2019

Equilibrium

The celebration last week of the historical fall of the Berlin Wall, which was built in 1961, evoked images in my mind of the horrible two World Wars that shattered Europe, the rise and then the defeat of Nazi Germany, the division of Germany into East and West, and the start of the Cold War, which supposedly ended in 1989 when the Wall was toppled. This led me to the whole history of what Europe was then, and what it is today, and to the reason why most European countries adopted Socialism as a system of governance.

I do not believe that they made that choice due to ideological reasons per se. They were prompted by two things occurring simultaneously: the devastation of the World Wars that left behind demolished cities and infrastructure, as well as an abject poverty and depression amongst the citizens. Subsequently to that an economic boom due to the Marshall Plan – subsidized by 12 billion US dollars – boosted government treasuries which, in turn, created an industrial and manufacturing explosion. This allowed European ruling parties to focus their attention on how best to utilize these resources in order to restore a much needed Equilibrium within society so that all of their citizens feel proud and vested in their shattered conditions. Thus, a Socialist Agenda was introduced and citizens were provided with their minimum basic needs such as medical coverage, education, a roof over their heads and other facilities that brought a sense of security to their families. The plan was a greatly successful endeavor, and Europe thrived. Today, it is a different story. Equilibrium having been restored, societies flourishing as they never had, and the new economies of the world creating millionaires and billionaires, European countries are no more Socialist in the strict sense of the word, but have embraced Capitalism while retaining the basic needs for a secure citizenry such as education, medical care etc. It is, so far at least, a formula that has been working overall pretty well.

Contrast this with what is happening in these United States, as well as elsewhere in our world: societies where, since the eighties especially, Capitalism has been running amok leaving in its wake millions of disadvantaged people who have, as two examples, no access to proper health care and where the education provided to their children is as miserable as the decrepit communities they live in. An Equilibrium needs to be restored, and that, in brief, is what our next election is all about, and what the Lebanese, the Chileans, Iraqis, and so many other people across the world are protesting in the streets: maintain the Runaway Capitalism and the Corruption it has engendered, or introduce a more Equitable form of governance?

Those who would like to maintain the status quo will be voting for Trump, those who want a fairer system will be voting for whomever is the Democratic Candidate. The truth of the matter is that unless the United States, as well as other countries in this same situation, marry a decent form of Capitalism with a decent form of Socialism this country will be witnessing upheavals, divisiveness and ugliness such that we all do not want, or need.

That’s why Our Right to Vote in a clean, secure and fair election is of the essence, and on Tuesday, November 5th. this was proven with people across many states deciding to vote for Democrats in their effort to restore some sense of Equilibrium to our country. It was a resounding message, though it is too early yet to think that the Trump Era is about to be over and done with, despite the damages that an Extreme Conservative Agenda has already caused such as: gutting the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and thumbing their nose at Climate Change; gutting the healthcare system; gutting the educational system more than it was already gutted; seeking to reverse Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights, Human Rights, Minority Rights all the way back to pre-Civil Rights enactments; introducing a new taxation system that impoverishes the middle class and poor all the more, while enriching the millionaires and billionaires; ignoring school shootings and any sensible gun laws; an embarrassing  foreign policy where, as one small example, our President calls Sisi of Egypt his “favorite dictator” causing every Arab to cringe etc. etc. Moreover, and regarding Impeachment: even if Congress chooses to go that route – as they seem intent on doing –  the Senate will not impeach Trump, and he may very well succeed in winning the next election, despite those in the pathetic and corrupt MSM, Establishment Democrats and Whomever is this entity they call the Deep State being hell-bent in the most disgusting of spectacles to perp-walk him out of the White House. So, take a breath everyone!

Meanwhile, there are Many States and Juries reversing Trump’s edicts regarding the environment, minority rights, women’s rights etc. etc. This is a good thing. The Federal Government has become too big a behemoth to manage the country and each of our States and their presiding Juries should step up and do what their citizens need and what they voted for, thus making State elections and local politicians as important as the Presidential Election, which, in fact, they should be.

