Sunday, March 19, 2017

Noam Chomsky offers a ray of hope

I’d never read a book by Noam Chomsky, but I knew of him, mostly by reputation. Highly intelligent (some call him a genius for his work in linguistics), highly principled, pessimistic, a political scold. When I saw Chomsky’s newest book, Who Rules the World? at the library, I picked it up, interested in adding to my understanding of him and what he bases his pessimism on. I didn’t think I would be surprised. I wasn’t. But, damn, the book is depressing. Not only is the United States not a heroic force of goodness in the world (yeah, that I knew), it’s pretty much responsible for the bad state of things. If the US were to suddenly vanish, well, would things be worse or better? I suspect “better” would be Chomsky’s guess. 

And this was before Trump. Judging by the way Noam Chomsky looks at things, one might foresee improvement for the rest of the world if under Trump the US stops caring what happens anywhere else so stops spending money on mucking with everybody else’s business. On the other hand, Trump having a vast nuclear arsenal at this disposal can’t be good. Chomsky seems convinced it’s primarily been luck that’s kept us all from being blown to hell. 

What passes for a ray of hope in Chomskyland? How about this:

The strongest stand [against Global Climate Change] has been taken by the one country they [indigenous people] govern, Bolivia, the poorest country in South America and for centuries a victim of Western destruction of one of the most advanced of the developed societies in the hemisphere, pre-Columbus. 
After the ignominious collapse of the Copenhagen global climate change summit in 2009, Bolivia organized a World People’s Conference on Climate Change with thirty-five thousand participants from 140 countries — not just representatives of governments but also members of civil society and activists. It produced a People’s Agreement, which called for very sharp reductions in emissions, and a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

Here are some of the rights declared:

Mother Earth and all beings of which she is composed have the following inherent rights: the right to life and to exist; the right to be respected; the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions; the right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being; the right to water as a source of life; the right to clean air; the right to integral health …

You can read the rest of the Declaration at the Rights of Mother Earth website. 

Is there any hope of these rights being respected any time soon? Ever? 

What seems to surprise Noam Chomsky and give him some good feeling is that this initiative is coming from a region, the Americas south of the US, that has so long been the US’s fiefdom, the part of the world where the US has taken for granted it can impose its vision and enforce its preferences, even to launching military coups and paying paramilitaries to kill people the US doesn’t like. Yet here Bolivia is, raising a finger to the man. 

Evo Morales is the Native American president of Bolivia. I remember during the hunt for Edward Snowden, the CIA contractor who released tons of secret data, Bolivia was considering offering Snowden asylum. President Morales’ plane was even searched in Austria to grab Snowden, who, it turned out, wasn’t on the plane. The countries responsible for forcing Morales to land in Austria ultimately said oops, sorry-ish. What they would have said (or done) if Snowden had been on board remains a question. It’s not like the incident showed any respect for Bolivia’s sovereignty. 

quote source: Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky

Monday, March 06, 2017

Johnny Marr, kissed by a boy

As a teen, future Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr had a good gay mate named Tony. “Tony was a beautiful creature, another Bowie fan, with a blonde Ziggy haircut, high cheekbones, and green eyes like a Siamese cat. He wore red Oxford bags [trousers] with white platforms and a black Harrington jacket.” This accounting of clothing choices is not unusual in Johnny Marr’s memoir. The man is into clothes. “Tony was three years older than me and was the first guy I knew who was openly gay. The trends and times [1975] meant that boys who looked like girls, and girls who looked like boys, were commonplace, especially if you were into David Bowie, and plenty of straight men were fashionably camp and effeminate.” Tony came from a tough family, with two older brothers. “Tony wasn’t camp but he was cutting and had a sense of self-possession that gave him a feline poise and inscrutability. … We were together a lot, and it got some people talking, which didn’t bother me …”

So here’s the story of Johnny Marr getting his first male kiss:

The two of us were in PIccadilly Gardens one Saturday afternoon just after I’d had my hair cut. We were waiting at the bus stop when two big uglies with north Manchester accents came over and started making cooing noises and blowing kisses. I looked at Tony’s face as he continued talking to me, and I could see he was aware of the situation. ‘Eh,’ said one of the lads, ‘are you queers?’ They were obviously up for a fight. I readied myself for the inevitable as Tony continued to talk to me with his back to the goons and appeared to be ignoring their remarks until one pushed him in the back and said, ‘Eh, y’fuckin’ queer.’ With that, Tony grabbed my head and kissed me on the lips for what seemed like a very long time, then spun around and attacked the biggest of the two with two really hard punches to the face until the lad went on to his knees. He then grabbed the other guy, who was backing off, punched him very hard in the face and threw him down into the road full of traffic. … [A]s we ran off towards the train station Tony turned to me and said, ‘That was nice’ …

Tony also assured his young friend that no more kisses were to come.

Johnny never describes another same sex kiss so we’re left to assume that this was his one and only. It wasn’t really a consensual kiss, but Johnny seems not have been offended.

In his memoir Johnny Marr never speculates about the sexuality of songwriting partner and Smiths lead singer Morrissey, nor does he offer much in the way of lyric readings, other than that Johnny was proud of the songs they wrote together, Morrissey’s words, as well as his own music.

At one of the Smiths’ first gigs they played one song they hadn’t written themselves: “a song by the girl group The Cookies, called ‘I Want a Boy for My Birthday,’ which I realised would send out a message that not only didn’t bother me but which I was fairly amused by and quite excited about.”

source: Set the Boy Free: the autobiography by Johnny Marr