of the four impulses, Russell argues, is the love of power:

Love of power is closely akin to vanity, but it is not by any means the same thing. What vanity needs for its satisfaction is glory, and it is easy to have glory without power… Many people prefer glory to power, but on the whole these people have less effect upon the course of events than those who prefer power to glory… Power, like vanity, is insatiable. Nothing short of omnipotence could satisfy it completely. And as it is especially the vice of energetic men, the causal efficacy of love of power is out of all proportion to its frequency. It is, indeed, by far the strongest motive in the lives of important men.

[…]

Love of power is greatly increased by the experience of power, and this applies to petty power as well as to that of potentates.

Anyone who has ever agonized in the hands of a petty bureaucrat — something Hannah Arendt unforgettably censured as a special kind of violence — can attest to the veracity of this sentiment. Russell adds:

In any autocratic regime, the holders of power become increasingly tyrannical with experience of the delights that power can afford. Since power over human beings is shown in making them do what they would rather not do, the man who is actuated by love of power is more apt to inflict pain than to permit pleasure.

Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen from ‘Homer for Young Readers,’ 1965. Click image for more.

But Russell, a thinker of exceptional sensitivity to nuance and to the dualities of which life is woven, cautions against dismissing the love of power as a wholesale negative driver — from the impulse to dominate the unknown, he points out, spring such desirables as the pursuit of knowledge and all scientific progress. He considers its fruitful manifestations:

It would be a complete mistake to decry love of power altogether as a motive. Whether you will be led by this motive to actions which are useful, or to actions which are pernicious, depends upon the social system, and upon your capacities. If your capacities are theoretical or technical, you will contribute to knowledge or technique, and, as a rule, your activity will be useful. If you are a politician you may be actuated by love of power, but as a rule this motive will join itself on to the desire to see some state of affairs realized which, for some reason, you prefer to the status quo.

Russell then turns to a set of secondary motives. Echoing his enduring ideas on the interplay of boredom and excitement in human life, he begins with the notion of love of excitement:

Human beings show their superiority to the brutes by their capacity for boredom, though I have sometimes thought, in examining the apes at the zoo, that they, perhaps, have the rudiments of this tiresome emotion. However that may be, experience shows that escape from boredom is one of the really powerful desires of almost all human beings.

Illustration by Olimpia Zagnoli for ‘Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical’ by Noémie Révah. Click image for more.

He argues that this intoxicating love of excitement is only amplified by the sedentary nature of modern life, which has fractured the natural bond between body and mind. A century after Thoreau made his exquisite case against the sedentary lifestyle, Russell writes:

Our mental make-up is suited to a life of very severe physical labor. I used, when I was younger, to take my holidays walking. I would cover twenty-five miles a day, and when the evening came I had no need of anything to keep me from boredom, since the delight of sitting amply sufficed. But modern life cannot be conducted on these physically strenuous principles. A great deal of work is sedentary, and most manual work exercises only a few specialized muscles. When crowds assemble in Trafalgar Square to cheer to the echo an announcement that the government has decided to have them killed, they would not do so if they had all walked twenty-five miles that day. This cure for bellicosity is, however, impracticable, and if the human race is to survive — a thing which is, perhaps, undesirable — other means must be found for securing an innocent outlet for the unused physical energy that produces love of excitement… I have never heard of a war that proceeded from dance halls.

[…]

Civilized life has grown altogether too tame, and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting… I think every big town should contain artificial waterfalls that people could descend in very fragile canoes, and they should contain bathing pools full of mechanical sharks. Any person found advocating a preventive war should be condemned to two hours a day with these ingenious monsters. More seriously, pains should be taken to provide constructive outlets for the love of excitement. Nothing in the world is more exciting than a moment of sudden discovery or invention, and many more people are capable of experiencing such moments than is sometimes thought.

Oregon just became the first state to decriminalize all drugs!

Nov 4, 2020
Oregon has become the first state to decriminalize all drugs. Instead of criminal charges or jail time, anyone found with small amounts of illegal drugs will be subject to a $100 fine or a ‘health assessment’ in a rehab facility. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S. Proponents of the law say they hope the new measure will help get people the treatment they need, rather than feed into the criminal legal system. The law will also apply to people currently serving sentences for drug possession. Local criminal justice reform advocates say it will likely lead to a 91% decrease in drug possession arrests. 

