'One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star'- Nietzsche
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Monthly Archives: July 2019

By John Kendall Hawkins

Australia’s the kind of place where, after twenty years here, you can wake up one morning to a sucker-punch epiphany — wow! This is what it would be like if the South had won the Civil War. No slavery, but a mindset, sometimes an arrogance that comes at you like Dylan’s twisty freight train. Not a place to feel like an outsider. It can seem a bit surreal, a place where, from coast to coast, they can force their children to read To Kill A Mockingbird in the day to educate them on the banality of injustice, but then bring them along to the lynching of an Uppity that night. These are dangerous, Sam Kinison-like thoughts, and as Bobby would say, “If my thought-dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.” So I cool it.

On the other hand, by comparison to America, Australia has a model social safety net in place.  Bernie Sanders would be envious. Socialist Democratic values work. You can provide backbone support for public needs, and still leave plenty of elbowing room for capitalism and getting obscenely rich.  They have Medicare-for-all here; while the system needs tweaks, nobody goes without necessary medical care; just make an appointment. Tertiary education can be paid for through generous government loans paid back through a sensible income-indexed scheme. (Once upon a time, tertiary education here was free.) And there is government assistance with income and housing for those in need.

It’s a self-described “clever” and “lucky” country, but also, like many other countries, full of strange and sometimes dark contradictions. Waltzing Matilda laid back, but Sam Kinison in your face, too.

Julian Assange is from this place. He spent part of his early childhood on Magnetic Island, off the coast of Queensland. One account describes his “wild…Tom Sawyer-like” childhood. And there is even a Jumping Frog of Calaveras County atmosphere to the place that Mark Twain would have smiled at. Later, he moved to the mainland and had a sturm-und-drang childhood, featuring the misfit blues and loneliness, but also self-education and computers — just as the Internet was mainstreaming. Then Dennis the Menace grew up to become an Enema of the State.

He’s a kind of Libertarian (and libertine) who wants limited corporate and governmental influence on individual lives; he loathes all the strutting, data-driven Machiavells, and champions the dying light of simple privacy, even if it must be decked out in the chainmail of be-knighted encryption. He seems to repel both Democrats and Republicans these days — leaks and hacks, hacks and leaks: the Democrats hate him for undermining Hillary; Trump seems to hate Assange for helping him get elected and seems in a hurry to get him imprisoned for espionage before Wikileaks can release the president’s tax records.

It can seem shocking at times — the mind double-takes — to think that this guy came from a nation that doesn’t especially value the freedoms he pushes on the rest of the world.  Unlike most modern democratic countries, there is no Bill of Rights, or the like, to fall back on in Australia if the government decides to “crack down” on freedom. Aussies largely see themselves as “egalitarian,” and the aforementioned solid social safety net is a great quietener of political passions, but the American-driven War on Terror has begun to expose just how few protections people have here, should that ever matter to them.

Thus, a few years back, Australia passed an anti-terrorist measure in parliament, which, while providing for the necessary means to deal with incidents, used language that left open the possibility that the law could lead to serious abuses, such as torture and the undermining of the preumption of innocence. More recently, anti-encryption legislation was passed that has alarmed some citizens, who see it as an assault on privacy and journalism. And even more recently, a legislative amendment to the espionage act made trafficking in top secret information illegal — a virtual shutting down of whistleblowing in Australia.

As Senator David Leyonhjelm, expressed in a Melbourne Age article recently, “These provisions are shameful. As a nation we should be better than this. Australia is engaged in a fight against barbarism, but that does not justify becoming barbarians ourselves.” As in most places, many Australians would just see the sum of such legislation as a matter of having a contingency plan in place to prevent horrific terrorist events from happening and for dealing with them efficiently if they do. However, there are some troubling signs of suppression already at work.

Recently, the Sydney offices of the national ABC network were raided by Australian Federal Police and a huge trove of data was seized, including leaked documents, images and videos, knowns as The Afghan Files, purporting to contain evidence of the murders of civilians and their cover-up. The ABC had produced and aired a seven-part story in 2017.  Two years later: No story in the future — or the past — is safe from prosecution, it seems.  The ABC believes the public interest is established; the exposed events being a revelation of military war criminality gone uninvestigated. When asked for a response, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison was “dismissive.”

