Once Upon a Sidewalk

Once Upon a Sidewalk

By Eddie Girdner

October 23, 2011

Once Upon a Sidewalk

Eddie J. Girdner

Published in Third Concept, No, 278, 2009

 

As I stepped out of a restaurant in New Delhi, India, some piles of books for sale on the sidewalk in Connaught Place caught my eye. It would be instructive to see what the local population was reading, I thought. Or were these bootlegged copies only being picked up by the foreigners living in the city? The first title that my eyes focused upon was The Warren Buffett Way by Robert Hagstram and next to it was The IBM Way by Buck Rogers. With all the poverty one sees around this city, these should prove useful indeed. And then I was hit by a feeling of nostalgia when next to these I saw the old classic, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, which I had seen selling in the same spot some forty years ago. Was that stuff still selling? Amazing. Surely, it seemed to me, if the way to grow rich was to think, then India would surely have been the richest country in the world for hundreds of years.

 

And then there was The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman… sure enough! Friedman had ridiculed all those critics who doubted the virtues of globalization and the global neoliberal economy, in this book, particularly those who wanted more government regulation and social welfare, when times were good, that is, just before the collapse of the global economy. Oh yes! That should explain what was happening in India very well, I thought. And making a bid to trump Friedman was Once upon a Wall Street by Peter Lynch. That should make one’s lunch digest better! And on another brightly colored cover Jack Welch screamed out in big red letters: Winning! Well, I don’t know. I guess there must be somebody somewhere who is. It had been a while since I had run into anyone in that category. And Delhi didn’t seem the likely place.

 

After a couple of days negotiating the streets of Delhi in an auto rickshaw, and comparing these books to what I had seen over the years, somehow they just did not quite seem to suit the climate. But then another book, looking on the brighter side, suddenly proclaimed: Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do. Now there’s a lie if I ever heard one! Well, getting down to the nuts and bolts of things, I moved my eyes around to Tom Hopkins, How to Master the Art of Selling and Mutual Funds Made Easy, put out by an outfit called Beria Sunlife Mutual fund. Along with those it might be wise to pick up a copy of Consumer is King by Rajyalakshmi Rao. A nice package there to acquire the know-how of getting ahead in the business world and life in general in the world’s teeming underbelly. Mutual funds, here I come! We have all learned what a great investment those are in the last few months! Certainly appropriate for Delhi residents. I wonder if my auto rickshaw driver, making five dollars a day, not enough to send his children to school, should pick up a package of those mutual funds for his future. And next to it all, to give one a broader view, and a more philosophical underpinning, was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

 

The juxtaposition of these titles next to what I had seen on the streets and around the city, the condition of the common people, could not have been more stark. I thought of the thousands of Indian Farmers who had committed suicide over the last few years because they could not even feed their families. I thought of the women construction workers I had seen waiting at the side of a road in Delhi that morning, with their babies, waiting to begin their day of heaving soil and cement and bricks for a dollar a day. They were certainly not following the Warren Buffett way. They may have been thinking, but they were not growing rich. And as far as I could tell, they were not winning either.

 

Only one writer seemed to have gotten it pretty much right. Right in front of me, there was a copy of Peter Robinson, Snapshots from Hell. Now that ain’t no lie! When there is no future, then why not fantacize about the glories or capitalism? Nowadays, in New Delhi or New York… what’s the difference?

 

Another title offered was by Mark McCormack, What they Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.  But why buy the book? One could learn much of that just by riding around a third world city in an auto rickshaw or in these days, or sleeping on a sidewalk.

July  16, 2009

Eddie J. Girdner, Professor of International Relations, Izmir University. Author of USA and the New Middle East, 2008.

 

 

 

American Sahib

American Sahib by Eddie James Girdner (2016) 416 pp.

Available from Amazon.com.

This novel is largely autobiographical but contains a good deal of fiction. It is mostly about life in a Punjabi village in the late 1960s.

I wrote this book in 2015 and then put it aside for several years after publishing it. It was based upon my two years in Punjab, India (1968-1970).

I had forgotten somewhat how the narrative unfolds. So I read it again this summer to see what I would think of it.

If someone is looking for a patriotic book that only praises America, the Peace Corps, the US Government, then this is not the book. It pokes a lot of fun and criticism at the USA. And it does not spare India either. So one should read it with an open mind. If one does not have something to say, then why bother to write the book?

The book has not been sanitized by a corporatist publishing company to make it safe for a neoliberal global agenda.

The book has some love affairs. Not unusual. This often happens in life itself, so it should not be surprising to discover it between the pages of a novel. One might be surprised at how many people object to such things. So many Americans seem to have a puritanical bent of mind. Often hypocritically, however. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Reading the book after three years, I was rather surprised. I hoped that I could look at it somewhat more objectively. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how good it was. I just don’t know of very many books that describe life in Punjab as well as this one does. Prakash Tandon, of course, Punjabi Century and Beyond Punjab are great books. But a somewhat different genre.

