Geek Mythology

June 25, 2007

Amazing Grace

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 9:22 am

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I am reading a book called “Amazing Grace- The lives of children and the conscience of a nation” by an author called Jonathan Kozol. It is a book about children. Children who live in Mott Haven, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the South Bronx. I have almost never read anything that has moved me and at the same time disturbed me as this book has. Jonathan Kozol has with great care and sensitivity interviewed children living in this place that’s both crime ridden and run down. Most of these kids start off as being trusting and innocent but grow into becoming more and more disillusioned about their surroundings and hope for survival. The HIV and AIDS virus has really hit hard in these places and this is connected to the large amount of the population that abuse heroin. The heroin has such self-mocking names as “Jungle Fever”, “Black Sabbath”, “DOA”(dead on arrival), and “True Power”. Many of the children are born to addicted mothers, some of who are in jail, already contracting the disease in utero. First time mothers have an average age between 16 and 17, while grandmothers can be in their late thirties and great great grandmothers in their late 50s.

Its incredible how close Jonathan Kozol manages to come to these kids. They really take him in and open up their hearts. They share with him their stories. These stories are full of horrible and painful things that are so far from the realities that we experience here in modern day big city Stockholm. The segregation in these South Bronx neighborhoods is total, whether it’s the schools, hospitals, or prisons. And almost always the kids receive the short end of the stick. Children tell of how they see murders on the street, get attacked by rats, how some are killed or burned from household fires, how some eat cold oatmeal out of the box for dinner, many of the kids live with chronic asthma due to anxiety, others live with mothers dying of AIDS, and often have classrooms that are decrepit and completely rundown. There are less qualified doctors and teachers here than anywhere else in the state of New York. There have been major tax cuts in the city that have hit these citizens hardest. Like cuts in sanitation that has resulted in mountains of garbage lining up inside buildings drawing hordes of rats. Cuts in maintenance of buildings that leave elevators broken, often resulting in playing kids falling down the elevator shafts and dying. The police refer to some of the housing projects to as “death camps” because so many drug dealers and addicts dominate them. The tax cuts have also led to many social workers losing their jobs as well as closing of several youth centers that allow kids safe places to be while their parents work. Prostitution is also common among the women. Mostly serving the truck drivers who drive through the neighborhood to deliver goods to the Hunts Point market that is close. They turn tricks for 3 to 5 dollars that go to feeding their addictions. This happens all hours of the day and night, even when the children can see. Many times when the children or adults are asked how they manage to survive they mention their faith in god and heaven. That the place that they are in now is more reminiscent of hell, but this is not where they will end up.

As a theologian I cannot help but see this book as a strong wake up call. The gospels of the New Testament took the part of the poor, saying the last shall be first and the first shall be last. In the Christian nation of America that prints “In god we trust” on their coins-this is how they treat the poor. One priest who works in the South Bronx took a little kid with him when he had to drive to Queens to do some errands. There he took him to Burger King to eat. The kid had never been outside of the Bronx before. The priest later learned from the kid’s teacher that he wrote an essay in school about their lunch called “My trip to Burger King”-the same way a rich kid might write about a trip he made to Florida. Most of these kids never get any Christmas or birthday presents. They don’t even have their own rooms. Sleeping on sofas or on mattresses on the floor. One child says, “ it feels like I’m hidden”, and this is a good observation. Nobody wants to be reminded of what these children are going through. Therefore their stories are seldom, if ever, heard. This is why Jonathan Kozols book is so important. Only a short distance away just across 96th street lies the park avenue apartments that houses some of the wealthiest people in the nation, households with an average income of 300,000 dollars a year. Toward the end of the book the author talks to an old poet living in the Bronx and the start to discuss the Nazi holocaust and the concentration camps. How there are certain disturbing parallels to what happened then and whats happening now. How the outcasts and those human beings viewed as being “superfluous” are quarantined. “Its not the same” he says, “but there are some similarities. There is the feeling of eclipse. There is the likelihood of death for many. There is a sense of people watching from the outside but seeming paralyzed and doing nothing. And then there are the miracles.”

