The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the Green Movement.

the German American Bund 1930. Courtesy of the Atlantic.com

In 2013 I wrote a book called The Deep Green Delusion: Vitalism and Communal Autarky. It was a critique of the deep ecology movement, arguing against the views of one of its gurus, named Pentii Linkola who advocates a return to primitivism.  Linkola calls for an end to democracy and the establishment of an authoritarian ecological regime that ruthlessly suppresses modernism and all forms of consumerism.  My argument was that Linkola was promulgating eco-fascism, which has its roots in a nineteenth century  German  movement called the Heimatschutz. When we think about fascist groups we tend to assume they are to the Right of politics, but the Heimatschutz was to the Left.  It was the forerunner to National Socialism.

The green movement in the west has always been thought of as being in the domain of the political Left and linked with the social justice movement, but this is not environmental history. Environmentalism began in the eighteenth century and arose from the Romantic Movement, which was deeply conservative in its politics and it was largely the realm of the well-to-do or the aristocracy.  In Germany the green movement was also born from the Romantic Movement, but it found its way to the realms of the extreme Far Right who were concerned with blending ecology with racial purity.

Linkola’s discourse is no different from the Heimatschutz.  It is attributable to an increase in immigration and his desire for population controls, but this is only a tiny morsel of what Linkola proposes and he is not alone.   Neo-fascist organizations have been growing since the 1980s with such organizations as Germany’s  Deutsche Volksunion and the French Front. In Australia it is the patriotic groups like the Australia First Party who are advocating the new fascism.    The 2008 economic downturn provided a fertile grown for a burgeoning neo-fascist movements across Europe, the US, Australia and elsewhere. Further, fascist groups may be a long way from taking power, but they are changing attitudes and causing disharmony and the setting in which they articulate their aims is a very familiar one that we should all be concerned about.

Let me set the scene by reverting to history. In 1929 the Wall Street collapse was very similar to the 2008 economic crisis across Europe. People suddenly realized that the stock markets would not rise indefinitely. When the stock market finally collapsed everything was impacted. In the 1930s European agriculture was faced with a severe depression. The poor agitated for land reforms and high food production, but there was not the means to meet the public demands.

By 1931 people had lost faith in their politicians and there were violent protests on the streets. It was about this time that the writer George Orwell predicted a future of totalitarian rule.

In Germany the Heimatschutz movement began reviving an earlier green movement that was based on the land and racial purity: Blood and Soil. Cities and towns were re-ordered into small communities for food security.  It would lead to the worst kind of primal behaviour, two world wars and the European Holocaust.

The popularity of the movement was promulgated through festivals and entertainment, that connected the land to families and communities.  The festivals would open and close with a patriotic or religious song and there were processions and marches as well as speeches on nation, homeland and loyalty. Rituals were modelled on the ancient practices of the Druids and pagan Rome.  Rudolf Steiner’s wife Marie Von Sievers gave a performance of mystical dancing similar to those performed at deep ecology and mystical festivals today. The sacred May Day glorified the God  Atlas the God of War, not only an important symbol for Adolf Hitler, but also Gustav Le Bon (Freud’s teacher) and his theories of crowd control. Everything was patterned by mythology and the Heimatschutz became known as Hitler’s Green Party.

The Heimatcschutz, lasted a long time, it fed the German armies during the wars and upheld the racial policy that saw six million Jews and others exterminated in the concentration camps of the Second World War.

Heimatschutz, worked because it was built on the wider Volkish movement that aimed en mass, to reform life, an idea that originated from the German idealists, Goethe, Lessing and Schiller; all three were Freemasons, a movement which Hitler later opposed.

The Volk has a different name now and the players have different roles, but the same sentiments abound in a far more discursive and insidious way than before. The Volk has found its legitimacy in a kind of communitarianism that closes borders and ranks on anyone who is not of their thinking.  Let me give you a further example.

Rudolf Steiner and his deep ecology otherwise called anthroposophy, is on trend across the western world.  The Steiner schools are popular in Europe, America and Israel even though Steiner, by his own admission was active in the Pan Nationalist Movement in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century and although he became a rival and enemy of Hitler, he appears to have advocated the same forms of racial segregation.   Many of the current Steiner schools are funded by state authorities and their businesses are thriving.  Should we be concerned? Should we disregard history and assume that the Steiner movement has changed its spots and is working towards a better world?

The aim of the legitimate ecology movement has been to draw peoples’ attention to the (w)holism in nature and to create a more sustainable planet.  In reality, it has been a shift away from the bigger political and social problems to intimate forms of localization. It is anti-globalization and therefore not focused on the betterment of fellow citizens and their global rights.

The ecologist’s mantra is  Small is Beautiful a term coined by E. F. Schumacher and his book by the same name, who just happened to be the head of the British Coal Board an industry that sent men into the perilous pits to boost Britain’s economy, while damaging their health and risking their lives.   This gives a clue to the ambiguities in the green movement, today and in history.

Take for example Richard Heinberg’s advocacy of a steady state economy,   which fails to address the social concerns inherent in capitalism or its polity. We are not seeing anything new. In the United States the New Green Deal was designed to kick start rabid consumption.  The then President, Theodore Roosevelt used the New Green Deal as a panacea for ending the 1920s American Depression and it pushed America into a global war.

