CLIMATE CHANGE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

This Changes Everythiing

Written by: Naomi Klein

Narration by:  Ellen Archer

NAOMI KLEIN (CANADIAN AUTHOR, SOCIAL ACTIVIST, FILMAKER)
NAOMI KLEIN (CANADIAN AUTHOR, SOCIAL ACTIVIST, FILMAKER)

A change of book titles comes to mind in reviewing Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything”.  A first thought is a title like “Beat the Drum.”   On second thought, it is the question “Who Gets to Decide?”  Ninety seven percent of “…actively publishing climate scientists” say climate warming trends are likely due to human activity.

TRUMP AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Deniers think current weather phenomena are a natural aberration that will be corrected by time.  Others are apathetically fatalistic and call global warming a myth.  But almost universally, science is saying climate warming is real.

GLOBAL WARMING
Deniers think current weather phenomena are a natural aberration that will be corrected by time. But almost universally, science is saying climate warming is real.

A “Beat the Drum” title is meant to convey appreciation of Naomi Klein’s studied effort to awaken the general public to the truth of global warming.  (She is not a scientist but a writer, researcher, and social activist.)  However, the title “Who Gets to Decide?” is meant to convey a monumental weakness in Klein’s spun presentation on solutions for the problems of global warming.

CAPITALISM-COMMUNISM
Klein’s argument that global warming is a consequence of capitalism is false.  Global warming is a consequence of human nature.

Klein’s argument that global warming is a consequence of capitalism is false.  Global warming is a consequence of human nature.  To date, democratic capitalism is the only economic form of government that offers a degree of freedom for all Peoples subject to rule of law.  Democratic capitalism unleashes the power of human nature, both good and bad.  Until some better form of governance is created, the best chance for a global warming solution is captialism.  History shows freedom, subject to rule of law, is essential to a deliberative process that will provide best-case solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.

GOVERNMENT
Capitalism is not the proximate cause of global warming.  It is the failure of the E.P.A., the President, and congressional legislators to do their job.
POLITICS AND SCIENCE
Global warming solutions lie in politics and science; not one or the other, but both.

Global warming solutions lie in politics and science; not one or the other, but both.

Einstein and fellow scientists prove that energy and mass are always equal.  That scientific proof leads to Nagasaki and Hiroshima’s atom bombs just as 97% of the scientific community’s proof leads to earth’s climate bomb.

Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany were worn down by WWII.  American democratic capitalism makes the decision to end the war by using the atomic bomb.  One may argue that this decision is morally reprehensible but it ended a war that would have continued without definitive action based on the deliberative process of a democratic capitalist country. The same may be said for a pragmatic solution for global warming.

The world is suffering from a global warming war.  Eventually, that suffering will create a political consensus for something to be done to combat its consequence.  Evidence of something being done is everywhere.  By beating the drum Klein is creating sense of urgency about global warming.  What is misleading and spun by Klein is discounting of rich entrepreneurs, like Gates, Bloomberg, Branson, and Buffett, who are taking self-interested steps to curb global warming.  Yes, they are self-interested steps but self-interest is not inherently bad.  Self-interest is in the fight to abate global warming.

RICHARD BRANSON
Klein suggests that Branson expands his airline to make more money at the cost of further pollution.

Klein suggests Branson expands his airline to make more money at the cost of further pollution.  (In truth Branson did sell his airline in 2016.)  Branson is a pariah to Klein because of his self-interest in vertically integrating research for alternative fuels for plane travel.

Klein explains Branson is only spending two to four hundred million dollars for research on alternate fuels while having pledged three billion dollars over ten years.  One wonders, how many rich have spent one million dollars, let alone two to four hundred, on alternate fuels.  Klein infers Branson is all show and no go by reaping publicity benefit while raping the global environment.  Whatever Branson’s motive may be, two to four hundred million dollars for a less polluting fuel is better than doing nothing.

Klein vilifies Buffett for buying railroads because they are transporting coal.  Klein offers no suggestion that railroads are a more energy-efficient than some other forms of material transportation.  Klein infers Buffett made the railroad investment out of self-interest.  He probably did but that is not proof of a lack of concern about global warming.   Klein infers Buffett’s investment decisions should be dictated by whom?  Who gets to decide?

WARREN BUFFETT (NET WORTH 75.2 BIILLION DOLLARS)
Klein vilifies Buffett for buying railroads because they are transporting coal.  Klein offers no suggestion that railroads are a more energy-efficient than some other forms of material transportation.

Because people like Klein are beating the drum, the largest coal producer in the world has lost 95 percent of its stock value.  The investing public finds that the industry misleads investors on its liability as a climate polluter.  This is democratic capitalism in action.

Self-interest, good and bad, is the nature of human beings.  Klein and others need to continue to “Beat the Drum” but decisions on what is to be done will be from a political consensus and action from leaders of the world and the scientific community.  It is not what Klein says so much as how she says it.  Money, power, and prestige are human nature’s motivations.  It will be a matter of competing self-interests that reach a consensus on the preservation of life.

Klein and others should continue to raise awareness and sense of urgency, but it is self-delusion to think human nature will change within the time frame of this world’s declining environment.

In a free society, all realize they have “skin in the game”.  Those governments that validate individual freedom offer the best hope for a global warming solution.  The answer to the question of “Who gets to decide?” is best left in the hands of nation-states that validate individual freedom.  America is one that holds the hope for a solution to global warming, in spite of its democratic capitalist leaning and today’s inept Executive and Legislative branch leadership.

MORALITY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life

Written by: Professor Rufus J. Fears

Lecture by:  Professor Rufus J. Fears

J. RUFUS FEARS (1945-2012--AMERICAN HISTORIAN, LECTURER FOR THE GREAT COURSES)

J. RUFUS FEARS (1945-2012–AMERICAN HISTORIAN, LECTURER FOR THE GREAT COURSES)

Rufus Fears is an excellent story-teller.  “Books That Have Made History” is a series of lectures given by Fears that dwells too much on God but delightfully entertains all who are interested in living life well.  (Professor Fears died in October of 2012.)

An irony of Fears lecture series about “Books that can Change Your Life” is his most revered historical figures, Confucius, Socrates, and Jesus–never wrote a book.  He thematically presents a story that argues these three figures are witnesses to the truth.

Fears believes Confucius’s, Socrates’, and Jesus’s truths have been played out and proven over centuries of writings and doings.  Those writings and doings are recorded in secular and religious texts that range from Homer, to Plato, to the “Bible”, to the “Koran”, to “The Prince”, to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Winston Churchill, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  Bonhoeffer is Fears first example of one who practices what he writes about and believes.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906-1945, A GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, THEOLOGIAN AND ANTI-NAZI DISSIDENT WHO DIES IN NAZI' CUSTODY)

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906-1945, Bonhoeffer  was arrested in 1943 and transferred to a Nazi concentration camp and executed in April 1945.  Bonhoeffer is a symbol of moral and physical courage in the face of injustice.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer insists on returning to Germany to protest Hitler’s totalitarian dictatorship.  As a Lutheran pastor and theological scholar, Bonhoeffer publicly denounced Hitler’s persecution of the Jews.  This is Fears jumping off point in arguing that theism as professed by secular and religious texts are “Books That Can Change Your Life”.