June 19, 2007

Biffen och Bananen

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 9:44 pm


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So I was at my sisters artshow on sunday. We saw her ceramic art together with a few artists at this real nice gallery in Närke. Before the show there was a church concert that was part of the “day of culture” package. So we went there and on the menu was a woman who was going to sing opera. The singer was real tall and real skinny. Her piano player was real short and real fat. These two ladies start to walk to the stage and my dad whispers in my ear: “Här kommer biffen och bananen”*(here comes the beef and the banana). I just burst out laughing and really had to control myself real real hard not to crack up so the whole church could hear me. It was one of those situations where you just couldnt laugh but had to laugh. Then when the lady started singing she had a really whiny annoyingly bad voice. My dad and I couldnt look at each other at that point. We knew that if we did then it would be the end. We just fought real hard to keep back the waves of laughter. I started reading a boring church magazine about bishops and their views on same sex marriage. It helped for a while but eventually the urge to crack up came back. The female priest looked over at me. I had tears in my eyes because I was trying so hard not to laugh. Maybe she tought I was moved by the beautiful music! Another example why the Swedish church is emptying out quick fast in a hurry!

*Biffen och Bananen, tecknad serie av Rit-Ola (Jan-Erik Garland), publicerad i veckotidningen Folket i Bild, sedermera FIB aktuellt, åren 1936-1978. Serien utkom även i albumform.
Serien handlar om de båda vännerna, den starke Biffen och den smarte Bananen, och deras äventyr i och omkring Stockholm. Ofta uppträdde de i en idrottslig miljö och de talade tidstypisk Stockholmsslang. En tredje figur, Galento, (som fått sitt namn efter boxaren Tony Galento), sällade sig till vännerna efter några år.
På 1950-talet gjordes tre filmer, Biffen och Bananen 1951, Blondie, Biffen och Bananen 1952 och Klarar Bananen Biffen? 1957. Biffen spelades av Åke Grönberg och Bananen av Åke Söderblom.-Wikipedia

Pol(itique) Pot(ente)

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 1:47 am

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Pol Pot. One mean ass dude if you look back at history. The book “Pol Pots leende”(Pol Pots smile) tells the tale of four Swedes on the far left who travel to Pol Pots Cambodia in the late 1970´s. They with all their idealism and hopes for the new country cant´t see the truth before their very own eyes. They travel around the country and marvel at the wonderfull progress that the workers are having at building up the communist utopia. Its painful reading when the author speaks to a few of the four so many years later when they recount the stories of how their ideals led them astray. How they got lost in ideology and communist rhetoric. The author writes how many western intellectuals including Noam Chomsky questioned the legitimacy of the Cambodian refugees stories about how the country was being turned into a giant concentration camp. This created an atmosphere of acceptance and even support for Pol Pots regime amongst leftist activists. Support for a government that so mercilessly decimated millions of people lives. Ofcourse it must have been difficult to see what was really going on. But its frightening to read how even after the Vienamese liberated the Cambodians from the Khmer Rouge in 1979, they emptied the country of all its valuables and brought the treasure with them back to Vietnam.

Now the people of Cambodia live with a corrupt government with a leader thats more like a godfather. They dont protest anymore. They accept their situation because anything is better than how it was. Anything is better than Americas constant bombing from their B 52 planes, or the endless slave labour in the rice fields with threats of being sent to torture centers if you protested.

I talked to a guy today who grew up in communist Poland. He told me that the stores where always empty. There where democratic elections but if you didnt vote for the communist party then you didnt have a job the next day since the communists ran the whole country. He told me that he couldnt understand how anyone could be on the left politically.

Concerning communism I think the American civil rights leader and preacher Martin Luther King has some very interesting points:
He rejected communism due to its secular and materialistic interpretation of history, it had no place for god. History is ultimatlety guided by spirit not matter. He also opposed communisms ethical relativism. Since there is no divine government for the community, no absolute moral order, no fixed immutable principles then anything goes; lying, murder, force, you name it. Thirdly he opposed communisms political totaliatarianism, when the individual ends up in subdjugation to the state. The communists claim that the leaders wll be removed when the classless society emerges; but the state rules as long as it lasts. The individual in the communist societys freedom is restricted down to what books he reads, what news he listens to, his liberties of expression are reduced. Man becomes a “depersonalized cog in the turning wheel of the state”.

Martin Luther King writes:
“Yet, in spite of the fact that my response to communism was and is negative, and I consider it basically evil, there where points at which I found it challenging. With all its false assumptions and evil methods, communism grew as a protest against the hardships of the underpriviledged. Communism in theory emphasized a classless society, and a concern for social justice, though the world knows from sad experience that in practice it created new classes and a new lexicon of injustice. The christian ought always to be challanged by any protest against unfair treatment of the poor.”