In a separate incident, an ABC journalist’s home in Canberra was raided in an effort to secure sensitive documents obtained by reporter Annika Smethurst which she used in a 2018 story to show Australian Signal Directorate plans to enhance its domestic spying capacity.  News, because, like the CIA in America, they’re not empowered to spy domestically. So, again, it’s definitely news of public interest. The government just wants to know who leaked the story.

The besieged and shrinking media in Australia has been intimidated by legal constraints for years — even away from national security issues.  For instance, back in 2014 the Israelis bombed Gaza in a much-publicized incident that brought international outrage. Israelis were captured by photographers at a Sderot hillside watching the carnage and “treating the bombing as a spectator sport.”  A Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist, drawing information from various photos, depicted the scene in such a way that Jewish defamation groups attacked the cartoon as “anti-semitic” because the cartoonist used religious symbols (star of David, kippah), as well as showing an Israeli holding a TV remote control, as if viewing a Netflix streaming movie. Cowed editors pulled the cartoon, despite the political accuracy of its depiction. (Still at it. Just saying.)

Australian politicians are on record as regarding Julian Assange as a criminal; one former attorney-general even went so far as to suggest cancelling his passport and charging him with treason, and, if convicted, of imprisoning him for life.  Under present laws, even possession of the brief that suggested he be charged with treason could be criminalized and a journalist reporting on it charged. In this political milieu it is amazing that Julian Assange ever grew up to be a defender of freedom — the press, individual public rights, human privacy. Amazing. Probably it helped enormously that he just didn’t fit in.

Julian Assange, like most journalists, just wants to keep the Bastards honest. It’s the job of the Fourth Estate.  Like it says over the masthead of the Washington Post, (maybe ironically) “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” We need to know about atrocities committed overseas in our name (see flag). We need to know when elected representatives who promised the moon landing to put them in office are lying ot hiding facts that would interest the people who them there. And we need to know when they are “cracking down” on freedom in Australia every bit as much as when they are “cracking down” down on freedom of expression in Tiananmen Square.

In September, Scott Morrison will become the first Australian Prime Minister to visit the White House since John Howard.  (Howard, no fan of a Bill of Rights at home, once demanded that the Iraqis include such a Bill in their own constitution. That’s kind of the way it is here.)  Who knows what Scott and Donald will talk about. But one likely subject is immigration policy. Morrison, the architect of Australia’s current No Boat People Will Ever Become Citizens Here policy, can talk Trump through how to make Guatemala his own Manus Island, complete with compounds overflowing with toilet shit  – you know, so they get the message.  











“But all the same,” insisted the Savage, “it is natural to believe in God when you’re alone—quite alone, in the night, thinking about death…”

“But people never are alone now,” said Mustapha Mond. “We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it’s almost impossible for them ever to have it.”  Brave New World (17.31-3)

There’ll come a time when you’ve gone too far with your thinking.  You’ve crossed the Imaginot line. Which is to say, à la Descartes, that you’ve gone too far with your being.  Cogito ergo sum.  A knock comes on your door.  You open to find an agent of information (AI) say, “We have so much information on you. Please, follow me.  We need to blow out your candles. Have your cake and eat it too. A long convalescence. Some adjustments and renewal.” They’re not asking and God help anyone who tries to stop them.

Amazon, Google, Facebook.  Recorded Future, predictions of what you’ll do. MyActvity, the copious details of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and implicitly what you’ve thought.. Algorithms up the yinyang. Fused databases, a life’s postings of “thoughts”.  Cogitos you cannot defend. Offenses “Made” on the run, arbitrary, charges bespoken, tailored to your presumed needs. You’ve always been a criminal — like, say, Trevor Noah — but never knew until the fascists came to collect you. To blow your mind to kingdom come. And reset to factory default.

As in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, it’ll be the Savages who want to be left alone, off the grid, who appreciate the value of privacy, who will be targeted, breaking as they do from the conditioning required by late metastatic Techno-Capitalism breaking real bad.  In an information age your cogito is the final frontier for economic growth, your thoughts mere commodities. Settled into Soma, you’ll soon be swimming with the endolphins and feeling new porpoise, but the reality is that the sharks are swimming all around you in algorithmic circles.  Only a savage would want to be free.

