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The Possibilities of “Political Fiction”

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“A response to Richard’s post at The Existence Machine:   

“Chomsky himself is not extolling the virtues of political fiction [in his remarks about literature giving great insight into the human condition]…. In fact, on several other occasions it has become clear that he keeps his reading of literature separate from his political reading.”

Quite true. However, I refer to Chomsky’s remarks about literature giving great insight into the human condition because, among other reasons, they are concise and powerful, in my view, in pointing to the great potential insight to be gained from fiction/literature. That’s surely reason enough to cite them when one wants to underline this capacity of fiction. I don’t cite them to “extoll the virtues of political fiction” but to point out the potential power of insight of literature. 

And although Chomsky has strongly cautioned about not mistaking fiction for fact, he has also noted that fiction/art has great powers to heighten people’s perceptions about the world around them and that it has a great influence on people in many ways. He has noted repeatedly the racist stereotypes coming out of the culture industry, Hollywood (and elsewhere), of Arabs and others, and how much damage this does. It surely follows that if racist art can have such a damaging influence, then progressive, even revolutionary art can have a liberating and otherwise constructive influence. Again, Chomsky has repeatedly pointed this out.

There’s nothing unusual about using fiction, poetry, cartoons, film, art generally to attempt to effect change, or to maintain the status quo. It’s done all the time, by the establishment, as well as by progressives, and others, and by the greatest of artists throughout history, for that matter. 

There’s nothing odd about denials of this either, since a lot of effort is expended trying to cover up or distort or ignore these basic facts. 

When you say Chomsky “keeps his reading of literature separate from his political reading” you may be thinking of the following comments of his:

“I’ve been always resistant consciously to allowing literature to influence my beliefs and attitudes with regard to society and history.” “There are things I resonate to when I read, but I have a feeling that my feelings and attitudes were largely formed prior to reading literature.” “Look, there’s no question that as a child, when I read about China, this influenced my attitudes–-Rickshaw Boy, for example. That had a powerful effect when I read it. It was so long ago I don’t remember a thing about it, except the impact. And I don’t doubt that, for me, personally, like anybody, lots of my perceptions were heightened and attitudes changed by literature over a broad range–Hebrew Literature, Russian literature, and so on. But ultimately, you have to face the world as it is on the basis of other sources of evidence that you can evaluate.” “If I want to understand the nature of China and its revolution, I ought to be cautious about literary renditions.” “Literature can heighten your imagination and insight and understanding, but it surely doesn’t provide the evidence that you need to draw conclusions and substantiate conclusions.” “I can think of things I read that had a powerful effect on me, but whether they changed my attitudes and understanding in any striking or crucial way, I can’t really say.” “People certainly differ, as they should, in what kinds of things make their minds work.” “I don’t really feel that I can draw any tight connections [personally].” 

Be “cautious,” he sensibly notes, about the social and historical impressions you get from fiction, because it’s necessary to turn to “evidence that you can evaluate,” facts not least. That’s why I so value heavily fact-based fiction, well researched.

Also, I’m no more writing for Chomsky than I am for Dan Green. Chomsky says he “can’t say” whether or not literature “changed my attitudes and understanding in any striking or crucial way,” but he also notes, “People certainly differ, as they should, in what kinds of things make their minds work.” I’m writing mainly for some of those people who differ in that way, not necessarily for Chomsky or Green, while trying to do the sort of work that Chomsky and others do in nonfiction, as I note. Fiction had a big impact on me in regard to public and private issues both, as it does on others. (After all, the “personal” – fiction’s strength – is composed of the “private” and the “public” both.)

Furthermore, Chomsky himself has tried to employ Swiftian satire to do his work. He wrote a Modest Proposal type satire before the US invasion of Iraq, in which he argued that Iran should be the state to invade Iraq because if the US invades, especially to democratize Iraq, as it claimed, then naturally the majority population in Iraq, the Shia, would want to ally with the Shia of Iran, which would be real democracy in action. So why not let Iran do the work? This is a basis for potentially great satire and it’s a very informative piece of writing. Unfortunately, totally unlike Swift’s Modest Proposal, Chomsky’s piece turns out to be a lousy piece of satire from an aesthetic viewpoint. Chomsky has acknowledged that he has no talent for such satire. But Swift’s masterpiece provides evidence that fictive satire can be informative, effective, and aesthetic (among numerous other such works of art even in the dominant media – e.g., see the best editorial cartoons). And Chomsky has asked, “Jonathan Swift, where are you now?” He has noted further:

“Caricature can be very well done. Swift is marvelous, for example. Animal Farm is pretty good, in my opinion…. Caricature is an art, and not an easy one. But when well done, a very important one. As for dealing with Orwell’s problem, I try to do it in the ways I know how to pursue; 1000s of pages by now. No doubt there are other ways, maybe better ways. But others will have to find what works for them.”

See the weblist of articles and excerpts at my political novel site for some articles on quality art that is politically engaged, accomplished, and effective (scroll down to Views by Art: Society and Politics) .

“Second, the remarks strike me as highly unlikely to persuade anyone. Certainly not Dan Green, whose position on the matter is clear.”

It should be obvious that I’m not trying to persuade Dan Green of my views anymore than two debaters try to persuade the other of their views, as opposed to some audience, in this case the public. I’m entering a public discussion about matters of some importance in a public arena, for the sake of explaining my views and understanding in public, to whatever public there might be. 

“…it strikes me more than a little odd that one would continue to cite Chomsky (or for that matter, Howard Zinn, as he has also) in this context. It amounts to little more than an appeal to authority, and it does not further the debate.

I’ve cited a variety of thinkers at Dan’s blog, let alone elsewhere, and I purposefully often cite figures like Zinn and Chomsky because they are widely known as progressive workers. This helps further understanding, in a concise or shorthand way, of what I mean by progressive art. So in this way, citing these figures especially when they speak of art is highly useful, and quite appropriate, for purposes of clarity and brevity not least. 

Here’s more of what Chomsky has to say about Orwell’s fiction and the importance of culturally critical novels (with some key passages that I put in bold):

“About Orwell’s 1984, I thought, frankly, it was one of his worst books. Could barely finish it. Some parts (e.g., about Newspeak) were clever. But most of it seemed to me–well, trivial. The problem is not a very interesting one; the modes of thought control and repression in totalitarian societies are fairly transparent. In fact, they often tend to be rather lax. Franco Spain, for example, didn’t care much what people thought and said: the screams from the torture chamber in downtown Madrid were enough to keep the lid on. It’s not too well known, but the Soviet Union was also pretty lax, particularly in the Brezhnev era. According to US government-Russian Research Center studies, Russians apparently had considerably wider access to a broad range of opinion and to dissident literature than Americans do, not because it is denied them but because propaganda is so much more effective here. Orwell was well aware of these issues. His (suppressed) introduction to Animal Farm, for example, deals explicitly with ‘literary censorship in England.’ To write [in a novel…] about that topic would have been important, hard, and serious–and would have earned him the obloquy that attends departure from the rules….

“If Orwell, instead of writing 1984–which was actually, in my opinion, his worst book, a kind of trivial caricature of the most totalitarian society in the world, which made him famous and everybody loved him, because it was the official enemy–if instead of doing that easy and relatively unimportant thing, he had done the hard and important thing, namely talk about Orwell’s Problem* [as pertains to England and western states], he would not have been famous and honored: he would have been hated and reviled and marginalized.

“Caricature can be very well done. Swift is marvelous, for example. Animal Farm is pretty good, in my opinion. But 1984 I thought was a serious decline from his best work. Caricature is an art, and not an easy one. But when well done, a very important one. As for dealing with Orwell’s problem, I try to do it in the ways I know how to pursue; 1000s of pages by now. No doubt there are other ways, maybe better ways. But others will have to find what works for them.”

 

Furthermore, you might see my ZNet essay Orwell’s Problem and Partisan Fiction for further elaboration. Also you might see my other ZNet essays, Progressive Political Fiction and A Few Notes on the Literary Establishment and additionally my other essays on the topic here. The essays would help show how you’ve misinterpreted and/or misunderstood my various blog comments.

“I should reiterate that I agree that the aesthetic experience of art is what is of foremost importance, by far.”

That’s fine if that is your preference, but it’s certainly not everybody’s, especially not in every case, every situation, all the time. Far from it. Many church services are works of art, intentionally and elaborately constructed, yet what is of “foremost importance” to the designers and other participants is usually not the “aesthetic experience.” This is commonly understood.

In a different vein, Kenneth Burke for one (along with many others) has done some interesting work on how tightly intertwined are aesthetic and moral qualities, which might make you reconsider your qualifier “by far” at least. See in particular Burke’s brilliant and important book, The Philosophy of Literary Form, excerpted at my sites and in some essays.

“I agree that attempts by artists to intentionally send political messages with their art most often fail to succeed as art.”

It could just as easily be said that attempts at art with no intentional political “messages” by artists more often fail to succeed as art, and that they fail more often than intentionally political attempts because the artists are not fully aware of the political messages their work inevitably sends.

Or, what your statement might indicate is an indirect acknowledgement that intentionally political art is more difficult than other sorts of art, maybe simply because more is intended, more is attempted, there is more to deal with. If so, it’s an imbalanced playing field for evaluation. It could also be an indication that successful intentionally political art is a greater — because more complex, at least — accomplishment than non-intentionally political art, or so-called apolitical art. 

“I wouldn’t try to convince someone, Dan Green in particular, by quoting vague remarks from Noam Chomsky.” 

Again, neither would I, nor do I. Chomsky’s remarks that I quote are brief, not vague.

“I think that when a writer’s primary goal for creating a work of fiction is to “debunk harmful propaganda and taboos” and “help energize, motivate, and inspire” then that work of fiction is highly unlikely to succeed as art.”

Again, of course you give no evidence for this, because it’s scarcely possible. Or even likely, as I suggest above. Quality editorial cartoons and plenty of quality films and corporate-broadcast songs, etc, that take care not to upset too many apple carts are clear indications that the social and political intentions and effects of art can be quite carefully crafted and controlled, as they are on a regular basis.

“(Note, also, that here again Chomsky is anyway not talking about fiction himself.)”

Nor do I remotely claim or imply that he is. Clearly and explicitly, on the main page of my Imaginative Literature and Social Change site I explain that what I work at via fiction is similar to what Chomsky and others work at via nonfiction. My site reads: “In its own way, fiction can accomplish something similar to what Noam Chomsky and many other progressive workers try to accomplish through nonfiction: the creation of works that clarify and better the world socially, politically, culturally….”

“Unfortunately, it appears that Tony Christini does subscribe to Dan Green’s definition of political fiction, as demonstrated, for example, in his same comment to Dan’s clarifying December post (where, again, the words of an authority [Michael Hanne] are provided):[…]“

Richard, I appreciate your patient analysis of my thoughts (unfortunately only drawn from blog comments apparently), but this remark is especially bizarre, I’m afraid. I don’t “subscribe to Dan Green’s definition of political fiction,” or any definition of political fiction, whatsoever. Such a concept is impossible to define because in certain ways everything and anything is political. See, for example, my response to the first question of this interview with Mickey Z.

