May 16th 2014

The Fire Next Time

by Colm Herron

Colm Herron's first writing career began at the age of seven when he stitched together his vampire stories on his big sister’s Singer sewing machine and sold them to classmates for a penny a piece. He was in business. Two years later he was telling cliff-hangers to the ne’er-do-wells in the local gambling hall. Colm’s abiding memory is that these wasters seemed to enjoy this weekly break from misspending their lives. When he was fifteen he had a play on BBC and later brought his short stories to Brian Friel, an emerging playwright. Friel said “Great. This stuff’s better than what I wrote at your age." But Colm was unimpressed and thought “This guy’s going nowhere. I don’t know why I came to him at all." So Colm gave up writing, deciding to live instead. Meanwhile Friel took off and, while his plays were showing worldwide for the next thirty years,stories were kicking and turning in Colm’s head. But they still weren’t ready to come out. Till twelve years ago, that is, when he said to himself “OK, I’ve lived. Maybe it’s time to do the other thing." Thus began his second writing career. And his latest novel The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next) has just been published by Nuascéalta Teoranta.

Who said these words? “You just don’t invade another country on a phony pretext in order to assert your interests.”

Was it Ambassador Joseph Wilson, former U.S. chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, who resigned from the Foreign Service in 2003 questioning the need for another war in Iraq? Or was it Glenda Jackson, prominent member of the British Labour party and former movie star and stage actress, at the onset of the Bush/Blair war?

Neither. It was John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press in March of this year. He went on to say (with regard to Vladimir Putin’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula): “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century.”

And this is the John Kerry who voted for the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, an invasion which resulted in between 400 000 and a million deaths depending on what survey you consult. In addition to this and the untold number of people maimed there were up to five million refugees and internally displaced. There are now at least 4.5 million orphans in Iraq, six hundred thousand of whom are living in the streets.

This out of a total population of 30 million.

Not for the first time I despair of U.S. politicians, especially those charged with responsibility for foreign affairs. As Marcus Papadopoulos, commentator for ‘Politics First’ recently told RT the Russian English language news channel: “Since when does the United States government genuinely subscribe to and defend the concept of sovereignty and territorial integrity? They certainly are not doing that at the moment in Syria. They certainly did not do that when they attacked Libya. They certainly didn’t do that when they invaded Iraq. They certainly didn’t do that when they attacked Serbia over Kosovo and then later on recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. The United States government merely pays lip service to sovereignty and territorial integrity, it picks and chooses.”

He’s right of course. The U.S. is the biggest cherry-picker in the business. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So what gives America the right to be involved in the Russia Ukraine business at all? Nothing, except what they see as their manifest destiny. And what is manifest destiny? you may ask. Well, it is difficult to answer that question without coming across as absurd. Manifest destiny is the conviction that they (white Americans) have approval from God Himself to invade any country they want if it is for America’s good. Its origin is found in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, the first American military conflict fought entirely on foreign soil. American victory and the subsequent treaty gained three quarters of a million square miles for America. That’s a hell of a lot of territory and its acquisition served as a kind of model for what was to come.

On the matter of U.S. adventures and adventurism Professor Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, has this to say:

“The American public still for the most part has no idea what the United States did to that country [Iraq], and until we Americans take responsibility for the harm we do others with our perpetual wars, we can never recover from our war sickness, which drives us to resort to violence in international affairs in a way no other democracy routinely does.”

And now it’s Ukraine. Last December Senator John McCain vowed U.S. support as he dined with the leader of the far right Svoboda party which was at the heart of protests to unseat the then president Viktor Yanukovych. U.S. Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland paid three visits there in the space of five weeks in her efforts to rally the coup leaders. Joe Biden flew in with more moral backing. After the coup Barack Obama described the interim government there as “duly elected” (What is this? Some kind of doublethink? No, it’s a barefaced lie) and warned Vladimir Putin that the U.S. can “calibrate our response” based on whether Russia chooses “to escalate or to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.” The question is, who is doing the escalating? The U.S. has put into place in Ukraine what it calls a “security structure”, i.e. units from the CIA and FBI. Why are they there?

But what is this all about and how did it happen? Was it EU mismanagement of negotiations with the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych last year when they failed to offer a financial package substantial enough to rescue him from his Russian debtors?  Was it the EU’s half-witted insistence that a close relationship with Brussels must exclude a close relationship with Moscow? Or was it Vladimir Putin’s fear that the EU’s demands were actually tied in with NATO’s eastward march that might sooner or later rob Russia of its vitally important neighbour, the last buffer state bordering Russia?  Could it have been his apprehension that any sign of weakness on his part might well usher in an end to his oligarchic nationalistic rule? No one should underestimate the Russian leader’s determination to hold onto power and to restore his country to its former greatness.

