07/28/16

My Colonoscopy, the Magic School Bus, Voyager I, and Some Unfortunate Truths – A Dense Essay

Chapter One

Born in the fifties and three years short of sixty, I seem to have been blessed with the genes and metabolism which seem oblivious to the abuse I have given them. Generally a healthy later middle aged male, I am fortunate to have been born, and still living, where I do here in British Columbia. But life is still life and when one is an anatomically and behaviourally modern Homo sapien, living in a body composed of mostly water and oxygen, things are bound to happen.

Beneath the hair of an average adult human, no matter the race, color, faith, or where they live, sixty per cent of their body’s weight and volume is water. Incredulously, it stands, can fall, and get back up. The body also contains about five and a half litres (just over one gallon) of blood, and about ten litres (two and a half gallons) of interstitial fluid, which washes and surrounds our trillions of cells. Other elements of the body include oxygen (sixty-five per cent), carbon (eighteen per cent) and other trace elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, potassium, sulphur, sodium chlorine, and magnesium, to name but a few.

human bodyMaterials include protein, connective tissue, fats, carbohydrates and bone, with operating systems that include mechanical, physical, and bio-electrical and biochemical functions, which make up such a life form, and the machine it is.

Naturally odd and kind of eerie, the vast majority of our cells in our bodies are not even human, but instead microorganisms and bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with our functions and make up. The largest proportions of these cells, about one hundred trillion of them, a number about ten times greater than the total number of other human cells in the entire body, live in the digestive tract. Such microorganism cells digest our food, gleaning the energy and fatty acids needed for us to exist, and keep all the body’s systems running properly. They also metabolize acids and synthesize vitamins, working closely with the liver, digestive tract, and even muscle tissue, with their combined efforts resembling an alien organ seemingly existing within us. Much like our skin is also considered an organ. But many believe, and rightly so, that for all intents and purposes in most living things, the digestive tract is running the show.

Chapter Two

One hundred years ago an average human never made it to sixty years of age. Today many do, though often are hurting units when they get there. That is the downside of living longer, especially in developed corporations, sorry I mean developed countries. As humans age their lives become filled with chronic pain, depression, cancer, ever continuing prescription needs, strokes, kidneys and knees shutting down, and increasing rates of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, among so many other ailments.

But when young we all thought and felt we were invincible, and became distracted by it. It distracts us even more today because we think it keeps us from going mad, and yet our survival depends on being aware, of ourselves yes, but also and more importantly, of our surroundings, including all the other thousands of living things sharing the planet with us, and most critically, the natural workings of the world. Having lost such awareness, it’s not surprising that the leading cause of death for people from the ages, one to thirty-four years old, is accidents.

Personally I have learned to embrace moderation of all things. And, am grateful and humbled that, as of yet, I do not live with pain on a daily basis. But besides the absorption of toxins, hormones and viruses  that exists in frighteningly increasing numbers, I have not always been nice and respectful to my body regarding what goes into it, whether food, drink and smoke, or given enough concern for the health of some of its operating systems.

I smoke cigarettes, which often makes me worry that since I have been a full time smoker for over forty years I would not be surprised for that shoe to drop, and the thing I thought was bound to happen does. Yet I continue to play ignorant and not even attempt to alter the outcome, which may yet still arrive, by hiding behind the excuse that I am basically a drug addict and allowing the addiction to control, in many ways, my life. As it is, the nicotine and the few thousand other chemicals in each cigarette I smoke have given me chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which shows up in my lungs as emphysema. Meaning the small air sacs of my lungs have been weakened and have ruptured, creating one larger air sac instead of the higher efficiency small ones. My lungs’ cavities are also filling up with black carbon deposits. So it takes longer for me to breathe out than in.

I am sure that the few thousand hours of bottom time spent as a commercial diver and seafood harvester, which took part of my right lung, caused calcified barnacles to form on my rotator cuff in my left shoulder, and living through multiple near death experiences, does not aid the cause.

M’lady has told me my breath rattles in my lungs as I sleep and I dry cough regularly throughout the day, though it’s a subdued and quick one. But as each year passes, the cough worsens and further embarrasses me with sometimes overwhelming grief for not doing anything about it. The worst is in the morning, when I cough for a few minutes until I give a couple of good nose blows in tissue, after which I feel relatively cleared up. It is curious that after we blow our noses, somewhat instinctively, we all take a second to examine what was expelled, like a forensic specialist or tea leaf reader. So far the coughs are rarely productive of any mucous, or blood or black tar, which is good I figure.

Of those who do smoke, about two out of ten will get COPD. For those who are life-long smokers, over half will develop COPD. Worldwide, it affects over 329 million people, nearly five per cent of the planet’s population. Along with chronic bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases, it is currently one of the leading causes of death in the world, with over three million people dying from it each year.

In Canada, it is estimated that seventeen per cent of Canadians thirty-five to seventy-nine (over two million people) have some sort of airflow obstruction condition, with eight per cent, or 1.3 million people having severe degrees of it. Nearly twelve thousand Canadians die each year from COPD, somewhat close to the number of deaths attributed to all cerebrovascular diseases, mainly stroke.

Chapter Three

Though very aware of the importance of eating well, and the vital importance of stretching the body’s sinew and muscles each day, I rarely do. When I am with m’lady, I eat much healthier, as she is a seafood and salad gal and not as lazy as I am in the kitchen when eating alone. When alone, I eat as everyone else does, according to one’s pay grade. But the fact of the matter is that most days I plumb forget to eat, then, just before going to bed devour a large plate of something along the lines of a half dozen perogies covered in butter and a couple of scoops of cottage cheese, a couple of boiled Chinese sausages, a few olives, two slices of toast, one with just butter and peanut butter, which along with ketchup should be deemed a basic food group, and the other slice of toast lathered in peanut butter and honey, or perhaps cinnamon spread. For dessert, it is often a half litre of chocolate milk, a multi-vitamin, Vitamin D and a cod-liver oil, a small bag of either Hawkins Cheezies or salted corn chips and a chocolate chip muffin. A quick bite for me is usually sliced banana, yogurt, milk, ice-cream or raisin bran, in any combination thereof.

Though never putting much stress on my cardio, and not having much lung wind, I keep active and at least look fit, as in, I do not appear to have a basketball duct taped to my belly, and can still see my penis. Up to last year, I spent eight seasons on the ice a few times a week coaching midget hockey, which I miss very much. But other than sitting and writing, and because it’s my lot in life to have to work for a living, my employment usually entails physicality through good old plain hard work, using brush, ladder, hammer, paint, saw, wood and my hands, on buildings or the boat I live on. About the only actual exercise being the occasional karate kata, regular walkabouts, dog-like stretches, a physically active work life, and love making.

As for my bowels, just like my heart that somehow continues to beat regularly, I usually have to empty it at about six minutes and thirty-three seconds after arising from the bed in the morning. Which is also a good thing, one would think. Considering that the usual cause of death for a middle aged man in the industrial world, is colon cancer. But we will get to that lower down, as it were.

I am very fortunate here on Vancouver Island to actually have a regular doctor. He, of course, works out of a clinic with others, as lone general practitioners of medicine have become a rare species, whether in the city or in the country, and are booked solid.

A general practitioner (GP), works outrageous hours, and needs more than one assistant to deal with the tidal surge of paperwork created by having to submit endless reams of forms, charts and invoices, many of which go to the government, where payment could arrive anytime over the next couple of months. And they need large office spaces in which to store it all, because their basements are probably already full. And a great many new doctors want to specialize, further diminishing the number of GP’s.

Being a medical specialist, means one works in a silo and rarely communicates with doctors not in their field of study or department. So I can see why clinics are the way to go. For the doctors, sharing costs, space, and staff, and perhaps even sharing camaraderie with their team, instead of just themselves. And to think, advice could be two doors down the hall and to the left.

I was fortunate enough to have coached two of my doctor’s sons through their midget hockey years, and was grateful to work with him when he was the team’s manager. His sons are exceptional young men, as is he and the rest of their family. Thankfully he was able to take me into his stable. As such, his office calls me about once every year to set up an appointment for an annual physical.

Some people who own cars get them tuned up regularly. Some people just wait until something breaks or wears out and then gets it replaced. An annual physical on the other hand is a bit different and much more important. Instead of perhaps missing the chance to discover something early on before it breaks down, thus preventing further collapse, or even death, it may be wise to occasionally look under the hood. I have no qualms about letting a medical professional poke and prod the machine called my body and determine whether it shall continue to live or perhaps needs adjustment, therapy or replacement to sustain its life.

Chapter 4

Having an annual exam, is where they check our dipsticks and kick our tires, and go over all operating systems. This scares many people, often because of the absurd concept, that if something is deathly wrong, do they really need to know, or in the case of having a colonoscopy, the fear of someone sticking a finger up their butt. But when something is wrong with our bodies we know it. All living things do. Our dog eats grass when her stomach is upset and drags her bum along the lawn when it has been especially messy back there or she just needs a good scratch, and we do not have to tell her to do it. For over sixty years my Mom, has been drinking Coke whenever she feels under the weather, and to ward off all sorts of evils and ague. Whenever I feel something is brewing in me I take five cod liver oil pills with about the same number of garlic pills before going to bed, and in most cases feel much better in the morning. But anything to do with our rectum is uncomfortable for everyone involved, regardless of whether the doctor and patient are emotionless, or professionally smiling through it all.

While on the same topic, here’s a tip I learned long ago. When getting a physical and you are lying on your side and the doctor is getting the glove lubed up, of course it is going to be uncomfortable, but do not, I repeat, do not lean your head over and continue the discussion you had been having with your doctor, as he will politely ask you to please look the other way. But really people, we will allow doctors to slice open our chests and replace our hearts and other organs but heaven forbid if they should want to stick a well lubricated finger a few inches up our asses, one of the most frequent places for cancer to rear its ugly head in the human body.