Also, what is the problem, again, with referring to the research and thoughts of knowledgeable and relevant figures?

“…this passage does nothing to further the argument that fiction can be both politically motivated and literary.”

Not only fiction but many types of art are both “politically motivated and literary.” Not least a lot of art that is designed and crafted to reinforce the status quo, whether unconsciously or consciously motivated.

Also, if you’re serious about critiquing my views of political fiction, then it’s appropriate to critique the formal essays I’ve written on the subject, rather than turning to brief blog comments and quick excerpted references to the work of others that, in any event, you are taking far out of context. My book of criticism, The Novel and the Public, will be out later this year. In the meantime, a number of my formal critical articles and chapters are available here.

“I don’t think Tony’s comments, in the vein quoted above, further the discussion either, or indicate that he’s been paying attention to what Dan and others say.”

On the contrary, as I’ve again demonstrated above, I’ve dissected what Dan and others say in detail, even on the blogs, and more so in my formal articles and essays.

“It would be more interesting to read an actual demonstration of the political elements of a novel enhancing its aesthetics or not hindering them.”

I’ve done this in extensive detail in my formal writing. Again, I refer you to what’s available online and to my forthcoming book of criticism. Also, for such theory/analysis underlying potential critique of specific novels, there’s no shortage of criticism available historically. Again, I document and excerpt much of this at my sites. 

(To that end, I’m interested in taking a look at his own explicitly political novels, which are available through Mainstay Press, which he co-founded.) 

That would be great. Also, you might see some of my short explicitly political fictions online at my weblog A Practical Policy and elsewhere. 

(One note of possible confusion: I see at the Mainstay Homefront Trilogy page that the types of works are not indicated, unlike on the main page, which probably should be corrected. That is, as regards the trilogy: Homefront is a novel. Glory is a novella. And Washburn is essentially a long two part story.) 

 

Fiction and the University

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Societies that subsidize things like missile research and not novel publishing are headed off the deep end. In my view, universities have a duty to encourage, solicit, and produce (culturally critical) novels and other types of work on matters of war and other cultural issues of gravest concern, not least. To my knowledge, not only have no such novels been published (about the Iraq War), none has been solicited….

The above is a modified excerpt from the comment I left at Michael Allen’s Grumpy Old Bookman weblog, following up on a post and comments he and others have made in regard to my post here, The University Press and Original Fiction.

Partisan Fiction

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New Orleans resident displaced by hurricane Katrina, author Tom Piazza notes that after the hurricane, he wrote his partisan non-fiction book “Why New Orleans Matters in five weeks – too quickly to think about it.” He adds that: “If I was lucky, maybe its style is some kind of amalgam of the nonfiction stuff I have found most compelling, most of which was written by fiction writers – Orwell, Didion, Mailer, and Hemingway, especially. I wish more fiction writers would tithe a certain amount of their energies to writing about politics and current events. If they are good they have tremendous evocative power at their disposal. I admire Denis Johnson and ZZ Packer for doing it. Sometimes, of course, it can go wrong. But fiction writers, because of the primacy they give to voice and point of view, tend to have more power available than your average reporter – more leverage on the objective events about which they report.”

Apparently outside the realm of thought is that “fiction writers should tithe” or otherwise devote “a certain amount of their energies to writing about politics and current events” in their fiction itself, as partisan fiction that might have substantial effect in the world, including issue-based socio-political effect. In doing so, authors would run the risk of producing works that might virtually ensure their immortality, works such as Aristophanes’ anti-war play Lysistrata, Jonathan Swift’s anti-economic-exploitation story A Modest Proposal, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-chattel-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a risk it seems most authors would, otherwise, consider taking. [An article on The Lysistrata Project: A Theatrical Act of Dissent - another here.]

Roland Barthes: “Then comes the modern question: why is there not today (or at least so it seems to me), why is there no longer an art of intellectual persuasion, or imagination? Why are we so slow, so indifferent about mobilizing narrative and the image? Can’t we see that it is, after all, works of fiction, no matter how mediocre they may be artistically, that best arouse political passion?” Not that Lysistrata and A Modest proposal are mediocre artistically. Nor are significant parts of Uncle Tom’s Cabin – especially, interestingly enough, some of the most overtly topical and political passages.

Can’t Blame the Weather

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Part I – Kaufman’s Plant Closing

The top headline in the Sullivan Review [a weekly newspaper in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania] on April 2nd, 1998 reads, “Kaufman Footwear Will Close Dushore Plant: Blame El Niño.”  This misses the main reason for the plant shutdown.  The unseasonably warm weather was not to blame for the plant closing; other, far more human, or inhuman, factors were at work.  The title gets it wrong.  The deteriorating economic conditions cannot be blamed on uncontrollable fate.

While two mild winters back-to-back may have somewhat undermined the immediate need for winter apparel and gear, Kaufman’s manufacturing is more likely a casualty of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which – in its first few years of existence – has had a devastating impact on mid-level manufacturing in the U.S. and Canada and also on agriculture and mid-level industry in Mexico (co-signer of NAFTA with Canada and the U.S.).   

Read the rest of this entry

The Power of Poetry

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Stephen Burt at Slate writes,

“Is there a Howl for our own time, a cultural creation that explains, excites, antagonizes, and polarizes a wide swath of America? It could not be a poem. Recent poets and poems have become notorious (Amiri Baraka’s “Somebody Blew Up America”), or widely popular (“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple”), or critically acclaimed, but no poem has accomplished all three at once, nor blew open its moment, as Howl did. Films and records can still attain succès de scandale—think of Kids, Brokeback Mountain, or Slim Shadybut a poem on a page, or a book of poems, cannot.”

Sounds like a worthy challenge.

The problem with Burt’s assertion is that it is false, as far as anyone knows. That it may also be true as far as anyone knows is irrelevant, since the point is that no one can know, contrary to Burt’s flat assertion.

All it would take would be one lightning-in-a-bottle book of accomplished and resonant, say, antiwar poems to begin to be circulated among US troops in Iraq and then all across the US, and then you just might have it. And any number of scenarios with any variety of focus can be envisioned. (And, at the least, this sort of thing, as Burt notes, is seen to some considerable extent in certain lyric forms today, in rap not least, as well as in other art forms.)

The power of poetry — political, social, cultural, aesthetic.

The Power and Import of Purpose in Fiction

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The problem with this comment as it is stated and framed is that “thinly veiled satire” — Jonathan Swift anyone? — can be just as effective as “deep, absurdist allegory” or more effective.

This is no comment on Saunders’ story which I’ve not read. In fact, Saunders own comments on “political fiction” are severely wanting as well — in particular, this:

“You would never want to be a political writer if the process was, “I believe X, now I’m trying to prove it through a story.” That’s propaganda, cause fiction doesn’t really work that way.”

Is that a fact? So if say it appears to me that the US government or say the German Nazi government is/was acting criminally by various invasions, and if it appears to me that these criminal governments are getting away with it because people are acting like “Good Germans,” that is, being obedient to authority, etc, then if I as a novelist try to show that this is indeed the case and how profoundly it is the case and how in many ways profoundly immoral such a situation is, realistically or by way of quality caricature, then we are to think, no, that is “propaganda” and therefore bad and mistaken because “fiction just doesn’t work that way,” that is, novelists would be mistaken to think they could “believe [understand] X,” and then “try to prove it through a story.”

Heaven forbid anyone ever attempt to try to show something they actually believe, that is, understand, by way of narrative. Heaven forbid they have a purpose in writing. Don’t we know that no great literature ever had a purpose and no great author ever tried to prove anything in writing? Not George Eliot or Cervantes or Defoe or Swift or the great Russians or, well, obviously any of the greats…shallow and weak minded fools that they were, banishing all strong opinion, understanding, and overall purpose from their midsts, we are relieved to note. Thankfully, they proved nothing.

All story is in some sense tentative, of course, just as all science is in some sense theory. It doesn’t mean nothing is proved.

As Noam Chomsky notes: “It is almost certain that literature will forever give far deeper insight into what is sometimes called ‘the full human person’ than any modes of scientific inquiry may hope to do….”

But don’t hope to give “deep insight,” striving writer, because you just might wind up proving something, like there’s a bunch of “Good Germans” around here, in this way and that way and the other way, which would in any case be utterly useless and unimportant knowledge, since soft heads like Chomsky are surely wrong that:

“We learn from literature as we learn from life…. In fact, most of what we know about things that matter comes from such sources, surely not from considered rational inquiry [science], which sometimes reaches unparalleled depths of profundity, but has a rather narrow scope.”

Such misguided thinking about attempting to prove anything about anyone or any situation in fiction thankfully rules out by definition — whether it’s aware of it or not — parable and allegory and most satire and plenty of other purpose driven fiction, unless we are to understand that authors don’t really understand what they are allegorizing or satirizing, that it might demonstrate the nature of any obvious or unexpected moral and other qualities. But we don’t want to work our heads too much by trying to prove anything that might have any grand heft or utility, so thankfully we can put that aside.

“If I say all red-haired people are evil and I have a story where all the red-haired people do mean things, I haven’t proven anything, cause its all made up.”

Well all the Hitlers of the world can breath a sigh of relief. I guess all the Hitlers are made up. Oh I know he drank tea and wine or whatever and professed to be a Christian and wasn’t he a vegetarian too and so on? So I guess we should focus on that since he was really a human guy. Oh sure he slaughtered the Jews and others, but that doesn’t prove anything does it? Should we really mention that there was anything really terribly evil about such a person? Should we attempt to prove that any “Good German” novelists had anything to do with facilitating and not impeding his rise to power? No, surely that would be too didactic for “right” fiction — fiction that is not wrong. Yes, “Good Germans” are safe from being portrayed by “proper” fiction. That’s not the way fiction “really works.” It doesn’t prove anything. That would be propagandistic.

Apparently then not only is much dystopian writing not proper fiction, neither is much great writing at all.

And all those people with shades of gray hair would appear to be safe from authors who would

“never want to be overtly political in a sense of…propagandistic”

because, hey, we don’t want to ruffle the feathers of those “Good Germans,” you know, wouldn’t want to dramatically reveal and portray the errors, often hideous and contemptible — and quite dramatic and knowable both — of their ways, which is what quality, important fiction would do. It would do that work that is insightful and that especially if done variously and repeatedly also serves an important and invaluable function as propaganda, in the best sense of the word.

“But I think if you look deeply enough into any human action, it’s political. … In a way I think the best fiction is political in the sense that if you take any political thing and shrink it down, it’s one person being frustrated or humiliated or something like that.”

Of course. Or ennobled and humanized and so on.