In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Big Brother oversaw perpetual wars among the superstates of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. By this means he controlled the minds of his people and thus sustained his popularity. At this moment in time the U.S. is locked in a deadly symbiotic embrace with arms manufacturers while conducting what they call “special operations” in 124 countries. These “special operations” are in fact secret wars. In Orwell’s novel Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia had emerged from an atomic global war. The fact that the U.S. is now taking on Russia should bring the American people – and the rest of us – to the realization that the nuclear holocaust may be closer than any of us feared.       



In the picture the author Colm Herron as portrayed by his daughter Nuala Herron. For her web site please click here.




     

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Dec 13th 2021
EXTRACT: " We all know that Father Christmas would struggle to deliver presents to everyone around the world without the help of his magical reindeer. But why were they chosen to pull the sleigh rather than any other animal? It turns out that the biology of reindeer makes them ideal for the job. Here are five reasons why."
Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Planting more forests is a potent tool for mitigating the climate crisis, but forests are like complex machines with millions of parts. Tree planting can cause ecological damage when carried out poorly, particularly if there is no commitment to diversity of planting. Following Darwin’s thinking, there is growing awareness that the best, healthiest forests are ones with the greatest variety of trees - and trees of various ages."
Nov 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "At a time when the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is so intense, if not fateful for the future of democracies, NATO and the EU must warn these countries [Editor's note: Poland and Hungary, EU and NATO, Turkey NATO] that they are on the precipice of being kicked out if they do not change their governing practice. They must be required to restore the principles of democracy by upholding universal human rights and abiding the rule of law, or else they will forfeit their membership and suffer from the consequences of their crimes." ------ "A narcissistic leader, such as Trump, whose hunger for power seems to know no limit, has happily sacrificed the good of the country on the altar of his twisted ego. America’s democracy cannot be repaired unless he and those who helped him are held accountable and face the weight of the law."
Nov 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many people who go through intense trauma, for example, become deeper and stronger than they were before. They may even undergo a sudden and radical transformation that makes life more meaningful and fulfilling. Indeed, research shows that between half and one-third of all people experience significant personal development after traumatic events, such as bereavement, serious illness, accidents or divorce. Over time, they may feel a new sense of inner strength and confidence and gratitude for life and other people. They may develop more intimate and authentic relationships and have a wider perspective, with a clear sense of what is important in life and what isn’t. In psychology, this is referred to as “post-traumatic growth”. "
Nov 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Notably, Murdoch thinks that really knowing or understanding another person is a difficult task: “It is a task to come to see the world as it is”. According to the Freudian psychology Murdoch subscribes to in The Sovereignty of Good, humans are prone to “fantasy” – refusing to face the truth because it can damage our fragile egos."
Nov 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "People do not believe false information because they are ignorant. There are many factors at work, but most researchers would agree that the belief in misinformation has little to do with the amount of knowledge a person possesses. Misinformation is a prime example of motivated reasoning. People tend to arrive at the conclusions they want to reach as long as they can construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these outcomes."
Oct 28th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Brood with me on the latest delay of the full release of the records pertaining to the murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. That was 58 years ago." -----"Mark my words: ...... No one who remembers 1963 will live to see the US government admit the full truth about Kennedy’s murder. And the American people’s faith in democracy will continue to fade. There is only one way to prevent this, and that is to release every record, withholding nothing – and to do it now."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "..... we may defy the warnings of modern medicine, convinced of our own superiority. Researchers at the University of Chicago Divinity School reported half of their participants, all of whom indicated some religious affiliation, agreed with the statement “God will protect me from being infected”. To cope with our dread of death, we delude ourselves into thinking we are invincible: death might happen to other people, but not to me."
Oct 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch is about the final issue of a magazine that specialises in long-form articles about the goings-on in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The film is an anthology of shorts representing three of the articles. A piece by the magazine’s art critic (Tilda Swinton) explores the life and late success of the abstract artist Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro). Talented from a young age, Rosenthaler pursued art with a dogged determination that drove him to slowly lose his mind." ---- "Like everything else, mental illness is understood within the context of its time. In their study of melancholy and genius Born Under Saturn, the art historians Margot and Rudolf Wittkower show how Renaissance artists embraced mental alienation. This was shown by a withdrawn, slothful gloom. Such heavy sadness was considered both the symptom and the price of divine inspiration." ---- "Today, the association of creativity and mental illness often implies regression from an adult and orderly state of mind to one that is primal, impulsive, or infantile. The artist in Anderson’s film is such an example: he is noisy, impetuous, and extravagantly mad. And it is while he is at his “maddest” that he paints his best work." ---- "Here I explore the work of four painters whose work has been shaped by various mental illnesses, highlighting how the idea of the “mad artist” need not be tied up with a loss of control but rather a bid to gain it."