One in fourteen Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in adults. Thirty per cent of all deaths in Canada, about seventy-two thousand people, die of malignant neoplasm or cancer, while twenty one per cent of all deaths are due to diseases of the heart.

Going global, of all the human deaths in the world in one year (about sixty million), 270 individuals out of every thousand people, will die because their hearts either gave out, or was diseased. It is by far the leading cause of death in the world. Stroke is the number two cause of death, followed closely by deaths from infectious and parasitic diseases and other cardiovascular diseases.

Much farther down the list and still globally, for every one thousand people, fourteen will take their own lives each year, comparatively, about three people per thousand deaths are attributed to war, yet this is where all the money is being generated and spent. Much like the trillion-dollar war on terrorism, where every year before and after 9/11, anywhere from eight to twenty American citizens died worldwide due to terrorism, less than the number of people killed each year from a bolt of lightning.  And that one is forty thousand times likely to die from heart disease or cancer than by terrorist actions. The leading cause of death for American civilians abroad, at least the few who actually have been off the continental United States, is actually car crashes. While in Canada, the number of deaths attributed to terrorism is minimal, and in fact, in the last thirty years, there have been four deaths.

Overall, in most developed countries, the largest increase in deaths over the past few years has been from Alzheimer’s, accidents and unintentional injuries, not from being victims of the blowback from the activities of the industrial military complex.

In related news, the Earth’s human population as of October 2015 is about 7.3 billion individuals. This is twice the number of people who lived on the planet in 1970. There are about 131 million births every year, meaning one million births every three days or 250 births every sixty seconds. For every one thousand people, nineteen are newborns.

At the other end, with an average life expectancy of sixty-seven years, for every thousand people on the planet there are about eight deaths (about fifty-five million) each year. It works out that two people die every second, while at the same time four babies are born.

Chapter 5

With a screech, thud, and oh my, we are back at the garage getting an annual physical exam. Starting on the outside of the body, the doctor begins to make his or her way through physically examining the human body by inspecting, feeling, tapping, and listening.

The body’s all important blood pressure (BP) is taken, because it indicates whether the blood has enough power behind it or is under too much pressure, as it flows around the body doing its sublime job of pushing blood around. It is measured as the pressure at which the heart contracts, called the systole, which is when it pumps blood out to the rest of body, over the pressure called the diastole, when the heart re-fills with more blood. The medical gadgets used to do this are a stethoscope, and a sphygmomanometer (nearly broke out in a sweat typing that). Less than one twenty over eighty (120/80), is normal, while something like one ninety over one hundred (190/ 100), it’s Houston we have a problem.

Later, at a lab, blood will be taken for a blood count, which determines the kinds and numbers of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (thrombocytes) it contains. The red cells are the worker ants of the blood. They carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, and once relieved of the oxygen, return carrying carbon dioxide (CO2) which is expelled as we exhale. Bigger than the reds but fewer in numbers, the whites protect the body from infection and act like a pack of wolves when doing so. The platelets meanwhile are the runts of the blood cells, and hang out in gangs called Clotters. Whenever bleeding occurs they gather together in a mob and swell themselves up like Pillsbury dough boys to form a sticky plug to stop the leak. They are relentless, and will continue to staunch any flow until it is stopped or the body simply runs out of blood and its organs shut down. At which time it becomes “aah, Houston….aah…we have another problem.”

Heart rate is checked, sixty to just less than one hundred beats a minute is considered normal, sixty being the optimum. Of course people, who exercise daily, by whatever means, usually have a much lower heart rate at rest. Joggers in particular, tell you that running is adding years onto their lives. Unfortunately, those years will have already been taken, by the years spent running.

Next up is a cold stethoscope held to your chest. Invented over 200 years ago, back when leeches were most often used for getting rid of any bad blood, the stethoscope was another way of seeing into the body, especially the chest. All one had to do was put their ear up against the chest, while today we do with technological imagery.

The typical respiratory rate for a healthy adult at rest is twelve to twenty breaths per minute. Anything above twenty is typically signs of a heart or lung problem. At birth and up to about six weeks we take thirty to sixty breaths every minute. If we make eighty years of age our respiratory rate could be as low as ten every minute. The doctor is also listening for any snaps, crackles and pops, wheezes, ticking or decreased breath sounds.

Temperature is then taken and should be as close to 37C (98.6F) as possible. Women going through menopause are occasionally exempt from this rule.

All joints are checked for movement, with the doctor standing back or to one side to protect themselves, as the knees, elbows, wrists and ankles are tapped with a small rubber mallet and checked for reflex. Our reflexes are crucial in determining the integrity of the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, which together coordinate the movement and activity of all parts of the body. Just as importantly, reflexes also determine the integrity of the peripheral nervous system, which is the communication link between the brain and the limbs and organs.

The abdomen is tapped to judge liver size and if there is any presence of abdominal fluid. Throat and tonsils are checked by going aaaah, just like when the doctor is holding one’s testicles checking for lumps. Similarly, women get their breasts checked for lumps and are also given a Pap test, to check for abnormal cellular changes to some of their pink parts.

The thyroid is especially checked, in both sexes. It is a butterfly shaped gland in the throat, just below the Adam’s apple, and is one of the body’s governors, controlling how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and produces hormones, which regulate other hormones throughout the body. Lymph nodes are important filters of the immune system and though located throughout the body, the ones under the armpits and in the groin are checked delicately.

Ears, nose and sinuses are checked by shining a little flash light into those orifices. Though dental is not included in BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) at this point and time, the gums and teeth are checked by simply smiling. Speaking of which, it is unfortunate that dental coverage is but a dream for anyone having only MSP. For due to my lack of attention earlier on, my teeth need constant attention and one by one are falling out, often painlessly as my gums continue to recede. Long in the tooth, as it were. Whenever the next tooth needs to be added to my upper or lower plate, it is only done whenever I can afford it, or have enough of a balance on my credit card to cover it, unlike my smoking habit, which somehow continues whether I am able to afford it or not.

Chapter Six

Once again we are back to the part of the body, where for some reason many people, especially men, do not bother to get a physical because of, the dreaded prostate exam. I know many men who have some sort of mental hang up about what a human is biologically, or they think they are far too macho for such a thing, and that no one is going to shove anything up their butts, including themselves. Yet all one is doing is lying on, usually the left side, with the doctor slowly inserting a very well lubricated gloved finger a few inches up the rectum and feeling around for a couple of seconds, checking the prostrate for size and any suspicious lumps. Although one’s eyes may bug out, it does not hurt nor is it a big deal.

The prostate is a gland of the males’ reproductive system. Over thirty per cent of its volume is semen, and it possesses muscles that expel the semen mixture, during ejaculation. The word comes from the Greek, prostates, meaning “one who stands before” and “the guardian”. Women also have a prostate, called the Skene’s gland or para urethral gland. It operates the same as a male’s prostate, minus the sperm of course, however it can also expel fluid during an orgasm. Anatomically, a women’s uterus is in the same position within her body as that of a prostate gland in his body.

With the physical exam complete, I’m sent for chest x-rays, which as usual confirms my lungs, should be classed as the vilest of porn. Then at yet another clinic, blood and urine samples are taken. The previously mentioned blood count is done, while the urine sample is used mainly to check on the kidneys since they deal with the waste products of metabolism and are the filters and expellers of waste material, minerals, fluids and other substances from the blood. They also contribute to the regulation of electrolytes, blood pressure and maintenance of an acid-alkaline balance in the blood.

Electrolytes are the substance that produces an “electrically” conducting solution, mainly sodium, when absorbed with water, and involves itself with fluid balance and blood pressure control. It also controls the electrical components of the body, such as muscle tissue and neurons.

The kidneys themselves are vital enough that there are two of them, with the ability of each to maybe carry on even if the other is lost. Each kidney has more than enough functioning renal tissue to do the job.

The exam’s final task is completed at one’s leisure at home – providing a sample of your pooh. A stool sample kit, called a fecal immuno-chemical test (FIT), is prescribed and bought at a pharmacy. Taking it home I read the directions three or four times and when the next bowel movement was imminent, I laid the piece of supplied paper over the surface of water in the toilet bowl.  I was going to paint target rings on the paper, but all that was handy was m’lady’s tube of lipstick, and I wouldn’t dare. Hovering over the seat I squeezed out just a little bit then puckered back up. Standing, I took the wooden popsicle stick provided with the kit and daubed a small sample, which I then put into the provided tube, stick and all, sealed well, and voila, a sample any forensics investigator would be proud of. Returning to the seat and finishing the task at hand, I was ready to deliver the sacred Fit tube to the lab.

Chapter Seven

A month or so goes by and I get a call from my doctor’s office that the results are in. A date is set. Upon that day and working within the ten-minute window given for appointments, my doctor comes in, and after the “how are you doings” and genuine “would love to talk but”, he sits down beside me with his laptop and we review all the tests given. Besides both being disgusted by my lung pictures, and me being deeply embarrassed, we move forward. I am told my heart is steady-eddy, there are no deranged things, icky or untoward chemicals, needles or condoms flowing through my blood, and that I have beautiful cholesterol. But there were traces of blood found in my stool sample. If average traces are eighty whatever, my trace amount was about a thirty, which is far from a death sentence I am told, but… we talk about it for a bit more then as nonchalantly as possible, he leans over and asks as Tom Waits sings “Happy Anniversary”, how about a colonoscopy. And I thought, why not.

On average fifteen per cent of people who get their stool examined are found to have traces of blood in them. This does not mean one has cancer, though four per cent of people tested with a colonoscopy will have. The pooh-test is strictly a diagnostic test looking for potential signs of cancer, but all it really shows is that one is bleeding from somewhere inside.

The majority of times the blood traces come from polyps, benign growths that hang off the wall of the rectum or colon, and which rarely show any symptoms. Polyps that do become cancerous usually take years to develop, which is why it is important for those of us over fifty to get checked.