Irving Howe, Politics and the Novel: “The criteria for evaluation of a political novel must finally be the same as those for any other novel: how much of our life does it illuminate? how ample a moral vision does it suggest?—but these questions occur to us in a special context, in that atmosphere of political struggle which dominates modern life. For both the writer and the reader, the political novel provides a particularly severe test: politics rakes our passions as nothing else, and whatever we may consent to overlook in reading a novel, we react with an almost demonic rapidity to a detested political opinion. For the writer the great test is, how much truth can he force through the sieve of his opinions? For the reader the great test is, how much of that truth can he accept though it jostle his opinions?”

Frank Norris, The Responsibilities of the Novelist: “‘The novel must not preach,’ you hear them say. As though it were possible to write a novel without a purpose, even if it is only the purpose to amuse. One is willing to admit that this savors a little of quibbling, for ‘purpose’ and purpose to amuse are two different purposes. But every novel, even the most frivolous, must have some reason for the writing of it, and in that sense must have a ‘purpose’. Every novel must do one of three things—it must tell something, (2) show something, or (3) prove something. Some novels do all three of these; some do only two; all must do at least one…. The third, and what we hold to be the best class, proves something, draws conclusions from a whole congeries of forces, social tendencies, race impulses, devotes itself not to a study of men but of man. In this class falls the novel with the purpose, such as ‘Les Miserables’. And the reason we decide upon this last as the highest form of the novel is because that, though setting a great purpose before it as its task, it nevertheless includes, and is forced to include, both the other classes…. [The novel] may be a great force, that works together with the pulpit and the universities for the good of the people, fearlessly proving that power is abused, that the strong grind the faces of the weak, that an evil tree is still growing in the midst of the garden, that undoing follows hard upon unrighteousness, that the course of Empire is not yet finished, and that the races of men have yet to work out their destiny in those great and terrible movements that crush and grind and rend asunder the pillars of the houses of the nations.” 

The University Press and Original Fiction

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Until university press after university press after university press starts to publish original fiction, the burgeoning MFA programs are going to be forced to hire professors who publish a lot of fluff and worse — as demanded by the commercial publishing industry — or work that directly avoids many of the most vital stories of our time; and the fate, impact, power and overall quality of fiction — and the seriousness with which the wider culture regards it — is going to continue to plateau or decline.

For those who think it is difficult to publish serious works of nonfiction — and of course it’s quite competitive — consider how difficult it would be if nearly all university press and most independent press options were taken away and such publication only continued via the commercial market, where in fact a lot of serious nonfiction books are published. Consider what effect that radical change would have on scholarship, on creativity, on vital work. The effect would be devastating. This is the situation faced by the serious novelist today, by serious fiction.

Sure some good work continues to be done but compared to what might well be achieved otherwise, I suppose it might take a great speculative novel to fully prophesize the difference.

Until very many — and why not all? — university presses take fiction seriously by publishing numerous works and series of original imaginative writing the universities will be shirking a great responsibility, for as Noam Chomsky notes:

“We learn from literature as we learn from life…. In fact, most of what we know about things that matter comes from such sources, surely not from considered rational inquiry [science], which sometimes reaches unparalleled depths of profundity, but has a rather narrow scope. It is almost certain that literature will forever give far deeper insight into what is sometimes called ‘the full human person’ than any modes of scientific inquiry may hope to do….”

Such work is too important to leave to institutions driven by a profit motive, but such is the abdication of the universities today in the realm of imaginative literature. The abdication of producing serious imaginative literature is not total. If one can afford it, one can pay to enter contests to have a book considered for publication, and many colleges and universities have a journal that publishes at least some short pieces of imaginative work, but I would like someone to tell me what is more needed…another 100 third or fifth biographies of Jordan Letters, or a single culturally critical Iraq War novel? (Of course, university publishing should not be a zero-sum arena.)

Doesn’t it appear to anyone to be the slightest bit irresponsible for all the university presses combined, several years now into the Iraq War, let alone the prolonged build-up, to not have published even a single (as far as I’m aware) culturally critical novel about the Iraq War? One say that critiques and shines the so richly deserved hellish light on the personal and institutional drives to power that, as I’ve noted before, have built and maintained support for an invasion and occupation that has been judged to be illegal by the head of the U.N. and legal experts across the U.S. and the globe, and has had the predicted effect of increasing the likelihood of attack against the U.S., and was based on fraud as known in advance, and meanwhile has killed thousands of U.S. troops, and wounded or debilitated tens of thousands, and has killed well upwards of 100,000 Iraqis and maimed countless others while destroying their country? Where are the didactic novels, the social protest novels? Where are the lifesaving “muckraking” novels? Corporate America isn’t going to publish them. Are authors going to write them? Where are the thesis novels, the polemic fictions, the novels with a purpose? Or even the realistic novels, the info novels, the governmental novels on the scandalous nature of the ongoing U.S. aggression in Iraq? And the novels on a thousand other neglected and revealing outrages or public stories of inspiration?

Are such tasks for imaginative literature — fiction, drama, poetry — improper, inappropriately propagandistic, nontraditional, impractical? We can find such claims made virtually every day despite their being refuted again and again and again and again — such is the tremendous and perceived vested interest in imaginative literature that essentially serves the status quo, apparently no matter how unjust, even with much writing that appears or is said to be progressive, liberatory. Some of it is. But huge gaps remain, for which university publishing has a responsibility that it has greatly shirked, as has the government in general, let alone other institutions.

Liberation Criticism

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Liberation criticism: imaginative literature and the public:

“Its militancy is the most obvious characteristic of American criticism since the war. In the whole of nineteenth century there was only one critic, Poe, who was deliberately and consistently disputatious. No one else made polemics the basis of a critical method. Whitman was a maverick, but he was exclamatory rather than argumentative. Now, however, it is customary for critics to be bellicose, and there are few who have let politeness stand in the way of controversy. The reason is not hard to find. Criticism in our time has been largely a war of traditions—a struggle between irreconcilable ideologies…”

— Bernard Smith, Forces in American Criticism (1939)

Liberation Lit Criticism: The Buried US History

more excerpts

Write a Political Novel?

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Or a Political Play?
Play Pushed Underground: Cancelled in New York, the first Toronto reading of My Name Is Corrie is being held at a secret location

Commenting elsewhere: Culturally critical novels necessarily trumped by reality? Hardly.
 
And a brief comment in response to Christopher Lehmann’s article “Why Americans Can’t Write Political Fiction”:

Write a Political Novel? 

The time is ripe to write a political novel says Christopher Lehmann in his recent article Why Americans Can’t Write Political Fiction.” On the other hand it seems that you would have to be a fool or a masochist to write a political novel in the US, because to write one that bears anything like a close relation to reality, given the US political climate, would be like someone in a fundamentalist church congregation standing up in the middle of a religious service and suggesting that everyone discuss the merits of being a good atheist. You would be lucky if you were merely ignored rather than vilified or worse. Doubtless though, writing a political novel in the US that actually bears serious relation to reality is a hard and important thing to do.The time is ripe to write a political novel, Lehmann claims, if only US political novelists would not be “ultra-earnest” and not engage in “stubborn moralizing” or render “a vision of politics as the squalid self-interested manipulation of events beneath the dignity of any sane moral actor.” That would seem to rule out the incorporation (as crucial context) in a novel of the merest facts about the US invasion of Iraq. Do so, and see how many publishers would be willing to consider accepting your work. As the Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter points out, the US invasion of Iraq is –

“A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. An arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.”

Lehmann suggests that novelists would do well to follow the lead of author Billy Lee Brammer, who while declaring himself to be “pro-politician” managed to render in fiction, Lehmann claims, a politician like Lyndon Baines Johnson with some real complexity. This sounds plausible in theory, though in practice Lehmann’s ideological distortion is such that he is then led to characterize LBJ as someone who “masterminded both the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts” – in other words, as someone who was both quintessentially a liar and quintessentially a human rights advocate. And this essentially falsifies who LBJ was. For LBJ was a key agent in leading the US slaughter of perhaps 4 million Indo-Chinese, mostly civilians, during the Vietnam War. And so just like Bush and Blair today, LBJ was on the one hand quintessentially a state terrorist mass murderer, as Pinter spells it out, while on the other hand he was whatever else is nice that might be attributed to him.

It takes work to muster the aesthetic skill and other knowledge needed to write a typical novel of quality. If the ability to overcome ideology is added to these basic requirements, then a powerful political novel may be written as well. Lehmann is correct to insist that politics – broadly understood – should be engaged and not fled from, but ideological distortions like his and others must be overcome before real and full engagement can occur. The US political system oftentimes operates in a manner analogous to that of the “mafia“ – a form of power that needs to be put in check from the outside, because there exist no superheroes who might dismantle it from within. Of course figures of “innocence“ – to use Lehmann’s term – will avoid joining a “mafia,“ just as they may appropriately flee it as well however much he may object to such fictive renderings. And even greater figures of “innocence“ will attempt to stop all such forms of illegitimate government and replace them with more democratic structures wherever they find themselves.

Getting such a clear-eyed novel published in the US, given its social and political and corporate climate, is another story altogether.

The Bush Plan to Abolish America

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President Bush announced today that he expects to find a congressional sponsor for a bill that would abolish Congress as it is currently known. The Old Congress would be replaced by the New Congress Read the rest of this entry

Plan USA Continues to Pound Colombia

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Plan USA

Growing up working the land in an impoverished village in the Colombian countryside, Luis Compañero always believed he would fly the mighty birds that ruled the skies. As a youth he did not understand the nature of Colombia’s decades-long civil war but realized what it would take to get into the Colombian Air Force and thus fulfill his dream of flight. So even at the earliest age Luis studied with great concentration, earning by far the best marks in the village. He became a young teacher to his family and neighbors before gaining entrance to the air force and qualifying for flight school where he learned to pilot the attack planes supplied to Colombia by the United States of America.
        
Luis married and raised a family while remaining in close touch with his people in the countryside who had been forced to grow coca by destabilized markets for yucca, corn, fruits, and other traditional crops. It would be years before Luis learned of the U.S. role in disrupting the local economies.
       
The civil war intensified, spilling more frequently into Luis’ childhood home. During one particularly bad stretch two of his brothers were assassinated while running for political office. The assassins turned out to be paramilitary members working in tacit agreement with the Colombian military. The assassins went unpunished. Luis continued to fly.
       
Years later the coca crop of Luis’ birth family was destroyed, fumigated from the air. The spray also coated their homes, killed their guava trees and vegetable and medicinal gardens, and poisoned their wells. Luis knew that the fumigation policy, the spray, and the funding originated in the United States of America, along with the new shipment of attack helicopters, Blackhawks, recently flown to his base.
       
Soon thereafter, Luis’ grandparents died. And to a certain extent, they died bitter. Luis and his wife and children attended both funerals in the village struggling to survive.
        
He had barely returned to work when U.S. Customs and DEA inspectors found 421 kilograms of cocaine and heroin in a Colombian Air Force Plane that had landed in Florida, leading to the arrest of several Colombian Air Force officers. In addition, U.S. Army officer Colonel James Hiett, in charge of U.S. troops that trained Colombian security forces in counter narcotics operations, was convicted in court for complicity in covering up his wife’s drug smuggling operation.
       
