Search This Blog

Sunday 25 August 2019

A Torch To End All Torches

I was going to blog about something relatively light-hearted and meaningless today, but then...

...this has been going on for over three weeks.

I find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn't know what this is in direct reference to, but just in case you missed it - a massive swathe of the Amazon rain forest is currently burning. A huge amount of it. Beyond any conception of what a fire should be. In fact - let me see if I can't find you the image that NASA put out.


Why is it burning?

Well there's been a lot of wildfires out there in recent years, and the climate being as it is, they have only gotten worse - but that isn't what is actually happening right now. It's far more basic, than that. It's far more stupid and evil and selfish.

Over a month ago, several of the indigenous tribes won a legal challenge to stop oil drilling and other industrial exploitation of their land, including deforestation to make way for pastoral farmland.

And now this happens:

And Bolsonaro's government claims there's nothing they can do, so sorry, so sorry.

I mean. Evo Morales of Bolivia is sending a fucking fire fighting tanker plane, but yeah, nothing anyone can do. So sorry.

So in summary, the Amazon is being deliberately burned to kill off the indigenous individuals who live there and to clear the land for industrial purposes, in an act of deliberate mass murder and environmental mutilation that would make the bad guy in a 90s anime stop and reconsider.

I've blogged before about Saturday morning cartoon evil - and about how stupid the villains in Captain Planet were.

I've also blogged before about how a bunch of stuff that is happening to the world is coming across like the news montage at the beginning of a disaster movie.

This is it, right here.

This is the part where it goes from "something bad might happen" to "fucking awful things are literally happening right now".

There are things we can do.

Short of actually heading out there and fighting fires our damn selves, there are organisations trying to help. The Instituto Socioambiental, AmazonWatch, Imazon and Friends Of The Earth. Do some research, make some donations. Spend your money smarter. Boycott assholes. Hit them in the wallet where it hurts. Consider cutting the meat and plant products they grow in the cut-back areas of the Amazon out of your diet. That might mean giving up meat and soy altogether, but you want solutions, you got em.

Write to your representatives. Keep writing to your representatives. Sure, a lot of us live in areas where our representative couldn't give a fuck and probably gets a backhander from someone who will be made rich by this whole fucking affair, but it can't hurt to try, god dammit.

Oppose the kind of nationalist, neoconservative, pro-industrial, pro-capitalist, right-wing asshole that would burn down half of a continent in order to make some scratch and appease the agriculture lobbyists. Oppose them at every fucking turn. I guarantee you that a bunch of the other social causes that you care about a lot will be helped by rejecting this kind of asshole.

Most of all? Don't look away.

Don't let this happen. Don't just LET it happen. I know it sucks. I know it's unpleasant. I know it hurts. I know it's sad. But if we just let things happen then things just keep on happening, and then the world is fucked and we are all dead.

Hank Green did a video about it. It deserves watching.

This, by the way, is what swaps the imminent apocalypse from Blade Runner to Mad Max.

God fucking help us all.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Ding Dong

Only a short one today, folks, because last night I... may have imbibed a little too much rocket fuel.

If you know me personally - most of you do, to some degree - you may well be aware that two of my best friends, very recently, got themselves hitched. They liked it, so they put a ring on it.

I've always been a matrimony-cynic on a personal level, but - I like seeing it for other people. I like other people who are into it, I like them having a good time on their big day. So seeing that big day actually happen was, frankly, an absolute joy.

And if someone ever tells you that you can't have a good party in a field, I come bearing news - you ruddy well can. As long as you don't drink too much of the blue stuff. I still think about the blue stuff when I close my eyes. Like, I can feel it fizzing in there somewhere. Most of it is gone but enough remains that I know it has forever...altered me in some way.

Was good to see a bunch of people that I haven't seen in a long time, too. I don't get out often. Body doesn't allow it. It was only through the sheer good grace and patience of my friends that I could even be there, so like... doubly blessed, I suppose?

I will avoid getting too sentimental. But there's not many finer people in the world. They deserve each other. Alike and different in all the right ways, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Lamb.

The collage of pictures below was put together by a good friend who took them at the event itself (Rachael, far left, middle pic, top row - yeah, she's a pretty good photographer). More may get appended later once I have sourced them out.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 11 August 2019

The Second Coming In Wrath

"The atomic bomb is the Second Coming in Wrath."

Winston Churchill said those words when he found out about the Trinity test, conducted 16th July 1945.

This past week has seen the anniversaries of the two combat deployments of nuclear weaponry, both of which were notably against (primarily) civilian targets. 74 years ago last Tuesday, a bomb named Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima. After levelling most of the city but not having the desired effect, that Friday, a second bomb named Fat Man was deployed on Nagasaki.

Precious little was left standing.

This is a torii, a gate usually demarcating the entrance to a Shinto shrine; many of these were left amongst the rubble. In a sad turn of events, during the postwar occupation of Japan, "State Shinto" was one of the things the occupational forces of the United States saw as responsible for Japan's pre-war culture, and so was thoroughly discouraged; even if the torii stayed standing, the religion itself was undermined for decades.

Before the atomic plan, the numbers were drawn up for an actual land invasion. The casualty figures in potential looked to be between half a million and four million. The figures were so great that the war department put the Purple Heart medal into mass production, to stockpile it for the inevitable amount of severely wounded individuals that would be merited with one following the invasion of the Japanese mainland. They made so many that they stopped producing them after the atomic bombings, and only actually got close to running out - despite involvement in many military conflicts since - in 1990.

