Volatile minds

I am fascinated by shapes and symmetry in nature, which is sort of what this post is about. I believe there is a creator or a programmer behind everything.

I have written several posts about British celebrity atheists the last couple of years, and they are frequently represented by Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins. They may very well be what they claim to be, but I get the impression that far too many atheists sail with a flag of convenience. If you don’t want any questions or don’t wan’t to defend what you believe, proclaiming to be an atheist is an easy solution. No one is going to ask how you came to that conclusion.

I mentioned Stephen Fry in the other posts, especially an interview he did with an Irish TV channel. Many atheists praised his remarkably inconsiderate bluster, but although these couple of minutes told me quite a lot about Stephen Fry (I knew he was an atheist, but before this I mostly knew him as an actor), they left me with more questions than answers. This story re-surfaced this week because a man had reported Fry to the police for what he saw as blasphemous comments in this interview. The police were forced to investigate, but only got around to it now, two years later. They dropped the case of course because having an opinion, no matter how thoughtless it is, shouldn’t be illegal.

Watch Stephen Fry’s answer on You Tube.

I don’t like the tendency there is these days to attack people you disagree with. I think both Stephen Fry and whoever reported him to the police did so in this case. Media reports constantly about cases where there is a false accusation of rape or molestation. There are cases involving the Child Welfare Service where they accuse a parent, usually ther mother, of being mentally ill. This happens without a psychologist/psychiatrist or even a GP talking to the parent. There are many master suppression techniques used to stop people or simply to get revenge. I also take an interest foreign politics and international relations, and as soon as you voice an opinion some people are quick to label you a conspiracy theorist. In other words, no matter how dogmatically Stephen Fry speaks, he shouldn’t be silenced.

As for the content of his speech…. Well, that is confusing and predictable at the same time. I am sorry to say I am not the great mind and thinker I’d like to be. I tried reading a translation of Thomas Aquinas once and I’ve never been so utterly disheartened. I couldn’t understand any of it, although I was reading my own language. I can only use my limited understanding of the universe, but I believe that is enough for me.

Tbe problem most people have, and this is a very general principle you can apply to everything from religion to science to racism, is that they don’t accept conclusions that contradict what they already believe. Even scientists tend to look for evidence that supports their hypothesis, but they find it harder to accept findings that will force them to lose some of their most fundamental convictions.

Stephen Fry seems to have reached a deeper understanding of the big questions. Christians have always struggled with explaining God and the presence of evil, and there’s been many suggestions the last 2000 years. I don’t personally know that God controls everything that goes on in the universe, or that he is responsible for all the injustice and pain in the world. I don’t know that God demands us to get down on our knees to thank him either. I am mostly hopeful. To be honest, I am trying to make the best out of this life, but it would be nice with a second round without all the bs from this world.

Are you looking for proof? Aren’t we all, but what is proof? Experience is an obsolete term for the word proof, and in that sense the proof of God’s existence makes sense to me. You are not going to find anything if you expect mathematics that leaves no doubt whatsoever. The way I experience or observe and encounter the universe, and read about how scientists have encountered it, I find it very likely that the universe and our unique world was created. I don’t think it just happened.

I personally don’t think it would be a bad idea with a more Christian lifestyle. and by that I don’t mean the corrupt version that governments and political leaders have imposed on the population for a couple of thousand years. Proof is experience and what most Christians preach is nonsense to me because it’s not my experience.

The Hitler Trick

The result of three car bombs in Aleppo that the Al Qaida-connected al-Nusra Front took responsibility for Photo: Zyzzzzzy via Wikimedia Commons
The result of three car bombs in Aleppo that the Al Qaida-connected al-Nusra Front took responsibility for
Photo: Zyzzzzzy via Wikimedia Commons

I recently read an interesting comment by the Danish sociologist Lars Jørgensen in the Danish newspaper Arbejderen (the worker). It was about media’s responsibility for the war in Syria, and I agree that they have caused many of the problems. It has to do with Hitler’s trick, as Jørgensen called it. Hitler knew, according to the comment in Arbejderen, that ordinary people couldn’t make themselves believe that their own leaders would shamelessly lie to them to justify war. That makes people inclined to contribute to their own oppression.

