Social Protest Lit.: Albert Camus’ “Reflections on the Guillotine”

indexShort essay by Albert Camus entitled “Reflections on the Guillotine” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

In relation to crime, how can our civilization be defined? The reply is easy: for thirty years now, State crimes have been far more numerous than individual crimes. I am not even speaking of war, general and localized, although bloodshed too is an alcohol that eventually intoxicates like the headiest of wines. But the number of individuals killed directly by the State has assumed astronomical proportions and infinitely outnumbers private murders. There are fewer and fewer condemned by common law and more and more condemned to death, whereas the eventuality would have seemed ridiculous at the beginning of the century. Alphonse Karr’s witty remark, “Let the noble assassins begin” has no meaning now. Those who cause the blood to flow are the same ones who believe they have right, logic, and history on their side.

Hence our society must now defend herself not so much against the individual as against the State. It may be that the proportions will be reversed in another thirty years. But, for the moment, our self-defense must be aimed at the State first and foremost. Justice and expediency command the law to protect the individual against the State given over to the follies of sectarianism or of pride. “Let the State begin and abolish the death penalty” ought to be our rallying cry today.



Have to Admit, Sometimes Russia is Painfully Correct

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had some comments for the United States government regarding Syria and the Islamic State that deserve acknowledgement.  While the future of this situation can be debated, the past cannot.  And the truth sometimes hurts.
“I think Western politicians are already realising the growing and fast-spreading threat of terrorism,” Lavrov said, referring to Islamic State advances in Syria and Iraq.
“And they will soon have to choose what is more important, a [Syrian] regime change to satisfy personal antipathies, risking deterioration of the situation beyond any control, or finding pragmatic ways to unite efforts against the common threat.”

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov
In comments likely to irritate Washington, Lavrov said the US had made the same mistake with Islamic State as it had with al-Qaeda, which emerged in the 1980s when US-backed Islamist insurgents were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (Emphasis added)
“At the start the Americans and some Europeans rather welcomed [Islamic State] on the basis it was fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They welcomed it as they welcomed the mujahideen who later created al-Qaeda, and then al-Qaeda struck like a boomerang on September 11, 2001,” Lavrov said.
“The same thing is happening now.”
We have to accept, for the moment, there is no perfect solution from the U.S. government’s perspective where both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State can be ousted from the situation immediately.  At this point, the best case scenario is to only have to deal with one or the other while trying to push for the quelling of one.
And the lesser of two evils is without a doubt the Assad regime in Syria.  This, of course, means working as a partner with Russia in order to exert as much pressure as possible on Assad to hope for eventual regime change while making sure the Syrian government is stabilized enough to fight the Islamic State.
In fact, hindsight being 20/20, one has to wonder if working with Russia from the beginning on Syria would have been the better solution for the Syrian people.  While living under Assad has certainly been no picnic, it’s very likely the casualties from the fighting, now closing in on 200,000, would have been significantly less had a heavy UN peacekeeping presence been placed in the country when the violence broke out.  And in order to have done this, the U.S. would have had to accept not initially ousting Assad, with the hope change could have come later and more peacefully.
We’ll never know whether that solution would have turned out better.  One thing, however, is clear: not choosing that path has been an absolute disaster.

Social Protest Lit.: Bjornstjerne Bjornson, from “Beyond Human Might”

indexExcerpt from a play by Bjornstjerne Bjornson entitled “Beyond Human Might” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

(Here a young clergyman is speaking to a crowd of miners in the midst of bitterly fought strike)

Bratt: Here it is dark and cold. Here few work hopefully, and no one joyfully. Here the children won’t thrive–they yearn for the sea and the daylight. They crave the sun. But it lasts only a little while, and then they give up. They learn that among those who have been cast down here there is rarely one who can climb up again.

Several: That’s right!…

Bratt: What is there to herald the coming of better things? A new generation up there? Listen to what their young people answer for themselves: “We want a good time!” And their books? The books and the youth together make the future. And what do the books say? Exactly the same as the youth: “Let us have a good time! Ours are the light and the lust of life, its colors and its joys!” That is what the youth and their books say.–They are right! It is all theirs! There is no law to prevent their taking life’s sunlight and joy away from the poor people. For those who have the sun have also made the law.–But then the next question is whether we might not scramble up high enough to take part in writing of a new law. (This is received with thundering cheers.) What is needed is that one generation makes an effort strong enough to raise all coming generations into the vigorous life full of sunlight.

Many: Yes, yes!

Bratt: But so far every generation has put it off on the next one. Until at last our turn has come–to bear sacrifices and sufferings like unto death itself!



James Foley and Real Journalists

subFOLEY-2-master315James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago, was decapitated by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants on a 4:40 minute video this past Tuesday posted on the internet. ISIS claimed that the murder was in retaliation for recent airstrikes by the American military on their forces in Iraq which, but today’s post is not just about Mr. Foley’s tragic death but by the dangers faced by journalists around the world.

