Photograph from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Indiana
by Roberto Lalli delle Malebranche, www.robertolalli.biz
The most important, the most exceptional thing of all is … existence. That might sound a bit strange to you because at first sight existence seems not to be the exception but the rule. You exist, I do exist, this I pad exists, the café I am sitting in exists, the road outside exists and the cars and the blue sky and the autumn leaves and everything else I can see around me does exist.
Well, but from an historic point of view existence is something “new” and something that has beaten all the odds. Did something exist before the “Big Bang” 13, 75 billion years ago and if so, what was it? And why did the singularity Big Bang happen in the first place? When did our planet earth actually come into being (4,54 billion years ago) and when will it exit existence again (500 million to 2,3 billion years from now)? Where have we been before we were born and where will we be (exist) after our physical death? If you take a close look on our universe you will realize that a pretty lot of strange things had to happen to bring something at all (and us) into existence. So, at least in my view, existence is the greatest miracle of all. Existence and the human capability to realize it: “I am here, now. I am. I do exist.”
But questioning and trying to understand the miracle of existence is not just an act of philosophical reasoning, it is a very political act, maybe the most political action you can undertake as a human being. In fact we could say that the way a person, a party, a business firm and a society as a whole looks at existence will determine and predict the acts of these actors and the quality of life on our planet. If I believe that existence is the result of pure coincidence and has nothing special about it I will treat it accordingly and not bother to safeguard it. If I believe that there is a god somewhere that wasn’t created himself/ herself but created everything else, I will ask myself why god created everything and what he/ she expects from me. If I believe in the exceptional character of existence but can’t imagine that there is a god, I might want to safeguard existence for the simple reason of its beauty and/ or I might feel terrible afraid and lost because I can’t find a deeper meaning in it.
What do you think about existence? Hod do YOU perceive “it”? Of what kind of existence are you dreaming?
Keep your answer in mind while we go on and have a look at the way existence is seen in advanced Capitalism. The first basic assumption in Capitalism is that everything has a value or a non-value and that this value is not objective or “given” but a result of the “law of supply and demand”. As a consequence everything is seen as a separate entity because to establish the worth of something it has to be distinct from everything else. I can’t buy or sell a “wood”, I have to quantify it, make it distinguishable, I have to regard it as an independent entity and not as the part of an ecosystem. The third basic assumption in Capitalism is that everything can be possessed, that everything belongs to someone. In order to buy and sell there must be people, organizations or countries who “own” something and people, organizations and countries who become the new owners of what they didn’t own before buying it. And in fact in Capitalism everything can me owned: fields, rivers, animals, mountains, air, water, power plants, ideas, paintings, human beings (slavery was a common phenomenon throughout human history and continues to exist), DNA, everything. But this third basic assumption of Capitalism has a very interesting backside: ownership is only ownership in time. In order to buy or sell something it has to be discriminable in space AND time. Ownership for eternity doesn’t exist in Capitalism. First of all because you can possess something for a lifetime as an individual and even for hundreds of years as an organization but sooner or later that something will flip back into the market. And secondly because as capitalist you can always choose between existence and NON-existence of what you own. In fact in Capitalism profits (or at least non-losses) can be achieved by creating things, that is, by bringing them into existence, as well as by destroying things, that is, by bringing them out of existence. As a farmer I can earn profits by first raise and milk cattle as well as by later killing them.
As you can see the three basic assumptions about existence used in Capitalism lead to a view of existence that is basically atheistic (there is no inborn, a priori, god given value in things, animals and human beings, the market and not the love of god determines the value of everything), non-systemic and non-harmonic (important connections between “things” and man and things do not exist because otherwise things couldn’t be sold. “Trees” and “woodland”exist and can be sold, an “ecosystem” doesn’t exist and can’t be sold) and non-conservative (destroying is as good as to preserve if it leads to profits/ does avoid losses).
Now think again about how YOU perceive existence: does it fit with these assumptions?