In a 1958 interview with Mike Wallace, Huxley discusses his new book Enemies of Freedom and the myriad ways growing technology can be used to influence mass thinking, and suggests ways that a candidate could be pushed by subliminal forces to elect a person that reasoned consideration would otherwise have rejected.  One thinks of Trump, the pushing of emotional buttons, the swarming action, the slogans, rallies, and Triumph of the Buffoon’s Will. 

One also thinks of the frenzied Joseph Kony campaign, the sudden swarming by millions of largely white, clueless suburban teenagers invited to join an intervention to capture an evil, but obscure African warlord in a staggering display of militarized political correctness. Lots of money raised. Congress, which can do nothing about gun control, immediately mobilized to pass a bill to allow American soldiers to foot-down in Uganda, where oil, by coincidence, is in great supply. Nobody’s looking for Kony today; nobody any longer cares. Kony is said to be alive and still kickin’ in Central Congo.

The Trump and Kony campaigns highlight how the Internet can be used and abused by nefarious forces to create flash floods of chaos online and in the ‘hood.  It’s exactly the kind of desecration and trashing that has put the father of the Web, Tim Berners Lee, into teary despair. It’ll get worse: we know now the US military regards the Internet as a battlefield, needing constant reconnaissance, and a look-out for spies.  We’ve come to see that ordinary citizens can be mobilized in an instant by government agents, some of whom may not have democracy’s best interest in mind.

We’ve gone way beyond just needing to Keep the Bastards Honest.  As we’ve been reminded often enough, ex-general Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his final presidential address, warned explicitly about the threat to democracy by the secretive powers and influences of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). Only a well-informed democratic populace is capable of keeping the bastards honest. That’s the job of the Fourth Estate. Today, through mergers and shutdowns, there are fewer and fewer newspapers, and only three global mainstream newspapers of record:  The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Guardian. But they aren’t trustworthy.  

The NYT once quashed a crucial story by its prize-winning staff journalist James Risen about the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying on American citizens — a story that might have derailed Bush’s re-election a couple of weeks later. The NYT claimed that they didn’t want to influence the election; but not running the story did just that.  The Washington Post has, primarily through owner Jeff Bezo’s work with the CIA, been undermined; and they have worked to defame legitimate alternative news sources, such as Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report. The Guardian, while famous for helping to report on Edward Snowden’s leaks and a one-time partner with Julian Assange, has curiously withdrawn a vigor of reportage on national security issues and seemingly gone to war with Assange.

It seems like Julian Assange has been at war with the MIC forever.  At least, that’s how he’s been depicted. He’s always known the Bastards couldn’t be kept honest by simple, ordinary mainstream means — not when they’ve turned into paper tigers and no longer practice adversarial journalism (their approach to Trump being the exception — and instructive).  He also seems to appreciate the Abbie Hoffman yippie credo: Revolution — for the Hell of It. And he understands that the Cogito is facing extinction, threatened like never before by the forces of conditioning that will only deepen as we approach the Singularity. He’s even written an extremely thoughtful book about cryptography, how it will be required to protect privacy in the future.

In his 2012 Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, which he calls a “warning” rather than a “manifesto, Assange writes, “The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen…within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.” Hacker, certified, ethical or otherwise, Assange has demonstrated he is a kind of hero for the new dark digital age.  And he’s provided tools to fight back to a new generation of ethicists.

Rewatching “Collateral Damage,” the  Wikileaks video from 2010 that shows an American Apache gunship firing on unsuspecting Iraqi civilians, one is awed not only by the brazen cold-blooded murder depicted but also what the incident encapsulated:  The war on journalism; the disgusting impunity the War on Terror has engendered; the secrecy and lack of accountabilty; and the sheer pleasure in the double-tap murder exhibited that goes against all the boastful bullshit of democratic America’s exceptionalist imperialism. 

