Sunday, November 22, 2020

In this year of COVID: Indi Samarajiva, Part 3

 This is the piece that really got to me. Went right through me. 

I lived through a stupid coup. America is having one now. 


The third in his series on the American situation: He touches on the absurdity of coup, tries to explain what it is, how vulnerable US democracy is to it, remarks on the chaos associated with it.


"Two years ago, I lived through a coup in Sri Lanka. It was stupid. The minority party threw chili powder at everyone in Parliament and took over by farce. Math, however, requires a majority and the courts kicked them out. They gave in. We’d been protesting for weeks and yay, we won. No. I didn’t know it at the time, but we had already lost. No one knew — but oh my God, what we lost. The legitimate government came back but it was divided and weak. We were divided and weak. We were vulnerable."

"Four months later, on Easter Sunday, some assholes attacked multiple churches and hotels, killing 269 of us.... Our nation was shattered. Mobs began attacking innocent Muslims. It was out of control. The coup broke our government, and four months later, that broke us." 

"The coup was a farce at the time but how soon it turned to tragedy. They called it a constitutional crisis, but how soon it became a real one. Right now, the same thing is happening to you. I’m trying to warn you America. It seems stupid now, but the consequences are not."

"Someone at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to a dildo shop. What a fucking stupid century. This is what our coups look like."

"I have lived through a coup. It felt like what you’re feeling now. Like watching something stupid and just waiting for it to go away. But it doesn’t go away. You can forget about it, but it doesn’t go away."


"What is a coup? It’s literally a blow, a strike. Someone hitting your normal processes of government, trying to knock them over. The blow doesn’t have to succeed. It still wounds. In our case it was occupying Parliament without a majority. In yours it’s denying the President-Elect after an election. Whether it fails or not, deep structural damage is done. At the time, however, it just feels dumb."

"The US system is weird, but people voted for a change of power. One person is refusing to accept the people’s will. He’s taking power that doesn’t belong to him. That’s a coup."

"American commentators say “we’re like the third world now” as if our very existence is a pejorative. Ha ha, you assholes, stop calling us that. You’re no better than us. The third world from the Sun is Earth. You live here too."

"You’ve already lost. This is what Americans need to understand"


"America, in fact, is worse than us. America’s democracy is a lightly modified enslavement system that black people only wrested universal franchise from in 1965. It’s frankly a terrible democracy, built on voter suppression of 94% of the population, full of racist booby traps and prone to absurd randomness. For example, your dumbass founders left enough time to get to Washington by horse. Four months where a loser could hold power, later reduced to two. This is a built-in coup."

"Think about it. Your system gives the loser all the power and guns for two whole months. Almost every modern democracy changes power the next day, to avoid the very situation you’re in."

"America is a shitty and immature democracy, saved only by the fact that they didn’t elect equally shitty and immature Presidents. Until now."

"This year America had fascism on the ballot and nonwhite people mercifully said no. The fascists, however, are now saying fuck ballots. And enough of the population is like fuck yeah!"

"This is a major problem, and it won’t just go away on a technicality. I’m telling you, as someone that’s been there, you’ve already lost. It doesn’t matter if you get Trump out. He and the Republican Party are destroying trust in elections in general. This is catastrophic. You have no idea."


"The tragic thing which you do not understand — which you cannot understand — is that you’ve already lost. You cannot know exactly what — that’s the nature of chaos — but know this. You will lose more than you can bear."

"Republicans have set forces into play they cannot possibly understand and certainly cannot control. And they don’t even want to. To them, chaos is a ladder."

"This is the point. You have taken an orderly system balancing a whole lot of chaos and fucked with it. I don’t know how it’s going to explode, but I can promise you this. It’s going to explode."

"This is precisely why we have elections, and why both sides accept the results. To keep the chaos at bay. The whole point is that you have a regular, ritual fight rather than fighting all the time. Once one side breaks ritual then you’re on the way to civil war. Once you break the rules then chaos ensues. What exactly happens? I don’t know. It’s chaos."

"My wife and children were at church that day. Our regular church (where they hadn’t gone) had bombs on either side. I couldn’t understand the news when I first got it and you cannot understand the fear until they were safely home. I do not want you to understand but I fear one day you must. You have fucked with chaos and soon chaos will fuck with you." ...............

In this year of COVID: Indi Samarajiva, Part 2


Here are excerpts from his second piece, written in Oct. in this, our year of COVID. 

It touches on comparisons between his own country and the US, the "human shields" both countries are exploiting/exploited, the death of innocents by pestilence, inequity, his solidarity with them, how far out of balance the Senate is in the US, and some perspective on collapse from a very very old culture.