Photograph from Wikipedia, author: Krzysztof Mizera, “Rayonnant southern rose window of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris”, 2009, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty
by Roberto Lalli delle Malebranche, www.robertolalli.biz
Why is a mother loving her child, or better, how she does it? Through her voice, her smile, her touch, through her connection with her child. How we materialize our ideas, how we create things? By connecting with our environment and, at least most of the time, through cooperation with other living beings. Why do people not eat their dogs and cats, fishes and birds they keep as pets in their houses? Because they feel a deep connection with these animals. And why do some people kill other people, why do millions of people eat killed chicken, pigs, cows and other animals, why do a lot of people kill themselves? Because they do not feel connected to other people, to other living beings, to themselves at all. Love is connection, Love means to connect with someone or something and appreciate it for herself, himself, itself, for his, her or its inner beauty and without thinking of it, her or him as a MEAN to something else.
It’s easy like that. It’s quite easy to understand. And it’s easy to understand that therefore, as I said, Capitalism and Love must be and stay opposite states forever: Because in Capitalism nothing is considered beautiful, worthy and lovable in itself, because owning, selling and buying something is only possible in a world without connections and because destroying something adds to the “Gross National Product” as much as creating something.
If we are nevertheless still able to perceive the beauty of existence and feel the miracle that existence fundamentally is, if we are still able to feel LOVE, we owe this to the fact that Capitalism couldn’t destroy the eternal truth within our soul, or at least, it couldn’t destroy it totally. Sometimes, in a world where everything and everyone has to be a mean to production and accumulation we encounter moments of deep connection with nature and other living beings. Suddenly we forget everything we learned in business school and rush into a burning house, risking our life in order to save somebody we do not even know. Suddenly we see the beauty of a tree, a garden, a lawn and we become one with the tree and the garden without thinking of the price it would score on the real estate market. Suddenly we feel love for another human being, so much love, that we want her or him happy, no matter if that is going to benefit us or not. And sometimes we feel that there is something in us that has no name, that does not care about our Ph.D., that does not want money or fame or power but wants and needs only to BE, to keep on being, complete and fulfilled and “right” in itself, since the beginning of time and to and maybe beyond the end of it, without meaning or plan or reasoning of any kind. Sometimes we can feel that Capitalism is “somehow wrong” and that there must be something beyond it, another way to exist and to see and feel existence. Sometimes, maybe only for a second or the fraction of it, we can see that our destiny is beauty and that we can achieve real beauty, real humanity, real life on earth only through Love. Love leads to beauty, Capitalism leads only and forever back to itself, to a place where there is no way, no touchstone to establish what is beautiful and what is ugly, what is right and what is wrong, what is love and what is hate, what is life and what is death, to a cold place where everything and everyone is first used and then thrown away, to a place where everything and everyone functions but where every starting point, every path and every destination are somehow cold, heartless and ugly.
As long as half of the human beings on this planet do have to live in poverty and misery there can’t be real beauty for the rest of us. You can’t reach true happiness while there a people around you starving, aching and crying. You cant feel real security, the security that comes only from the brotherhood of men, while other human beings on this planet are killed, tortured, enslaved, abused, used, kept in darkness, illness and forced labor. Capitalism says that you can, but the whisper deep inside your soul says that you can’t.
Everybody is connected to everybody, everything is connected to everything else, nobody stands alone, nothing can be altered, used, exploited and destroyed without affecting everything else, everyone else, existence as a whole. Nothing can be owned, because existence belongs to no one and to all of us. Nothing can be sold, because by selling it we become blind for the way it is connected, blind for the fundamental law of existence. Nothing that we buy can satisfy us because everything we buy has been torn apart from its connections and true satisfaction comes from connection and the love it makes possible.
Always remember: You are beautiful. We are beautiful. Existence is beauty. Or at least it could be, might be, will be someday.
Photograph: Part of the painting by Sandro Botticelli “Birth of the Venus”(1483-1485) from Wikipedia: www.de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schönheit
by Roberto Lalli delle Malebranche, www.robertolalli.biz
It was one of these moments that change the course of history: On October 19, 1962 US-President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was listening to the highest ranking Generals of the country and to their advice to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis by bombing the Soviet missile sights on Cuba and destroy all ballistic weapons that Khrushchev”s troops had deployed there in secret. Kennedy was reluctant because he was sure that the Soviets would retaliate to the death of their Soldiers on Cuba by attacking the then isolated city of Berlin, thus forcing him into a global military escalation. Kennedy had read Barbara Tuchman’s famous book ‘The Guns Of Summer’ about the turn of events that had provoked the First World War. Kennedy was lightning struck by the fact that his Generals seem to consider nuclear war with the Soviet Union a real military option, while he was terrified by the idea that his decisions might start a chain of event that would almost “automatically” lead to the end of the world as he knew it.
