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Review of Linh Dinh’s ‘Postcards’: Unatourism on the Yellow Brick Road

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Linh Dinh, Postcards from the End of America, Seven Stories, 2017.


A masterly saga of a broken nation, Linh writes his Postcards from the End of America as he moves from town to town by rail and bus, with lots of walking, each one anchored by a theme, sort of, though what stands out are the deftly sketched portraits of mostly down-and-out survivors of the pressure cooker America, seething and occasionally exploding in violence and collapse.


What is powerful is the intensely personal look inside the beast. Linh calls himself "a Unapoet",* a "PayPal-buttoned, reader-supported blogger". He writes with care and at the same time, abandon, occasionally losing it with angry Unabomber** diatribes.  But given the subject matter, it’s hard to fault him. In an interview with Diacritics, he calls it "a diary of America’s ongoing collapse, and I’ve learnt much from roaming around." A kind of Unatourism.



There are lots of American road books and movies: Easy Rider (1969) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971). Linh has been compared to Bukovsky, but identifies more with Rabelais and Artaud. He makes me think of Studs Terkel, but with a bite. From Louis-Ferdinand Celine, "I learnt that a writer should never flinch." You will say "Ouch!" more than once in Postcards, while seeing Linh's Buddha-like composure in your mind's eye.


These vignettes of life in America, many first published at Unz.com, paid for via crowdfunding, recall Wim Wenders’ Road Movie Trilogy and Paris, Texas, meditations on the bizarro faux reality of postwar US, but laced with strychnine. The US has served as the petri dish for capitalism in its purest form, built on the bones of the natives and slaves, carved in the marble of enlightenment thinking.


There was no looking back after 1776, unlike the French revolution in 1789, which exploded in its face early on and quickly moved back to constitutional monarchy, before its leap into communism a century later in 1871, and on to a humdrum welfare state a century after that. The US staved off socialism til the 1930s, and by then, corporate 'democracy' proved itself powerful enough to keep it on its road to capitalist oblivion. Linh is no fan of 1776 and he makes his case in terrifying detail.


Linh is also an echo of New Orleans’ John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces (1963), the book's title referring to an epigram from Jonathan Swift's essay Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." This is fitting, as Linh is studiously ignored by the mainstream, much as Toole was. Fortunately, Linh has more social smarts,*** and much as he despises our electronic 1984, he was able to publish and self-fund via PayPal.


New Orleans squatters


His Postcard from New Orleans is anchored by the theme of petty criminality and its “justification for sustaining one's soul, though not necessarily one's body.” It lands us on Elysian Fields Avenue, near Arts and Desire streets, immortalized by another New Orleans great, Tennessee Williams. “You can drink rum concoctions such as All Night Long, Suicide, Sweet Dreams and What the Fuck at Gene's Curbside Daiquiris.”


Elysian Fields is hardly a paradise, with eight lanes of death machines hurtling along, including two for parking. Linh went there to hang out with Brooks Johnson and his squatters, Linh’s ‘petty criminals’. Brooks was teaching at Delgado Community College but was 'let go'. He still owes $12,000 in student loans.


Linh: Not too bad, comparatively.

Brooks: But still bad, because  before you know it, it will become 20. They have to keep you tied in and borrowing from the banks.

Linh: If students really suck at what they do, then they should be told to cut their losses right now, rather than be led on so cynically by those pretending to be nurturing. But if profs did that, they would be fired or would end up unemployed.


Higher education in the US is a Ponzi scheme.  As if this isn’t bad enough, foreign professional workers, as in engineers, doctors and nurses, etc., are also being imported to knock wages down. Though this is done deliberately to benefit employers, it’s cloaked as a benevolent immigration policy so that anyone who questions it is accused of being a racist. Brooks was tutoring one-on-one, talking about life and what's going on.

Linh: you weren't a good soldier, man!


Brooks' squatters are in the tradition of New Orleans Batture Dwellers, who, during the Great Depression, squatted on a precarious strip of land between levees and riverbank, swept away during a storm, but returning with their goat and chickens to rebuild their shacks. Tennessee Williams, too, had to hightail it from his landlady with no rent money, a kind of upscale (white) squatting.


Turnstile-jumping or train-hopping young writers usually get away with it, and don't get long sentences, so this petty theft is an important safety valve allowing some freedom in a wholly monetized culture. There are just too many penniless citizens for the authorities to do more than mopping up operations, like the mountain-bike-riding cops of Portland Oregon, who rouse the homeless every morning at dawn so the day’s commerce can commence. By the airport, a tent city called Dignity Village has existed since late 2000.


So the great American tradition of Hoovervilles continues, open defiance of private property. In fact, now immortalized by the Occupy Now movement, which Linh despises for embracing the homeless lifestyle, their non-goals echoing the non-demands of that failed movement. Instead of fighting back, American rebels not only embrace their disenfranchisement, but consider this defeat a victory. Now as then, many of them occupy city parks, while their overlords sneer down at them from surrounding bank towers.


Linh talks with a young Occupy camper in Portland's Chapman Square. A pleasant 20-something, he has been homeless for a couple of years: I get by on food stamps, and I couch-surf. I don’t really use money anymore.”

Linh: Time magazine had ‘The Protester’ as its 2011 Person of the Year. If the mainstream media can chuckle and affectionately muss up your dreadlocks like that, it means you’re no threat to the status quo.


Linh recalls the very different reaction to these Hoovervilles, culminating in the beating, killing and arrests of veterans marching on Washington, the Bonus Army, in 1932. They were a threat and embarrassment, and were brutally put down by MacArthur and Eisenhower. In an image-dominated society, public relations is everything, so the most crucial task is to maintain a sexy or dignified appearance, and to hell with what happens behind the scenes.


Nostalgia for the Crown


Back to 1776, Linh, who chose to live in Philadelphia, the birthplace of US democracy, recalls nearby Bensalem’s founder Joseph Galloway, one of the wealthiest and most respected citizen-politicians in pre-revolutionary America. He was against revolution. He wanted reform, parliamentary representation under the Crown, arguing that British defense was needed and the colonies were too divided. He had to abandon everything and flee for his life to England. No room for dissent, though the declaration of independence was a call for liberty, and the first amendment to the constitution was to ensure freedom of speech.


As a Canadian, reading Postcards merely confirms my distrust of the revolution to the south. Though our natives suffered much the same fate as those Linh meets in Wolf Point, their suspicions of the revolution and their support for the British both in 1776 and 1812 were well founded. There is no Canadian equivalent of the shocking reality of the reservation at Wolf Point, with the main street honouring General Custer (despite the reservation chief asking the town council to change it to Crazy Horse),**** just as there was no Wounded Knee. While racism is still rampant in the US, it is much less so in Canada, and natives are already 'rehabilitated', holding an honoured place in Canadian society. We are watching the descent into the abyss from outside, though our proximity is frightening, threatening.


Advice for readers


Don't expect to rush through this epic journey in a few days. It took Linh 3 years to hone. The slower you go, the more you see and feel. I almost gave up a few times, surfeited on Linh's passionate angst, not needing converting. The vignettes blur when swallowed in too big bites. But then I recalled touching moments, vividly sketched in a few words, incarnating before you a bereft widow or mother mourning her son, a victim of 'the system', uncomprehending. Sometimes the bile takes over, but, hey!, letting off steam once in a while is ok. I'm looking forward to a second read.


Linh is a poet, and his prose is diamond-hard and imaginative. Have your computer handy for background from Wikipedia. Pokey little towns come to life, but Linh makes you do the work, pushes you to look further. He moves through America with his history antennae on alert, looking for glimpses of the past, allusions to what might have been, what was, but is now obliterated. His own story inspired his writing: born in Saigon in 1963, a Vietnam refugee, forged in the heat of war, flotsam washed up on Guam, settling on the east coast, a Philadelphian who cherishes the peaceful intent of William Penn in nurturing an enlightenment utopia in the new Jerusalem.


Postcards reads as his eulogy/ epitaph to America as it teeters on the edge of the abyss, blind to its impending doom, suffering a castration complex, a double castration when the twin towers fell, broadcast live to the entire world. One of our bravest dissidents, Bradley Manning, also wishes to have nothing between his legs, as does Bruce Jenner, who dreams of the day he will finally be emasculated.