PART 2. 

The sadness of the American collapse


"I think then, of the American people, carried headlong into COVID by their mad choleric king. Trump has infected his family, his staff, his own supporters, and the entire nation. Trump has completely inverted the idea of Commander-in-Chief. Under Trump America has (for once) attacked itself."



"America’s democracy is younger than Sri Lanka’s and the foundation completely decrepit. At its founding, only 6% of the population (white land-owners) had the vote. Those rancid, racist ghosts haunt your democracy still."




"So I think, then, of the people held helplessly around the shuddering hulk of a superspreading White House. Not even a human shield, just pointless human sacrifice. As much as I do want the turgid, terrorizing empire to collapse, it is surrounded by innocent human beings. People out-organized, outgunned, and hearing ‘I told you so’ from foreign correspondents like me. So what am I saying? Am I in solidarity with them, against their tyrannical government, or against them all? In solidarity, in solidarity. I don’t want to pull any punches and I don’t know how everything comes out, but in my heart that’s how I feel. I’m with you."



"American democracy is deeply, structurally unsound. 39.5 million people have the same number of Senators as 600,000 people in Wyoming, and those people in Wyoming are disproportionately awful. And this Senate confirms judges, effectively another branch of eternal politicians. And who fucks up their own Post Office to sabotage a vote? What is this really? It’s more like a strategy game than a democracy. Y’all getting played. How are you people, living in the warped carcass of a property-owners’ paradise, in control of anything? America is just a stock market with human beings attached. And the human beings are expendable."





"It is a sad thing, collapse. Sad but necessary. The Hindu trinity has a creator, a preserver, and a destroyer. This ancient culture has a deeper understanding of the cyclical nature of things, rather than the new American myth of eternal growth (ie, cancer). But when you’re on the business end of Shiva’s trident, who cares? Must things fall on the people that least deserve it? Must collapse fall on your grandparents, your poor, on you? I hope not. I wish not. But what is history? Just the forgotten ruins of humble villages and the vaunted carelessness of ‘great’ men. All the Earth is a palimpsest. What’s written is written in blood."

In this year of COVID: Indi Samarajiva, Part 1

 I love this writer. Indi Samarajiva is

I want to post excerpts from three recent articles by him that I found in Medium dot com. to do with American politics and the recent election.  Part 1, his observations on the human numbness, lack of empathy, anonymity, uneven experience, and obliviousness associated with societal collapse that occurred in his own country and what he sees happening in the US.

1. From September in this year of COVID, 2020: 

I lived through collapse. America is already there. 


"Living in Sri Lanka during the end of the civil war, I saw how life goes on, surrounded by death"

" I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens. This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down."


"Collapse does not mean you’re personally dying right now. It means y’all are dying right now. Death is sometimes close, sometimes far away, but always there. I used to judge those herds of gazelle when the lion eats one of them alive and everyone keeps going — but no, humans are just the same. That’s the real meaning of herd immunity. We’re fundamentally immune to giving a shit."

"Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else. That’s all it is."



"If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like “this is it,” I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says “things are officially bad.” There’s no launch party for decay.... Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it were, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all."



"I was at work when someone left a bomb at the NOLIMIT clothing store. It exploded, killing 17 people. When these types of traumatic events take place, no two people experience the same thing. For me, it was seeing the phone lines getting clogged for an hour. For my wife, it was feeling the explosion a half-kilometer from her house. But for the families of the 17 victims, this was the end. And their grief goes on. As you can see, this is not a uniform experience of chaos. For some people it destroys their bodies, others their hearts, but for most people it’s just a low-level hum at the back of their minds."



"As a nation you don’t seem to mourn your dead, but their families do. Their communities do. Jesus, also, weeps. But for most people it’s just another day. You’ve run out of coffee. There’s a funny meme. This can’t be collapse, because nothing’s collapsing for me. But that’s exactly how collapse feels. This is how I felt. This is how millions of people have felt, including many immigrants in your midst. We’re trying to tell you as loud as we can. You can get out of it, but you have to understand where you are to even turn around. This, I fear, is one of many things Americans do not understand. You tell yourself American collapse is impossible. Meanwhile, look around. In the last three months America has lost more people than Sri Lanka lost in 30 years of civil war. If this isn’t collapse, then the word has no meaning."


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Boundaries in the age of COVID: US elections

So, it is Nov 4/, 2020, the day after polls closed in the US for the presidential election, results still not quite in. Everyone I know there busy stressing out over it and still trying to avoid COVID. As individuals, because there was no national plan enacted the way there was in Canada and just about everywhere else in the entire world.

