By Edward Curtin
May 15, 2023:
Clearing House -- The world
has been haunted by human violence since time immemorial. There are untold
millions (billions?) of people all over the world who have been scarred by it in
all its forms. There are two basic responses: one is to try to return that
violence with violence and defeat one’s enemy; the other is, in Martin Luther
King, Jr.’s words, to “not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win
his friendship and understanding” through a non-violent response. Politicians
usually embrace the former, while those who are called dreamers advocate the
Between these two, there are various mixed responses, with sane political
leaders calling for mutual respect between countries and an end to aggressive
provocations leading to warfare, such has occurred with the United States
provoking the war in Ukraine.
We have entered the time when the destruction of all life on earth through
nuclear war is imminent unless a radical transformation occurs. If the word
imminent sounds extreme, it is worth considering that there will be no
announcement. The time to speak up is now. It is always now.
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Great literature speaks to the issue of violence at the deepest levels.
Homer’s Odyssey is the classic case of violent revenge. At the end
of the story, Odysseus, who was scarred in youth by a wild boar, finally returns
home from the Trojan War after ten years of wandering. Doubly scarred now by
the horrors of war with its horrendous slaughters (see The Iliad), he
arrives at his home disguised in a beggar’s rags. His nursemaid from childhood
recognizes him from the scar on his thigh. In his house he finds scores of
suitors who are hitting on his wife Penelope. He is enraged and steps onto the
threshold, rips off his rags, and systematically massacres every last one of
them. Flesh and gore swim in the blood-drenched room, while in the courtyard
twelve unfaithful serving maids hang from their necks. This is the
quintessential western story of revenge where the wounded hero kills the bad
guys and the violent beat goes on and on.
It appeals to our lesser angels, for while Odysseus’s rage is understandable,
its consequences leave a toxic legacy.
But there is another response that draws on another tradition that is
symbolized by Jesus on the cross, executed by the Roman state as a subversive
criminal. He didn’t die on a private cross, for his crime was public. Martin
Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are famous exemplars of non-violent
resistance in modern times, as they too were executed by the state.
Non-violence seems, on the surface at least, to be less effective than violence
and contrary to much of human history.
If it is, however, we are doomed. For we have nuclear weapons now, not bows
and arrows and spears. We have nuclear weapons hitched to computers. Digital
weapons of multiple sorts and mad leaders intent on pushing us to the brink of
The United States’ instigation of the war in Ukraine against Russia and its
push for war with China are current prime examples. They are part of the
continuing vast tapestry of lies that Harold Pinter spoke of in his 2005 Nobel
Address. He said, in part:
The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing
military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I
refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the
Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the
United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never
be forgiven. . . . The crimes of the United States have been systematic,
constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked
This is still true, as John Pilger has just warned us in a powerful article:
“There Is A War Coming Shrouded In Propaganda. It Will Involve Us. Speak Up”
The rise of fascism in Europe is uncontroversial. Or ‘neo-Nazism’ or
‘extreme nationalism,’ as you prefer. Ukraine as modern Europe’s fascist
beehive has seen the re-emergence of the cult of Stepan Bandera, the
passionate anti-Semite and mass murderer who lauded Hitler’s ‘Jewish
policy,’ which left 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews slaughtered. ‘We will lay
your heads at Hitler’s feet,’ a Banderist pamphlet proclaimed to Ukrainian
Today, Bandera is hero-worshipped in western Ukraine and scores of
statues of him and his fellow-fascists have been paid for by the EU and the
U.S., replacing those of Russian cultural giants and others who liberated
Ukraine from the original Nazis.
In 2014, neo Nazis played a key role in an American bankrolled coup
against the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was accused of being
“pro-Moscow.” The coup regime included prominent “extreme nationalists” —
Nazis in all but name.
The U.S. led support for this war must stop. Who will stop it?
Homer told us something quite important once upon a time, as did many poets,
artists, and writers in the twentieth-century. They warned us of the monsters
we were spawning, as Pilger says: “Arthur Miller, Myra Page, Lillian Hellman,
Dashiell Hammett warned that fascism was rising, often disguised, and the
responsibility lay with writers and journalists to speak out.” He rightly
bemoans the absence of such voices now, as writers have disappeared into
post-modern silence, a part of the cultural war on dissent.
On a subtler and more personal note than Homer’s tale of revenge, we have the
testimony of Albert Camus who was part of the Resistance to the German
occupation of France during WW II. At the beginning of his beautiful,
posthumous, and autobiographical novel, The First Man, Camus tells us
about Jacques Cormery (Camus), who never knew his father, a French soldier
killed in World War I – the misnamed grotesque War to End All Wars – when
Jacques was eleven months old. Years later, when he is forty years old and
horrors of WW II have concluded, Jacques visits the cemetery in France where his
father is buried. As he stands over the gravestone in this massive field of the
dead, silence engulfs him. Camus writes:
And the wave of tenderness and pity that at once filled his heart was not
the stirring of the soul that leads the son to the memory of the vanished
father, but the overwhelming passion that a grown man feels for an unjustly
murdered child – something here was not in the natural order and, in truth,
there was no order but only madness and chaos when the son was older than
the father. The course of time was shattering around him while he remained
motionless among those tombs he no longer saw, and the years no longer kept
to their places in the great river that flows to its end.
