Man stupid, gorilla wise… Koko say so…

Social media can be good, as we saw with the Egyptian uprising, but it can also be dumb-arsed awful. The latest example of the latter is a clip mourning the death of a gorilla named Koko. The clip has gone viral.

 

 

Koko was a special type of gorilla, raised closely by a human. Koko learned hundreds of signs that meant she could communicate with humans far better than other gorillas.

Non-human animals can be taught to respond in particular ways through reward. It’s commonplace and known as operant conditioning. Koko was very good at it, and also displayed a capacity for affection outside her species. A youtube clip showing her caring for a kitten also went viral.

I feel sorry that an impressive beast like Koko has died. On the other hand, not being in her natural environment, not being in the wild, she lived to a long age for a gorilla – 46 years.

What is truly gob-smacking about the latest audio-visual mourning of Koko’s passing is the suggestion that somehow Koko had a wisdom that ‘Man’ does not possess. As Koko puts it, via her ‘sign language’ – of course, as interpreted by her long-time human trainer:

“Man stupid”…

“Fix Earth. Help Earth!”

“Koko love Earth”, “Hurry!” and, a not-so-subtle warning: “Nature sees you”. (The Three Stooges would have responded to the threat with nyaaaahhhh! )

Thus far, the clip has had twenty million views and ten thousand comments. Overwhelmingly, the comments are of the self-righteous, reactionary, Nature worshiping kind that belittles humanity and places the wisdom of the beast/Nature above humanity.

I wonder whether any of those posting such comments have reflected on the fact that they are doing so thanks to the Internet – something no beast could comprehend let alone create. (Not to mention the art of Leonardo or the music of Monk). Etc Etc.

It’s all very reminiscent of the Nazi philosophical commitment to a ‘religion of Nature’ and the ‘wisdom of the forests’. As German National Socialist propaganda put it:

Deep in the forest
Will be born the nation’s knowledge

In fundamental contrast to the ‘religion of Nature’ outlook, the social media commentary about Koko brought to my mind Karl Marx’s reference to another famous simian, Kanuman, in his article on the British rule in India in the New York Times in 1853.

Marx wrote that,

‘We must not forget that these little [Hindustan] communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.

‘England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution’.

* * * *

People, and people alone, are the motive force of History!

* * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s DNA got to do with it? Senator Warren, tribalism and opposing the politics of ‘volk’…

US Democrat Senator, Elizabeth Warren, seems to think she has scored some kind of point against Trump by proving in a DNA test that she might have 1/64th or 1,024th Native American ancestry going back six to ten generations.  All she has achieved is making the Democrats look even sillier than they have thus far in taking every morsel of Trump bait in the absence of alternative practicable policies.

Something else she achieved was condemnation from the Cherokee Nation whose spokesman rightly saw the claim as patronizing.

But, really, for heaven’s sake, what does it matter? Has our political culture moved so far to the Right that it is now acceptable to believe that DNA is connected to culture? That one’s ‘race’ or ethnicity influences, in some organic way, one’s outlook? That there is a ‘white outlook’ and a ‘black outlook’? Etc. Etc.

I expect this when it comes from the racialist overt Right – like the Hansonites in Australia and ‘Proud Boys’ in the US – but it is just crazy when it comes from people who identify as being on the left. A core left-wing belief for at least 170 years has always been that humanity rises above the volk, and it is our common humanity that matters.

The left that I joined back in the Sixties argued that we were all one, ‘coloured’ and ‘white’ together, with a common class enemy, and that all outlooks are stamped with the brand of a class as the overriding factor, not by the brand of skin tone.