Days later, Luis found his youngest son behind their house smoking cigarettes. Marlboros.
        
Luis felt his skeleton standing outside his skin.
       
That night, he traveled alone to the village of his birth and spoke with a few residents who made arrangements to escort Luis to a hideout far inside guerrilla territory, deep in the southern mountains. There he met a group of men who tested him in conversations that lasted nearly a week, by the end of which Luis had secured a promise of modest financial security for his wife and children, and possibly something for the small village in which he had grown up. During the next several months Luis saw these promises begin to be made good on and knew he must come through on his end.
        
It took a few bribes and false orders to create the bureaucratic confusion needed to clear Luis for a solo takeoff one night, ostensibly on a training exercise. Once aloft, he banked the fighter north away from the continent, slicing mere feet above gulf waters.
        
At dawn Luis cruised high above North Carolina piedmont and broad swaths of tobacco green.
        
Luis Compañero launched missiles from his attack plane that tore gaping holes in the tobacco field.
       
Intent to show upon this peoples’ land at least some small symbolic bit of what had been done to his, Luis banked the fighter and came around for another approach.
       
He fired his missiles and swooped low strafing tobacco. He shot his flares into the long leafy rows as if dropping herbicide.
        
Then Luis set the fighter on course for the Atlantic and ejected, machete strapped to his chest. As the plane streaked to an ocean graveyard, Luis’ parachute bloomed high above North Carolina, and soon the scent of live tobacco spiked into his nose and brain. Luis unstrapped his machete. The drug crop rushed up to meet him, and he hit the land swinging. 

___________________

Appendix 

1 “Each year, some 300,000 new refugees are driven from their homes [in Colombia], with a death toll of about 3,000 and many horrible massacres. The great majority of atrocities are attributed to the paramilitary forces that are closely linked to the military as documented in detail once again in February 2000 by Human Rights Watch, and in April 2000 by a UN study.” “Through the 1990s Colombia has been the leading recipient of U.S. military aid in Latin America, and also compiled the worst human rights record, in conformity with a well-established correlation.” –Noam Chomsky, “The Colombia Plan: April 2000″

2 “The number of Colombians who die from U.S.-produced lethal drugs exceeds the number of North Americans who die from cocaine, and is far greater relative to population. In East Asia, U.S.-produced lethal drugs contribute to millions of deaths. These countries are compelled not only to accept the products but also advertising for them, under threat of trade sanctions… The Colombian cartels, in contrast, are not permitted to run huge advertising campaigns in which a Joe Camel-counterpart extols the wonders of cocaine. We are therefore entitled, indeed morally obligated, to ask whether Colombia, Thailand, China, and other targets of U.S. trade policies and lethal-export promotion have the right to conduct military, chemical and biological warfare in North Carolina. And if not, why not? We might also ask why there are no Delta Force raids on U.S. banks and chemical corporations, though it is no secret that they too are engaged in the narcotrafficking business.” –Noam Chomsky, “The Colombia Plan: April 2000″ zmag.org

Satire Upon Satire

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See here, for the impotence of novels, an appraisal, from the esteemed author of many a Harlequin Romance, Peter Ackroyd.

The sheer brilliance of Ackroyd's insight that "Novels do not change anything" leads me to suggest the immediate implementation of yet another pragmatic policy that I hope will not be liable to the least objection. While Ackroyd is merely content that literature entertain and not alter, as evident by his penning of numerous Harlequin romance novels, and since I demand that literature should only and always be written solely and everywhere exclusively to greatly change the world, many, many, many times over…and since fiction plainly, it is now clear to me upon reading Ackroyd's article has no significant effect whatsoever…I therefore propose a policy that would ban both the reading and writing of fiction for all time.

Details to follow.

Rwanda, Rachael Corrie, Impeachment — Hollywood, Billy Bragg, Neil Young

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Anyone surprised?
Rwanda Survivors Say Hollywood Has Got It Wrong

Getting it right, one would think:
Billy Bragg 
The lonesome death of Rachel Corrie
download (MP3): The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie

Considerably less progressive, I would assume:
On His New Album, Neil Young Calls for Bush's Impeachment 

According to the article, some years after writing "Ohio," Neil Young became a Reagan supporter. "Ohio" was about "them" "gunning us down" after all — forget the Vietnamese…. Barring a sea change, that gives some idea of what to expect, I would think.

Orwell’s Problem and Partisan Fiction

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To help ground the weblog, over the next couple weeks I’ll excerpt from some of my articles on fiction and social change. At some point I may serialize an antiwar novel and other partisan fiction.

Speaking of which:

Orwell’s Problem and Partisan Fiction
An Obvious Deficiency — the Lack of Fact-Based Partisan Novels

…what about progressive partisan fiction? How about a great novel of ambition — literary or popular — portraying figures like some of the most ambitious and powerful strivers of our day: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and others? There is a problem. Progressive partisan novels about such figures would have to be in definitive part scathing, well beyond what plenty of literary (and commercial) authors would find acceptable, since they generally support at least some of these figures, and their types, and if they do not, the dominant publishing houses and the dominant media do. This support of the status quo is very similar to what existed in the day of Orwell, with equally troubling implications for literature and the society and world it helps create. As Noam Chomsky notes:

About Orwell’s 1984, I thought, frankly, it was one of his worst books. Could barely finish it. Some parts (e.g., about Newspeak) were clever. But most of it seemed to me–well, trivial. The problem is not a very interesting one; the modes of thought control and repression in totalitarian societies are fairly transparent…

A Practical Policy

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This satire “A Practical Policy” is essentially an update of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal(1729) with the focus here primarily on the U.S. and Iraq rather than England and Ireland. Some of the form and text of Swift’s piece has been incorporated.

 

A PRACTICAL POLICY

 

 For Preventing the Children and Youth of Iraq and the World from being a Burden to Their Parents or Countries, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Global Economy  

It is a melancholy object to observe the plight of children in the ancient land of Iraq during this era of U.S.-led economic sanctions and invasion, occupation and continued warfare. A prestigious medical journal reports hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian fatalities. Trapped in a disemboweled economy, Iraqi parents too often find themselves unable to provide for their children’s basic needs – nutritional, educational, medicinal, limbnal. Trying to keep one’s children’s limbs from being blown off, heads not least, by American and other weaponry has proven to be one of many daunting challenges for Iraqis in this time of the American occupation.  

By now, it can only be agreed by all sane observers that the grotesque mortality rate and mass suffering of Iraqi children cannot be considered worth even the most high-minded motives behind the U.S. occupation; and, therefore whatever might be discovered to be a just, affordable, and compassionate solution to this dreadful situation should be implemented immediately – A Practical Policy.  

It seems only fair that any such policy benefit not only the children of Iraq but also those whose power and authority is needed to enact the solution – the Americans, and other rulers of the world, the global elite, the plutocracy, that is, the great leaders of nation-states, executives of transnational corporations, as well as bankers and privileged investors in whose care rests the prosperity of civilization.  

Along with helping the beleaguered children, which is of course my greatest concern, it is my dearest hope that a viable policy will also solve very many of the other foreign policy quandaries bedeviling the U.S., and not only in regard to Iraq. Although the suffering of Iraqi children today is truly awesome, the general degradation of youth is not completely novel anywhere. Thus my practical policy has been designed for successful application to the people of any country whatsoever – not least those most frequently subject to military interventions and economic or political sanctions, including structural adjustment programs, as well as those who suffer from the increasingly unpredictable acts of God in this volatile epoch of global warming, and this incredibly profitable era of unparalleled planet-wide military stockpiling.   

One great advantage of my timely invention is that while improving the plight of impoverished children and their parents, the proposal simultaneously allows for checks on the belligerence of any subject state. Under this policy, preemptive, preventive, and cautionary bombings along with ever more fine-tuned forms of sanctions may be maintained against any rogue state for as long as deemed necessary by those who call the shots. Thus my highly practical policy need not disrupt any time-tested means of containment and intervention; on the contrary, it will supplement and enhance such long-standing prerogatives of power. After all, as far as the United States of America is concerned, and in the words of our noble leader George Bush the First, etc, “What we say goes.”  

After many years of earnest and ever more devoted work as a U.S. foreign policy advisor, after serving on countless multinational corporate boards and after unusually intense introspection, I have at last arrived at a solution that I trust will be found in respectable circles to be quite laudable, if, perhaps, not surprising. Let me judiciously advance A Practical Policy, which I expect will not be liable to the least objection, for easing the troubled situation of children in Iraq, and around the world –  

It is my well-reasoned suggestion that there be a globally implemented and internationally regulated expansion of commercial trafficking in children.  

In other words, the time has long since come to officially sanction the body parts trade – not least the many corporate biproducts and fiscal derivatives heretofore unimagined. I have recently been advised by virtually every corporate and financial executive I’ve encountered at home and abroad that the children of impoverished nations especially, though not solely, are coming to be understood in more and more explicit terms as the next great global growth industry – children as a prolific cash crop.  

The children would be harvested for their own sake, and be mercifully removed from hopeless predicaments of hunger, disease, danger. In many cases they might be sold abroad, their cut-rate labor placed in the service of others in more profitable situations, and in the second case the children would simply be released from their agonizing, degraded state of being – that is, they would be terminated, offered as providence for those fortunate enough to live in more bountiful circumstances.  

Regrettably, in Iraq nowadays medicines and food are so expensive, scarce, or non-existent that children might best be sold or traded and shipped out of country at the first onset of illness or hunger, or even at birth, given their likely grim future. Alternatively, for any children who survive well into their youth, these plucky young creatures should be allowed every opportunity to market themselves piecemeal or in whole for distribution and handling abroad.  

It only makes smart business sense that Iraqi children, along with various other sorts, be bought and sold under international regulation – as opposed to the chaotic, unauthorized, and inefficient current illicit manner – perhaps as defined and implemented by a new round of global trade agreements, or by some minor modification of the preeminent institutions for global economic development, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. By auctioning off their children, impoverished countries – and, indeed, the poor sectors of any country – may raise much badly needed capital for paying off debts to creditors of every type, U.S. banks especially.  

As one might expect, the nature of the vending process would be multifaceted. Mature children might distribute themselves via body part sales – a kidney here, a lung there. I am informed by numerous industry specialists that discreet patches and strips of tender young skin can be safely peeled off and sold as raw material for the manufacture of leather car seats or even for exceptionally fine wallets and unique handbags. I think it a creditable thing that today’s global youth be as thrifty and imaginative with their bodies as possible so that in this way they might begin to pay for food and medicine or for some part of their schooling, at least where there is still some hope for themselvs, that is, when they do not yet find themselves at the point of contributing their bodies in all finality to their country’s Gross National Product.  