I found the book to be such a revealing description of life in a remote village in Punjab and in the towns in those days. Now that was fifty years ago. Half a century of water under the bridge. The book is quite funny in many places. The book is not only literature, but a political and economic analysis of a developing country without all the academic jargon. British colonialism, Indian politics, and the USA in the global system. America as an imperialist hegemon. A good deal of political economy spills out of the pages. And what the locals think of America and Indian politics might be interesting.

The love scenes spice up the book somewhat, breaking the monotony of village life. The dichotomy between the city and the countryside is stark. Escape is necessary to keep one’s relative sanity.

The perspective of the left in India, the relevant communist analysis of society emerges. Comrades are in the street, some actual members of the Communist Party of India. The author finds their analysis honest and convincing. They are often hauled off to jail. Actually, I think the members of the US State Department could benefit by reading this book. They could certainly learn something. This would surely be their ruination, as a part of that outfit. Unfortunately.

The author cannot resist mentioning the stupid things one hears on VOA, the Voice of America. Actually, the voice of Dick Nixon in the late 1960s. One picked it up on shortwave radio, the twenty-five meter band in India. Dick, the US President, hates the Peace Corps and sets out to kill it. Or as much of it as he can. He almost did. The US Presidick, for the author.

It always amused me how US congressmen in Washington were afraid to send young Americans abroad, especially to developing countries. What were they so afraid of? Why, simply that they might learn something and bring their ideas back to America. The old mushroom syndrome once again. Keep the people in the dark and pile horse shit on them. That’s the way one grows mushrooms. Americans are mushrooms. No shit. But why insult mushrooms? They are useful.

I will not even mention Tiny Hands Trump. Things can always get worse.

There is a good deal of satire in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.

It came to my mind that it would be incredibly instructive for students in a South Asian studies program in an American university to read. It is very informative in a simply way. But I don’t think that most American professors would have the courage to use it in their classes. The book steps on too many toes and is too unorthodox. Political correctness has ruined so much freedom in academia, it seems. The very place that it should not be ruined.

I am not saying that this is a great novel, as a novel. I do not claim to have any expertise to evaluate the book as a novel. But it is an interesting story. I think that it is a fun book. It is full of ideas. I just had some things that I wanted to say, and so I said them in the form of a novel. I would like to think that I have learned something living outside the USA for a third of a century. And all in so-called developing countries.

I guess that young Indians, especially Punjabis, might enjoy reading it. That is, if they knew about it. So many know English. The book is written in very simple language. It is also good just for entertainment. That is, if one has a critical and intellectual bent of mind.

It is not a bad book to have on one’s book shelf.

July 21, 2019. Akarca, Seferihisar, Turkey

Images of Punjab in the 1960s

US Empire at War

 

The US Empire at War: Some Thoughts About the Consequences

Eddie J. Girdner (Retired Professor)

(Published in Third Concept Journal, July 2019)

From all indications, the United States is preparing for a new war against Iran, using almost exactly the same script that was used to drum up a war against Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Perhaps the officials believe that people will not remember how the neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush Government lied the United States into that war. A new war is apparently being drummed up by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Thousands of additional US troops are being sent to the Middle East in June 2019.

It is said that President Donald Trump does not want a new war in the Middle East. But with Congressmen in Washington, such as Representative Tom Cotton and others, things may spin out of his control. It seems that nothing is easier for the USA than going to war. The country certainly has a lot of experience at it.

The United States of America has been continuously at war now for almost thirty years. Since the US invasion of Iraq in 1991 under George H.W. Bush, the father of George W. Bush the country has been at war. That is twenty-eight years.

So a person younger than thirty years old in the USA has never known their own country to be at peace. Of course, the USA was at war continuously from 1961 to 1975 in Vietnam. (Fourteen years)

Go back sixty years. Over that time period (1959 till 2019), the USA has been at war for at least forty-two years out of sixty. This does not count all the proxy wars that the USA carried out in Central America, as in Nicaragua and Grenada. Also Afghanistan, and other countries. Indeed, in many places all across the globe where the US Central Intelligence Agency destabilized governments.

This means that a person in the US who is sixty years old has only known eighteen years of peace in his or her lifetime.

There is no other country in the world that I can think of that has engaged in so much war over the last sixty years. If the US mission is to preserve the peace in the world, that is a hell of a way to do it.

Fighting for peace is like having sex for virginity, as we used to say in the sixties about the Vietnam war. It is still largely true.

But the USA will keep on keeping on waging war all over the world. I am confident of that. The officials in Washington will keep on drumming up needless wars as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are now doing with Iran and Venezuela. So far US efforts in Venezuela have failed, which is good.

It seemed, at one point, that US President Donald Trump might end some of the continuous wars and bring some troops home, like he promised to do. But if he was serious about that, he has been defeated by the deep state that insists on keeping the wars going. Trump said that he would get US troops out of Syria a few months ago in 2019, but that did not happen.