The tale continues, as did Camus’s, who always supported the victims of
violence despite harsh criticism from many corners, from the left and from the
right. He wrote a famous essay, “Reflections on the Guillotine,” against
capital punishment, based on his father’s nauseating experience of seeing a man
executed by the state. After hearing this story from his grandmother, he would
regularly have ”a recurrent nightmare” that “would haunt him, taking many forms,
but always having the one theme: they were always coming to take him, Jacques,
to be executed.”
Furthermore, Camus warned us not to become murderers and executioners and to
create more victims, when he wrote a series of essays shortly after WW II for
the French Resistance paper, Combat. – Neither Victims nor Executioners.
He wrote that yes, we must raise our voices:
It demands only that we reflect and then decide, clearly, whether
humanity’s lot must be made still more miserable in order to achieve far-off
and shadowy ends, whether we should accept a world bristling with arms where
brother kills brother; or whether, on the contrary, we should avoid
bloodshed and misery as much as possible so that we give a chance for
survival to later generations better equipped than we are.
Which leads me to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his run for the U.S. presidency
in this most dangerous time. He is a man not scared into silence despite all
the efforts to censor him.
From a very tender age he was scarred by death; is surely a wounded warrior,
not one of those who went to an actual war, but one who had a different war
forced upon him when he was nine and fourteen years-old, when his uncle and
father were assassinated by the CIA. Some repress the implications of such
memories; he has faced them and allowed them to spur him to truth and action.
No boar gored him, nor has he slain suitors in his house, because he has
taken, not the road of revenge, but that of reconciliation, despite having lost
his father and others to demonic government forces. This is the way of
non-violence, a path unfamiliar to most of those seeking political office.
I don’t know his inner thoughts about this, but I read his words and actions
to decipher where he is trying to take this very violent country. He is a
non-violent warrior in the spirit of Gandhi’s truth force or satyagraha.
Not a passive non-action, but an active resistance to evil and violence. Not
one seeking revenge on all the warmongers and Covid liars (which does not
preclude legal prosecutions for crimes), but one who seeks to reconcile the
warring parties. To appeal to our higher angels and not the demons urging us to
renounce the good, but to the love that is our only hope.
I am not saying he is a pacifist. Such a term muddies the water. He is
clearly committed to the defense of the country if it were ever attacked. But he
is emphatically opposed to the endless U.S. attacks on other countries. He knows
the vicious history of the CIA. He is a very rare political candidate committed
to reconciliation at home and abroad. He is waging peace.
Like his father Senator Robert Kennedy and his uncle, President Kennedy, he
is anti-war, committed to ending the endless cycle of overseas wars sustained by
the military-industrial complex and the corporations who feed at the trough of
war spending. He opposes the policies of those politicians who support such
endless carnage, which is most of them, including most emphatically Joe Biden.
He realizes the danger of nuclear war. He tells us on his website,
As President, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will start the process of unwinding
empire. We will bring the troops home. We will stop racking up unpayable
debt to fight one war after another. The military will return to its proper
role of defending our country. We will end the proxy wars, bombing
campaigns, covert operations, coups, paramilitaries, and everything else
that has become so normal most people don’t know it’s happening. But it is
happening, a constant drain on our strength. It’s time to come home and
restore this country. . . . We will lead by example. When a warlike imperial
nation disarms of its own accord, it sets a template for peace everywhere.
It is not too late for us to voluntarily let go of empire and serve peace
instead, as a strong and healthy nation.
Those are very strong words and I am sure he means them. But he is opposed
by demonic forces within the U.S., what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern aptly
(MICIMATT). They run the propaganda shit show and will throw lie after lie
(have already done so) at Kennedy and exert all their pressure to make sure he
can not fulfill his promises. Their propaganda is endless and aims to
hypnotize. Pinter described it thus: “I put to you that the United States is
without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and
ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its
own and its most saleable commodity is self-love.”
It is this self-love and American exceptionalism that Bobby Kennedy will have
to counteract by emphasizing the humanity of all people and their desire to live
in peace. He will have to make it very clear that the U.S. government’s
involvement in Ukraine was never humanitarian, but from the start was part of a
plan to disable Russia. That is was an effort to continue the Cold War by
pushing closer to Russia’s borders.
Only fools think that revenge and violence will lead to a better world. It
may feel good – and I know the feeling – to strike back in anger, but it is only
a vicious circle as all history has shown. Revenge only brings bitterness, a
cycle of recriminations and reactions. Reconciliation is the way forward, but
it can only become a reality by an upswelling of resistance of good people
everywhere to the lies of the war-loving propagandists who are leading us to
RFK, Jr. can not do it alone. He can lead, but we need a vast chorus of
millions of voices to resist, in Pilger’s words, “the all-powerful elite of the
corporation merged with the state and the demands of ‘identity’.” If not,
democracy will remain notional. Kennedy is so right to say that the U.S.A.
cannot be an empire abroad and continue to be a democracy at home. Silence must
be replaced with resistance and his words made real by millions of people
opposing the killers.
Writing in another time of extremity, but writing truly, Camus, said:
At the end of this tunnel of darkness, however, there is inevitably a
light, which we already divine and for which we only have to fight to ensure
its coming. All of us, among the ruins, are preparing a renaissance beyond
the limits of nihilism. But few of us know it.
So let us fight with words and actions. As MLK, Jr. told us about the U.S.
war against Vietnam: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
Edward Curtin: Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology,
and sociology, I teach sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. My
writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. I write as a
public intellectual for the general public, not as a specialist for a narrow
readership. I believe a non-committal sociology is an impossibility and
therefore see all my work as an effort to enhance human freedom through