Who knows, such resourcefulness may likely crop up as admirable fashion even among more fortunate youth who frequently copy the styles and trends of their less affluent peers in language, entertainment, dress, body art. Why not in raw material corporate commerce, as well? Why not give youth of every economic stripe this chance to pursue legally a broader, more lucrative array of commercial opportunities, such as the well-regulated sale of their skin, flesh, and non-vital organs? Since so many youth are already engaged in the practice of renting their bodies and lives to diverse employers for wages, wherever economic conditions allow, in a wide variety of lawful and unlawful manners, why not encourage these children to legally take the logical next step of further integrating into the market by scraping their very bones – en masse?  

Parents as well might wish to trade abroad any number of infants to help support the household. The potential commercial possibilities and personal recompense for both children and parents alike seem virtually infinite – nevermind the boost such inspired activity would give to any country’s Gross Domestic Product, tying more tightly each national economy to the dominant forces in the global market. In addition, revenue raised by exporting children from youth-rich regions might also be judiciously expended on great quantities of quality imports such as cigarettes, coca-cola, and military armaments, or other such goods that wealthy nations like the United States produce in great abundance for the betterment of humankind. In this manner, rich sectors might profitably advance more effectively a sort of compassionate-cannibalism for the improvement of youth and their superiors the world over.  

I suspect there may be some naysayers who doubt the possible financial benefits of a globally regulated traffic in children, either as piecemeal or in whole. These skeptics would do well to consider the sound advice and impressive data I have gathered from a wide variety of world-renowned investment bankers, politicians, chief executive officers, media magnates, and many others. This data indicates that simply by harvesting the mere non-vital organs of several moderately healthy young children, a family of four can provide themselves with their minimal nutritional requirements for several months, under favorable market conditions. Currently, such estimable enterprise would involve selling off youth organs in non-food related ventures, rather than consuming young flesh directly or marketing it to local grocery stores. Times being as lean as they are for the world’s majority – direct consumption of youth victuals is not as economically feasible as it was centuries ago during the age of that master humanitarian policy planner, Jonathan Swift.   

I suppose that my proposal, which I intend in all modesty, and practicality, might at first sound too optimistic in aim and content. I expect that some of the brightest students of world affairs may wonder if there is some prohibitive limiting factor I have overlooked. On the contrary. Much of what recently seemed unthinkable in various political and economic arenas throughout the world, due to stubborn lack of popular appeal among people everywhere, now has become far more widely incorporated and otherwise realized by way of the intense global ambitions of dominant powers. Unfettered trafficking in children has become a burgeoning trend. Though in the past a boy or girl younger than twelve years old was no easily saleable commodity, the modern reality is that largely due to IMF and World Bank-imposed structural adjustments, and ever more vigorous U.S. economic and military command and control, the global market is wide open to child commerce.  

Right at the cusp of U.S. involvement in its own hemisphere, there were reports from all corners of Latin America about unregulated trafficking in children. The Catholic Church, national governments, human rights groups, and university-based intellectuals all reported that such unauthorized commerce had increased. It seems that in certain economic circles the adoption and organ transplant enterprises became quite profitable and otherwise viable as conditions of life grew ever more stressed and desperate.  

Regarding the transplant industry, with an implement as simple and affordable as a common teaspoon, a private entrepreneur – perhaps a “structurally adjusted” worker recently displaced or laid off – can scoop out a young orphan’s eye and, by selling the corneas, realize a substantial profit in the underground market. Not to mention that this entrepreneur may make good use of other organs that can be profitably sold as well. In such necessary and, let’s face it, admirable enterprise, we see the modern wonders of what has come to be known as the “free market,” potentially ever more integrated to the needs of capital by way of the major stock exchanges and corporations, sectors of finance and powerful governments the world over.  The lesson to be learned – and one that has long been understood in Washington D.C., on Wall Street, and in other centers of power – is that the children of the world represent a crucial and increasingly profitable component of economic, political, and military power and order.  

One wonders, without the virtually limitless commodity of youth, how nations would be able to fund and implement their endless security operations and wars. It goes without saying that third world countries in particular possess ever more pressing needs for military conscription of youth, in one form or another. They also need vast imports of armaments from the major arms manufacturers of the world, that is, primarily from U.S. corporations. How better, how else to pay for huge weapons imports than by clever domestic measures implementing the full-scale commodification and trade of children?

Of course the U.S. is uniquely positioned to continue profiting off weapons sales, since it is by far the leading arms maker and vendor. Coincidentally, and conveniently, the U.S.  keeps troops stationed in over 140 of the 192 countries in the world in nearly one thousand military installations, the better to distribute and use weapons everywhere. Of course U.S. corporations not only produce and sell more weaponry than any other nation, the U.S. citizenry have the bulk of their tax dollars taken and used to buy more weaponry and military resources than anyone else too. Blessed is the United States of America for having military expenditures equal to that of every other nation on the face of the earth combined.  

Let me add that my practical policy of licit child trafficking would not only further grease the gears of global finance, it has the salutary effect in this vibrant age of heightened ecological awareness of potentially easing much environmental strain caused by overcrowding and resource depletion, especially in less developed countries, as well as in the slums and depressed rural areas of rich nations. By profitably harvesting and trading poor youth, the new world economy promises to make life more pleasant, more roomy, for everyone else.  

Many more advantages of such enlightened international child commerce might be enumerated in this new age of compassion and humanitarianism, but in the interest of concision I will leave further details to the keen and charitable imaginations of others.  

I can think of no sensible objection that might be raised to my practical policy, unless there is fear that increased trafficking and consumption of children might lead to rapid global depopulation of vital consumers. This concern however can readily be dismissed, given the limited cash flow of impoverished youth. For the vast majority of children and youth, their hides alone are worth far more than their wallets and handbags will ever be. I guarantee it. Best then to officially, more efficiently, insert them straightaway into the global economy in one or another traditional lawful and financially respectable manner – all profits to banks and other such institutions, that is, and to the occasional responsible government. As there is no lack of historical analogies for such enlightened social and economic policy and operation, I am hard pressed to envision serious objections.  

Let no one speak of independent solutions for vastly reducing child mortality and misery, such as foregoing economic sanctions and threats or military invasions and occupations against disobedient regimes, or making widely available the many existing inexpensive medicines, or supporting local economies at the expense of patently healthy corporate appetites, or expanding public subsidies and public services to address basic needs – least of all food, education, housing, sanitation, clean water, clean air, vital medicines, vaccines and other such commodities whose domain rightfully and naturally belongs to the profitable private sector. Let no one speak of enforcing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child, though both agreements have been signed and adopted into international law by every nation – however grudgingly, conditionally, and belatedly by the United States, and others, we may note with no small pride.   

And especially, in light of the current ever more dire security situation worldwide, let no one consider for even a moment using any fraction of the behemoth global military budgets to improve standards of health or conditions of life anywhere on earth. Let no one mention – as they hardly do anyway, in responsible, respected circles at least – any such public solutions for improving the welfare of children in Iraq and around the globe until there is some significant hope that there might be a hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.   

Fortunately, we will never see such a day, there can be no doubt, because these public solutions run counter to natural economic, political, and human law as divined by the IMF, the World Bank, national capitols and capitalists around the globe, as well as corporate charters everywhere – i.e., the private sector, which rightly rules. Any contrarian utopian schemes of public action are correctly dismissed as the pipedreams of children.  

I must say, however, that I am not so forcefully attached to my own ideas that I am utterly opposed to any profitable, therefore practical, method for otherwise alleviating the sorry state of the world’s children, especially a program that might prove to be as effective and enlightened as the policy offered herein.   

However I challenge even the most well-intentioned of human rights groups to top my plan for solving what heretofore has too often been viewed as a financially and morally intractable problem. With only a slight though powerful and gainful shift in perspective, the widespread wretchedness of children can be properly understood as a welcome and really existing private opportunity for the market – rather than as the urgent public crisis, claimed by human rights and health groups by way of their notoriously impoverished, ill-informed, and politically suspect judgment. What is needed above all is the paradigm shift of great conscientious, fiscal, and intellectual integrity and scope – legalized child trafficking – that I have offered here as a quite sensible, highly practical policy.  

As we all know, the children are our future. They are not the future, they are not a future, they are not even their future. They are ours. And as such, our children constitute a great resource, ripe for the plucking by way of cutting-edge international development. Though at first there may be, I suppose, some misguided half-baked youth-led resistance to this proposed policy, I have no doubt that continued education, media broadcasting, corporate-government public relations, proper religious meditation, and other such efforts of conventional mental cleansing will readily persuade youths to make themselves everywhere more willing and alive to the fiscal advantages of throwing themselves more fully into the warm embrace of the almighty power and glory of our ever more capitalized economy.

As the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever more wide, I challenge anyone to come up with a better policy than my urgent proposal of trafficking in children for eradicating the have-nots responsible for creating, in the first place, and maintaining and expanding the vast inequality in the conditions of life.  

I declare from the utter bottommost depths of my heart that my focus here regarding the plight of multitudes of children who are irredeemably suffering and perishing in Iraq and around the world – not excluding a significant and growing stratum of children in the contemporary United States and elsewhere – is strictly a professional concern, which happens to contain my best, most remunerative, ideas for improving the world. As a long-time consultant to leading corporate, banking, and government sectors, I seek no personal financial gain. This proposal represents not the least bit a pecuniary interest of my own, since it has been my good fortune to have already come into wealth in and around Wall Street over the course of some years. No direct profit would accrue to my family, either, since my own children have long since passed well beyond the age of consumption and trade.  

Thus, on behalf of the many officials and executives who have toiled for years in the creation and guidance of fiscal policy, at home and abroad – and most of all on behalf of the great economic system itself – I advance this practical policy wholly in good faith. I advance this policy especially for the young who suffer. I advocate if for the greater power and glory and security of the world, and in particular for the continued triumphal march of the United States of America and other great powers of transnational economic might, and for all the leading institutional and individual lights who help keep our capital-laden, corporate-and-finance-driven world in the fantastic state it is today – really a flourishing planet to be proud of in all its official glory. I advocate it on behalf of the leading sectors of the world we can only be proud to hear so much about and immerse ourselves deep within throughout each day by way of the media, the schools, the mighty webs of commerce, the government, and even our halls of worship and many of our leisure and entertainment commitments – our fundamentally generous policies and economic might, lovingly extolled the world over.   

Here at home in the United States of America, with our great nationalistic fervor for Americanism and our invincible unblinking faith in faith itself that can barely be matched perhaps anywhere in the world, we can all be proud of the fact that in so many ways our great state truly is “Number One,” any small quibbles and nit-picking here and there aside (especially by the ilk of those ingrates like Andrew L. Shapiro) regarding health care, education, housing, environmental protection, safety, freedom, financial security, democracy, and peace. Look – nobody can be Number One in everything. Least of all the one country in the world that has so admirably, thoughtfully, and compassionately taken upon itself the great responsibility and role of global disciplinarian.  