Today, the US President Donald Trump is pulling troops out of wars and leaving the warring parties to fight between themselves at the cost of innocent men, women and children. What is in it for Donald Trump?  America has a reputation for destabilizing smaller nations and then restoring them, whereby America reaps the spoils.  The nations at war are also rich in resources the western world needs to prop up its mass consumerism. Is this not another form of mass genocide? If this is ecology, it is ecology on steroids.  No one ever asks, how green is the act of war?  It is a topic that seems to escape the ecology and other green agendas.

In the 1960s when the environmental issues gave way to an apocalyptic discourse  the earth was heralded as the embodiment of the Greek Mother Goddess (Gaia). Was this supposed to save the planet or would it simply invoke the same mythologies that could lead to another German Heimatschutz?

Environmental problems are very real and they are both local and global.    We have to ask, does the environment movement have its investment in the same kind of transcendentalism that created the Volk?  In the west there has been an acute rise in the forms of anti-Semitism that we have experienced in history. They are on the Right and on the Left of the political spectrum and where there was once an abundance of  single issues groups, anti-Semitism appears to be infiltrating the entire protest spectrum covering many demands and issues.

Nations across the world are going through a massive transition, not unlike the agrarian transitions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that saw people leaving the land and moving to the cities for a better life. Today, while  city entrepreneurs are eating up important pockets of land and cutting down forests for their larger enterprises, such as mining and the expansion of factory farming.    Today’s mass production is still dependent on the natural resources as it was at the time of the Industrial Revolution.    The loss of resources, combined with the drive for profits, impacts on the countryside and the traditional way of life, but how can we change it without reinventing the Heimatschutz?

Fascism arose in Europe after World War I when many people yearned for national unity and strong leadership.  Today, we are no closer to national or global unity than we were a hundred and fifty years ago, but the yearning for unity has become a dangerous phenomenon driving violent protests on the streets, corrupting governments and sending the world into violence chaos. Where will it end?

My new book.

We all have a democratic right to protest, but can the violence that erupts in demonstrations be justified in order to create social change?  Further, is change possible from mass protest?  This work examines social movement theory in light of the current direct actions.

Losing a Freind.

                                             Kiva.

                                         Joseph Rael.

I have been visiting the hospital to sit with a friend of thirty years who is dying. I have been reciting Hebrew prayers and blessings for her. Her name is Junitta and years ago she started one of the world’s first peace chambers.  It was situated in central Victoria and built in the design of a kiva.  Junitta gathered a few people together and they made every mud brick by hand and laid every stone with a prayer for world peace.  It was an amazing achievement and it still stands today on land that has been regenerated for wild life.  The Native American medicine man Joseph Rael came to open the kiva and it became one of many around the world working towards global harmony.

Junitta was a beautiful young woman with a vision and a gentle soul. She did not have much time for modern technology, instead she preferred the simple rustic lifestyle close to the land.  Junitta’s soul is still gentle and giving, but her body is emaciated, just thin skin stretched over a tiny and fragile skeleton. I held her hands that were barely warm and so weak, it brought tears to my eyes.  Her mind is alert, albeit with a little wandering, but the body is a vision of degeneration and it makes life seem so cruel.

Junitta is taking it all in her stride. She is a woman of faith and she is incredibly brave.  Indeed, she told me that the Native America Indians believe the skin of the body wrinkles so it is made ready to join the earth when the time for burial arrives. The Mother Earth, according to Junitta, recognizes every person who is returned to her primal womb.

My friend has maintained her humour and she is not afraid to die. She just wants to be out of the hospital and back at her beloved property on the top of a mountain that overlooks the spectacular southern coastline.

Junitta plans to be buried in an upright position so her head is still close to the stars and so she is remembered by the sun every morning when it moves across the horizon.

Junitta was always very upright, forthright and the first to speak out against social injustice.  She was a friend of the Aboriginal people and an advocate for indigenous land rights.  She loved the red centre of the Australian country and she made numerous pilgrimages to it for spiritual guidance.

Junitta is resigned to her fate, but I am going to miss her a lot, she has been a wonderful friend, a dedicated teacher of wisdom and an excellent craft’s person and artist.  She will continue to live in my sanctuary through the small painting of Squeaky Beach which she gave to me some years ago and which sits on the wall of my library.  Today, will be my last visit to Junitta as she is being moved to another facility. I am left to wonder if I will ever see her again before she passes.

Israel’s Trauma.

I came across this article which I thought was well worth posting.

Shabbat Candles: Yiskah 2019.
When Will The Left Start Talking About Israeli Trauma?
09.02.2016 , by Yakir Englander  
Posted originally on 972mag.com. Original Hebrew version on mekomit.co.il (“Sicha Mekomit” or “Local Call”) Translated by Dr. Henry R. Carse

By YAKIR ENGLANDER

My political opinions are aligned with Israel’s Left, but I was not born that way. Even today my personal Israeli narrative is far from typically liberal. I grew up in a modern ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the city of Bnei Brak, and although I am sociologically far from that context today, many of the core values that still influence me stem from the Hasidic tradition. When I was an adolescent, I became part of the religious settler movement. And while I am not connected to it today, the courage that I witnessed in that society, one that allows you to take action in the real world, remains with me until this day.

