If you haven’t seen Them!, a black and white masterpiece of horror from 1954, then you should. Is it outdated? Probably, if you are a fan of CGI-saturated modern sci-fi films. Is it still relevant? Only if you believe in the danger that nuclear weapons pose for humankind. And of course if you have ingested William Empson’s 7 Types of Ambiguity, you will be able to find in the film many resonances with our society today and specifically with the symbolism presented by the giant ants.
Humor me. Watch the movie (again) and imagine that the giant ants are the oligarchs we have created since the beginning of the atomic age. Then ask yourself if you empathize with Them! or if you find the conclusion justified and necessary in order to save humanity.
It has become increasingly clear to me that since the war in Ukraine began in February that although the western powers are going after the Russian oligarchs with a vengeance, our own oligarchs continue to make money hand-over-fist and normal people are paying for the war and its consequences of wheat shortage, oil shortage and a shortage of human empathy. Oh yes, we are being nice to the Ukrainian refugees here in Europe, while at the same time making asylum and life in general difficult for any refugees from countries the western powers have destroyed in the past 30 years. Besides continuing to feed the war in Yemen and not feed the people of Afghanistan.
You must remember that the oligarchs, like the giant ants, are all born from the queen and their only reason for existing is to serve the queen. They are united in that endeavor. Now, in case you are ready to understand the queen as a symbol for capitalism, then you can surmise that the only reason oligarchs exist is to serve the capitalist system. The system is competitive, brutal and hierarchical. Capitalism (the queen) is at the top and all must serve to keep her fed and keep the system alive. And, everything goes to maintain the system. Which is why we are in the predicament we are now in. There is an inherent belief that by feeding the queen, the colony will survive. Which may be functional in the case of ants, but when transferred to the reality of capitalism, we see that this type of behavior is self-defeating and probably suicidal. You cannot rape the earth and imagine that you will survive when all you need to feed upon is gone.
I’m not a politician (thank you!) and my powers of divination are not perfect, but I have been close to achieving the Casandra effect on myself after I wrote the libretto for Trump, The Musical back in 2019 and more or less described the result of that monster losing the election. Of course because people were scared and then had the excuse in early 2020 of the pandemic coming along, the musical never hit the boards. But at least it was written and published before the January 6th fiasco, which proved that I was looking at Trump and his cronies from the correct angle.
Since the end of WW2, the propaganda machines both East and West have been working overtime to destroy any glimmer of solidarity which might arise among the working people. And I include the petite bourgeois among the working people as well because they don’t really have the luxury of decades of inherited wealth to relax on so that they can rise to the class of “idle rich.”
Advertising, or public relations as Bernays liked to call it, has only one basic purpose, and that is to inject you with envy and to make you act on that envy to purchase a product. Which product you purchase doesn’t matter, as long as you purchase one. Your job is to be a consumer. After 9/11 Bush II ordered Americans to fly to Disney World and enjoy themselves. Consume! Be entertained! And even the semi-rational economist Robert Reich wrote: “The theory is that we demonstrate our resolve to the rest of the world by investing and consuming at least as much as we did before, preferably more.”
And now, with mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions being lifted here in Germany and around the world, we are expected to once again go out there and consume as much as possible to keep the pennies from heaven falling into the pockets of the oligarchs.
They are united against us. And we are envious of each other and atomized into little ineffective groups, little right wing hate groups, little liberal love groups, little reformer groups, little groups of conservatives, or conservationists. It doesn’t matter which group you belong to, you are in a small ineffectual fringe group that will never have any real impact on policy or on the stranglehold that the oligarchs have on society. However, if by some mischance your little group grows beyond its fringe character and starts to have an effect (e.g. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter), then you can be certain that the whole system will focus all its energy on ridding itself of the growing opposition. Ruthlessly.
Now the oligarchs are having a war so that we can be afraid once again and forget what is really dangerous to our survival: Them! The giant ants (oligarchs) that rapaciously destroy everything in their path.
The comments I have made lately on my radio program, FREE WHEEL, are things I had to get out into the world. They’re not earth-shaking and certainly won’t change reality for the better, but they had to be said. And you can be sure that I will continue to speak my mind in the future.
FREE WHEEL is a radio show I produce and host twice a month on FSK in Hamburg, and on Radio StHoerfunk in Schwäbisch Hall and Crailsheim. Both stations are local commercial-free public broadcasters.
At the beginning of each show, after the first song has played, I provide a short intro where I talk about what is moving me that week and outline what is coming on the show. Below are the latest intros to the shows following the invasion and the beginning of the war on 24 February 2022.
NOTE: This program aired on Thursday, 24 February, just as hostilities between Ukraine and Russia got underway. The news items in the program have become swiftly outdated, as is all news during a war.
But I did choose the right kind of music: EVERYTHING IS BROKEN!
Well, I am genuinely surprised that Putin has decided to move troops into Ukraine. I’m not shocked, because politicians have stopped shocking me. But I really thought that Putin was smarter than that. He just blew all his deals for energy transfer to the west. OK, the price of oil is through the roof again, so the oil oligarchs east and west are set to make huge windfall profits again. But all the other trade stuff that was going on is now being swept away. How stupid.