Bleeding from the behind could also mean all sorts of other things, like haemorrhoids, which are sometimes painless or internal, ulcers, anal cracks or cuts, irritable bowel syndrome, a colony of polyps, simple inflammation or having the evil diverticular disease.

Diverticulitis affects more than ten per cent of the populations of Canada, Western Europe, Britain and Australia over the age of forty. Coincidently, these places all represent the world’s largest meat consumers. By sixty years of age, half will have some sort of diverticular disease of the colon. Seen as balloon-like extensions bulging out from the wall of the colon, they are sometimes filled with fluid. This happens, because of weakness of the muscle layers and are in serious jeopardy of becoming infected since they exist within the sewer pipe of a “civilized” human’s body. In severe cases abscesses develop which can perforate and begin bleeding into the abdomen, or exploding like a pimple. Other than the occasional cramping, bloating, expelling pooh gas, and irregular schedule of when you need to empty your bowels, most people are totally unaware of the fact that the make-up of their intestines has changed into structures that are not normally present or natural. It gets serious when blood is showing up much too often and in higher volumes in any stool.

Interestingly enough, in the rest of the world, mainly Africa and Asia, diverticular disease is not at all common. The reasons why are many, from the possibility that Africans, especially, eat a diet that contains more fibre than the Western populations, to the possibility that most people in Africa, India and Asia still use the natural squatting position to empty their bowels, as humans have done all through our evolution. The benefits include the stretching of limbs and muscles used in the act of squatting in the first place, which many “civilized” people, especially in Canada and the States would have a hard time doing, because of their obesity rates. The position allows the bowel not to be as compressed as it is when sitting on a toilet, thus, even with the larger loads, there is far less straining. In the West there is a long list of people dying, often with their hearts giving out, trying to expel their stool. In many countries, especially amongst Muslim and Hindu peoples, another benefit is that they clean themselves with water, instead of smearing the remains off with multiple sheets of eight-ply toilet tissue, which both happen to be far easier to do squatting then sitting on a toilet. The trick with using water to clean one’s nether regions is to always use your left hand; right hand is reserved for eating and hand shaking. As for lefties, it is unfortunate.

Chapter Eight

After my doctor and I agreed on a colonoscopy and that I would be contacted soon to set it up, I began to think about the Magic School Bus, which was popular when my son was five years old, and the episode where after being shrunk down to a tiny speck, they enter the body down the throat to explore the human digestive system.

yellow school busThe Magic School Bus was one of the best animated educational programs ever. Running from 1994 to 1997, it was about a class of kids led by the incredibly informative Ms. Valerie Frizzle, voiced by Lily Tomlin, who in 1995 won an Emmy for the role for outstanding performance in an animated program. Ms Frizzle and her class would take adventurous day trips in their yellow school bus exploring the whys and how’s of nearly every science known to man.

For example, of the fifty-two episodes created, “Inside Ralphie”, was about germs. Ralphie, one of the students, was sick with a fever and sore throat, so for that day’s outing Ms Frizzle shrunk their magic school bus down to a pin point and they entered their ailing classmate through a cut on his arm. They travelled to his throat to see what was making him sick, but white blood cells, the body’s attack hounds and defenders, saw the magic school bus as a threat and began to attack, and attempted to devour it. Ms Frizzle got them out real quick-like, in saliva the next time Ralphie coughed.

Same sort of thing happened in the 1966 sci-fi classic film, Fantastic Voyage, where instead of a yellow school bus filled with kids, a spacecraft-type ship filled with scientists made the inner journey. The premise was that when an important scientist developed a blood clot on the brain after being shot in an assassination attempt, a small group of medical specialists and scientists boarded the submarine Proteus, which was armed with a laser. They were then miniaturized, inserted into a needle and injected into the patient to remove the clot. They had one hour to complete their mission before they and the ship begin to grow back to its normal size and explode out of the injured scientist’s body.

Besides being constantly attacked by the same hyena-like white blood cells that attacked the school bus, they had to detour through the heart. A cardiac arrest was induced in the patient, to avoid turbulence as they passed through the atria and ventricles. Running low on oxygen, they flew into the lungs to replenish their supply, after which they arrived in the middle ear, where everyone inside the ship and those surrounding the patient outside had to keep very quiet and still, once again to prevent any turbulence. As they got to the clot in the brain, a traitor on board created chaos and the ship crashed. The survivors swam out via a tear drop, and surfaced in the lake of the corner of the eye and escaped by being sucked up in a syringe.

But the Magic School Bus episode that I thinking about was the digestion episode titled, “For Lunch”, which seemed appropriate, considering my digestive tract, at least the bottom half, was soon going to be explored too. In reality, the undertaking of exploring the entire human gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), would be a daunting task, a truly epic endeavour. If it were a movie, the scope of it would put to shame “The Bridge over the River Kwai”, “Lawrence of Arabia” and any one of the episodes of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Chapter Nine

From mouth to anus the GI tract is, on average, nine metres (thirty feet) long, about the average height of a three-storey building. Besides the previously mentioned trillions of cells found in it, there are also about one hundred million neurons which the brain uses for its control and regulation.     digestive system

The entire gastric phase that food goes through takes from twenty-four to seventy-two hours, depending on what was eaten, how much and numerous other variables. But I find it odd that a McDonald’s Big-Mac seems to be given carte blanche to make it through me in under an hour, and a Magic School Bus episode was less than thirty minutes long.

In “For Lunch”, Arnold, another one of the students, gets sick after eating something, so Ms Frizzle comes up with yet another brilliant idea, and herding her kids onto the magic bus, they once again get shrunk down to nearly nothing and head on down Arnold’s esophagus. Though the episode could not detail all they would see and experience during such an epic journey, even though animated, I will ad-lib the narration and try to fill in the gaps.

After putting almost anything solid, other than a yellow school bus filled with kids and a teacher, in your mouth, the process of mastication (chewing) begins. While the tongue and cheeks position and move the food, chewing creates saliva (digestive enzyme) which immediately begins breaking down any starch and absorbing nutrients and energy from what you eat. How and for how long you chew can have a huge impact on your health. The best ways to retain the most energy from what you eat is to take smaller bites, chew until food is liquefied and lost all texture, then swallow completely before taking another bite. The importance of mastication cannot be stressed enough. Because, by the time the chewing is over, whatever is left splashes down into the hydrochloric acid and pepsin digestive juices of the stomach, where it quickly becomes either, if chewed properly, liquefied baby food and easily digestible, or a big fat bolus, a furry ball containing chunks of undigested food.

The stomach, which is a distensible organ and can normally expand to hold about one litre (about two pounds) of food, is where the mechanical and chemical digestion processes continue. It mixes the food down to molecules using peristalsis, which are waves of muscular contractions moving along the stomach wall like an arena crowd doing the “wave” at a hockey game, which furthers protein digestion. It takes a lot of energy to do this, and is why we often would love to take a nap while we digest a big meal. Most of the absorption of nutrients that is taking place goes to the circulatory and lymphatic capillaries through the actions of cellular biology, including osmosis, active transport and diffusion. But if there are chunks in the food it forces the digestion process to expend even more energy trying to break them down. Chunks that are unable to be digested in the stomach scrape their way through the gut, until they get to the intestine, where bacteria will cause it to putrefy and potentially cause a plethora of problems, including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive tribulations.

So chew well and savour each bite. With the brain taking about twenty minutes to signal the stomach that it is full, studies show by chewing slowly, one ends up consuming about ten percent fewer calories and burning less energy to achieve it.

Chapter Ten

After whatever is chewed and swallowed, it mixes in the stomach for typically one to two hours, what is left then enters the duodenum, the top part of the small intestine, where a finer break down process takes place using digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile juice from the liver. Then it is onto the small intestine where ninety-five per cent of the absorption of nutrients into the blood stream takes place. This process gets a boost when the gallbladder, the storage tank for the excess bile produced by the liver, releases bile into the small intestine sort of like an automated car wash. This process breaks down even further what had originally been chewed and swallowed.

Another organ, the pancreas, besides being an endocrine gland, secreting insulin which allows glucose to move from the blood into the muscles and other tissues for use as energy, is also an exocrine gland, releasing glucagon when the blood sugar is too low. This allows the liver to break down the stored sugar into glucose, to re-balance the sugar levels. Another very important function of the pancreas, and which is pertinent to this story, is that also secretes digestive enzymes.

At this point in the Magic School bus’ journey, wise one, Ms. Frizzle, glances at her watch and announces that it’s time to return and her class and their yellow school bus head back out, hopefully heading for the nearest car-wash. Waving goodbye, we will continue the journey alone.

Where the small intestine joins the colon, the large intestine, whatever has made it through and still undigested will eventually make its way down the slalom course of the, on average, one and a half metre (nearly five foot) long colon. This process will take about three to four hours. Along the way any remaining water and minerals are re-absorbed into the blood vessels of the colon. The bacteria, which reside in the colon, produce such things as biotin and vitamin K, which are also re-absorbed into the blood. But at this point the bacteria are mostly just dashing madly about like chickens with their heads cut off, frolicking in what to them, is both a Garden of Eden, and a smorgasbord of delicious debauchery. More the chaos, the more the colon’s acidity rises.

Eventually the waste and indigestible make it to the rectum, the final portion of the colon. About twelve centimetres (four point seven inches) long, it is the only straight section in the GI tract, and the storage silo for stools about to be launched.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that after all the hoop jumping of the GI tract that so many of the human body’s problems arise in the colon. Considering all the unimaginable volumes of chemicals, hormones, pharmaceuticals and toxins a human takes in daily, from the food we eat, what we drink and air that we breathe, it’s no wonder our personal sewer pipes have become ever the more toxic and just plain nasty.

Staying between the legs, human anatomy is very functional, and so it should be after a couple of million years of evolution. But for those who believe it was achieved through intelligent design, perhaps Neil de Grasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator, can better explain. “I think of, like, the human body, and I look at what’s going on between our legs. There’s like a sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling. No engineer of any intelligence would have designed it that way.”

