Tuesday, April 12, 2022

People Ask Me Why I Seem To Have Nothing To Say

It's a time of war, propaganda, and wildly increasing prices for anyone in the world who eats grain or uses fertilizer to grow crops.

More often, they accuse me of having the wrong perspective if I fail to make the correct public statements of moral outrage (emphatically and in a timely manner).

The content of the conversation around recent world events is very disturbing, in so many ways.  At least as disturbing as the content are the ways these messages are communicated.

To directly respond to those who wonder why I've had nothing to say, it's not really true -- I wrote a couple of songs, one about Russian history, another about the prospect of a nuclear holocaust.  But these are, perhaps, indirect ways of speaking out, at best.  At worst, they are evidence of Kremlin sympathies.

I'm an occasional writer of essays, but much more consistently and more or less by profession, I'm a songwriter.  Even as a relatively prolific one, there are many, many subjects I've never found a way to write about effectively.  With politics it's especially fraught because whatever it is you're saying, it's going to have a different audience depending on how you're saying it, what language you're speaking, and where you're from, among other factors.

I don't know about other artists, but when I'm writing a song, I may be writing it because I want to tell a story and I enjoy trying to do that well, just for the sake of writing a good song.  But I'm also aware as I'm coming up with an idea for a song that I have a small audience, and it is overwhelmingly composed of English-speaking people from North America and northwestern Europe.  Despite my own Belarussian and Hungarian background, I have no audience to speak of in eastern Europe.

When I'm writing, whatever I'm writing, there's generally the hope that my words might have some kind of impact on someone.  Probably some English-speaking person from North America or northwestern Europe.  Maybe even many thousands of someones, including some who live in tents, and others who are members of various parliaments.

If I were to write something speaking out against what the western media calls Putin's war against Ukraine, who is my audience and what am I trying to say to them?

My impression is for a lot of people, these are not important kinds of questions.  What matters is being morally correct, as far as I can tell.  While the desire to stop the bombing by any means possible is so very easy to understand, the specter of self-proclaimed progressives, and even anarchists, publicly calling for NATO to impose a "no-fly zone" over Ukraine is absolutely terrifying to me, for so many reasons.

The world might be a better place if everyone was issued their own surface-to-air missile at birth, to use at their discretion at some point.  Then perhaps the whole world could be one big no-fly zone.  It's a nice fantasy, but in the real world, imposing a no-fly zone on a nuclear power means World War 3.  Or at least that's what the more pragmatic elements within NATO believe.  So "close the skies" remains a rallying cry for Zelensky and the NATO hardliners, but a line those more cognizant of the prospect of Mutually Assured Destruction are unwilling to cross, for now.

If you are not on social media proclaiming your support for NATO to initiate World War 3, however, then you are a tool of Putin -- all the more so if you dare suggest that NATO brinkmanship, NATO expansion, and NATO aggression are all massively responsible for sending us off the cliff, from which we are currently hurtling towards the rocks below.

The response that you'll see in the leftwing forums on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube will likely include phrases like "full stop" or "the bottom line," such as "this is Russian imperialism, full stop."  History, provocations, military training, military aid, sanctions, proxy wars, coup plots, political corruption involving the US president's own family members -- all irrelevant, not even worth considering, evidence of being pro-Putin.

Two months ago I wrote a piece in Counterpunch called Biden's Brinkmanship.  Now I'm not sure if the brink is ahead of us or behind us, or if we're teetering on top of it.  I commented then that the mass media had never been so propagandistic in my lifetime.  Since that time it has grown exponentially worse, and along with the mindless repetition of freedom vs. tyranny nonsense, western democracy vs. Russian oligarchy, there is now a witch hunt across the western world against anyone from Russia who fails to make the correct public statements of moral outrage.  And far beyond that, even those who make the right public statements are ineligible, due to nothing more than their citizenship.  No Russians allowed in the Boston marathon, I hear this morning on NPR.