Looking for answers


Natives are a travesty of what they used to be, mired as they are in misery and aimlessness.  After the Indian has been killed, only an addicted and defeated American has emerged, but this is hardly the final chapter, for as the US itself becomes broken, the red man’s resilience, resourcefulness, probity, simplicity and toughness will resurface to help lead us all out of this glammed-up face. Benjamin Franklin remarked that


Indian Men, when young, are Hunters and Warriors; when old, Councillors; for all their Government is by Counsel of the Sages; there is no Force, there are no Prisons, no Officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment. Hence they generally study Oratory, the best Speaker having the most Influence. Having few artificial Wants, they have abundance of Leisure for Improvement by Conversation. Our laborious Manner of Life, they esteem slavish & based, and the Learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous & useless.


Linh is disdainful of both left and right, at the same time, demanding revolution or at least collapse of the empire. The latter could take a long time, if Gibbon’s Decline of the Roman Empire is any help, and if Occupy Now is a bust along with politics and unions, where to?


What about Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926), Vietnam's most prominent Buddhist monk, nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace prize in 1967 (no award made that year)? Like Linh, Thich returned to Vietnam in 2018. He has a message for Linh -- his Engaged Buddhism, which applies insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice.


Linh doesn't mention Islam, apart from noting a Muslim holding a poster among other demonstrators near the White House. His Pakistani immigrant friend in Bensalem, Anwar, is a pathetic devotee of the American Dream, selling trinkets and gambling on the stock market, wife and kids bona fide American slobs. No mention of his Muslim heritage. But given Linh’s shopping list of evils -- racism, drugs, promiscuity, soullessness, desperation, imperialism -- it is an alternative, as Trump realizes.


Linh’s antennae for change focus on what the elites attack as dangerous to them. It is Muslims who are feared by Trump et al for not accepting his shopping list. Trump can close off immigration to Muslims but it will do no good. Millions of Americans are Muslim and the rate of conversion is robust (imagine a Muslim USA). As the forces of evil empire attack the Muslim world, they will continue to be in the headlines, both as enemies to empire and friends to anti-empire (Saudis aside).


Neither Islam nor Buddhism in practice are above criticism, but neither have been associated with the imperialist crimes of both Christianity and Judaism in the 20th century. As the US and Israel continue their dance of death, Christians and Jews, too, are beginning to reject them. The spiritual emptiness that Linh reveals in his Postcards cries out for a renewed moral force which religion offers and enlightenment secularism lacks.


End of the road


Linh’s Postcards are portraits capturing the humanity of people suffering the disintegration of their society, and as such are both chilling and warm, hideous and beautiful. They and the other 50% of Americans living at or below the poverty line will soon be gone and forgotten, but Linh’s poetic portraits will remain as testament to their lives and hopes. His final Postcard, Centralia, needs no words.*****
















xxx

*I will quote liberally from Postcards, so will dispense with quotation marks for the most part. Linh’s style should shine through.

**The FBI used the acronym UNABOM (University and Airline Bomber) to refer to Theodore John Kaczynski who, between 1978 and 1995, planted 17 bombs, killing three people and injured 23 others in an attempt to start a revolution by conducting a nationwide bombing campaign targeting people involved with modern technology. He is serving 8 life sentences. In 2016, it was reported that early on in his imprisonment Kaczynski had befriended Ramzi Yousef and Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing, respectively. The trio discussed religion and politics and formed a friendship which lasted until McVeigh's execution in 2001.

***Toole committed suicide after his novel was rejected, but gained notoriety and a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981, and is now considered a canonical work of modern literature of the south. Warming to Linh: Watch out!

****The statue in the town centre is a tribute to settlers.

*****OK! Some words: A coal mine fire started by (illegally) dumping waste in an open strip mine started in 1962, burning 300 feet deep over an 8-mile stretch. It could continue to burn for over 250 years, probably more devastating than Chernobyl, but now a tourist attraction.


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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

From Books

  • Linh Dinh, Postcards from the End of America, Seven Stories, 2017.


    A masterly saga of a broken nation, Linh writes his Postcards from the End of America as he moves from town to town by rail and bus, with lots of walking, each one anchored by a theme, sort of, though what stands out are the deftly sketched portraits of mostly down-and-out survivors of the pressure cooker America, seething and occasionally exploding in violence and collapse.


    What is powerful is the intensely personal look inside the beast. Linh calls himself "a Unapoet",* a "PayPal-buttoned, reader-supported blogger". He writes with care and at the same time, abandon, occasionally losing it with angry Unabomber** diatribes.  But given the subject matter, it’s hard to fault him. In an interview with Diacritics, he calls it "a diary of America’s ongoing collapse, and I’ve learnt much from roaming around." A kind of Unatourism.

  • Review Ed. Cynthia McKinney, How the US Creates “Sh*thole” Countries, Clarity, 2018.

    Bravo to Cynthia McKinney, former US Congresswoman and Green Party nominee for president, for taking this offhand remark by Trump and running with it.

    The Forward is by Senator Mike Gravel, an unsung hero of American democracy, whose life is colourful to say the least. McKinney’s book is worth it to rediscover some of the hopeful signs for change, with Gravel in first place.
  • The 17th century hangs heavy over the ‘heartland’ of Georgian Bay, the twin peninsula to ‘the Bruce’ to the west. Both, of course were the home of natives, who were forced to cede about 98% of their land to the white settlers in the 18-19th cc. Even much of whatever shoreline is in the remaining 2% was/ is leased to the present day colonists, who flock to the  sandy shores in the summers. Georgian Bay’s history is a dramatic example of how this happened.


    The 17th century was the killer, literally. Measles, influenza and smallpox killed 15,000 of the 25,000 Hurons. The Iroquois, head of the confederation of five nations—Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca, sealed their fate, ‘winning’ the Beaver Wars throughout the St. Lawrence River valley and the lower Great Lakes region, killing most of the rest.  But who ‘traded’ them guns for the (then) valuable furs to play the now lethal war games? The Dutch.



  • 7:20am Union Station. 12 hours door to door to door. Six hours of travel hassles, 6 hours of fine biking, visiting childhood haunts in Eden Mills and Guelph from 1951 to 1969.


    To get there, a 2 1/2 hr milk run Go bus from Union Station to Guelph University. First, parachuting down Gordon St to inaugurate the adventure, over the Speed river, through town, to the library for the weather report. Promises no rain. Chilly and overcast. Perfect biking weather.

  • The weekend before I left, every moment I was thinking about the trip, imagining the long haul on the bike, neck pain, sweating, muscles operating at full capacity hour after hour, adventures, getting lost and found, a challenge with many rewards. Southern Georgian Bay is (or at least was) idyllic. Good farmland but not on the way anywhere, so still relaxed. Worth three days of biking, and accessible by bus for cyclists.


    It wasn’t the same worry as 2 yrs ago from Kingston to Cornwall or the Orillia Gravenhurst jaunt, more just a delicious anticipation of the (reasonable) challenge. My search at couchsurfing: 5 requests, within an hour, an invite from Josh from Collingwood, my supposed destination. ‘I am teaching in Russia, but home for the summer.’ yes!


    Everything went like clockwork till the usual ‘getting lost’ clicked in north of Barrie. But looking back, I realized I’d actually found a good route, avoiding the dreaded highway #26, stumbling on Horseshoe Valley road and eventually Flos rd 4 through the Minesing wetlands, the only road through, (wonderfully) forgotten, with a narrow one-lane rusty old bridge. The perfect bike route.

  • 1) How do you asses Iran’s presence in the region? Could we say the major reason for American hostility against Iran is its strong position in the Middle East?

    Iran has played a vital role in the Middle East, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Palestinians lost their superpower support, which had meant that the UN had a balanced voice to counter, at least to some extent, the US imperial objectives of world dominance, and Israel's objective to dominance in the Middle East, serving as a proxy for US interests.

    In 1975, the Soviet Union and third world countries sponsored a UN resolution calling Zionism “a form of racism and racial discrimination”, outraging Israel. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it was revoked under US pressure.

    The struggle to liberate Palestine suffered defeat after defeat since then,
  • I feared Kristen Ghodsee’s Red Hangover: Legacies of 20th century Communism (2017) would be yet another dumping on the sad ending to the world’s socialist experiment, or at best a boring collection of footnotes. I was wrong. It is full of ironies, twists, incisive exposes of the venality of the whole process of ‘liberation’. And some biting Bulgarian barbs.* Oh, and women have twice as many orgasms under socialism.