Tonight you’ll get some information about the current political situation from Democracy Now and Al Jazeera. Before the radio play Bill Hicks lightens up the mood a little with his humor. The radio play is Audio Diaries. And all the music this evening is about things that are broken.
As the war drags on and the news gets worse each day, maybe we should all be thinking about the consequences of war, all war, no matter who starts it or who wins it, because us, we, the people, we are the ones who always lose. Normal people always lose every war that has ever been fought. Normal civilians die in greater numbers than any of the soldiers in the front lines. Towns and cities are bombed into rubble. The soldiers escape, or are taken prisoner, the people die, either from the bombs and bullets or from starvation and neglect.
The kings, the oligarchs and their super-rich cousins are heading for their shelters, for their hideaways, anticipating the nuclear end of life on this planet. They assume they will survive to begin anew. Once the cataclysm begins, it’s lights out for everyone. The fact that the privileged feel immortal is a symptom of the insanity of our time and the past times, when kings and queens actually believed in their “divine right” to rule over others. Now it’s the oligarchs, the elite, not just the Russian ones, all of them, all over the world, who are salivating at the prospect of the trillions in profits to be made in the post-war era. If there is an era to follow.
I say, take away all the assets of all the oligarchs everywhere on earth and give the money to the victims of war, us, we, we the people. Then watch how quickly all the wars stop.
Martin Luther King tells us why he’s against the Vietnam War. And that is why we should always be against all war. Just before FrameLab talks about American Authoritarians vs. American Democracy, General Smedly Butler delivers the warning he gave to the American people back in the 1930s about fascists wanting to take over the government of the USA. We should be listening closely to what he has to say. The danger is still there, and greater than it has been since the 30s of the last century.
All the music has something to do with war.
What is happening in Ukraine should not be happening at all. Everyone knows that. Personally, I oppose all wars and all oligarchs everywhere, and especially the merchants of death who profit from selling the guns and bombs that kill civilians.
According to Bloomberg, the cumulative wealth of the richest Russians in the world has gone down by almost $90B since the start of the war. Meanwhile, America’s 704 billionaires have gotten $1.7 trillion richer—57%—over two years of the pandemic. Almost all of those wealth gains will go tax-free. According to Forbes, the wealth of only the 3 richest oligarchs in America (Musk, Bezos and Gates) is $594 billion, a total that is greater than the wealth of the 100 richest Russian oligarchs combined at $558 billion. [CounterPunch https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/03/18/roaming-charges-45/%5D
Ian Bremmer talks about What the War in Ukraine Means for the World Order. SUDS continues at the end of this hour. And all the music today is by Peter Gabriel, once-upon-a-time from Genesis.
In the second hour:
Today is the Equinox, when the day is as long as the night (at the Equator of course), and it is the official first day of Spring. Enjoy it. The sun is coming back and the flowers will bloom and green will return into our lives. Well, as long as there are no nukes bringing an end to everything.
Ian Bremmer continues to talk about What the War in Ukraine Means for the World Order. And Peter Gabriel keeps on delivering interesting music.
It’s all about propaganda these days. What you see, what you hear, what you read. There is no subtlety at all on the Russian side. It’s just blatant barefaced lies. On the other side – our side – we let failed Generals and old cold warriors tell us what we should know because after all they are the wise and knowledgeable, despite the fact that they were wrong on Afghanistan, wrong on Iraq, wrong on practically everything they have said over the past 30 years. But these fools are the ones that the media calls on to tell folks that Putin is a war criminal. Well, yes, he is a war criminal. But so is G. W. Bush, and especially Dick Cheney. And there are many, many more sitting on thrones and in the seat of the Chairman of the Board all around the world. If you are making money from war, you have a share in being a war criminal. Why? Because war is criminal. War is a criminal enterprise. It always has been and always will be.
Normal people do not want war. They are only driven into war by the masters of propaganda, who use war as an excuse to stay in power. So with this war now we are supposed to forget about inequality, about how oligarchs East, West and North and South made trillions during an epidemic. We’re supposed to forget how oil companies are destroying the environment, and we are supposed to pay more for the old world-destroying energy while hitting the pause button on renewables.
When you let psychopaths rule the roost, this is the result.
Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, Al Jazerra’s Listening Post; all of them will try to open your mind to the fact that we are still all slaves of a system that loves to make money from destroying lives.
The music is really good.
The refugees from Ukraine are pouring into Germany. A good friend of mine is down at the intake center acting as a translator. She is half-Russian, half-Scottish. A native-speaker of Russian and English (with a sweet Scottish accent). She was interviewed on German TV the other day and almost broke down in tears right there on camera. It’s not easy for people who have basic human empathy. But the oligarchs are not saying anything at all, they aren’t down at the centers aiding the refugees, delivering truckloads of food and clothing and providing room and board in their empty villas and empty apartments (good investments!).
Next week we’ll be getting some new neighbors. Ukrainians are moving into the apartment which is free next door. Our neighborhood isn’t going to turn them away or ask them to stay the hell out.
But what if they were from the Congo, where war has been raging from the day that the Belgians were forced to leave? What then?