Well, Assange may end up a martyr for the freedom we all threw away, cogs instead of cogitos, locked away in America after an Espionage Act conviction in a max security prison, in the hole, his privacy ‘privileges’ taken away, hosed down constantly by the surveillance camera hanging from the ceiling.  It’ll be interesting to see if the MSM comes to his emotional rescue when he goes on trial, criminally charged with the adversarial journalism they’ve so often neglected in the name of protecting what used to be called the bourgeoisie.

For now, they treat him like he’s all wrapped up like a douche in the night, comparing the wicked leaks of his condom one night to his wikileaks, the idea being in each case that he’s careless with the information he disseminates, and leaves behind questions as to whether his hacking was ethical or not.   While the ‘vast conspiracy’ of right wing sexual hypocrites continue to press for his annihilation, Assanges and his work endures.  Keeping these secrets, our thoughts — this is the last frontier.  “If we do not [redefine force relations], the universality of the internet will merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.” 

In January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson presented his 14-Points to Congress, a statement of principles that became the basis for a negotiated settlement that ended World War I, including the break-up of the defeated Ottoman Empire.  The speech was also meant to provide a framework for preserving world peace — an idealistic sentiment later given false teeth by the establishment of the League of Nations in 1920. Point 12 says that “the other nationalities [including Kurds] which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development….”  But this didn’t happen: the Turks, under Kemal Ataturk, balked at Kurdish sovereignty, and war-victorious Britain laughed at the homeland promised to the Kurds. 

Today, the Kurdish diaspora is mostly spread out over four regions in the Middle East — Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. They have been, at best, a tolerated presence, almost in a constant state of battle in their pursuit of a permanent homeland.  They have been used and abused for decades by the Brits and Americans — British Petroleum discovered lots of oil in the Kirkuk region in the 1920s, making the Kurdish-held province subject to seizure by Iraqis ever since. The Americans have let them down repeatedly since President Wilson’s pronouncement, including Herr Doktor Kissinger’s realpolitik double-cross of the Kurds  in 1975, after they’d gone up against the Ba’athist regime at America’s behest.  “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work,” said the Nobel Peace  laureate.

The Kurds have been around since the time of Saladin, Muslims and Jews pushing back against Crusaders in a holy war of the Abrahamics, one Semite beating the snot out of another, that stretches back in time to happy Ozymandias (see Hubris).  The family jewels were purloined from the Holy Land long ago by Europeans (Turin, Glastonbury, Paris) and there’d be no reason for Euros to have trashed the cradle of civilization again, had it not been for a new hole-y war — the discovery of oil, with all its cachet. And here we are today. George W. Bush, an oil man, called the hellish activity in the modern Middle East a “crusade…against Terrorism,” but you get the feeling his terror is all about control of the region’s oil.

Meanwhile, the Kurds are still looking for a Kurdistan that they can call Home; still in-fighting — these days against ISIS, in a poignant and seemingly hopeless narrative of constant survival.  Turmoil in the region has resulted in massive displacement and a global refugee crisis. As the late Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani asks out loud near the end of his life, “Have the Kurdish people committed such crimes that every nation in the world should be against them?” But no one seems to be listening.

Probably the most controversial narrative about one Kurd’s plight and consequent flight to freedom and stability is Behrouz Boochani’s asylum-seeking odyssey No Friend But the Mountains. In it, the 36 year old from Ilam, a Kurdish city in the mountainous northwest of Iran, details his narrow escape from Iranian religious authorities looking to arrest him for the ‘subversive’ journalism of Werya, a Kurdish cultural magazine he edits. He flees toward Australia, seeking asylum, where he hopes to find a stable life in a culture that ostensibly protects freedom, especially the fundamental freedom of expression.

Early in his award-winning memoir, Boochani wonders whether instead of heading toward Australia for personal freedom he should instead have fled to the mountains to be with his brothers-in-arms defending his people.  He decides that there are different ways of being a resistance-fighter and that his weapon of choice is the pen rather than a gun. “To this very day,” he writes, “I don’t know if I have a peace-loving spirit or if I was just frightened…maybe my cowardice … redirected my thoughts to privileging the power of the pen, compelled me to pursue cultural expression as resistance.”