If, by increasing the amount and quality of global trafficking in children, any gigantic gain should happily accrue to those most fortunate – corporate executives, bankers, elite investors, and their governmental representatives worldwide, we can only marvel in ever greater amazement at the inexorable workings of the free market, in which we all trust, all together, with its astounding profits, virtually insane rewards, and other rapturous wonders, performing each day as if conducted on high by an invisible hand, for the benefit of everyone, especially children and youth – and soon even more, it is my fervent hope, the children of Iraq and youth the world over, those alive today and all those precious pricey babes born brand new (potentially well-priced, I should say, and brand-named, that is, branded, the better for the display and vending), eager to be trafficked at home and abroad, bought and sold, bartered and auctioned off in the great global grip of the free market. All this, not only for the sake of the children, but of course for that of the private market, too, for the sake of private profit, which, at least in a profound secular sense, is sacred, and which civilizes, and ennobles, us all.  

Well, I can hardly help myself. I said I would leave it to the imagination of others, but let me just add –   

Another inevitable concomitant of fierce economic pressures and the capitalizing of youth is the global sex trade, which has established itself internationally in flourishing networks. Also, drug trafficking, which similarly prospers given an ambitious, risk-taking and disposable, inexpensive workforce – youth labor, to be found not least in the urban concentration camps that are slums, but also throughout often hardhit countrysides.

Especially in nations with governments friendly and militaries intimate with the U.S., never have labor conditions been more advantageous for the export of drugs to the voracious U.S. market. Nor has the overall infrastructure of the illicit drug trade been better attuned for producing drugs in the U.S. itself, often by heady young entrepreneurs themselves.

Though the thriving sex and drug industries remain somewhat controversial, it is my well-studied belief that a newly capitalized infusion of child labor into these sectors can only further enhance international prosperity and U.S. national security. Sex and drugs are after all traditional, time-tested occupations, with which in any case the U.S., for one, has been deeply involved – one might even say indebted.   

And every responsible person can only hold as a guiding principle one of the greatest of capitalist credos – Private vice leads to public gain. The public good, that is, which, of course, is what I, for one, am finally all about – the public good – as long as it is generated by the private sector, which, in any case, is the best of all possible means to our end.  

True, the burgeoning drug trade will continue to provide extra financial support for War, for both governments and guerrillas alike. Fortuitously, War provides ongoing opportunity for the U.S. and other developed nations to further test, manufacture, and sell high-tech weaponry and martial strategies. And why not profit off War, especially in this era of often bloodless combat – for dominant forces like the U.S., at least? The more bloodless the better, no?  

In any event, it’s historically inevitable. The U.S. has wisely long relied on a flush cash market, a boisterous, unruly national zeal to maintain order – security, stability, credibility – and to generate global appreciation – especially gratitude, respect, even reverence in people everywhere, both at home and abroad – in its unmistakable identity as the world’s greatest, most affluent, economic and military superpower.   

Any astute overview of history quickly reveals that the U.S. is the most exceptional warrior state ever, constantly growing in power and wealth, acting on the most noble ideals, and much admired, or properly feared, by the rest of the world. Some have dared call our valiant example “Mafia-esque,” but of course such talk is cheap, and weak – zero match for an ICBM. Do I really need to spell it out? How better to maintain and extend our power upon the world than to further tap that richest of all resources – our children, everywhere?  

There can be no alternative to the fundamental, universal, and natural laws of capitalist, corporatist economic development which demand that we give up the best of ourselves each and every day – children included – for the market to function in its well-oiled way. Thus, my Practical Policy, and by now the moral obligation of responsible citizens everywhere – to ensure that all children be wholly digested into the great system of concentrated private power rapidly driving our planet toward its ultimate manifest destiny.

 

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FOOTNOTES

1 See prefatory note.

2 The Lancet study “estimated 654,965 excess [Iraqi] deaths related to the war, or 2.5% of the population, through the end of June 2006. The new study applied similar methods and involved surveys between May 20 and July 10, 2006. More households were surveyed, allowing for a 95% confidence interval of 392,979 to 942,636 excess Iraqi deaths.”
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Wikipedia

3 “As Unicef has reported, Iraq in 1990 had one of the healthiest and best-educated populations in the world; its child mortality rate was one of the lowest. Today, it is among the highest on earth.” –John Pilger; Iraq Under Siege; 61.

4 “The average monthly salary of a doctor, which used to be about $1,000 (£670), is now between $3 and $5… ‘What we are seeing is the disintegration of a society,’ said Rao Singh, a UN official. ‘Iraq had invested heavily in social and health care and in 1989, before the war, 90 per cent of the people had access to clean water and 95 per cent had access to good health care. Iraq was in transition to reaching First World standards. The rate of child mortality was one of the best in the world. There has been a fourfold increase, and it is now one of the worst. In 1990, an Iraqi child with dysentery had one chance in 600 of dying, now it is one in 50’.” –Kim Sengupta “The Pariah’s Den” http://www.commondreams.org 11/24/00.

5 “The only computers officially allowed by the sanctions committee in New York are at least 10 years old. Anything newer, it is declared, will help ‘Saddam’s war machine’. Of course, like everything else, modern computers are available in Baghdad. But they are smuggled in and affordable only to the rich. ‘In the poor schools we have got a shortage of everything, even pencils. They do not want us to have pencils because they say the military can use the lead. Can you believe it?’ Mr. Al Sharifi shakes his head…. A range of drugs, from vaccinations to pain killers and even cleansing agents such as chlorine, are banned because they can be used for ‘dual purpose’. … At the Children’s Hospital, Dr Mohammed Firas lists the drugs he needs but cannot have. ‘I have not seen any improvements in supplies, none at all,’ he says. ‘It is upsetting when you see little boys and girls die in front of you and there is nothing you can do’… A half-million Iraqi children have contracted cancer since Saddam launched his disastrous invasion of Kuwait 10 years ago. In the war that followed in January 1991, the West used weapons coated with depleted uranium, which, it is claimed, contributed to the massive rise in cancer. After the war, sanctions imposed by the UN have blocked essential supplies of medicine and equipment that could have saved many…. George Robertson, when he was Defence Secretary, repeatedly declared that Saddam has $275m worth of medicine stockpiled in his warehouses that he refuses to distribute… I could not find anyone in Unicef, the World Health Organization, or the relevant charities who would endorse these figures. Hans von Spaneck, the former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said the amount held in stock was about 12 per cent. Anupama Rao Singh, Unicef’s senior representative in Iraq, said inspections show the figure to be between 10 and 15 per cent – the standard minimum that should be held for emergencies. Even Scott Ritter, the UN arms inspector the Iraqis kicked out claiming he was a spy, told me in London that there was no evidence of medicine being stockpiled by the regime. ‘The sanctions’, he said, ‘are pointless and self-defeating. They are not hurting Saddam, they are hurting the people of Iraq’.” –Kim Sengupta, “The Pariah’s Den,” http://www.commondreams.org, 11/24/00.

6 “US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked on national television in 1996 what she thought about the fact that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of the sanctions. She agreed that this was ‘a very hard choice,’ but she said that ‘we think the price is worth it.’ So, that’s the way in which we deal with Iraqi human rights violations, by killing 500,000 Iraqi children. ‘We’re’ willing to pay that price. That’s nice to hear.” –Noam Chomsky, Iraq Under Siege

7 “Since World War II, American military actions, in one form or another, have caused more death and destruction around the world than the actions of any other country. Some of these interventions have been conducted overtly, with large scale deployment of U.S. troops and air power. Still others have involved proxy armies armed, trained, funded directed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency” and intelligence gathering agencies and military institutions in the U.S. “Almost all of these slaughters have been directed at people of color, particularly in Southeast Asia and Central America. These are the unseen and unheard victims of the relentless drive by the United States’ corporate and military” and political “elite for global economic domination…” –David McGowan; Derailing Democracy

8 In Ancient Greek mythology Pluto (‘wealth’) is the god of the underworld, the abode of the dead. Originally named Hades (‘unseen’), he became known as Pluto because people feared the word Hades, and because crops and precious metals come from below ground. Pluto is of course the root of ‘plutocracy’—rule by the rich. Hades is synonymous with ‘hell’. Side-by-side, Hades and Pluto at their roots may be interpreted as ‘unseen wealth,’ an apt description of CEOs and their corporate boards that dominate the economy and polity.

“The unconstrained behavior of big business is subordinating our democracy to the control of a corporate plutocracy… Each time the cycle of corporate plutocracy has lengthened, injustices and shortcomings proliferate… Harnessing political power to corporate greed leaves us with a country that has far more problems than it deserves, while blocking ready solutions or improvements from being applied.” –Ralph Nader, Green Party, http://www.votenader.org.

9 “More than 50 percent of the people in the world’s 46 poorest countries are without access to modern health care… Approximately three billion people in developing countries do not have access to sanitation facilities…. Of the 10 million deaths among children under five in 1997, 97 percent occurred in developing countries and the majority could have been prevented. While the infant mortality in the world has declined steadily in the last 50 years, there is a 16-fold difference between the present rate in the 26 wealthiest countries and the rate found in 48 of the least developed countries.” –Joyce Millen et al., Dying for Growth

10 “Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared,’ at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame.” –Amnesty International, Rogue State, introductory quotation.

The following quotations are listed in David McGowan’s Derailing Democracy—The America the Media Doesn’t Want You to See: “From 1993 to 1997, the U.S. government sold, approved, or gave away $190 billion in weapons to virtually every nation on earth.” –The Mojo Wire. “The last five times U.S. troops were sent into conflict, they found themselves facing adversaries who had previously received U.S. weapons, military technology, or training.” “U.S. arms dealers currently sell $10 billion in weapons to non-democratic governments each year.” –Project Censored 1998. “In 1986 the United States accounted for 13 percent of worldwide arms exports, but today its share of the weapons market is an astounding 70 percent.” –British Medical Journal, October 14, 1995. “According to the Pentagon, the defense industry laid off 795,500 American workers between 1992 and 1997.” –The Mojo Wire

11 “State Department planner George Kennan set out the basic framework for understanding US foreign policy in the Middle East [and for that matter, in general] in 1948: ‘We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population… In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.’ New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put this same argument in more contemporary terms when he wrote in 1999: ‘McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas… And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.’” –Anthony Arnove, Iraq Under Siege; 11.