It’s about journalists being heroes, and I’m not talking about “talking heads” or, God forbid, pundits. I am speaking about journalists taking dangerous assignments to get to the heart of a story. And I am talking, again, about real journalists who really stick out their necks, not Anderson Cooper or Christine Amanpour or Wolf Blitzer who report miles away from danger.

We would be nowhere without journalists who risk their lives everyday who keep the gate open to dangerous information as “gate-keepers.”

The problem is that in American society the occupation of a journalist is only rated ahead of attorneys in the list of most contemptible occupations. But at the root of this perception is that fact that Americans lump all journalist endeavors together. Thanks to most people not paying attention to the news, Americans classify journalists together with the entertainment beat. When they think of journalists they think of tabloid journalism, TMZ, or the paparazzi, not those like James Foley.

Unfortunately their is too much tabloid- journalism stories going around. The other day, on CNN, I saw Blitzer say, “Stay tuned, we have some video you will want to see. A Los Angeles car chase ends in a horrific crash.” How is that good journalism! That’s just baiting the worst in our cravings for the unsubstantial!

The problem with the American perception of journalists is these types of stories. They grab our attention and leave the work of Woodward and Bernstein (who took down a U.S. President) or Glenn Greenwald (who reported Edward Snowden’s revelations ab0ut NSA spying-tactics) at the wayside

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 834 known journalists have been killed since 1992 in the line of their work. Below is a table by CPJ that breaks down the numbers of journalist deaths by individual countries. I will leave you with these sobering statistics.

20 Deadliest Countries

  1. Iraq: 166
  2. Philippines: 76
  3. Syria: 67
  4. Algeria: 60
  5. Russia: 56
  6. Pakistan: 54
  7. Somalia: 53
  1. Colombia: 45
  2. India: 32
  3. Mexico: 30
  4. Brazil: 29
  5. Afghanistan: 26
  6. Turkey: 21
  7. Sri Lanka: 19
  1. Bosnia: 19
  2. Tajikistan: 17
  3. Rwanda: 17
  4. Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 16
  5. Sierra Leone: 16
  6. Bangladesh: 14



Why Ferguson Shooting is Officer Darren Wilson’s Fault

As the situation in Ferguson continues to unfold, one aspect of the shooting should be examined profusely: the initial action of Officer Darren Wilson.

The only witness to the initial contact outside of Wilson is Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, so this is a bit of a he-said-he-said.  But, as has been widely reported, according to Johnson the first words between both parties were Wilson’s and they allegedly were, “Get the f— on the sidewalk.”  This may seem insignificant, but it most certainly is not.

We have to remember that police officers are supposed to be “peace” officers.  In order to keep peace in every civil situation, a peace officer must deescalate the atmosphere, such as keeping angry combatants away from each other and calming them down to a level where talk can ensue.  If Wilson did use those exact words when first contacting the two young men, he failed to do his job and actually escalated a calm situation.  If anyone wants to dispute that, fine.  Just show me where it says in any law enforcement training manual to start out every calm situation with a profanity while clearly disrespecting a person.

In fact, we could even say there is a bit of racism in Wilson’s profiling of the men, which is easy to prove.  If the person walking in the street had been an old white woman, would Wilson have used the same words and tone in the initial contact?  How about a white man in an expensive suit?  In defense of Wilson, let’s have all the old white women and rich white men step forward and tell their stories of how Wilson cursed at them when fracturing an incredibly minor law that was hurting no one.

That would be the sound of crickets you are hearing right now.

Simply put, if Wilson would have treated a different person with some actual respect, then his words and initial action should be heavily questioned.  I’m not saying Wilson stopped because he is racist.  I’m just saying his attitude certainly suggests there was a tinge of it present.

And I know what the reaction to this will be: you are not a police officer so you don’t know what it is like dealing with people, particularly criminals, on a regular basis.  Maybe so, but I do know a definitive way to make situations worse: treating people horribly from the first contact, which is what happened.  And if a police officer has lost the ability to do this, maybe it’s time for another profession.

All said, it’s Wilson’s fault this situation delved into a dead body in the street.  Despite the clear attempts at demonizing Michael Brown, Wilson failed to do his job appropriately and that is why we are where we are now.  Wilson deserves to be put on trial, just like anyone else would be in a similar situation if they were not wearing a badge.

Social Protest Lit.: Leonid Andreyev from “Savva”

indexPart of a play from Leonid Andreyev’s “Savva” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

(In this strange drama, which might be called a symbolic tragi-comedy, the Russian writer has set forth the plight of the educated people of his country, confronted by the abject superstition of the peasantry. Savva, a fanatical revolutionist, endeavors to wipe out this superstition by blowing up monastery full of drunken monks. But the plot is revealed to the monks, who carry out the ikon, or sacred image, before the explosion, and afterwards carry it back into the ruins. The peasants, arriving on the scene and finding the ikon uninjured, hail a supreme miracle; the whole country is swept by a wave of religious frenzy, in the course of which Savva is trampled to death by a mob.

In the following scene Savva argues with his sister, a religious believer. The tramp of pilgrims is heard outside.)

Savva (smiling): The tramp of death!