One-fifth of the UK children going hungry right now

Source

 
US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford scores his team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Manchester United and RB Leipzig at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, northwest England, on October 28, 2020. / AFP / Anthony Devlin

For many schoolchildren in the UK, due to the extreme poverty, abusive parents, lack of social care and a failing government, the only meal of the day comes from school.

As one of the world’s most talented and prolific strikers playing for Manchester United, Marcus Rashford is no stranger to hardship, in spite of his recent success. Having grown up in a single-parent family in one of the poorest parts of Manchester Rashford himself knows what it’s like to go hungry, hence why his passionate plea to feed Britain’s children recently earned him an MBE

People have opinions. Wherever whether or not the understand fully what the families are going through, is another conversation, but because of that it’s easy for me to sort of dismiss a lot of the people are making an opinions because you know I know a lot of them speak in the way that I speak and it’s so insensitive about the issue, and definitely not improved themselves. So, for me it’s, you know, I’ll take that all day long, as long as we start to see improvements going forward for the people that are in need.

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United Striker

Despite his ongoing campaign and recent efforts to convince the UK Government to continue providing free lunch for the UK’s poorest children during the half-term school holiday. It seems that Marcus Rashford has been left in despair, as Tory MPs have voted against his proposal.

Only meals, school meals

The government rejection has been confirmed and approved by Boris Johnson, who has ratified the vote, stating that he refuses to move on free meals for children during the half-term period, in spite of growing pressure from the public for the PM to meet Rashford face to face.

Although the UK would rather not admit it, the introduction of the so-called tier system lockdown is essentially a national lockdown in disguise. And it’s during this challenging time with parents out of work and schools closed, that there’s currently one-fifth of the UK children going hungry right now.

The embarrassing truth

Yet when one looks deeper at the figures in the UK, the situation appears to be really dire with 15 million people in Britain, living in poverty, which equates to around 22% of the population of these 5 million are children, showing that the UK as a supposedly developed nation has deep secrets that it should not be proud of.

Add to this the situation that for many schoolchildren in the UK, due to the extreme poverty, abusive parents, lack of social care and a failing government, for many kids the only meal of the day comes from school. This also comes on top of the introduction of uniform washing facilities in certain schools as such luxuries for some are only in fairy tales, which for the UK appears to have no happy ending in sight.

When Boris Johnson won the election in the UK with a huge majority over then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn the following honeymoon period saw Johnson gain huge popularity across the UK, in part, helped by the wave of former Labour supporters who turned to the Tories over the notion of Brexit

Systemic incompetence

Fast forward to today, and the people of Britain who voted for Johnson, namely the working class Northerners and are being abandoned by the government who are failing their children, as well as the people, when it comes to job security, and the handling of the COVID-19  pandemic.

In fact, when one breaks down the failures by Johnson, all of them have an adversely high effect on the poorest populations of the country. As mentioned, there are children going hungry, the handling of the Brexit negotiations, which are likely to see the UK come crashing out of the EU with no deal, and the terrible handling of the pandemic, which has seen the NHS collapse testing fail, a death rate in excess of 45,000 people, and around 100,000 people per day, newly infected. It’s in spite of all this Johnson’s able to find himself in front of the cameras, claiming that you will not let the British people suffer, or the children go hungry.

Let’s  be absolutely clear we’re gonna make sure that we have no children no kids no pupils in our country who go hungry, this winter, as they’re setting off as a result of any government in attention to whoever you’re focusing on that as we have done very very hard over the last few months and we’ve given huge sums to local councils to help them out, but also specific sums for helping with meals during what was a very disrupted period.

Boris Johnson,UK  Prime Minister

With Britain clearly becoming the laughingstock of Europe the question that Mr. Johnson should be most concerned about is why it took a Manchester United Football player to raise the issue that children are going hungry. Surely, this should have been the job of the UK government, and as Marcus Rashford continues to fire on all cylinders. It seems that Boris Johnson is missing the target.

Sweden: A Beacon Of Light Against A World Gone Mad

The ‘Rona Squeeze & A Swedish Hip-Hopper

And so it was time again.

Tightened restrictions, mandatory limits on public life, curfews, orders to stay-at-home, travel bans with invasive hoops, and all the other anti-corona policies that ostensibly aren’t lookdowns: they look like lockdowns, they quack like lockdowns, but in these euphemism-prone times we call them by any other names than lockdowns.

Maddeningly, the goalpost keeps shifting, updating life and language faster and better than George Orwell himself could have done.

