Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell
‘He was a truly remarkable man: he worked 18 hours a day’ and ‘Nothing and no-one could stop him: he was successful in every undertaking’ are two of the televised encomiums high figures of Romanian media, enterprises and culture have addressed to a business man. Part of Forbes’ top 500 billionaires, he had just died in a speed-caused boat crash. An actor from the old generation had tried to underline the innate generosity of the deceased ‘king of sausages’: ‘He always surprised me by sending me baskets after baskets of charcuterie from his factory’. Another actor presented the entrepreneur’s attendance at his company’s shows as a sign of character – which prompts me to suspect that the aforementioned baskets might have had a certain part to play in his high esteem.
The spicy-insignificant details of the departed that were now making headlines outlined an absolutely common personality: a ‘goodfella’-type of guy, an ‘adrenaline-lover’ of numerous marriages and unacknowledged children. By all of today’s standards – superseding values by prices – he was ‘a successful person’. I have met such compulsive businessmen and, as much as I try to see anything remarkable in them in a positive sense, I fail to do so. I also fail to see in them the true generosity that – being good sense and measure – is rare and priceless, while acts of self-aggrandizing mercy are frequent and dreadfully cheap.
An issue of concern is the public opinion that a businessman is exceptionally praiseworthy if ‘nothing and no-one can stop him’, if ‘he succeeds in whatever he desires’. In a psychiatric office, such behaviour would lead the physician to suspect a serious diagnosis, prompting isolation and urgent medication. However, in the tumult of triumphant capitalism, where new toxins such as ‘employer’, ‘sanctity of property’, ‘competition’, ‘profit’ and ‘investment’ are presented as panaceas, those intoxicated with them are perceived not as mentally ill, but as paragons of health, success and collective ideals. Nevertheless, their lifestyle withers their bodies or kills them swiftly, as a conclusive proof that the disease in their minds, dependent on profit, image and adrenaline, is merciless. Unfortunately, the reason for writing these lines is the fact that such diseases affect more than those they infect. In a cruel, insane and arbitrary experiment, such illnesses leave an indelible mark upon countries and all they comprise: ‘living beings, soulless things, plains, mountains and waters’ – as the writer Ionel Pop aimed to summarize the Earth.
Capitalizing on social indifference and ignorance, politicians and moguls invest, disfiguring cities, concreting arable land and asphalting mountain wilderness. More recently, they place private hydro facilities on mountain rivers once deemed ‘reserved trout breeding grounds of republican interest’. Through their intercession, foreign investors (often chased from other parts of the world, such as timber behemoths Kronospan and Schweighoffer) succeed in ‘exploiting local opportunities’: gold deposits, the possibility of building overpriced expressways etc.
photo: Nicolae Dărămuș
‘Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized in this Charter’, is stated in the ignored article 54 (‘Prohibition of the abuse of rights’) of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Consequently, an action aimed at the private interest of someone is not to be allowed to impair on the patrimony, on the interest of the community, or even of someone living moderately.
Not far ago, I had begun an ascent in the Carpathians: a majestic and clean peak, soaring at some two thousand meters, covered in blueberry groves and rhododendrons. A place where I had seen deer roam on more than one occasion. However, as the hour was late, I was forced to turn around. Nonetheless, a last glance through my binoculars towards the summit revealed the jeep of an ‘adrenalienated’ just arriving there. I see Providence at work here: had I been at the top at the moment the driver arrived – trampling under wheels both groves and silence – I would have firmly approached him, explaining the harmfulness of his activity and – had any hysterical protest ensued – I would have certainly assumed the risks of a very harsh lesson indeed, all legal consequences included.
photo: Nicolae Dărămuș
Jurnalul Naţional, October 6, 2011
To arms, citizens!
A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.