June 18, 2007

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 9:59 am

Roky Eriksson and The Explosives
Scen: Atlantisscenen
Roky p̴ Hultsfred Рen klassiker
Betyg:6 av 6

Att Roky Erickson spelar pÃ¥ Atlantis pÃ¥ Hultsfred, klockan tio pÃ¥ kvällen, är magnifikt pÃ¥ precis alla sätt och vis. Det är helt fantastiskt att denne man över huvud taget spelar live. Ännu mer fantastiskt är att han gör det i Sverige. Och mest fantastiskt blir det givetvis för att spelningen är sÃ¥ himla briljant. Roky är en legend i smÃ¥ kretsar – kultförklarad och mytomspunnen. Han har suttit pÃ¥ mentalsjukhus, knarkat och flörtat med ockultism. FÃ¥ är de som invigts i Rokys märkliga och förtrollade värld och mÃ¥nga av dem är musiker själva. Men till skillnad frÃ¥n Ozzy Osbournes spelning pÃ¥ fredagen är den ingen som tycker synd om Roky. Han behöver heller inte bevisa nÃ¥gonting. Har man tagit en sÃ¥ pass lÃ¥ng paus frÃ¥n musikindustrin och varit rejält psykiskt instabil känns det som att det liksom fÃ¥r vara sÃ¥. Men vad han levererar är över all förväntan. Mysfarbrorn kommer med en setlist som nästan fÃ¥r mig att börja grina. Cold Night for Alligators, Bermuda, Don’t Shake Me Lucifer, Starry Eyes och You’re Gonna Miss Me är bara axplock ur den fullständigt superba repertoaren. Och när Night of the Vampire presenteras av gitarristen med ”this is from Roky to you” blir det definitivt – Roky Erickson pÃ¥ Hultsfred 2007 är redan en klassisk konsert.

Linnéa Olsson

June 16, 2007

The eagle that kills the deer

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 2:49 am


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This is a summary that I wrote about a great book I have read called Empires workshop:Latin America, the United States, and the rise of the New Imperialism by Greg Grandin:

The book begins by telling the story about how Kennedy set out to reshape the Americas into a place where true revolutionary ideals could grow spread by free men and women. He started something called the “Alliance for progress” which contained the nucleus of this idea. The problem was that he armed exactly those people who where completley opposed to these revolutionary ideas. thus began an era of counterrevolution, that gave birth to the death squads and coups in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. When Richard Nixon arrived in Venezuela in 1958 his limousine was attacked by an angry mob. The next day they cleared the streets with tear gas so he could leave safely. This set the tone for American and Latin American relation in the coming years. Allendes election in Chile terrified Nixon because Allende wasnt trying to create another Cuba with Soviet style repression of civil liberties. He wanted a socialist state that would be a symbol of real reform, and this was truly frightening to Washington. Therefore Nixon with the help of the strong arm of the CIA ordered Allendes downfall.

Later when Reagan came to power he saw his purpose to reinstate a sense of national purpose and this he did by restoring military power. Almost all of Latin America was ruled at the time by pro american dictators, but something was starting to brew in Central America. The hardest hit countries where El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. US allies killed approximatley 300,ooo people during Reagans two terms. Hundreds of thousands where tortured. Jean Kirkpatrick advised the Reagan administration to undo the human rights programs that Carter had initiated and spoke instead of the true nature of politics that was based on “competition for power”, and that “brute force” was often better than “human reason”. This rationalized such things as the dictatorships death squads-because “salvadors political culture respected a sovreign who was willing to wield violence”. America now painted itself as the vanguard against the evill empire of the Soviet Union and this was used as an excuse to legitemize the brutal opposition to third world nationalism. In countries like El salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, the United States did not make the same mistake as they did in Vietnam. Instead they “outsourced” their army and by supporting local bad boys let death squads do their dirty work. The idea of “going primitive” was implemented in these conflicts, where the most brutal crimes against human rights imaginable where committed.To tell you the truth I skimmed past most of the descriptions of the violence due to the intense brutality that was described.