  • First, we had to take precautions to flatten the curve. Hospitals and fears, remember? Then we had to stop travelling, or visit the mall ‒ because who needs that, anyway?
  • Then we had to wear cloth over our faces and stay away from each other. For the elderly’s sake, naturally.
  • Then we had to give up public life for everyone’s sake.
  • The next step, bravely taken by authoritarian politicians and epidemiologists across the Western world, is to intentionally overdo the restrictions ‒ “for now” ‒ so that we have any hope of getting freedoms back for the holidays.

No matter how hard these enlightened autocrats have squeezed, this badly-behaved virus refuses to listen. How odd, they must think; we passed a law, made an announcement ‒ why isn’t it working?

Back to your rooms, the Austrians said. After an explosive number of positive tests in the last week, enough with the provisional liberties and niceties, you’re grounded for the rest of November. Gatherings and cultural events are closed; Christmas markets are out. The Icelanders, already in the spring proclaimed corona free and all summer celebrated in puff pieces by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker and Adam Roy Gordon in the Atlantic, still dreamily speak of celebrating Christmas.

When the latest rounds of tighter and tighter restrictions came into effect this week, the government talking heads, and the prime minister in particular, told their subjects to give up on Halloween and the next few weeks. Let’s sacrifice these few weeks, they said, so that we can loosen restrictions for Christmas. Fat chance.

The Brits and the French have been even more adamant on setting timelines, or “circuit-breakers,” on their invasive policies. We strip you of liberties, dignities, and the things in which most people find joy ‒ but for a good cause, and just for a little while, okay?

The naivety here was always impressive. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Most people could have plausibly believed what their politicians told them about timelines in the spring; this was a new situation, we didn’t know what the novel threat was, and old handbooks could be thrown out before anyone had time to object. The withdrawn freedoms would be rolled back in time, but as political economist Robert Higgs taught us long ago, never quite fully.

A little over half a year later, we’re going through the same ordeal again. With much better knowledge about the (overblown) risks, with much better tools in preventing spread and safeguarding the elderly. Still, it doesn’t seem to matter. The political overlords, not exactly known for their excellence in interpreting statistics, look at their exponential graphs ‒ and do the exact same thing they did in the spring.

It’s almost as if the virus doesn’t care about your crackdowns, your faster and harder tightening of the societal and commercial noose. If you squeeze people just a little bit more, maybe ‒ just maybe ‒ the virus will listen…? French ministers, like American policy-makers in the spring, started mandating what kinds of products may be on the supermarket shelves: soap is acceptable; makeup isn’t. The Germans, widely celebrated for their track-and-trace program and generous financial schemes, opted for a “mild” lockdown ‒ “just” for four weeks. Perhaps, suggested Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal recently, “the bigger numbers might suggest we are grappling with a natural phenomenon over which we exercise little control.”

Take the bamboozled and highly infected discussion over mask-wearing. They’re effective, they’re not effective; they’re effective if you use them right; and even if they’re not, every little bit counts. In its beautiful infographic, the New York Times describes how they work: “A good mask will have a large surface area, a tight fit around the edges, and a shape that leaves space around your nostrils and mouth.”

Even if accurate, we don’t need to go much further than our closest supermarket to notice that that’s not the kind of masks worn by most people. Most people wear loosely fitted, thin pieces of cloth that probably capture some particles ‒ what do I know? ‒ but is unlikely to approach the efficacy that its proponents describe. We reuse them without washing them ‒ can anyone really be bothered? ‒ we don’t put them on properly, they leak left-right-and-center.

The fallback line? Well, not individually but they’re part of a bigger package. The New York Times quotes Linsey Marr at Virginia Tech saying that “something is better than nothing.”

Perhaps every little helps in a what-otherwise-would-have-been sense, but that’s not how most decision-makers justify the above withdrawal of our liberties. Rather, they say that the infection rates are “too high,” the curve too steep, the hospital capacity for treatment too close for comfort. Presuming their honesty ‒ the faking of which I don’t put past them ‒ there’s scant evidence that aggregate mask use correlates in any way with infection rates.

Sweden, where virtually nobody outside hospital settings uses masks, has had lower 7-days rolling deaths per capita than the U.S. for four months straight; lower than the mask-wielding and lockdown-prone U.K. for almost two months. Even the much-praised German experience now has more people dying from (and with) Covid-19 than Sweden does. Infection rates and spread too: the trends since the height of summer or beginning of fall look the same, regardless if you’re a massively mask-wielding country or not.

Yes, it is possible that without widespread mask use among Americans and Brits, infection rates would have even higher and death rates too. I keep wondering, what would the numbers have to look like for you to even consider that what we’re doing isn’t working? That perhaps locking down societies, practically, doesn’t do much to combat the disease, but quite a lot to ruin people’s lives and livelihoods?