I understand that I may have no choice but to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike the majority of the “moderate Zionist Left” in Israel, however, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog, I see the establishment of two states as a painful separation. This solution will tear me apart from my dearest Palestinian colleagues, as more walls and checkpoints will put an end to our daily contact with each other.

In recent years, I have founded and worked as part of an interfaith peace organization that seeks to an end to the conflict. And still, like many Israelis, I find myself further and further from the Israeli Left, be it moderate, Zionist, or radical. There are two reasons for this: firstly, because the leaders of the Left act similar to religious preachers who claim to know the Truth, even when it is ideological, rather than divine. Their grasp of the Truth makes it hard for them to listen to others enter into a genuine dialogue.

Secondly, I cannot relate to the leaders of the Left, because of their language, which falls far short of expressing the complex emotions of fear and pain that I hear every day on the streets of Jerusalem.

Stop Blaming Traumatized Israelis

There is something tempting in the Truth: it protects people from the need to remember, every single minute, that they might be wrong. Certainly, this is why some are attracted to religion: it promises them access to the Truth.

It is fascinating to note that it was in fact Orthodox Judaism that was most pressed to compromise for generations on its ideas of Truth, while living in the Diaspora. Living in exile as a minority in a non-Jewish culture, Jews had little power, and they often had to act in ways that contradicted the commandments of divine Truth. A good example is the dictate of Jewish law known as “for the sake of peace,” according to which Jews must be sensitive to the values of their non-Jewish neighbors. This principle taught Jews to conduct themselves within non-Jewish society in ways that often starkly contradicted the letter of divinely ordained Jewish law, all for the sake of good relations with the non-Jewish world.

The Babylonian Talmud (written in the Diaspora) took this idea a step further when it explained that “Jerusalem was destroyed because the Jewish people living there based all their judgments only on the divine Torah.” Remarkably, it was this uncompromising insistence on the Truth of divine halakha that brought upon the fall of Jerusalem. This is because reality is always more complex, and often requires the humility to take a step back from the Truth.

By contrast, statements by the leaders of Israel’s Left reference notions such as the Truth or justice, without any flexibility or understanding of how complex reality is here. “The Right has lapsed into fantasy,” says Stav Shaffir, “and only the Israeli Left – ‘mature and responsible’ – remains reasonable, with true and serious plans for the future.” The late Yossi Sarid spoke of the separation of left from right as “a separation in the State of Israel between the sane people and the Messianics…” These are only two examples among many.

Such language is problematic. Firstly, it is easy to counter the Truth that such language claims to represent. For example, one may challenge the assumption of Israel’s Zionist Left that there is an essential difference between the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and the earlier Jewish expropriation of Palestinian land in Tel Aviv, Galilee, Jerusalem, and elsewhere from the beginnings of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century. The Truth is always open to interpretation.

Another problem with claims to the Truth lies in their appeal to logic and reason, while human beings are in fact composites of reason and feelings, often with pain and trauma etched deeply into the human body and psyche.

The Second Intifada was at its height by the time I completed my army service and enrolled at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. My reserve duty required me to serve in a unit that identified the remains of victims, and I was called to several scenes of painful terror attacks. The personal crisis I experienced there led me to my first encounters with the Left: Israelis and Palestinians at Hebrew University. I came to their meetings feeling very confused, with no idea what was right, as well as a burden of pain and trauma. At the meetings, people were busy mocking political leaders, the failed peace agreements, the corrupt occupation, and religion as the root of the disastrous reality. Everyone agreed that only speedy progress toward a two-state solution could bring about peace and justice.

I remember coming away from these meetings with a heavy feeling – that I was being blamed for living in a reality of ongoing trauma (terror and violence had not yet ceased). At the same time, I felt I was being told that I must abandon the two things that had been able to give me any sense of safety: the army and religion. I stopped going after a few meetings, realizing that I had left an ultra-Orthodox society that demanded my total allegiance to its Truth, only to align myself with a new political form of ultra-Orthodoxy.

Talking about the Truth is important and valuable for those few people who dedicate their lives to understanding what is “right” and what is not. These days, however, Israeli society is not really being helped by lectures about how wrong and harmful it is. Not because Israeli policies are not harmful, but because there is no spiritual ability today to listen to these criticisms. As the Rabbi from Radin put it: “The obligation to convince someone can be practiced only when they are actually able to hear you.”

Israeli society needs leaders who are capable of speaking to this society’s pain and fear, who through dialogue with our feelings can free us from the powers that are destroying Israelis and Palestinians alike. We need leaders who show by example how to sacrifice part of their own Truth in order to heal wounds and bring about transformation. The Israeli peace camp must not be defined by the Left; it should include all who are ready to dedicate themselves to the process of healing themselves, and in this way to cease harming the Palestinians.

Peace Negotiations for Israelis and Palestinians with Tears

We need a peace movement that will stop clashing with the Right about what is right and what is wrong. For example, I am far less worried about whether or not every piece of evidence presented by Breaking the Silence is proven to be exact by military investigators. What is more important is to realize that thousands of Israelis who risk their lives in the defense of their country return home as I did, traumatized and in crisis. That we realize the crisis stems from the assumption that the army is purely a defensive one.

