Friday, August 31, 2007

To Those Who Stand Between Fire and the Land of the Gods

I want to bow deeply.

I want to say thank you.

I want to tell you that no words can be adequate to convey the gratitude of all those who love this beautiful country of our beginnings.

I want to tell you that no words can be adequate to convey our sorrow and grief for those among you who lost their lives fighting against Hell itself.

Tomorrow, I will be there, and I will cross the Peloponnese. I will see for myself the devastation, the desert of ashes where forests and nature held dominion.

I will see the wasteland caused by people’s criminal and murderous intents—created by people’s criminal negligence. I know Greece. And I know that while a good number of fires were deliberately lit, a good number of others might as well have been deliberately lit. Because Greece is plagued by a terrible bane: negligence.

An absence of ecological consciousness.

In Greece, people throw cigarettes out the windows of their cars even though they’re still alight, even though it’s more than 40°C outside and the wind is blowing.

In Greece, people clean up areas used to dry their small grapes by lighting fire to those areas, no matter that the temperatures are beyond 40°C and the wind is blowing.

In Greece, junkyards are everywhere, in the open, and authorities set fire to them during Summer so as to have more space to store the waste created by the hordes of tourists who flood this beautiful country. And it doesn’t matter if it’s above 40°C outside and if the wind is blowing.

And so, beyond the anger and the sorrow I feel, I hope that this catastrophe will at least be useful in sparking this ecological consciousness to life in the general Greek population. I hope things will be safer, cleaner, more rational.

But whether or not that happens, most of all, to all of you who stood and keep standing between Fire and the Land of the Gods, I wanted to say:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the Realm of Injustice and Absurdity

On August 30rd, a man is going to be murdered. He’s going to be murdered with the blessing of the Texas laws and pseudo-judicial system. Forget for just a moment the debate around the use and concept of the death penalty and of what it implies for those who advocate its use. What is this man’s, Kenneth Foster’s, crime?

Well, he witnessed a murder.

Yes, that’s all he did. He drove a car in which criminals were sitting, he drove a car from which one of those criminals got out, argued with someone and ended up killing that person. And as the murderer came back into the car, Kenneth Foster, the car’s driver, started the car and took off, terrified.

That is the extent of Kenneth Foster’s crime. Oh, he’s certainly guilty of association with law-breakers. He’s unwittingly helped a murderer flee the scene of the crime. And he deserved to be tried and convicted for that.

But Kenneth Foster never killed anyone.

Kenneth Foster never even envisioned that someone would be killed that fateful night.

And yet, Kenneth Foster has been found guilty of the murder, and stands in Death Row to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. A crime everyone knows, the judicial system and the victim’s parents included, that he didn’t commit.

And yet I am yet to see a single paper concerning this horrifying prospect in any US newspaper. I am yet to hear that the news that a human being is going to be killed for a crime everyone knows he didn’t commit.

What does this silence say concerning the US media? What does this silence say concerning the moral high ground the US media, politicians and associations so loves to drape themselves into?

That they’re nothing more than a thin veil of smoke, a cracking layer of varnish that cannot hide the ugliness lying beneath.

What does this verdict say about the US judicial system? What does this planned execution say about a country that boasts it’s has the best judicial system in the world, the fairest democracy in the world?

It says that this is just hypocrisy, another puff of smoke that many in the US are content to stare at with vacant gazes.

Whether or not you support the death penalty, the fate that awaits Kenneth Foster isn’t justice. It’s not an execution.

It’s murder, plain and simple.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Land of the Gods Ablaze

Greece is burning.

Since Friday, fires have been roaring in the land of the gods. Flames leap high to reach the sky, and thick, heavy clouds of acrid smoke blot out the sun. Powerful winds blow, feeding even more the blazes’ frenzy. It’s August, and the Meltemi sweeps across Greece, as it always does at this time of year.

Satellite images show the Peloponnesus as an erupting volcano. The Taygetos mountains are burning. The beautiful Taygetos mountains I watch from my writing spot whenever I’m in Greece. The beautiful Taygetos mountains I’ll be watching a week from now. What will be left of the forests draping their flanks? Desolation? Charred stumps of trees? Grey and black everywhere the eye can see?