‘Tell me, sir, what would you do were someone to enter your yard and…’ began the question of the reporter, halted by an abrupt, saliva-laden answer: ‘I’d whack him on the head!’
photo: Nicolae Dărămuș
The ‘sir’ was one of those poor peasants, the prematurely aged barfly, with scant teeth and a meagre body: the always-ready-for-a-quarrel brawler, the type that usually starts the fight and loses it as well. The televised dialogue occurred on the street of a Romanian village around 2006, a few days after then-Minister of Agriculture, Gheorghe Flutur, had publicly pleaded for the enclosure and the protection ‘by whichever means necessary’ of agricultural and forestial properties. Undoubtedly, the voice of the (drinking) people had confirmed Flutur’s ‘foresight’: it did not matter whether the stranger in the yard would have asked for a glass of water, would have been running from an assailant or from a pack of dogs. Nor did the hypothetical legal mix-up matter, if the innocent refugee, having more sleight of hand, decided to strike back in self-defence when attacked by the owner.
In July 2011, a Romanian newspaper published an interview with the Minister of Agriculture, in which – amongst haphazard considerations on God, poverty and the benefits of GMOs – he advocated the right for peasants to protect their property by shooting thieves, following the American fashion. Since the inner vacuity of many politicians is easily disclosed by their glances, their strut, their wriggling lips and their way of wearing clothes, I did not have high expectations from the two aforementioned ministers, having noticed how peasant shoes too often appeared from under their Armani trousers. Such people, although of rural provenance, seem to have forgotten the specific temperance of the countryside. Shocked by their own political ascensions, they have embraced the capitalist values en masse, oblivious to the irreparable capitalist replacement of value with price; a price which is never too big for a newly-lined pocket, not even when life is at stake.
Time and time again, the primitive exponents of neo-capitalism have extolled the ‘sacred’ private property. Hastily and ignorantly, they have succumbed to an anachronistic concept, cause of the gigantic capitalist crisis that has been panting from 1929 onwards, trying to halt its fatal symptoms either by occupation of resourceful territories, by export of democracy through ‘peacemaking’ warfare or by integration of ‘useful’ countries into ‘panacean’ state unions.
Not missing a chance to grandiosely cross themselves when filmed in churches, peasant-shoe-neoliberals advocate restitutio in integrum and the sacredness of private property only with their own great properties in mind. Concerned with their amassed fortunes, usually torn from national patrimonies (forests, lakes, hunting grounds, oil and mineral resources), such neoliberals dread thieves – like all thieves do – clutching onto their riches just as an anguished, wide-eyed spider would possessively spread his legs over his treasure. Anxious to be able to legally kill any starving lad depriving them of a couple of melons off their grand sacred property, the newly-rich give populist speeches about the peasant’s right to shoot the impoverished neighbour, just as they did when ‘the rights of the people’ were being put forward as veneer for the interest foreign lobby and former great landowners had in large properties being restituted. Thus, while common people age and die during trials for minute restitutions, the magnates thrive. It is through such a mechanism that 100 000 hectares of farmable land in Transylvania are now owned by the descendants of baron Bánffy, that the Retezat Mountains are possessed by the descendants of count Kendeffy, that tens of thousands of forest hectares are now prince Sturdza’s and the examples can go on, as though the Romanians born meanwhile from families devoid of large properties must always till on the former domains, without a right to patrimony and country. Patriots become estranged on home turf, terrorized by laws neoliberals have passed knowing that by giving away ‘the fat of the land’, something would stick under their dirty nails as well.
Unlike private property on arable land – which is barren, save for human action – crony possession of natural patrimony – i.e. the great vital ecosystems that are the guarantee of life – represents the darkest side of the Great Globalized Terror, nocuous to whichever country it occurs in and to Earth. Therefore, it is at this time of humanity that planetary patriotism becomes a necessity, since the Terror has started to act upon Life itself. And if a stolen melon gives its owner the right to kill the hungry thief, then it may happen that the destruction of national and terrestrial property – a chopped forest, a mountain river plagued by private hydro facilities – will signify a call to arms for true patriots fighting of greed. Day after day, more and more citizens of the Earth find themselves deprived of the selfless right to find and stroll through a familiar landscape, to feel the seething caress of a trout-filled river or to resonate, in frosty dawns, with the callings of deer nuptials. This world’s ‘corolla of wonders’ is in dire need of stern defenders.
photo: Nicolae Dărămuș
Jurnalul Naţional, August 10, 2011
Breivik – murderous and unbalanced. But not insane.
The Norwegian Breivik is a murderer and, according to his country’s laws, he will pay. Undoubtedly, he will pay too little for the harm done to all those unconscious people, since claiming a life – any form of life! – is an unforgivable sin.