* * * *

Some comments on the above from comrades:

‘I was glad to see the Indian response was to tell Warren to go forth and multiply.
‘The disturbing and deeply reactionary undercurrent to all this is the defacto valorizing of and return to tribalism. My guess with the Cherokee position is that tribalism is a place we have come from – the Toronto piece was pretty explicit with this, speaking of Indigenous peoples as opposed to this or that tribe – not a place we wish to simply return to. Part of the synthesizing journey is to take pride in where you have come from, in other words. The current fetish with identity stuff promotes a stepping back. In the very old and tribal days other tribes people were regarded with mistrust and as not really human, meaning ‘not like us’ and were devalued accordingly. There are parts of Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday, describing his lengthy contact with remotely located hill tribes in New Guinea where he describes precisely this. And I seem to have heard of a time in the 30’s and 40’s of last century when identity politics became a big ‘thing for some Ayran mob…
‘Warren is an opportunist joke. What she is appealing to is as reactionary as all blazes’.
****
‘I agree but think the point is that the Democrats like the ALP are not left. Not sure if we can rescue the “left” or socialism and I prefer to focus on the ideas and drop the labels. The democrats are right wing but it doesn’t matter just that their policies, ideas are wrong and so are the Republicans. They represent the same people and want to focus on the real difference between them, their personalities. Think most people want change and unfortunately there seems no alternative.
‘Am not sure if they are taking the Trump bait or whether Trump is aware they have no option. They cant debate policy as most of their members have the same policies’.
****

‘The Wall Street Journal had an article pointing out that millions of American whites have a speck of African or Indian. So we are all oppressed minorities now.

‘I haven’t really been following “identity politics” closely, so I can’t say too much. It seems hard to counter without being given a nasty label.  And the right is having a field day. Great for class unity, not’.

****

 

 

 

 

Alternative ‘national anthem’ for Australia – Vale Peter Gelling (1960-2018)

One of my best friends, Peter Gelling, died at the end of September, aged 58. He was a brilliant musician across a range of styles and instruments but mainly blues and guitar and harmonica.

My obituary-feature for him was published in ‘The Canberra Times’.

At the wake for Peter, held at Tilley’s Devine Cafe in Canberra, a recording of his alternative national anthem, ‘Australia we don’t care’, was played – everyone stood for it. He would have loved that.

Peter was frequently annoyed by musicians who claimed to be blues artists yet invariably played rock. When I first saw him play, at a gig where he accompanied Wendy Saddington in August 1990, his subtlety, sophisticated syncopation and authentic blues sensibility jumped out at me, as it was so rare in Australia.

Perhaps for this reason, Peter was able to readily grasp the concept of ‘pseudo-left’, that a left position needs more than an individual or group adopting a label for its justification – just as it takes more than a ‘blues’ label to make one a genuine blues musician.

I’m not aware that he ever adopted an “ism” but he was a deep dialectical thinker and repudiated both the pseudo-left and the overt conservative/reactionary Right. He occasionally checked out C21st Left, and would be pleased for me to pay tribute to him here. He didn’t have formal university qualifications but was better than most academics I know, when it comes to literature and philosophy and critical thought.

A humanist, atheist, and gentle man who continued his service to others in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous for decades after getting ‘clean’, he liked to quote an anecdote told by Buddy Guy about BB King, which relates to ‘cultural appropriation’:

BB King and I were in Memphis once and this lady ran up to him and said, ‘Hey man, these white people are taking the blues from us.’ BB said, No ma’am. They didn’t take it. You just quit listening to it.’

Peter wrote, performed and recorded his alternative national anthem, ‘Australia we don’t care’ around 2001.  It expresses his support for refugees and satirizes nationalism.

Please share it.

Vale Peter.

 

Here’s another of Peter’s songs – ‘Ought to be ashamed’ – about male chauvinism, reflecting his support for women’s empowerment.

 

Notes on Trump 36 – media gives up?

On Thursday, like many other days, President Donald Trump boarded the presidential plane Air Force One. But eagle-eyed onlookers noticed something unusual was tagging along for the ride: a bit of paper stuck to the president’s left shoe.

The gaffe occurred during the president’s trip to Minnesota where he held a rally in Rochester on Thursday calling upon his supporters to reject what he called Democratic attempts to “destroy” his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

In the video, which has been widely shared on social media, Trump exits his vehicle and makes it all the way to the top of the steps, paper in tow. After he turns to wave and enters the plane, the piece of paper is dislodged.

Trump is soon followed by four men in suits, the last of whom actually bends down to pick up the paper.

The faux pas has sparked speculation about what exactly was stuck to Trump’s shoe. Many Twitter users wondered why none of his staff alerted him to the issue.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/10/05/trump-air-force-one-paper-stuck-shoe/1534322002/

Perhaps this is a reporter’s rebellion against being assigned to report twittering?

