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We are the Snails on the Slope

by William Bowles • Thursday, 9 November, 2006

The following two stories are typical of what greets me as I go through my mail every am:

50 dead in ongoing operation; missile hits schoolchildren
IOF’s continued offensive on north Gaza has left 45 Palestinians killed in (50 in the entire Gaza Strip) in its sixth day. Of the killed, nine are children, two are women and one is elderly. Some 190 have also been injured, including 46 children and 45 women. An IOF air strike hit near a school and a nursery bus children. In addition, IOF have destroyed 64 homes, 11 of which completely, seized 34 others, and demolished five public institutions, two stores and five vehicles. The humanitarian situation in Beit Hanoun has further deteriorated owing to the shortage of foodstuffs, electricity, water and medicine, as well as increasing damage to the town’s infrastructure. At 7. 05am today, Monday 6 November 2006, IOF fired a missile hitting a group of school children near a school in Beit Lahia, near the town of Beit Hanoun.” — Al Mezan 11/6/2006

Israeli forces kill medical volunteers and block access to hospitals in Gaza
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, particularity in North Gaza, as a result of the continued Israeli military operation for the fifth day, demands an immediate intervention by the international community to ensure the protection of the civilian population and to put an end to Israeli violations against civilians and medical teams. The Israeli occupying forces have deliberately attacked and targeted unarmed civilians as well as PRCS ambulances and medical teams. On November 3, 2006, Israeli forces targeted and killed two members of PRCS medical teams, while they were attempting to evacuate a victim killed by Israeli fire in Beit Lahia area. At the same time, Beit Hanoun Hospital is continued to be under siege by Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, which prevent medical teams and victims from reaching the hospital.” — Palestine Red Crescent Society 11/5/2006

Just two stories of the many that land on my desktop every day, yet where is the outrage in the Western media? Clearly Arabs are ‘unter mensh’ along with the rest of the inhabitants of the world that surrounds us as far as the West is concerned.

Look, I could go one relating an endless litany of accounts of the kind of nightmares being inflicted on the people of the Middle East allegedly under the guise of fighting the ‘war on terror’. The reality of course is that it’s us in the West who are unleashing a war of terror on them.

I know that I’ve mentioned before that years ago I read a Soviet science fiction novel called ‘Snail on the Slope’ by the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The story concerned a planet which had been colonised by a country not a thousand miles away from the former Soviet Union.

The planet consisted of one enormous sentient forest which strongly objected to being chopped down by the colonisers as they attempted to ‘terraform it’ and it naturally fought back. In any case, the colonisers found themselves defending heavily fortified enclaves brutally carved out of the forest.

One man tried to persuade those in charge that they were fighting a battle they were bound to lose, unless they destroyed the forest, which effectively meant destroying the planet. Not surprisingly the leaders decided to exile the lone objector as they continued their policy of subjugation. And of course, the idea that the forest could be alive and thinking as a single organism, was simply beyond the comprehension of the ‘authorities’.

The allegory wasn’t lost on me at the time but it strikes me that today ‘Snail on the Slope’ is even more applicable to the inhabitants of the so-called developed world as we cling desperately to what we have been persuaded are our benefits; our enclaves of consumption and to eat our way through what remains around us regardless of the consequences.

Meanwhile the (not so) unfolding story of the horrors inflicted on the people of Lebanon by the state of Israel warrants virtually no coverage whatsoever. But a story on the BBC World Service broadcast at some unearthly hour of the morning on 7/11/06, gave us a peek into the mentality of the Zionist state. Not surprisingly, this is one story the BBC won’t broadcast on its regular TV or radio news for fear of offending its masters.

An unnamed reservist in the Israel ‘Defence’ Force who could no longer hold his tongue reveals that in the final five days of the onslaught, the rocket launchers under his command fired 1800 cluster bomb rockets into southern Lebanon. Each cluster bomb contains 664 ‘bomblet’s with some 40% of them ‘duds’,totalling 1.2 million of these fiendish devices. Thus the farmlands and villages of Southern Lebanon are littered with around half million of these murderous US-supplied terror weapons and are killing an average of 4 people a day as they go about their business on their farms and in their villages.

Allegedly aimed at Hezbollah units, they have made millions of hectares of Lebanese territory virtual no-go areas which was of course, the intention. As the IDF soldier explained, Hezbollah Katushya rockets are shoulder-launched (no more than a metal tube) and thus within seconds of being launched the Hezbollah soldier relocates immediately so it would be by sheer luck that an Israeli cluster bomb hit its alleged target. And one has to assume that these are only a small fraction of the total fired into Lebanon.