The argument is convincing at the same time as it’s hard to understand why people would do this. There were undoubtedly people in the 1930’s and 40’s that didn’t want to see the truth, and there are people today that don’t want to see their political heroes as liars. At the same time we have a resonsibility to reflect on what governmets and journalists tell us. We can accept everything we read and hear as truth, but having that level of naivity is a choice we make. I have read many accounts of Germans that actively opposed Hitler, during the war and they were not all Jews. The situation might be different today because we are not talking about our closest neighbours and fellow citizens, but a population in a country most people had barely heard about before the war started.

I believe people know when their political leaders are lying. They knew Hitler was wrong from the start and they knew the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were not about helping the people or making our own countries safer. Incidentally, two British Parlamentary reports into the wars in Iraq and Libya concluded that they were based on lies. Politicians and media failed us, but those few journalists, activsts and scholars that have tried to follow the evidence of for example gas attacks in Syria, point towards the rebels, the so-called moderate islamists. It’s not that it’s not being reported at all, but articles like UN has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas:investigator from Reuters are usually ignored. We don’t want to know. I believe the Hitler trick still very much sums up how the democracy we want to share with the rest of the world works.

I believe you have a pretty good idea that news and statements from the government are narrations, but we like it when it makes us look strong and when it doesn’t have any consequences for us. We are being told a version of the truth, and in that sense I don’t think there is a country without a conspiracy. There are no known cases of a conspiracy in Norway. Nothing has ever been exposed, although there are some suspicious cases, but when I read the news and compare it to independent news from Syria, I know there is a Hitler trick in operation. Anything else would be a child’s naive fantasy.

Paradise in Norway: Stormclouds on the horizon

We can have the most talented people in the White House we can come up with. But if Americans don’t understand what’s at stake and are not pushing good people into government to do the right thing, eventually the moneyed interests are going to win out because there’s nobody else that is loud enough to be heard.

I started with something Robert Reich, author, professor at Berkely and former politician, said in an interview. It’s a reminder of our own responsibility. Many seem to suffer from the illusion that the world became less democratic with Trump in the USA, and the so-called populist wave in Europe. Everything was apparantly hunky-dory under the Bush family in the USA, and in the EU before the British voters decided to use their democratic right to take their independence back.

It’s a classic sign that you have something to hide. Imagine a scene from a crime show. The police are searching through the suspect’s apartment. He has hidden whatever the officers are looking for very well, so he remains calm. The police eventually come close to the secret storage and the suspect starts to sweat and get a very worried look on his face. He may try to divert the officers’ attention or even shout in panick as he realizes it’s too late.

That’s the way the world is run these days. An excessive amount of truth and democracy are dangerous, so authorities aim to reduce the extent of these concepts in society. They have hidden the true story. Socialism became a liability a long time ago, which means that the American dream is no longer a goal. Socialism and the American dream have a lot of things in common as both deal with distribution or redistribution. That’s basically what the American dream was about. You could start out poor and make a fortune, but a major part of the American dream was also about working less. Many had more time to do things with their families, which wasn’t an option before. It was also about not starving. People didn’t have to become rich to accomplish that, so socialism was a significant part of the Anerican dream. It was still possible to become stinking rich because the dream wasn’t about equal outcome. It was about equal opportunity.

Norway is a socialist country, but not the kind of socialism you hear about on Fox News. There is inequality here as well, and it’s growing. The official story was that we didn’t feel the financial crisis of 2008 at all, but according to a report from the Labour and Welfare Administration from December last year we are becoming less equal. The most disturbing trend is that people under 30 give up. They report that they are looking for jobs without actually applying for any. That is a problem because research and experience from other countries (such as socialist Scotland) show that poverty can be inherited. If children never see their parents go to work, or do anything productive, there is a good chance they won’t amount to anything themselves.