Yesterday I watched the Greek satellite TV, and couldn’t bring myself to switch channels. My heart wrenching, I watched people howling their despair and their rage at this unspeakable catastrophe. I watched people threatening the roaring fires and being forced to withdraw at the last minute, on the brink of throwing themselves into the flames to fight them hand on hand. I watched an old woman explaining she had spent the night alone in a village ravaged by the flames, unable to flee. She was standing in the middle of the ruins, in front of the devastation that’s all that’s left of her life. I listened as she explained she got no help, she got no one to help her evacuate. I read reports of people in remote villages phoning radio and TV stations and pleading to be sent help so they could be evacuated before the fires caught up with them.

I listened to the people explaining that a great many fires had been started during the night between Friday and Saturday, which can mean only one thing: arson. Arson, dozens of them, even as all the rescue teams, planes and helicopters, were already stretched far too thin. Arson. This is beyond a simple crime linked to building speculation. This is deliberate murder. These are deeds foul and vile, the murder of people, the murder of a land which is the Western civilization’s beginning.

Cowards, fucking greedy cowards have brought hell on Earth, have transformed the land of the gods into the realm of Hades. Oh how I hope they get caught. How I hope they get tried, publicly. How I hope they spend the rest of their wretched lives in prison, and working to undo the damage they’ve done.

Greece is my second home. It’s the one other place in which my heart beats and my dreams soar high. It’s a place of peace, of serenity. And now…well, now, Greece is ablaze.

Popes try to cower the fires into quiescence, threatening them with their god’s power. There’s so much despair, so much empty courage in their pitiful, absurd attempts that I do not know whether to laugh or cry.

Greece has appealed for the EU’s help, and already countries have answered and sent water planes, helicopters and men. I can only hope that their added strength will help Greece to prevail. I can only hope the Meltemi’s powerful gales will abate and allow the rescue teams a chance to fight the hellish fires. I can only hope, when all is done, that the land, the earth, will lend its strength so that new life can grow. New trees, new plants. I can only hope those who have lost everything will have a way of rebuilding homes for themselves. I can only hope those who lost loved ones will somehow find the strength to endure and to go on.

Athena, if you’re listening and if you have a minute to spare, the land that is yours could really, really use a little bit of divine intervention.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Power, or not Power ?

What Price are you willing to pay ?

When you want to get to a concert, you have to pay, when you want to go somewhere far away, you have to pay. When you want to have power, you have to pay.

The one thing you usually focus on in these moments, is the price.

But what if you want something really badly? What if you want it no matter what?

This is the situation we’re watching unfold in Belgium. It’s been more than 60 days since the elections, and we’re still very far away from getting a government deal. The “government shaper” (or head of the negotiations process designated by the king according to rules which bind the king’s hands) we have is not working for Belgium, he’s working for Flanders (he is the former president of the Flanders region, and the ex president of a Christian and Nationalist alliance of political parties).

On the Flemish side, the two parties negotiating have very clear demands for more independence, their program looking more like a tearing down of the Belgian state than like a path for everyone working together toward a common goal. They can be seen as working hand in hand.

On the Walloon side, we have the two “sibling” parties of their Flemish counterparts. One, the MR, wants power. It wants it with such greed and avidity, that it’s pushing, rushing, delivering somber warnings to its would-be Walloon partner. The MR’s president, Mr Reynders, is so engrossed with the prospect of reaching power inside a coalition without the Socialists—a coalition which would give him free reign at last to unravel our welfare system and our way of life, a coalition in which there would be no counterpart sufficiently powerful to thwart his moves and alert the public opinion—that he’s standing on the verge of yielding to the outrageous demands of the Flemish parties.

And to obtain this, Mr Reynders must somehow force the other Walloon party to yield as well, to bow down to absurd demands which mean nothing more than the end of Belgium. To understand what’s going on, you need to know that the fundamental changes in the workings of the Belgian state demanded by the Flemish parties cannot be voted by a simple majority in the Assembly. These changes demand a change of the Belgian Constitution, and thus demand a special majority of 2/3rd of the Assembly.