The idea that the sanctions against Russia are going to help isolate the regime would not seem to have any historical basis in reality.  The US-led sanctions regime against Saddam Hussein's Iraq were responsible for killing half a million Iraqi children in the 1990's alone, according to UNICEF.  Did they cause the Iraqi people to rise up and overthrow Saddam?  Have the past 60 years of the embargo against Cuba caused a revolution there?  How about in North Korea, or Venezuela?  By my observation and that of many others, the sanctions on these countries have only caused terrible suffering among the regular people, while also helping to increase, rather than decrease, the popularity of the governments resisting the US's economic siege.

The impact of the sanctions on the people of Russia, and even more so on so much of the populations of Africa, Asia, and South America, is unequivocal.  So many people are facing death by malnutrition or starvation, on an absolutely staggering scale.  To add to the impacts of climate chaos, neoliberalism, and the global pandemic, now we have two of the world's biggest suppliers of grain and fertilizer going offline.

As a direct consequence of the sanctions on Russia, I have friends, including award-winning journalists, who are right now moving -- not from Russia, but from England, in order to be able to practice journalism without the state seizing their meager assets.  And another journalist in prison in London, Julian Assange, is facing extradition to the US to face a 175-year prison sentence for exposing US and British war crimes in Iraq -- war crimes identical in every possible way to those being righteously condemned when committed by Russians against Ukrainians.  Meanwhile my friends in Uganda talk about losing hope, as they face the prospect of feeding themselves and their communities with the price of grain doubling and tripling.

To whatever extent we want to blame Biden's brinkmanship, NATO expansion, or Putin's insanity for the current bloodbath, it's obvious that the most visible victims of this war are the people of Ukraine.  But I'm pretty sure there will eventually be a UNICEF report informing us that many more people in the world died as a consequence of the rise in the price of grain and fertilizer than from Russian tanks or missile strikes, no matter how horrific they are.

As to a discussion about the people in the world who will likely die if NATO opts to impose a no-fly zone over the skies of Ukraine, it's probably not worth having, given that there won't be anyone around to draw conclusions from it, once the chain reaction begins.

1 comment:

  1. Hi David,

    I am disappointed in your comments. Certainly what you chose to write your songs about should be up to you, to what moves you and causes you to create. Even though you are mostly a "topical" song writer, you are an artist and should not be criticized because you don't write a song about any particular topic. So far I agree with you.

    But in your remarks you make some political statements which are unfortunate. While you refer, in passing, to "Putin's insanity" you seem to put the blame for the suffering of the Ukrainians on U.S. imperialism and NATO. I do not doubt that the maneuvering and expansion of U.S. imperialism was a background factor to the crisis, nor that--on a world scale--U.S. and Western imperialism are the dominant (but not the only) imperial state powers.

    In the immediate situation, it was the Russian state which invaded Ukraine. No one forced Putin to do so. He declared a number of times that Ukraine was not a nation and did not deserve to exist separate from Russia. He could end this war and all its bad effects, which you refer to, by withdrawing his military forces anytime.

    And the Ukrainian people have bitterly and bravely opposed the invasion, almost all of them, including the Russian-speakers. We do not have to support the Ukrainian government or its oligarchial ruling class in order to support the Ukrainian people in their defense of national self-determination. Revolutionary anarchists should be on the side of the Ukrainian people in their fight. Aren't we always on the side of the oppressed and exploited?

    You cite the danger of the U.S. imposing a "no-fly zone." Apparently Biden can see the dangers of this as well as you or I. He has repeatedly declared there will be no U.S. pilots shooting it out with Russian pilots. The real issue is whether Ukrainians should take arms from NATO. NATO's interests are not that of the Ukrainian people and it would sell them out in a heartbeat if it saw a reason to. But meanwhile, the Ukrainians need armaments and the Western imperialists are willing to provide them. The Ukrainians are completely justified in taking them at this point.

    So we revolutionaries should be on the side of the Ukrainian people, for their victory, and for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops. We should be against
    U.S. imperialism and NATO but realize that they are not the immediate issue on the ground at this point in time. However, it is not essential that you and I agree on this issue for me to appreciate your music overall (consider Pete Seeger or Paul Robeson, whose music I love despite political differences).



Occupy Reflections: 2011, 2020, and Beyond

Before all the banks fail, we lose our jobs, and go out into the streets again, some reflections on the last time that happened. The sixteen...