Justice, courage, moderation and belief that “wisdom comes from suffering” come from Homeric literature, the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Plato’s “Republic”, the King James Version of the bible, and the holy Koran.  Fears emphasizes the transcendent impact of “Book of Exodus”, “Gospel of Mark”, and “Book of Job” as they become memes for moral belief.

In the “Book of Exodus” Fears notes the story of Moses and how Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery, a story repeated throughout history by the courage of moral leaders.

The “Gospel of Mark” tells the story of Jesus, the sins of man, and the redemptive powers of forgiveness, and justice.

The “Book of Job” symbolizes life as a struggle but, in struggle, one gains wisdom through faith in something greater than oneself.

FREE WILL VS. DETERMINISM

FREE WILL VS. DETERMINISM

Fears draws from many cultures to explore “Books That Have Made History.  He explains how the “Bhagavad Gita” identifies truth as a divine power and how stories like Gilgamesh and Beowulf suggest life is destiny, fated when one is born, while Aeschylus believes life is a matter of free will.

Plato posits duality of being with a mortal body and immortal soul.  Religious and secular writings reinforce Plato’s concept of human duality.

PLATO'S BELIEF IN DUALITY-BODY AND SOUL

PLATO’S BELIEF IN DUALITY-SEPARATE ENTITIES-BODY AND SOUL

The immortal soul is terribly and beautifully rendered in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.  Dante describes torments souls endure if mortal life is lived in sin, but offers belief in redemption.

danteinferno_400x606

DANTE’S INFERNO Dante describes torments souls endure if mortal life is lived in sin, but offers belief in redemption.

Buddhist belief in reincarnation offers a road to peace or continued struggle based on mortal life’s actions. 

BUDDHIST REBIRTH IN SEARCH OF NIRVANA

A Buddhist soul’s reincarnation may be as a beast if one’s former life is filled with sin.  But as each new life approaches enlightenment, it is offered opportunity for peace without struggle in a spiritual life that requires no further incarnations.

Fears moves back and forth in history to identify some of the “Books That Can Change Your Life”.  He jumps to the twentieth century to tell the story of Winston, the defeated hero in Orwell’s “1984”.

Fears explains how totalitarianism sucks struggle out of life but leaves dead bodies or soulless automatons in its wake.  Fears notes how Stalin murders twenty million in a totalitarian system similar to what Orwell wrote about in the late 1940s.

Fears reinforces his argument by jumping back in history to tell the story of “The Prince”, Machiavelli’s masterpiece about totalitarian rule.  Just as predicted in “The Prince”, Stalin lives to old age (lived to be 74, died in 1953) by following the rules set down in Machiavelli’s 16th century book.  Stalin murders or imprisons any opposition to his rule.  Stalin’s single minded objective is acquisition and retention of power.  Stalin’s objectives are achieved through a police state that controls media, arbitrarily arrests citizens, and acts without moral conscience.

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN (1918-2008, RUSSIAN NOVELIST AND ESSAYIST)

ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN (1918-2008, RUSSIAN NOVELIST AND ESSAYIST)

Ironically, Fears notes that Solzhenitsyn returns to Russia and vilifies capitalist America for ignoring the plight of the poor by losing sight of its own values. 

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)

Fundamentally, one takes from Fears’ lectures that one must internalize morality and have the courage to follow truth regardless of its cost.  This is a lesson for today in the face of an American President who cares little about truth and has no moral compass.

Stalin’s terror is revealed in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”, published in 1973.  Solzhenitsyn dies in 2008, near Moscow, at the age of 89.

This is only a smattering of the many books Fears talks about in his lectures.

FREE SPEECH

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Privacy, Property, and Free Speech: Law and the Constitution in the 21st Century 

privacy, property, and Free speech

The Great Courses Series

Lectures by: Professor Jeffrey Rosen

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)
JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

Are Americans more or less free in the 21st Century?  Professor Jeffrey Rosen in “Privacy, Property and Free Speech” leaves the question unanswered.  However, he clearly frames the question for listeners to draw their own conclusion.  It is difficult to give a definitive answer for three reasons.  One, new technology redefines freedom.  Two, September 11, 2001 redefines security.  Three, globalization redefines nationalism.

Technology encroaches on privacy with internet access by the public and private sectors.  The public sector continually revises laws regarding the internet.  Laws passed by government attempt to regulate internet use, ownership, and censorship by redefining freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, and the freedom from want and fear.  Government classifies organizations and decides which can legally access the internet.  Government is in the process of defining who can own the internet and how access can be regulated.  Government has the power to censor information that it views detrimental to the freedoms historically held by Americans.  Control of internet use, ownership, and censorship by the government encroaches on freedom.

INTERNET LOGO
Technology encroaches on privacy with internet access by the public and private sectors. Web-based profiling steers the public by profiling individuals and algorithmically congregating personal information.

Professor Rosen addresses the issue of property by lecturing on women’s rights and the right of government to claim eminent domain on property owned privately that can be taken for the public good.  In addressing women’s rights, Rosen reviews the history of Roe v. Wade and implies that the judicial system may have acted too quickly by not allowing the States and the general public to fully address the issue.  Rosen is equally conflicted by the government’s right to claim eminent domain.  He notes how confiscation of private property at fair market value has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.  In some cases, the taking has resulted in failed projects; in others, like Baltimore’s revitalized harbor, the taking revitalized a neglected and deteriorated landmark.  The American judicial system encroaches on the freedom of women to choose and the fifth amendment’s clause that says private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.

BALTIMORE'S INNER HARBOR
Rosen is equally conflicted by the government’s right to claim eminent domain. In some cases, the taking has resulted in failed projects; in others, like Baltimore’s revitalized harbor, the taking revitalized a neglected and deteriorated landmark.

The private sector uses the internet to define consumers.  What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.  The detailed profile can affect the price advertised and the personalized pitch made by a retailer.  Private sector search engines use consumer profiles to pitch private sector businesses for advertising.  Consumer manipulation by the private sector encroaches on freedom.  Web-based profiling steers the public by profiling individuals and algorithmically congregating personal information.

9.11.01TRADE CENTER ATTACK
Governments have changed the world of travel by invading the privacy of minds and bodies to reduce the chance of a terrorist act.  Rosen suggests governments cross the line when citizens are detained or incarcerated for what they think rather than what they do

The Trade Center tragedy redefines security for America and the world.  September 11th convinces the world that there are no un-breachable terrorist constraints.  Terrorism is like lighting in a storm; i.e. it is a force of nature that can strike anyone at any time.  Governments have changed the world of travel by invading the privacy of minds and bodies to reduce the chance of a terrorist act.  Rosen suggests governments cross the line when citizens are detained or incarcerated for what they think rather than what they do.  The fear one has is that thought becomes grounds for prosecution.  To the extent that terrorism is like lightning in a storm, one can only wait for the storm to pass.  Invading one’s privacy and arresting citizens for what they think is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

Despite Brexit and nationalist sentiment of aspirants to the American Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court, all human beings are citizens of one world.  There is less and less room for nation-state nationalism.  Encroachment on privacy, property, and free speech are inevitable in the 21st century (and beyond).  In reality, freedom’s encroachment is an inherent part of civilization.  When the first man and woman joined together as a couple; when the first tribe became a hunting and gathering troop, and when the first hunter-gatherers became part of a farming community, freedom diminished.