However, Republicans and Establishment Democrats have decided that Bernie Sanders is a Socialist and are doing their best to squelch his candidacy. This wretched smearing is only meant to scare people away from voting for him, although polling suggests that those who are under age 29 support Bernie’s version of this so-called Socialism, as do I. In England they used the same tactics to discredit Jeremy Corbyn, only calling him a Communist (The Editor-in-Chief of The Economist said that on the air!), and the British Establishment added that he is also an anti-Semite! They cannot smear Bernie Sanders with this taunt since, after all, he is of the Jewish faith! Hillary went even further stating that Tulsi Gabbard was a “Russian Asset,” as is Jill Stein! Besmirching opponents is nothing new to politics anywhere in the world. It is one of the disgraceful tools used by candidates vying for office.

Enough of that already! Shouldn’t we be talking issues? Because at the end of the day it should not be a question of Party affiliation, but of what is needed for the country to thrive and restore its Equilibrium at this specific and dangerous juncture. I believe that the Democrats sweeping elections in many places recently is proof that the American people with their gut instinct of doing the right thing have risen above ethnic, religious, sexual, party, or any other divisive and vindictive issues. They seem to have been saying: Let’s restore our Equilibrium. They are also fully aware that no promises by any candidate are all going to materialize. We live in a Democratic Republic after all, and nothing will work without compromise. The electorate also knows that what will solve our problems is when Everyone pays their fair share with a taxation system that encourages Equality and Fairness, and a Justice System that punishes corrupt companies and individuals who are making their money from the drug and opioid industry, from arms sales, trafficking, stealing, cheating, padding their contracts – especially the government contracts – and all other corrupt mediums. Rich people such as those should be prosecuted and jailed. However, and personally, I think that lumping all the Rich (same as we often do when lumping and discriminating against All Mexicans, Arabs, Muslims, Blacks etc. etc.) especially since Billionaire Bloomberg indicated his Presidential intentions, and punishing all of them simply because they are Rich is vindictive. If their money has been garnered legally, ethically and through their smart thinking and hard work I don’t want to take it away from them. Neither should anyone. That’s just not right! On the other hand, asking them to pay a more reasonably equitable amount of taxes is absolutely a must.

Whether we choose to Label our country as Capitalist, or Socialist is not at all the issue. Labels are meaningless! And whether we choose to Label our politicians as Russian Assets, or Socialists is, again, and especially without Proof, merely mud-slinging and inappropriate! It is, also, spiteful! My hope is that this coming Election will succeed in restoring a very much needed Equilibrium to our country and society on the domestic front, as well as on foreign policy. Losing perspective of that will create many more trials and tribulations no matter which Party wins the next election!

2019

Charming Lebanon!

It was a cloudy, rainy, miserable kind of day when driving around to run my errands would have been stressful, so I opted to watch a Netflix movie that had been sitting around for a while. I was delighted that I did! It is an old movie (2004) titled: The Notebook, which is based on a true story. The movie is romantic, touching, sentimental, elating and tear-jerking. James Garner and Gena Rowlands are the two main characters and they did a terrific job.

The story begins in the 1940’s, and it took me back to that period when the United States was in the early stages of a financial boom as industry was flourishing and millionaires were being born; a period when the rivers and streams were still so clean you could safely drink their water; when there was no Lyme and other diseases lurking in the forests; no hackers and cyber criminals looking over our shoulders; no surveillance state monitoring our every move; no American political angst. Yes, black people then were still enslaved in many ways; homes in the South, especially, had the black “help” cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, baby-sitting and working the cotton and other crop fields; racism was rampant and Jews, Catholics, Chinese, Italians and Indigenous Americans were all discriminated against openly. Yes, too, a Second World War was brewing and America sent its young men to fight Hitler and racism abroad, while not taking any effective steps yet to fight it on the home front, thus setting the stage for our foreign entanglements and domestic anguish whence listening to the news has become something to be dreaded! What now? What else?

It seems that everywhere we look at our Planet there is something, or the other churning and driving people to the streets: France, Spain, Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador, England, Bolivia, Venezuela, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and now tiny Lebanon too? What the hell is going on? The picture is very disconcerting, worrisome and ominous. Discontent is manifesting itself, and, according to the Chinese Government, it was the Hong Kong protests that inspired the upheavals? Perhaps, but clearly disgruntlement refuses to remain behind closed doors anymore. How is the political leadership going to deal with all that, I wonder? It does not look to me that they are addressing the issues seriously, coherently or wisely. To the contrary, in most places their answer seems to be: Call in the army. Hose the people off the streets! Haul them to jail! And, yet, that does not seem to be killing people’s desire for demanding Equality and Justice.

