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Book Review: Mind at the End of Its Tether

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John Hawkins
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Book Review: Mind at the End of Its Tether

Our Minds Untethered

by John Kendall Hawkins

Things have been heating up with the Chinese and Russians for many years, as if by script. Americans have been forced to demonize the Russkies since 1945 -- we've been in a virtual state of war all those years. 76 years. And China, after America threw away the coveted detente dumpling that Tricky Dick and Henry K worked so hard to establish in February 1972 as a gift to CREEP and the future presidential library, got put on the official updated shitlist in 2012, when the world learned that the Chinese Army had insclutabry hacked into the New York Times, WaPo, and the Wall Street Journal in search of the source of information revealing un-Commie corruption at the upper echelons of Beijing's ka-ching-a-lings in power, according to an anonymous well-placed source.

Cybersecurity wonks Mandiant and Crowdstrike nodded their heads. (Little Mandiant went on to get bought out by CIA start-up Fire Eye for a billion bucks. Crowdstrike is a start up of "retired" FBI personnel, including its former global cybersecurity chief, Shawn Henry.) So, the MSM, now feeling molested by Red Capitalists, published photos of the building the hacker army was working out of in Shanghai, as well as photos of the hackers in their uniforms -- in absentia indictments for the lot soon followed. Then in 2016, we re-heated the Russians, in earnest, dragging them into our crooked electoral processes, accused them all kinds of hacking, said Assange was working in a conspiracy to commit arrangement with them, and eventually identified a Russian Army group as the hackers, showed a photograph of their operations building -- and, lo and behold, they, too, were indicted in absentia (meaning, no hope they'll ever be tried or serve time). Mandiant and Crowdstrike nodded for that, too. Scripts. Applause.

Now, we are beginning to hear war drums beating for a heating up with Russia and China. Recently we accused the Russkies of being involved (by proxy) with the Colonial pipeline ransomware hack. We are now considering the possibility that China was responsible for the severity of the pandemic by withholding origins information. Yesterday, US demagogues in Congress were pushing Uncle Joe to dust off the pool chain he used to deal with Corn Pop all those years ago, and turn on taunting Putin, who is now targeted for regime change. And the Chinese now have human rights issues with the ethnics and in sweatshops that Americans just can't cope with. (Jeff Bezos had to pull his Amazon operations out of China, he was so upset; some say, he's going to outer space to have a good cry, away from the prying eyes of MBS.) What do modern China and Russia have in common? One thing is: BRICS, which, strengthened, could grow into the next global trading currency, leaving the US sh*tting bricks and facing domestic revolution.

This brings to mind another sad recent reading from Daniel Ellsberg and his latest book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear Planner. That's right, you can garner from the title that before Danny Boy broke good, he was one of the Masters of War that Dylan looked forward to grave-spittng on. Ellsberg owns that speeches he wrote may have played a significant role in leading to the Cuban missile crisis (he's got a whole chapter on his oops). And the stuff happening on the Cuban grounds during the crisis, especially with unknown tactical nukes, make his book a MUST read.

But more germaine to my point here is that, in his book, Ellsberg highlights the US first strike policy (which Russia has only recently adopted, in frustration), but more importantly, adds that the US plans to bomb China and Russia if nuclear war breaks out with either. Ellsberg trots out a questioner during a war planner's conference; their exchange is telling:

"What if this isn't China's war?" the voice asked. "What if this is just a war with the Soviets? Can you change the plan?"

"Well, yeah," said General Power resignedly, "we can, but I hope nobody thinks of it, because it would really screw up the plan. [p. 123]

Recent news that China is now busy installing dozens of new nuclear missile siloes is not good news. Right now, there are only two Doomsday machines -- America's and the Russians' -- and the planet might be a done dumpling if the Chinese go from dim sum to zero sum, too.

It hasn't looked pretty for a long time on Planet Earth. The 20th Century was a mess of wars around the globe. A disgusted TS Eliot penned The Wasteland in response. Freud left behind Civilization and Its Discontents and, perhaps more potent, The Future of an Illusion. Erich Fromm responded to the half century of depravity he observed with The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Hannah Arendt waxed morosely about the banality of evil. Then we went postmodern, and the Canonists went underground and became the Deep State. And the 21st century has so far been owned by the War on Terror. Pretty grim stuff, pretty grim.

In the lead-up to the inevitable dissolution (some argue de-evolution) of civilization, there have been major 'optimists' along the way who have maintained a vision of human progress. One such personage was HG Wells. He was a pacifist (war, what is it good for?), a didacticist (but if we must war, we can learn from them), a utopianist (believed in mankind), and a Nietzschean (full of amor fati and the Ã"bermensch to come). He was called the "father of science fiction" (Mary Shelley just turned over in her grave -- oh, wait). Wikipedia adds that "His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering. [sci-fi writer] Brian Aldiss referred to Wells as the "Shakespeare of science fiction." He gave the world The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Shape of Things to Come, and The Outline of History, among very many publications, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature four times.

But by the early 1940s, Wells' infectious enthusiasm for the 'intrepidity of the mankind' project had dried up considerably. The Spanish Civil War, from 1936 - 1939, pitted communists against fascists, ostensibly good guys versus bad guys, proved to be lethally demoralizing to left wing ideologues. George Orwell came away from the shattering experience thoroughly disillusioned, his ideals in disarray. "The fascists had behaved just as appallingly as he had expected they would," Dorian Lynskey writes in his Orwell biography The Ministry of Truth, "but the ruthlessness and dishonesty of the communists had shocked him." He'd come to fight in a great battle of Good versus Evil -- writers like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn and John Dos Passos had come to bear witness -- but "[w]hat he found was 'a bad copy of 1914-18, a positional war of trenches, artillery, raids, snipers, mud, barbed wire, lice and stagnation.'" The writer's imaginot line had been crossed.

No one had a greater influence on Orwell's generation than the literary colossus, H.G. Wells. Prolific, prescient, extraordinarily innovative, in some ways Wells was the perfect tonic for an age that had torn humanity apart with world wars, tyranny, and economic misery disseminated across the globe. "Wells predicted space travel, tanks, electric trains, wind and water power, identity cards, poison gas, the Channel tunnel and atom bombs," writes Lynskey, "and popularised in fiction the time machine, Martian invasions, invisibility and genetic engineering." He also developed notions of a "World Brain" and anticipated the World Wide Web (sorry, TimBL). Further, he was a force behind the establishment of the League of Nations.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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