Daily confrontations between politicians from the Left and the Right only serve to emphasize the failure of the Left. Right-wing activists do not solely engage with logic. They bring up issues that relate to the fears that reside deep in our Jewish and Israeli DNA. All of these relate somehow to the conflict and its solution: shaking the moral foundations of the IDF, the feeling that Israeli critics are not speaking with their opponents but about them, the fear of non-Jews, the deep-seated suspicion of Palestinians and their leaders, the anxiety that if peace comes, Jews will marry non-Jews, and the underlying pain stemming from the conviction that Europe has never really come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust.

The Israeli Left speaks about democratic values, but the Israeli public generally sees “Western values” as a language of logic – one that fails to speak to our hearts. If only the Israeli Left could speak to the people of this nation with the voice of 2,000 years of Israeli-Jewish culture, it is likely that the silent majority of Israelis would stand up and join the effort for peace.

The discussion of Dorit Rabinyan’s novel Borderlife, which was recently disqualified from the national curriculum by the Education Ministry, would be richer if the Israeli Left could cite examples of how the Kabbalist sages of North Africa would once study together with the Muslim Sufis, or if leaders of the Left could show that they themselves had demanded that the national curriculum include the painful poetry of expelled Jewish settlers from Gaza. The credibility of Breaking the Silence would only increase if they spoke about Talmudic rabbis who insisted on learning from or with those who criticized the rabbinate.

The Israeli Left must internalize that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will not begin when the two sides sit down at the negotiating table. Rather, the agreement begins today, yesterday, and tomorrow, within and together with the people – all people.

There is an old story of a couple who came to Rabbi Karelitz, chairman of the rabbinical court on Bnei Brak, before their marriage, asking how to achieve a healthy life together. The rabbi answered them curtly: “If you wanted advice on living together, you should have come to me 18 years ago!” When parties to an agreement sit down to negotiate, the spiritual orientation of the negotiators – and of the peoples they represent – is already formed. Their ability to compromise is limited by the existential situation of the societies they speak for. It is the work of the Israeli peace camp to work with the Israeli public (the same, of course, holds true for Palestinian leaders) so that the public, and their leaders, will approach the negotiations in a spiritual state that is as conducive as possible to achieving a healthy agreement. To this end, the peace camp must create and speak a new language – or become irrelevant.

The Israeli peace camp must become an open house for every Israeli, no matter what their orientation: Orthodox, religious-Zionists, Mizrahim, expelled settlers from Gaza, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Jerusalemites, settlers, Ethiopians, and all the rest. The peace camp must use a language of dialogue with all people, even those who do not agree with its arguments. It must understand that Jewish culture (and not just Orthodoxy) must be part of the culture of the Left, rather than viewing it as a stumbling block.

Jerusalem was destroyed only because those who lived there based their judgments on divine law. Jerusalem will be rebuilt only by those who are capable of embracing the pain we share, gathering our tears, and bringing them to the negotiating table. https://hartman.org.il/Blogs_View.asp?Article_Id=1645&Cat_Id=275&Cat_Type=Blogs

My exhibition opening talk.

Talk to Leo Baeck Centre . 22nd September 2019.

                                                    Peace.

I would like to thank everyone for attending my exhibition opening.  My sincere thanks go to Rabi Johnathon Keren Black and the Leo Baeck Arts Committee for allowing me to exhibit my work in what is a very special place.   I feel very honoured.   Also, thank you to Val Silberberg and her family for the wonderful hospitality they  bestowed upon me over this weekend.

The collection of paintings on exhibition here is very different to anything that I have ever produced, or exhibited in the past.  It is different because it is very personal.  There are paintings in this collection that reveal my most difficult existential struggles as well as my moments of joy and gratitude.

When it comes to art, people generally look for meaning.  I regard meaning as being very subjective. Every person will find their own interpretation in the task of viewing my work.   My art then, is not about meaning, it is about purpose.

My purpose has always been about healing.  In order to explain this, I need to tell you something about my journey through art.

I grew up East of London in the aftermath of the Second World War amidst a lot of uncertainty, fears and confusion.  What followed was the Cold War, with more fears and much uncertainty and confusion.

By the time the Cold War struck I was old enough to have an opinion on wars and their consequences for people and the environment.   I joined the Peace Movement while I was still in High School and this probably kick started my career as an artist.  I spent much of my time in the school art room helping my teacher to create posters for the anti-nuclear campaigns. Needless to say, I was recruited into the Peace Movement before I left school

When I left school at the age of fifteen, I went to work for a famous Hollywood film producer by the name of Sam Spiegel.   Mr Spiegel had a fabulous art collection of original paintings, which drew my attention. He was a very rich man. I wanted to be an artist.

I recall how I drew a portrait of my boss to try and impress him, but  it did not please him at all. The receptionist put the drawing over the mantle piece in the waiting area and my boss took it down again.  I had no bad feelings over the rejection of my art, I was still learning.  It was not a good drawing, but I believe he kept it.