The former and present leader of Norwegian Labour, Jens Stoltenberg and Jonas gahr Støre. I wonder why they tend to remind me of Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone. Photo: Arbeiderpartiet via Flickr
The former and present leader of Norwegian Labour, Jens Stoltenberg and Jonas Gahr Støre. I wonder why they tend to remind me of Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone. Photo: Arbeiderpartiet via Flickr

It is still better to be poor here than in many other countries. We have programs that help people, but I think we are moving closer to an unsustainable society. The American dream was about equal opportunities, not equal outcome. That’s all we can ask for. That doesn’t seem to apply anywhere in the world anymore. Equal opportunity starts the year you start school. I think it’s fair to say that some schools have better buildings, better and more technical equipment, better teachers, and better food than other schools. By the time students apply for university, they are not on equal terms. It doesn’t matter how hard they work and how much they contribute.

It’s not on the same level in Norway as in the USA of course, but the financial crisis in 2008 may have changed my country permanently. We know that increased immigration adds to poverty, so this “everybody is welcome and they don’t have to work-attitude” is more than a little naive. There is a lot of potentially negative things connected at the moment. This is about the economy in most of the world, it’s about Trump, the future of EU, Brexit, a possibly Frexit, and it’s about NATO’s desire to fight democracy anywhere. We all talk about democracy, but the truth is that democratic governments don’t want democracy. It just gets in their way.

Norway promotes a new world order

Statements like that quickly get you labeled a conspiracy theorist, and in a country like Norway that just means you do your own thinking. You’d think new world order was controversial, but if you google it you’ll find quotes by JFK, Richard Nixon, Joe Biden, George Bush and least surprising of all, Henry Kissinger. You may phrase it differently, but when President Obama said that all nations must come together to build a stronger global regime, it sounded pretty world order to me.

The Labour Party in Norway had their convention a couple of weeks ago, and one of their statements was especially disturbing. They said that the party wanted to promote a global order with the UN as a core, but they were also prepared to continue supporting US military action without a mandate from the UN. How is this different from a new world order?

The University of Zürich has made a list of the most globalised countries in the world, and it shows that Europe is much more globalised than the USA. I guess it’s not that surprising if you think of where the major companies and influences come from. We are the targets. Norway isn’t exactly influencing the lives of Americans. Have you heard about Yara International? They produce fertilisers and employ 8 000 people. How about the retailer Reitan Group with its 27 000 employees? These are pretty big companies, but not exactly on the level of McDonalds, Coca Cola, Apple and Facebook.

We have always seen America as a friend, and US influence has always been regarded as something positive, but I don’t think we should let our friend get away anything. When Donald Trump gave the order to launch Tomahawk missiles towards Syria, he became the US president. Many see the use of force or looking good on TV as being presidential, even when they are not sure it’s the right thing to do. Anything but complete support is seen as unpatriotic, but I wish being patriotic meant telling your government how it should act. We have the same problem in Norway. We can’t debate whether or not we should support actions that may be a violation of international law. We support the USA no matter what, and when you expect that kind of totally blind loyalty, you have started walking down a path that will lead you to a dark place. I am still a US supporter, but I like a democracy where you can express concern, and I am concerned about what our old friend is doing right now. I personally don’t think America or any other region of this world will be great without the values that made us great in the first place. I think our biggest flaw is that we insist on removing the spritual content from our civilization, and as a result of that many choose something far worse.

Just out of curiousity, what do you consider to be reasonable for a dominating country to do towards others? If that is reasonable for us, would it be the same if things were reversed and Russia did it to us?

Retrace Syria’s steps

The remains of Serjilla, a settlement i Syria bult in 473 when Syrians were Chriatians. These seetlements are called dead cities because they were abandoned when Muslims invaded the country. Syria is one of the oldest members of the global church with a 10 percent Christian population today. Why have we forgotten them? Photo: James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons
The remains of Serjilla, a Syrian settlement from 473 when the country was Christian. These seetlements are called dead cities because they were abandoned when Muslims invaded the country. 10 percent of Syrians are still Christians. Why have we forgotten them? Photo: James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes it’s useful to take s few steps back and try to retrace the steps to where we are today. I believe that could explain what has happened in West Asia, and what is going to happen. When the Arab League debated Iraq in 2003 Syria and Libya spoke out against intervention. Iran was in a tricky situation because after fighting off an invasion attempt from Iraq during most of the 1980’s, the regime in Tehran was not exactly thrilled about supporting Saddam Hussein, but not interested in inviting American troops next door either. But I think it’s safe to say that they didn’t support the US invasion of Iraq. Assad of Syria was especially adament that it would destabilize Iraq, and consequently Syria, as they share a long border. It turned out he was right.