Already in the 1960s Kennedy had installed such anti-communist paramilitary groups in El Salvador called ANSESAL and ORDEN. These groups where to work preemptively to stop any communist threats in the area. These groups where such a large part of the political oppression that eventually the people rose up,and this gave the Reagan administration the motivation they needed to “go primitive”. One US expert said that “the horrible lesson of El Salvador is that terrorism works”. Several torturers defected from the notorious Battalion 316 and testified in American courts of how they where trained by American specialists. They where taught to employ psychological torture instead of physical torture. This is what we are seeing today in Abu Graihb. Ofcourse if this didnt work then the good old hands on methods where used. Finally at the end of the cold war in 1991 the FMLN rebels where not defeated and saw to it that the United States helped to implement the changes that they had long been fighting for. If El Salvador was bad then Guatemala was worse. Here there was a literal genocide that moved into its most brutal faze when Ronald Reagan became president. The military turned the Guatemalan highlands into a “slaughterhouse” committing as many as 600 massacres there between 1981 and 1983. Most of the victims being Indian men, women and children, all the while Reagan pushed military aid to the area.

Reagan was also handson in rearming Somozas National guard and with the help of the CIA turning that ruthless group of marauding thugs into the “freedom fighters” better known as the Contras. After the US government froze the funding for the Contras Reagans accomplice Oliver North was sent to negotiate arms deals with Iran, securing large sums of money for the Contras. Large amounts of evidence say that he also negotiated delas with drug cartels to have access to their planes bringing weapons to the contras while giving them easier access to US markets for their drugs. The Contras where infamous for their “murders, mutilations, tortures and rapes” and at the end of the war an apporximate 30,000 civilians hand been killed, most at the hands of the Contras. They destroyed schools, health clinics, and power stations to show the Nicaraguan civilians that the Sandinistas werent capable of bringing stability to the region. There also followed an intense degredation of the Sandinistas in US media. The sandinistas where linked to such things as “terrorism, nuclear submarines, religious and ethnic persecution, totaliarianism, Castro, East germany Bulgarians, Libya, Iran, and even the Bader meinhoff gang”.

The American christian right opposed itself to “peace christianity”(the same thing as liberation theology)-this christianity opposed Reagans policies in Central America. Liberation theology said that democracy and capitalism were antithetical values. This liberation teology also threatend the new right because they opposed the rights claim that capitalism was linked to human freedom. The christian right therefore now claimed that corporate capitalism mirrors “god´s presence on earth”. They fought latin american liberation theology with an american “theology of the corporation”. They called liberation theology the “theology of mass murder” and claimed it to be “the single most critical problem that christianity has faced in its 2000 year history”. The evangelical christian right argued that in a universe of free will where the good are rewarded and the bad are punished, then the USA is a shining example of gods blessing. The misfortune of the third world was “gods curse”. The christian right proclaimed Robert DÁubuisson, the despicable murderer of the El Salvadorian archbishop Oscar Romero, as hero and freedom fighter.

This is infact the story of how American corporate elites helped to bring down reformist presidents in places like Chile, Brazil, and Guatemala. Dictatorships where therefore needed for these countries to understand the values of individualism, consumerism and passive rather than participatory democracy. Grandin writes that “Chile had fulfilled the new rights agenda of defining democracy in terms of economic freedom and restoring the power of the executive branch.” In 1973 the US experienced a deep economic recession therefore third world nationalism was seen as a great obstacle to economic recovery. This led to Latin Americas “second conquest”. First the Spanish and the Portugese took all the gold. Then during the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth the second faze came- which “entailed the initial phase of US corporate expansion, as firms like United Fruit Company, Standard Oil, and Phelps Dodge turned on the region as a source of raw materials and agricultural products, coming to control most of the continents railroads, electric companies,ports, mines and oil fields.” The third conquest began in the 1980s “Railroads, postal service, roads, factories, telephone services, schools, hospitals, prisons, garbage collection services,water, broadcast frequencies, pension systems, electric, television,and telephone companies were sold off-often not to the highest but to the best connected bidder.” Much of this property landed with multinational corporations or with latin American “superbillionaires- this was a new class that had taken advantage of the dismantling of the state.

Although Latin America now has democracies with the exception of Cuba many of its countries are devestated economically. Countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador all suffer from incredible poverty In Latin America 165 millionpeople live on less than 2 dollars a day. 60 people are murdered in Guatemala city each week. For many people the only alternative is to try to make it into America through Mexico to find work. This is becoming increasingly difficult due to the tough border patrols. All this has resulted in a new movement in Latin America, which could be called the anti-globalization movement. More and more left politicians are being elected and are protesting against free-market orthodoxy. This to me is a hopefull sign. And even though the Us keep projecting their imperial ambitions in Iraq I think its clear that if they couldnt do it in their own backyard they wont be able to do it in the middle east either. All in all I think that this was a great book and I can reccomend it to anyone that wants to learn more about US foreign policy and how it has effected the third world.