We can choose cherry-picked countries for our various cases all we like: the “success stories” of Vietnam, New Zealand, or Australia haven’t done things much differently than Denmark, Austria, France, U.K. or the U.S.: squeeze your populace, and say the magic incantations. Perhaps the virus deity will grant your wishes.

I’m reminded of two-decades-old words by Jason Diakité (stage name ‘Timbuktu’), one of my favorite musicians and one of the most successful hip-hoppers in Sweden. In the early 2000s, he released a pretty obscure song called Ett Brev (“A Letter”) structured like a letter to the then-prime minister of Sweden. A political rapper ‒ naturally hard left like all good artists ‒ Diakité was objecting to the many frightening trends he saw in Europe: dismantled social safety nets, overburdened health care services, opposition and hatred towards immigrants. He explicitly included a list of countries where Nazis were allegedly “gaining the upper hand” in typical Antifa-like hyperbole: France, Italy, “BeNeLux,” and Sweden’s immediate neighbor Denmark. The list of places going radically south, as he saw it, was long.

In all of these places, “Forces for good have presumably surrendered.” Little did Diakité know that almost two decades after he penned those provocative lines, his words would ring true across most of the Western world.

The authoritarian threat of 2020 is very different, and instead of neo-Nazi movements of the early 2000s, the culprits are established, well-meaning politicians and technocrats. Much like then, Sweden is depicted as a beacon of light, standing against a world gone mad, the last outpost of sanity and the values underpinning Western Liberal Democracy.

Most everywhere else, different rules apply: no matter the facts, we must squeeze harder. The badly-behaved virus must stop progressing, must cease and desist. Anything else, apparently, “just doesn’t seem worth it.”

Ilhan Omar wins re-election to US House of Representatives

Source

http://www.aljazeera.com

4 Nov 2020

Somali American congresswoman is re-elected by a wide margin in the heavily Democratic 5th district of Minnesota.

Representative Ilhan Omar was re-elected to a second term in the US Congress [Marilyn Indahl/EPA] (EPA)

Representative Ilhan Omar was re-elected to a second term in the US Congress [Marilyn Indahl/EPA] (EPA)

US Representative Ilhan Omar has won a second term in the Congress Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Omar, 38, defeated her Republican challenger, African American businessman Lacy Johnson, by 64.6 percent of the vote to 25.9 percent, according to The Associated Press news agency with 99 percent of votes counted.

Omar is the first Somali American member of the US Congress and one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress in 2018.

She is a member of the so-called “Squad” of four freshman progressive Democratic congresswomen that includes Rashida Tlaib from Detroit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York City and Ayanna Pressley from Boston.

The four represent a new emerging faction of young, progressive politicians who are pushing the established House leadership of the Democratic Party.

‘The Squad’ (from left), Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley responded to President Donald Trump after he said the four Democratic congresswomen should go back to their ‘broken’ countries [File: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Omar has built a national profile that started when the one-time refugee from Somalia was elected to the Minnesota Legislature in 2016.

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Her aggressive advocacy on liberal issues, anti-Israel comments and eagerness to take on US President Donald Trump have made her even more prominent.

She has frequently become a target of criticism and defamatory comments from the president and other Republicans.

Last month, Omar hit back at Trump, calling him “racist” after he disparaged her during a campaign rally and falsely implied that she is not American.

Omar is vocal in her opposition to other US-foreign allegiances, including the relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In an interview with Al Jazeera last year, she said: “Our ‘allied-ship’ with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is immoral. I believe that it is one of the most absurd allied-ships; it doesn’t fit with any of our values.”

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Her Republican rival Johnson was a first-time political candidate. The 66-year-old is an entrepreneur with a background in information technology.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wins 2nd term in US House

Source

http://www.aljazeera.com

Nov 4, 2020

The progressive Democrat and rising star in the party is easily re-elected in New York’s 14th congressional district in Queens and The Bronx.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks to the media after addressing members of her staff and volunteers who helped with her campaign [Kathy Willens/AP Photo]
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks to the media after addressing members of her staff and volunteers who helped with her campaign [Kathy Willens/AP Photo]

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been re-elected to a second term in the US House of Representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez  was called the winner by The Associated Press (AP) news agency, defeating her Republican challenger John Cummings after taking a nearly 40-percentage point lead with two-thirds of the vote counted. She was all but assured of winning re-election in the heavily Democratic New York 14th congressional district which includes parts of New York City boroughs, The Bronx and Queens.