In most places where the anger, discontent and protests have oozed out into the streets there is an apprehensive and somber atmosphere. Not in Lebanon, where a Protest Party was unfolding and expressing itself joyfully – even the foreign tourists participated –  despite the anguish and anger in people’s hearts.

The situation in Lebanon has been brewing since the beginning of the conspiracy – and, yes, it was exactly that – which ignited the Civil War in 1975 and ravaged that small country; where the corruption mushroomed as never before and where one of the slogans then was: min ayna laka hatha, as in: From Where Did Your Riches Come? This time around during the protests upbeat slogans were accompanied with dancing, singing and the most humorous signs I have yet seen during any social upheavals:

“Happiest Depressed People You’ll Ever See.”

“If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep.”

“Yeah, Sex Is Great, But Have You Ever Fu–ed The System?”

And so it charmingly goes! Bakeries were making Manakeesh and Knafe and feeding the Protestors for free; volunteers were sweeping and cleaning the streets; activists were on social media advising the people not to burn tires and to refrain from violence; old women were pleading with soldiers to join them since they, too, and their families were suffering; sectarianism was thrown out of the window as the people proclaimed unity and solidarity with each other and against the corrupt and divisive ruling powers. How long will this last? Unknown as yet, since the infiltrators, evil-doers, political parties, and other nations will most probably try to interfere and meddle.

Nevertheless, and despite it all, it remains Charming Lebanon!

And, yet, Lebanon is really and truly only a microcosm of our world with its beauty and splendor on the one hand, and its wickedness and misery on the other. The protests depicted the bourgeoisie marching shoulder to shoulder with the hoi polloi, as well as men and women, who seem to have just stepped off the pages of GQ and Elle, walking  on the same streets as those dressed in bedraggled and  flimsy clothes. Here, too, are the young girls with their spaghetti-strapped tops walking arm in arm with their neighbors sporting the hijab. Native citizens mingled with the many refugees from around the region who, not being able to protest their own governments, felt somehow vindicated and hopeful. Here you can find a thriving gay community side by side with the priggish, artificial traditionalism of its Christian hoity-toity, as well as its strictly misguided and extreme Muslim conservatism. One can also find lovely restaurants serving haute fusion cuisines from around the world, as well as the delectable ethnic foods that no one else does better. On one side of this sliver of a nation you have the museums, artists, film producers, painters, actors, dancers and an exuberant cultural hub, on the other you have a world where trafficking and drugs, laundered money, spies and conspirators, prostitution and thugs exist with impunity. One views the architecturally splendid high-rises and luxurious apartments almost adjacent to run-down sectors and decrepit hovels, burning forests and a polluted Mediterranean shore reflecting humanity’s negligence of the environment and the planet we live on. Lebanon is a paradox like no other!

Lebanon’s endemic corruption has bared itself to the world in these recent weeks. However, there is similar, and often more egregious corruption going on elsewhere on our planet as crooked and inept ruling classes are ignoring their people, such as in San Francisco, which like many inner cities around the US and the world, is seeing the proliferation of streets where the destitute live in tents that are in stark contrast to the gated mansions of the billionaires across the nation who do not seem to be concerned with neither poverty, or people’s minimum basic needs. How is that even possible? In this tech world of ours Jeff Bezos wants to build a settlement on the Moon, and Elon Musk wants to establish a colony on Mars proving that these United States, too, are their own paradox!  Generally and globally, it is not a pretty picture that we are all seeing! In fact, it is quite alarming, because unless the people’s concerns are seriously and concretely addressed our world is headed for social upheavals on a much wider scale. However, with or without Twittering Trump, with or without a responsible and ethical media, Charming Lebanon and an angry world will continue to go through these convulsions that are now manifesting themselves on the streets until Equality and Justice prevail, which, at some point, they must, or we can all say: Goodnight and Goodbye to our Tormented Planet!