Nonetheless, I have serious doubts concerning his alleged insanity, with which all sorts of free individuals, ranging from political analysts to journalists and psychologists, readily and frivolously diagnose him. Conversely, I have no doubts regarding the risk of filing him under ‘insane’ solely on the account of his murders, since ignoring (and thus perpetuating) the reasons that have prompted his actions will lead to another individual terrorist rising to kill. Reprehending murder does not suffice, just as reprehending cancer does not cure; only a diagnosis followed by the removal of causes can help prevent any disease, be it in the human body or in society. The recurrence of isolated terrorists stands as proof, yet the preponderant frivolity in public opinion – always craving for ‘spicy’ criminal details – seems to show that humanity has not had its quantum of murders yet.
Choosing to disregard this unassailable reality will mean a toll of countless lives. Individual terrorism represents the last resort of the unheard people, often following a moral code but feeling powerless who – whether we like it or not – do exist. It is a weapon of the powerless, but not of the weak or insane. As for the aforementioned causes, they are embedded within the commonplace white-collar ‘legal terrorism of power’ which, annihilating common sense and the true precepts of faith – be it Christian, Islamic or Buddhist – condemns us all to live under the Great Terror. Terrorizing through its familiarity, we learn to accept our own destruction – ‘democratic’ petrol wars with thousands of ‘collateral victims’, deforestation, black tides, toxic food in supermarkets, vulgar gay parades and profitable debauchery enterprises, idiotic commercials and hyper-consumerism – with the resignation of any living organism gradually succumbing and getting accustomed to its own cancer. The Great Globalized Terror has purged democracy of its fundamental virtues, rendering it a mere tool serving wealth itself and those rapacious few presented as the idols and masters of the hungry saddened crowds soon to be dead in an agonizing tomb as big as a planet.
photo: Nicolae Dărămuș
Granted, Breivik is an unbalanced person, but he is not insane, as the media irresponsibly claims. The difference residing, amongst many other things, in the way in which he has assumed full responsibility for the murders – which he described as ‘horrible, yet necessary’ – and has not attempted to avoid his punishment, not even by killing himself.
Accustomed to their ordinary mad men – murderers of old ladies, child rapists, debt-laden suicides, avaricious politicians, all common faces of the Great Terror – the blabbermouths on TV and their zealous followers believe that being ‘balanced’ today is a virtue. Having a ‘hard stomach’ – the asset of shameless and remorseless party leaders – is presented as normality by the preachers of legalized unconsciousness. Breivik’s imbalance represents a soft-stomached guy’s refusal of unconsciousness. The grounds for his state are also the grounds for the daily imbalance of many of us: a schizoid breach between what we speak at home and what we speak in public. We are appalled by gay parades – with their explicitly vulgar and aggressive street display – yet we mutter that they are just ‘different’ people, while, at the same, time we are happy when a few tidy Christian youths protest against them. We simmer with revolt when behemoths like Egger-Schweighoffer and Kronospan, led by autochthonous cat’s paws, chop off our forests, yet we confine ourselves to silence, since ‘we are to small’, ‘it is futile’, ‘the country is lost’, ‘the world is lost’ etc. In the days following the Oslo and Utoeya events, the internet saw a commercial for a brand of sweets, targeting children: two people engaged in sex until the moment when a burst of colored candy springs from the man’s penis towards the avid mouth of the woman. Afterwards, the name of the producing company appears on screen. I confess: it would not have bothered me if its owner had been amongst the victims on Utoeya. Indeed, the world seems to have gone astray. Is Anders Behring Breivik the only one to have led it that way?
The Great Globalized Terror imposes everything on us: what to say, what to eat, how much to work, how and why we should be happy. It enforces lies, silence and, cynically, it provides a refuge: treating our imbalances with alcohol, cannabis, anxiolytics, sleeping pills, foods rich in E numbers and especially with stultifying entertainment. The unbalanced Breivik refused such a haven. Only that – being human and being much too alone – he erred: to save ‘the Ten Commandments’ he direly breached one of them, by killing the young future politicians which he believed would serve promote the Great Terror in Norway.