Being newly retired I have had time to fixate on the American neighbour, delve into many deep ponderings about what it means to be a Canadian only an hour's drive north of the US-Canada border (which remains closed) just over North Dakota. 

The US appears, at least superficially, to be sort of a banana republic. It has held together for a couple centuries, amazingly. It became a huge country of 330 million people, with the baling twine and chewing gum of gracious conduct lubricated by tons of money, but I suspect global warming is worrying the global financial powers that be into acting autocratically.
I seriously can't believe trumple is a lone actor - pretty sure he's a puppet for a global moneyed oligarchy. One advantage he may have is that there seems to be a custom in the US of keeping a president in power for a full two terms, 8 years, and he's only at the 4-year mark so he has only managed to half wreck the country and has only murdered about 240 thousand people so far by not implementing a decent COVID prevention plan - his destructive work is only half done. 

About the US, I remember being aghast that individual voting was such a huge affair and so complicated, elections so expensive and long-winded, that the ballots could go on for pages and pages, that voters had to fight to actually be registered and to vote.
How cumbersome, I thought.
Then I grew to appreciate that it really was an amazing innovation in the 18th century to distribute power so equitably to (at first) all white men who owned property, then later to everybody. And I appreciated that massive struggle had been involved in expansion of voting rights. Especially when I found out that black women had been held back from voting until 1965. 
Nineteen sixty-five!!

ismay slowly arose though as it dawned on me that there is nothing particularly equitable about a system that is actually not a single large ship of state but rather a flotilla of 50 ships of state all tied together, some in pretty good shape and others very rusted, leaky, still on top of the water only because of movement inertia and other ships pulling them, but acting as a drag to the entire ensemble. All of them are slowed down by the barnacles of time. 
Furthermore, some ships try to pull the entire shebang one way and others in a different direction. 
In fact, the two major parties remind me of the way two eagles grasp talons and participate in a twirling death spiral

Which brings us to the "electoral vote." 
Imagine this: we have the 50 ships of varying sizes and conditions all tied together all pulling different directions all weighed down by barnacle infestation.  Imagine all the people on each ship voting for a new leader, say, a different president. All the votes are counted, but... only the ship gets to have an actual presidential vote. The ship! Some ships more than one, some ships many; it depends on the size of the ship. So, no matter how big the population aboard, if it's a small ship, individual votes may count more heavily than if the ship is an ocean liner like California. 
This system of states' votes stems from the days of slavery when only white male property owners could vote. A "college" of "learned men." Why it still exists is beyond me. 


I grew to appreciate even more the role played by current-day media as a way all the people on board all the ships can maintain some semblance of feeling connected to each other and updated about how each others' lives are going, and how we all eavesdrop on it no matter where we non-Americans live. Yeah, it's noisy and often feels intrusive (cultural imperialism) but it does help time go by. 

States' rights in the US are a real detriment at times. The power assigned to voting individuals is completely at the mercy of whatever ship said individuals happen to be riding on. War was fought over perceived state inequities. Plus, all that ghastly slavery crap that happened from 1619 onward, and that supposedly ended with the Civil War, cultivated mental and social ruts into the fabric of the US so deeply that some aspects have not yet ceased to exist (police murders of George Floyd et al) and voting rights are still being suppressed by some of the old rust bucket state ships in the flotilla. 

Heather Cox Richardson provides context and lots of optimism. In fact I'm pretty sure the fumes of optimism are enticing enough to have been the main way the US has survived thus far given all the handicaps its citizens endure for their privilege of collectively holding ultimate power every 4 or 6 years, 4 for presidential elections and 6 for senate seats (I think). Given the fact that said individuals have been taught to eschew the very thought of being part of a "collective" of anything. 

The main problem I see with individuals holding power is that no one individual has the power to fire a terrible leader. It has to be done collectively, but to get people to act collectively they have to be convinced to maintain a completely incongruent set of ideas about how acting collectively will support their freedom as individuals somehow. Furthermore, if the terrible leader manages to be the best convincer, the resulting set of incongruent ideas becomes a cult. His followers appear to be oblivious to cognitive dissonance.  

I learned a new word recently - paralipsis. It's a rhetorical device that lets your audience know what's on your mind without having to say so directly. It permits lying, because you can always deny you actually said it. It boils down to speaking with forked tongue or out both sides of your mouth. The current terrible leader is a master of it. Which means he obfuscates and escapes like an octopus from any tiny hole. His story depends entirely on his audience, and what he wants to get from them. 
Critical thinkers find him appalling and mendacious and thoroughly misleading. His followers think he's brilliant and will fix their leaky rust-bucket ship of state. He won't. 

We still don't know who won the election, because there were so many mail-in ballots due to COVID still being counted.