The military industrial corporate complex wants war profits. They don’t need them, but they do want them. The roads, bridges, and other infrastructure in the US are falling into a state of collapse. But the US Government prefers to print money for wars, rather than putting money into fixing the roads and airports.

There are many other things besides war that the USA could have done over the last sixty years.

It was trillions of US dollars down the drain in Vietnam. Like Marx said, war is like dumping a portion of the national wealth into the sea. The US lost the war there. After 1975, Vietnam unified, tried socialism for a few years, then began shifting to the successful East Asian Model of state-guided capitalism. This model was followed by Japan, Taiwan, and then China after Deng Xioping moved toward state-guided capitalism. The Vietnamese saw that this model was successful, far more than the American liberal model. Chalmers Johnson on Japan and all that. US economists claimed that the model did not work, but this was wrong as Johnson pointed out in his writings. The model successfully developed the countries of East Asia. China became the great work house of the world with massive exports to the USA.

So all of that destruction and chaos, the killing of three million Vietnamese and sixty thousand American soldiers in Vietnam, many more wounded, many more suicides of veterans and so on, was completely unnecessary. Except, that is, for the making of war profits.

The war did contribute to the development of South Korea, just as the war in Korea in the early 1950s contributed to the development of Japan.

When it comes to the war in Iraq, hardly anybody now claims that this war was a good idea. That is, except for a few people like Bolton, Pompeo, Dick Cheney (thr former US Vice President) and so on.

And then there is the war in Afghanistan. Don’t even mention it. The Taliban were still winning, the last time I checked. But the war goes on now, after about eighteen years. It keeps pumping out war profits for the ruling class in the USA. The US Generals know that they whole thing is a farce, but they have to wait till they retire to tell what is really going on. What a waste on an international scale.

So, I will put it bluntly. It would have been difficult to devise foreign policies more destructive than those followed by the USA over the last sixty years. Destructive of both life in the USA and around the world. That is, if one wanted to have a peaceful world. It takes real talent!

But the guys in Washington are not about to let the world down! They can provide new wars. And, of course, every US president has to have his own war. If not, then they are seen as a failure. Remember Jimmy Carter. Poor guy. He never started a war anywhere. So he was sent back to grow peanuts on his farm in Plains, Georgia.

But he probably saved a lot of people from dying in useless wars.

There are many things that the USA could have done if the country had been a democracy that served the people instead of only the One Percent and US corporations.

The USA could have had a wonderful world-standard health care system that was available to the whole population, like most of the developed world has. Even Turkey has guaranteed health care for citizens at a very small cost.

The USA could have had a university system that was free and available to all, like Germany, Slovenia and many other countries. Now university graduates are saddled with debt and cannot find jobs. Some end up leaving the USA to teach in China. Salaries are much smaller in China, but they find themselves a lot better off than they would be in the USA.

The US could get rid of the crippling student debt of over one and a half trillion dollars in the USA. This would be a great help to young people trying to start their careers. Not a chance of it ever happening, however.

Surely, providing some benefits for the people was not out of reach for the USA. After all, dollars for the wars have been created out of thin air by the US Federal Reserve and just added to the US debt tab. The USA has not even pretended to pay for any of these multi-trillion dollar wars. The debt just generates more profits for the bankers.

Why not print a little money for social welfare? Not a chance of it ever happening, unfortunately.

The US didn’t have to pay for the wars because it had the world’s reserve country. It just shift the debt off onto other countries in inflated dollars.

So money was not the problem.

The USA could have built one of the best high-speed rail systems in the world, as France, Japan, China and some other countries have done. It would not be difficult. Much of the USA landmass is relatively flat. The technology exists for building tunnels through mountains. It is old technology. The Chinese or Japanese could have shown them how to do it. Even Turkey has high-speed trains.

Now much of the infrastructure in the USA is old and falling into a state of decay. But the US is not doing much to repair the systems, while spending massively on new wars.

People who do not fly in the USA are travelling on the old slow Amtrak trains. Actually, I love them. Personally, I love old, slow trains. But they do not get people anywhere fast. The US needs an alternative to airports and personal cars. People have to drive or fly everywhere to travel. Such travel is difficult for the elderly. High speed rail is the answer, but it would threaten the auto and airline industries.

The USA could have had a capitalist economic model that provided good jobs and benefits, like the European model of stakeholder capitalism that allows workers to share the profits. Not a chance of it happening, unfortunately. Wall Street corporate interests are too strong for that under stockholder capitalism.

The USA could have been a great place to live and a model for the whole world. Instead, the politicians in the USA just warn people to be careful or they might end up being just like Europe. Actually most people would love to be just like Europe, if they only had a clue about the benefits people enjoy in Europe!

In the event, the USA missed the boat over the last sixty years. That was the price of being the oligarchy that it is.

Today, the USA is losing the war. Not only in hearts and minds, but in real democracy and social welfare for its people. Just look at the many thousands of homeless young people living in tents in Los Angeles and other places in California. Official figures are way over one-hundred thousand just in California alone. Surely, the scenes of degradation one sees on the streets of Los Angeles is shameful for a country as rich as the USA.

