Militarism

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What does Gallipoli mean to us, and who says?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 5:31pm in

[First published in BWD magazine, autumn 2021, Braidwood NSW.]

The word Gallipoli evokes one of our most potent cultural stories, but in truth it is not one story but many. There are stories of sacrifice and national identity, but there are also stories of folly and destruction, and stories overlooked. We all, presumably, want to honour the fallen but there are those who, wittingly or otherwise, exploit the stories for other purposes. Can we have a conversation about these stories? Can we talk about which stories to keep, whether some might be corrected or discarded and others picked up?

On an obscure beach in Turkey many of our young men died in a battle that ended in disastrous defeat and withdrawal. More of our young men went on to fight and die in the trenches in Europe. They distinguished themselves as soldiers.

There were those in Australia who proclaimed those events to signify the birth of a nation, a uniting of the former colonies and perhaps a necessary ‘blooding’ to baptise us into the company of nations. That was the Anzac story I grew up with, but I never thought it rang true.

Behind that story was a fear of being seen as inferior colonials and of needing to erase the ‘convict stain’. There were also those who sought to advance themselves by serving British commercial interests.

In truth our young men were ‘good’ soldiers because of the country they grew up in, well fed and strong, with less class repression and free enough to develop initiative.

The story of that country is much richer and more enriching than one futile battle. It is a story of the inventiveness and perseverance of many people, and of the foresight, persistence and not a little wisdom of leaders in bringing several colonies together peacefully to create a vigorous and innovative nation. In 1913 Australia was already a distinctive presence among nations, leading (with the Kiwis) in giving the vote to all men, then women, in advocating a fair go for all and in providing a social safety net. Blacks, though, were not invited.

Many in the new nation still felt a strong loyalty to the mother country, but that was neither universal nor unqualified. Prime Minister Billie Hughes was a much more divisive figure than his predecessor, the steady Andrew Fisher. Twice he held referenda to authorise sending conscripts overseas and twice the proposal was rejected, amid bitter and divisive debate. Hughes was prominent in promoting the claim that Australia came of age on the beach at Gallipoli.

At the opening of the Australian War Memorial in 1941 the Governor General Lord Gowrie said the Memorial would be ‘… not only a record of the splendid achievements of the men who fought and fell … but also a reminder to future generations of the barbarity and futility of modern war’.

Australia suffered heavy casualties and incurred heavy debt in the Great War, both of which weighed heavily for decades. The shock and trauma smashed the optimistic and progressive pre-war mood. There followed the Great Depression then another great war. Since then have been various smaller wars and invasions of debatable merit.

Only in the second great war was Australia directly threatened. Prime Minister Curtin had to defy Churchill and Roosevelt to being our troops home to defend us. Churchill  and Roosevelt would have left us to our fate, perhaps to be liberated later from a potential invasion that would have been severely traumatic, as invasions are. We need to be careful about the faith we place in allies.

Since then our involvements in overseas wars have been questionable. The need to fight in Vietnam was vigorously debated, and anyway it was another disaster and defeat. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were based on a lie about weapons of mass destruction, with the functional goal being US military dominance and capture of oil fields. We were involved primarily to curry favour with the US, but the invasions were highly counter-productive and the reliability of the US as an ally is even more debatable.

We have lost soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more of them have died by their own hand after returning home. Now we have revelations of alleged atrocities committed by our own ‘special forces’. Such is the moral quagmire we and our soldiers can be placed in if the cause they fight for is not very clear, and clearly justified – if it ever can be.

The Government is now spending half a billion dollars to expand the War Memorial to include depictions of those dubious wars. They are accepting sponsorship from arms manufacturers, merchants of death. Can that be reconciled with the AWM’s role of reminding us of the ‘barbarity and futility of modern war’?

The Government spent around $400 million over four years ‘commemorating’ many centenaries of the Great War. How much of that was genuine honouring of the fallen? How much did the Government speak of barbarity? Of futility? They have spun a new fiction, that we fought alongside the US for democracy and freedom, when in fact we fought for empire and believed in White, especially British, superiority. How much of the Government’s message was thinly disguised glorification, or at least inuring us to yet more wars? Still following Uncle Sam, we now rattle our little sabres at Iran and China.

This Anzac Day, can we separate honouring the fallen from militarism? Do we need soldiers marching up the street and warplanes flying overhead?

What of those overlooked? Hundreds of women from across Europe and even from Australia courageously defied their governments and dominant public opinion to convene in The Hague in 1915 to devise strategies to stop the slaughter of their men. They formed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. They influenced the formation of the League of Nations and thence the United Nations. They continue today. Do we acknowledge them and support their efforts to stop the futile barbarism? Do we have a statue of them in the main street?