General Curtis Le May sensed the doubts of his Commander in Chief and tried to bring on pressure by comparing President Kennedy’s reluctance to the appeasement of Hitler in 1938, provoking a strong reaction from JFK:
“There’s bound to be reprisal from the Soviet Union, there always is – of their just going in and taking Berlin by force. Which leaves me only one alternative, which is to fire nuclear weapons – which is one hell of an alternative – and begin a nuclear exchange, with all this happening …”
At the end of that day Kennedy opted for a naval blockade of Cuba and days later a secret deal between Washington and Moscow (the US pledged to withdraw their nuclear missiles from Turkey) led to the dismantling of all Soviet missile bases on Cuban soil.
That October day fifty years ago didn’t just end a very dangerous political crises, it probably can be also considered the starting point of the events that led to the assassination of the young President (JFK was 45 years old) on November 22, 1963 in Dallas. The thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis changed Kennedy profoundly. Until that point “Jack” had just been a member of the powerful Few, the offspring of one of those families that together formed the Polyarchy that controlled the country and the Many. Kennedy, son of an super wealthy self made Millionaire and former US-Ambassador and nephew of the famous Major of Boston “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald had won his presidential election 1960 as a hardliner by denouncing an (inexistent) “missile gap” in favor of the Soviets and had never been an intellectual let alone someone we would consider “left” today. JFK probably had never planned to question earnestly the status quo of the American society and the power of the “military- industrial complex” that his predecessor President Eisenhower had denounced before leaving office, warning the american public that those Few in the background would some day undermine American democracy.
But Jack Kennedy, being for years an underdog in his own family, being ill most days of his life and a very sensitive person, changed during his presidency. The Civil Rights Movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the tiring conflicts with FBI-Chief J. Edgar Hoover and with the Generals made him realize that the Polyarchy of which his own family was a part was threatening the fragile balance of the Cold War on one hand and the need for change in the American society on the other. Kennedy began to realize that the Few in the background had perceived him as an outsider from the start and that they had their own political, economic and military agenda, no matter if he was the President or not – and that they would follow it down at any cost.
For Kennedy, who considered himself neither a “political person” nor a cynical one this must have been a shocking experience, but in the upcoming months, JFK and his brother Bobby began to react and wage a secret war against the Few in the background. They planned to reduce the power of the CIA, curb down the tax privileges of the oil industry, restructure the top levels of the military and reduce the American engagement in Vietnam. And though surveys showed that backing of the Civil Rights Movement could endanger his reelection, JFK decided to back Martin Luther King and his movement more openly.
I am not sure if Jack and Bobby Kennedy realized how many crucial interests of the Few they jeopardized at the same time. I think that the Kennedys all had a fatal assumption about reality: that they were much brighter than anybody else and that normally things went down the way they wanted them to. JFK was not entirely naive, he was quite aware of the POLITICAL danger of these activities in the light of the upcoming reelection year, but was he able to imagine that the people he threatened would retaliate by orchestrating a government overthrow and having him killed? I doubt it.
How much JFK had emancipated from the class that had produced him became crystal clear on June 10, 1963 when he spoke at the commencement celebration of the American University in Washington, D.C. He and his staff had prepared this speech in complete secret, JFK knew very well that his speech would be seen as a major shift in American Foreign Policy and, given that he had not bothered to consult with the Washington establishment, as an effort to bypass the cold warriors in the State Department and the military.
“I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived—yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.
What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women—not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.
Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles—which can only destroy and never create—is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace.
I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war—and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.
Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament—and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude—as individuals and as a Nation—for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward—by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the Cold War and toward freedom and peace here at home.”