When NATO-countries really want us to see the Iranian and Syrian regimes as the two biggest threats to world peace my couriosity is being aroused. Why are they dangerous to us? I’m asking because Iran has a relatively low military budget compared to other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia was the biggest spender ( $ 63.7 billion) in 2016 behind the three big ones, USA, China and Russia, which makes them the biggest military threat in the region. Iran is number 19 on the list and spent $ 12.3 billion on the military last year, which is 5.5 less than Israel. So why do Israel and the USA maintain that Iran is preparing a nuclear attack on Israel? There is no evidence for this claim, but you could probably argue that Iran, whether they have nukes or not, want to deter their enemies. Apart from the ordinary and expected verbal threats against Israel, they seem more interested in self-preservation.

“We” have been decent enough to stabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now we are working on Syria. Most people can’t remember how or why the war in Syria started, so it might be useful to go back. Iran, Syria and Libya didn’t want American involvement in Iraq. Does it appear to you that we have been terribly succesful? The truth is that defense and deterrence is a threat if you have other plans. If your plan is to violate international law by replacing the regime with one that will follow your orders, then of course defense is a threat.

I think we can expect to see an attack on Iran if Syria falls. What does this tell us about the war on terror? At the very least it’s very confusing. NATO like to say that they work with moderate Muslims in Syria. These are around 1000 groups that have formed different alliances and affiliations with Al Qaida, Taliban and similar organizations. There is also evidence to suggest that NATO have been supporting ISIL because that is a way to attack the regime indirectly. I am sure there are moderate Muslims among these, but there are not enough to go around. In any case, the war on terror is crap, and I believe all the touching words about helping the children in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and other Syrian cities are equally false.

I don’t think Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadaffi were good men according to our standards. I am not convinced that Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are any better, but I believe they love their countries. It’s not a governance the way we want it, but can we really offer them something better? Besides, what happened to our own democracies? It’s not exactly something I’d gladly give away as a gift to a friend.

As for Russia, I think Putin has multiple reasons for supporting the Syrian regime. He wants to keep the Russian base and an ally in West Asia, but as a leader of an old Christian culture I suspect that Putin also considers the 10 percent Christian population in Syria. I suspect he also thinks about Russia’s responsibility to maintain the balance between the powers, or to stop Western imperialism. That’s how occupied countries tend to see our interference, and I think it’s a correct perception. So if you ask what alliance is the biggest threat to world peace I am not sure the answer should be Russia, Syria and Iran.

Arab leaders declare opposition to war in Iraw (CNN)
List of countries by military expenditures (Wikipedia)

On the Verge of War

I initially thought that perhaps the Trump experiment wasn’t doomed to fail. Many said it would be a bad idea to let him be in charge, especially as the previous couple of presidents had created some rather unfortunate presedence (acting without Congress). I agreed with them that it was a very dark potential there, but maybe not less than it would have been with Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, I felt that if he was sincere about being what the establishment has not been, he could become the president most people needeed.

If he hadn’t proven the critics right before he certainly did last week, because his latest blunder wasn’t just embarrassing or amusing. It was dangerous. President Trump told Fox Business on April 12:

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: He is doing the wrong thing.

He was talking about North Korea, and in an interview a few days earlier he had stated that the USA would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help. This was supported by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who warned that military action was on the table, and Vice President Pence said that the era of strategic patience was over. It was starting to look like war was very much a possibility. It probably wasn’t the most likely scenario, but if the leadership in North-Korea believed it was, they could have felt provoked to attack first. After all, they do seem to have a diplomatic language that is anything but diplomatic.