Ocasio-Cortez made history in 2018 as the youngest woman elected to Congress in US history at the age of 28, championing her working-class and Puerto Rican roots. She is the daughter of a cleaner and a father who died in his 40s.

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the so-called “Squad” of four freshman progressive Democratic congresswomen that includes Rashida Tlaib from Detroit, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley from Boston.

US Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are known as ‘the Squad’ [File: Erin Scott/Reuters]

The four represent a new emerging faction of young, progressive politicians who are pushing the established House leadership of the Democratic Party.

Victories by Ocasio-Cortez and others in the Squad mean the Democrats in the House will have to confront intra-party showdowns over how aggressively to pursue policy goals in health care, police reform and climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez was a leading advocate of the so-called “Green New Deal” a bold plan to create jobs by switching the US economy from fossil fuels to electricity and renewables.

She had backed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden early in the Democratic presidential primary contest.

Biden disavowed support for the Green New Deal during the campaign but has said he will support policies to promote greater use of renewables and transition away from oil, gas and coal.

Democrats are hoping to cement control of the House for two more years with perhaps an even larger majority, the AP reported.

They are banking on anxiety over the pandemic, suburban indignation with President Donald Trump and a fund-raising advantage.

Over a dozen incumbents of both parties from safe districts have been easily re-elected as polls are beginning to close in some eastern and Midwestern states. But early results are not conclusive yet in hotly contested districts in Virginia, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is “absolutely certain” that Democrats will “solidly hold” onto their House majority.

On an Election Day conference call with reporters, Pelosi, a California Democrat said, “this election is about nothing less than taking back the soul of America, whether our nation will follow the voices of fear or whether we will choose hope.”

Western Sanctions a Failure of Diplomacy – What Lies Beneath

Source
http://www.strategic-culture.org

EDITORIAL
October 30, 2020
Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary Pompeo announce new sanctions at the White  House. | U.S. Department of the Treasury

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) once remarked that “assassination is the extreme form of censorship”. The satirist might add that so too are “sanctions” as a form of censorship.

Hardly a week goes by, it seems, when there is not some new round of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies in the European Union. This debased ritual has been going on for six years since the Western powers backed a violent coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014, and yet they have continued to blame Russia for that conflict.

In addition to ironical allegations about Russia interfering in Ukraine, other far-fetched pretexts have been invoked to justify imposing further rounds of sanctions on the Russian Federation. These include accusations of annexing Crimea despite a legally constituted referendum, the shooting down a Malaysian civilian airliner, interference in U.S. presidential elections and, most recently, the poisoning of a minor Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny.

The thing is that in all these alleged grievances, the Western states do not provide any verifiable evidence to back up their provocative claims. The accusations are made on the basis of hearsay, innuendo insinuation, force of repetition and assertion, and anti-Russian prejudice with no legal due process afforded to Russia. This unilateral high-handedness is a travesty of diplomatic norms and is completely unacceptable. It speaks of an inveterate Russophobia harbored by Western governments and servile media.

This, however, is the point of sanctions. The unilateral imposition of these measures precludes communication on the basis of equality. It sets up a framework of guilt before evidence. That is a repudiation of respect for international law, sovereignty and the core principles of the United Nations Charter.

Europe’s slavish following of U.S. policy in imposing sanctions on Russia over dubious claims betrays a failure of diplomacy and political maturity. There is no sign of willingness for dialogue as equals. Western exaltations of rule of law and independence are a self-parody.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked recently at the Valdai discussion forum in Sochi that: “The European Union is actively pursuing the path of the United States relying more and more on threats and sanctions.”

Lavrov added: “People who are responsible for the Western foreign policy and do not understand the need for mutually respectful dialogue… [means] we probably have to suspend dialogue with them for a while.”

Russia’s exasperation is understandable. It takes two to tango and its takes two to have a dialogue. The American and European side has evidently shown an unwillingness to hold a dialogue with Russia.

What is deplorable is that underlying this Western attitude is an evident lack of respect for Russia as an equal. In the absence of such respect, then the prospects for dialogue are diminished. Without dialogue there is limited prospects for security and partnership.

The arrogance of European so-called leaders is particularly palpable here. They want access to Russian natural gas and they want security, yet they arrogantly think that they can treat Russia like some kind of serf. Talk about delusions of grandeur. The delusion is abject because it is the Europeans who are behaving like the serfs lorded over by the United States which rations their “independence” like a condescending nobleman.