It would be a shame for any country.

The lack of a national health care system in the United States is a national disgrace. One wonders how the officials believe that one can run a country without taking care of the health care needs of the people. It boggles the minds of those in most developed countries, such as Europe.

Again, politicians in the US warn Americans to be careful. They could end up being just like those in Europe. This would be funny if it was not so absurd.

Some Americans have started leaving the USA for a better life elsewhere and find that they are better off.

Some go to universities free in Europe, such as in Slovenia, Germany or France. Some young Americans find it easier to live well and pay off their student loans by teaching English and other subjects in China. So much for the so-called evils of communism!

Americans have started to retire abroad because their small social security checks give them a higher standard of living in Mexico and many other countries than they would have in the USA.

Wall Street and the corporate oligarchs in the USA, on the other hand, are mostly happy. Today, that is obviously the top priority.

The US Empire is not yet over, but on the down-side of history. Perhaps that is the bright spot on the horizon.

How many more imperialist wars will it take to finally bring down the American Global Empire? That is the historical question.

Eddie J. Girdner

June 18, 2019

 

Corporatist Rule for India? (India Blog 17)

Corporatist Rule for India? (India Blog 17)

Monday 10 December. 5:00 Morning. Kolkata (Calcutta)

There was a big argument going on in the street last night. One guy was just shouting to the top of his lungs for the longest time. It is a matter of live or die and I don’t think they have much to lose if they die. One sees these guys sleeping on the sidewalks in the daytime, wrapped up in some old rag of a blanket and it seems like they are just laying there and suffering. They are just living it out till they die literally on the spot and someone comes and picks up their body.

I saw one person, a man, wrapped up in a dirty blanket on the sidewalk just nearby the hotel yesterday. There were flies swarming around him. (Another call to prayer is going down now. They need more prayer.) Flies were sitting on that dirty blanket. I wondered if the guy was already dead. People usually walk in the road, anyway, not the sidewalk. There are so many obstructions. On the sidewalks, people just go around the wrapped-up bodies.

Well, people walk on the roads in Turkey too. I am very used to that.

Society is badly broken with that going on. Mother Teresa was just a sort of band-aid for the misery and poverty. I cannot say that what she was doing was not good and kind, but I can say that it is just a meliorative, a palliative that can do nothing to reach or address the root if the problem. Broken down society, broken down world.

At the same time, there is a lot of closeness in families, big families. Sometimes communalism emerges. And people try to put one in a box: Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, American, British, French, Bangladeshi. And sometimes there is hatred for what one seemingly is.

I get the idea that USA or American propaganda has worked here and I am embarrassed when guys (I have not talked to a single woman yet in this country in casual conversation), when people come out with big compliments about “America.” I don’t know if they are serious or just trying to please me.

I get the idea that they are much more favourable toward America than the Turks, who are just about one-hundred percent cynical, not believing anything that the USA puts out. Recent figures showed that the US image was the lowest in Turkey of any country in the world. Largely a result of the US screwing around in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Causing trouble everywhere.

I have to get a shower this morning before those Australians get up and use up all the hot water!

I noticed that the reviews of Calcutta that I have seen on Youtube never mention the huge mosque that is here. They usually talk about the two big Hindu temple complexes.

The Islamic sections of the city seem invisible to them.

Now the birds. I don’t know if they are crows, have suddenly come to life and are calling loudly. It is 5:21 in the morning.

I think that I saw one nice-looking dog in this city yesterday. And yesterday, there were two Dalmatians, hunting dogs, apparently, mean and ready to attack, at this hotel. The dogs on the street are miserable. There are a few cats. They too, are mostly miserable.

M.N. Roy, the Indian communist wrote about why Hindus hate cats. And wrote a book from the cat’s perspective. Autobiography of a Cat, I think. It is great. Very witty. He wrote it in an Indian prison, where he was kept for years by the British.

Strange thing is that I feel almost at home in this city.

People sometimes call out to one on the street, but it is best just to ignore them. Some women around the hotel are doing the milk powder scam. I just ignore them. That scam is overworked. There should be signs with a warning.

AVOID THE MILK POWDER SCAM WOMEN!

The last thing they want is milk powder!

And about the street vendors. I will say that they are trying to help themselves. They have found a way to survive and protect themselves by organizing and unionizing. That is far better than seeking charity. They survive through a very difficult struggle.

But when I look at the whole thing, my view has to be that only some sort of rule from the top could save such a society. Population growth must be controlled. Either left-wing, right-wing, Hindu fascist, or other nationalist ideology, maybe religious nationalism combined with Bharat, Indian nationalism.

Corporatist rule from the top. I am almost reduced to advocating it.

In Bengal, it could be Netijiism, from Subas Chandra Bose. Bengali nationalism, something that people could believe in and accept and impose strict discipline on society. There seems to be a complete lack of discipline in this society.

It might break down at some point, as in the Soviet Union, or in Turkey and Argentina, but it will have improved society and made things better for most people.