Then there are those who fought to defend Australia from actual invasion. Yes, the First Australians. They are here. We, the settlers, are here. Are we big enough, yet, to acknowledge what our forebears did to their forebears, to acknowledge their bravery and sacrifice?

We can travel freely to Turkey, Germany, Japan, North Vietnam (or could, pre-pandemic). The bitter animosities are gone, if not entirely forgotten. What was the point?

The post What does Gallipoli mean to us, and who says? first appeared on BetterNature Books.

America’s Longest War Winds Down

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/03/2021 - 5:24am in

No bang, no whimper, no victory. Continue reading

The post America’s Longest War Winds Down appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Washington’s Delusion of Endless World Dominion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 4:57am in

China and the U.S. Struggle over Eurasia, the Epicenter of World Power Continue reading

The post Washington’s Delusion of Endless World Dominion appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

On January 6th, the U.S. Became a Foreign Country

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 6:07am in

Just about everyone was shocked by what happened at the Capitol building on January 6th. But as a former soldier in America’s forever wars, horrifying as the scenes were, I also found what happened strangely familiar, almost inevitable. Continue reading

The post On January 6th, the U.S. Became a Foreign Country appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

History Debunked Refutes the Myth that James I was Black

More from the whackier end of racial politics. History Debunked has put up a number of videos refuting various assertions and myths promoted as Black history. One of his videos attacked the claim, seen in the Netflix interracial historical romance, Bridgerton, that Queen Caroline was Black. This has arisen from the fact that one of her ancestors was a 13th Spanish Moorish prince. But that was five hundred years before her birth, and so any biological trace of her non-White ancestry would have disappeared way back in her lineage. Apart from which, the Spanish Moors were Berbers and Arabs from North Africa. They were darker than Europeans – the term ‘blue-blooded’ for the aristocracy comes from the Christian Spanish nobility. Under their idea of limpieza de sangre, ‘blood purity’, the racial ideology that distinguished them from the Moors, their skin was supposed to be so pale that you could see the veins in the wrist. But the Moors were nevertheless lighter-skinned than the darker peoples south of the Sahara, in what the Arabs called Bilad as-Sudan and the Berbers Akal Nguiwen, ‘The Land of the Blacks’. Which I think shows that the Arabs and Berbers, dark as they were compared to Europeans, very clearly didn’t think of themselves as Black.

In this video Simon Webb debunks a similar myth, that James I of England/ VI of Scotland, was Black. This ahistorical idea apparently began with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a Black Jewish sect who believe that one of the lost tribes of Israel went to sub-Saharan Africa. Webb mentions that a group of them settled in Israel in the Negev. He uses this to try to refute the demand that Israel should open its borders by stating that Israel had taken in people of a number of different racial groups. They are now, for example, taking in people from India. It’s true that Israel has taken in refugees from Africa, but many of the groups they’ve accepted were Jews. In the 1970s they mounted a rescue operation to transport the Falashas, the Black Jews of Ethiopia, away from their oppression in that country to safety in Israel. My guess is that the Indians they’re accepting are also Jewish. There’s an indigenous Jewish community in India, the Bene Israel, and it sounds like some of them may be migrating. There is, however, considerable racism amongst White Israelis. Abby Martin covered this in some of her reports for The Empire Files on TeleSur, in which she interviewed Black Israelis about the abuse, including physical assault, they’d experience. Gentile African refugees, although present, are resented by many Israelis as ‘infiltrators’, the term they also use for Palestinians trying to return to the ancestral lands from which they were evicted during the Nakba, the term they use for foundation of Israel and their massacre and ethnic cleansing in 1947.

But back to the Black Hebrew Israelites and James I. The Black Hebrew Israelites believe that the Spanish Moors were Black, and that they went from Spain to colonise Ireland and Scotland. Which must be news to most Scots and Irish. Mary, Queen of Scots was mixed race, but Lord Darnley, James’ father, was fully Black and so was James. The English, however, were determined to erase any trace of this Black ancestry, and so embarked on a deliberately policy of intermarrying with the Black Scots and Irish in order to make them White, at the same time destroying all the contrary evidence that they were Black. Although this myth began with the Black Hebrew Israelites it has spread out from them into the wider Black community. To support his description of this bizarre myth, Webb on the YouTube page for the video has link to an article in the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Patriot, which proudly promotes this claim.