    Like Feffer in Aftershock, also published in 2017, Ghodsee uses her travels, studies, lectures to audiences east and west to test the waters of eastern Europe today. This fresh approach to documenting history through the eyes of both participants and sympathetic observers is more like reading a page-turner spy novel, full of often misunderstood heroes and villains, crafty confidence tricksters and lots and lots of victims. Who needs fiction? You enter the theatre of life, feel its pulse.

    Sleuthing in Sofya

    Ghodsee, always the researcher, saw a heap of documents in a garbage can on a trip to Bulgaria in 1997, and on an impulse started putting them in her bag. A pathetic homeless guy, clearly a drug addict, accosted her, always on the lookout for something to hawk. She told him she was CIA and he fled. Safely back at Duke University, she started perusing them.

    The  files were of agronomist Andreev, who rose in the 1950s to be Mr. Cucumber, responsible eventually for importing Dutch seeds and planting them in government greenhouses to feed the nation, with some for export to other socialist countries in COMECON. He had been awarded a golden badge of honour. It appeared his life was tranquil, successful, that he was a model citizen who didn’t worry about ‘profit’, though he no doubt was key to determining the production, distribution and pricing of cukes.
  • Toronto cyclists know how hard it is to get beyond the roller coaster nightmare of Toronto traffic to Elysium fields. Ok, dreary fields of GMO corn and soybeans, but it’s a step up from strip malls. Relying on The Canadian Cycling Association’s Complete Guide to Bicycle Touring in Canada (1994), I fashioned a trip to meet the litmus test:
    1/ no car headache to take you to some distant starting point,
    2/ some sites worthy of the name,
    3/ no mass of tourists, either biped or bipedal.

    Lake Simcoe is tantalizingly close, more friendly than big Lake Ontario, but featuring a tightly packed string of cottages possessing every bit of lake front available.

    Undaunted, I thought it was worth a try. The rapidly expanding Go bus/train system reaches as far as Barrie,
  • For a complex and critical examination of the relationship between Canada, Israel, Judaism, and Zionism, Eric Walberg’s new work The Canada-Israel Nexus provides a challenging perspective.

    It is challenging in several ways.  Primarily, the most important ideas are the critical lines of thought towards the impact of Zionism within Canada. This includes the influences on the media, academics and academia, and the political. The latter mostly affects Canada’s foreign affairs position as a sycophant of the U.S. empire, but in many ways as a leading vocal supporter of Israeli Zionism and its colonial-settler policies.
  • Feffer’s Aftershock: A journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams documents how the brown shirts moved into the vacuum left by the collapse of communism. (Part I is at Review Aftershock)


    East Europeans are making good use of their new proportional representative democracy, allowing protest movements to gain access to parliament. Poland’s Andrzej Lepper founded Samoobrona (Self defense) in 1990 to help indebted farmers, the unemployed and pensioners, and quickly had 15%  of the popular vote. In 2005 he became minister of agriculture and deputy prime minister in the Law and Justice government, which is similar to the other east European rightist parties -- a brown-red coalition, conservative culturally, vaguely socialist in economics.


    Recipe: Collapse, discredit socialism, discredit liberalism -> fascism. Again Hungary does the counter-reformation with flair. A leader of the 1989 overthrow of socialism, Viktor Orban soon regretted the mess that he helped throw Hungary into, and founded a "national conservative" party Fidesz (Alliance of Young Democrats), rising to  prime minister from 1998 to 2002 and 2010 to the present, now with a 'super majority' which he uses to amend the constitution in the face of EU protests over his policies.


    In 2003, Orban stated that liberalism has fulfilled its historic mission, that there is no need for further destruction. In 2014, Orban announced his plans to create “a new Hungarian state” that adopts political economic systems in Singapore, Russia, China, India and Turkey. He shocked both left and right by suggesting Russia was the more natural partner than the EU. He angered his 'alt-right' cousins in the rest of Europe by supporting the Turkish bid to join the EU, being a devotee of turanism linking Turks and Hungarians, though he has hounded Soros for “attempting to destroy the Hungarian nation and Europe's Christian identity by promoting the settlement of millions of Muslim migrants.

  • John Feffer’s Aftershock: A journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams (Zed, 2017) is an epic tour through the remains of the Warsaw Pact countries, history through the eyes of those both making and enduring it. It’s full of surprising twists, with chameleons changing colours, marauding western bullies, lots of nostalgia for ‘real existing socialism’, hints of new political seeds pushing through what is now a bleak wasteland with nodes of renewal.


    Feffer is one of the new breed of journalist-historians, postmodern in his goal of seeing history through the eyes of those living it. His inspiration is surely the Belarussian Svetlana Alexievich, awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time". Her equally epic Second-hand Time follows hundreds of Russian and other (ex)soviet interviewees from the 1980s to the 2010s.

  • Review of Jordan Peterson, 12 rules for Life: An antidote to chaos, Random House, 2018.


    Over the past year, Peterson shot into the public eye with his jihad against political correctness, using YouTube, the new medium for getting one’s beliefs broadcast without corporations, governments and media gatekeepers censuring and burying one’s new ideas.  And his ideas are radical, but more radically old than new. To him, cherished beliefs are mostly cherished because they’ve worked for millennia, some actually hardwired in us, and we abandon them at our peril.


    He asserts what he argues is his male, rational energy, taking no prisoners as he fights to save the English language from attempts to substitute gender neutral terms with orwellesque ‘they’s and ‘zhe’s and then forcing one and all (provincial premiers and profs included) to bow to the new golden calf. Language is important, as is marriage and respect for sex (not the amorphous ‘gender’). That is just part of his message, and he is now riding an angry, bucking herd of politically correct broncos. Peterson stares them down unapologetically.


    Prairie boy makes good


    Peterson grew up in a tiny village in northern Alberta, and gives a fascinating account of his youthful friendships, looking at his early life now through his psychiatrist lenses. His own maturing led from socialism till he turned 18 (he grew disenchanted with the NDP due to what he saw as a preponderance of "the intellectual, tweed-wearing middle-class socialist" who "didn't like the poor; they just hated the rich") to … well, some kind of conservatism, but not the neoliberalism which has poisoned both conservative and liberal politics. He also moved from a limp protestantism to a kind of spiritual agnosticism, though his conservative bent will please Catholics.

  • My life journey as a peacenik took me to Moscow in 1989 to see Gorbachev's 'socialism with a human face', his attempt to combine materialist communism with ... it wasn't clear exactly what Gorbachev had in mind, but it certainly wasn't a wholesale sell out of what had been built over the previous 70 years. However, the rickety structure that the Soviet Union had become, a tired society always under pressure from the capitalist West, final collapsed. Or rather was pushed over by a well-planned conspiracy―begun in 1979 under Carter but greatly expanded under Reagan―to destroy the last socialist revolution, in Afghanistan, next door to Uzbekistan. The tragedy of Afghanistan put Uzbekistan on my radar. A remote part of the world shrouded in mystery and now convulsed in war. Sounded interesting to the young adventurer devoted to world peace.

    I had come to Moscow at the invitation of Moscow News. From my editor's office on Pushkin Square, I watched on TV the last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan and arrive in Uzbekistan, retreating across the Amudarya River on the Friendship Bridge (built in 1982 to ferry Soviet troops into Afghanistan). Even as the troops retreated, mujahideen snipers continued to target them, with US arms still being poured into what was already a powder keg. I was intrigued by this little-known part of the world, and remembered a dream-like trip as a Russian language student in 1980 to Tashkent, with its elegant opera house and its bountiful fruits, soaring mountains and hospitable people.

    After five years in Moscow, working as an editor at Moscow News and then as a Greenpeace activist-administrator, I had had enough of a Moscow in upheaval, where food was scarce and expensive, and people were losing their laid-back Soviet ways and embracing the worst features of the West. I was robbed more than once (once by the train police waiting in a suburban station on the way to Uzbekistan), and remember gun shots in the Vikhino apartment building entrance one night, told the next day someone had been found murdered just a few feet away from me.