This paradox in relations is particularly lamentable in the vital realm of arms controls. Currently, Russian appeals for upholding the New START treaty on strategic nuclear weapons are being snubbed by Washington in the same way that the U.S. last year trashed the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reasonable proposals for a moratorium on installing missiles in Europe are being treated with a contemptible complacency, both by the Americans and their European vassals who obviously have no independent say on the matter.

Sanctions are a failure of diplomacy and betray lack of political intelligence and maturity. That inevitably manifests in cutting off dialogue and cooperation on vital matters of security and stability.

There is more than a suspicion that the Russophobia seeping into Western polities is a reflection of the reprehensible revisionism that has crept up in recent years concerning the history of the Second World War. Certain anti-Russian European states and Western ideologues have managed to make almost mainstream their odious view of “moral equivalency” between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, whereby the latter is depicted not as the victor over fascism in Europe but somehow as guilty of comparable aggression. Shamefully, the European Union’s parliament voted in a resolution last year which seeks to blame the Soviet Union for partly starting the 1939-1945 war along with Nazi Germany.

The reflexive imposition of sanctions by Western states against Russia speaks of abhorrent Russophobia and a prejudice of reactionary revisionism. These sanctions are but an extreme form of censorship, which can be viewed as a form of aggression towards Russia.

This failure in diplomacy is a dangerous development at a time of heightened international tensions. Shame on the U.S. and Europe for ratcheting up tensions instead of working for peace. The history of aggression lies beneath.

‘The Coming War On China’ – Watch John Pilger’s Powerfully Relevant Documentary

Source
http://www.strategic-culture.org
Caitlin JOHNSTONE

November 3, 2020
“The aim of this film is to break a silence: the United States and China may well be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable,” Pilger says in his 2016 documentary The Coming War on China, which you can watch free on Youtube here or on Vimeo here.

“In a few years China has become the world’s second-biggest economic power,” Pilger’s introduction continues. “The United States is the world’s biggest military power, with bases and missiles and ships covering every continent and every ocean. China is a threat to this dominance, says Washington. But who is the threat? This film is about shifting power, and great danger.”

As we’ve been discussing for years now, the relentless quest of the US-centralized empire-like power alliance for total world domination has put it on a collision course with the surging economic powerhouse of China which refuses to be absorbed into the imperial blob. The empire’s continued existence depends upon its ability to undermine China before it grows too powerful or the empire grows too weak to stop its ascent, at which point global hegemony becomes impossible and we are living in a truly multipolar world.

China has therefore always been the final boss fight in the global campaign of violence and domination by what Pilger calls the “empire which never speaks its name”. And the ramping up of anti-China narrative management by the US government indicates that we are being psychologically primed to accept this world-threatening confrontation, just as Pilger warned in 2016.

“The danger of confrontation grows by the day,” Pilger says.

The powerful film breaks down the way the USA has been encircling China with a “noose” of military bases since the Korean War, which all have massive amounts of military firepower, including nuclear firepower, pointed right at China’s cities. Pilger shows the psychopathic toll this has inflicted upon the people who live in the areas where the US war machine has set up shop in the Pacific, including an especially enraging segment on the use of Bikini Atoll natives as human guinea pigs to test the effects of nuclear radiation on people. Also deeply disturbing is the revelation of just how close the US came to launching nuclear warheads at China due to a miscommunication during the Cuban missile crisis.

The film describes China’s recent history and explains its climb in economic power which led us to this point, and the USA’s generations-long history of provocation and hostility toward its government. It also addresses the silly projection so many westerners harbor that if the US wasn’t bullying and slaughtering the world into compliance, China would take over doing the same.

Back in 2016, it was harder for people to see this escalation on the horizon, but now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing a frantic, disproportionate amount of anti-China sentiment from the Trump administration and its supporters, in the same way we heard Russia hysteria amplified over the last three years by Trump’s enemies. Trump was politically pressured to dangerously escalate cold war tensions with Russia, and he’s now being politically incentivized to pass the blame for his administration’s spectacular failures in addressing this pandemic on to the Chinese government in a way which manufactures support for escalations on that front as well. Two different narratives, same agenda.

“The new president, Donald Trump, has a problem with China,” Pilger says at the end of the documentary. “The urgent question now is will Trump continue with the provocations revealed in this film and take us all to the edge of war?”

The answer to that question appears to be coalescing. It’s a good time for us all to watch this film.

caitlinjohnstone.com