This special majority can be achieved with the two Walloon parties vying for power, and with a union of all the Flemish parties (who wouldn’t hesitate to unite, as they all share nationalist and selfish elements). But to achieve such a majority, composed of more Flemish allies than Walloon, would mean to tear down all the unspoken rules that keep Belgium together. It would be what we call an “institutional bomb”, which might herald the true end of our country. It would never be accepted in Wallonia, on the French-speaking part of Belgium, and any party which would take part in such a scheme would suffer heavily for its betrayal of its voters in the next elections.

The second Walloon party knows this, and thus it’s balking, and refusing to yield—not to mention that it is far from sharing all of Mr Reynders’ dreams of destroying our social security system and welfare state.

And so, all the Flemish parties, as well as the Flemish media, are calling the second Walloon party an obstacle, a chicken, and are demanding that it yields and accepts to swallow the fish.

Of course, at this point, you’re wondering what’s going on through the MR party. You’re wondering whether Mr Reynders hasn’t taken leave of his senses, and you’re thinking that he too, would have to face the next elections, and the rebuff of the voters. But it’s not so easy. Mr Reynders is contemplating twisted ways out, like cajoling one of the smaller parties, the Walloon ecologist party, into voting with the majority on these aspects. Mr Reynders is so famished for power, a power he wouldn’t have to share with the Socialists, that he’s willing to stoop so low as it takes. He’s already doing so, hinting at the second Walloon party’s “squeamishness” at its “lack of courage and willingness to enter a government”.

He’s already doing so, playing dangerously close to what amounts to betraying all the French-speaking population. And I have no doubt he’s ready to step beyond the line and go all the way.

So here I stand, watching the news, analyzing and hoping that the second Walloon party will not be intimated, and will hang in there.

Here I stand, hoping that all the political parties in Wallonia, Socialists and ecologists alike, will not land their power and their representatives’ votes to help destroy Belgium.

Here I stand, hoping that Mr Reynders will fail, hoping that Mr Leterme will be forced to resign, and that the king will be free to name a true man of stature to shape a government. A government which cannot be limited to only the MR and the CDH, not if it is to be balanced with the Flemish side. No, this government must include the Socialist party, if Belgium is to survive. If our welfare state and its social security system are to survive. There is no other way.

And some prices are not worth paying, even if it’s to gain power.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Poudre aux Yeux

The French saying simply means "spraying powder before people's eyes so they won't see what's happening in front of them.

And this is exactly what's happening in France, with the touching complicity of the French media. Sarkozy's government has laws infringing the rights to go on strike, to force minimal penalties in judgment, to drastically cut down the number of civil servants, teachers included, and to organize tax cuts that will benefit only the wealthiest classes of citizens. Do we hear about that?

Oh, just a small paper here or there, in the back pages of the newspapers. A thirty seconds interview in the TV news, but no more. No, what occupies the front pages and the headlines TV news is a stupid, phony controversy of Cecilia Sarkozy being "sick" and thus unable to attend the lunch with W and family in the US. And journalists wonder at this woman's actions, wonder if Sarkozy's worst enemy isn't his wife, and spin absurd tales of Cecilia being a rebel. In touching unison, right wing and left wing media paint the portrait of a free woman, wonder if she couldn't be the next candidate for the French presidency...all ludicrous and groundless.

All completely fabricated and futile. Useless--unless of course their aim is simply to focus people's minds on those moronic tales not even worth the worst of romance novels, while the true harm is done in the "unfortunately" less glamorous chambers of France's assembly rooms.

Where laws are voted.

Where essential freedoms and rights are scraped at, slowly but certainly.

While Sarkozy gently, softly, weakens the state, lessens the strength of the administrations and systems that organize and carry out the essential services to the citizens. While Sarkozy discreetly takes the citizens' tax money and hijacks it from its purpose so it can be put to good use: to allow the richest layers of the French society to get even richer at the expense of everyone else.

