c o m m e n t a r y
March 10, 2014
Trade liberty for safety or money and you'll end up with neither. Liberty, like a grain of salt, easily dissolves.
The power of questioning -- not simply believing -- has no friends. Yet liberty depends on it. ***
S U P P O R T S W A N S
Note from the Editors:
No doubt the events of the Ukraine-Russia-Crimea contretemps will have taken another turn in the time it takes to publish this Swans edition. Still, we have a few thoughts on the evolving matter. Steven Hohensee was incensed by Condoleezza Rice's recent editorial attack on Vladimir Putin and Russia's invasions of its neighbors, which failed to explain a few details behind said invasions, nor did she mention her own country's invasions of others. As Mr. Hohensee observes, "We get to kill and break the law with impunity. We're special." Jan Baughman is also troubled by the United States once again rushing to side with a country on the basis of defending democracy -- as history and a read of the Rumsfeld memos show, there's usually a self-serving interest, without consequence. Gilles d'Aymery, in short, reaches for Ockham's razor to provide the simple explanation for these unfolding events, and the US role is not what it purports to be, of course. Glenn Reed illustrates that in the greatest democracy on earth, justice means protecting murderous politicians à la Rumsfeld, Cheney & Co. and instead jailing activist nuns. Meanwhile, Michael Barker reports from London on the current British education system, which is unfit for sustaining, let alone extending, democracy. On the other hand, it is certainly fit for the maintenance of capitalism.
On the cultural front, one can only imagine the sort of play Shakespeare would have written about these tempest times. Actually, one can look back, as Cathy Rosario excellently does, to the competing lures of decadence and puritanism in The Merchant of Venice for insight into today's Islamic extremism. (This is a must-read article for the culturally minded readers.) Peter Byrne invokes myriad talented authors in a cleverly-written treatise on the right way to write -- an innate, not learned, talent. Jonah Raskin has Harlem on his mind, as he reviews a book on the life and work of American writer/photographer Carl Van Vechten, while Raju Peddada continues to admire and explore the brilliance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We close with the poetic words of Guido Monte and Vita Fabbro, and a letter from the Bureau of Public Secrets on Guy Debord.
"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your common sense."
On our Mind
See Sharp Press
World Without Borders
Dark Mountain Project
* * * * *
Don't believe everything you think!
Pattern Which Connect
The Gall Of Vladimir Putin
The American ex-secretary of state Condoleeza Rice's impassioned complaints over Russia's invasion of Georgia and Ukraine truly pull at the heartstrings. However, in her obvious haste to meet print deadlines, Condi apparently forgot to explain how Russia's interference in the affairs of its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine is much different from America's full-scale invasions of defenseless third-world countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. She also forgot to mention the $5 billion in covert funding to destabilize Ukraine and fund neo-Nazi extremists in Ukraine, which Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland discussed in a recorded telephone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine. More...
Steven Hohensee is a retired businessman who lives in Easton, Kansas.
Here We Go Again
You have to take pause and ask yourself, "Why?" and "Really?" when the benevolent United States rushes to the defense of a country on the basis of defending democracy, sends its secretary of state to meet with said country's new leaders to offer moral and financial support, and quickly convenes Congress to find some sort of sanctions to impose on the alleged threat to that budding democracy. Of course, all options are always on the table, including the military one. In the meantime, the mainstream media fails to ask "Why?" or "Really?" and actually investigate the US response; instead, it invariable supplies the People with all the propaganda required to demonize those that the government wishes to suppress, overthrow, destabilize, assassinate, move in on...in the real name of whatever self-interest, be it oil or global domination. More...
Jan Baughman is a clinical researcher and Swans' co-editor.
Crimea With Ockham's Razor
President Obama termed the Crimean situation and the Russian reaction a "breach of international law." His secretary of state, John Kerry, talked about a "brazen act of aggression." Of course, if they are referring to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, they may well be correct though the treaty was widely ignored by NATO in its war against Yugoslavia. No one seems to ask what is it for Russia to annex Crimea, but more tug-of-war and saber-rattling with the West. More...