Chapter Eleven

Back to the physical exam, and after the x-rays and body fluid samples, it was a couple of months before the party planner, a bubbly Colon Screening Program Patient Coordinator, contacted me with a date for an information/awareness meeting the following month. There were about seven people in my group, where a couple of very positive and perky nurses showed and told us what foods and drinks to avoid pre-op, what to buy to get the colon flushed, and not with embarrassment, the importance of a clean, thus happy colon. We all sat apart, equally uncomfortable. Of course one individual had a list of inane questions to ask, mostly about what could he eat and not eat, and then had to ask them again, all the while remaining just as confused.

We were shown slides on a big screen showing that a clean and happy colon looks like the inside of a light pink, ribbed water hose when inflated, but which usually lies flat. A weak attempt at cleaning a colon showed pools of yellow and brown gunk lodged along its ribs and caked along its sides. We were shown no slides of a colon when in use, as I’m sure we could all visualize the occasional brown train kneading its way down – sometimes firm, sometimes just a flash flood.

I thought we would get together when it was over and gather in a chanting group hug in the middle of the room, wishing each other the best, a “Remember the Titans” moment, but alas, everyone left rather quickly.

Another month went by, and as the date of the colonoscopy neared, the medical terms and conditions about being examined or operated on internally kick in. For a colonoscopy, one is to cease and desist in taking iron pills or supplements that contain iron, and immediately stop eating foods that contain seeds including whole flax, sesame seeds, berries and popcorn, because they stick in the folds of one’s colon, hindering further inspection and generally mucking up the whole exercise.

Three days before, you have to confirm your ride to and from hospital, review your diet for the next two days, and purchase one container of GoLytely (gotta love the irony) or Pico-Salax, both laxative solutions, and four Dulcolax tablets, which is a stimulant laxative. The solutions are intended to create a watery stool, basically they cause diarrhea by increasing the water in the intestinal tract to stimulate bowl movements, while the Dulcolax excites the bowel’s motion to help the flow along. To get the ball or should I say bolus, rolling, you take two of the Dulcolax, two nights before the procedure, the other two the next night on the eve of the planned assault.

The day before, stop eating any solid food, milk, milk products, non-dairy creamers, protein beverages or alcoholic beverages. Ensure-type nutrition drinks and the like are allowed, as they are non-dairy products and happen to taste pretty good in coffee. Only fluids you can see through are allowed, but stay especially away from fluids that are red or purple in colour because they stain the digestive tract. Clear fluids include water, of course, popsicles, though not red or purple, Jell-O, with no added toppings of fruit, clear broth with no vegetables, noodles or meat, clear tea and thank god, black coffee with sugar. Fruit juices without pulp, like apple juice and lemonade are allowed, but no milk, cream or soy. Pop of any kind and Gatorade, Power Aid, and all the other “ades” are taboo. Finally, add four litres of water to the GoLytely container and store in fridge.

Chapter Twelve

About three in the afternoon on the eve of colonoscopy day, it came time for the cleansing. During the upcoming bowel cleanse a typical adult will lose about three to four liters (a gallon) of fluid. So the day before and up to three hours before the exam, they suggest drinking about the same amount of the clear fluids listed above. Being on such a diet, some people get light headed and I’m sure more cranky, craving a Snickers bar, so instead a Gravol is allowed.

I stood before the kitchen sink, took a deep breath and began drinking the voluminous laxative solution. Eight ounces every fifteen minutes until the four litre container is half empty. At ten PM that night, I drank the remaining two litres, at the same rate. They suggest it is best to drink it back quickly and not sip it like a Martini. I happen to agree. It is undoubtedly the worst part of the whole process.

After you have begun drinking the GoLytely or Pico-Salax mixture, Ms. Frizzle or any other wise person, would stay within twenty feet of a toilet. It definitely begins to flush out the digestive tract, and quite quickly I might add. But on average it starts working within one to three hours, though it’s also known to take up to six to eight hours. After the first few “sit-downs” you have serious diarrhea, basically pissing like a horse out of one’s arse. With each flash flood down the colon scouring any debris and waste along its way. Each time the fluid became clearer, though I was quite taken aback and rather concerned when after about the fourth or fifth sit-down a waft of fish permeated the room.

But that’s the thing, as mentioned, the colon may look like the inside of a ribbed garden hose when inflated with air, but naturally it lies flat, and has been eerily known to hide objects there for years. Like the joke I heard on a TV program, where a singer had just ended their audition song and the oldest judge asked her how old she was. She answered fourteen years. The youngest judge looked over at the eldest and crudely half-joked about the likelihood that, “There are probably pieces of steak older than that in your colon”.

But speaking from experience, I swallowed four quarters when I was about ten years old after being sent to the store for bread. Was X-rayed and told all should be good, but that I would have to check my stools and confirm that all four quarters exited my body. Using a pair of chopsticks as tools, each stool was checked thoroughly. I believe it took about a week for all four quarters to make their way to the end and out of me. And to this day I am still reminded, when I am in contact with one of my sisters, that she did the chop stick check for a promised cut of the take, and that I reneged on the deal. She is still waiting for her cut, with interest of course.

Your bowels are considered clear when you are only passing liquid, though the liquid may be clear with yellow or coloured flecks of stool. If you are unable to fully clean your bowels out, you must contact hospital immediately, instead of wasting everyone’s time showing up with a dirty, unhappy colon.

Over the entire cleansing process I managed to read a few chapters of a book and completed two Sunday crossword puzzles. As to the toilet, I felt it handled itself very well with its porcelain intact. The next time I cleaned it I lifted the seat which was obviously the blast containment ring, and now understand why the underside of a toilet seat is concave. It allows it to withstand intense forces better and deflects blasts back down into the bowl. I love well thought out and innovative designs.

Chapter Thirteen

The next morning in the dark of the early a.m., I walked the three blocks to the hospital sans nail polish, jewellery, body piercings, make-up, perfume, aftershave or other scented products. I did have wads of toilet paper stuffed into both jacket pockets, espying the bushes and hedges lining the walk just in case.

Once received into the hospital you go to the proper ward and are given a bed which gets curtained off so that you may slip into something a little more comfortable, typically a thin sheet opened at the back, which in this case seems so apropos. For many medical procedures, especially a colonoscopy, people are given the most commonly used drugs of choice, a benzodiazepine, usually midazolam, and an opioid analgesic such as fentanyl, for preoperative sedation.

After asking around before hand, I had been told that other than slight pressure from time to time, the actual procedure did not physically hurt, but if drugged, you are impaired for up to twenty-four hours. The fentanyl alone is eighty to one hundred times more potent than morphine and forty to fifty times more potent than one hundred per cent heroin. Thus, no important decision making or signing of documents, no driving a car, nor travelling alone by either bus or taxi, no riding a bicycle, swimming or climbing ladders, going to work or doing business, nor drinking alcohol, smoking pot, taking sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medicines, or even being responsible for another person for a day after the procedure. So I passed on being given the midazolam cocktail.

Midazolam is a short-acting central nervous system depressant of the benzodiazepine family, and is marketed under the names Dormicum, Hypnovel, and Versed. Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of what is called the neurotransmitter gamma (amino butyric acid) in receptors in the brain, resulting in sedative, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant properties, thus in this day and age it is widely used in millions upon millions of people’s lives, whether they are being operated on or not.

The main reason midazolam works so well is because, besides its other attributes, it produces amnesia. Indeed it calms you from most anxiety, but in actual fact it breaks down the brain’s ability to make memory. If what you suffer from gives you pain, when you take midazolam you still hurt, but you forget about it almost immediately. As such, midazolam and other benzodiazepines are some of the most prescribed medicines in the world for all sorts of things. It goes without saying, benzodiazepines of any type are also considered to be major drugs of abuse.

In combination with an antipsychotic drug, midazolam is also able to calm aggressive or out of control behaviour of those who suffer from schizophrenia, and is often used as a stop gap measure for treatment of psychiatric emergencies, such as acute psychosis, at least until the effects of lithium and other antipsychotics take effect. Midazolam is also routinely used at low doses on those in their final hours or days lying on their death beds or waiting to go to the other side, as it helps with calming any agitation, restlessness, anxiety, and accompanying twitches, jerks and seizures.

In combination with other drugs, such as vecuronium bromide, potassium chloride and hydromorphone, midazolam is also used in certain US states in executions by lethal injection. The midazolam renders the condemned unconscious, the other drugs are then injected stopping the prisoner’s breathing and heart.  It replaces pentobarbital, which was once used instead, but which was disallowed for use by the drug’s manufacturer.

Other popular benzodiazepines, which have replaced the seriously harmful and once well-used, barbiturates, include Alprazolam. Available under different generic names it is best known as Xanax, and much like other benzodiazepines is short-acting with a median half-life of only one to twelve hours. Similar to midazolam, Xanax also goes straight to the brain, and having the same, as already noted, anxiolytic, sedative, hypnotic, skeletal muscle relaxant, anticonvulsant and amnesic properties. A psychoactive drug, Xanax is commonly used for the medical treatment of panic, anxiety, and social disorders, as well as for most forms of depression. Xanax is one of the top ten selling drugs in the world today.

Chapter Fourteen

Meanwhile back at the hospital, a nurse has wheeled me into an examination room. She prepped me by saying the procedure will take from thirty minutes to an hour and introduced me to the gastroenterologist, his assistant, and the star of the show, the endoscope, who I instantly dubbed Snoopy. I was told to lie on my left side, where a large television screen sat before me, ready to record Snoopy’s walk-about up my anus and through my rectum and large bowel. It was going to be an eye opener.