FREEWILL
Encroachment on privacy, property, and free speech are inevitable in the 21st century (and beyond).  In reality, freedom’s encroachment is an inherent part of civilization. 

The last lecture in Rosen’s series is about the right to be forgotten.  Now, we are citizens of nation-states; tomorrow we will be citizens of the world.  With each regrouping, there is a diminishing of freedom.  The last bastion of freedom will be “the right to be forgotten”.  It will be a programming code designed to volitionally erase one’s identity.  This volitional reboot will be with less rather than more freedom because of the nature of becoming part of a larger human congregation.

ALEX JONES (RADIO SHOW HOST AND CONSPIRACY THEORIST)
ALEX JONES (RADIO SHOW HOST AND CONSPIRACY THEORIST)

Professor Rosen offers an excellent and informative outline of America’s history of privacy, property, and free speech.  A listener will draw their own conclusions about present and future freedoms from Rosen’s lectures.

As reprehensible as conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones may be, we have to ask ourselves where the line should be drawn between idiocy and doing harm to others.

My view is that freedom has always been thankfully limited.

TSAR PUTIN?

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

Written by: Steven Lee Myers

Narration by:  Rene Ruiz

STEVEN LEE MYERS (DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON BUREAU, THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Steven Lee Myers, NYT’s reporter and author.

Steven Lee Myers has written a highly polished and informative biography but fails to convince one that Putin is a Tsar.  Putin is more Richard Nixon than Catherine the Great.   Putin, like Nixon, is smart and thin-skinned.  Putin, like Nixon, makes personnel decisions based on loyalty, and views the world in real-politic terms.

Myers shows Putin comes from a family of Russian patriots with a grandfather and father that fought in Russian armies in different generations.  Each lived during the Stalinist years of Gulags and terror but none rebelled against the power of Russia’s leadership.

Myers explains how Putin becomes interested in the KGB at the age of 16 and grooms himself for a life in the secret service.  Putin’s KGB-influenced’ career-path is to become an attorney.  He learns German and is assigned to East Germany in his first years as a KGB agent.

Myers explains how Putin’s steely disposition grows in East Germany, and later St Petersburg, Russia. Putin keeps a low profile but exhibits bravery, independence, and initiative when his country’s leaders are overwhelmed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.

ANATOLY SOBCHAK AND VLADIMIR PUTIN (ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA)

Putin becomes the “go-to” guy for the Mayor of Leningrad (aka St. Petersburg).  Putin’s relationship to the Mayor of Leningrad, Anatoly A. Sobchak, is founded on loyalty. 

Sobchak is initially recognized as a representative of new Russia but the power of his position is diminished by the ineptitude of his administration.  In spite of Sobchak’s mistakes, Myers shows that Putin stands by him.  Loyalty is a characteristic of Putin that is expected of all who work with him.  Eventually Sobchak is electorally defeated and Putin is left out of a job.  

Putin’s relationship with the mayor of Leningrad reminds one of his support for Lukashenco, the President of Belarus, who illegally diverted a commercial airline to capture a government political dissident (Roman Protasevich). 

Roman Protasevich (Belarusian journalist and political dissident.)

Alexander Lukashenko (President of Belarus)

In a televised June 4th, 2021 confession by Protasevich, Lukashenco embarrasses himself and his country with coerced praise by the Belarus President. This reminds one of Stalin’s show trials.

Russia is unlikely to return to hegemonic control of adjacent countries. Ethnic nationalism and desire for greater freedom are unquenchable thirsts.  Ukraine, Georgia, and even Belarus, seem unlikely to rejoin Russia in a new Socialist Republic.

FORMER U.S.S.R.

Russia is equally unlikely to be ruled by a Tsar again because its population is better educated; aware of the value of qualified freedom, insured by relative social stability, and security.

Russia will remain a major international power and influence in the world.  Nuclear capability and cybernetics (particularly as a weapon of political and economic disruption) guarantees Russia’s position in world affairs.

Forcing Ukraine or Georgia to return to the Russian block or quelling Chechen resistance is beyond the military strength of Russia’s Putin or his successors.  Reassembly of a form of the U. S. S. R. is only conceivable based on political accommodation based on economic influence or volitional federation.  Neighboring countries can only be seduced; i.e. either by economics, or cybernetic influence.  A majority vote of neighboring countries; not military dominion, will be the “modus vivendi” for Russian expansion.

But what about the Crimea.  It is a part of the Ukraine.

An argument can be made that territory of the Crimea is not an exception.  Millions of dollars were spent by Russia to modernize Crimea for the Olympics.  Undoubtedly, a great deal of time was spent influencing Crimea’s population (which is ethnically 65% Russian).  It is conceivable that a majority of the Crimea residents voted to become part of Russia.

Of course, this sets aside the truth of Crimea’s territorial and nationalist connection with Ukraine.  One might argue this is analogous to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Hitler used the excuse that ethnic Germans were being abused in the Sudetenland.  In this view, Putin is no Tsar; i.e. he is more Stalinist accolade.

(To make Crimea the equivalent of the Sudetenland one might ask oneself if the majority in the Sudetenland were ethnic Germans, and was there a vote by Sudetenland residents.)

Crimea

Undoubtedly, a great deal of time was spent influencing Crimea’s population. 65% of the Crimea’s population is ethnically Russian.  It is not inconceivable that a majority of Crimea residents voted to become part of Russia

Myers cogently reveals the strengths and weaknesses of modern Russian rule.  In a limited sense (limited by Myers’ independent research and fact checking), Myers’ corroborates the experience noted in William Browder’s book, “Red Notice”.  Putin is certainly capable of undermining the influence or action of any person who chooses to challenge his authoritarianism.

WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)

American-born British financier and political activist.

In spite of Putin’s great power, Myers shows there are chinks in his invincibility.  Putin’s sly manipulation for re-election after Medvedev’s only term as President fails to quell the desire for freedom of Russian citizens.  Just as Watergate exposed the hubris of Nixon, Putin will suffer from the sin of being a flawed human being.  Putin, like Nixon, is a great patriot of his country but neither exhibit the inner moral compass that make good leaders great leaders.  This is a reminder of the 45th American President who focused on the business of America; not its role as a beacon for freedom and equality of opportunity.

An odd article in the NYTs (4/6/22) notes America is perplexed by what Putin owns in order to punish him with confiscation or restriction of assets. Putin is a true believer in communism. His position and property are owned by the State. In one sense that makes Putin vulnerable because his money, power, and prestige is dependent on his government’ position. In another, his position insulates him from international economic sanction.

Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Myers creates a convincing portrait of a man who is subject to the sins of most who rise to power.  Putin believes he has become a god among men.  He rationalizes his greed by thinking the fate of Russia’s re-ascendance lies in his hands.  Even in the days of Stalinist governance, relationship to the leader was the sine ne quo of wealth and power.  Putin carries on that tradition.  Putin’s friends and associates from the KGB and his tenure in St. Petersburg are critical components of Putin’s control of the economy and government.