The historical model comes from Saint Simon in France. Science and engineering of society. Ataturk picked it up for Turkey. Stalin in the Soviet Union. A form of Jacobinism.

In Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan is the using the same model as Ataturk, as far as top-down rule is concerned. Jacobinism. Just different underlying ideas. It is top-down rule and the state can impose some discipline on society. I guess that India is the closest thing to anarchy in existence.

In India, the Nehru, Gandhi, Patel, model failed. A historical period of corporatist rule might have done wonders. Now, it may be too late. They missed the historical window of opportunity.

Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)

India 2: Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)

6 December. 3:30 AM. Thursday. This guy in the next room is snoring incredibly loud. I have been hearing it since I woke up around 2:30. It even disturbs me here in my room. The walls must be pretty thin, for sure.

Yesterday, I was accosted by a woman on the street claiming that she wanted help for children in Bangladesh. Sure enough, she presented a petition of sorts. She claimed that several foreigners had signed it. I saw names and “USA” beside the names. But I didn’t examine it closely.

First, she said: “No Money. Just sign.”

I said: “How will my signature help?” I said that I don’t have any information about it. I didn’t sign and just started walking away. Then she asked for some money. I am sure that if I had signed it, she would have hooked me for some money for sure. Bangladesh, my ass. How would I know if this is anything legitimate? Probably a scam. Why not? Is Bangladesh more needy than India? Where are the signatures of Indians? Anyway, I have no way of knowing, so it would be foolish to give money. If you just walk away, they will not follow you.

She was operating in Paharganj, where a lot of foreigners hang out.

Then I went a little way out of the main street. There were vegetable markets there. A old guy with a white beard came holding a round metal container in one hand. He asked me for money. I thought, Okay. I will give him twenty rupees. But he wouldn’t take it. “One-hundred rupees,” he said. It was like he was bargaining about how much I would give. Then I heard him say: “Five-hundred rupees.” And “why the hell should I give you five-hundred rupees when I know nothing about you and have never seen you before?” I thought.

Another guy wanted to shine my shoes. I had just had them shined, so I was not interested. He said: “Oh, just brush them for twenty rupees.” I said: “They don’t need it, but here is twenty rupees, anyway.” And I walked away. There was no need to waste my time with that. Some kids there just call to you: “Money.” It seems that the foreigners have got them trained in that part of Delhi. They have trained a new generation of beggars.

It is hardly different from “Go Fund Me” on the internet, I must say. That is just high-tech begging. The Western form. Welcome to corporate capitalism. So-called neoliberalism. A new form, when today’s capitalist economies will not provide jobs for many people. At least not the kind that they can tolerate.

So everybody is out for something. But it is unfortunate because after a while, one starts to see everyone who approaches you as wanting something from you. Their friendliness is just feigned to put a hook into you and get something out of you. It is not always that way, but one starts to get that impression. It is because they have actually been spoiled by the foreigners that stay down there in Pahargunj.

I didn’t find the beggars as bad as in Hyderabad, but maybe it was because I was with some American women there. And here, they see that I am busy taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered. It is an institution. Giving will just perpetuate and strengthen it. Probably, there is no solution that the government or anyone can reach. Not under the current system. Sometimes, one feels that Indira Gandhi had the right idea. Mass Sterilizations. There is something to be said for corporatism in such a dire situation. Probably that is what it would take. And it would necessarily be cruel. Some way to control the population. Over population. It is actually not a myth, as one realizes in India. It cannot be said that it is not a problem here.

Most people are forced to deal with it by just looking the other way. It is the only way to cope with it.

I think some type of corporatist rule from the top would be the only way to approach it. Not what they call “democracy” now. I hate to say that, but perhaps it is true. Where are they going? Where have they gone? Everybody with their own car or auto rickshaw or even bicycle just clogs up all the roads.

The mass production of sub-standard individuals who have little or no education. Even the rats have to struggle less than the people to survive here. They are exporting labor. The cheap kind and some of the expensive kind, in the form of doctors and professors.

There must be some limit. Escaping to the USA is not the right thing, either.

I admit that it is bad to come to the country and take pictures for two weeks, like in a zoo, and then get out. Maybe it is wrong. I don’t know. But I didn’t create the situation. Actually, I spent two years of my life thinking that I might do something worth while in this country.

It was all illusion. Nonsense. I don’t know if anyone really believed in that. The so-called “Peace Corps.” I don’t know. The Peace Corps officials were just getting a job and a chance to travel and live abroad. A good deal while it lasted. Nehru knew that it was a joke but did not want to displease Jack Kennedy and his brother in law, Shriver. He had upper class manners and played along.

With all the recent economic growth in India, people, masses of them, are now just eking out a tiny living. The economy goes up. Everything else seems to go south.

Except in rich, elite, families. The only decent-looking young women and girls are those not yet hit by the tragedy of marriage.

But it is still a hell of an interesting society.