Now try to read these words with the eyes of the Few in the background, with the eyes of those who believe fervently in their right to dominate and control the thoughts of the masses, who believe in their right to profit from the billions and billions that society invests in mass destruction armaments, who believe in their right to profit from military interventions around the world in order to acquire and control oil and other resources, who believe in their right to call white black and black white if it serves their financial purposes! Here was an elected President of the United States that talked publicly about the possibility of world peace, about the possibility that the riches produced by the masses could some day not far from now stop to flow into the pockets of the Few who owned the military industries, the newspapers, the think tanks, the television channels and needed the Cold War to cover up that gigantic redistribution from the hands of the many Many into the vaults of the Few.
Back in 1963 the Few wouldn’t let that happen. Would they today?
Photograph from Wikipedia: Presidential series medal for John F. Kennedy by the United States Mint, prior to 1963, author is Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts, Photograph from 2011
by Roberto Lalli delle Malebranche, www.robertolalli.biz
I am sitting in my usual Café vis a vis of the University of Mannheim, Germany, and it’s early morning. I just got a Facebook message from a friend of mine, Monika, a beautiful girl from Gdansk in Poland. Gdansk. Danzig. Germany. Poland. The so called second world war, the hatred, the killing, the organized murder in the concentration camps, the ‘Cold War’ following soon after and Poland and the other eastern countries controlled by the Soviet Union and trapped on one side of the ‘Iron Curtain’ and Germany and the other western states under the hegemony of the United States of America on the other side of it.
Most of this is gone now, and no doubt, the European Union, which was founded in 1957, has it’s merits in all this. France and Germany, Germany and Poland, England and Germany… for hundreds of years that meant the opposite of friendship and brotherhood, it meant hatred and war. And joining the European Union after two thousand years of battles the elites of these countries admitted two things: that it is impossible for a single european state to dominate all the other european countries and that Europe has to find some kind of unity in order to remain a global player in a world dominated by (at that time) the Soviet Union and the United States.
So at first sight the Noble Price for Peace given a few weeks ago to the EU seems a wise appreciation for an organization that helped securing Peace on (at least the western part of) a continent for more than 65 years.
But the problem is that something is missing, and we can feel it here in Europe. Something was missing from the start. And the Noble Price can’t change a thing about this feeling. Because Peace is not merely the absence of war, Peace is and must be much more than that. Peace describes a quality of human condition, it is not mainly about laws, economic treaties and a a single currency. True Peace can’t come from strategic decisions made by heads of states and themleaders of big corporations. Peace can’t be simply an arrangement between elites to become a club of imperialists in order to use the political and military power towards others instead of using it between them. Peace is a way to see the world, a way to relate to the world, a way to relate to all other beings, a way to define humanity and human relations. A way to demand something from history.
What do we Europeans demand from history?
Since 1957 the political and economic elites in Paris, London and Berlin demand an environment where the Multinational Corporations and financial operators can grow, where the common military and political power is used abroad to secure the recources needed for this growth and where ‘democracy’ is not endangering the fundamental rules of state sponsored big capitalism. The EU-treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon made that very clear. To the elites who govern us ‘Europe’ is a financial arrangement that needs some politics to be ‘sold’ to the common people. To them ‘Europe’ is the spoon given to the many, to the 99%, together with the rethorical images of the wonderful pudding that will come sooner or later, while they decide on our future. But the few, the 1% who own and control almost everything in Europe, know perfectly well that the pudding will never come. At least not to us.
But today, in the year 2012, it’s time for a change. We, the many, want more than a single currancy, want more than the daily flight to Gdansk, want more than the sunday speaches about the brotherhood of man. We want a Europe that measures growth not in percentages of Gross Domestical Product, or spreads, or stock exchange trends, but in the economic AND intellectual AND spiritual growth of every single woman and man in Europe. We, the many, dream of a Europe that is truly democratic inside and peaceful towards all the other countries and people on this planet. We, the big majority, dream of a Europe where ‘labour’ and ‘jobs’ get a new meaning and where capitalism is truly reformed in order to serve the many and not the few. We, the 99% own this continent, and we want to preserve it for the generations to come, green and beautiful and rich as it can be and not squandered and raped and cold just because some greedy idiots, who havn’t grown out of their state of imbecility, want to earn an extra Cent.
What do we Europeans demand from history?
Much more than the Noble Price for Peace, that’s for sure.
Picture from Wikipedia/ Peter Crossman of the Mary Rose Trust (2009)