To Rebel Against Necessity and More

“Compassion has no place in the natural order of the world, which operates on the basis of necessity.  The laws of necessity are as unexceptional as the laws of gravitation.  The human faculty of compassion opposes this order and is therefore best thought of as being in some way supernatural.  To forget oneself, however briefly, to identify with a stranger to the point of fully recognizing her or him, is to defy necessity, and in this defiance, even if small and quiet  and even if measuring only 60cm. x 50cm., there is a power that cannot be measured by the limits of the natural order.  It is not a means and it has no end.  The Ancients knew this.”

– John Berger, “A Man with Tousled Hair,” from The Shape of a Pocket

Autumn is the dying season.  This morning when I came home from a walk, he was lying there on his back.  He was dead.

Yet an autumn day like today in the mountains is so beautiful that everything vibrates with life. The air chimes.  The clouds tango across the blue dance floor above.  The leaves sway to some celestial tune.  And the lake laps in synchronicity to singing hearts.

My heart was singing before I found him.  His blueness and his beauty startled me. I touched him in the hope that he would move, but he stayed still, on his back with his eyes open. A still life.  A life stilled.  Only one of millions of fallen birds, yet I felt an immense sadness at the sight of him, as if he were waiting there to tell me something.  I wanted so badly to resurrect him, for he seemed so alive in death. I felt myself returning to the blues I felt before my walk.

Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo these words:

I feel more and more that we must not judge God on the basis of this world; it’s a study that didn’t come off.  What can you do, in a study that has gone wrong, if you are fond of the artist?  You do not find much to criticize; you hold your tongue.  But you have a right to ask for something better.  It is only a master who can make such a muddle, and perhaps that is the best consolation we have out of it, since then we have a right to hope that we’ll see the same creative hand get even with itself.

This bluejay was a small creature, and many people hate his kind.  He’s a bully bird, they say.  In the celebrated novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the hero, Atticus Finch says one shouldn’t kill a mockingbird but kill all the bluejays you can hit.

I am wondering who or what killed this beautiful bluejay at my feet, but I will never know.

I do know that “Operation Mockingbird” killed many minds and hearts, and resulted in untold numbers of deaths worldwide.  This CIA media propaganda program in which all the major media were doing the bidding of the CIA was allegedly dismantled after its discovery in the 1970s, but it no doubt operates today under a different name.  Perhaps its code name is Operation Bluejay, since the bluebird was already used for “Project Bluebird,” a predecessor to MKULtra, the CIA’s other massive mind control program.

The bird names migrate, but they seem to return under different nomenclature for people who are in the business of killing singers of songs of freedom.

They are the killers of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

For before my walk, I had started to read an article, with declassified CIA and U.S. government documents, from The National Security Archives, about his death.  For on this date, October 9, in 1967, the Argentinian revolutionary Che, Fidel Castro’s right-hand man in the Cuban Revolution, was executed by the CIA-led Bolivian military, after having been captured in a firefight in the Bolivian mountains. Fascists killed the courageous Che as he fought to inspire the oppressed to rise up against U.S. imperialism.  They executed him in cold blood, consciously and proudly.  They posed with his dead body, like macho hunters who pose holding a bird they have just shot.

Writing in The Nation magazine three year ago, Peter Kornbluh, the director of the National Security Archive‘s Chile and Cuba Documentation Projects, described how he had met in Miami with Gustavo Villoldo, who had been the top Cuban-American CIA operative assigned to assist in tracking down and capturing Guevara,  the iconic revolutionary, in Bolivia. Villoldo told Kornbluh how he cut off the dead Che’s hands and pieces of his hair and beard before secretly burying his body, which was discovered and dug up in 1997, minus his hand bones.  Kornbluh writes:

At one point during the conversation, Villoldo opened the binder and pulled out a white envelope. Inside was a clump of brown hair. As the ultimate souvenir of this Cold War victory, Villoldo proudly stated, he had cut off strands of Che’s hair before disposing of his body. ‘I basically took it because the symbol of the revolution was this bearded, long-haired guy coming down the mountain,’ Villoldo later explained. ‘To me, I was cutting off the very symbol of the Cuban revolution.’

Maybe a hawk killed the bluejay, but if so, it didn’t gloat over its body.  It would have been operating under the laws of necessity, where as far as we know, compassion has no place. Not true for Che’s killers. Here they are posing for the camera, guns still aimed at the dead man, as if he still posed a great danger to them.  They were right, at least in the long term.