Putin is no Tsar but he could have been if education had not advanced society and freedom of expression  had not entered the internet age.

DEMOCRACY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

Written by:  Francis Fukuyama

Narrated by:  Johnathan Davis

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA (AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST, POLITCAL ECONOMIST, AND AUTHOR)

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA (AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST, POLITICAL ECONOMIST, AND AUTHOR)

Francis Fukuyama offers a benediction and warning about democracy in “Political Order and Political Decay”.  His book is difficult to absorb because of its wide view of politics and a listener’s sense that political theory is being justified as much as proven.  However, Fukuyama impressively argues that democracy is the best form of government in the world and may evolve into a form of government that is best for all modern societies.

Fukuyama writes this with an examination of the current state (actually pre-Trump) of American democracy.  He addresses other forms of democracy developed, or developing, in other countries.

Fukuyama explains there are three pillars of democracy. 

First, a state must be formed to protect its citizens and its territory.

Second, rule of law must be established to constrain power held by the few over the many.

ACCOUNTABILITY

And three, accountability must be established for policies that serve the interest of all the people; not only factions or special interests.  When any of these supports are weakened, democracy decays.

Many examples of good and bad democracies are given by Fukuyama.  To narrow the territory, this review will focus on the United States but the author offers many more examples that reinforce his theory.

In the U. S., the founding fathers address forming a nation-state with rule of law and a balance of power formula intended to serve the interest of all of its citizens.  For over two hundred years, America has adhered, in principle, to these three pillars of democracy. 

CHECKS AND BALANCES

However, America has failed, at different times, in different degrees, in ways that have shaken each of democracy’s pillars.

The iniquity of slavery is played out.  The right of national governance of all states of the union is clarified and mandated by the victory of Union forces.  Through the blood and treasure lost in the war, the nation became one.

AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

The nation-state is nearly destroyed by the American civil war. 

There have been numerous attacks on the rule of law when addressing equality of opportunity, the right to vote, and freedom of expression.  Victories and losses are referred to in Fukuyama’s book with a trend toward betterment in America but still as a work in progress.  Fukuyama notes that many nations are not ready for democracy because they have not adopted rule of law that requires human rights for all citizens.

MONEY

Accountability has been distorted by political gerrymandering, special interest influences, patronage, and what Fukuyama calls “clientism” (selling one’s vote for reward).

Concern is expressed over the role of special interest money in its distortion of the political will of the many by the few.

Fukuyama decries the growing extremism in America because of political parties that rely on local political caucuses controlled by minorities, or special interests.  These special interests nominate candidates who are not qualified to be leaders but are beholding to small interest groups.  If elected, they become clients of special interests rather than representatives of their districts.

Fukuyama spends a good deal of time giving examples of Presidents like Jackson (a President which some compare to Trump) who strongly endorses patronage appointments based on relationship rather than merit.  Fukuyama notes that patronage is significantly changed when a disgruntled acquaintance is denied a foreign post by President Garfield.  The denied acquaintance assassinates the President.

The Pendleton Act is passed and a merit system of appointment is established for government positions.  Fukuyama notes that the Pendleton Act did not eliminate patronage but it reduced its use–the Civil Service came into being.

Fukuyama makes the point that institutionalization of the ideals of the three pillars of democracy ensures government stability and longevity.  The Civil Service is an example of another step taken by America to preserve democratic government. 

Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki

Fukuyama implies vilification of civil service employees undermines democratic stability.

At a Summit, Trump discounts the CIA’s intelligence system.

Marie Yovanovitch (Former Ambassador to Ukraine is summarily fired by President Trump.)

The main points of “Political Order and Political Decay” revolve around the pillars of democracy.  Fukuyama shows that there are many democracies in the world but those that violate any of the three pillars are likely to decay over time. 

Fukuyama argues–when institutions fail to maintain the state as sovereign, defensible, and dependent on the good will of many, willing to guarantee individual rights by rule of law, and accountable for political leader’s actions, democracy decays.

Fukuyama infers countries that choose not to be democratic, based on the three pillars he describes, will not rival the success of modern nation-states that have achieved economic and political stability.

Fukuyama suggests the United States will not necessarily remain the super power it has become.  Fukuyama argues that warning signals are flashing in America because of changes occurring in its political system.  Recognition of corporations as individuals by the Supreme Court opens the door wider for special interest influence on public policy. 

Corporations are able to contribute as much money as they want to super-pacs as clients for political representatives who are primarily influenced by corporate interests rather than public good.  History has made it clear that what is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the country.

The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize corporations as people opened the flood gate to corporate influence in government.

Another warning bell in America is the blurring lines for separation of powers.  The Supreme Court is entering the realm of legislature.  Veto power has disrupted compromise between the Legislature and Presidency.  Rules in Congress are being used to block negotiation that results in “do-nothing” legislation.

Confidence in the American Federal Government is diminishing.  Belief in the legislative process is at an all-time low.  The public grows to believe government serves special interests more than the common good.

Fukuyama suggests every developing sovereign country should be treated with respect based on their road to nationhood.  Governments will form based on acquiring their own state identity.   America’s role should be support of nations trying to establish rule of law that serves the interests of their citizens.   Finally, America’s role is to demonstrate, encourage, and supplement other nations’ efforts to create institutional organizations that promote the pillars of democracy.

Trump relationship with traditional democratic allies is considered by some to be more confrontational than friendly.

President Trump’s vilification of traditional democratic allies  bodes ill for Fukyama’s theory of “Political Order and Political Decay”.  Trump diminishes America’s example as a good democracy.

If Fukuyama’s theory is correct, it offers a road map for how America can recover and retain a leadership role in the world.  The road map starts with America righting its own ship of state by being a good example of democracy.  If one accepts Fukuyama’s theory, America should support outside countries efforts to become independent democracies.

REINCARNATION HUMOR

Mo Yan chooses to use reincarnation to bind China’s twentieth century history together. The choice of reincarnation adds humor but suggests something more than laughs.

Audio-book Review

By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Life and Death are Wearing Me Out

By Mo Yan (Translated by Howard Goldblatt)

Narrated by Feodor Chin

HOWARD GOLDBLATT (TRANSLATOR OF MO YAN CLASSIC)

HOWARD GOLDBLATT (TRANSLATOR OF MO YAN CLASSIC)

Cultural understanding is missing from Howard Goldblatt’s translation of Mo Yan’s “Life and Death are Wearing Me Out”.  Mo Yan chooses to use reincarnation to bind China’s twentieth century history together. The choice of reincarnation adds humor but suggests something more than laughs. 

MO YAN

Author, Mo Yan

The story begins with a murdered man who comes back as a donkey, then as an ox, a pig, a dog, and finally as another man—funny, but is there rhyme or reason in the order?

China becomes communist in the 1940s under the leadership of Mao Zedong.  Communism seeks re-distribution of private land into cooperatives to benefit the many at the expense of the few.  Mo Yan’s story begins with China’s communist revolution and the unjust murder and confiscation of a landowner’s farm.