Was King James I of England black? – YouTube

The belief that the Spanish Moors were Black has formed the basis for an anti-White racist view of history. A few years ago the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, carried on its online edition a piece by a Black historian, Garikai Chengu. This claimed that the Moors were ‘obviously Black’, and their colonisation of Spain brought science and reason to a Europe then gripped by ignorance and superstition. There’s some basis for this in that the revival of science in the West began when Christian scholars acquired Arab and Islamic scientific texts from places such as Islamic Spain and Sicily after that was conquered by the Normans. However, it’s grotesquely exaggerated and is really just a piece of racial supremacist propaganda, albeit one by Blacks rather than Whites. I think it’s fair to see such Afrocentric views of history as a form of Fascism, including this myth that the Irish and Scots were also really Black. Some historians have no trouble describing certain Black political movements as forms of Fascism. One recent book by an academic historian not only includes the classic Fascist movements of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and various other White, European far right movements, but also Marcus Garvey’s Negro Improvement Association and the Nation of Islam, as well as Narendra Modi’s BJP in India. The inclusion of Marcus Garvey and his organisation may well offend many Black activists. Garvey is one of the pioneers of Black liberation. A month or so ago there was a Black celebrity writing in the pages of the Radio Times recommending that children should be taught about him in school. I really know very little about Garvey, but the claim that he was Fascistic rings true. When I was working as a volunteer in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol one of the jobs I was given was unpacking some of boxes of material given to the Museum by private individuals and institutions. One of these included a document by Garvey’s organisation. I didn’t do more than glance at it, but it appeared to be describing some kind of military parade or armed wing. This included women’s units and mechanised and mounted forces of various kinds. I don’t know if Garvey and his followers were ever able to set up such a paramilitary force or whether it was all a fantasy. But one of the features of Fascism is its militarism. The Nazis and Italian Fascists, not to mention the various other Fascist movements, all started out as paramilitary organisations complete with uniforms and arms.

Alongside the entirely reasonable demands for social and economic improvement and renewed action to combat White racism, the Black Lives Matter movement has also brought out and articulated strains of overt anti-White racism. One example of this was the attempt by Sasha Johnson, of the Oxford branch of the organisation, to set up her own paramilitary Black army in Brixton to protect Blacks from the cops, and her tweet that the White man wouldn’t be Blacks’ equal, but their slave. Which got her banned from the social media platform. I think there is a real need to start studying and publishing material specifically on Black racism and Fascism. At the moment, there appears to be very little, if any, books specifically published on it. If you search for ‘Black racism’ on Google, what comes up is articles and books on the attacks on affirmative action programmes by right-wing Whites. Way back in the ’90s and early parts of this century there was a book published on Black anti-White violence in America. This might be White Girl Bleed A Lot, which is a similar book. However, I’m not sure how academically respectable the latter is, as I think its author may have joined the extreme right. I can see many people on the left resisting any attempt to categorise and study various Black Fascist movements from the belief that, as Blacks have been oppressed in the West, and are still disadvantaged, it is unfair to characterise such movement as they arose in response to White racism and persecution.

But this does not change the nature of these movements and the racism and racist history they promote. Whatever their connections to the broader Black liberation movement, they’re still racist and Fascist themselves, and should be viewed as such. Fascism everywhere needs to be fought, regarded of race.

Crossfitting While Brown

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 4:19am in

I ‘CrossFitted.’ And I’m Brown. But I just didn’t CrossFit anywhere. I trained at CrossFit South Brooklyn (CFSBK). That is a crucial component of my “CrossFitting While Brown” experience. Being brown and chasing ‘elite fitness’ does not necessarily entail a conceptual clash between the two, but my personal insecurities and the cultural placement of CrossFit when I started at CFSBK back in 2009, ensured an internal discomfort that took some dispelling. CFSBK had a great deal to do with it.

Brown people, especially Indians, are not supposed to be athletic. We do not occupy such a place in the American imagination. The Indian immigrant has other stereotypes to conform to: the doctor, the systems analyst, the storekeeper, the motel owner, the taxi driver. He is typically skinny or just out of shape; he speaks with a comical ‘Apu accent’; he is better known for spelling bees; he does not play organized sports. I fulfill some components of the stereotypical Indian: I am a professor, I do math in my head, I talk about the books I read, I write books, I used to write computer code once; I’m a nerd; I fly my nerd flag proudly. I’m aware I’m not supposed to be strong or fast or athletic; those are not the images associated with ‘folks like me.’ I grew up with a legacy of athletic failure at both national and personal levels; it is how I view myself. My personal failure appeared embedded in a broader cultural failure ‘back home’; in my darkest moments, it became pure essentialism, driving me to find flaws in my genes. My sense of my body is very closely tied up with its failures. All of this suggested I did not belong in CrossFit, a place only for the very fit, the very strong, and dare I say it, at least back in 2009, the very white.

Then too, it was a time when I, as a brown man, thought better of my going to Crossfit because I had been warned about its ‘right-wing politics,’ its flirtations, or rather, its wholesale embrace of militarism and a problematic masculinity grounded in workouts that aspired to ‘fuck you up,’ ‘make you puke,’ and ultimately, like in those photographs that make the rounds, sprawled out on the floor in a puddle of sweat, ripped bodies heaving and gasping for breath. In post-911 America, to go to a gym dominated by hard white bodies, whose group photographs (those L1 certs!) and ‘CF main site’ pages were dominated by images of law enforcers (the guys who’ve never let me, and many others of a darker persuasion, feel at home in the US), or the military (which seemingly specialized in killing brown people with turbans, and which seemed to hate my wife’s Muslim community), just felt like a fraught decision. Still, I made the decision to sign up at CFSBK because I desperately needed to kickstart my fitness—and my associated downward headed head space—and because I trusted the woman friend who directed me to CFSBK.