    Moscow had lost its charm. I yearned to try living in a Muslim society. Uzbekistan seemed to be the most developed, cultured of the Soviet 'stans' and a short hop away from Mazari-i-Sharif.
  • 9 minute interview with Phil Taylor on University of Toronto radio

    http://www.radio4all.net/files/anonymous@radio4all.net/16-1-CanadaIsraelNexus.mp3
  • 1/ Manial
    2/ My Arab godson
    3/ Al-Ahram
    4/ Bringing down the Brotherhood
    5/ Sisi – Muhammad Ali redux


    1/ Manial 

    I stumbled into Cairo after Tashkent, where I had stumbled across Islam, courtesy of dictator Islam Karimov, who – despite his name – persecuted brave Muslims mercilessly, and impelled me to recite the shuhada, at first, more as a sign of solidarity. I was now determined to learn Arabic, read the Quran, experience Muslim culture first-hand and test my enthusiasm for Islam.

    I found the Fajr Centre for the Arabic Language, founded in Cairo in 1995, online. The new session was beginning in January 2007. Fajr (dawn) is for new enthusiasts and prospective imams, affiliated to the Egyptian Ministry of Education and al-Azhar, and located in Medina Nasser (Nasser City), which I was to discover is a sprawling suburban near the airport. Transportation in Cairo is a nightmare, be it by taxi or public transit. Virtually all Fajr students share digs near the 'institute', which is modest to say the least, but I immediately liked it, despite the anonymous suburban clutter. The administrators and my teacher were clearly devout Muslims, and warm, friendly people. This was not for rich secular westerners, who studied at the AUC or one of many private institutes down town, at three times the cost.

    I heard of a Canadian-Egyptian artist who lived in Manial, the southern-most large island of Cairo, perched just upstream from more upscale Zamalek. Anna responded to my query,
  • Reading Rabkin's What is Modern Israel  (2016), you can only marvel that Israel continues to exist at all, given its unending criminal behaviour, from the 1920s, while it was still just a dream, until the present, the only change being in the details, the full scale wars of expansion giving way to smaller scale invasions of occupied territories and Gaza (there's no more land to conquer), and ever new bureaucratic torture techniques intended to drive the Palestinians either crazy or into voluntary exile. Even the latter, a soft version of the 1948 ethnic cleansing, is made difficult, as the Palestinians can only leave via Jordan, at the mercy of Israel. Why does the world, especially the US, which could bring Israel to heel overnight, let the horror continue?

    Rabkin delves deep into the Russian Yiddish roots of Israel and brings together many startling facts which suggest that there was a much better option for Palestine and the Jews, one which was scuttled by secular Jewish fanatics inspired by their experiences before and after the Russian revolution. What is Modern Israel is packed with fascinating quotes and historical tidbits. Some of Rabkin's insights from his book and a podcast interview :

    *He decries the use of 'holocaust' in depicting the tragedy of WWII, as it is a religious symbol, and the deaths were hardly a burnt offering to some god. Rabkin uses 'genocide'. He also insists that it is not the "Jewish lobby" and "Jewish state", but the Zionist lobby/ state, as most Jews are not Zionists, certainly not approving of Israel's bombings, invasions, and illegal settlements. The lesson of the genocide for Zionists was 'be strong and kill and hound suspected antisemites.' For Rabkin, it is the opposite: a rejection of Zionism and Israel as a Jewish state.
  • Review of Graeme Wood, The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, Random House, 2016.

    Wood is the most prominent media star exposing ISIS today. A Yale professor, Council of Foreign Relations guru, his articles on ISIS have appeared in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and on and on. He has an ambitious agenda, instructing the lay reader in Islamic theology and jurisprudence as he travels from one leading ISIS supporter or fellow traveller to another around the world. While providing a wealth of detail, his American slant, almost entirely overlooking the US as the chief culprit in abetting terrorism, is evident. But his book is worth reading, giving the reader a window into the people behind ISIS. None of them are monsters, but all of them challenge Muslims to better understand Islam and Islamic history.

    Wood poses throughout his research as a possible convert to Islam and apparently fools one and all. This deception he would no doubt rationalize using a quote from the Quran about lying being okay in a time of war (taqiyya), but he used it in Egypt merely to string along a modest tailor, Hesham, who was sincerely trying to convert Wood, and believed Wood was genuine. This gave him otherwise forbidden access to Hesham's personal life, ridiculing him in the account. Others Wood interviewed were not so naive, but politely answered his questions, though his agenda was seen for what it is: a report for use by western academics, media and security forces to better 'fight the beast'.

    Some of his interviews are revealing and colourful. He met multiple times with larger-than-life Muslims based in the West, both pro-ISIS and anti-ISIS activists and theorists. His professionalism as a researcher and writer produced a good overview of the different movements and actors in western radical Islamic circles, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other al-Qaeda factions, and their visions of revolution and apocalypse. He interviews leading western Muslim scholars and activists, mostly American converts, including  the Sufi Yusuf Hamza, the Salafi Yasir Qadhi for their critical analysis of ISIS (they are both targeted as apostates by ISIS), and Yahya Michot, who lies somewhere in between.
  • Reviews of James Petras, The End of the Republic and the Delusion of Empire, Clarity, 2016

    Jeremy Hammond, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Worldview, 2016

    It is time to assess the legacy that President Obama bequeaths us. These two timely books contribute to this, Hammond focusing on the “special relationship”, Petras, more broadly on US imperialism. Both are pessimistic about the possibility of any change without an active, articulate citizens' movement that has staying power, thereby creating the conditions for a political renewal.


    Hammond's work is detailed, documenting the period starting with Obama's 2008 victory and Israel's immediate response: its invasion of Gaza in December. Throwing down the gauntlet, which president-elect Obama refused to pick up.


    There were more such attacks to come, involving seizing aid flotillas headed for Gaza, culminating in a repeat of that full scale invasion of Gaza in 2014, both killing thousands of innocents. Hammond's main point is to separate Obama's weak, nice words -- "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines" -- with his inability to move towards fulfilling them.

  • Okay, by bicycle ‘express’. But that was how i saw myself, galloping along the St Lawrence, a watchful eye out for the enemy yonder across the mighty river. The dirt road is now a bicycle lane (sometimes more, sometimes less) that followed--by a stretch of the imagination--the 18th century trail that once bound Canada together.


    Forget the mindless 401 hurtling by, for the most part, out of sight and sound. Enjoy the exotic roadside wild flowers shouting “I’m alive and bigger and more beautiful than you!” Some otherwise grueling stretches of highway are transformed into zany public gardens, complete with giant monsters and noxious invaders.


    Life in the womb of Upper Canada

  • Azizi Ansari's runaway bestseller Modern Romance is the perfect self-help book. Lots of data, thoughtful interviews with psychologists and 'victims', funny. The celebrated stand-up comic confirms the truth in the oxymoron, "the wise fool". And surprisingly, finds that humans pretty well figured things romantic out long before computers.

    A few nuggets

    Experiments on rats show the "uncertainty principle" in rewards: reward the rat when it presses the knob till s/he figures out it must press the lever to get the treat, but after that, only reward it intermittently. Their reward dopamine levels increase beyond the level when they always get rewarded for knob-pushing, like they're "being coked up". We are rats: in the human version of the experiment, women are most attracted to those guys who are in the 'uncertain' group, those who rated them high are second rate. No doubt this works the same for men.
  • The Gaspé  is considered one of the top hiking spots in the world, after the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Swiss Alps. There are 6,000 km of trails, and a range of vistas from mountains to cliffs facing the mouth of the St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. And best of all, it is hardly known outside Quebec—a spectacular, untouched place right in our own backyard.

    For the past decade, hundreds of cross-country skiers—nearly all of them Quebeckers—have come for a six-day, 100-mile-plus ski odyssey through the winter wonderland at the eastern edge of Canada’s largest province. After an article in the New York Times in 2013, 100 Yanks showed up, but as yet, very few Anglo-Canadians. Two years ago, hardy hikers started coming at the end of September to see the fall colours and the caribou, and I opted to join them this year.