The murdered landowner is Ximen Nao.  After death, Ximen Nao falls into an imagined purgatory to, presumably, be cleansed of his sins.  Despite severe torture, Ximen Nao refuses purgatory’s judgment of his sin.  In consequence, or happenstance, he is reincarnated as a donkey.  The twist in his reincarnation is that he remembers his former life.  Returning to life as a donkey, he meets former employees, a wife, two mistresses, and his children.

DONKEY

During the Communist revolution, Ximen Nao is murdered.  After death, Ximen Nao falls into an imagined purgatory to, presumably, be cleansed of his sins.  Despite severe torture, Ximen Nao refuses purgatory’s judgment of his sin.  In consequence, or happenstance, he is reincarnated as a donkey.

Ximen Nao, as a donkey, returns to his homeland and finds that his former employee has married one of his mistresses and is farming 6 acres of his confiscated land.  Ximen Nao, the reincarnated donkey, gains a grudging respect for his former employee because the employee steadfastly resists public ownership (being part of the communist co-op) of property and insists on being an independent farmer.  (Communist China’s law allows a farmer to be independent of a cooperative if they choose to work the land themselves.)

The former employee and his new wife become emotionally attached to the donkey because they believe it is a reincarnation of an important person in their lives.  (Later, Ximen Nao’s wife consciously acknowledges that the donkey is a reincarnation of her husband.) The independent farmer and his wife cherish the donkey’s existence and its aid in farming the land.  Several incidents involving the donkey reflect on life in China during Mao Zedong’s reign.

Mo Yan straddles acceptance and rejection of communism and China’s current form of capitalism.  His story skewers both political systems.  In Mo Yan’s story, communism and its belief in public ownership are defeated by human nature’s drive for independence.  The independent farmer lives through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and witnesses the return of a capitalist form of property ownership.  Mo Yan denigrates communism’s intrusion in family affairs and how it turns son against father, brother against brother, and compels women to choose between family and a communist’ collective way of life.

CAPITALISM-COMMUNISM

Mo Yan straddles acceptance and rejection of communism and China’s current form of capitalism.  His story skewers both political systems.

Capitalism and its belief in unfettered freedom are also ridiculed. Mo Yan characterizes capitalism in a story about the lives of spoiled youth.  Youth that live off their family’s wealth; living for adventure; denigrating love, productive work, and respect for tradition and family. 

PROFLIGACY

Mo Yan shows how singular pursuit of wealth corrupts morality; how leisure becomes more important than caring for others or working for human improvement.

Is there some significance in the order of Ximen Nao’s reincarnations?  Ximen Nao is first reincarnated as a donkey, then as an ox, then as a pig, then as a dog, and finally as another man.  It is a clever way of observing history through the prism of different animal’s lives.  It also makes one wonder about humankind’s ethnocentricity and failure to respect all living things.

Most importantly –It makes one wonder where these two Presidents are taking their countries.

Finding the right balance in life is an overriding theme in Mo Yan’s story.  As the inscription on the temple of Apollo at Delphi suggests, “Nothing in excess”; Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and many others have suggested moderation in all things. Mo Yan suggests that both Chinese communism and capitalism fail to offer the right balance in life.

SUDAN’S RELEVANCE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

What Is the What

By: Dave Eggers

Narrated by Dion Graham

As Ronald Reagan famously said in his successful campaign against Jimmy Carter, “There you go again”.

Dave Eggers writes another book about a tragic human event. However, Eggers avoids character controversy like that which followed “Zeitoun”, a story about the Katrina disaster.

Eggers classifies “What Is the What” as a novel, without any claim to source-vetted facts or the integrity of its primary character.

SUDAN IN THE WORLD

SUDAN IN THE WORLD 

“What Is the What” is about Sudan and its 20th century genocidal history. This is a story of the complex religious, ethnic, and moral conflict that exists in Sudan and in all nations peopled by extremes of wealth and poverty.

“What Is the What” is a tautology exemplified by a story of one who has something, knows it, and another that has nothing, and knows not why. 

Valentino Achak Deng, the hero of Eggar’s story, tells of his father. Achak’s father explains the story of “What is the What”.

God offers man a choice of cows or something called the What.  God asks, “Do you want the cows or the What? 

But, man asks, “What is the What”?  God says, “The What is for you to decide.” 

Achak’s father explains that with cows a man has something; he learns how to care for something; becomes a good caretaker of a life-sustaining something, but a man who has no cows has nothing, learns nothing about caring; and only becomes a taker of other’s something.

By mixing truth with fiction, Eggers cleverly reveals the story of Sudan’s “lost boys”, refugees from the murderous regime of President Al-Bashir in Sudan.  At every turn, Achak is faced with hard choices. 

Omar Al-Bashir is deposed in April 2019 after almost 30 years in power.

Omar Al-Bashir, a Muslim Sudanese military leader who becomes President, releases dogs of war by condoning the rape and pillage of indigenous Sudanese by Muslim extremists.  It is partly a religious war of Muslims against Christians but, more fundamentally, it is about greed.

Greed is engendered by oil reserves found in southern Sudan in 1978.  Bashir strikes a match that ignites a guerrilla war.  Eggers reveals the consequence of that war in the story of Achak, one of thousands of lost boys that fled Sudan when their parents were robbed, raped, and murdered.  Bashir’s intent was to rid Sudan of an ethnic minority that held lands in southern Sudan.

Eggers cleverly begins his story with Achak being robbed in Atlanta, Georgia.  But, this is America; not Sudan.

Robbers knock on Achak’s door with a request to use his telephone.  Achak is pistol whipped, tied, and trapped in his apartment while his and his roommate’s goods are stolen.

There is much to be taken from the apartment.  The robbers leave a young boy to guard Achak while they leave to get a larger vehicle to remove the stolen goods.

SUDAN'S LOST BOYS

Achak identifies with the young boy.  Achak recalls his life in Sudan and his escape to America; i.e.the  land of the free; the land of opportunity.  Achak sees the young boy as himself, victimized by life’s circumstances, hardened by poverty, and mired in the “What” (the takers of other’s something).

Eggers continues to juxtapose the consequence of poverty and powerlessness in Atlanta with Achak’s experience in Sudan. Achak’s roommate returns to the apartment to find Achak tied and gagged in an emptied apartment.  He releases Achak.

They call the police to report the robbery and assault.  An officer arrives to investigate.  The police officer listens, takes brief notes, offers no hope for the victims, and leaves; i.e., just another case of poor people being victimized by poor people.

The episode reminds one of the Sudanese government’s abandonment of the “lost boys”.  They are citizens governed by leaders who look to rule-of-law for the rich, and powerful; not the  poor and powerless.  They are leaders of the “what” (takers of other’s something); rather than leaders of all citizens.

Crowded emergency room waiting area.

Achak has been injured in the robbery.  He goes to a hospital emergency room for help.  Achak waits for nine hours to be seen by a radiologist.  He presumes it is because he has no insurance but it is really because he has no power. 