Ernesto Che Guevara is also lying on his back, eyes open. Seeing the bluejay in a similar pose an hour after seeing this photograph, which I had studied for many minutes, gave me a jolt. The bird’s blueness entered my soul. Blue blue blue – I felt I was sinking into a deep hole of sorrow and despair.  My sorrow for the bird was nothing compared to the deep rage and anguish I felt when once again I viewed the photo of Che surrounded by cowards, and I thought of all the victims from Bolivia to the Congo and all around the world who have suffered and died – and continue to do so – at the hands of all the ruthless forces he opposed.  I wanted so badly to resurrect him, for he seemed so alive in death.  And his CIA killers so dead by comparison.

Here was a man of immense courage who gave his life for his beliefs, who was the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution, who cared deeply to liberate the world’s oppressed from U.S.-led imperialism.  I kept thinking of another revolutionary on the run from fascist forces, Pietro Spina in Ignazio Silone’s great novel, Bread and Wine, who, disguised as a priest in Mussolini’s Italy, tells a frightened girl who is worried what will ensue if the government captures the rebel leader, who is actually the “priest” she is talking to.  “And if they catch him and kill him?” the girl asked.

Killing a man who says ‘No!’ is a risky business, the priest replied, because even a corpse can go on whispering “No! No! No!’ with a persistence and obstinacy that only certain corpses are capable of.  And how can you silence a corpse?

We know Che’s voice has not been silenced where victims of imperialism continue to suffer and be killed around the world.  But here in the United States, the image-makers have fashioned him into a celebrity whose message is lost, another casualty of mind control and the propagandists who control the corporate media.  The people he fought against.

Everyone has seen Che’s image somewhere. Posters of his visage adorn college dormitory rooms. You know, the man with the tousled hair and the beard. The  cool charismatic guy!  The handsome man who road a motorcycle, was articulate, and could write and speak eloquently. The Che on coffee mugs and tee-shirts everywhere.  All derived from one photograph taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda for the revolutionary newspaper Revoluciόn in Havana in 1960.  A photograph that never earned Korda a cent, but has been exploited by countless money vultures, including the artist Andy Warhol. Che wrote in Socialism and Man in Cuba:

A school of artistic inquiry is invented, which is said to be the definition of freedom; but this ‘inquiry’ has its limits, imperceptible until there is a clash, that is, until the real problems of man and his alienation arise. Meaningless anguish or vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated. Those who play by the rules of the game are showered with honours—such honours as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition is that one does not try to escape from the invisible cage.

Then as now, escaping from that invisible cage is our task, a cage that teaches us not to rebel against what is called “necessity,” but to exploit others every way we can. To profit from their suffering, which is the nature of imperialism. To close our eyes and make believe it is possible to live in an imperialistic country abroad and have a democracy at home. Sooner or later, this pipe dream will come crashing down. Perhaps that is happening now.

One does not have to agree with every thought Che expressed more than five decades ago. Or with all his tactics.  But if you read his words, you will see that the conditions for oppressed people throughout Latin American and around the world have not changed very much in all these decades. Of course, the propaganda has become far more sophisticated, and the temptation to play by the rules of the game and pirouette like caged monkeys is stronger than ever.  Now as then, the religion of consumption is a private devotion for the public, and it is not just things that people are consuming but illusory images of a good and decent life. But their pursuit “is a race among wolves; one can win only at the cost of others’ failure,” wrote Che.  Such a system is not necessary but is imposed and must be resisted.

For the little dead bird I encountered this morning, all I can offer is my compassion that opposes the order of necessity – my “supernatural” resistance.  So I buried the blue creature out of respect and reverence.

But war and imperialism are not natural, and so I cannot bury my conscience, but must try to find ways to resist such human cruelty.

I ask myself, says Don Benedetto, the elderly priest in Silone’s Bread and Wine, “what is to be done?”  He pauses and continues:

I am convinced that it would be a waste of time to show a people of intimidated slaves a different manner of speaking, a different manner of gesticulating; but perhaps it would be worth while to show them a different way of living.  No word and no gesture can be more persuasive than the life, and if necessary, the death of a man who strives to be free, loyal, just, sincere, disinterested: a man who shows what a man can be.

Che did that.  Now it’s up to us.

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous,” he wrote, “ let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”

Is such love and sacrifice supernatural?

If so, let us fly to the heights.












20 thoughts on “To Rebel Against Necessity and More”

  1. This discussion’s very interesting.

    The US subject population has no idea what their rights are. When you poll them, they don’t know where their rights are written down.*

    They don’t know where they got these rights. They’ll take a stab at it: from God, from the state, from the founding fathers like Hamilton, and, uh… Nobody thinks to RTF Declaration where their rights are written down (to be fair, most of the US subject population doesn’t even know there’s any such thing as a listing of your rights in common law and customary international law. In a tour de force of statist propaganda, your government hid the most widely translated document in world history from you, the people who live where it was written.) OK, hint: according to the consensus of the whole world, you have rights by virtue of your recourse to rebellion.