    Saturday – The 8-hour 'trek' from Toronto to Montreal brought me to the bus to Gaspé at 5am, just in time. Our guide to Gaspé, Gilbert, was one of the many volunteers, a physiotherapist by profession, our residential doctor for sore feet. He is a joker, and over the microphone acted the voice of an airline pilot explaining to brace ourselves for the 2-hour climb that evening on arrival in Gaspé "to reach the hotel". Ìn line for coffee I met Robert, who is a Montreal-based fundraiser for nonprofit organizations and hospitals, a charmer, well in tune with his profession. We settled in for the 10-hour trip to Carleton-sur-Mer, on the south coast, before moving northeast to Gaspé and then east to Percé.
  • Eric Walberg has now written three books on the topic of Islamic culture in relation to Western geo-politics and world events. He is a prolific journalist and scholar who has lived in Central Asia and the Middle East (1).

    In Walberg's third book, “Islamic Resistance to Imperialism” (2015, Clarity Press, 304 pages), he presents a view of the world most people in the West, especially those exposed to a diet of mainstream media may not be familiar with or sympathetic to. Issues that deal with religion, culture and geo-politics are inherently complex. Even worse, disinformation is intentionally promulgated by Western governments and their lapdogs in the media to mislead the public into supporting the West's “war on terror.”

    The constant drumbeat in the media is that Muslims are “terrorists” and that America needs to police the world to rid this evil. Since communist-totalitarianism in its most overt form fell in the East, a new boogie man needed to to be invented in order to justify the military industrial complex. The gradual demonisation of Muslims in the Hollywood media (See the documentary: “Reel Bad Arabs”) culminated in what I believe was a false flag terror attack on 911. The myth of the Muslim Terrorist was born.

    For this reason, Walberg's book is a healthy antidote to our largely uninformed and biased views on the world's largest growing religious grouping.

  • Eric Walberg is a Canadian journalist who converted to Islam and has been covering the Middle East for a number of years. I do not know whether there are other books about Islam by converts, but this one is written by someone who is fiercely political and who sees Islam as a remedy to the world's ills.[tag]

    Although Walberg does not say so explicitly, the notion of resistance to imperialism has been basic to Islam since the beginning of the Palestinian struggle against Great Britain in the nineteenth century. After the creation of Israel, Iran, Lebanon and Syria became known as 'frontline states' in that resistance (see my review of http://click here).

    This is an ambitious book that may suffer from being at once an argument for Islam as the solution to the woes of the modern world and an analysis of the various aspects of Islamism as well as a history of Islamism's progress or lack thereof by country.

    The fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet - growing faster, according to Time magazine, than the population - notwithstanding Islamophobia - suggests that its appeal is fundamentally different from that of other religions, and Walberg makes that point eloquently, quoting Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member Essam el-Erian, on the Iranian revolution:

    "Young people believe Islam is the solution to the ills in society after the failure of western democracy, socialism and communism to address the political and socio-economic difficulties." It prompted Saudi rebels to occupy the Kaaba that same year in an attempt to spark revolution, Syrian Muslims to rise against their secular dictator Hafez al-Assad in 1980 and future Al-Qaeda leader Aymin Zawahiri to conspire to assassinate Egyptian president Sadat in 1981."

  • Kevin Barrett has become a legend in the US as a fearless journalist who cuts to the quick, his political and analytic skills leading to provocative, truthful explanations of our mostly inexplicable reality. He has written several books dealing with 9/11, and is currently an editor at Veterans Today, and pundit at Press TV, Russia Today, al-Etejah and other international channels. His website is TruthJihad.com. He builds on a well-established American journalistic tradition of brave exposers of government misdoings. Bill Blum and Seymour Hirsh are best known, but there are hundreds more.

    Great American tradition

    Blum is a legend from the 1960s, as the first to amass detailed proof of false flags by the US government. If you still have any trust in the US government's foreign policy, you haven't read Blum's Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII (2004), which documents more than 50 blatant US overthrows of democratic government in the 3rd world, though溶ote溶one occurred in the US (Pearl Harbor is suspicious but no slam-dunk).

    There's no question that the false flag experts in the US government weren't aware of the greatest terrorist event in US history. There are a string of whistle-blowers that show how evidence was ignored or buried building up to the event, evidence which if properly shared by the intelligence agencies, with their special al-Qaeda and Taliban watch groups, could have prevented 9/11. David Shipler interviews several of these forgotten heroes in Freedom of Speech:Mightier Than the Sword (2015). 

  • In Islam, the first two adjectival "most beautiful names" of God are al-Rahman al-Rahim, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. (Or, in Michael Sells' translation, "the Compassionate, the Caring.") The Arabic root of both words derives from "womb" and connotes the kind of outrageously generous love and compassion a mother feels for her children.

    These days, the Western discourse on Islam “especially political Islam“ is not exactly overflowing with compassion and generosity. As the French-Algerian Jew Albert Memmi wrote in The Coloniser and the Colonized, colonizers typically take a very ungenerous view of the people they are attacking, occupying, brutalizing and exploiting. If they admitted the humanity of their victims, they would look in the mirror and see a brutish criminal. So to avoid facing the truth, they project their own criminal brutality on the colonized victim.

    Memmi notes that Western colonizers typically refuse to acknowledge the positive traits of colonized Muslims. Even an admirable virtue such as generosity “ a notable feature of Islamic cultures“ is made into a vice: "Those crazy Muslims don't know the value of money; accept their hospitality, and they'll feed you a meal that costs a month of their salary, and offer you a gift worth ten times that. They're just not frugal!"
  • Book review

    Ken Ballen, Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals, Free Press, 2011.


    This is a strange book—a racy title, documenting the way six jihadis turned to al-Qaeda and its spin-offs in desperation to find some kind of fulfilment in life. There are several Romeo and Juliette stories, though the author seems oblivious to the fact that the 'love' in the title is mostly about devotion to God, however mistaken.

    Ballen is president and founder of Terror Free Tomorrow, “a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that investigates the causes of extremism”. Ballen's CV suggests “nonpartisan” can be taken with a grain of salt, as he spent two decades in law enforcement and intelligence, and was given grudging accommodation by the Pakistani ISI intelligence, and free access to the Saudi Ministry of Intelligence (MOI) Care Center, where captured jihadis are sent for rehabilitation.

    As well as his extended interviews in Saudi Arabia, he gained access to several jihadis still on the run, and relates a truly remarkable story—if he is to be believed—of a Saudi royal son who discovers he is gay and has a passionate affair with his cousin before joining the jihad.

  • Canadian journalist Eric Walberg has produced two very impressive works that between them cover most of what is politically relevant today: Post-Modern Imperialism: Geopolitics and The Great Games, the games being those played on the world political chessboard, and From Post-Modernism to Post-Secularism: Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization, both from Clarity Press.

    Walberg admits that the internet made his task easier, but without a very thorough grounding in political theory and history, they could not have been written. Walberg who has a degree in economic from Cambridge and has lived in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia, specializes in the Middle East. His Great Games are labelled GGI (pre-Russian revolution), GGII (the Cold War era) and today's on-going GG III, which he sees as a US-British-Israeli campaign for world dominance. Walberg shows globalization's brutality, and with theory to back him up, lays it squarely at imperialism's door.

    The scope of this work is vast, but I have chosen one quote that is particularly relevant to current events. Since 2008, the European Union, built up painstakingly after two world wars devastated the continent, has been teetering on collapse, and I have often affirmed that it is a deliberate American policy to destroy that elaborate welfare state. Walberg's confirmation is stunning:

  • Review of Morten Storm with Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014.
    ISBN 978-0-8021-2314-5

    Summary: As IS continues to confound the West with its consolidation of a Salafist-inspired resurrection of a ‘caliphate’, the Danish mole responsible for leading the CIA to Anwar Awlaki has caused a scandal by publishing his memoirs of life “inside al Qaeda and the CIA”.

    Recruiting Muslims has not been easy for western ‘intelligence’. The New York Police Department has tried for decades to recruit Muslim immigrants, and was finally embarrassed by a 2013 ACLU lawsuit to disband its most public recruiting unit, which essentially blackmailed anyone with a Muslim name arrested on any pretext, including parking tickets.

    The most successful double agent prior to Morten Storm was Omar Nasiri (b. 1960s), the pseudonym of a Moroccan spy who infiltrated al-Qaeda, attending training camps in Afghanistan and passing information to the UK and French intelligence services. He revealed all in his fascinating memoirs Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda A Spy’s Story in 2006.