While Sarkozy carefully prepares the ground to have people accept his plans of forcing them to work more, longer, to take away their rights at decent retirement income past 65 years of age, prepares the way for turning the jobless into criminals in the group mind of the French population, thus opening the path for true exploitation of those unlucky enough to be the victims of corporation who aim at nothing but rising their profits, whatever the cost.

While Sarkozy gingerly paves the road to total market domination over our lives. Gentle, kind, tender and oh, so benevolent market which will regulate itself and make us all happy of course.Oh, yeah!

And while these delicate thefts and unraveling of France's essential rights is being carried out, the whole French media is swooning over the French first lady.

And I stand there watching them, and wondering: has France stooped so low as to imitate the way the US does politics? Have the left wing media taken leave of their senses? Has it come to such a point that they don't even dare talking about the true subjects of information, to debate the true actions taking place in the French Assembly, because all the people care about is empty people-isation of politics? Because all that people care about is who fucks whom and betrays whom? Because people don't care anymore what happens to their lives, or will care only when it's too late?

What is it that the news media and the lambda, average citizen find so fascinating in Nicolas Sarkozy's holidays in the US? What is it that interests them in the billionaire house he's using for the holidays? Who cares that he does his jogging everyday? This is bullshit. This is lies, fabrications for brainless people who are too lazy to actually think and reflect on what's happening around them.

This is an illusion, an illusion the media are all too happy to mirror and cast over everything else.

This is pure poudre aux yeux.

And still, I stand there and wonder.

I read Libération and Rue89, I listen to what the French opposition party leaders say, and I don't understand.


Friday, August 03, 2007

I Will, I Will Arm You !

In essence, this is the message sent by the White House to quite a few countries in the Middle East, except for Big, Bad Iran and Evil, Evil Syria.

Of course, if I were a little kid bored of watching his toy soldiers get rolled down one by one, yawning at the sight of yet another terrorist attack killing scores of innocent, fortunately nameless and alien Iraqi people (at least since they're just aliens, people in my little country won't relate with their slaughter and won't feel any kind of empathy), maybe I'd come up with a plan to make things a little more colorful in that really uninteresting area.

This plan would really be neat if it involved arming arch-enemies, and if this "arming" implied giving the opportunity to enrich in an obscene fashion all the armament companies in my beloved "land of the free" (companies which are already obscenely fat and rich thanks to the deaths of innocents, money reaped on blood, pain and despair, on death, but hey, who cares, right?).

And of course, if the "selling" of arms were to be carried through subsidiaries to the countries my nice friends who're all CEOs of the weapons companies and helped me so much when I had to get money to become Almighty Emperor of the World, it'd be a really fun bonus. Why, you ask? Ah, silly! Subsidiaries mean that I'd pay for all the weapons, or a part of them, using the tax money of all the poor dupes who voted for me and were stupid enough to believe in me and my empty promises of diminishing taxes. Yeah, taxes for schools, for social services, for health and retirement, for the jobless, for the maintenance of roads, bridges (hello, Minnesota, by the way), all that is completely worthless. And people wouldn't pay for them, they're too stupid to realize it'd help them one day.

Nah, I'd just wave a stupid flag before their noses, they'll react like good dogs and start barking, and giving away their precious money. Id' say "Homeland Security", and those fools would come running with their tails wagging. I'd say that "the defense of our nation demands a sacrifice", and they'd pay a new tax with tears of joy and gratitude in their vacant eyes.

They'd pay so I can arm those unstable arch-enemies and then watch while tension rises, and eventually blows into a real, nice little regional war over there. Much funnier than all those random terrorist attacks and some of my soldiers killing off innocent people because they feel frustrated and cheated of doing in real bad guys.

Yeah, it'd be a really, really good plan. Get my stupid, brainless citizens to pay taxes so I can arm countries which harbor the same bitter hatred for each other. Yeah, arm Israel and Saudi Arabia, arm Egypt as well, and the Emirates... Yup!

Ah, I'd so look forward to all the funny slaughter this would lead to!

Lucky for the world, I'm not a kid bored with watching his toy soldiers get toppled on the gameboard.

A little less lucky for the world, Georges W Bush is.