Mr Spiegel gave me a job and he paid me enough money to live in a nice flat just off Grosvenor Square and this enabled me to finish my education at night school and I enrolled in the Kokoschka School of Painting. (The original Kokoschka school had closed and another had started up by one of the master’s best students).

 I enjoyed a salubrious lifestyle for three years, travelling around London delivering documents and exchanging conversations with interesting people.  I made some good friends and I had some extraordinary mentors.

Sometimes I would travel by taxi to offices and homes and at other times I would save the money and take the tube train.  Over time I began to feel stuck and  I wanted to do something more meaningful.

When I took the underground train, I used to sit and look at the pictures that ran along the carriages above the windows. Two advertisements attraction my attention, one was on vivisection and the other was of starving children in Africa.

The pictures disturbed me, they made me feel selfish and I knew that that my good fortune was not fulfilling my true purpose.  I wanted to make the world a better place.   I knew nothing about vivisection so I opted for the starving children in Africa.

After three years of being in the film business. I travelled to South Africa, where I worked in a commercial art studio and exhibited my paintings in a commercial gallery.

I was very ignorant of South Africa’s politics and I had not anticipated the violence that that comes with extreme oppression.

I arrived in South Africa well after the Sharpville massacre, but the memories and tensions were still raw and escalating.

I lived in Johannesburg with my friend Ann Sherman who was a popular singer and I often went with her to work at night so she did not have to drive herself home alone.   Night time in Johannesburg was particularly unsafe and despite a curfew and it was not unusual to come across violence.    I was very affected by what I saw and with activism already in my blood I rebelled and I broke a few laws.

In South Africa there were rules that compelled one to have black servants and workers.  We had neither so we were immediately under suspicion from   neighbours.  I remember being in the front garden one day weeding the flower beds when a police patrol car stopped outside the house.  The officers approached me and asked “what are you doing?”

“Gardening,” I replied.

“What are you gardening for, where is your boy?”, one officer asked.

“I like gardening,” I answered.

The fact was, no one did work that could be done by a native for next to nothing, this was the nature of the apartheid system.

The following day the police arrived with a African man who was told by the officers to work in my garden.

We tried to share the work, we tried to treat the man well, but to associate or assimilate with Africans was a crime. We had to be careful.

Despite the political climate in South Africa my career as an artist flourished then something unthinkable happened.

I was walking to work one day; it was Summer and the air was already warm.  My studio was in the far end of town among other industries and a collection of buildings that were used to house African mine workers. It was never a safe area and most people would drive through it as quickly as possible. I did not drive. The pavements were generally splattered with blood and there was graffiti on the walls of buildings. Johannesburg was rather a clean city, there was barely a trace of trouble in the main centre of town, but the outlying areas were considered quite dangerous.

As I walked I could see an women lying in a doorway.  She was very large and slumped over with her head resting to one side of her chest.  I thought she was dead at first and I was about to cross the road, which is what one did upon encountering a diseased person.  I stopped, because I thought I saw the big woman move.  I went over to her and she groaned.  She had multiple stab wounds along her arms and she could not speak.  She had a large stab wound in the chest, the area was soaked in blood and looked awful.   Beside the woman there was a line of bottles containing blood.  I was told the African Bantu were very superstitious about the loss of blood.  The woman had tried to catch the blood from her wounds in the bottles.

On the other side of the road, there was Police Station. I crossed the road to get help. The police must have spotted me from the window before I reached the building because two of them stood on the pavements as I approached.  “The women in the doorway is alive,” I said, “can you get help?”

They told me to move on. They said it was none of my business and it was not wise to hang around.  I pleaded with the men to help the woman, but they became more assertive with one officer stepped forward and putting his hand on his gun in a threatening manner. “Move on,” he said.

I had no choice.  I moved on and continued my journey to work.

I did very little work that day, I could not get this injured woman out of my mind. The sun was beating down and I wondered if someone had managed to help her and whether she had survived.

Come five o’clock, it was time to go home. I left the studio and walked the same route as I always took and as I approached the area near the police station, I noticed the woman was still there in the doorway.  She had passed away!

Over the course of the day the street had seen a lot of activity.  The day’s garbage had been put out on the pavement ready for the morning collection and it had piled up around the body of the African woman.  As the acrid smell and the flies hung in the air, I stopped for a moment to take in the horrific scene.   Here was a human being, a woman immersed in the rank and rotting garbage as if she too was just part of the garbage. I was shocked, dismayed, traumatized and suddenly very fearful of the country I had called home.

When I got to our house, I told Ann what had happened, but she was not so shocked. She was out at night and witnessed many similar scenarios. “This was Africa,” she said “a black life is worth only what can be exploited and there is nothing anyone can do to change it.”

I did not agree, there had to be some way to make changes, at least to tell the story of what was happening. I took to my studio and began painting.  I painted various scenes of life in Africa under apartheid. None should have been provoking, however, when they were exhibited the gallery was asked to remove them. Shortly after our home was raided by police. We though we had got away with a warning, but later a journalist friend suggested I leave the country because the police were going to prosecute me.  Whether this was true or not I could not be sure, but after what I had witnessed, nothing would be the same. I could not sit back and ignore what was happening.  Sooner or later I would be arrested.