  • Thoughts on From Postmodernism to Postsecularism

    Chandra Muzaffar in dialogue with Eric Walberg

    Muzaffar: Eric Walberg’s new book From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergII.html is a stimulating and informative survey of both Islamic history and reformist thought, culminating in an analysis of the ongoing upheavals in WANA.

    The book is an extensive exposition on Islamic Civilization itself. It covers the whole spectrum of dynasties, major episodes and personalities which is why the book should be an important reference for students of the civilization.

    You are right, Eric, in arguing that for Islam the goal has always been “to nurture a morally sound community based on the Quran…” (p28). There have been endeavours in that direction in the past—some successes, many failures. In this regard, I am wondering why you did not mention specifically the moral indictment of Muawiyyah by Abu-Dharr Al-Giffari who some would view as the first major critic of the creeping injustices in early Muslim leadership?

  • In his introduction, Eric Walberg states, “The main purpose of this book is to help the reader to understand the alternative map which Islam offers.” This is both a literal and figural map, an alternative to the imperial and neocolonial boundaries that divide the Islamic world, and an alternative viewpoint to that of the imperial driver of capitalism. This offer includes “realigning ourselves with Nature, and rediscovering humanities’ spiritual evolutionary path…without abandoning the vital role of reason.”

    This path along this alternate view is created strongly, with an obvious sympathy for the parts of Islam that are little known to the capitalist imperial view. It is a fully comprehensive path, leading the reader through time and through not just the Middle East, but on into Northern Africa, the Sahel, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

    The path always interacts with the imperial capitalist landscape ranging from the original European nationalist empires of France, Britain, Spain, and Holland on through to the hegemonic empire of the United States that has subordinated the previous empires into its fold. This has been done through military backing of corporate enterprises and many financial maneuverings that have – up until now – managed to stretch this empire into a full global span.

    The first chapter, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, explains the nature of the Koran without the political prejudice brought on by imperial reaction (blowback) to occupation and creation of the ‘evil’ other. Following that, it presents a broad history of Islam up until the era of the First World War. While the interactions with Christianity were often violent, Islamic expansion eastward generally tended to be accomplished more peacefully through trade and missionaries – the latter of course being against the military corporate interests of the west.

  • Forging a Socialist-Islamist Alliance
    Review of Eric Walberg's From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization, Clarity Press, 2013

    By William T. Hathaway

    Most western Middle East experts see Islam as a problem for the West -- a source of terrorism, religious fanaticism, unwanted immigrants -- and they see their job as helping to change the Middle East so it's no longer a problem for us. Eric Walberg, however, recognizes that this is another instance of the Big Lie.

    The actual problem is the multifaceted aggression the West has been inflicting on the Middle East for decades and is determined to continue, no matter what the cost to them and us will be. His books and articles present the empirical evidence for this with scholarly precision and compassionate concern for the human damage done by our imperialism.

  • Brain research and social psychology have made astounding advances in understanding the mind. These two books will blow yours. The implications for western 'civilization' are profound. Here are some notes.

    Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Doubleday, 2011.
    -heuristic (system 1 rule of thumb) biases -overconfident (first impression), resemblance, ease of memory search, emotion (sympathy for psychopathic charm), halo effect (exaggerate emotional reaction), WYSIATI (what you see is all there is), treating problems in isolation (not integrate variables), framing effects (context, importance of first impression, including page layout etc), priming (thinking about x -> x), endowment effect (owning x appears to increase its value)
    -fallacies re human nature -rational, emotions such as fear, affection and hatred explain departures from rationality
    -rather systmatic errors in thinking due to design of machinery of cognition rather than the corruption of thought by emotion. luck plays large role in success. accurate intuitions of experts better explained by skill and practice incorporated into heuristics. (variant of reason/ faith dialectic)
    -system 1 (fast thinking) -automatic operations (associative memory, automatic mental activities (perception and memory), unconscious/ conscious skills incorporated from system 2 as automatic, -> heuristic
    -system 2 -controlled operations -both self-contol and cognitive effort (allocates attention to effortful mental activities when demanded requiring choice and concentration, can reprogram normally automatic funs of attention and memory)
    -also experiencing vs remembering self (a construct of system 2 but incorporating (fast) associative memories of system 1) -what makes experiencing self happy not same as what satisfies remembering self -need to balance using system 2 slow thinking. -memory both system 1&2 and system 2 can adjust system 1 experiencing/ associative memories (ie, counterintuitive steering out of icy skid)

  • Lawrence Wright, Twins: and What They Tell Us About Who We Are, John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

    These notes summarize the main findings of twinning studies during the past century which lead to some startling conclusions.

    -behaviorism (BFSkinner) argued all behavior genetically based (we are the product of natural selection) but can be programmed in the individual. he denied special genes for altruism/ criminality/ other character trait -what our genes give us is the capacity to adapt to our environment. we are not innately good/ bad, rather determined by our environment. there is no individual responsibility. to change behavior we must design a different environment.
    -but twin studies suggests genetic basis to behavior (approximately 50%, ie, 1/2 determined, 1/2 'free will' which we develop by creating our own environment as we mature and become more self-aware)

  • In August 2013, Marxism Leninism Today editor Zoltan Zigedy reviewed Eric Walberg’s new book From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization

    Zoltan Zigedy summarized Walberg’s writing in the following terms

    1. The last great secular social justice project — socialism — has failed with the demise of the Soviet Union.
    2. Islam and its attendant political-social-economic doctrines are viable alternative routes to social justice.
    3. Islam is the only alternative that can deliver social justice. Therefore, Islam is the universal way to social justice.

    My -comments to Zoltan's >points:

    >the rise of Islamic civilization that Walberg foresaw was dashed on the rocks of divisiveness and foreign intervention

    -I see this 'Islamic awakening' as coming in waves. the 2013 coup in Egypt is a trough, but the process of evolution/ revolution continues. the openness and experience of the Islamists cannot be put back in the djin's bottle.
    I recall young Egyptian friends who were 'politicized' after the 2011 uprising. they didn't join secular groups, but the Muslim Brotherhood -- a huge move by millions of Egyptian youth. this has never been mentioned anywhere in the press. the ongoing demonstrations are courageous and principled, and deserve our respect and support.

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.it/daniele-scalea/islam-vs-capitalismo_b_4095817.html

    summary: Islam has a complete social doctrine which opposes the exploitation of man by man and lending at interest. For this reason, Islam is, in the contemporary world after the end of communism, the great alternative to capitalism. Massimo Campanini, one of the leading Italian scholars of the field, in his History of the Middle East, confirms that Islam stands as challenge to the idea of "end of history". But this challenge is not extremist Islam and terrorism, which in his opinion is already defeated, but two other "Islamists".

  • Resisting The Modernist Nightmare: Islam As Road To Peace?  by Richard Wilcox

    Following the end of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, there was supposed to have been a “peace dividend” which would have allowed the world to stop wasting money on arms manufacturing and explore roads toward peace and commerce. However, the Cold War itself may have been a ruse to some extent in order to justify the growth of global totalitarian government and corporate power in both the West and East, and as a result a peaceful world was never achieved.

    Even the most naïve observer could see that something was very odd, given that at the same moment that the Russian enemy was tamed and the Berlin Wall had fallen, a new, even more nefarious enemy was born: the Muslim Terrorist. This seamless transition that benefited the military industrial complex and zionist warmongers was practically lifted out of a Hollywood script. In fact, Hollywood played an important role in creating the caricature and stereotype of the “evil Muslim” through innumerable anti-Muslim Hollywood propaganda films.

  • This book is a continuation of my earlier work, Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games (2011), though it stands on its own. My purpose in Postmodern Imperialism was to give a picture of the world from the viewpoint of those on the receiving end of imperialism. It traces the manipulation of Islamists by imperialism, and poses the question: What are the implications of the revival of Islamic thought and activism for the western imperial project?

    The subject of this work is the expansion of Islam since the seventh century, when revelations delivered to the Prophet Muhammad led to its consolidation as the renewal and culmination of Abrahamic monotheism. It looks at the parallels between the Muslim world today and past crises in Islamic civilization, which gave impetus to reforms and renewal from within, relying on the Quran and hadiths,1 and attempts to interpret recent history from the viewpoint of the Muslim world—how it sees the imposition on it of western systems and beliefs, and how it is dealing with this.