Maybe we’ll never know just how close we came to a devastating war in Asia, but this is the danger with cold war and so-called balance of terror. There is always a risk of someone making a hasty decision. There have been some close calls in the past. The early 1960’s must have been a scary time with the Cuban missile crisis as the climax. While that took place the pilot of a U-2 spy plane also violated Soviet airspace, but John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev solved the crisis. The next big one happened in 1979 when a computer glitch at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had the Americans believing that the Soviet Union had launched a missile attack. Something similar happened on the other end in 1983 when a Soviet satellite misinterpreted a glint of sunlight as a missile launch.

The Able Archer was an annual American exercise in Europe, but 1983 was different. There were several new elements that year and to the Russians it didn’t look like a drill. Read more about on Wikipedia. The last incident I know about was the Norwegian rocket incident in 1995. There is a research station on the island of Andøya where Norwegian and American scientists study the aurora borealis. In this case they launched a rocket that would carry equipment to study the phenomenon over Svalbard. To the Russians it looked like a Trident missile being launched from a submarine. I vaguely remember this from the news, and if I am not mistaken President Boris Yeltsin later told reporters that he was carrying “the nuclear briefcase”. It’s really not good when we allow old men with a failing health to make these kinds of decisions alone.

Misunderstandings sometimes happens, which is why no one should welcome a new cold war, but I have one question after Trump’s bizarre game: Why? We know that neither Iraq or Libya was a threat. We know enough to be suspicious of the claims regarding Syria, China, Russia and possibly North Korea. So what is the urgency? Are there some questions we are not supposed to ask?

The biggest one could be the economy. Some say that the economy never recovered and in a way they are correct. According to Emmanuel Sanchez from University of California, Berkeley, the top 1 percent captured 93 percent of the income gains the first year of the recovery (2010). Read his Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States. The problem is that rich people don’t put much money back, while people with low to moderate income are more likely to spend money locally. Trump prides himself in being a business man that can negotiate any deal, and get a better deal than anyone else. I am not sure that his latest actions have strengthened his position.

War has been good for business in the past. That’s the theory at least. WW II probably didn’t hurt America as it was other countries and other people that were destroyed, but that theory may not be very convincing today. After all, considering how many resources NATO have spent in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen we shouldn’t have had a recession in the first place. Some people clearly made a lot of money, but it didn’t help most people. So how healthy is the economy really? Is it possible for the economy to recover without a middle class?

War is also seen as positive because it distracts the rest of the population. It doesn’t matter much to many people that they are being cheated because as long as the military kicks butt, they feel good. To some people that’s the only reason they need to go to war. That’s the dark side of patriotism, but maybe it should move us to simply ask why? Why are we doing this to other countries if it’s not helping them?

Aggression in the South China Sea

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night. Yoda

After Truth vs propaganda, where I wrote about Russia, it seems natural to move to China. The narration is that China is an aggressor in the South China Sea, but do we know that?

I started my research in The Diplomat. According to an article by Greg Austin, Professor at the Australian Centre for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, China is not the problem. He makes a convincing argument that Vietnam is actually more eager to acquire outposts than China. He quoted Assistant Secretary of Defense, David Shear, addressing the Senate Foreign relations Committee in 2015: Vietnam has 48 outposts, the Philippines 8, China 8, Malaysia 5, and Taiwan 1.

I refer to Austin’s article for more information.

Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia regional specialist, responded to this article and claimed that what China has done could support Chinese expansion in the area. I guess it’s a matter of who and what you choose to believe, and this is where things start to get interesting. The US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, stated in 2012 that they were planning to move 60 percent of the the navy fleet to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. He said this during a regional security meeting in Singapore, according to BBC..

So now we have a situation where the USA are building up their military in the Pacific, but claiming it has nothing to do with China. Three years later the same administration maintain that China is not a problem. The United States now have 400 bases in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, some former Soviet countries, as well as on some atolls. This happened before the latest development in Syria, which is also in Asia, and North Korea. I have frequently referred to both news and politics as a narration, and I don’t think anything in politics just happens.