Snoopy is a long soft flexible tube armed only with a camera and a light, but can perform all sorts of feats. Sort of like a Swiss army knife. As it entered my anus it began to pump air in ahead of itself. The pressure of the air to keep the colon expanded like the ribbed water hose it was described as and the initial entry of the doc’s finger inserting Snoopy were the most uncomfortable parts, but did not really hurt. The cramping that occurred at various times simply felt like the passing of a really bad case of gas.

Because the colon is usually lying flat, the air Snoopy pumps in expands the walls of the colon allowing it to see the now well-lit surfaces.  Any fluids, now lying in pools of yellow brown water, are sucked up and out so that no surface area goes unchecked. The live footage on the big screen became fascinating, especially in Snoopy’s dogged determination to check every surface of my bowel. Could not see his tail wagging, but I bet you it was.

You are asked to change your position a little whenever Snoopy has to make his way around a dogleg of sorts. After the rectum, the course starts with a turn through the sigmoid colon, another turn up through the descending colon, and then across the belly to the entrance of the coiled up small intestine, where a stop sign awaits. Snoopy cleans and inspects on the journey in and inspects again on the way out.

Snoopy is even able to have instruments passed on down within itself. If there is bleeding in the colon, a laser, heater probe or needle to inject certain medicines to stop any bleeding, can be quickly sent along. In case of severe bleeding, Snoopy can tie off a rupture using a loop of blue string. If this does happen one is warned not to worry about the length of blue string that will appear in your stool in about seven days. He can also use a steel clip to stem bleeding, which takes about seven to twenty-four days to make its way out and is also harmless. They suggest if you are having an MRI scan or going through airport security, be sure to tell staff that you have a clip attached to your colon.

Snoopy can also perform a biopsy by taking small tissue samples and removing any abnormal growths, such as the previously mentioned polyps, which can be brought back out and sent to a lab for testing.

Snoopy found a small one in me and went right up to it. It looked like a skin sac hanging from a short umbilical line on the wall of my colon. Snoopy seemed to sniff it then deftly slid a wire loop around the base and tightened it up, pinching it off, then instantly cauterized the base to prevent bleeding. Though I watched it on TV I felt no pain.

Though incredibly good at what they do, during a colonoscopy there is a one in two hundred and fifty chance that there could be a complication, such as reaction to the medication or soreness of anus. And there is a one in one thousand chance of bleeding or puncturing of the bowel, and a slight risk, because of medication given, that your stomach contents will aspirate into one’s lungs if you throw up. But the most important risk is the possibility of Snoopy missing a polyp or small tumor. This is why it is imperative that you have a happy and clean colon. If not, you will have to come back and do it all over again. Supposedly they guarantee that Snoopy will be removed from your ass once the exam is over and samples have been taken. And that he will leave the place as if he wasn’t even there.

Chapter Fifteen

Waving Snoopy good bye, I was wheeled back to the general patient dorm and curtained off. A bit of confusion occurred with the nurses when the first one said they will be allowing me time to relax and come down from the medication. “I did not take any medication”, I reply. She frowned, and then told me she would call the person picking me up from the hospital because I would be still drugged up. She left, but a few moments later returned to confirm I had not taken any medication, but really just wanting to ask, why not? I then explained that I was farting and felt a bit bloated but other than that I was fine and not pregnant or retaining water. She chuckles “that’s good”, and explains it’s probably all right for me to get dressed and wait for my pickup. She leaves.

Another nurse quickly appears and asks if I would like juice or water as I wait for the drugs to dissipate. I said I was not on any drugs. Considering I had not eaten for over twenty-four hours, my bowel had just been cleaned, probed, detailed, and a polyp hanging off its wall had been snipped off, I asked if they had the food of champions and another important food group – chocolate milk. She frowned and smiled at the same time, said no and left me alone to dress.

Thereafter, if you do not get chills, fever, severe belly pain, gas pains that do not go away by farting; shortness of breath; rectal bleeding of more than a half a cup of blood, or black tarry “baby pooh”, you are good to go, and will hear back after Snoopy’s job performance report, and whether his inspecting and tissue retrieval work were up to par and a success.

One is able to eat and drink thirty to sixty minutes after the procedure, so after eventually being released, it was off to a little restaurant where m’lady watched me eat. After being dropped off at my place I just took it easy, though later that afternoon did spend some time stomping foot wide mushrooms, which had blossomed up through the building’s parking lot’s sixty-five year old asphalt layer. As they grew upwards, reaching for the sun, they did not see that they had peeled back three inches of asphalt like petals sprouting from a bud. I was in awe, and sad that they had to go.

That night I dined alone on half of a classic Italian sub from Subway, piles of cottage cheese and potato salad sprinkled with shredded Kale and garlic stuffed olives, a couple of honey garlic pepperoni sticks, two chocolate fudge cookies and a nuked cinnamon roll topped with cream cheese. Later I read in bed munching on a bowl of pecans. Then slept like a baby.

Here in Victoria, the wait for results can take anywhere from three weeks to a couple of months. Mine arrived by phone, by the same bubbly Colon Screening Program Patient Coordinator, who had contacted me in the beginning. Results were negative, meaning good, but it was suggested that I have another one in three to five years. I smiled right back at her over the phone, thanked her very much and sincerely agreed I would.

Chapter Sixteen

So there you go the tail exploits of a physical exam and a colonoscopy. Seriously, if you are an adult over fifty, especially a male, and you have not had a check-up or a colonoscopy recently or ever, and if you are able to afford one or have coverage, do yourself a favour and get one.

Besides watching what one puts into their digestive tracts, take care of your teeth too, they are important in being able to properly chew whatever it is you swallow. Stay away from cigarettes, and exercise the best you can, because heaven knows there is not much in the way of hunting and gathering going on these days to keep us fit.

And although I often don’t practise what I preach, but will never stop trying, once again, please be aware of what you are putting into your body, whether the air you breathe or food and drink you ingest. Try to make it food which is the least compromised by human added hormones, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals. Eat food that still has the earth’s life energy within it. It’s the perfect fuel for the human body’s digestive system. It is easily distributed throughout the body, and leaves all systems running smoothly, with the power behind them making it easier for them to expel any waste, do any repair work, or fight off any germs, and as a reward, you’ll hopefully possess one of the happiest colons around.

One of the best indicators of what is going on in the body and its overall health, besides keeping an eye on what we cough, spit and blow into a tissue is, yep, you guessed it, observe, assess, and report if needed, our bowel movements. Keep an eye on your stool. It can detect all sorts of things, from bacterial infections to cancers, immune dysfunctions, stress levels, hydration and nutrition.

Pooh itself is about 75% water, 25% fibre, dead and living bacteria, other cells and mucus. The perfect stool is a sausage or a snake that squeezes out quite easily like it has a life of its own, and knows where it’s going. Medium brown in colour and possibly up to 45 cm (18 in) long, with a 5 cm (2 in) diameter. To improve on an ideal stool, drink lots of water and chew fibre, especially hemp, flax, psyllium and chia. Of course there should be a slight odor to it, but it shouldn’t reek and peel paint. Remedy is to take a pro-biotic and eat more greens, nuts, and fruit.

Be aware of the colour of your stool. Light to dark brown, even some shades of green are ok. Pretty obvious what the problem is if your stool is red, while a black stool also could mean bleeding or too much meat consumption. Yellow stools typically mean gallbladder issues or parasitic problems, while white or grey, could show liver disease, pancreatic disorder or heavy antacid use.

If stool is under high pressure and dense, it’s often hard to pass, even painful, so take deep breaths to avoid any injuries to anus, and just take it slow. Allow the muscles to expand and do their job.

If the stool is a bunch of little lumps or balls, like deer or rabbit turds, it’s commonly a sign of dehydration and/or lack of fibre. Greasy and hard to flush often means heavy consumption of drugs, inflammation in digestive tract or food intolerance. And a high sugar intake, heavy spices, food sensitivities, especially hot sauces, makes a stool sticky and wetter.

Beyond the stool, we enter the realm of explosions. Smaller explosions out of the anus is often mild food poisoning, too much sugar or food intolerance. Basically, stuff the body is trying to expel as fast as it can. Do take note, when explosion is larger, and diarrhea like, and lies like an oil slick upon the surface of the toilet water. This could either be severe food poisoning, bacterial imbalances, food intolerance or inflammatory bowel disease. Get checked out, seriously.

If there are white spots in your stool and you have one of the itchiest asses around, it is probably a parasitic infection. Get treatment as well, and wash hands more than often. And if you ever wonder why we even eat corn, since it just shows up seemingly intact in our stools, it is because of the most easily ignored, yet most important and best thing we can do to for our digestive tract, is to slow down when eating. Take three deep breaths before you eat and chew each bite and chew it well.

Chapter Seventeen

Thinking back on the whole experience, I will end this essay with what I feel was the ah-ha moment for me.

When Snoopy was almost completely pulled out, but before popping out of my anus, he stopped and slowly arched his back, bending around to take a visual of my anus looking back from whence he came. It reminded me of the Voyager space probes.

Launched in 1977, the 722 kilogram (nearly sixteen hundred pound) robotic spacecraft, the Voyager I, has been using instruments on board, including infrared spectrometer, magnetometer, cosmic ray, radio-astronomy, plasma-wave and photo polariser systems, to study atmospheric properties and the composition of space as it bee-lines away from Earth.

It has been travelling at 67,000 kilometres per hour (40,000 mph) for nearly thirty-eight years and as of September 2015 is currently a staggering, and hard to fathom, nineteen billion km (nearly thirteen billion miles) away. She is followed by her sister, Voyager II, which was launched three weeks before her, but lolly-gagging along about three billion kilometres behind.

It took Voyager I two years to pass Jupiter, three years to pass Saturn, nine years for Uranus, not my anus, and twelve years to pass Neptune. It has also passed over forty-eight moons. To send a signal travelling at the speed of light (approx. 300,000 kilometres a second), to the Voyager I today would take over sixteen hours.