The problem is that for years refugees and asylum-seekers would  make their way to Indonesia and then seek out traffickers who would help sneak them into Australia by boat, where they hoped to find protection from the life-threatening abuses they left behind.  Unfortunately, these ‘boat people’ were often delivered in shabby vessels that sometimes fell apart at the seams, resulting in horrific deaths at sea. 

In addition, from a bureaucratic point of view, these asylum-seekers were thought of a “queue-jumpers,” forcing their situation on Australian authorities busy processing the migration requests of people ‘standing in line.’  Neither the queue-jumping nor the drownings were considered acceptable, and after much political hand-wringing, the conservative Australia government came up with a poorly-named “Final Solution”: No More Asylum Boats.

Behrouz Boochani arrived in Australian waters from Indonesia just a few days after a new law went into effect that permanently excluded anyone seeking asylum who had arrived by boat.  One problem solved, a new one opened: what to do with asylum-seekers who had arrived after the law went into effect on October 31, 2013? 

Now without the desire to return to their countries of origin and without hope of settling in Australia, the seekers were sent to detention centers in Nauru (families)  and to Manus (single males), an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. There is no plan beyond that. Boochani, and hundreds of others, have been languishing on these islands, waiting to be processed as refugees and for third countries to offer asylum.  Boochani has been waiting six years.

No Friend But the Mountains details the harrowing experience of leaps of desperation and the tyranny of time, observes the processes of unwarranted confinement keenly, explores the catastrophe of dumping a first world migration policy into a third world colony’s lap.  The risks asylum-seekers take are extraordinary. Boochani, a poet as well as a journalist, describes the terror of the boat ride from Indonesia to Australia: 

The ruckus of our terrified group  

The sound of weeping in the background

The beating of waves

The petrified, silent screaming

The tormented wailing

Waves rocking a cradle containing a corpse

Hour after hour of adrenaline waves and the fear of imminent drowning.

Boochani observes his environs with a certain poetical style; he’s tuned in to the sensual and the sensory.  Stuck in the Manus Island detention center, pacing, without hope, under a sun so hot it feels like he’s being “cremated.”  Multi-cultural refugees crossing paths in their pacings; united facilely by their common plight, but ultimately divided by language, religion, and tribe; assigned numbers to make it easier for the staff to avoid remembering their names. Boochani nicknames everyone he sees: The Blue Eyed Boy, The Toothless Fool, The Young Guy With A Ponytail, The Irascible Iranian, The Cadaver, Maysam The Whore, The Gentle Giant, etc. Afghan, Sri Lankan, Sudanese, Lebanese, Iranian, Somali, Pakistani, Rohingya, Iraqi, Kurdish.

Even the generator has a nickname — The Oldman Generator — and seems to be possessed by a malignant spirit, “a living being, with a soul, an organism that takes pleasure in throwing the prison into disarray whenever it feels like it.”  The most meagre comfort depends on its operation — the water pump for flushing toilets. When it fails, and it does regularly, the consequences are immediate. “Within a few minutes,” he writes, “the toilets cease to function and the smell of shit and piss sweeps, the whole space from end-to-end.”  The stench grows, the floor floods. The heat saps and drives them toward insanity. 

Being on Manus Island means dealing with the locals, who provide much of the low-level maintenance and serve as guards.  They don’t want the asylum-seekers in their community. They are resentful at having no say in details worked out by PNG and Australian citizens miles and miles away. “The imprisoned refugees feel that they are in a nightmare; their feelings about the locals are transformed into a nightmare,” Boochani thinks.  Colonized, the locals have an odd presence, tribal instincts married to a rustic Australian humor gone feral, almost phantasmagorical. 

According to Human Rights Watch,“[G]roups of local young men, often intoxicated and sometimes armed with sticks, rocks, knives, or screwdrivers, have frequently assaulted and robbed refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. 

Details of riot and closing.” The tension mounted until a group of about 80 locals broke into the refugee compound and attacked the detainees on February 17, 2014 and Reza Barati, The Gentle Giant, was murdered by locals. 