The United States and China have one important thing in common, they share the Pacific Ocean, but are they willing to share? The narration tells us that China is an aggressor, which just means they don’t support US politics. What if there is another story, one where China builds bases because they have to defend themselves? As with Russia, I have no illusions of China being a better society than the one I’m living in, but that’s not what we are talking about. I imagine that all former empires dream of restoring what they once had, but I can’t see that China is particularly bad in that respect. Imagine if Russia/China decided to build bases in Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas and Mexico. Would it be fair to expect the United States to do nothing?

The United States have been very successful if their goal is to make people fear them. They have some friends left, and old enemies are terrified of the enormous fire power the USA and NATO have. It’s not unlike the Galactic Empire and its Death Star in Star Wars. Building more and more nuclear weapons doesn’t make the world safer and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence knowing that countries like Pakistan, India and Israel have the ability to nuke their enemies, which tend to be their neighbours. I wonder if there is a way out of this for Trump. After the statements President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Tillerson have made concerning Syria (which includes Russia) and North Korea (which borders China and Russia), it would be strange if nothing happened. Would they be satisfied with that?

Norway and Norwegians have had a long love affair with America. I live in an area of Norway that some find a little disturbing because it’s almost like the America Trump wants to make great again. There are areas in this region, outside the towns, that are very Midwestern, and if you want to look for people loyal to the USA this would be a good place to start. This is not surprising as nearly a million people from this small country became Americans during a hundred year period.

I don’t know where it comes from, but I suspect that our expression going west (meaning doom) comes from the time when many fishermen died at sea. From mid 19th century west, as in America, was also hope and life. It was freedom. I have to say, it saddens me to see that America implants fear in people. To some people that is a good thing, and I agree if it helps stop evil, but what if it also stops a development that wouldn’t be that bad? What if we are getting used to the idea that the country that used to be a safe haven is now the opposite? What if we have become the Galactic Empire? I know that weapons and a balance between the powers is necessary, but I am not sure that what we are seeing today is necessary. Incidentally, you are not being honest if you think that Donald Trump is the problem. This started a long time ago.

USA with a perfect noose around China

Truth vs propaganda

Photo of Vladimir Putin. Many see Vladimir Putin as a threat, while others think he is a good leader. What is truth and what is propaganda? Photo: Kremlin.ru
Many see Vladimir Putin as a threat, while others think he is a good leader. What is truth and what is propaganda? Photo: Kremlin.ru

It’s hard for us in a small country like Norway to fully appreciate how hard it is to govern really big countries or federations like the USA, Russia and China. It requires a strong central leadership that may need to do things that seems alien or even undemocratic to us. Authorities sometimes cross multiple lines, but I don’t know that Russia is particularly bad about that. We regard everything the USA do as a positive thing. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it came from America it’s automatically a good thing. It’s the opposite about Russia. Everything they say and do is bad. I always aim to be objective, but that kind of thinking is more than a little thickheaded. Do you really think the truth is that simple?

Who is Vladimir Putin really and what does he want? No one knows the answer because we only know him through his enemies, but I am quite convinced that we cannot rely on the image we have been presented with in the West. Most people may not see that narration as counterproductive as it is exactly what media and authorities seem to want, but I don’t see how this helps the citizens they are supposed to help. Norwegian media trusts American media, and Norwegian journalists frequently translate stories from US newspapers without bothering to question whether or not the article is biased. An article from Business Insider five years ago revealed that only 6 companies own 90 percent of US media. How much diversity and independence do you think that will produce?

It is impossible to know whether or not Putin is a Christian, and it’s not necessary to speculate on it as this is a matter between him and God. What we do know is that he has made a number of statements about how important Christianity is for Russia. He acknowledges that Russia is a Christian country and has spoken candidly about being baptized as a baby. His mother had to keep it a secret from her husband, who was a loyal member of the Communist Party, and we know how they felt about religion. It doesn’t matter whether he really is a believer or just uses religion as propaganda or a glue to keep the country united, but the fact that he finds it natural to speak about his own experiences at the very least suggest that he isn’t like any other Russian leader. He sees the value in a pre-communist Russian culture and Christianity is an important part of that. It is a tradition that has the power to unite Russians. Just to illustrate how vast and diverse Russia is, Norway and North Korea both border Russia.