Being Christian and anti-Islamic is tantamount to being Islamic and anti-Christian. Unbalanced by the Great Globalized Terror, people still blame each other, although enlightenment is not far away. If however, by having its causes ignored, individual terrorism strikes in a village in the Andes, Siberia or Lapland, it will mean that the Great Terror has irreparably won.
photo: Nicolae Dărămuș
Jurnalul Naţional, July 28, 2011
In 1956 The Roots of Heaven, the novel that was to bring Romain Gary the Goncourt Prize, was published by Gallimard. Seen by critics as the first ecological novel, it generated another piece of socially engaged art – the eponymous movie by John Houston, starring Errol Flynn, Juliette Gréco and Trevor Howard. The promise of art seemed to herald a new era of conscience and awareness. Set amid the beauty and bounty of French Equatorial Africa, the actions of Morel – the stern defender of elephants that is the protagonist – are a powerful symbol of how devastating greed can be, sacrificing both our minds and our surroundings to the false promise of progress and development.
In 1980, in the preface of the second edition, Gary reflected upon the novel’s legacy and its mass effects. He recalled how, in 1956, in a meeting of twenty high-profile journalists, only four knew what the word “ecology” meant. Twenty-four years later, the world had not awakened to an awareness of the global good. “Times have not changed at all since the first printing of this book: just as easily, we continue to determine people’s fate in the name of their right to self-determination. The diffusion of ecological consciousness founders upon what one might call the inhumanity of the human”, he wrote. Still, true to himself, he added: “Across the world, forces are gathering, with determined youths at the vanguard of the fight. The name of Morel, the pioneer of this fight and the hero of my novel, is unknown to them. But this does not matter. The heart does not need a new name. People have always given their best for life to keep a certain kind of beauty. A natural beauty.” In a marked contrast to the rest of the preface, his words carry the timid promise that mankind has yet to become what it can be. A few months later, as a bullet from his own revolver released Gary from his earthly concerns and his concerns for the Earth, this promise was lingering on.
Sixty years have passed since The Roots of Heaven was published, and we have since stepped into a new millennium. Today, the word “ecology” is well-known, too well-known. Those that speak it are many – a good omen, perhaps – yet those that practise it are still too few. People that are now of my age were once the youths in which Gary had placed his hope and on which, inchoately and silently, the Earth was counting. Yet, as greed takes its huge toll, my generation seems more determined than ever to tread the same dangerous and commonplace path. Now having reached “maturity”, those youths have become the new plutocrats – the entrepreneurs and successful warriors of today. As Gary said in The Man with the Dove, “nothing succeeds like success”: it is the twenty-first century and the powerful few continue to determine the fate of the nature in the name of the right to self-determination. The wars of the present export “democracy” only to the places where the land is floating on seas of oil, covered in millenary forests or covering veins of gold – in short, where there are resources fit for exploitation. “I do not crush the world’s corolla of wonders/ And with my mind I never slay the mysteries I meet”, wrote the philosopher-poet Lucian Blaga. How many people have understood this message, at once desperate and resigned?
For a while now, copying a Western model, Romania sees the periodic publication of a strange book. Called the Top 300, to me it seems more a catalogue of vanity than of success. In its pages are the smiling, satisfied, yet lifeless faces of my generation, ranked strictly according to the size of a bank account. Yet beyond these numbers lie the same hallmarks of “progress” and “development”: the accumulation of gigantic properties and resources used discretionarily, alongside the well-known endorsements of hyperconsumerism. ‘I, too, crush and monetize the world’s corolla of wonders’ would be a fitting slogan.
This slogan is the guiding thread of a book published not too long ago, called Confessions of an economic hit-man. It sees its author, John Perkins, repent publicly for having devoted his life to a murderous goal: the destruction of life and the restriction of freedom on Earth. Alongside fellow official delegates – ‘economic hit-men’, as he called them – he had worked to annex “underdeveloped nations” onto the corporate empire, by ensuring that national leaders complied with the signing away of territories, resources and forms of life. The promise of progress, development, civilization and prosperity left behind only poverty and death, in no little part a reflection of the spiritual impoverishment of the decision-makers themselves.