For let’s face it, in the full glare of daylight, Israel launched a murderous assault on the people of Lebanon using weapons of the most horrendous destruction, an attack aimed principally not at Hezbollah but at the general population and the critical infrastructure needed to sustain life and limb. Yet we in the so-called civilised world stood by and did nothing.

Aside from the ‘usual suspects’, there was no outcry of rage from the citizens of this ‘civilised’ nation of ours. We stood by and watched as ‘our’ government condoned Israel’s crime against humanity by doing nothing except mouthing off pious bleats. Yet there there is an historical precedent when Hitler’s airforce destroyed Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and Britain and the rest of the West claimed neutrality and stood by and did nothing except mutter the same, empty phrases.

But is it sufficient to say that the reason we do little or nothing about the activities of our murderous political elites is because we are not informed or are being misinformed, or is there something far more fundamental at work here?

Are we the equivalent of the Snail on the Slope, intent on hanging on to what we think are our advantages even as we destroy the very basis of them just as the colonisers destroyed the forest that sustained life? We cannot say that we don’t see or know what is going on, we have no excuse for our inaction except perhaps the simple fact that we do not, as a nation, regard the lives of others as truly human so corrosive and utterly pervasive is the racist ideology of the imperial system.

But at the same time it is also apparent that many millions of us are deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with life even as we desperately consume mountains of crap we neither need nor can really afford. But those little scraps of plastic insulate us from the reality of our actions by delaying the inevitable. Worse, they put off the debt for future generations to pay (assuming of course, they’ll be someone around to pay).

So what gives here? Firstly, it reveals the utter and total failure of the so-called democratic system when we see the ignominous behaviour of ‘our’ Labour MPs in propping up the genocidal policies of the Blair government who cared more about their personal aggrandizement than principles when only twelve of the thirty-eight Labour MPs who had previously signed motions calling for an inquiry into the invasion of Iraq actually voted in favour of the inquiry. The rest supported Tony Blair.

And with every passing day, more reports appear detailing the existing and coming destruction of what used to be our beautiful blue/green planet. How much longer we have is not clear, it may well be already too late. One thing is obvious to me however, it’s time to choose sides, we no longer have the luxury of choice, and what an irony given how we have been conned into thinking that the major advantage of capitalism is unlimited ‘choice’, but at whose expense?

As much as I regret saying this, it looks increasingly likely that change will only come about when the system as a whole collapses, when it can no longer support our extravagant mode of living.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the collapse was confined only to the developed world, but of course it won’t. The developing world’s economies have been so distorted by our needs that they too will pay the cost of our selfish behaviour.

So why haven’t the progressive elements in our world responded to the crisis we confront?

Could it be because their own world of privilege is equally threatened and if so, what does it tell us about the path we have followed all these decades?

It’s worth considering for example that a country like Cuba, which is judged as being poor, can nevertheless not only produce enough doctors and teachers to meet its own needs but also afford to send them to many countries around the world. It has also completely transformed its own agriculture to be totally organic and pesticide free. Its richness obviously lies elsewhere than in material goods. Yes, it has problems (many caused by the US embargo) but we are not talking about utopia.

It’s obvious that it’s time for socialists to completely reorder their priorities. It’s not enough to talk about socialism but to consider what kind of socialism is it we are talking about and before it’s too late to have the luxury of a choice?

If, as seems likely, a complete reordering of our priorities is necessary anyway, and this is something that cannot be avoided, and, as it’s also obvious that capitalism not only refuses but is also incapable of taking the necessary measures, then it must be obvious that any socialist programme must include over time, the complete restructuring of our industrial, agricultural and transportation infrastructure.

Moreover, I believe the seeds for such a change are already present, albeit currently limited to the wealthier and better educated sections of society.

Weaning our current generation off their addiction to cars and consumer products is no easy task to be sure but before long they will have no choice.

A major role in the transformation can be played by those who have dedicated their lives to the study of the effects of capitalism on the planet, along with those who are slowly awakening to just how destructive capitalism is to our physical and mental health. The mass media is full of such accounts but all avoid the obvious cause, indeed they go out of their way to avoid mentioning the obvious connection to capitalism.[1]

There is simply no avoiding the fact that our current ‘lifestyle’ is unsustainable, we either act now or let chaos do it for us or are we to be the proverbial snails on the slope?


1. See in particular:
Climate Change– “Welcome to Mars (or North Korea)!” The Great Media Silence on Causes and Solutions’, January 31, 2006.

Cheerleading the Climate Criminals – Part 1’, September 1, 2005.

Cheerleading the Climate Criminals – Part 2’, September 2, 2005.

SILENCE IS GREEN The Green Movement And The Corporate Mass Media’, February 3, 2005

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