    The period up to and including the occupation of the Muslim world by the western imperialists corresponds to Postmodern Imperialism’s Great Game I (GGI). For Asians, the most important event heralding the possibility of a new post-GGI ‘game’ was the Japanese victory in 1905 over Russia. Japan had successfully reformed via the Meiji Restoration in 1868, inspiring all Asia, including China and the Muslim world, which saw Japan’s determination to develop independently of the imperial powers as a way out of the colonial trap that they were rapidly falling into.

  • European Journal of American Studies review of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games

    (March 2012)

    Recent history for even the casual observer of international affairs has been plagued by wars and conflicts in specific regions of the world.  The wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, seem to indicate the latest machinations in the imperial designs of the USA.  For many, using the term imperialism and connecting it to the USA is at best inappropriate.  For others, American interventions in particular countries or specific regions of the world represent the practices of a hegemonic power and the expansion of an American empire.  Some even argue that the nature of American imperialism is utterly novel, and deserving of a new label:  ‘postmodern imperialism.’  As the title of Eric Walberg’s book, his examination of the trajectories of contemporary imperialism includes scrutiny of the geopolitical interests of the USA and its “new developments in financial and military-political strategies to ensure control over the world’s resources” (27-28).  While Postmodern Imperialism primarily focuses on key aspects of imperialism, geopolitical analysis and commentary forms the foundation of Walberg’s narrative.

  • Robert Wright, Nonzero: the logic of human destiny (2000)

    -organic evolution tends to create more complex forms of life, raising overall entropy but concentrating order locally
    -Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere, the thinking envelope of the Earth
    -throughout nature, main trend is the increase in capacity for information processing, storage and analysis. DNA not just data, but data processor.
    -the function of the energy marshaled by an organism or society not just to sustain and protect structure, but to guide the marshaling.
    -secret of life not DNA but zero sum (zs)/ nonzero sum (nzs) games (to better pass on one’s DNA - the ‘meaning of life’).
    ‘laws of nature’:

  • Review of Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World,

    Sadakat Kadri

    New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

    There are 50 Muslim-majority states in the world; 11 of them, including Egypt, have constitutions that acknowledge Islam as a source of national law. In Heaven on Earth, Sadakat Kadri, an English barrister and New York attorney, provides a much-needed and highly readable overview of Islamic legal history and an entertaining survey of the state of Islamic law today, full of fascinating anecdotes.

    For instance, have you heard the one about the eleventh-century Sufi mystic whose prayers were interrupted by a familiar voice: "Oh, Abu Al-Hasan!" it boomed. "Do you want me to tell people what I know about your sins, so that they stone you to death?" "Oh, Lord," Al-Hasan whispered back. "Do you want me to tell people what I know about your mercy, so that none will ever feel obliged to bow down to you again?" "Keep your secret," came God's conspiratorial reply. "And I will keep mine."

    Such risqué offerings aside, Kadri looks at the development of Islamic law from the time of the Prophet, focussing on attitudes to war, criminal justice, religious tolerance, and movements of reform through history. He provides valuable background for all those concerned and/or excited about today's resurgence of Islam. As the fastest growing religion, second only to Christianity in numbers (and surely first in terms of sincere practitioners), Islam is an increasingly powerful force not only in the world of religion, but in the realms of culture, politics and even economics.
  • Guided missives

    Ard ard (Surface-to-surface): The story of a graffiti revolution
    Sherif Abdel-Megid
    Egyptian Association for Books 2011
    ISBN 978-977-207-102-9

    Graffiti -- the art of the masses, by the masses, for the masses -- has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and arguably to Pharaonic Egypt. Sherif Abdel-Megid, a writer who works for Egyptian television, boasts that Egypt's revolution and the explosion of popular art that followed it finds its roots in the decay of the Sixth dynasty in Egypt's Old Kingdom, following the reign of Pepi II (2278-2184 BC), credited with having the longest reign of any monarch in history at 94 years (Mubarak, eat your heart out). His own decline paralleled the disintegration of the kingdom and it is thanks to Pharaonic graffiti that we know about it.

  • I confess that I cringe when I see the word “post-modern.” This word has obscured more discussions, confused more gullible readers, and conned more writers than any word since “existential” and its “-ism.” For the most part, it has served as a kind of fashionable linguistic operator that signals something radical and profound will follow. Almost always, what follows disappoints.

    Eric Walberg’s book, Postmodern Imperialism (Clarity Press, 2011), doesn’t change my general opinion of the word, though what follows the title certainly doesn’t disappoint.

    Walberg has offered a welcome taxonomy of imperialism from its nineteenth century genesis until today; he has given a plausible explanation of imperialism’s contours since the exit of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism from the world stage; and he has convincingly described Israel’s unique role in the continuing reshaping of imperialism’s grasp for world domination.

  •  I. Let the Games Begin…Again…and Again

    The great disaffected masses tell us that history is on the march and, as usual, guns and butter are the simpler issues. In America, support dwindles for a war that has lasted a decade. Drone missiles, each costing $100,000, kill “terrorists” in gutturally named, chicken-scratch places bewilderingly far from America’s hometowns, whose simple citizens ask where their taxes go. Costs of the Afghanistan war this year are the highest ever, $119.4 billion and counting.[1] Polls show historically deep disaffection with The System. The mask of America-First patriotism is falling, revealing an intoxicated self-grandiosity and will to power by renascent Bush-era neocons and cynical manipulations by the CEO caste and other one-percenters for more and more wealth, and whose sense of entitlement the victims of class warfare, lumpen proles and petit bourgeoisie alike, seem unable to stomach any longer.[2] Approval of the Republican led-by-gridlock Congress hovers around fifteen percent.[3] Ever-larger protests in other cities in America and internationally have extended those on Wall Street – protests even a year ago one would never have predicted – and “class warfare – rich against poor” appears on the protestors’ signs.

    The disaffected might also ask why the US, as Eric Walberg notes in his extraordinary new book, has 730 American military bases in fifty countries around the globe, and why the US share of the world’s military expenditures is 42.8% while, by comparison, China’s is 7.3% and Russia’s 3.6%. The unavoidable irony is that the Pax Americana seems to be requiring endless war with no particular rationale behind it – and truly astonishing numbers of dollars are spent on behalf of war rather than at home. What may be fatally undermining credibility in America’s “transcendent values” has been the sense that as the facts filter down to the masses, the Empire’s new clothes appear to be the same as that of past empires. All empires have births and deaths – the US Empire will be no different. Internal contradictions of the US efforts to control the globe seem now to be sending things spiraling out of control.[4]

  • Eric Walberg’s acute insights into the contemporary global order raise many questions about the continued viability of the American and Israeli focus on wealth and power. Perhaps understandably, his interests and insights inspired by the Islamic world make him a penetrating commentator on peoples who are a product of Christian and Jewish tradition.

    Walberg is a Canadian authority on the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia who writes for Al Ahram, the best known English language newspaper in the Middle East.

  • Though the number of critical voices concerning Israel, Zionism and Jewish power is growing steadily, a clear distinction can be made on the one hand between contributors who operate within the discourse and are politically oriented, and others who transcend themselves above and beyond any given political paradigm.

    The former category refers to writers and scholars who operate 'within the box,' accepting the restrictive measures of a given political and intellectual discourse. A thinker who operates within such a framework would initially identify the boundaries of the discourse, and then shape his or her ideas to fit in accordingly. The latter category refers to a far more challenging intellectual attempt: it includes those very few who operate within a post-political realm, those who defy the dictatorship of 'political-correctness', or any given 'party-line'. It relates to those minds that think 'out of the box'. And it is actually those who, like artists, plant the seeds of a possible conceptual and consciousness shift.

  • The Wandering Who? A study of Jewish identity politics, gives a unique insider’s view of the Israeli mind. Its author explains to Eric Walberg that you can take the girl out of Jezebel, but you can’t take Jezebel out of the girl

    Gilad Atzmon is a world citizen who calls London his home. He was born a sabra, and served as a paramedic in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1982 Lebanon War, when he realised that “I was part of a colonial state, the result of plundering and ethnic cleansing.” He has wandered far since then, become a novelist, philosopher, one of the world’s best jazz saxophonists, and at the same time, one of the staunchest supporters of the Palestinian cause, supporting their right of return and the one-state solution. He now defines himself as a “proud self-hating Jew” and “a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian”. In 2009 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan quoted Atzmon during a debate with Israeli president Shimon Peres, telling him at the World Economic Forum that “Israeli barbarity is far beyond even ordinary cruelty.”