Or perhaps they have figured out that they will actually be even worse off if Democrats win the House in mid-terms than the mere catastrophe of Trump pressing home victory. It the sort of “gaffe” and “faux pas” and “speculation” that one might write about if ordered to actively campaign for liberals to stay home in despair.

That does seem to be the message from CNN:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/06/politics/donald-trump-presidency-supreme-court-economy/index.html

But it its hard to believe anybody could coordinate a campaign to cover this “news” about a piece of paper stuck to a shoe that would include:

WAPO:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/05/trump-toilet-paper-video-president-boards-air-force-one-with-what-appears-be-toilet-paper-stuck-shoe/?utm_term=.55e9e12392bc

Trump boards Air Force One with toilet paper in tow. (Or was it a napkin?)

October 5 at 9:32 AM

“Excuse me, Mr. President, I believe you have some toilet paper stuck to your shoe” — said no one.

Alas, President Trump made an embarrassing climb into Air Force One on Thursday with what appeared to be some sort of paper product attached to the bottom of his shoe.

Video showed him step out of a limousine in front of the aircraft at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and start up the staircase with a couple squares of toilet paper or, perhaps, a napkin, billowing in the wind with each step. What about the dozen or so people surrounding him? (Bueller? . . . Bueller?)

As he reached the top, the president — seemingly oblivious — turned around and waved goodbye.

Historically, toilet paper and shoes have gone together much like humiliating faux pas and deep, tear-inducing belly laughter.

Those who had the privilege to see it happen — either live or later on while watching videos on social media — couldn’t help but share it.

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro posted a clip on social media. “Starting the day with a little comic relief,” she wroteFriday on Twitter.

… [yes there’s more]

Here’s the worldwide “related coverage”.

I haven’t read any more of the first one hundred stories but its well worth scanning the headlines to get a sense of the collapse.

My guess is they really have just given up.

Meanwhile it seems the West has also given up on dealing with the rather serious issue of the Russian state use of novichok.

I wrote here earlier:

If, as is plausible, somebody with access to illegal Russian stockpiles did this without authority one would expect the Russian government to try to evade responsibility while being extremely cooperative and anxious to help establish the facts so as to ensure any culprits were found and stopped from seriously damaging Russian as well as other interests.

Instead Russia is churning out the usual stuff from Sputnik and threatening retaliation.

If that is the result of ineptitude on the part of both the British and Russian governments that is not terribly unusual.

But there is the other alternative that the Russians were deliberately testing Western responses. So far those responses are completely inadequate if based on a firm conclusion that the Russian government is either complicit in testing Western responses or unable to control its security personnel who decide to do so without authority.

I also wrote here:

The latest reports suggest that Western governments are comfortable with merely mocking the bumbling incompetence of GRU clowns:

https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/10/04/the-west-indicts-the-gru

I feel rather less comfortable about the Russian State not being able to manage its own agencies that are equipped with nerve agents.

If they weren’t clowns they would know how to remotely monitor WiFi networks instead of sitting in a car with the equipment

While enjoying the collapse of mainstream politics I would have thought there would be some insistence that the clowns with nerve gas be dealt with rather than ridiculed. Is nobody functioniing?

Notes on Trump 35 – Democrats brilliant #MeToo wins over Never Trumpers…

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/never-trumpers-unite-to-back-trumps-battle-for-kavanaugh

Wins them over to Trump of course.

Despicable Democrat treatment of GOP establishment judicial nominee has convinced important never Trumpers to back Trump for 2020.

Looks like there won’t be much of a split in GOP, while a Democrat majority in House will be split with culture wars while also passing huge deficits, infrastructure, health care, protectionism etc together with Trumpists against any remaining GOP rump.

On the other hand its getting so bad Rasmussen polls currently give Trump 50% approval so there is some risk he will be stuck with a GOP majority in House if Democrats enthusiasm for grotesque stupidity wanes and they don’t turn out as previously expected.

My guess is he’ll have to go all out on fresh outrages to ensure enough Democrats do turn out for mid-terms.

Could be a fascinating month.