I came to CFSBK with my baggage of being an unathletic brown man, one insecure about his bodily self-worth and about whether he belonged in its spaces. Once I began, every CrossFitting failure of mine, my failures to perform kipping pull-ups, handstand push-ups, or even the elementary forward roll, further slotted me into the category of athletic failures. My back injury, incurred a few weeks after I started at CFSBK, made it even worse. Perhaps I was not cut out for this ‘elite fitness’ business – genetically, culturally, ethnically. We are all racked by self-doubt and insecurity and a diminished personal image of ourselves (as Orwell once said, “every life, when viewed from the inside, is a series of small failures”); my insecurities were not any greater or any worse than others, they were decked out in a different form with a different affective content.

Every time I ‘failed,’ I felt I failed my entire demographic, a race, an entire people, and added one more datum point to the claim that brown men are unathletic. I would often wonder, “These folks must be shaking their head at this out-of-place brown dude, whose numbers are the lowest, his times the slowest.” It was a peculiar burden to carry, a weighty additional framing of what should have just been a workout. I did not want to be the sole representative of a large and varied group, but I found myself functioning as one—in my mind. I felt, keenly, that such was the spotlight turned on me. When I did ‘well’ in a workout, that is, I did not disgrace myself, I chalked another win up for my own, entirely personal, stereotype-dispelling project. (Variants of these exist in my other walks of life.) Every time I ‘did poorly’, I put one in the loss column. This was perhaps self-destructive, but it was an instinct, not something that I consciously took on.

This is a familiar tension for the immigrant, to be aware of the preconceptions that frame your presence in the spaces you frequent: you want your particularity to be noticed, but you also want to be ‘just like everyone else,’ to blend in, to not be noticed. When I stepped on to a CrossFit floor, I was aware of this fact. I was made aware of my identity when my lifting partners would ask me to repeat my name, when my accent made people ask me ‘where I’m from’ or insist I repeat a word which I had subjected to my idiosyncratic pronunciation. Sometimes the ƒQuestion of the Day would become fraught for that reason; I did not want to attract attention to myself, even as I sought to stand out with my own distinctive answers to questions like ‘what was your favorite television show growing up.’ (The real answer: live cricket games on other folks’ televisions; we didn’t have a TV till I hit eleven.)

But of course, my identity is not just that of a brown man or an immigrant. I’m a teacher, a writer, a metalhead and Deadhead, a pothead, a father, an immigrant, a New Yorker, a Giants and Yankees fan, and like so many others at CFSBK, just someone hoping to look better, feel better, live longer. These all found expression in CFSBK’s many, varied spaces. At CFSBK, I shared platforms with cops, Iraq war veterans, firefighters, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, teachers, photographers, management consultants, actors, comedians, with black, brown, and white (and many other skin toned) folks. I was given a nickname and made some very good friends; my back injury was accommodated, and even given personal attention! I found my peeps at CFSBK in more ways than one. I was welcomed in all the right ways; CFSBK peeps laughed at my stupid jokes, my endless drug references, my silly dancing, they cheered for me during workouts, they counted my reps, they cheered for big lifts at the Strength Cycle Total, they cheered whether I came last or first (never!); heck, CFSBK even picked me as Athlete of the Month.

Eleven years on, I do not have the bulging biceps or boulders in my shoulders that the male Crossfit ideal has; I do not have a six-pack, and have resigned myself to a three-months-of-good-diet-and-regular-workouts-will-give-me-my-dream-body state (where we all are, really.) I still do not qualify as a ‘firebreather’ or a ‘beast,’ I did not become a member of the ‘competition team,’ I’m not among the strongest or fastest older men at CFSBK. But none of that seemed to matter any more at CFSBK. I had friends, among coaches and members, and I found a space for expressing myself, both physically and emotionally. CrossFit South Brooklyn made me feel at home. Which, as those who leave ‘home’ will tell you, counts for a great deal.

It is important to note that my sense of belonging does not necessarily transfer to other CrossFit gyms. I do not CrossFit when I travel. Perhaps some traces of my earlier associations with CrossFit still linger on; a workout is a space in which I feel I’m putting my body on the line, and I like doing so around people I trust. CFSBK was that place. I came to CFSBK as an insecure brown man, and in some ways, I remain one. But if I grew out of that self-conception at all, Crossfit South Brooklyn, ‘the house that David built,’ had a great deal to do with it.