I have watched some excerpts of speeches by Putin on You Tube and he seems to be doing a good job publicly. It’s an open question whether he is the greatest leader we have today or whether he is a tyrant, but we must realize that we are surrounded by propaganda. No one is interested in just reporting the truth or giving us the correct image of Vladimir Putin. I have no illusions about Russia being a utopian society, but I have a hard time believing that the world has become a more dangerous place because of what Russia, and Russia alone has done. It’s interesting that the Putin I watch on TV is calm, knowledgeable and has intelligent analyses of the USA and NATO. He doesn’t appear to be the madman he is often described as. Some would argue that this is just an act, but I am not convinced.

There is something deeply unsettling about this uncompromising, absolute attitude we see from NATO. Russian presidents have only evil intentions and US presidents have only the best intentions. There  is a lot of fundamentalist ideology behind this kind of propaganda, but the truth is probably that there are evil and good people on both sides. These are the nuances we don’t read and hear about in MSM. I wish I could say I had the answer, but when future historians debate the leaders of the 21st century Putin may not be seen as the only source of the problems we are seeing today. We may be just as much the source.

There are certainly a lot we can criticize Putin for, and many believe his mistakes are so obvious that proof is unnecessary. Nothing has changed really. It has been an established truth at least since WW II that America is good and Russia is evil, and as the leader of the free world America is always right. Don’t get me wrong, I support the USA, but I get a little skeptical when there is so much effort to discourage any debate on the matter. I have no doubt that Putin is guilty of some of the charges against him, but the truth is never as simple as some want us to believe.

Ask yourself where the information about Putin and Russia comes from. Is it from people and agencies that are inclined to be fair, or that don’t really care whether we like or dislike Russia? In other words, is the source independent? We are being told that Russia is behind almost everything that has gone wrong in the world today. There has, according to this view, been no development between Stalin and Putin. They are just as bad to the world. It is suspicious in itself when we have such a great need to believe that Putin is evil, while we are innocent. If something goes wrong we are nothing more than victims.

It’s interesting that someone is willing to entertain the idea that NATO isn’t always correct. It is naive to believe that journalism, history and politics don’t contain a certain amount of propaganda. I believe they do on both sides, but it’s not certain that Russia is more guilty than we are. I have expressed these views before, but this particular post was inspired by the Norwegian pundit Hanne Nabintu Herland. Check out her blog, The Herland Report (a mixture of English and Norwegian articles).

The question doesn’t just apply to Putin. What do we really know about Assad, what did we really know about Gadaffi, and where did this information come from?

While I am touching the subject of our righteous indignation, the UN Refugee Agency reported on April 11 that there is already a growing displacement, but now 20 million people risk starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia,and Yemen. They reported on the conflict in South Sudan the next day, and there are now 380 000 South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. I assume we can’t blame Russia for creating this situation or for preventing us from helping.

Live Indie

There are lots of things I don’t understand. I especially don’t understand anything that involves numbers, so when my daughter brought home sudoku as a part of her homework a few weeks ago, I was trying my best tell her that of course I could help her, but she didn’t look like I sounded very convincing.

I don’t understand economics, but I also understand it very well. I haven’t had a regular cable subscription for several years. I didn’t have anything for a long time, and didn’t miss it as the cable company only offered a whole lot of crap. I have Netflix now, which is also a sizable collection of crap, but there is also enough quality that I am enjoying TV again. I really like Noam Chomsky and I highly recommend the documentary Requiem for the American Dream. I also like Inequality for All where former U.S. Labour Secretary Robert Reich talks about how America could be great again. It’s a very simple recipe, but no one in power listens to him.