June 13, 2007

Pray for mercy

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 11:53 pm

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Whats my beef with Ronald Reagan?

Well to start off with someone I know strated talking about what a great president he was last week. Thats what I thought when I was a little kid growing up in America. That was the early 80s when I was 9 or 10 years old. I remember my family took a vacation to Washington DC and we visted the white house. I bought a postcard of Ronald Reagan that I had in my room. There was a picture of Ronald Reagan upfront in every class room I was a student in in school.There was something very comforting about that whole set up. Being a kid, being able to say the pledge of allegience to the flag, and feeling protected by Reagan and the old US of A. I guess all little kids can be patriotic and proud of their country.

Not until much later when I started studying theology did I start to really get another view of the same man. Ronald Reagan took pride in being a god fearing christian. He often talked about god and faith in his speeches and was sure that he was leading america on the right course protecting us from the evils of the world. the gospels themselves talk about Jesus who was a jew living in an occupied country. Occupied by romans. Jesus spoke out against the Romans and the corrupt ruling class that ran their errands. He worked in the tradition of old testament prophets. The prophecies they made can be summarized as saying that” God is the God of the whole earth, and that nations which think of themselves as secure in their own power might well be conquered by other nations, at God’s command”(wikipedia).For this he was killed. The people of Nicaragua had for 40 years lived under the brutal oppression of the Somoza family. A hardline dictator that had by convincing the United states that he opposed Communism in the region gotten millions of US dollars every year to keep his reign of terror alive. He had a private army, a national guard that commited some of the most heinous crimes imaginable against the countries peasant population. One of the few voices of conciousness who spoke up about this and brought attention to it internationally where priests and nuns from the catholic church. They like so many others where tortured, killed and raped like thousand upon thousands of the peasant population. These people where not communists. They where peasants who wanted to be treated fairly. they revolted against the Somoza family with help from the Sandinistas and created a new government with democratic elections. This revolutionary sentiment was reminiscent of the Judean-Galilean peasant movements and revolts that are recounted in the new teastament.

Unfortunatley with the help of my old childhood hero Ronald Reagan, the new Nicaraguan government was worn down by the so called Contras(Counter revolutionaries) who Reagan reffered to as comparable to “our founding fathers” for their bravery and great deeds. The Contras where in fact nothing but Somozas brutal National Guards who had regrouped on the honduras border after having fled from Nicaragua and the peoples revolution. Here they recieved CIA training under the US ambassador John Negroponte. Negroponte was known for his connections with Colonel Gustavo Alvarez Martinez,Honduras’ military chief.Martinez was incharge of Battalion 316, a” Honduran Army unit responsible for carrying out hundreds of political assassinations and widespread torture of suspected political opponents of the government during the 1980s. Battalion members received extensive training and support from the United States Central Intelligence Agency both in Honduras and at US military bases.”(wikipedia).During this period Honduras went from recieving 4.4 million US dollars in military aid a year to 77 million dollars.In 1984, Nicaragua responded in a way appropriate to a law-abiding state and took its case against the United States to the World Court in the Hague. The court ordered the United States to terminate the ‘unlawful use of force’ against Nicaragua and to pay substantial reparations. But Washington didnt listen to the court, went on to veto two UN Security Council resolutions affirming the judgment which called on all states to observe international law.

John Negroponte now works as the United States ambassador to Iraq.Listen to Noam Chomsky speak about Negroponte here:

http://play.rbn.com/?url=demnow/demnow/demand/2004/june/audio/dn20040624.ra&proto=rtsp&start=42:49.42

One of the things that moved the people in Nicaragua to resist was when they came in contact with the biblical stories of liberation. This is also what moved the Israelites to resist the Roman rule. And this is what Reagan crushed. When the senate removed funding for the Contras the Reagan administration made illegal arms deals with the Iranians to pay for the illegal secret war. This came to the surface and Oliver North became Reagans scapegoat. This is the Christian heritage of Ronald Reagan. The mediocre actor who made the people of latin America pray for mercy.

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Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 12:02 am

June 12, 2007

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 11:40 pm

June 7, 2007

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 11:51 am

June 5, 2007

Filed under: Main — Mackanlee @ 10:09 am

This is a good interview with the American priest Father Roy Bourgeois talking about pacifism and activism.He is the founder of the School of the Americas Watch (www.soaw.org). The SOA is also known as the School of Assassins as it has been linked in training many of the worst torturers and human rights violators in Central and South America.

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