Anarchist Cook

William Powell

William Powell, author of the Anarchist Cookbook.

Powell gave Anarchy a bad name.  He was disenchanted as a young man growing up in America in the 1960’s.  He observed a culture of government sanctioned violence.  Police bully tactics, violent attacks on peaceful civil rights protests, baton charging of student protests and all the way up to imposition of the draft sending young men to Vietnam.

His reaction to government violence was to arm the counter-cultural movement with techniques to fight a against the state through guerilla tactics and sabotage.  His book give recipes for home made weapons using commonly available products.  He also included some sabotage techniques for electronics, and some information on home made drugs.

Powell made the mistake of giving control of the publication to the publisher.  The book was published in 1971, and by 1976 Powell wanted it removed from sale.  Many years later he said in an interview:  “Over the years, I have come to understand that the basic premise behind the Cookbook is profoundly flawed. The anger that motivated the writing of the Cookbook blinded me to the illogical notion that violence can be used to prevent violence.”

The book is still in publication and has been blamed as providing the information for a number of home grown terror attacks in the USA.

I have observed many cases in history of angry young men who passionately call for violence and then grow up to advocate the far more difficult path of non-violent, but no less confrontational routes to reform.  Are there cases where young people begin with non-violence and come to a realization later in life that violence is a better path?

 

Still I Rise; by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Advertisements

War on drugs

pervitindose

 

The early successes of the German forces in WW2 were, in large part, due to drug use by the troops.

In the 1930’s amphetamines and methamphetamines were widely available over the counter in Germany. When the German army invaded Poland in 1939 some troops used a drug called Pervitin to stay alert and awake. Wehrmacht doctors recognised the value of the drugs in the short term and recommended them to high command. They were issued widely, but particularly to the troops most crucial to the Blitzkrieg tactics ; the tank crews and aircrews.

The allies were astounded at the pace and speed of the German advance from the Ardennes to Dunkirk.   The famous panzer commander Heinz Guderian said to his troops “I needed you to stay awake for 3 days, you did it for 17.”

OK 17 days is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is valid. Each night as the French defenders lapsed into sleep, cradling their daily ration of a bottle of red wine, the Germans kept moving forward. Methamphetamines have a number of effects on the human body. As well as keeping you alert and awake they reduce the need for food (pretty handy side benefit for soldiers) and they make you fearless, and more aggressive. It turns regular soldiers into super-troopers.

Mission after mission the Stukas kept bombing, the M-109’s kept strafing and the panzers kept rolling forwards.

The downside of drug use is what happens in the longer term. A short fast campaign, such as that in France in 1940, was perfectly suited to drug use. In longer, drawn out actions the benefits of drug use become counterproductive. As a result the drugs didn’t work on the Russian front.

In wartime military advantages tend to be short term. They are quickly copied by enemies. During the Battle of Britain the British noticed that all the shot-down Luftwaffe aircraft appeared to carry a tube of Pervitin. Analysis determined what it was and the British began to issue similar drugs to their own pilots.

I often wonder how troops today are using highly sophisticated drugs to enhance performance, reduce fear, increase aggression etc. If you face a soldier in a hot situation, just how rational is he/she?

War on Poverty

Change.JPG

These days we are used to hearing the USA declare war on unbeatable opponents.  At this stage the USA has lost the War in Vietnam, lost the War on Drugs, lost the War on Terror etc etc etc.

There was a time, back in the 1960’s when the USA was motivated to declare a more positive kind of warfare.  In January 1964 President Lyndon. B. Johnson declared a war on poverty.

More properly it led to the passing of the Economic Opportunity Act.  This built on measures introduced in the “New Deal” by FDR and established many structures that remain in place even today.

Sadly the War on Poverty in the USA was lost.  The republicans got into power and steadily eroded the foundations of the US Welfare State.  Wealth has increasingly shifted into the hands of a smaller and smaller elite of the super-rich.

Happy societies are those that offer the greatest opportunities to the lowest of the low, to enable them and encourage them to rise and better themselves.  Capitalist societies are not designed to deliver widespread contentment.  They are focused on the exploitation of the masses for the gratification of the few.

Purely communist societies have largely failed because they are not able to compete economically with capitalist societies.

Managed economies, be they rooted in Fascism (eg Post War Spain), Socialism (eg Yugoslavia) or in tradition and religion (eg Saudi Arabia) are designed to protect a ruling elite at the expense of reform or progress.  While they can be initially decisive and dynamic they rapidly decline into stagnation.

The best societies are those with a centrist democratic political structure, representative government, rule of law and a market economy.  The very best societies are those with the most educated populations and the strongest female presence in senior industry and political roles.

 

To a Poor Old Woman; by William Carlos Williams

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

Can Superheroes save the USA from Jihad?

lady-liberty-burka

I have a theory that the explosion in popularity in superhero movies has less to do with exploitation of the Marvel and DC franchises and more to do with the American Zeitgeist. I think that ordinary Americans are trying to deal with a raft of stressful and complex issues such as “The war on terrorism”, “The war on drugs”, actual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, immigration, gun crime, school shootings and a weak economy which has depleted property values and consequent self-worth.