As libraries are awash with pertinent exposes of a cruel system, Perkins’ testimony is too little, too late. Still, it has the merit of showing the simplicity of his mission and the certainty of its success, by highlighting the ways in which human conscience – whether of the layperson or the leader – can be perverted by the ‘world school system’. Having to persuade ‘third world’ leaders that their countries are in urgent need of progress and development, Perkins readily found the politicians already convinced by this ‘self-evident’ truth. For both sides, progress had nothing to do with the human spirit, being little more than a conglomerate of highways, airports, tunnels, residential areas and power plants – mega-constructions not motivated by public support or economic viability, yet with dramatic long-term environmental effects. For each of these investments entailed the reduction of natural surfaces – forests, fertile soils, water – as well as complex ecological imbalances, ranging from noise pollution to chemical and radioactive discharges.
So, what is the link to the world school system? An incisive answer comes from Jacques Yves Cousteau: “Unfortunately, as our universities reflect the morality of the market, they do not produce good citizens, by inoculating a permanent sense of fierce competition based on success, money and more money. Young people are pushed headlong into the social trap that is the mentality of immediacy’. John Perkins’ book is further proof that schooled political leaders, sincerely mesmerized by this dry vision of development and progress, could knowingly sacrifice their national interest for the sake of an ecologically barren future.
However, it would be a serious mistake to rest the blame with the teachers from our schools and universities, insofar as they are themselves the product of similar education, dominated by competition and ‘having’ at the expense of communion and ‘being’. Progressively alienated from nature by a life among asphalt, concrete and screens, it seems only direct hardship holds the prospect of a rude awakening for the ‘new man’. As Romain Gary wrote in The Roots of Heaven, “anyone that has known hunger, fear or forced labour begins to understand that protecting nature is of direct concern”. While is easy to see why hunger, fear and forced labour are more easily borne in the midst of a living, generous nature than in a desert, are we destined to only truly understand this with the benefit of hindsight?
The ancient man – living in nature, earning respect by respecting divine laws – became ‘the master of nature’, harnessing machinery to impose his temporary lawa. Yet though nature periodically shows the errors of his ways – it only takes a tidal wave or an earthquake to cancel ‘progress and civilization’ – he seems to have learned little. Still, despite the world educational system working impeccably and misguidedly, ecology is penetrating the conscience of more and more people. Romain Gary was confirmed in his reserved optimism, since there have been ‘determined youths’ in my generation, combining the experience of nature, artistic talent and communication, and finding new ways of disseminating a generous message.
Still, the system labels nature’s most radical defenders as eco-terrorists, with the FBI unequivocally defining this phenomenon as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.” While one can readily understand why violence should be denounced and punished, it seems that destroying the tools that destroy nature becomes a crime, if they happen to be the property of anyone in the system. The notion of property trumps the truth of life.
Yet the environmental educational ‘para-system’ developed spontaneously, through the help of engaged artists, peaceful and obstinate people who understand that knowledge must pass through the heart to reach our conscience. Only then can information become wisdom, replacing man’s isolation with a sense of communion with the fellow beings hosted by the common abode that is the Earth. These teachers have told the world that the real eco-terrorists lie behind closed doors, crushing the ‘world’s corolla of wonders’ under the cover of self-serving laws. Drawing on their wide sense of communion, engaged artists have shown that the true price of greed is the suffering and agony of the Earth.
Working to serve a new spirituality, this type of art – eco-art – reaches people by appealing to their souls, not just their minds. Ranging from painting and sculpture to movies, photography, literature and music, eco-art should be urgently incorporated into the curriculum for all ages, replacing the dry and pedantic manuals of ecology. Targeting only reason and memory, courses on the concentration of greenhouse gases cannot instil compassion for animal suffering or revolt at the irreversible destruction of the ‘natural beauty’. Nor do they teach young people the generosity of thinking about individual risks alongside the threats to all future inhabitants of the Earth. Thus, it is imperative that future education comprise the study of eco-engaged art, turning towards the great divine work that is our world as a testimony to the fact that ‘beauty can be just as helpful as utility’ (Voltaire).
All in all, the fact that nothing can flourish as life is destroyed is too important a truth for our young to discover it by accident – and political will must acknowledge this. The words attributed to the native American chief Seattle say it all: ‘if all the beasts were gone, man would die of a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of the Earth. […] Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny.”
Nicolae R. Dărămuș