A few days afterwards another friend named Melvyn arrived at the house.  I had a plane ticket, but I was not sure whether to use it or not.    Melvyn looked at me and said, “I am driving you to the airport before you get arrested.”   I went without protest.

I made a split-second decision, there seemed no choice, but to go with my friend that night to the airport. I left everything behind and I would never see Ann, my friends or my dog again.

When I landed in Rome I had nowhere to go, no money, my papers were not in order and I did not speak a word of Italian.  I was apprehended and driven to a building in the city where I had to undergo a medical examination.  The doctors cleared me of any contagious diseases and then let me go.

I walked for a while and found the Trevi Fountain. I sat looking at the coins in the water. People threw coins in the fountain for good luck.  An American man came and sat next to me.  We talked. I told him my story.  He had come to Rome to reconcile with his wife and they were both leaving Rome that same evening, so he gave me the key to his apartment for three weeks before the lease expired.   There was food in the apartment and I was starving.  A few days later, a letter arrived with a ticket to London’s Heathrow airport and a little English money.

I could not settle in England and three years later I arrived in Australia, which in some ways reminded me of South Africa because one of the first things I saw was a bus shelter with graffiti reading “Asians Out”.   Was this just another racist country?  I hoped not, but all was not well.

My instincts once again drove me to act.  I joined the Womens’ Movement, the Prison Reform Movement, the Council of Civil Liberties, the Human Rights Association and the newly formed Friends of the Earth and I threw myself into protest art.

Eight years later I moved to Victoria and along with my partner and started a political graphics production company, working mostly on posters, advertising and copy-writing.  Some of that work is now housed in government archives.

My art had a purpose.  I still has a purpose.  through my art I can heal myself of the daily trials and tribulations.   I can speak out and contribute to healing the world (Tikkun Olam).

Trying to bring about social and political justice to the world might seem like an impossible task, but one has to keep trying, we cannot give up.

 

 

 

 

Profile of a Sociopath.

Sociopaths are perhaps the most insidious of predators because their grooming involves sophisticated mind games that can target their victim’s sense of self and reduce them to a state of mental despair and desperation.  Above all, the sociopath will often present as an interesting person with immense social skills and charm, but nothing could be further from the truth, sociopaths can be very dangerous.

The sociopath operates on facile and superficial charm.  Sociopaths are highly manipulative con artists. They pretend to recognize the rights of others, but in effect they never do. They are self-serving and view their behavior as normal and acceptable.

Sociopaths are often romantics who draw their victims into their web with beautiful and poetic words, but beneath the feigned beauty, sociopaths are hostile and controlling.  They view their victims as merely an instrument of domination and self-gratification.    Ultimately the sociopath will act to humiliate their victim.

How to spot a sociopath.

The sociopath has a grandiose sense of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and ownership over other individuals and they do not like to be challenged.

Sociopaths engage in pathological lying and can often believe their own lies and/or they will refer to them as a plan or a vision.   It is almost impossible to tell when a sociopath is lying because they do it on a consistent basis and they get caught up in the falsity of their own complex drama.  These people are so convincing they can pass a lie detector test because they truly believe in their own powers and narratives.

The sociopath will have no shame or remorse. Inside the head of the sociopath there is a deep-seated rage, which is split off from the normal personality and repressed. The sociopath is an opportunist and will choose victims very carefully.  With this in mind, the sociopath will not shy away from the well educated or successful person, rather, they will be attracted to them because the challenge and self-gratification is much greater.

The sociopath will always see the ends as justifying the means, they do not give up easily and they allow nothing to stand in their way. They can be very clever and persuasive.  Once hooked, the victim finds it hard to escape.

The sociopath is very good at feigning emotions. They can show compassion and kindness and will frequently use love as an ulterior motive.  They will make what appear to be sound and sincere promises, but on the inside, the sociopath is cold and calculating and they see no wrong in misleading their victims, in fact they delight in it because their victim has become their property.

Importantly, the sociopath has no capacity for love.  Proclamations of love and trust are merely the tools the sociopath uses for stimulation.  There is nothing genuine about the sociopath because they have lost touch with what it means to be a loving and caring human.  Sociopaths are callous and feign empathy. They have only contempt for their victims and have no understanding of the pain they cause.  Their aim is only to enslave their victim. From this enslavement the sociopath gains psychological and/or sexual reward, which in turn becomes an addiction.

Sociopaths find normal life boring so they tend to live on the edge. They can be both versatile and criminal, they are generally promiscuous and like taking risks. Sociopaths have poor behavior controls and can flip from being the nice person to being the dangerous one. Above all, sociopaths are very good at gaining your trust and attention and it becomes easy to make excuses for them.

The sociopath has no sense of boundaries and no concern for others. They are irresponsible, unreliable and they are oblivious to the damage they cause.

The sociopath has generally had a painful history of abuse, displacement or insecurity, which over time causes them to move away from realism. They can become authoritarian, secretive and paranoid and they have contempt for anyone who tries to help them.

Sociopaths rarely have to confront the law because they seek out the environments in which they can operate safely without detection.  Sociopaths are hard to spot because they are generally very conventional.