He has enough money to pay for treatment but without insurance, this emergency room puts Achak on a “when we can get around to it” list.  The doctor who can read the radiology film is not due for another three hours; presumably when his regular work day begins.  Achak waits for eleven hours and finally decides to leave.  It is 3:00 am and he has to be at work at 5:30 am.

As Achak waits for the doctor he remembers his experience in Sudan.  When the Muslim extremists first attack his village, many boys of his village, and surrounding villages are orphaned.  These orphans have nowhere to go.  By plan or circumstance the lost boys are assembled by a leader who has the outward-appearing objective of protecting the children.  The reality of the “what” (takers of other’s something) raises its head when the children are recruited by this leader for the “red army” of South Sudan (aka SPLA or Sudan People’s Liberation Army).

SUDAN'S BOY ARMY

The reality of the “what” (takers of other’s something) raises its head when Sudanese children are recruited by this leader for the “red army” of South Sudan (aka SPLA or Sudan People’s Liberation Army).

SUDAN'S 700 MILE WALK

These are boys of 8, 9, 10, 11 years of age.  This army-of-recruits begins a march from South Sudan to Ethiopia, a journey of over 700 miles, gathering more orphans as they travel across Sudan.  Along the way, they become food for lions, and crocodiles; they are reviled as outsiders by frightened villagers and, unbeknownst to Achak and many of the boys—they are meant to become seeds of a revolution to overthrow Al-Bashir’s repressive government.  These children are to be educated and trained in Ethiopia to fight for the independence of South Sudan.  They are led by leaders of the “what” (takers of other’s something).

The lost boys are victims of believers in the “what”.  Achak and other Sudanese’ refugees walk, run, and swim a river to arrive in Kenya, hundreds of miles south of Ethiopia.  Some Sudanese were shot by Ethiopians; some were eaten by crocodiles; some died from disease and starvation.

KENYA'S REFUGEE CAMP

Then, in 1991, Ethiopia’s government changes.  The lost boys, a part of an estimated 20,000 Sudanese’ refugees, are forcibly ejected by the new government.

The Sudanese’ refugees arrive in Kakuma, Kenya.  Achak says Kakuma is a Swahili word for “nowhere”.  In 1992, it becomes home to an estimated 138,000 refugees who fled from several different warring African nations.  The SPLA remains a part of the refugee camp but their recruiting activity is mitigated in this new environment.  The camp is somewhat better organized but meals are limited to one per day with disease and wild animals as ever-present dangers.  Education classes are supported by Kenya, Japan, and the United Nations to help refugees manage themselves and escape their past.

Achak survives these ordeals and reflects on his unhappiness in Atlanta, Georgia.  Achak clearly acknowledges how much better living in America is than living in Africa. However, Achak makes the wry suggestion that Sudanese settlement in America changed his countrymen from abusers to killers of their women.

He suggests Sudanese killing of their women is because of freedom.  He explains freedom exercised by women in America is missing in Sudan.  In Sudan, Sudanese women would not think of doing something contrary to wishes of their husbands.  Achak infers Sudanese women adapt to freedom while Sudanese men feel emasculated.  The emasculation leads to deadly force in Sudanese families; a deadly force that includes murder of wives or girlfriends and suicide by male companions.

AMERICAN DREAM

Eggers successfully and artistically reveals the tragedy of Sudan.  Cultural and religious conflict in the world and American freedom are called into question.  The cultural belief of parts of the Middle East, Africa, and America drive Achak from nation to nation.  Achak, despite misgivings, appears to love America.  But, American democracy is no utopia. Achak realizes no system of government is perfect.  His ambition is to educate himself and his home country.  Achak realizes education is the key to a life well lived.

What is the What?  Ironically, it is more than cows; it is education that combats cultural ignorance and celebrates freedom and equal opportunity for all.

Eggers story implies America needs to re-think its policy on immigration.  We are a nation of immigrants.  Achak’s story highlights what is wrong with America and other parts of the world.  But it also shows the “what” (“the ‘what’ that is for you to decide”) can be made better because it is more than cows.

BROKEN TRUST

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Written by: Jill Leovy

Narration by:  Rebecca Lowman

JILL LEOVY (AUTHOR)

JILL LEOVY (AUTHOR)

Broken families, broken hearts, but most of all, broken trust are described in Jill Leovy’s book, “Ghettoside”.

Leovy’s “true story”, somewhat surprisingly, deals mostly with the relationship between Black communities and local law enforcement in an area known as South Central Los Angeles. The surprise in the story is that the 2000 census shows 87.2% of the population of South Central Los Angeles is Latino–only 10.1% is Black; the remainder white, Asian, or other.

SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES (51 SQUARE MILES, 25 NEIGHBORHOODS)

SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES (51 SQUARE MILES, 25 NEIGHBORHOODS)

The 2000 census shows of 49,728 people live on 2.55 square miles of land, made up of nine communities.  One presumes Leovy chooses the relationship between Blacks and the police because it fits the particular facts of her story.

Food distribution as a result of Covid19 and unemployment.

It seems fair to suggest broken families, hearts, and trust are equally true for Latin South Central Los Angeles families because poverty and gang violence are common denominators of its residents.

EXTREMES OF AMERICAN GOVERNANCE

Though Leovy’s story is not about poverty, “Ghettoside” (a coined word for ethnic groups killing themselves) is partly related to poorly regulated capitalism; just as genocide is partly related to totalitarianism.  The poor in American cities have few legal means of escape.

Exploring Exotic Hong Kong

“Ghettoside” appears most obviously in modern cities because of population concentration.  The poor have few available living-wage jobs.  The poor congregate in run down inner-city neighborhoods because that is all they can afford.

Decent education is a cost without immediate benefit; i.e. robbery, extortion, prostitution, and other illegal activities provide gainful employment, put food on the table, and pay the rent.  On-job-training is provided by street gang activities.

Violence provides “street-cred” and gang affiliation provides power.  Money, power, and prestige, the hallmarks of capitalism, are as coveted by the poor as the middle class and rich.

GANGS IN SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES

GANGS IN SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES  (A son rejects the gang culture but, like all teenagers, craves his own identity.  He ignores gang-culture rules of living in South Central.  Standing on a corner, with a hat that is the wrong color, he is shot in the head by another teenager that presumes gang affiliation.)

This story about South Central is primarily told from the perspective of the police department.  Leovy tells the “true story” of a black South Central Los Angeles’ cop who works and lives in a South Central L.A.’ community.  He is an exception to the rule of most South Central policemen because he lives in the neighborhood he polices.  He is an excellent homicide detective, who works hard to solve crimes in a city he loves.  He raises a family that exemplifies the American dream.  He comes from a lower middle class family, marries a Costa Rican wife while in the marines, and returns to South Central to become a cop.  They raise three children; two younger children went to college while the oldest struggled in school.  With extra effort, the oldest finishes high school.  He is not interested in college but is a conscientious, hardworking young man; much like his father.  The oldest son rejects the gang culture but, like all teenagers, craves his own identity.  He ignores gang-culture rules of living in South Central.  Standing on a corner, with a hat that is the wrong color, he is shot in the head by another teenager that presumes gang affiliation.