Politicians are supposed to be leaders, who steer the people through problems and dark days. In the USA of today the politicians use fear to motivate support for their cause. Tea Party politicians in particular offer blunt and seemingly simple, compelling solutions.  Intelligent voters can see that these populist, far right wing groups have the potential to bring the world to ruination. Concernedly the Tea Party stance is increasingly mirrored by far right wing parties across Europe such as the UKIP in Britain and National Front movements gaining traction in France, Austria etc.  Hitler and Mussolini used exactly the same tactics to secure power in the 1930’s in the great depression.

Let’s come back to the USA, where adult Americans are barraged by fear about issues over which they have no control from the mainstream politicians, and are offered simple, but frankly lunatic proposals from a right wing that offers Tea instead of good American Coffee.

Why are adult Americans so open to Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Flash, the Green Hornet, Captain America etc etc etc? My hypothesis is that superheroes represent a “Deus-ex-machina” type solution to the problems of the world. For a time you can sit in a dark cinema, suspend your disbelief, push away the fear and let the big guy in the garish bodyform suit sort out the bad guys.

Just to establish the rules here, I am looking at the kind of movies that appeal to adults, as opposed to kids and teenagers. What reflects the adult zeitgeist of a period?

During the 1930’s when everyone lived in misery during the depression, movies provided an escape into a world of luxury, excess and class. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dressed in fine outfits and danced their way across art-deco sets, took cruises, flew in aircraft, wore furs and drank champagne. For the cost of a few cents the public could escape the misery of their daily grind and imagine the good life.

During the 1940’s the film industry was employed as a propaganda mouthpiece. The government wanted stories that glorified the brave soldier or the resilient stiff, working unpaid overtime in the factory. Films celebrated Mom, Apple Pie and the defence of the American way of life. Foreign enemies were mocked, vilified and lampooned.

Look back to the 1950’s and the early 1960’s and the public got to choose what they watched again. What they watched was the western. Soldiers returned from battlefields in Europe and the Pacific, got married and went back to work in civvy street. America had a sense of re-birth of the pioneering spirit, the manifest destiny of the American dream. The world was free because of America and America was embodied by the spirit of the Cowboy. The bad guy wore a black hat, the good guy showed restraint, but when pushed he came out shooting from the hip and rode into the sunset with the best girl beside him. Good, simple days when you knew what was what. The enemies were clear, it was the Commies. Senator McCarthy’s Committee on un-American activities could ride roughshod over any objections.

The 1960’s began with 50’s style films such as “The Great Escape” and “The Magnificent 7”. It ended with “Midnight Cowboy”. The dream of Camelot collapsed with the assassinations of the Kennedys. The USA was dragged deeper and deeper into Vietnam. The Civil Rights Movement exposed the hypocrisy of the “American Dream” which was reserved for white folks. The kids born in the 1950’s let their hair grow long, listened to the Devil’s music, Rock and Roll, smoked drugs and wore flowers in their hair. This was reflected in how film taste changed over the decade. In the western movies you could no longer tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Outlaws became heroes, such as “The Wild Bunch” “Cool Hand Luke” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Order was subverted in films such as “2001 A Space Odyssey” and “Planet of the Apes”.

The 1970’s were characterised by the impeachment of Nixon. The authorities could no longer be trusted. Society failed the ordinary person. We got films such as “The Deer Hunter”, “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now” where US soldiers are destroyed by the impact of Vietnam. “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “A Clockwork Orange” ask who is mad, the patient or the system? The Godfather films, Serpico and Chinatown point to widespread corruption in policing, planning and judiciary systems.

The 1980’s were a funny decade for film. The invention and widespread availability of Video led to a fundamental restructure of the industry and the films. Old fleabag downtown movie theaters were replaced with modern multiplexes in suburban shopping malls. The target market shifted from adults to teens. The doors opened for John Hughes and his Brat Pack actors with The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Buellers Day Off, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and the renaissance of the chapter play in films such as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, ET, The Princess Bride, Stand by Me, Back to the Future, Dead Poets Society, The Goonies etc. As such the 1980’s resembles the 1940’s in that the industry, not the consumer, drove film choice.

The “Caring, Sharing 1990’s” were soundly reflected in our choices of films of hope and redemption. Saving species and the planet (Jurassic Park), compassion for people and challenging preconceptions (Shawshank, Good Will Hunting, Forest Gump, The Silence of the Lambs, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, American History X), challenging consumer culture (Fight Club, American Beauty, The Matrix, Trainspotting). It was a great decade for considered, intelligent and thoughtful films.

Then arrived 9/11 and the rise and rise and rise of the Superhero movie! For me the Superhero appears to have replaced the good Cowboy of the 1950’s. He is on the side of right, and always wins against evil in the end, saving the promise of the American Dream.