There are also documentaries I really don’t agree with. Cowspiracy talks about how environmentalists are ignoring the fact, as this film claims it is, that farming is killing the planet. This has to do with how much water agriculture use. Eating fish is bad too. There is no sustainable farming or fishing according to this very slanted documentary, and in my opinion it’s not a documentary if it’s one-sided. Several of the people interviewed in the film suggested that the only way we can save our planet was by stop eating animals, even fish. It was pretty clear that this wasn’t an objective film. It was almost fundamentalist and authoritarian in its anti-meat message.

 

Traditional farming has zero carbon footprint. The problem is the
The problem isn’t traditional farming; it’s the industrial production. Photo: Anand S via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t agree with everything in Zeitgeist: Moving Forward and Zeitgeist Addendum either, but these two films have some good points concerning the corrupt society we live in, and what we need to change. The solutions they offer have a certain la la land-quality, but I like some of them. I agree that we don’t need to support the biggest, greediest banks and we don’t need to watch or read mainstream media (they refer to this as pre-filtered news).

I could sum up their actions for social transformation with one word, independence, or as I said on my Norwegian blog yesterday, I want an indie life.

Forbidden words and thoughts

Noam Chomsky is sometimes asked why he is anti-American. The implication is that anyone who criticizes the government is a traitor. He makes the point that the term anti is not used in a democratic country. In fact, it was used in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Dissidents were labeled anti-Soviet or anti-German, which just meant that they wanted democracy. So when someone in a seemingly democratic country accuse a nonconformist of being anti-American or anti-any other country, aren’t they really saying that they are living in an authoritarian state?

I have criticized my own government for its policies on immigration, low income families, housing, the Middle East, environment, education and the child protective services just to mention a few issues. Does that make me anti-Norwegian? I think it makes me democratic because my agenda isn’t a regime change, but to change the regime in my own country to become more democratic.

I have a tendency to obsess about the same topic for a while, and it’s been the USA/Trump lately. Someone wrote a comment on Facebook a few days ago asking why I was so occupied with Trump when Putin must be a much bigger concern. I think it’s worthwhile discussing international issues that can and will impact life in Norway as well. There is no doubt that the USA has been the biggest power during my lifetime if you look at politics, economics and culture. No one has had the same ability to influence the rest of the world. I think it’s worth considering what is happening in the world right now.

One of many Russian battleships that sail close to the Norwegian coast reminding us of their presence. Photo: The Norwegian Armed Forces
One of many Russian battleships that sail close to the Norwegian coast reminding us of their presence. Photo: The Norwegian Armed Forces

We are constantly being told that both Russia and China are a threat. They may very well be. I think they could be if we leave them unchecked, and that’s not what I am suggesting, but I am not convinced that these two countries are planning world domination. I have no doubt that Putin’s biggest goal is to bring back the old Soviet Union, but he is not stupid. He knows what will happen if he tries to invade a country. I believe the Chinese leadership feel the same way about their region, but what some call aggression and a buildup of military power could just as well be a defensive response to the United States.

There is no doubt that USA and NATO have increased the tension by moving troops and hardware close to Russia and China. The US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in 2012 that they would move 60 percent of the navy fleet to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. This might be a natural shift after they have focused on the Middle East and Western Asia for a long time, but I think it’s ridiculous, like some do to talk about China as the big aggressor.

Talking about this is democracy. The preface to George Orwell’s Animal Farm is just as interesting as the book. The author addressed the people of free England and said that they shouldn’t feel self-satisfied about their democracy. It’s frankly shocking reading this more than 70 years later:

The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long enough in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news-things which of their own merit would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that “it wouldn’t do” to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics.

He goes on to say that the same censorship applies to books, periodicals, plays, films and radio. Today we can add MSM and TV. I believe in education, but not in any education. One without free and critical thinking is pointless, and I think George Orwell had a point when he claimed that an education was one way of oppressing unpopular ideas without the use of force. Schools can be used to teach us that there are things we don’t say or think. The first step if you break this unwritten law is that you become anti-whatever country you live in.

This sounds like the same debate we have today. Clearly democracy wasn’t won once and for all when Orwell published the book in 1945.