Since 2004 it has been leaving the sun’s solar system and entering interstellar space, the space between the stars, where the outward motion of the solar wind of our star, the sun, ceases. Though most of the Voyager I’s instruments have been shut down, she is estimated to be able to carry on until about 2025. But even if she were able, the next nearest star is about forty thousand years away.

In 1990, when the Voyager I was only about six billion kilometres (four billion miles) away, and after nine years of having its camera turned off, astronomer and author Carl Sagan, Candy Hanson of NASA, Carolyn Porco of the University of Arizona and the rest of the Voyagers team of scientists and engineers turned Voyager I’s fifteen hundred millimetre (fifty-nine inch) high-resolution narrow angle camera back on. Rotating the camera around to face from whence it came, sixty frames were taken and are the last photos from the Voyager I. Sending the frames back to earth took nearly six hours. One of the frames shows a nearly black backdrop with a smattering of light rays from the sun amidst thousands of pricks of light. In the lower left hand corner amongst the six hundred and forty thousand pixels that make up the image is one of those mere points of light. It measures less than a pixel, zero point twelve of a pixel in fact. A tiny dot against the vastness of space, but blown-up and peering really close or using a magnifying glass, one can see that it is pale blue in colour, and happens to be where all of Earth’s history has happened. And if the whole world consumed as much resources as the United States does, we would need four of them.

Within the vastness of space, one little planet out of many. Moving and spinning around at the perfect distance from the sun for the last four and a half billion years. But this little planet is abnormally heating up, much more quickly than in the past. Reason is because of the way only one, of the millions of other living species that inhabit the planet, has lived over the last microsecond of the planet’s history, over the past few hundred years.

But the nearly seven and a half billion people that inhabit the planet today are not entirely to blame for the ever dwindling and extinction of its resources, and changing climate. In fact where population is growing the fastest today, is in Sub-Saharan Africa. Where all the areas, and countries, that lie south of the Sahara desert, include some of the poorest parts of the world, and lowest carbon dioxide emissions producers in the world. The consumption habits of only about 10% of the world’s population of Earth are to blame, and are responsible for the vast majority of both, carbon dioxide emissions, which of course will change things, and wealth.

Whilst believing in unlimited growth in all human endeavours we also believe this is possible upon this one finite planet. But then as American author, philosopher, and libertarian socialist, Noam Chomsky, has stated,

“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”

This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why, besides the cancers erupting with abandon within us, immune systems dying, toxic digestive tracts, and hearts giving out, the soon-to-be number one health problem for humanity is expected to be, if not already, our state of mind.

The planet on the other hand, is losing its forests, its fresh water, while its seas, rivers, skies, lakes, cities become acidified, and ever quickly changing climates become extreme events. Its resources being consumed by greed, and to feed an ever growing population, both of which are already far larger than what this one small planet can supply. A planet which Carl Sagan describes in his 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space”.

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” 

pale blue dot

Imagine that, as happen stance would have it, a small blue dot called earth, also in dire need of its own colonoscopy, and a date with Snoopy.

 

 

06/13/14

Prologue to Plague of Guns – A Dense Essay

The border between Canada and the United States is nearly invisible when compared to the sieve of a steel and concrete wall being built between the States and their southern neighbor Mexico. And though there are many similarities between Canada and the States, there are also just as many differences. For instance, Canadians are clearly distinctive, while Americans have to tell everyone that they are. Canadians are also very aware, thus, cautious and resistant to being assimilated by the Americans. At least that’s what we’d like to think. If others look at Canadians and Americans as being cut from the same cloth, they would be grossly mistaken.

The States seems to be filled with characters written by someone else for their own reality show. Their corporate and government leadership and oligarchy obviously psychotic, much like Canada’s as of late. All so out of whack from reality that many of them actually believe they will come out on top even after the earth’s climate is devastated. They trust that they’ll be able to withstand monster tornados, food shortages, earthquakes, oil spills, or a lack of drinking water, or the insanity of the current gun epidemic. And still make money doing it.

But no matter the shock or what the Americans do and say, we watch them like we watch for a train wreck. And though we still peek through our fingers, their ever increasing immoral societal stench those at the top have created, keeps our noses turned away, but you can still smell it. Not only does it cloak us Canadians, but also people all over the world. They have no idea how ignorant they look on the world stage, nor how much their fear and hopelessness is shining through what is a closing window, which when closed, furious anger will shatter.

Their blatantly obvious psychopathic military industrial complex’s foreign policy has made them simply bullies, creating mortal enemies worldwide, which will last generations, all to keep America safe and secure, and of course creating perpetual profits for the American arms-manufacturers.

Guns in particular, have become a plague upon the planet, especially in the States, to the point of being a flesh-eating disease. And much like some other diseases; obesity, consumerism, perpetual war, incarceration, addiction, and ever growing disaster capitalism, the gun epidemic has become a highly profitable venture to a few, while wounding or killing the rest of us, kind of like cigarettes.Plague Mask

With almost as many guns produced during Obama’s first four years of office than in all eight years of George W. Bush’s administration, such a love and proliferation of guns has brought only blindness to the reality that America’s gun epidemic has also become one of its biggest health crisis, something Obamacare could never cure. And even though over 70 percent of Americans want gun reform and more controls, the right-wing white guys will never let it happen. Indeed, the majority of the population in many democracies, including Canada, have no impact on public policy, economic elites like organized lobbying interest groups do.

With cracks in the fabric of present day society splaying out in all directions at a cheetah’s pace when in pursuit of their next meal, the States has become a country that one could swear is either trying to act out a national suicide attempt, or trying to pull off the largest home grown terrorism operation of all time. Like Jim Jones in Guyana, but on a much grander scale, because the kool-aid has already been greedily gulped back. Much of this has to do with the abundance of guns now available, because when unbridled capitalism, marketing, firearms manufacturers, the Republican right wing and the NRA, along with hundreds of their lawyers, got together in the seventies, the epidemic of gun violence in the States began to ever increase in frequency.

These mad organizations and economic systems which have created the current gun violence epidemic, the differences in gun laws in the States and Canada, and remedies and suggestions will be covered in the Epilogue of this essay. A brief history of Canada and the States before and after, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was enacted, will be discussed in the middle of this essay, in what I call the Background Check, because how each country was raised has a lot to do with the perceived need to be armed or not today. This Prologue will let the numbers tell more of the story.

What got me shaking my head, lighting up a candle and pulling out the quill and ink in the first place, was finding out that in the United States there now is nearly one gun for every man, woman and child with little or no regulation in how to obtain one. It was a cry and laugh moment. It is insanity.

When speaking of guns I am including handguns, rifles, shotguns and certain assault weapons, which Americans need in case one of the few remaining big-game animals or a lone rabbit bobbed and weaved fast enough that the first twenty rounds missed it. But I’d also like to add that hunting has never been the issue with guns. It’s been what other people do with them and how easily available they are that has been and is the issue.

In my article, Murder by Gun, posted in September, 2011, I cited the gun numbers at the time; 45 million Americans possessed over 200 million firearms, including 66 million handguns. Nearly three years later, with a current population of 317 million, American citizens now own well over 300 million guns, including 115 million handguns. A further half a million guns are bought by Americans every year, and shockingly, only 12 percent of all these guns are registered.

In comparison, the second most armed country in the world is India. Their current population is 1.27 billion, with over 6 million more people added each year, and yet they only possess 45 million guns.  Today there is one gun for every ten people on the planet. If you include the States in the statistics, that changes the ratio to about seven guns for every ten people in the world.

Over 47 percent of households in America own at least one gun, with 20 percent of the population owning a handgun, which many can walk around with at any time, because of course, just in case. National Rifle Association vice-president, spiritual leader to some, and Mad Hatter of the club Wayne LaPierre, refers to ownership of a firearm as morally obligated vigilantism. Vigilantism I suppose against an out of control federal government, whatever the party, or against perceived enemies, which can only be themselves, and their fellow Americans.

But then LaPierre also sees the world as a place: “where there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping-mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all”, but fails to mention and include the paranoid and psychopathic, which would sum up his breed nicely, as well as his followers. And the fact that all those killers he mentioned are American. While in reality studies show that the gun the American suburban family buys to protect itself and which is kept in the home, is 43 times more likely to kill a household member than to be used in self-defense.

In Canada, with a current population of 35 million, there are about 9.9 million guns, including 1.1 million handguns (a restricted weapon in Canada). Nearly two million Canadians (5.4 percent of the population) currently hold a valid firearms license for almost 7.5 million registered firearms and 350,000 are handguns. Only 15 percent of Canadian households own a long gun, and only 3 percent possessing a handgun. Overall, it works out to about 23 guns per 100 Canadians, while in America, as already noted, there are now basically 100 guns for every 100 Americans.

The American military possesses three million guns, in addition to everything else they have acquired, including the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. They work with an annual budget of $750 billion (20 percent of their country’s federal budget), which is more than the next 16 largest military budgeted countries combined. And though they are not threatened by any nation and are a military without equal, supposedly fighting the war on terror by way of protecting American and corporate economic interests globally, yet totally ignoring the fearful commercial interests, ineffectual politicians and government officials, and the home-grown terrorist, back in the States. And though the States have the most heavily armed populace in the world, their people still live in fear and continue to be the utmost in paranoia and narcissism in one fell swoop.

China has the second highest military budget in the world, spending $119 billion a year, with Russia spending only $59 billion. Canada’s military budget is $20 billion, with the military in possession of 233,949 firearms.

American Law Enforcement who try to keep it together and protect citizens, instead, are faced with two out of every three 911 calls being concerned with addiction and mental illness. This is also the situation in Canada, but in the States the police forces are increasingly being made up of ex-military personnel with skeletons and demons rattling in their own closets as a result of their war experiences. These people possess over one million guns. And much like the country’s military, they exist in perpetual war. In Canada the police forces hold 124,270 firearms.