LAPD IN SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES

LAPD IN SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES (Leovy explores police department reaction to inner-city homicide to reveal how good cops are overwhelmed by a culture that victimizes itself.)

Leovy explores police department reaction to inner-city homicide to reveal how good cops are overwhelmed by a culture that victimizes itself.  As the story unfolds, the police officers’ oldest son dies.  The investigation is turned over to a different department that initially fails to solve the crime; not because of lack of effort but because of a bureaucratic way of conducting the investigation.  The officer in charge is a meticulous detective but the record of his investigation shows he repeatedly knocks on doors of possible witnesses without actually making contact.  The effort is duly noted in the “murder book” but no new evidence is found.  A new officer is assigned to the case that is equally organized but pursues witnesses until he finds them.  A record of attempted contacts is not acceptable to this detective.

POLICE INTERROGATION

Leovy provides detail of the new officer’s interrogation of a suspect that rivals the skill of the investigator of Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s classic fictional story of “Crime and Punishment”.

The interrogation description is a pleasure to listen to and a high commendation by Leovy for the investigating detective.  The case is solved but one is left with the feeling that justice is not done.  A young man, a teenager, is dead.  The killer is also a teenager.  When asked why he murdered the police officer’s son, he said he shot him with his eyes closed; he only did it because the officer’s son looked like he belonged to a rival gang, and, after all, he is Black, so who cares?

Leovy systematically reveals how difficult it is for a good police officer to keep up with the murder rate in South Central L.A.  Everything from budget cuts, to bureaucratic “cover your ass” investigation, to a culture that feeds on itself, makes a good policeman’s job un-doable.

POLICE MURDER INVESTIGATION

Leovy explains how Black families believe they do not matter to the police because murders do not get solved.

Police officers are faced with mistrust that makes solving murders less important than bureaucratic record keeping that shows they are working

no exit

“Ghettoside” is a picture of hell; i.e. a picture of broken families, broken hearts, and broken trust.

When trust between citizens and police is broken, witnesses will not cooperate because they fear reprisal from the accused. 

Ineffective police bureaucracy is compounded by officers that are not part of the community for which they are responsible.  The irony of that observation is made obvious in Leovy’s story of a good officer who lives in the community and has a son murdered for being part of the community.

Being a cop in South Central L.A. looks like the hell described in Sartre’s play, “No Exit”.  It is a play where three dead characters are locked in a room with no exit.  In Leovy’s story, there are the police, the citizens, and the perpetrators.  Sartre is saying “hell is other people” because each is perpetually viewed by the other as the worst part of themselves. 

ORGANIZED RELIGION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

Written by: David I. Kertzer

Narration by:  Stefan Rudnicki

DAVID KERTZER (AUTHOR, ANTHROPOLIGIST, PAUL DUPEE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, HISTORIAN SPECIALIZING IN ITALIAN STUDIES)

DAVID KERTZER (AUTHOR, ANTHROPOLIGIST, PAUL DUPEE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, HISTORIAN SPECIALIZING IN ITALIAN STUDIES)

David Kertzer reminds society that organized religion is only human.  Religions are subject to the goodness and sins of human nature.  Whether one believes in a Supreme Being or not, actions of organized religion are freighted with human error.

Kertzer is only one of many who have exposed the perfidy of organized religion.  His target, in “The Pope and Mussolini, is the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinal Ratti becomes Pope Pius XI during the ascension of European Fascism and Nazism in the 1920s and 30s.  Ratti is characterized as a pedantic, conservative, and sometimes bellicose Christian believer in the Roman Catholic Church.  As a religious pedant rather than trailblazer, Pope Pius XI focuses on returning Roman Catholicism to a former time of independence and influence.  No price appears too high; Pope Pius XI’s purchase price paves the way for state Fascism (total control of government and society) in Italy.

POPE PIUS XI (1857-1939)

POPE PIUS XI (1857-1939) Cardinal Ratti becomes Pope Pius XI.  Ratti is characterized as a pedantic, conservative, and sometimes bellicose Christian believer in the Roman Catholic Church.

Kertzer recounts early 19th century history of the Roman Catholic Church.  The secular government of Italy confiscates Church lands. That taking decimated Catholic wealth, restricted Popes to the Vatican grounds, and reduced Papal control of the Holy See.  More significantly, it reduced the church’s power to influence believers.  After 1860 and until the Lateran Treaty negotiated between Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, the Church is treated as a part of the state of Italy, subject to secular rule.

Pope Pius XI agrees to support the government of Benito Mussolini in 1929 in return for the creation of an independent Papal State in Rome.  Mussolini agrees to pay the church approximately $100 million for formally confiscated church land.  Pope Pius XI acquires for himself and future Popes the right of independent rule, religious interpretation, and Catholic dictation.  In return Mussolini gains the support of the Roman Catholic Church, the dissolution of Catholic political parties, and a title as II Duce, “The Leader” of Italy.   At the stroke of a pen, Mussolini becomes a hero of Italian Catholics (over 90% of the population) and the totalitarian leader of Italy.

BENITO MUSSOLINI (1883-1945, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY 1922-1943, LEADER OF NATIONAL FASCIST PARTY)

BENITO MUSSOLINI (1883-1945, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY 1922-1943, LEADER OF NATIONAL FASCIST PARTY)

Kertzer notes there are common goals for Mussolini and Pius XI in the Lateran treaty which separates church from state.  Both covet power.  Both dislike the idea of a Catholic party interfering with religious or state matters.  Both desire elimination of factional interference in government and religion; i.e. Mussolini’s Fascist control of government and the Pope’s control of Church doctrine.

Seeking sovereign independence of the Holy Sea. Pius XI becomes head of state of the smallest state in the world.  $100 million is paid to the church for confiscated land since 1860.

Pius XI is the first Pope to broadcast on radio in the early 1920s.  With the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Papal State is created; after 58 years of refusal to become part of Italy.  Prisoners in the Vatican before 1929, the Lateran Treaty required elimination of the Catholic Italian Popular Party, a political organization.

DAVID KERTZER “THE RELATIONSHIP OF BENITO MUSSOLINI AND POPE PIUS XI (1922-1939):

An unintended consequence was to reinforce Fascism in Italy.  With the ascension of Pope Pius the XII, the Nazi government is solidified.  The trade-off for the Roman Catholic church  is an increase in international influence.   At the same time, pagan worship of fascism by Church youth groups diminishes the church’s moral stature. 

POPE PIUS XII (1876-1958, FORMERLY CARDINAL PACELLI)

POPE PIUS XII (1876-1958, FORMERLY CARDINAL PACELLI)
Pope Pius XI refuses to excommunicate Hitler, Mussolini gravitates to Nazism, and Pius XII ignores Nazi atrocity.

The Lateran treaty is a slippery slope for both Nazi Germany and the Roman Catholic Church.  Mussolini and Pius XI are blinded by hubris and false piety.

BENITO MUSSOLINI HANGING BY HIS HEALS NEXT TO HIS MISTRESS

Mussolini is shot by his countrymen, hung by his heals for destroying people’s freedom, and losing a war that compromised and betrayed his county.  Pius XI compromises his morals and paves the way for Pius XII, a closet Christian anti-Semite, who becomes a Hitler’ stooge by tacitly endorsing the immorality of belief in ethnic purity.