The poster below was produced as part of the propaganda effort running up to this potential invasion. I doubt I need to provide a content warning for racism, but have one anyway.

The total casualty figures from both bombings - counting those that died before the end of 1945 of radiation sickness and other injuries - comes out to around 200,000 civilian, and 20,000 military. That's approximately the population of Southampton in the UK, Baton Rouge in the US.

Was it worth it?

The debate has been batted back and forth ever since before the bombings even happened. No matter how many lives it might have saved in the first place, it was a decision arrived at in context of many other decisions made previously - the concept of strategic bombing being a valid strategy, for one.

The definition of strategic bombing, over tactical or mission-based bombing, is that the targets are not strictly production or industrial or even military in nature. The entire point of strategic bombing is to kill civilians, to disrupt and destroy civil infrastructure, to hurt and kill people who have nothing to do with the fighting in order to erode the morale of those that do.

The first example of strategic bombing was the German army dropping 8 bombs on Antwerp via airship in 1914. A word that I find fascinating and horrifying in equal measure was invented via strategic bombing. Coventrate - a verb meaning to devastate by heavy bombing, named after the German bombing raid on Coventry in 1940.

This is Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Travers Harris, aka Bomber Harris.

He was in charge of RAF Bomber Command from 1942 to 1945, and he was a great proponent of strategic bombing. Harris famously had a large number of books in his office, books filled with photographs of cities that the RAF had bombed. When asked as to the effectiveness of strategic bombing, he would open these books and gesture to them. Four Coventries right there, he would say. Three Coventries. Hundreds of thousands of casualties, perhaps in the millions, by his direct command. He is on record as saying:
"I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British grenadier."
That is how it becomes acceptable to kill two hundred thousand civilians. Because the civilians stop being individuals. They start being numbers; they start being the weak points in the enemy army's fighting strength, and so become part of a military consideration.

It gets even easier if you stop thinking of them as human, a condition further enforced by significant numbers of "enemy nationals" being rounded up from their homes or places of work and shoved into cages.

And I am sure we have all seen pictures of armed guards getting civilian prisoners off a train at a camp before, haven't we?

Should we be ashamed of the nuclear bombing of Japan? Perhaps. It is the cherry atop a cake already heaped with shame. We - yes, we - are so easily talked out of humanity. So easily pushed into doing the inhuman thing. All it takes is for the regular folks on the street to do literally nothing while the tiniest proportion of the population dehumanise everyone they see fit to dehumanise.

It never starts with Little Boy and Fat Man.

It doesn't even start with the camps.

It doesn't even start with the eight bombs dropped on Antwerp over a century ago.

It starts long before that.

Which stage do you think we are at as a civilisation?

I'll give you a clue:

Bombs are already being dropped on human beings that we've been convinced not to care about.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 4 August 2019

People Being Ugly To Each Other

My mother calls me the ultimate pessimist.

I mean, I know people so much more pessimistic than I am - HER mother, for one - but I think, probably, it is my willingness to voice it. When I have doubt that a thing will work out well, or when I believe that a particular action or situation will be used for evil purposes. I tend to say so, and so, I am pessimistic.

Things like, back in 2017, after the election, when I told her that we'd probably sleepwalk into Brexit without any kind of deal, but that was fine, because the people whose job it is to prevent that kind of thing are okay with having their tax loopholes maintained.

Like I told her at the time. I hope that it doesn't happen, but I think that it is likely. And here we are, four months away from a recession the likes of which none of us have lived through, while Boris and his cabinet of incompetents and crooks sit with their thumbs up their arses.

It's not fun, being right about shit like this.

Like, unless you are a sociopath, there's very little smugness or pleasure to derive from watching the next shitty thing happen to us as a town, as a county, as a country, as a species. It would take a very ugly process for me to laugh in triumph as the lava overcame the village.

It just gets so... tiring.

I don't try to assume the worst in people. Individual people, on a personal level. I used to. But then I used to always assume the best, too, and look how that worked out.

There just comes a point wherein you start seeing commonality, and you start seeing the repetition of patterns.

The men in suits say bigoted things. They get corrected but it's just echoes. Bigots continue to be bigots. It's okay - they know it's okay, because the men in suits are bigots too, so when will there ever be any serious repercussions?

The men in suits want to make their money. There's outcry because they're making their money by punishing and hurting people and taking things from others, but the men in suits don't care. Nothing is stopping them. If something temporarily stops them they will find another way.

And it is... exhausting. Because it is this absolute, ongoing, never-ending cycle of the next shit thing happening to people that don't deserve it - and it happens daily, sometimes hourly, and it ruins (and often ends) lives.

It makes it hard to see straight, let alone fight against.

But we have to.

We have to, because otherwise, it will just keep happening. If we don't speak truth, the lies will become repeated so often that nobody questions them. If we don't call out shitty behaviour, people will continue to be shitty to other people. If we don't decry hypocrisy or corruption, then it will happen more, and worse. If we don't stand up for the people under the boot, then the boot will come down again, and again, and again.

Will we win?

Who knows?

In the end, the better world, the better place, isn't a plateau we ascend to once we've punched a hundred Nazis. It comes in increments. It comes in the tiny reductions in suffering caused by each good action taken and each bad action averted or subverted.

Because a better life, like love, isn't just a thing. It's an action. It's work. It requires input, and gives output.

So we do what we can, in the face of reckless hate and insidious greed and choking malice.

I'm sorry, El Paso. I'm sorry, Dayton.

We're trying.