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
"Justice" Usually Is As Power Demands
Let's play a little game. It's easy. It's called "Guess the Country."
Clue #1. This country is usually billed as a "democracy." In fact, many claim it is the greatest "democracy" in the world's history.
Clue #2. This supposed "democracy" has interesting applications of "justice." Consider the following examples and then try to choose who got actual jail time: More...
Glenn Reed is a long-time activist and author from Fair Haven, Vermont.
An Education Fit For The Elite (Part I of II)
There is no doubt that the current British education system is unfit for sustaining, let alone extending, democracy; on the other hand it is certainly fit for the maintenance of capitalism and reproducing systemic educative inequality. But this is not to say that (historically-speaking) significant gains have not been made in extending a free education to all. It is just that those not insignificant gains that have been successfully clawed back from us by the ruling class are now in the process of being undone, all in the name of the free market. More...
Michael Barker is an independent researcher who lives in London, England.
Arts & Culture
Islamic Extremism And The Merchant Of Venice
As Shylock leaves home to agree his fateful loan to the merchant Antonio, he hears that a bunch of revellers will be charging past his house that night, and warns his daughter Jessica not:
To gaze on Christian fools with varnished faces;
But the curious thing is that Shylock's home should be well away from such wild partying, since in 1515, eighty years before Shakespeare wrote The Merchant Of Venice, the city state had ordered that all Jewish people had to be removed "e corpore civitas" ("from the body of the city") and made to live on an island that had formerly been an iron foundry (a geto), where they must return each day before nightfall. More...
Cathy Rosario is a playwright who is taking a practice-based PhD in theatre at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Writing It Right In All Weather
I wanted to tell you how Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii. But Elmore Leonard said never to begin a story with the weather.
Then suddenly he added a twist.
"Avoid prologues" he said, confusingly.
My confusion was wrongheaded. Stephen King said never to use an adverb after "he said." And Elmore Leonard did not speak suddenly, but abruptly. "Suddenly," he said never ever to use. To use it was like writing "all hell broke loose." That happened too often, apparently. More...
Peter Byrne is an American-born teacher and writer who lives in Lecce, Italy.
Hungry Man, Reach For The Book
Harlem On His Mind: The Life and Work of Carl Van Vechten
American culture, perhaps more than any other, is populated by dazzling personalities that, for a brief time, dominate the scene, shape the conversation, and then are largely forgotten. In a society preoccupied with the new and the offbeat, neglect and oblivion seem to be the price one pays for fame and success. Carl Van Vechten illustrates that phenomenon as well if not better than any other twentieth-century figure. More...
Jonah Raskin is a professor emeritus in communication studies at Sonoma State University, California.
The World of Music
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: His Humane and Transcendental Brilliance - Part I
As I bring myself to write this in early February, I casually glance out of the cafe, sipping my coffee, and see this leaden pall descending on the day. Shadowless cars float listlessly behind each other, taking their occupants to their banal pursuits -- influencing my mood for that hallucinogenic, yet agitative Piano sonata No. 8 in A-minor (K310). Writing about Mozart is a melancholic endeavor. The story of irony itself: Short-lived flame begetting blinding immortality -- Shakespearean pathos. If art is a byproduct of living, then nobody has lived more intensely or passionately than him. And if one had even the thinnest residue of passion, it would not be difficult to comprehend the resolute probity of Mozart, in sustaining the integrity of his art. It is his naiveté and innocence that gifted us this wondrous purity -- and, where else can we find that purity, other than in children? More...
Raju Peddada is an industrial designer who lives in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Dust and breath
Guido Monte teaches Italian and Latin literature in Palermo, Italy. Vita Fabbro is an Italian writer who lives in Belfast.
Letters to the Editor
News from the Bureau of Public Secrets on Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle. More...
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