12 Quoting George Bush, 41st President of the United States.

13 “In Third World morgues, shantytowns, prisons and hospitals, Berkeley anthropology professors Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Lawrence Cohen, investigate…the finding and selling of human body parts for transplantation. In many countries, laws fail to protect organ donors from exploitation… In India, for instance, Cohen discovered poor women forfeiting a kidney to pay back money they’d borrowed to feed their families… In Brazil, the government declares everyone a universal organ donor at birth, Scheper-Hughes added, and people in poverty are terrified of becoming fodder for the organ trade. ‘The exchanges tend to be poor-to-rich,’ said Scheper-Hughes. On the black market in India, added Cohen, an impoverished person’s kidney, destined for an affluent Indian, can fetch $1,000. ‘I call it neo-cannibalism,’ [a play on neo-liberalism, the dominant capitalist economic theory] said Scheper-Hughes, ‘the notion that we can eye each other greedily as a source of spare body parts.’ Organ trafficking has been denounced by all international medical and human rights groups, she said. Still, there is little surveillance over what is increasingly a black market where both doctors and the so-called ‘body mafia’ serve as organ brokers… ‘We are creating a type of apartheid medicine,’ Scheper-Hughes said. ‘I’m no longer neutral about these body practices that strike terror in poor people increasingly afraid of dying in the hospital.’ A few years ago, a conversation with an Indian man piqued Cohen’s interest in black market organ sales. ‘He talked about how he might sell his kidney to pay for his sister’s dowry,’ said Cohen. ‘To him, that dowry stood for all the obligations of economics, and his kidney stood for all the horrible possibilities of survival. Here you have a family that has to give away its kidneys to give away its daughters.’ Cohen and Scheper-Hughes joined forces when she asked him to fill her in on the organ trade in India. Cohen speaks lovingly about the ‘kidney belt’ villages in India where selling one’s body parts is a way of life. After seven years of working and living among the villagers, he has grown fond of and respects them. Crippling debt, he said, has villagers in India lined up to sell kidneys to underground brokers even though it’s against the law to provide a kidney to anyone but a relative. The villagers approach the brokers, usually after failing to repay a loan. When loan sharks demand repayment, villagers have no choice but to sell their own kidneys.” –Kathleen Scalise, http://www.berkeley.edu/news/magazine/summer_99

14 “Child slavery has long been documented in the traditional service areas. India alone is reported to have some 14 million child laborers, aged six and up, many working under conditions of virtual slavery for up to 16 hours a day. As always, this is a reflection of general social conditions… The deteriorating conditions result from the ‘frenzied export drive’ and accompanying ‘strategy of taxing the poor and pampering the rich,’ policies to be accelerated under the IMF-designed structural adjustment policies for which India in now widely praised.” –Noam Chomsky, Year 501

“Uruguayan journalist Samuel Blixen reports that in Guatemala City, the majority of the 5000 street children work as prostitutes…In Peru, children are sold to the highest bidder to pan for gold; according to a young campesina who escaped, they work 18 hours a day in water up to their knees and are paid with a daily ration sufficient to keep them alive. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, some 100,000 children from 4 to 14 work 10- to 12-hour shifts for low wages, many of them victims of sexual abuse…UNICEF reports that 69 million children in Latin America survive by menial labor, robbing, running drugs, and prostitution. A study released by the health ministers of the Central American countries in November 1991 estimated that 120,000 children under five die annually in Central America from malnutrition (one million are born annually), and that two-thirds of the survivors suffer from malnutrition.” –Noam Chomsky, Year 501

15 “Until recently,” Blixen writes, “the image of the abandoned Latin American child was of a ragged child sleeping in a doorway. Today the image is of a body, lacerated and dumped in a city slum—those who survive that far. A leading Mexican journal reports a study by Victor Carlos García Moreno of the Institute for Law Research at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM), presented at a conference on “International Traffic in Children” in Mexico City. He found that about 20,000 children are sent illegally to the United States each year “for supplying illegal traffic in vital organs, for sexual exploitation, or for experimental tests.’ Mexico’s leading daily, Excelsior, reports that ‘Another element of abuses against minors [in Guatemala] is the existence of various illegal ‘crib houses’ responsible for the ‘fattening’ of newborns who are sent out of the country for their organs to be sold in the United States and Europe.’ A Professor of Theology at the University of São Paulo (Brazil), Father Barruel, informed the UN that ‘75 percent of the corpses [of murdered children] reveal internal mutilation and the majority have their eyes removed.’ The President of the Episcopal Council of Latin America, Archbishop Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo, stated in July 1991 that the Church ‘is investigating all the charges concerning sale of children for illegal adoption or organ transplant….’ There have been numerous allegations about kidnapping of children for organ transplant in Latin America; whether true or not, the fact that they are taken seriously, from the press to academic researchers and government agencies, is indicative of the conditions of existence for children. And other superfluous creatures as well. The British Medical Journal reported an Argentine judicial investigation that led to the arrest of the director of a state-run mental hospital, doctors, businessmen and others, after ‘evidence of the trafficking of human organs’ was unearthed, among other crimes. AFP reported that ‘Argentines were aghast at the near-hallucinatory revelations of the horrors involving disappearances, trafficking in corneas, blood, babies, contraband and corruption’ for more than a decade at the hospital, and the discovery in Uruguay of a ‘gang of organ smugglers headed by Argentinians.’ ‘There is traffic in children and organs,’ the Argentine Minister of Health reported…. A novel idea was implemented in Colombia, where security guards of a medial school murdered poor people and sold the bodies to the school for student research; reports indicate that before they were killed, organs that could be sold on the black market were removed. These practices, however, scarcely make a dent in one of the worst human rights records in the continent, compiled by security forces that have long benefited from U.S. training and supply and have now become one of the hemisphere’s top recipients of U.S. military funding [the top recipient by year 2000 as atrocities escalate, the familiar pattern]. As elsewhere, the main targets for mutilation, torture, and murder are priests, union activists, political leaders and others who try to defend the poor, form cooperatives, or otherwise qualify as ‘subversives’ by interfering with the neoliberal economic model implemented under instructions from the U.S. and the World Bank.” –Noam Chomsky, Year 501

16 “In 1986 UNICEF estimated that 40,000 children were dying every day from malnutrition-related diseases. In 1993 the UN estimated that over 700 million people in the world are subject to famine, and that 2 billion or more are malnourished. And such conditions worsen steadily.” –Doug Dowd, Blues for America

17 “In his final speech as U.S. surgeon general, [the very conservative] C. Everett Koop stated: ‘It is the height of hypocrisy for the United States, in our war against drugs, to demand that foreign nations take steps to stop the export of cocaine to our country while at the same time we export nicotine, a drug just as addictive as cocaine, to the rest of the world.’ Peter Bourne, former president of the American Association for World Health, adds: ‘Despite our great concern about the effect of Colombian cocaine on young Americans, more Colombians die today from diseases caused by tobacco products exported to their country by American tobacco companies than do Americans from Colombian cocaine’… During the 1980s, with the aggressive use of Section 301 of the trade act and the threat of retaliatory trade sanctions, the U.S. trade representative forced countries in Latin America and Asia to open their markets to U.S. tobacco corporations… Based on current rates, tobacco will prematurely kill almost 10 percent of the world’s population. These grim prospects are due in large part to the spectacular U.S. infiltration of overseas markets.” –Joyce V. Millen and Timothy H. Holtz; Dying for Growth

18 “Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to corporate advertising and promotional schemes. Transnational soft drink companies are among the most aggressive advertisers in poor countries. In many of the world’s poorest countries they have succeeded in shifting young people’s tastes away from healthier, cheaper, indigenous juices that were enjoyed before the arrival of soft drink companies.” –Joyce V. Millen and Timothy H. Holtz; Dying for Growth

19 The U.S. supplies more conventional weapons to developing countries than do all other countries combined. “At least 85 percent of U.S. weapons sales go countries the U.S. State Department deems undemocratic or repressive, such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.” –Jennifer Washburn, 07-09-96; http://www.pacificnews.org

“The global trade in weapons affects the health of the poor in multiple ways. The most obvious impact is the use of arms to maim and kill. Since the Second World War, wars kill more civilians than soldiers; noncombatants, in fact, suffer 90 percent of the casualties of current conflicts. In the 150 conflicts fought since the end of World War II, more than 14 million civilians have been killed. These civilian casualties are not simply accidental… Globally, the nearly $1 trillion annually spent on arms in the 1980s was equivalent to the combined annual incomes of 2.6 billion people in the 44 poorest nations, one-half of the world’s population during this period. The denial of essential nutrition, housing, education, and health services to the poor must be considered in the context of the diversion of money to armaments.” –Joyce V. Millen and Timothy H. Holtz; Dying for Growth

20 Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)—an Englishman, Doctor of Divinity, Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland—wrote Gulliver’s Travels and “A Modest Proposal” among other works of satire and advocacy for social justice. In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift suggests satirically that poor Irish parents sell the flesh of their children to the wealthy, for the benefit of family and country. Swift writes, “I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.” Swift devoted much of his writing to the struggle of the Irish people against the English hegemony.

21 “Some estimate that as many as 200 million children work worldwide as “bonded laborers” (a euphemism for slavery), factory and agricultural workers, domestic help, and sex workers. Many of these children are sold by their parents, while others are kidnapped from poor communities by slave dealers who sell them to manufacturers seeking cheap labor… Children are not only sought after as laborers because they are considered cheap or because they have small and nimble fingers. They are preferred by employers because they do not engage in labor disputes, they accept longer working hours, and they are easily subdued…” –Jim Yong Kim and Joyce V. Millen et al., Dying for Growth

“The last 25 years has contributed to the history of horrors of humanity a new form of exploitation of men by men: organ trafficking.” –prestigious Spanish transplant pioneer and former president of the Committee of Experts on Transplants of the Council of Europe, (in Spanish) http://www.el-mundo.es/ 2000/05/14/sociedad/14N0077.html; translated by José-Luis Vivas, who adds in summary of part of the above article: “According to Matesanz, organ trafficking has been surrounded by legends, but it is a reality. As an example he puts forward the TV documentary produced by the Spanish EL MUNDO TV, showing how organs can be bought in the city of Mexico. He compares organ trafficking to slavery and sexual exploitation. The rich may obtain from the poor what they need. He believes trafficking in kidneys is extensive and proved… Organ trafficking is a universal phenomenon, according to him, maybe with the exception of Europe. He mentions India, the Philippines, Thailand, East Europe and Latin America.” –email to author, 11/15/00.

22 The term “structural adjustment” often refers to privatization of industry and services and/or to cutbacks of social spending on education, health care, and food subsidies, etc., along with other conditions—harmful to the general population but profitable to the wealthy elite and foreign investors—which are routinely imposed by the lending requirements of the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund and World Bank upon less developed nations. Or “structural adjustments” may refer to so-called reforms made by any government against the mass of citizens, even in highly developed nations, such as the U.S.

23 “Trafficking in persons—the illegal and highly profitable transport and sale of human beings for the purpose of exploiting their labor—is a slavery-like practice… The number of persons trafficked each year is impossible to determine, but it is clearly a large-scale problem, with estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of victims worldwide. The State Department estimates that each year, 50,000-100,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States alone, approximately half of whom are trafficked into bonded sweatshop labor or domestic servitude. Trafficking is also a truly global phenomenon. The International Organization for Migration has reported on cases of trafficking in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, and North America.” –Regan Ralph; Human Rights Watch

“There are over 100 million street children worldwide…and the numbers of street children are increasing everywhere.” –oneworld.org

24 “Eleven years after the end of the Cold War, the US spends tens of billions of dollars maintaining 200,000 troops in Europe and Asia, where our strong, prosperous allies themselves have military budgets far larger than those of their prospective enemies.  Every year the U.S. spends over $70 billion, in up-front and back-up expenses, keeping U.S. troops in prosperous, friendly Western European and East Asian countries, and over $20 billion maintaining a needlessly large nuclear weapons arsenal.  For this amount of money, the U.S. could provide every student in a public university or community college with free tuition and meet the need of every working parent seeking child care for their children, with billions left over.” –Ralph Nader; http://www.votenader.org, 11/3/00.