The States don’t just use their guns to kill each other though; they also produce enough to supply the world. They are the biggest provider of guns globally, selling 70 percent of all guns made. To feed these guns, 14 billion rounds are manufactured worldwide every year, enough bullets to shoot every human on the planet, twice. The States provides 40 percent of them (5.6 billion), or enough bullets to shoot every American 17 times.

Because the States has weak gun laws and few controls regarding access to guns, what an American can buy easily and legally is often just as easily sold illegally to a country like Canada which has more controls. In many States one could buy a handgun every week. Why one person would need perhaps fifty handguns every year is anybody’s guess. But some States have recently “come down hard” and have changed this rule to where a person can only buy one handgun a month. I know. Wow and big deal.

Of the handguns seized in the course of a crime by the Toronto Police in 2010, 70 percent originated in the States and were trafficked illegally to Canada. In Mexico, 68,000 people have died from guns since 2006. Of the guns recovered, over 90 percent were smuggled from the States.

The majority of industrialized countries have some form of gun licensing and registration of firearms, with strict controls on access to assault weapons and handguns. However, only two countries, the United States and Yemen, treat gun ownership as a basic right. The remaining countries view gun ownership as a privilege.

Therein lays America’s problem. In the States nearly every citizen living their life within a society on a planet swirling down the toilet of environmental and moral disaster can get a gun. Furthering the madness, since 1980, forty-four states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection, while in eighteen States; you can walk around in public with a gun on your hip. So of course it is more often the norm that over half of homicides happen after or during an argument between two people who know each other.


There are believed to be about 30,000+ deaths by gun every year in the States, about 20,000+ by suicide / 10,000+ by homicide, with 2 percent of them being children. Guns currently kill more children than cancer does. Not included in this number are the additional 1,000+ deaths per year from unintentional firearm injuries. In Chicago in 2012 alone, 500 people were murdered by gun. This by itself is more than double Canada’s total gun homicides in any given year of about 200 people, or 0.6 people per 100,000. The States averages about six gun homicides per 100,000.

Since 1960, there have been 1.3 million gun deaths in America. Currently 282 people are shot every day; of these, 32 are murdered, with another 51 committing suicide. Examples for context, in Vietnam from 1955 – 1975, 58,000 American soldiers died. These numbers match the American civilian population that dies by gunshot every two years. In the first seven years of the Iraq debacle, 4,400 US soldiers died, the same number of civilians currently killed by gun in the US every seven weeks.

Sadly, considering the States is perhaps the most economically advanced nation in the world, there have been about two mass shootings every month over the past five years, with Americans 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of all other developed nations. As it stands today, one in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. While every year on average, roughly a hundred thousand Americans are killed or wounded by guns.

American males have a 1 in 2,317 chance of being shot at least once in their lives. While the odds of either winning a lottery or dying in a terrorist act in North America, is the same, about 1 in 20+ million. And while one person out of every 100,000 dies by bee sting, at least five people out of every 100,000 will die by gun.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are about 5.4 million violent crimes committed in the United States every year. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders.  Of these, about 436,000 or 8 percent were committed by offenders armed with a gun. And though the US homicide rate (per 100,000), committed without guns, is less than twice the Canadian rate. The rate of homicide with guns in the US is six times higher than Canada’s, with American homicides with handguns seven times higher than Canada’s. This pattern can also be seen in robberies without firearms where the rates are comparable for the two countries, yet in the States, of the half a million robberies every year, 36 percent of them are committed with a gun, a rate of 55 per 100,000. In Canada there are about 32,200 robberies each year, with only 14 percent of them involving a firearm, a rate of only 13 per 100,000.

Though the States has higher homicide, aggravated assault and robbery rates than does Canada, Canada has higher rates of motor vehicle thefts, break and entering, and arsons, with both countries sharing the same rates for theft, about 2,300 cases for every 100,000 people.


Another big difference between these societies relates to the issue of privilege versus right. Holding a driver’s licence and owning a gun should be privileges not rights. No one should be allowed to carry or shoot off a gun or drive a car without proving to the public that he or she can safely and responsibly do so.

The States has 679 impaired drivers per 100,000. Canada’s rate is 277 per 100,000. And while drunk-driving fatalities have decreased over the last couple of decades in both countries, in the States they still represent 31 percent of the over 33,000 traffic deaths in the States each year. Today about 10,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, 30 people every day, one death every 48 minutes. This is coincidently, the same number of homicide deaths by gun each year.

Of the 1,200 traffic deaths involving children younger than 14 years, 17 percent were caused by an alcohol-impaired driver. And while 1.4 million Americans are arrested for driving drunk each year, it only represents about 1 percent of the 112 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among adults. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes, injuries and property damage in the States totals more than $51 billion.

In 2010, of the nearly 300,000 Canadians injured in motor vehicle crashes 2,541 died, and of these fatalities 1,082 were impairment-related. It’s estimated that about 63,800 injuries happen every year due to impairment related crashes in Canada – roughly 175 per day. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes, injuries and property damage in Canada, is estimated to be about $20 billion.


Much like the alcohol and drug addiction epidemic, from drunk drivers to crack heads, America’s gun epidemic is not a race problem either. Guns offer equal opportunity tragedies, no matter what the mainstream media crows. And though Afro-Americans do indeed account for the vast majority of homicides by gun, a white person is almost six times more likely to be killed by another white person than by a black person. According to FBI homicide data, in 2011 there were more cases of whites killing whites than there were of blacks killing blacks.

Within corporate-mainstream media, gang-related deaths in the States are thought of as an Afro-American problem, while in fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for the period of 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang homicides were committed by white offenders and the majority of gang homicide victims (56.5 percent) were in fact white. According to statistics from the Justice Department collected from 1980 to 2008, white men are more likely to kill than any other racial group. However in gun related homicides, black men outnumber whites, especially when it comes to drug-related offenses. White men top the list in most of the other categories, showing that they were more likely to kill children, the elderly, family members, and their significant others, and tend to commit more sex-related crimes and gang related crimes, and are more likely to kill at their places of employment, than Afro-Americans. Most gun murders involving Afro-Americans are between men and usually over a drug deal. And despite racial biases, studies show that Afro-Americans are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs, in fact, Afro-Americans make up only 14 percent of addicted American drug users.

Eighty-three percent of gun deaths by white people are suicides, 14 percent homicides, and two percent accidents, with a white person five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun, as opposed to being shot with a gun. For each Afro-American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns, the gist being that whites are far more likely to shoot themselves, while blacks are far more likely to shoot others.

In Canada, there are approximately 600 suicides by gun each year or 1.79 per 100,000. In the States there are 20,000 suicides by gun each year (6.03 per 100,000) and as previously mentioned, over 80 percent are white males. One can also include the twenty-two American military veterans who are currently taking their own lives with a bullet every month. Men and women who enlist to serve their country, to make a difference, be deployed to another country and culture, which in most cases are people who wish they could be simply left alone, and hope to help, lend a helping hand and give guidance. Unfortunately they try to accomplish this while holding an automatic assault weapon in their hands. After they come back heavy guilt enshrouds their lives, the nearly schizophrenic disconnect from being told you were helping and defending America, but knowing deep down you were not doing either.

Although the number of suicides by gun is double that of homicides by the same means, they tend to be subdued tragedies, very hush-hush affairs, and only whispered about between family and friends, if talked about at all, though a celebrity taking their own life is big news. Suicide is also absent from any discussion of gun policy, instead it is all about murders, especially mass killings. Yet reality dictates that the availability of guns does indeed increase the risk of suicide, because it allows for impulsive suicides that otherwise might not occur. And while 2 percent of Americans do kill themselves every year, heart disease and cancer still accounts for nearly 48 percent of all deaths in the States and in most of the industrialized countries of the world.

Then there are the non-fatal gunshot wounds. For every two firearm deaths, there are five non-fatal firearm injuries. Of the 30,000+ people who die by gun every year, an additional 65,000+ are treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal gun injuries, while over 30 percent of traumatic brain injuries and 15 percent of all spinal cord injuries in America are caused by gunshot wounds. It is estimated that another 24,000+ gun wounds were either superficial or treated privately. Direct medical costs for non-fatal gunshot wounds tops $6 million per day and are the leading source of uninsured hospital stays, of which half are paid by the taxpayer.


There has been much recently in global news, of the escalating wave of mass killings involving guns. In the States from 1982 to 2012, over one thousand people have been killed or injured in 62 mass killings and counting, with this number rising every month, and as of late, nearly every week. One in five who are killed are 12 years of age or younger.

Half of these mass killings happened in the last seven years. Yet over the same time frame, more people died from migraines and accidents than by mass murderers. In fact, three times as many people died from sunstroke. But still, fifteen of the worst mass shootings in the last 50 years among developed countries happened in the States, with Finland in second place. The States is currently three times more violent than most of the developed world, with the most violence taking place in their southern States. But then American society was built upon slavery, genocide, aggressive racism, euro centralism, and exceptionalism, so what would one expect?

According to the FBI, a mass shooting is where at least four people die and is usually at the hands of a lone shooter, who blasts away in a public space, half the time doing so in a school or workplace. Of the past 62 mass murderers, 48 were white and only one was a woman. Average age was 35 years, with the majority having problems in their lives, just like everybody else. Seventy-one of the 143 weapons used were semi-auto handguns, along with 20 assault weapons and 42 weapons which had multiple, high capacity magazines. The vast majority of weapons used in these cases were obtained legally, only twelve were not.

Yet compared to all gun related homicides, mass killings only account for less than 1 percent of all deaths by gun. But the corporate controlled media loves telling the repeated and hyped-up stories about them, as we obediently follow along, enrapt, and inching ever closer into thinking that perhaps we too should buy a gun – you know, just in case. It’s called marketing.