Lipa: Remember the each one of these would consider himself happy in killing you, in crushing you like a reptile. Each one of these is your death. Why, they beat a simple thief to death, a  horse thief. What would they not do to you? You who wanted to steal their God!

Savva: Quite true. That’s property too.

Lipa: You still have the brazenness to joke? Who gave you the right to do such a thing? Who gave you the power over people? How dare you meddle with what to them is right? How dare you interfere with their life?

Savva: Who gave me the right? You gave it to me. Who gave me the power? You gave it to me–you with your malice, your ignorance, you stupidity! You with your wretched impotence! Right! Power! They have turned the earth into a sewer, an outrage, an abode of slaves. They worry each other, they torture each other and they ask: “Who dares to take us by the throat?” I! Do you understand? I!

Lipa: But to destroy all! Think of it!

Savva: What could you with them? What would you do? Try to persuade the oxen to turn away from their bovine path? Catch each one by his horn and pull him away? Would you put on a frock-coat and read a lecture? Haven’t they had plenty to teach them? As if words and thought had any significance to them! Thought–pure, unhappy thought! They have perverted it. They have taught it to cheat and defraud. They have made it a salable commodity, to be bought at auction in the market. No, sister, life is short, and I am not going to waste it in arguments with oxen. The way to deal with them is by fire. That’s what they require–fire!

Lipa: But what do you want? What do you want?

Savva: What do I want? To free the earth, to free mankind. Man–the man of today–is wise. He has come to his senses. He is ripe for liberty. But the past eats away at his soul like a canker. It imprisons him within the iron circle of things already accomplished. I want to do away with everything behind man, so that there is nothing to see when he looks back. I want to take him by the scruff of his neck and turn his face toward the future!




In Ferguson, Nothing New

Demonstrators raise their hands while protesting against the killing of teenager Michael BrownMissouri riot policeShort post today:

As I read and watch all of the coverage of the protests against the police in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, I keep looking for some new aspect of  of which to right about. But here is the problem: there is nothing new. The murder of a young, unarmed black man or teen is nothing new, the suppression of African-American protest rights are nothing new. Since the abolition of slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks have been fighting the good-fight to obtain equal rights. Yet despite of having an African-American President, like so many black-oppression deniers point to, they have such a long way to go. Or as I should have put it, we have such a long way to go. We all need to be fighting the good-fight and whites need to “move,” too.




Video of Peaceful Protesters Gassed in Ferguson, MO

Below is a popular video recorded on Monday night, and posted by reporter Ray Downs of the St. Louis publication Riverfront Times, of a small Ferguson, Missouri protest in someone’s backyard taken by angry residents as they were tear-gassed upon their own property. The protesters are angry over the shooting-death of teenager, Michael Brown Jr., 18, who was shot several times Saturday by an officer as he and a friend walked from a convenience store, who resided in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The actions against the slaying of Mr. Brown have been both peaceful, and sometimes not. But the residents here in this video merely heckle the officers and hold their hands in the air, as if surrendering, as a sign of protest which has become the trademark sign for supporters of Mr. Brown. Watch below:




Florida Teen Suicide Bomber

31bomber_inline-blog427Linked here is an edited version of a 31 min. video message from Mohammad Abusalha, a 22-year-old suicide bomber from Florida who attacked in Syria, who was raised in a gated community, and was once described as a “basketball-obsessed teen.” Abusalha used this testimonial to explain why he left home to live as a Mujahedin in the civil war against Bashaar Al-Assad.

I got this video from an NYT article focused on the fact that after Abusalha initially trained in Syria as a Mujahedin, he came home undetected by the authorities for several months before leaving again for the last time. But that is not the point here.

What I took away from this piece is the contents of the video and the troubled young man it portrayed. He expresses rage against the West and it even includes a teary-eyed expression of love for his mother. It made me just want to scream aloud, “What happened here?!”

I almost did not post this video here and have been saving it since July 30, 2014, gripped by indecision. I was afraid of seeming too sensationalist, or even being perceived as pro-terror. Yet I am posting it now for I believe that it needs to be seen for it shows how an American kid can end up a suicide bomber manipulated by the Islamist fighters who found him.

I leave it to your interpretation. Find it here.






Social Protest Lit: Lady Wilde’s “Despair”

indexA poem by Lady Wilde entitled “Despair” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

Before us dies our brother, of starvation;

Around are cries of famine and despair!

Where is hope for us, or comfort or salvation–

Where–oh! where?

If the angels ever hearken, downward bending,

They are weeping, we are sure,

At the litanies of human groans ascending,

From the crushed hearts of the poor.


We never knew a childhood’s mirth and gladness,

Nor the proud heart of youth free and brave;

Oh, a death-like dream of wretchedness and sadness

Is life’s weary journey to the grave!

Day by day we lower sink, and lower,

Till the God-like soul within

Falls crushed beneath the fearful demon power

Of poverty and sin.


So we toil on, on with fever burning

In heart and brain;

So we toil on, on through bitter scorning,

Want, woe, and pain.

We dare not raise our eyes to the blue heavens

Or the toil must cease–

We dare not breathe the fresh air God has given

One hour in peace.