    The US subject population doesn’t know what democracy is. They hasten to tell you what they learned in 5th-grade civics, that “not-a-democracy-a-republic” proverb, but they never heard of the world’s consensus definition of democracy. Hint: it’s in the Siracusa Principles, also common law as customary international law, and also something no one ever heard of in the USA.

    Americans are encouraged think and think and oof and puff and grunt with the supreme mental effort of reinventing the wheel. But in many domains, it’s easier to start by looking at what the whole world thinks. What they have agreed. What they have codified and institutionalized and lived by for 70+ years. The whole world has thought a lot about this. More than you have. What they came up with is not too bad. Maybe you can do better. But probably not if you ignore it all and pull something out of your butt instead.

    So here.

    * in the UDHR

  2. “But their pursuit “is a race among wolves; one can win only at the cost of others’ failure,” wrote Che.”
    This reminds me of a science fiction story called Wolfbane, published in 1959 by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth (Which I found on Project Gutenberg). It posits a future or alternative world where strict rules govern the behavior of the people, where even swinging the arms excessively while walking is socially unacceptable, due to the requirement to conserve energy. Any evidence of gaining or trying to gain any advantage in any situation resulted in the citizenry shrieking “Wolf” and the guilty party being apprehended and subject to summary execution.
    Other social rules forbade the people from supplementing their less than adequate shares of food and necessaries by foraging. It is the ultimate in central control, with the people policing itself for any signs of nonconformity. Che had perhaps good intentions, but “freedom” and “equality” are not both achievable at the same time. The law should regard all people in the same way, but by their freedom, the people will be unequal in the outcomes of their actions. Attempts by government to make them equal always result in the successful being pulled down, not in the weak being lifted up – governments do not create wealth, they can only steal it. The race is worth the running, even if some must lose. But of course, in the case in question in the article, the US was ensuring that no fair race could be run, and the winners decided ahead of time.

  3. (“Meaningless anguish or vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated. Those who play by the rules of the game are showered with honours—such honours as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition is that one does not try to escape from the invisible cage.”) – what an amazing quote from Che. A perfect summation of our degraded collective societal situation.

    It will be difficult not to think of “pirouetting monkeys” as encounter my “masked” fellows today when out in public. Meanwhile struggling with the fact that my own anguish feels a big more “meaningless” with each day that our collective madness continues unabated. Thank you Ed.

    1. The typed word – “bit” – is quietly changed to – “big” – without the writer’s consent or awareness – apparently because the AI program is sure it knows more than any of we mere mortals and appears to believe itself to be clairvoyant. What could go wrong?

  4. I think Ed is dealing with the subject of the relative power of being prepared to die for what you believe, compared to being prepared to kill for what you believe. – I have also written about this recently and used Gandhi as an example. His “Civil disobedience” message was vastly different to the modern “peaceful protest” concept. It was certainly not a caution to avoid getting hurt.

  5. Thank you for this…I’m at a loss for the right word. Article is too clinical; work too pedantic; piece too presumptive; poem too artsy. So I’ll just call it a gift.

  6. A touchingly beautiful and deeply moving piece, which exudes reverence for life and its necessary flip side, resistance to the culture of death. The greatest challenge, the hardest task, according to Albert Schweitzer, is to obey Jesus’ command to believe in the Kingdom of God coming on earth. While we can’t ourselves bring about that coming, Schweitzer explains, we can work for it, live our lives as a prayer for it. I believe that this crazy yet confident faith in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth, against all apparent odds, is THE missing element in secular criticism and condemnation of the omnipresent evil in the world, the evil caused by human beings, which Ed carefully distinguishes from evil, such as predation, inherent in the natural order. Che never claimed to be a Christian or any sort of religious man, but his conviction that human evil could and would be overthrown was obviously the driving force of his life, that which he recognized as the highest form of love, that for which he gave his life. Thus, in his own strange way, Che obeyed the hardest, most difficult command ever given to human beings. “Many will come from east and west, north and south, and sit at the table with Abraham in the Kingdom of God.”

    1. Tim, Thanks for your comment. I don’t agree that he was a monster. I don’t revere him, as I don’t revere any human being. I think that the facts support my contention that he was very brave and was right to oppose American imperialism in Latin America, etc. He wasn’t perfect, of course, but my point in the article is not to contend that he was a saint but to point out the disgusting nature of the photograph of his body and the truth that he sincerely and wholeheartedly gave his life to help free oppressed people from a ruthless system of American supported dictators who slaughtered their people at will with the help of the CIA, etc. Then his image was used to sell a sick system of consumer culture that thrived, and continues to thrive, on the backs of the world’s poor through U.S. wars and support for oppressive regimes around the world. Pax, Ed

  7. Beautifully written piece !
    Great testament to the unrelenting power of the Human Spirit
    to be free of unnatural influences that continuously seek to
    obstruct it`s progress.

