Global events in recent weeks have become so incoherent, so alarming, that I have not felt up to sounding off about them. I did start this blog in 1996 as a sounding off page, so I have to confess that I have recently been neglecting my duty at that level. Not that it makes any difference what I write, or whether I write anything. It is just that I feel I owe it to myself to keep writing because I have been writing about something or other ever since I was in high school in the 1940s, and I have never tired of doing it. I could say it has becme a reflex action for me.
In all these years I have mastered only one aspect of writing, which is that after years in journalism, I have learned how to write an article. It has aways, to tell the truth, come easily to me. I am not really given to boasting about my prowess, rather the opposite in fact, but I do remember with some satisfaction those days in the 1950s when I would sit down at a typewriter in the news room of The Montreal Star, knock off an article in fifteen minutes or so, and be greeted from time to time by the enquiry of a fellow reporter, “How the hell do you do that?” Well, some people really have to worry over every line, grind it out of themselves: I remember some excellent reporters who were like that. But it always came easy to me, just a facility I always had that I was very grateful for, and really felt I could not take any excessive credit for.
I still think back to the days I spent in London when I had to cable my stories, writing them out complete with stops, commas and paragraphs written in as I went along. What surprises me now is that I could sit down at about 7.30 in the morning after having consulted the nine or so daily newspapers that arrived on my doorstep every morning, and knock off on the cable forms a thousand or so words that seldom needed to be edited after being committed to paper. I can't do that nowadays: in fact, after I left daily journalism, and began to write longer articles for magazines, or even books, this facility of instant expression kind of seized up somehow: it was no longer just a question of having a lead and following one’s nose from that point to the end. In the longer form, more thought was needed to make the thing coherent. And I soon discovered that writing a book was a physical and mental effort away beyond anything that had ever confronted me in journalism.
In those days, once you had finished the text to your satisfaction, you then had to retype, as best you could, a clean copy to send to the publisher, and this was an immense physical effort --- imagine, retyping maybe 600 pages, one after the other --- that usually kept one glued to the typewriter for several days, and ended as a severe pain in the back. Not to mention the neck and every other muscle.
Any experienced article-reader will have already spotted what all this is about: just an effort to fill some space without actually saying anything, an attempt to disguise that I have nothing worth saying on the global situation, or perhaps I should put it this way: I shrink from delivering one of my blanket denunciations of right-wing politicians, conservatism in general, religion and its horrors, and the relentless grip of oligarchic wealth over all our lives.
It is so hard to face up to the facts. With every day it has become clearer that the United States, the most powerful country on earth, is now a fully-functioning oligarchy in which the owners of wealth are in complete control of the direction of the nation. That is an idea very hard to live with, because it makes almost certain that in the near-future the prospects for the earth and its inhabitants are bleak indeed. That the US Senate was unable to agree to any of the four proposals put before it designed to keep military assault weapons from being freely available to every citizen indicates surely, that the American political system is entirely bought and sold by the wealth-owners.
The fact that the choice before Americans in the coming election is between, on the one hand, a bombastic billionaire, whose experience in business has been such as to make any normal person cringe, and, on the other hand, a spokesperson for the corporate interests in whose gifts she and her husband are completely awash, and who seems to be willing to agree to anything in order to get elected, is another indication that the democratic pretensions of the nation are on the floor, gasping for air.
Mind you, I have never had much respect for those pretensions. Their famous Declaration of Independence, and their Constitution, on which their so-called democratic freedoms are supposed to be based, were signed by a bunch of slave-owners and were, as recent critics have shown, always designed as an instrument to preserve the privileges of the slave-owning, wealth-owning elite.
Just why this great nation feels it necessary to maintain as many as 840 military installations, manned by tens of thousands of troops, around the world, is something that has never been explained. Just last night I was reminded that fairly recently the US government imposed sanctions on the smallish South American nation, Venezuela, on the laughable notion that Venezuela had become an ever-present threat to the national security of the United States. I agree with the expressed opinion of citizens around the world that in the present circumstances the United States poses the greatest danger to the peace and security of the world, and the depressing thing is that there seems little prospect of improvement in the situation. Certainly the recent spectacular rise of militant Islamism can be laid directly at the door of the US, and its naïve belief that it can bludgeon small nations into following its so-called, flawed, democratic path. It’s as if the only lessons they have learned come from the old-fashioned westerns, namely that a sock on the jaw is the answer to all problems.
I write on the same day that Britain is voting whether to remain inside or to quit, the European Union. Once again, it seems, perfidious Albion, a constant presence throughout history, is giving a classic exhibition of wanting to have its cake and eat it too.
Oh, dear…. Words fail me at last….