No Friend But the Mountains is in a sense a conjuring up of the evil of banality, the extraordinary dreariness of inescapable routine, of progress into some future not marked by time but by mythopoesis, a mental journey that, as you pace in the sun, or lay back looking up from your bunk in the night, dissolves your connectedness not to reality but the presumptions you once lived by, every moment of uncertainty a brand new paradigm.  Doing laundry, flip-flopping through slip-slop, lining up for chow, observing the inward-looking others pacing, orbiting the yard. 

As he watches his fellows drift toward depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation, Boochani muses, “These forced conditions of loneliness make everyone endure scenes of an internal odyssey that would ruin any man. The odyssey summons dark angels and secrets relegated to the unconscious; like a magical curse it positions before every prisoner’s eyes the most long-standing issues and bad blood tied up in the soul.” Hopelessness married to time begets torture.

Eventually, after being told by authorities over and over that they will never be allowed into Australia, the Papua New Guinea supreme court declares the detention center “illegal” and it is closed down on October 31, 2017.  Detainees must now leave the compound. More tension erupts, as feeling unsafe in the community, some asylum-seekers refuse to leave, leading to violence during forced removals to ne, semi-open encampments elsewhere on Manus, run by Paladin, a controversial contractor, providing essential services and security to the asylum-seekers.

No Friend But the Mountains represents a new kind of intersection of social apps, poetry, academic analysis, philosophy, as well as memoir.  It has been celebrated as a new form of crucial journalism — WhatsApp messages developed into a book of observations in detention.  This novelty seems to have sparked enthusiasm for championing the book that followed. Boochani has won a series of Australia’s richest literary prizes for his memoirs and has been hailed as “one of Australia’s finest writers,” despite not being allowed to enter Australia. A separate documentary, using the same mobile phone, has been released. An animated glimpse into his adventure is available.

But perhaps the wildest development out of the memoir (and other accounts) is a play titled Manus written by Iranian writer Nazanin Sahamizadeh.  It premiered in, of all places, Tehran. Iranian theatre-goers were treated to a play showing  “the inhumane conditions and human rights violations in the Manus camp.” 

John Donne once wrote that no man is an island, but what did he know?  His bells were always tolling over something. Ask Boochani — he sees himself as “an island in an archipelago,”  most days entire unto himself. It must seem strange, for a man coming from a stateless culture, to be left stateless by another culture trying to make a statement; taking up his pen not against the enemies of Kurdistan but of freedom.

Sometimes the ironies, contradictions and absurdities mount so high to fuel the pyre that honors our postmodern relativism — oh, the vanity of bonfires! — that one wonders what must go through the minds of aliens looking down as they watch the spontaneous combustion of a species. What blue ship in the starry night is this that is all “mutiny from stern to bow” from dawn to dusk every walking-plank day? Sometimes the humanistic Captain Kirk seems in charge, like an acid trip redux, but if you blink you see instead Queeg razing Caine over strawberries, or, most often, the militaristic Ahab, who doesn’t have a leg to stand on whenever he tries to explain his rabbit-hole obsession with the white Russian whale. What must they think?

I was watching the 1965 film Ship of Fools the other day. The cautionary film was based upon the novel by Katherine Anne Porter, who was inspired by the satirical medieval classic by Sebastian Brant, who, in turn, derived his notions of neurotic oceans from Plato’s reference in the Republic. The trope has found its way into song (The Doors), as well as painting (see Bosch) and even modern sculpture. In the film, the fascistic rise of Nazi Germany is pre-figured on a luxury liner cruising off Mexico in 1933. Sardined migrant workers languish in the hold, while, above them, First Class passengers (mostly Germans) luxuriate and squabble over the politics of class, gender, and pre-Krisstalnacht anti-semitism. The malignant leather cancer metastasizes before your eyes.

The signs are always there, it will always seem, in retrospect. Russian meddling in American elections. You double-take as you hear President Obama admonish the Russians, shortly after the 2016 presidential election, “We can do stuff to you.” I’m old enough to remember that such ‘stuff’ has been going on for awhile. In 1996, Americans crowed about having meddled in the Russian presidential election. Well, you could argue that they can do stuff too.