  8. Humanity is offered unconditional love from the time we were born. I ask myself “Why do we continue to throw it away for power and war?” Every Human being is born with God given rights, but once again others continue throughout the centuries to take it away from others all in the name of suppression so they can continue live the life styles they have come accustomed to. I read currently that only 5% of the world’s population is aware of the truth of the lies and propaganda that is being used to suppressed the population through fear. How can we wake up people who live in constant fear, because they have become blind to the truth of freedom?

    1. Hi Marianne…you asked; “How can we wake up people who live in constant fear, because they have become blind to the truth of freedom?”
      We talk regularly about that question…, how can we wake up people? We do not have an answer. We find people are rarely receptive to a basic good morning greeting. This was even before the mask business. We talk about community all the time, helping each other to help each other. No interest exhibited! It appears people, most people are content to sit back and wait for the ‘next command’ from any authority concerning any topic. I attempted to bring to the attention of the local people the sales of toxic sprays of all kinds and during this period of time we are told there is a respiratory problem. I remind them of the dense traffic in town; motorized vehicles exhaust, tire dust be inhaled as well. No one seems to care, no one responds. Have we reached zombieville ? It seems so. I truly think if an authority ordered the citizenry to jump off a cliff, people would enthusiastically fight to be first in line…., like children going out to recess! Let’s have a huge round of applause for our indoctrination system that’s billed as education! I feel ill….,

      1. Hi Joseph, I feel that you understood what I was trying to convey. Because oppression comes in many different forms starting from the beginning of our existence. The Human race has advanced in many ways, but in many other ways we haven’t changed or grown for the better. Every time I think of all the terrible atrocities that have accured throughout history, it makes me I’ll. But then I have to remember that there are people today and throughout history who have tried to change the world for the better, even if it seemed insignificant at that time. One example I read today is a famous Italy Cyclist Gino Bartali who saved people in War time Italy during 1943 by helping them cross the border to safety by passing on messages to other Italian resistance.

    2. “God” given rights? No, That’s an idea, or a desire, we state as a foundation to create peaceful democratic societies. In a democracy, rights are granted by the people in that society.
      I suppose the same could be said for a tyrannical state, although more so about rights taken away.
      For “God” given rights see slavery in the 16th – 19th century, as well as the plight of women in current religious Islamic dictatorships.

      Yes, we do need or want people to recognize reality by observing the physical world around us.
      Sadly, I have seen the same behavior mentioned here in the previous post. I know decent people who see the terrible waste, and greed around them. But they simply do not care. Laziness, and selfishness may be to blame, but it comes from a complete lack of culture, or tradition.
      I have known many colllege educated people who made lots of money yet who seem, to me, like functional idiots in every other way in life. Sure, buy cases of plastic bottles filled with water rather than use a water filter on the tap. Intelligent.

      Technology in coming years will make this even worse.
      We already have an entire society of people whose only skill is to press buttons on a little screen and wait for something happen.

      They EXPECT to to be managed in nearly EVERY aspect of their lives.

      Or course, we do use the technology (Internet) to show the crimes of the imperialist psychopaths (CIA, Corporations, Organized Religion). This is a good use of the internet, I suppose.

      I am glad you wrote this Ed, although the dead Blue Jay hurt a little. I see them in my buck thorn thicket every week.

      1. Fortunately, those of us in the US live in a republic, not a democracy, though that distinction has been progressively erased from the public consciousness for at least a century. The cultural narrative which demands that God be removed from the conversation also encourages us to believe our rights are given by government, since if there is no God, or any entity of any name operating in that capacity, from where else would they derive? A democracy, without the restraints framed by a constitution limiting the will of the majority, might decide that those in the minority have no rights. Though currently obviously corrupted by those who talk about “our Democracy” in order to preserve the illusion that some enemy is about to take it from us, the framework of government specifically states that our rights are derived from a higher source than either the people or the government, and cannot be infringed by either.

        1. Rights are granted or restricted by government. That is the legislature elected by the citizens.

          That’s how you got slavery, child labor, no voting rights for women and other “god” given rights. Then, eventually, all these atrocities were abolished by the same system that gladly accepted them at first.

          Rights are created and restricted by the legislature, and people live within their laws or they break the law.

          People have the power to change things for the better.

          The endless profit driven war industry continues, but very few people seem to notice,
          nonetheless care.

          Maybe it will change some day.

          Thanks for writing this , Ed.

Comments are closed.