I read a few things in the Hindustan Times, and old newspaper. The government is now setting up cow shelters. Well, one generally does not see them on the streets here, like in Varanasi. It seems like the Modi Government is doing more for cows than for people. What a society! It has just happened in some village not far from Delhi. Clearly, one is better off being a cow.

God! Gott! What a fanatacism over cows. The cows are better off than the vast majority of women.

10:30 Morning. I am about to head out for Chandni Chowk, Kashmiri Gate. At four o’clock, I was not sleeping, so I took a pill and slept until after eight.

Tomorrow to Cal! Calcutta! Here I come.

A Roll of Film in Old Delhi (Part 2)

Sitting down across the street from the entrance to an old Mosque, I shoot pictures on the street.

Leica M6 TTL Camera. Kodak Tri-X Black and White Film pushed to ISO 1600.

A peanut seller appears with his cart.

First Customer

A heavy load

The Peanut Man

Group of women pass

Young girl wants to buy peanuts

Taking a stroll

Another Rickshaw passes

Another Customer

Some Poor Mother

On the corner is a juice bar.

And the busy street full of confusion

Even more lovely confusion ahead. A dynamic country!

All shots with a Leica M6 TTL Camera. Leica Summarit 35 mm f 2.5 Lens. Kodak Tri-X Black and White film. Developed with Kodak HC-110 Developer. Film pushed to ISO 1600. 

A Roll of Film in OId Delhi

Sitting down in the same spot and shooting a roll of film just across from a mosque in a street in Old Delhi.

All pictures shot with a Leica M6 TTL Camera. Leica Summarit 35 mm f 2.5 Lens.

Kodak Tri-X Film (Shot at ISO 1600). Kodak HC-110 Developer. December 2018.

A Rickshaw passes with two ladies.

Delivering Propane gas the hard way.

A milk vendor arrives.

Humping Rickshaw puller. Poor guy.

On Foot, maybe travelling.

In the constant stream of Rickshaws.

Women pass.

This section is almost all Moslem.

On the Street

Checking things out.

Bags of flour to the bakery.

Rickshaw School bus

More kids going home

The Squint

On the Road Again

Father and Daughter

 

 

 

Inside the American Oligarchy

Inside the American Oligarchy

Eddie James Girdner

Fire and Fury: Inside the White House, by Michael Wolff. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 2018. 321 pages.

“I have seen the world and I am not impressed.” (Edward Abbey)

Surely, the Trump Administration comes under the rubric of what Marx used to call “beneath all criticism.” Nevertheless, one must try to get a grip on what has happened in the United States of America with the installation of the Trump oligarchy. The government of the United States is a plutocracy, almost completely ruled by the rich. Therefore, it seems quite appropriate that the President of the United States should, indeed, be an oligarch. It seems that with Trump, America has truly reached this stage.

America is a global empire. The public sphere seems to have rotted at home. Talk of America as a “democracy” rings hollow. The Empire depends more and more upon military force abroad as its global rule weakens. The US can no longer police the whole world. Its image abroad is in tatters, even though many of the poor around the world still cling to the illusion that it would be a lucky place to go if only they could.

Fire and Fury is entertaining and interesting to read. But in some large respects, it does not go far beyond being a sort of soap opera about the main characters in the White House drama: Trump, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus,  Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Mike Pence, and a few other characters.

I learned something about this circus, and it is interesting to read, for what it is worth. I learned a few things that I did not know. But the ongoing deconstruction of the administrative apparatus of the US Government, going on behind the scenes is not addressed. In that respect, all this gossip just takes the focus off what is really important and more than that, actually tragic.

It’s the same old game. Keep the people entertained. Make them think that the whole thing can be easily fixed. All you need is a new president. So, we must get rid of the current idiot. Then things will be fine. How long has this been going on? When will they ever learn?

When Nixon came in 1968, and brought Watergate, a lot of us thought that it could not get any worse. Then Ronald Reagan came in 1980, and again, we thought it could not get any worse. In 2000, the US got George W. Bush, and again we thought it could not get any worse. But indeed, it only got worse.

In 2016, the US got Trump. This time it seems that possibly it really could not get any worse. But who knows? I would not bet on it. Ivanka Trump is now waiting for her turn and believes that she is going to be the first woman President of the USA. American “exceptionalism” is truly exceptional. But possibly that is not what the American political science professors mean when they use the term.

I left the US more than twenty-five years ago and have lived abroad since. A reverse immigrant. I got out before the deluge. I opened-up the way for an immigrant to have my slot. Good luck in “America the Beautiful!” You lucky duck!

From what I can see, a lot has changed in that quarter century. The amount of homelessness seems to have vastly increased. There are now tent cities, even in some very cold places in the snow. Inequality has certainly increased under globalism and neoliberalism. Most Americans outside the one-percent have certainly become poorer. There are fewer jobs for young Americans. The student debt of university graduates has mushroomed. The so-called national debt is somewhere around twenty trillion dollars. It is much harder for many Americans to get a place to live. Even rent is harder after the 2008 financial crises. Youtube shows people how to live in shipping containers. And tiny houses. Avoid a mortgage. What is going on? Health care public policy is a scandal by global standards. The worst in the developed world, by far.