  • Three books recently published by the American radical publisher Clarity Press reflect different aspects of racism in the US, which even under a black president is unfortunately alive and well, promoted in US policy at home and abroad -- if not officially:

    Devon Mihesua, American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities

    Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims

    Francis Boyle, The Palestinian Right of Return Under International Law

  • -secular thinkers imagine they have left religion behind, but have only exchanged religion for a humanist faith in progress

    -Joseph Roth worried about spread of ideas of national self-determination. Monarchy was more tolerant. A society can be civilized without recognizing rights, while one based on rights may be tainted with barbarism (Austria-Hungary abolished torture in 1776)

    -torture is Enlightenment tradition, 'progress' a legacy of Christianity (salvation in battle between good and evil Zoroastra). 'God defeats evil' translated into secular terms. also meliorism of liberal humanists. Enlightenment hostile to Christianity but used Christian framework.

  • -US enriched rather than impoverished by the two world wars and by their outcome, nothing in common with Britain -> still glorifies military, sentiment familiar in Europe before 1945.

    -in Europe, dominant sentiment relief at "final closing of a long, unhappy chapter" vs in US - story recorded in a triumphalist key. war works. thus remains the first option, vs last resort

    -20th c rise and fall of the state. welfare state a cross-party 20th c consensus implemented by liberals or conservatives not as first stage of 20th c socialism but culmination of late-19th c reformist liberalism, prerequisites of a stable civil order. p10

    -citizens lost gnawing sentiment of insecurity and fear that had dominated political life between 1914 and 1945. forgot this fear -> neoliberalism. now fear reemerging [-> neofascism], fear that not only we but those 'in authority' have lost control of forces beyond their reach [implicitly acknowledging the cabal of international bankers/ military industrial complex (mic) that conspire above governments, tho Judt would be the first to dismiss this p20]

  • Clarity Press June 2011

    advanced purchase http://www.claritypress.com/Walberg.html

    PREFACE

    To young people today, the world as a global village appears as a given, a ready-made order, as if human evolution all along was logically moving towards our high-tech, market-driven society, dominated by the wealthy United States. To bring the world to order, the US must bear the burden of oversize defense spending, capture terrorists, eliminate dictators, and warn ungrateful nations like China and Russia to adjust their policies so as not to hinder the US in its altruistic mission civilatrice.

    The reality is something else entirely, the only truth in the above characterization being the overwhelming military dominance of the US in the world today. The US itself is the source of much of the world’s terrorism, its 1.6 million troops in over a thousand bases around the world the most egregious terrorists, leaving the Osama bin Ladens in the shade, and other lesser critics of US policies worried about their job prospects.

    My own realization of the true nature of the world order began with my journey to England to study economics at Cambridge University in September 1973. I decided to take the luxury SS France ocean liner which offered a student rate of a few hundred dollars (and unlimited luggage), where I met American students on Marshall and Rhodes scholarships (I had the less prestigious Mackenzie King scholarship), and used my wiles to enjoy the perks of first class. The ship was a microcosm of society, a benign one. The world was my oyster and I wanted to share my joy with everyone.

    But I was in for a shock.

  • How green is your deen?

    Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, San Francisco CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2010

    Muslim Americans are slowly beginning to make their mark on their very conflicted society. There are more Muslims than Jews in the US now -- approximately 5 million. They are the most diverse of all American believers, 35 per cent born in the US (25 per cent Afro-American), the rest -- immigrants from southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Traditionally they have voted Republican, but have shifted to Democrat and Green parties in recent years.

  • Three new publications from the leading radical British press are the tip of a growing iceberg of passionate pleas for sanity in international affairs. Most of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand as the world goes to hell in a hand-basket, but there are works that can fascinate and uplift, perhaps even inspire us to do something before it is too late.

  • -the attempt to fuse the public and private lies behind Plato’s attempt to answer the q “Why is it in one’s interest to be just?” and Christianity’s claim that perfect self-realization can be attained through service to others. [capitalism proposes the invisible hand, soc – class consciousness and state-sanctioned ideology, Rorty’s vision – soc demo and  metaphors]

  • -ecology - 19th c term - investigation of interrelationships between animals, plants, and their inorganic environment - dynamic balance of nature, interdependence of living and nonliving things. vs environmentalism (natural engineering)

     -social ecology - dialectical unfolding of life-forms from simple to complex. (history of phenomenon is the phenomenon itself) human-made universe is 'second nature'. society = institutionalized communities. philosophy of evolution. must synthesize these 2 natures into a 3rd. process of achieving wholeness by means of unity thru diversity, complementarity (vs homogeneous monocultural oneness of cap).
  •  

    -x preferred schoolgirls because less complicated, less real than adult women, as dream less complicated than reality.

    paradox of sex - always seems to be offering more than it can deliver.
  • Time and its discontents

    -Latin words for culture = agriculture/ domestication AND translation from Greek terms for spatial image of time. We are 'time-binders', creating a symbolic class of life, an artificial world -> control over nature. Time becomes real because it has consequences. Flow of time 'the distinction between what one needs and what one has, the incipience of regret' (Guyau (1890) Carpe diem, but civ(ilization) forces us to mortgage the present to the future.

  • -worldatlarge dangerous and threatening. It didn't like the Jews (Js) because they were clever, quick-witted, successful, but also because they were noisy and push. It didn't like what we were doing here in the Land of Israel either, because it begrudged us even this meager strip of marshland, boulders, and desert. Out there in the world all the walls were covered with graffiti: yids, go back to Palestine, so we came back to Palestine and now the worldatlarge shouts at us: Yids, get out of Palestine.

  • 25/12/8 This latest collection of essays by the controversial Israeli writer will not disappoint both admirers and antagonists of this iconoclastic anti-Zionist, most definitely the greatest thorn in Israel's very own backyard. Shamir has known controversy most of his life, notably when he was forced to leave the Soviet Union for demonstrating defiantly against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. He came to Israel, served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army, before settling down to a career as journalist (Haaretz, BBC), translator (James Joyce, the Caballah), and increasingly a one-man Internet David to Israel's Goliath. He has never looked back, despite the difficulty of publishing his unapologetic critiques of not just Zionism and Israel, but of Judaism, Jews and Jewry.

  • [draft of upcoming book]
    One World: 20th century conspiracies
    Eric Walberg

    Introduction - From 9/11 1973 to 9/11 2001

        In Canada, dinner time chat – left or right – about world events generally follows the standard media script: the backward Muslims must be taught a lesson, that the events of 9/11/2001 and the tragedies unfolding in Iraq and Afghanistan are at worst a cock-up on the part of the US government and friends. Something like the following is served up on both sides of the political spectrum: "They had to invade Afghanistan to stop the Taliban supporting Al-Qaeda. Invading Iraq was a mistake but what do you expect from a moron like Bush? If only he'd listened to his father and just kept chipping away at Saddam."
        In Egypt, the idea that the bombing of the twin towers on 9/11 was the work of a handful of Muslim fanatics directed by Osama bin Laden is dismissed by all but a few westernized folk. "Bush bombed them to launch his war against Islam and to steal Iraq's oil," is the usual response. Or, "9/11 was done by a group within the US government in league with Mossad, using Muslims (or at least their passports) as a front."
        Where is the truth? We all agree 9/11 was a conspiracy, but by whom? Is it possible that the official conspiracy theory is a hoax covering a much more frightening cabal?
  • Film script: The Silk Road and the unknown East -- 6 part documentary

    Eric Walberg

    Introduction and Part I

    We will take a journey along the most ancient and thrilling road in Man's history, through a mysterious and little known part of the world, but one which has experienced all there is - the great religions have all thrived here at one time or another - Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam; at certain periods great centres of learning and the arts sprang up and declined, as did great warrior-princes. It is a region of violent contrasts - desert, mountains, lush valleys and oases. It is a mix of many races. Until a century ago, it was all but lost to the march of civilisation. Until the fall of Communism, it maintained its shroud of secrecy. With modern means of communications, it is now as accessible as any other destination. I am speaking of course of where East truly meets West - Central Asia.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html