Let’s recount. Reagan told Gorbachev to “tear down that wall” in Berlin. He did, along with the Iron Curtain. The neoliberals rushed in like RawdyYates in Rawhide with their bling and sto ho ethos. The oligarchs took over in Russia. Clinton installed the dancing circus bear Boris Yeltsin and laughed so hard at the president’s buffoonery that it looked for awhile like America would be friends-for-life with the Russkies. Maybe they could do stuff together.

But not every Russian citizen liked being represented on the world stage by a drunken lout. So maybe the Russians did stuff back: Maybe they did meddle. They larfed their asses off when Edward Snowden became the most famous American defector since Lee Harvey Oswald. And now we have our own humiliating buffoon calling the shots, while the Russkies tumble over themselves laughing, as Trump cries, ‘Put up that wall! Or iron curtain, or whatever you wanna call it. Doesn’t matter.’ Thus Spake Saint Gropian, patron saint of coarse and vulgar people. Well, Putin came after Yeltsin. KGB. Who will come after Trump’s second term (wink)? Won’t be Biden, Bernie or Pocohantas. They’ll all be too old. Maybe even dead, if they’re lucky. Maybe a disciplinarian’s on-deck.

Americans don’t need the Russians; we’re not above rocking our own ship of state with meddled elections. You don’t hear about it much or in context. Nixon did McGovern in (1972). Reagan boinked Carter (1980). And Bush whacked Gore (2000). In all three instances, potential treason is in play. In Gore’s case, not only did his loss open up the still-suppurating ugliness of race politics in America, but we may have lost our best chance at climate change leadership, here and abroad. Instead, we got 9 Eleven™. Now it’s too late, as the prophet-driven Bob Marley put it, because “Nobody can stop them now.”

Well, as Bobby Dylan would say, people’ve been drawing conclusions on the wall for quite awhile now, the signs have been there for the seeing. I’ve counted at least seven signs. Odd shit happening. The Pentagon, after decades of denial, suddenly announcing they’ve been chasing UFOs and providing evidence. People developing the Truman Show syndrome, thinking “that their lives are staged reality shows, or that they are being watched on cameras.” Verbs trying to take down nouns. Dinosaurs having the last laugh, as they release the comet energy that they absorbed onto us. DARPA talking ‘bout robo-bees replacing the dying honey-bees. The Pentagon talking Gay Bombs to drop on enemies, but pulling back at the last moment no doubt for fear of the potential blow-back, literally.

I’ve been saying for years that if the gargoyles are now in charge of the cathedrals — those colossi of pure beauty and holy terror worthy of any God’s love — then it’s time to tear the cathedrals down. Lo and behold, next thing I know, Notre Dame forest has gone poof! The firemen ate cake. The gilded crown of Christ was saved. No insurance. The 1% came to the rescue. Will it be known in the future as the MacDonalds Notre Dame Cathedral. Will we have to pray to the candy-colored clown christ of capitalism in the future? What was Quasimodo’s alibi that day anyway? Signs.

An enquiring mind wants to know how is it possible that a flat-earther like basketball star Kyrie Irving is allowed to dribble that round round ball so recklessly on that flat flat rectangular surface, repeatedly going off the edge of his world on lay-ups? Signs.

And then another sign. The controversy over a new app called DeepNude, described as an app that “Undresses a Photo of Any Woman With a Single Click.” Kind of like the Male Gaze fights back. Needless to say, in this #MeToo era, the app was pulled, pitchforks, torches, and calls to storm the Bastard were hailed. Actually, Ray Milland demoed the product in The Man with the Xray Eyes. But when they took away his glasses he went into a tailspin funk and ended up drinking himself half to death in The Lost Weekend.

Let’s face it: Ever since We fell from grace after eating an iApple from the Tree of Knowledge and were unceremoniously booted from Eden, God telling Adam, while pointing at the newly ribbed Eve, “take her with you and go fuck yourself. You’ll see.” After millennia of cultural and technological ‘evolution’ we arrive back, catastrophic methane bubbles popping out of the sea all around us, at the place we started from without knowing it, God taunting us, “So how did you like them apples?” Meaning everything from the be-bop bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey to the wormholes and the quantum and the mofo multiverses ahead. A self-made Adam carries a worn-out Eve across the threshold, from a living hell back to a Paradise frozen over. See ya.