It is surely a different America today.

The collapse of the middle class in America has brought about this right-wing conservative nationalist revolution, if that is what it really is. One cannot know how far in the Alt-Right, Tea Party, direction the country will go. Fox TV has helped push the country in that direction. Personally, I never watched Fox TV. I couldn’t stand to.

From the perspective of the mainstream of university educated, the United States is a nation awash in public stupidity. It certainly looks that way from Europe. It also looks that way from Turkey too, where people tend to look to the state (the “father-state”) to help them out. The public mindset of Americans is practically incomprehensible to people in Turkey, where there is so much populism. The state is seen to have a duty to do something.

Slow economic growth, the export of jobs, economic stagnation, the slow decay of the infrastructure, contrasts with rapid growth in the big emerging countries like Turkey, China, India, These countries  have made significant advances in development over the last quarter century. They have “caught up” in many ways.

Beginning in the 1970s, the deindustrialization of America was intentionally carried out in earnest. Corporations invested abroad for higher profits. Ronald Reagan “turned the bull loose.” All the cheap imported crap produced filled up the Walmarts. But with the loss of jobs, many Americans could not even buy the flimsy junk coming in from China. Americans lived on their credit cards and the equity in their houses, if they had any.

Much of America was turned into an internal third world. Lack of jobs. NAFTA brought in more Mexicans and exported the jobs to Mexico. Wages fell. Many Americans lost their houses after 2008. There was really no excuse for it. Mostly bad public policy.

American life was going south, in more ways than one. Who was to blame? The gospel of Frederick Hayek, Austrian so-called free market economics, had done a number on American society. Ronald Reagan, and the right-wingers, who exported the jobs, praised globalization and told the people that the government was to blame. There was just too much government.

Reagan was right in a way. Public policy in America did nothing for the common people. Everything served the profits of the big business class. It is actually hard to see this approach working in any country except America. Cable TV, dominated by Fox TV, the mouthpiece of big business and the Republican Party, kept up the brainwashing.

Then along came 9-11. This was the opportunity to scare the daylights out of the American people about foreigners and the Islamic world. The US went to war. Rumsfeld talked about going after some sixty countries. Things only got worse. Trillions of dollars squandered in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. The US got control of the region and the oil. But the wars go on.

Then a “black president” was elected. Obama was a nice guy, who was going to fix things up and make America loved again. Everything would be OK. People breathed a sigh of relief. George W. Bush went back to Texas. Obama got the Nobel Peace prize. And then he went right on launching wars just as George W. had done. More Americans died in these wars that were never official wars. And Obama did precious little for the people who needed some help from the government under the new neoliberal dispensation.

Racism and religion together pushed middle America to the right. The system was not working for the middle classes, the working class. Hope for the future declined, even while the President gave speeches about “Hope” and “Change.” The middle classes were angry and were not going to take it anymore. At this point, according to Marx, the country should have gone to the Left. In America, as in Nazi Germany in the l930s, it went to the Right. Part of it was just tossing a Molotov cocktail to blow up the system that was screwing them over.

The name of that system was “capitalism” but the American variety of stockholder capitalism was much harsher than stakeholder capitalism in Europe. Right-wingers warned Americans that if they were not careful, they might end up being “just like Europeans.” No way, of course. Actually, they would have loved it, but they were not supposed to know that.

Americans started blaming the scapegoats, not the system. The Blacks, Mexicans, foreigners, the government, universities, environmentalists, feminists, the Left, gays, Moslems, immigrants, and so on.

They were being screwed by the corporations, but they saw the left and blacks as their enemies.

Trump tied into this anger and accidently got elected. He would Make America Great Again. Kick some ass at the top.

But wait a minute. Wasn’t he also one of those at the top? Never mind. He was the only one that was kicking some ass. At least in his speeches. He was angry. And full of shit. I’ve never seen anyone so full of shit, in fact. But the lumpen elements of America ate it up. There was no other such another place to turn. And obviously, Hillary was just going to be business as usual.

Trump won. A big surprise to him, Hillary, and almost everybody else. In a normal country, he would have lost, of course. But under American exceptionalism, it is not the candidate that gets the most votes who wins. Under American democracy, the candidate who gets less votes wins. Everyone is supposed rejoice at that.

“Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies…” and so on.

Trump had arrived. Surely, no candidate for president had ever been so ill-prepared to be the president. But the Government is not a business corporation.

According to Wolff, no one in the White House knew what they had to do. Few had any experience at all in government. Certainly not the ones in charge. Trump had no idea how to deal with Congress. And he was not interested in that, anyway. He didn’t count on being stopped by the courts. He knew how to manage things, or so it was said. He came with a business mentality. He would turn legislation over to Paul Ryan.

The group in the White House was divided. Bannon represented the Alt-Right, Breitbart base out in rural and small-town America. And the South. He was given the title of “chief strategist.” He thought that he was running things, even though most of the time, he was not. But Wolff thinks that Trump probably won because Bannon fixed his “broke-dick” campaign just in time.