The sociopath needs their victim’s love, respect and gratitude and will work hard to secure it, but always with despotic control.  They groom their victims to satisfy their extreme narcissism and they will often use that energy to rise to other forms of personal power and achievement.

Finally, the sociopath operates with impunity on the social media platforms where there are few methods of detection and almost no consequences for the perpetrator of sociopathic  crimes.

Further, identifying a sociopath is not easy.  One needs to be vigilant and in tune with one’s instincts.  If something does not feel right, then it probably is not right and the best advice would be to end the connection immediately.

 

Online Scammers.

Online Scammers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australians are losing millions of dollars to scammers according to figures in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Targeting Scams report.  “Total combined losses reported to Scamwatch and other government agencies exceeded $489 million, $149 million more than in 2017 and they were expected to jump again to 532 million by the end of 2019…  These record losses are likely just the tip of the iceberg. As the report suggests, “we know that not everyone who suffers a loss to a scammer reports it to a government agency.” In 2018, more than 378,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), of these dating and romance scams represented significant losses increasing from $42 million in 2017 to $60.5 million in 2018. Dating and romance scams are particularly insidious because they play on the most fundamental of human needs, love, caring and  the desire for belonging.

Importantly, not all scammers are seeking money, sometimes it is sex or information they want and sometimes it is just the desire for control.  In Australia there has been a rise in identity theft due to scamming.   As a result, data is being collected on all forms of predatory behaviour as government’s try to protect their citizens, but the reality is the Internet is almost beyond regulation and there will always be victims of unethical and criminal behaviour.  The stakes are high and the costs to individuals are immeasurable.

One of the main sources of scamming is social media.   Not every contact made on social media will be a scammer, many good friendships can arise through being online, but social media has few boundaries and little or no accountability, so the best advice is to be sure you know who you are dealing with.

The Internet has literally dozens of sites warning about scammers and their activities, but people are still getting caught out. There is a very distinct profile which most rational people would easily recognize, but it is generally ignored because scammers are able to subvert rational evaluations by tapping into the human emotions and they are very skilled at selecting appropriate victims.    For example, romance scammers will look through social media for people who are actively seeking a partner, or they will pick someone who appears to be alone.  Scammers will frequently target older people who are likely to have superannuation tucked away somewhere and who probably have real estate and other assets.  54.8% of victims are female and 44% are male.  Dating agencies and social media are the most common platforms used by scammers around the world and chat room scamming is fast becoming the norm.

The scammer will pretend to be a prospective companion, sometimes offering marriage, or a good friendship and he or she will aim to become your confident. Scammers are very good at using reverse psychology and emotional triggers. This is how it works:

Scammers will generally set up an appealing fake profile to lure victims into their virtual world. They will often present as trustworthy people, that is people of substance; doctors, lawyers, military personnel or other similar professions and, importantly, they may well be military personnel or people of similar rank.   The scammer’s seduction can be crude or highly sophisticated depending on the target.  There are no clear distinctions on who will become a scammer, similarly there is no clear profile describing their victims, just about anyone using the Internet is fair game.  Scammers will almost certainly be living abroad, that is outside the country they choose to target. Distance is crucial to the scammer because it allows the perpetrator to believe she or he will not be caught.

Romance scammers will generally message you with compliments, they might tell you that they checked out your profile and you seem like an interesting person.  Soon after, in a very short space of time, they may express deeper emotions for you.  Sometimes they will move you away from messaging on social media and onto the more private email. Once the scammer has convinced you that he or she is genuine they will shower you with compliments and sometimes with gifts.

Scammers are very patient, they rarely give up, they can take months or even years to gain your trust.  Once all your defenses are down the scammer will reveal his or her objective, it might be a request for financial help, for sex, explicit pictures or other. There is no age limit, scammers will target anyone who meets their criteria.

Scammers might embark on a plan to visit you, but they will never turn up. Some have been known to send money in small amounts and then to ask for more later.    Once you have paid the amount of money they are seeking, you will not hear from them again.

At one point you might start to feel suspicious, but the scammer has planned for this and she or he will work more on your trust and deepening the relationship. Often the scammer becomes so proficient that they cannot see anything wrong in what they are doing.  After all, you have been provided with some happy moments.  Or, it may be that the scammer has listened and counselled you on your life world difficulties so they feel you are obliged to repay them.  You may believe you have entered into a happy and seemingly healthy exchange but, you have not, you have entered a place of fantasy and virtual illusion. You will also find pulling back from this space is extremely difficult.

Sex on the Internet.

Over time, the scammer does not present as a villain, but as a friend or potential lover. You have never met this person and you are not likely to, but you feel reciprocating love will cause you no harm.  Soon you find that Internet lovers are phantom lovers and they can run hot and cold, playing on your needs and desires when it suits them.   One minute they are there for you and the next they are gone; this serves to deepen your emotions and heighten your basic needs for the scammer’s companionship.

Internet lovers generally use false identities and they will lie about their details. Some use more than one profile.  You may be suspicious, but the chances are you will ignore your suspicions because your new friend is an appealing romantic and you like to see the best in people.   You feel like you have found a good partner and someone who cares for you.