25 “To define an evil in terms of a specific group [or person], where such an evil is not inherent in the group [or person] but capable of springing up anywhere, is to remove responsibility from ourselves…. Thus, for present purposes, it is enormously useful to show (as Hannah Arendt did) how genocide could result from the piling up of mundane bureaucratic decisions by ordinary men… To respond to an act already consummated, by punishing the specific ones who were guilty is to leave us free to act, unnoticed, in the same way, until the day of judgment—always one disaster behind.” –Howard Zinn; The Politics of History

26 Noted Jewish intellectual Hannah Arendt reported for The New Yorker at a war crimes trial in 1961 following the recent capture of Otto Adolf Eichmann. Arendt’s “first reaction to Eichmann—who was accused of crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—was that he was ‘not even sinister.’ Arendt argues that ‘The deeds were monstrous, but the doer…was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.’ Arendt’s perception that Eichmann seemed to be a common man, evidenced in his transparent superficiality and mediocrity left her astonished in measuring the unaccounted evil committed by him, that is, organizing the deportation of millions of Jews to the concentration camps. Actually, what Arendt had detected in Eichmann was not even stupidity, in her words, he portrayed something entirely negative, it was thoughtlessness. Eichmann’s ordinariness implied an incapacity for independent critical thought: ‘… the only specific characteristic one could detect in his past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.’ (emphasis added) …it was not only Eichmann, as an isolated person, who was normal, whereas all other bureaucrats were sadist monsters. One was before a bureaucratic compact mass of men who were perfectly normal, but whose acts were monstrous. Behind such terrible normality of the bureaucratic mass, who was able to commit the greatest atrocities that the world has even seen, Arendt addressed the question of the banality of evil…[which] find as a locus of manifestation the common citizen, who has not reflected… Almost 10 years after Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt reaffirms in Thinking and Moral Considerations this same dimension of evil: ‘…the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology, or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.’” –Bethania Assy, Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

27 “The words of playwright Arthur Miller come to mind. ‘Few of us,’ he wrote, ‘can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.’” –John Pilger; Iraq Under Siege; 61.

28 “Well, the truth is” the United States “is Number One, but not the way the politicians and experts would have us think. America is, for example, Number One in billionaires—and we’re Number One in children living in poverty among the nineteen major industrial nations. We’re Number One in health care spending and we’re Number One in infant mortality. We’re Number One in belief in God and we’re Number One in murder… Reflecting trends that have roughly held steady, as of 1992, out of the 19 major industrialized countries, based on per capita figures, the United States was Number 15 in life expectancy though Number 1 in total health spending, Number 13 in public health spending and Number 1 in percentage of population without health insurance. Additionally, the United States was Number 1 in all of the following: infant mortality, infants born at low birth weight, death of children younger than five, and in not offering paid maternity leave; in beef consumption, snack food consumption, and coronary bypass operations; in marriage, divorce, belief in God, the devil, heaven, and hell; in respect for authority and willingness to fight for the country; in percentage of people who think it’s all right to keep money they have found; in billionaires, and in children and elderly in poverty; in real wealth and unequal wealth distribution; in big homes and homelessness; in military spending and in not spending on the poor, the aged, and the disabled; in military aid to developing countries, and in not giving humanitarian aid to developing countries; in executive salaries, inequality of pay, and in not offering paid vacation days; in not voting; in U.N. dues outstanding and U.N. Security Council vetoes since 1980; in not ratifying international human rights treaties; in the murder of children, deaths by gun, gun ownership, deaths by capital punishment, reported rapes, drunk driving fatalities, and leniency toward drinking and driving; in incarceration; in greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants, and contributions to acid rain; in forest depletion, garbage creation, hazardous waste, cars, gasoline consumption, televisions, radios, VCRs, and in book titles not published annually.” –Andrew L. Shapiro, We’re Number One!

29 Adam Smith (1723-1790), in the oft-quoted The Wealth of Nations, writes that market forces, if left to their own workings, will function, as if ‘led by an invisible hand,’ for the benefit of all society.

30 “The smuggling of women and children into the United States who are forced into prostitution and other forms of slave labor…is especially prevalent in Southern California, where authorities believe tens of thousands of people are being forced to work in sweatshops, restaurants, mom-and-pop stores and even underground brothels…. As many as 10,000 Asian women are believed to be working in underground brothels in Southern California alone, said Hae Jung Cho, project director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking…. According to U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, ‘Trafficking is the new slavery of the world… Worldwide, trafficking nets at lest $7 billion a year—exceeded only by international drug and arms trades.’ The exact number of victims is difficult to determine, experts and advocates say. But a CIA report found that about 50,000 people—many of them women and children—are brought to the United States under false pretenses each year and held in servitude… ‘They face tremendous physical, psychological and sexual torture,’ Cho said. ‘There is a labor shortage, as we know, and unfortunately people—instead of paying decent wages—look to find slaves who they don’t have to pay.’” –Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2000

31 “It is only fair to add that the wonders of the free market have opened up alternatives, not only for rich landowners, speculators, corporations, and other privileged sectors, but even for the starving children who press their faces against car windows at street corners at night, pleading for a few cents to survive. Describing the miserable plight of Managua’s street children, David Werner, the author of Where There is No Doctor and other books on health and society, writes that ‘marketing shoe cement to children has become a lucrative business,’ and imports from multinational suppliers are rising nicely as ‘shopkeepers in depressed communities do a thriving business with weekly refills of the children’s little bottle’ for glue-sniffing, said to ‘take away hunger.’ The miracle of the market is again at work, though Nicaraguans still have much to learn… Some of the distance yet to be traveled was revealed in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary, The Body Parts Business, ‘a gruesome litany of depredation,’ reporting murder of children and the poor to extract organs, ‘eyeballs being removed from living skulls by medical pirates armed only with coffee spoons,’ and other such entrepreneurial achievements. Such practices, long reported in Latin America and perhaps now spreading to Russia, have recently been acknowledged by one of the most prized U.S. creations, the government that upholds ‘our values and aspirations’ in El Salvador, where the procurator for the defense of children reported that the ‘big trade in children in El Salvador’ involves not only kidnapping for export, but also their use ‘for pornographic videos, for organ transplants, for adoption and for prostitutions.’ Hardly a secret, Hugh O’Shaughnessy observes, recalling an operation of the Salvadoran army in June 1982 near the River Lempa, where the U.S.-trained troops ‘had a very successful day’s baby-hunting,’ loading their helicopters with fifty babies whose ‘parents have never seen them since.’ O’Shaughnessy’s report on ‘Takeaway babies farmed to order’ appeared in the London Observer…” –Noam Chomsky, World Orders Old and New

32 “Marijuana growing in America has evolved…into a burgeoning high-tech industry with earnings that are estimated at $32 billion a year. That makes it easily the nation’s biggest cash crop, [not] corn ($14 billion) or soybeans ($11 billion)…” –Michael Pollan, New York Times Magazine, February 19, 1995“The number of Colombians who die from U.S.-produced lethal drugs exceeds the number of North Americans who die from cocaine, and is far greater relative to population. In East Asia, U.S.-produced lethal drugs contribute to millions of deaths. These countries are compelled not only to accept the products but also advertising for them, under threat of trade sanctions. The effects of ‘aggressive marketing and advertising by American firms is, in a good measure, responsible for…a sizeable increase in smoking rates for women and youth in Asian countries where doors were forced open by threat of severe U.S. trade sanctions,’ public health researchers conclude. The Colombian cartels, in contrast, are not permitted to run huge advertising campaigns in which a Joe Camel-counterpart extols the wonders of cocaine. We are therefore entitled, indeed morally obligated, to ask whether Colombia, Thailand, China, and other targets of U.S. trade policies and lethal-export promotion have the right to conduct military, chemical and biological warfare in North Carolina. And if not, why not? We might also ask why there are no Delta Force raids on U.S. banks and chemical corporations, though it is no secret that they too are engaged in the narcotrafficking business. And why the Pentagon is not gearing up to attack Canada, now replacing Colombia and Mexico with high potency marijuana that has already become British Colombia’s most valuable agricultural product and one of the most important sectors of the economy, joined by Quebec and closely followed by Manitoba, with a tenfold increase in just the past 2 years. Or to attack the United States, a major producer of marijuana with production rapidly expanding, including hydroponic groweries, and long the center of illicit manufacture of high-tech illicit drugs (ATS, amphetamine-type stimulants), the fastest growing sector of drug abuse, with 30 million users worldwide, probably surpassing heroin and cocaine.” –Noam Chomsky, Z Magazine, June 2000.

33 A recent Associated Press headline and article: “Granny Arrested For Organ Sales” “The boy thought his grandmother was taking him to Disneyland, but Russian police say she had other plans: to sell her grandson so his organs could be used for transplants. Police in Ryazan, 125 miles southeast of Moscow, said Saturday that they arrested a woman after they were tipped that she was trying to sell her grandson to a man who was going to take the boy to the West. There his organs were to be removed and sold, a Ryazan police duty officer said. After a surveillance operation, police moved in to arrest the woman Tuesday, capturing the event on a videotape that was released in part Saturday. Police did not reveal the woman’s name. The woman was helped in the scheme by the boy’s uncle, who told police the child was being sold for about $70,000. When asked how he could sell his nephew, the uncle replied: ‘My mother said that it is none of my business, he is her grandson.’ The boy, whose age was not released, lived with his grandmother. Police said she told him he was being taken to Disneyland. Body parts have been smuggled out of Russia in the past for sale in the West as organ replacements.” –www.washingtonpost.com, AP, 10/28/00.

34 “Between 300,000 and 800,000 children work as hired laborers in commercial U.S. agriculture today. These farm-worker children weed cotton fields, pick lettuce and cantaloupe and climb rickety ladders in cherry and apple orchards. They often work 12 or more hours a day… They risk serious illness, including cancer and brain damage, from exposure to pesticides, and suffer high rates of injury from working with sharp tools and heavy machinery. Despite long and grueling days, some child farmers are paid only $2 an hour. Many of them drop out of school, too exhausted to study. Nearly half of them never graduate from high school. Lacking other options, many are relegated to a lifetime of low-wage field labor that perpetuates the cycle of farm-worker poverty through generations… An estimated 100,000 children suffer agriculture-related injuries annually in the United States… The 14-hour days worked by a 13-year-old are not prohibited by law in the U.S. Children as young as 12 can legally work unlimited hours in agriculture… [which] amounts to de facto race-based discrimination, since the vast majority of farm-worker children are Latino and other racial minorities.” –Victoria Riskin and Mike Farrell, Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2000.