Then there were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the two spoiled rich kids. Trump hired his daughter and son in law. It was nepotism. Shamelessly defended by the President. These two represented the New York corporate sector. Sometimes they were called Clinton Democrats. Trump largely gave Kushner the Middle East portfolio. Apparently his only supposed qualification was that he was Jewish. Ivanka was made an official advisor. They thought they could control the President and make him “presidential.”

Then there was Priebus, who would take a more professional, traditional approach, establishing a relationship with Congress and working through normal channels.

According to Wolff, it was not clear what anybody in the White House did. Early on, their main concern became controlling the President. For Bannon, this was futile. Just let Trump be Trump. There was no way to control him.

All of this was great for the media. Almost every tweet from Trump on Twitter was a news item. Trump was like a small child crying for attention. Much of the book is about the fight going on between Bannon and Jarvanka (Ivanka and Kushner). Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs people were busy setting about to dismantle the administrative machinery of the US Government.

Trump would rule by executive orders. Dozens of executive orders were prepared to attempt to undue everything that Obama had done. Apparently, this was sometimes just for the heck of it, if nothing else. Of course, the attempt to repeal Obama care became a fiasco, let alone replacing it. It could partially be accomplished by the tax bill, which Wolff does not cover in the book. This would be great for big corporations and Wall Street, but a looming disaster for the country. No one cared about the deficit, Democrats or Republicans. In fact, the Democrats are hardly mentioned at all in the book and hardly even Congress. Except for Paul Ryan who Trump turned over the job of legislation. Trump just didn’t want to bother with it.

The Administration, it is claimed, had great distrust in science, experience and expertise of any kind. The way to go was just to fly it by the seat of the pants. That’s the way to go, especially if one is a genius. And Trump must be a genius, it was suspected. After all, he had won. Maybe he had something. Maybe he was not the “idiot” that people kept calling him, after all. If he was, how could he have become the President?

Maybe he would be a miracle worker and pull it off with Congress too.

Predictably, Trump fired most of this cast of characters, including Bannon, by the time the book went to press. What a fiasco. There it is for all the world to see. This was not likely to help America’s reputation, already in tatters around the world.

The term “fire and fury” came from Trump’s burst against North Korea and what the country could expect if the “little missile man” threatened the USA.

Trump talked sense about getting out of foreign wars while he was a candidate. The wars were a great waste of money. He was thinking like the common man in the street. But once the generals got hold of him, such as General McMaster, the National Security Advisor, Trump quickly changed his tune. He got his instructions about the birds and the bees and what he would have to do. After all, the US is a global empire. It was just another indication of his profound ignorance of the US role in the world. Trump wanted to get the US out of Afghanistan, but it seems that when he discovered that there were many billions of dollars-worth of minerals there, he was ready to send more troops. Bannon was dead-set against this.

The book reveals that several of Trump’s worst decisions were urged onto him by Ivanka and Jared. The firing of FBI Director Comey was one. As a result, a special prosecutor was hired to look into the allegations that Trump colluded with the Russians. Everyone was forced to hire lawyers.

In the book, Trump comes across as a clown with everybody fearing his next outrage behind his back. But he is there and is going to stay for at least one term.

Wolff suggests that perhaps things have already gone beyond Trump. Has all this become a conservative nationalist revolution spearheaded by the Alt-Right? Only time will tell. Bannon entertains the notion that he can lead this movement and perhaps even become President.

The book is a good read. It is a piece of the story that may contribute to understanding what has gone on. On the other hand, the book does not try to get a grip on the damage being done to the United States of America by this Administration. Nevertheless, it gives one a glimpse into the shenanigans inside the White House under Trump. It practically drove the people that worked there crazy, especially those who tried to approach it professionally.

When he found out about the book, Trump had his lawyers try to stop the publication. So, the book was rushed out ahead of time to pre-empt any attempt to block it. This likely increased sales of the book by a significant amount.

At this point, the American people are begging and crying for some decent policies. It is pretty clear what those should be. A national single-payer health care system; cancellation of most student debt; free university education; bringing the troops back home; a national program to provide affordable housing; rebuilding of the infrastructure by the government; jobs with a liveable minimum wage; investment in public rapid transit in cities and across the country; investment in wind, solar and other alternative energies; high-speed rail; getting people out of jail; economic security; programs that help the ninety-nine percent. Corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Unfortunately, the Democrats are not going for it. They keep playing the same game and shilling for corporate cash. That is the real crises because it is so hard for third parties to affect the American political process.

Wolff’s book is worth reading, even though it will not make one happy. It is a real shame. With its wealth, America could, in fact, be a great country. But I am afraid it is not going to be, as long as it keeps funnelling most of its wealth up to the one percent and increasingly impoverishing the people. That system is not a democracy, but an oligarchy ruled by the rich plutocrats.

January 30, 2018

Izmir, Turkey