Soon you will realize that this friend knows everything about you and you know nothing about her or him.  Somewhere along the line there might be a twinge of guilt from the perpetrator or he or she might feel you are on to something so they will work harder to make you think they are a good person and they really want to get to know you. However, try asking a scammer to meet you in person and you will be waiting a very long time. Online scammers do not meet up with their victims.

Scammers have all kinds of reasons for doing what they do, sometimes they are   lonely, sometimes they are in pain, but scammers can also come with real dangers if they have criminal intent. They can use you as mules for money laundering or drugs and they can involve you in their illicit activities without you being fully aware of what is happening.    In addition, scammers can lure their victims overseas and place them in physical danger of kidnap or terrorist activities, this is rare, but it does happen.  Few governments will pay the ransom for kidnapped citizens, if this happens you are on your own.

Common Scammer Profiles. 

Primary studies show that in most online relationships the predators are males cheating on their wives.  The Internet has opened the flood gates on cheating in ways that may appear innocent.  Many scammers and cheats do not think they are doing wrong because there is no human contact between parties.  There are websites, chat rooms and messaging facilities that are devoted to making these connections easy and seemingly harmless and there are limited rules in place to protect users.   Scammers and cheats generally have no remorse and their relationships are very easy to conceal.

Some online relationships are genuine and they can take place out of need, that is feelings of inadequacy or downright unhappiness, but it is hard to distinguish the good from the bad.    Others can be instigated by a single or married person who just decides to play the field.

Most online connections start with friendship before becoming intimate and sexually explicit, but sexual stimulation and/or money seem to be the ultimate goals.  There have been occasions where the scammer has seen the error of his or her ways and a good friendship has been established, but this is very unusual because the scammer has an addiction and without the appropriate help, they rarely change their behaviour.

In almost all cases the women who enter these relationships are unsuspecting and vulnerable and they can get seriously and emotionally hurt, but this is not a sign of weakness.  Scammers do not just target those they perceive to be weak.  In many cases strong, independent, self-determined women have fallen head first into a scammer’s deception. Scammers are very good at what they do, they know people and they can easily find the soft links in a person’s personality.

Scammers will invoke the need to be needed.   Or, alternatively they will present as a person of strength and reliability. Scammers will talk a lot about trust and respect to captivate your interest and you will fall for it because you are an ethical and trustworthy person looking for a likeminded friend.

Online relationships always involve some form of emotional attachment often expressed in a deep sense of loving, caring or some form of admiration.  Common insecurities that occur in offline relationships are easily placated in the online environment because no one has to take possession of the consequences. Talk is cheap and very effective.  There are no secondary diversions so you are unlikely to tell anyone what is happening because you are feeling immersed in this new experience of love and caring, or perhaps you have shared more than you should have and you have a fear of being exposed.

Relationships can start and end at the click of a mouse and they usually do when the scammer has achieved what she or he set out to achieve. When this happens, the real emotional cost begins to set in.

The Emotional Cost.

The reality is this: The financial loses to scammers can be enormous, but the emotional costs can be much greater. I have been a therapist and counsellor for a number of years and I have worked with many people going through traumatic relationship break-ups, but the Internet has initiated a new kind of relationship breakdown where both the rules of engagement and the inevitable separation are very different.

Internet relationships can be equally complex and problematic as face to face relationships, but their termination can have longer and more devastating impacts, sometimes lasting months or even years.    Online breakdowns are often more severe than the psychological traumas encountered in person to person relationships, simply because they have left the individual powerless, embarrassed, ashamed and in a virtual void.  The victim is duped by a new medium, technology; over which there is little control and absolutely no recompense.   Further, because the virtual world is closer to fantasy, it invokes the deepest levels of human consciousness (and the unconscious), often triggering the memory of old wounds.

People who have had this experience should not blame themselves, effective scammers are highly astute professionals, but they are also people who may have desperate needs themselves and with no help available they transfer their pain onto their innocent victims.

Waking up to the realization that you have been scammed on the Internet is like drowning is a pool of thick liquid. Normally, you would hit the waters and swim, but you cannot move out of this feeling of being frozen in time. You have experienced a totalizing cybernetic abjection; in other words, you are lost in space.  However, blaming yourself or others never helps anyone! It is important to take stock and forgive. You can become back from this and forgiveness is always the best pathway to healing.

Importantly, those feeling the serious effects of scamming should seek help immediately. A broken online relationship can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide and there has been a rise in deaths across the world due to broken online connections.

A final word on scamming.   Being scammed can arouse feelings of anger and retribution, but like the rest of us, scammers are human beings with human problems.  Scamming is often the consequences of psychosocial issues that pervade consciousness and target those who appear better off.    While scamming as a growing practice needs to be called to account, we should do so knowing that scammers can and do become rehabilitated. Ultimately, the scammer bears the burden of his or her actions, whether in the present or in the future. Nature has its own form of justice. All you need to do is heal yourself.

Scamming is a global problem beyond the laws of jurisprudence and ethical standards and it needs a new and global response that goes to the deepest levels of the scammer’s psyche and the pain experienced both by the scammer and the recipient.  The world is a difficult place for many and it needs to be remembered that society creates its deviants and criminals. We are all partly responsible for the world we have shaped and manipulated and it up to each individual to change it.