Oct 21st 2021
EXTRACT: "So much of Succession holds a mirror to real life, and the way that Logan Roy’s hand-picked board members allowed these abuses to continue by turning a blind eye to them is a good example. We have just published research that shows that public companies whose directors are chosen by their CEOs are statistically more likely to be involved in corporate misconduct, along with various other shortcomings. So why does this happen, and what should be done about it? "
Oct 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah came to Britain in the 1960s as a refugee. Being of Arab origin, he was forced to flee his birthplace during the revolution of 1964 and only returned in 1984 in time to visit his dying father. Until his retirement, he was a full-time professor of English and postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury."
Oct 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "As the 25th James Bond film No Time to Die hits the cinemas, we are once again reminded of the way that disability is depicted negatively in Hollywood films. The new James Bond film features three villains, all of who have facial disfigurements (Blofeld, Safin and Primo). If you take a closer look at James Bond villains throughout history, the majority have facial disfigurements or physical impairments. This is in sharp contrast to the other characters, including James Bond, who are able-bodied and presented with no physical bodily differences. Indeed, many films still rely on outdated disability tropes, including Star Wars and various Disney classics. Rather than simply being part of a character’s identity, the physical difference is exploited and exaggerated to become a plot point and visual metaphor for villains" ----- "The British Film Institute (BFI) was the first organisation to sign up and has committed to stop funding films that feature negative representations depicted through scars or facial differences – a step in the right direction."
Oct 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "The trillions of microbes inside of our gut play many very important roles in our body. Not only does this “microbiome” regulate our metabolism and help us absorb nutrients from food into the body, it can also influence whether we are lean or obese."
Sep 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurised chamber. In the chamber, the air pressure is increased two to three times higher than normal air pressure. It is commonly used to treat decompression sickness (a condition scuba divers can suffer from), carbon monoxide poisoning,......" ---- "Blood flow to the brain is reduced in people with Alzheimer’s. This study showed increased blood flow to the brain in the mice receiving oxygen therapy, which helps with the clearance of plaques from the brain, and reduces inflammation – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s." ----- "The researchers then used these findings to assess the effectiveness of oxygen therapy in six people over the age of 65 with cognitive decline. They found that 60 sessions of oxygen therapy, over 90 days, increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain and significantly improved the patients’ cognitive abilities – improved memory, attention and information processing speed."
Sep 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "Hollywood for years called on Charles Boyer to typify one French look –  bedroom eyes, sly maneuverings, the dismissive look. A face of another type, the massive mug and narrow eyes of Charles de Gaulle, provides the same disdain of the foreigner but also a superiority based on his belief in his own destiny."
Sep 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "The burden of loneliness for older people is intimately connected to what they are alone with. As we reach the end of our lives, we frequently carry heavy burdens that have accumulated along the way, such as feelings of regret, betrayal and rejection. And the wounds from past relationships can haunt people all their lives."
Sep 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Gardens help restore the ability to concentrate on demanding tasks, providing the perfect space for a break when working from home in a pandemic. Natural things – such as trees, plants and water – are particularly easy on the eye and demand little mental effort to look at. Simply sitting in a garden is therefore relaxing and beneficial to mental wellbeing."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "Whether or not a person achieves remission, reducing blood sugar levels is important in managing the negative effects of type 2 diabetes and reducing risk of complications. But when it comes to choosing a diet, the most important thing is to pick one that suits you – one that you’re likely to stick to long term."
Aug 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "In our latest study, we show that by taking the microbiome from young mice and transplanting them into old mice, many of the effects of ageing on learning and memory and immune impairments can be reversed. Using a maze, we showed that this faecal microbiota transplant from young to old mice led to the old mice finding a hidden platform faster."
Aug 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Fukuyama argued that political struggle causes history. This struggle tries to solve the problem of thymos – an ancient Greek term referring to our desire to have our worth recognised. This desire can involve wanting to be recognised as equal to others. But it can also involve wanting to be recognised as superior to others. A stable political system needs to accommodate both desires." .... "Counter-dominant spite can weaken liberal democracies. During the 2016 Brexit referendum, some people in the UK voted Leave to spite elites, knowing this could damage the country’s economy. Similarly, during the 2016 US presidential election some voters supported Donald Trump to spite Hillary Clinton, knowing his election could harm the US. "