The closing years of Pius XI’s reign is marked by a closer association with democracies as the Western nations and the Vatican found both were threatened by totalitarian regimes and ideologies of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.  However, with Pius XI’s death and ascension of Pope Pius XII, distinction between totalitarianism and democracy diminishes.

Pope Pius XII—Hitler’s Pope.  FORMER CARDINAL PACELLI Hitler and the roman catholic church: <iframe width=”854″ height=”510″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/2x_MdS88qr8&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

***IRONIC SPEECH  POPE PIUS XII SPEAKING ENGLISH TO TROOPS WHO LIBERATED ROME:

Kertzer offers insight to what really happened in Italy in the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s but the story resonates with all organized religions.  Jewish isolation of Palestinians, ISIL’s attempt to resurrect the Caliphate, Muslim repression of Kurds, Taliban Muslim cruelty in Afghanistan, Chinese suppression of Uighurs, and Protestant proselytizing around the world are cut from the same flawed fabric; i.e. the flawed fabric of human interpretation of humanly manufactured texts and religions. 

RELIGIOUS BELIEF

In the name of God, organized religion’s killings continue.  If there is a God, he/she is not evil; i.e. only humans are evil.

MASOCHIST’S GUIDE TO AFRICA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough
(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

A PRIMATE'S MEMOIR

3 star symbol
Written by: Robert M. Sapolsky

Narration by: Mike Chamberlain

ROBERT SAPOLSKY (AMERICAN NEUROENDOCRINOLGIST, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, NEUROSCIENCE, AND NEUROSURGERY AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY)
ROBERT SAPOLSKY (AMERICAN NEURO-ENDOCRINOLGIST, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, NEUROSCIENCE, AND NEUROSURGERY AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY)

Robert Sapolsky’s “A Primates Memoir” is a masochist’s guide to Africa. (Our 2017 trip to Africa was luxurious in comparison.)  Sapolsky’s trip is what you would expect from a biological anthropologist who sojourns to Africa in the early 80s.  Sapolsky lives in a tent while studying baboons.

AFRICA JULY 2017_7695.JPG
Our stay in Africa is luxurious in comparison to Sapolsky’s in the 1980s.

At the age of 12, Sapolsky appears to know what he wants from life. In his middle-school years, he begins studying Swahili, the primary language of Southeast Africa.

Sapolsky’s career is aimed at understanding Southeast Africa.  Sapolsky’s 1984 PhD. thesis is titled “The Neuro-endocrinology of Stress and Aging”. Presumably, his trip to Africa became the basis for his academic thesis. Sapolsky’s experience in Africa is recounted in “A Primate’s Memoir”.

AFRICA JULY 2017_8101.JPG
Animal preserve in Southeast Africa

While studying Baboons, Sapolsky is exposed to the worst of African society. His memoir of those years touches on the aftermath of Africa’s colonization, Africa’s ubiquitous diseases, its governments’ instability, and its abundant and frequently poached wildlife.

SOUTHEAST AFRICA
SOUTHEAST AFRICA

Robert Mugabe (President of Zimbabwe)
Robert Mugabe (Former President of Zimbabwe)

JACOB ZUMA (FORMER PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA)
JACOB ZUMA (FORMER PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA)

Though some of what Sapolsky writes has  changed, today’s news shows characters like Robert Mugabe, and Jacob Zuma, who are accused of victimizing the poor to enrich themselves.

Some African, and other nation-state leaders around the world, are corrupt.  Many Southeastern African bureaucrats, foreign business moguls, indigenous apartheid promoters, and wildlife exploiters still walk, drive, and bump down streets and dirt trails of this spectacular continent.

Self-interest often conflicts with general economic growth and stability.  Today’s Southeast Africa is great for tourism (one of the three biggest industries) but the poor remain poor, the rich richer, and the middle class nearly non-existent.

AFRICA JULY 2017_7219.JPG
Today’s Southeast Africa is great for tourism (one of the three biggest industries) but the poor remain poor, the rich richer, and the middle class nearly non-existent.

Sapolsky returns to Africa after marrying. He squires his science and marriage partner to revisit a baboon troop he was studying in the 1980s. At the same time, he touches on the cultural norms of a society that seems little changed from his early years in Africa.

Sapolsky recounts the melding of a tragi-comic story of an African who is mauled by a Hyena. In telling the story, he reveals the stoic acceptance of life as it is. However, each time the story of the mauling is told by different people, it changes. The change comes from a blend of truth and fiction that conforms to the tellers’ view of themselves. The essence of the story is that an African man sleeping in a tent is mauled by a Hyena looking for food.

CHANGING STORY
Re-telling of an African story changes with each narration–The change comes from a blend of truth and fiction that conforms to the tellers’ view of themselves..

When the story is told by Masai warriors hired by a company to protect its employees, the victim is saved when the Hyena is speared by the Masai warrior’s courage. When the story is told by the victim, it is a company cook who bashes the Hyena that runs away. When the story is told by a newspaper reporter, the Masai warriors were drunk and not doing their job; the cook bashed the Hyena, and the victim survived. When the story is told by the cook, the victim’s yell brings the cook to the tent; the cook grabs a rock, bashes the Hyena, and the Hyena flees. Finally, when the story is told by the company employer, the victim is not an employee, the Mesai warriors did spear the Hyena, and the employer had no responsibility for the victim.

A cultural interpretation is inferred by these many versions of the same story. Some humans indulge in alcohol to escape reality. Most humans wish to protect an idealized version of their existence. News coverage is sometimes a mix of truth and fiction to make stories more interesting than accurate.

Life is happenstance with each human dealing with its consequence as an end or beginning that either defines, or extends their understanding of life. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. Some people are willing to risk their lives for others. Private companies focus on maximizing profit and minimizing responsibility.  Life is not an either/or proposition despite Kierkegaard’s philosophy.  Humans are good and bad; no one is totally one or the other–not even America’s morally corrupt and ethically challenged leader.

BABOONS
Sapolsky shows that baboon families, like all families, are born, mature, and die within a framework of psychological and physical challenges imbued by culture. All lives face challenge but culture can ameliorate or magnify the intensity and consequence of the challenge.

The overlay of Sapolsky’s memoir is the research and reported evolution of a baboon family in Southeast Africa. He shows that baboon families, like all families, are born, mature, and die within a framework of psychological and physical challenges imbued by culture. All lives face challenge but culture can ameliorate or magnify the intensity and consequence of the challenge.

Sapolsky gives the example of Kenyan “crazy” people who are hospitalized, treated, and fed to deal with their life circumstance. In America, it seems “crazy” people are left to the street. The inference is that Kenyan “crazy” people live a less stressful life than American “crazy” people. This is a positive view of Kenyan culture but there are ample negative views in Sapolsky’s memoir. Rampant poverty, malnutrition, and abysmal medical treatment are Sapolsky’s recollected examples.

Sapolsky’s memoir shows he clearly lives an unconventional life, but it seems a life of purpose. What more is there?