How we treat mass killings via mainstream group-think, is we focus on the shooters’ skin color (mostly white), or their manner of killing, such as gruesome violence, or whether children are involved, or religion, or national identity. Such events are looked at as simply being a bunch of disconnected incidents that can’t be helped and have nothing to do with each other. Besides, mass killings are always done by the lone shooter, a terrorist, or someone mentally ill, thus, the “crazy man.” But you’ve got to wonder, killings or assassinations, especially when most of the victims in mass killings are either Muslims, immigrants (illegal or not), gays, liberals, women, intellectuals, comrades in arms, students or Afro-Americans.

Many of the mass killings over the last couple of years, especially in the States and Europe, were carried out by white men who often are a member of the racist radical right, and who either immediately killed themselves afterwards or surrendered, mugging proudly for the camera – a terrorist claiming to be a patriot, with their acts not thought of as terrorizing anyone, but instead, hate crimes.


The American laws in some States are such that you can be packing while enmeshed in road rage and completely out of control, or dealing with neighbours, especially if they are a different colour, or the kids in the truck next to you whose music is too loud, or simply someone who’s pissed you off and you feel threatened, as you shout-spit in their face, as a matter of fact, I do own the fucking road and what are you going to do about it. Or as is often the case, with gun in hand, they manage their nagging spouse, because for some Americans, it seems to be in their nature that only through violence and threat of force can they communicate with people. They already entertain themselves in such a way.

The right of every individual to possess a gun in the States also allows people who might be depressed about their life or with lack of future opportunities, at least can own a gun. One can also be panicked and armed, confused and armed, dying for your next crack hit and armed, in a jealous rage, or lost in body and soul, and simply overwhelmed with life, but be packing. In reality, the vast majority of deaths by gun are committed by very sane people, who feel weak or threatened or just pissed off with their life, and have the capability and power that they lack, to even up the score by the use of a handgun that can fire off huge numbers of rounds in a heartbeat.

Such a distorted world view, especially in the southern States, is fueled by intense anger and impotence in controlling one’s own life, which leads to, it’s always somebody else’s fault: the fault of the “other.” People are unaware of having been programmed to act in such a way. Chauvinism, cruel retribution, a perverted Christianity, and the celebration of a mythical white Anglo-Saxon history through cinema, have separated these people from reality, with the next destination along their road – American fascism. They’ve become unrepentant of the past and misinterpret the expectations of a privileged society, simply because one is white. They are also scared of the future, and with their ignorance still believe that a white man’s life exists at the center of the universe.

Most of the people defined above don’t look at the gun epidemic as a problem at all; rather their concern is the right to have a gun epidemic. America has become orthodoxy, where they actually believe they are the greatest country, not only presently, but in all of human history. From the git go, American society has viewed itself superior to other classes, races, origins, habits, diets, cultures and political preferences. They are taught to believe in their own subjective superiority. They feel unique and nearly a divine race. I call it arrogance of the ignorant, simple bravado. And it has distracted them from hearing that the toilet has been flushed on their society.

This facet of American society is, unfortunately, the driver behind their country’s gun problem, because beneath it all there’s nothing but fear and helplessness, with hope and love seemingly unattainable anymore. In the countries in the world where there is an ever widening gap between those who have money and the vast majority who do not, such as in the States and Canada, research shows that more begin to suffer health and social problems, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates, more suicides, more murders, imprisonment, teenage births, less trust, obesity, mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, than other developed countries. If you add in the fact that people have little or no influence over government policy, with most political decisions being made with no thought to the people. And an ever widening social polarization, deep racism, disintegrating family values, hunger, joblessness, and violence, it’s no wonder many Americans believe that to be disarmed means being further disempowered. But whether actually psychopathic, mentally ill, uneducated, ignorant, abused, or just having a bad day, an American can be reassured that they will survive, as long as they are armed. “Having a gun in one’s hand erases human inequality and alters human possibility.”


As mentioned, mass killings are always big news, good for the advertisers who support the media business, and a boon to the cinema and television industries, because they know such things as evil and madness contain the elements of the unintelligible, things which resist explanation. We watch, grimly fascinated, by such events, yet also feeling guilty for it for some reason, perhaps because we ourselves feel the fear and helplessness against such evil and look for an answer based on the killer’s upbringing and psychological history, desperately seeking an explanation on why they choose that victim, when in fact, an explanation may not exist. And at the same time knowing each one of us has such evil within us, and the ability to lose control or exact revenge. It’s all about how it can be controlled, and having the daily discipline to do so. It is hard work, but peace and love have always worked pretty good.

Some look at mass killers as individuals who are simply responding to the world in which they live, revolting against an injustice upon themselves, whether imagined or otherwise. Individuals confused about their identity, yet fatalistic at the same time, believing they are creating their own actions, thus their own destiny. Others believe a mass killer’s violence comes from conspiracy or influence, where the killer’s self is moulded by others, and somehow deemed more meaningful.

Someone, often adolescent, immature and white, who walks into a school or theatre and starts indiscriminately blasting away, has probably done the same thing on video games hundreds of times already. He has, no doubt, since birth seen literally thousands of images of death, killing, and guns on all sizes of screens, fiction or otherwise, and just maybe, had a typically bad childhood where he was abused, beaten and bullied, and though that person might not even have serious mental problems, we must say they do, and say they are serious ones at that.

A 2001 study done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine looked specifically at 34 adolescent mass murderers (under 19 years) between 1958 and 1999. All were male, 70 percent were described as a loner, 61.5 percent had problems with substance abuse, 48 percent had preoccupations with weapons, and 43.5 percent had been victims of bullying. Three out of four did not have a documented psychiatric history of any kind.

In the States, 6 percent of their population suffers from serious mental health illnesses. If one were to include minor mental health disorders, 26 percent of their population or 58 million people have to deal with this form of illness. In fact the leading cause of disability in the States and Canada today, is major depressive disorder. But these people are not all running around shooting people, far from it. But in the States, when they do decide to kill, they are able to kill in greater numbers because they are armed with a gun, which is usually plural.

Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence says that:

“just because someone has a mental illness and they committed a crime, the illness isn’t necessarily why they did it. Among these people with serious mental illness, the risk factors for committing a violent crime appeared to have more to do with the overall risk factors for violence: being young, male, socially disadvantaged, and involved with substance misuse. But on the face of it, a mass shooting (for example) is the product of a disordered mental process. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist: what normal person would go out and shoot a bunch of strangers?” “People with serious mental illness are 3 to 4 times more likely to be violent than those who aren’t. But the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent and never will be. Most violence in society is caused by other things. Even if we had a perfect mental health-care system, it won’t solve our gun violence problem. If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, which would be wonderful, but overall violence, would go down by only about 4 percent. I’ve done these back-of-the envelope calculations. If you were to back out all the risk associated with mental illness that’s contributing to the 300,000 people killed by gunshot wounds in the last ten years, you could probably reduce deaths by about 100,000 people. Ninety-five percent of the reduction would be from suicide. Only 5 percent would be from reducing homicide. Mental illness is a strong risk factor for suicide. It’s not a strong risk factor for homicide.”


When we humans are evil, as many of us can be, I’m sure we tend toward being slightly psychopathic for brief moments, for some it can be ongoing, but such behaviour as murdering a group of one’s fellow citizens is not a mystery so much, because it can be socially explained; it is a reflection of our societies. Bad people in the world doing bad things to others are more often than not, simply products of today’s society, with logic dictating that when guns are prevalent there will be more killing, whether mentally ill, or as in most cases, not.

While the adage, that if everyone was armed it would be a real safe place to raise the kids, is utter bullshit. If every talking, stumbling, imperfect, smarter than we need to be human being surviving today’s quickly changing world were armed, the only thing holding our societies back from a blood bath would be for everyone to trust each other unambiguously, and actually expect everyone to act sensibly, empathic, calm, and in control of their emotions: In other words, pure fantasy.

Meanwhile we believe every mass killing is committed by a crazy person, because it makes us feel better. But if the mass murderer is a young Arab man we deem him a terrorist, while a white extremist bombing a mosque or abortion clinic is a hate crime. One of the murderers of the five hundred killed in Chicago in 2012 is a just a gangster. The distraught father killing his family, he seemed like such a good hard working man his neighbours refrain. An American who joins the military and participates in unspeakable actions overseas, returns with no support from government and is often times trying to cope with serious issues in their head, and prone to shooting themselves once returned home, a hero.

The current gun laws in the States, of course also allow the monsters and psychopaths to be armed, for they have every right to do so, though many of them don’t need to be armed, because they surround themselves with bodyguards and henchmen. In fact, many of them are those manufacturing the guns and passing them out like party favours. And though psychopaths by nature are morally insane, they are usually people who “are intellectually above average and understand the nature and practical consequences of acts that are forbidden by law and society, and although they are often highly intelligent, they are simply unable to accept the moral nature of their choices”.


When we humans were still hunters and gatherers, the ones with psychopathic natures were made to disappear and/or be banished, because often their decisions would, could and did, affect the safety and survival of the group. But ever since we began gathering in villages and towns, the psychopaths took control of the food and water and rose to the top of society. Like the gods they created to control us, we can no longer banish them, lock them all up, or make them disappear, because it would decimate Wall St, Washington D.C., offices in Ottawa, and most of the corporate elite, including many dictators, prime ministers and presidents of the world. Though not all are insane, many are undoubtedly highly psychopathic, if we abide by the definition. I am referring to the true definition and not slang. That “People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others, using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get with they want. The symptoms of psychopaths include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.” It is also not curable, because being psychopathic is not a mental illness.

Though there is no treatment for it, eminent criminal psychology researcher, author, and Order of Canada member, from the University of British Columbia, Dr Robert Hare, stresses that most psychopaths don’t commit murder, but are all social predators, pointing out that, “Much of a psychopath’s behaviour, even the neurobiological patterns we observe, could be because they’re using different strategies to get around the world. These strategies don’t have to involve faulty wiring, just different wiring.”

I bring up the topic of psychopaths within this article on gun violence, not because they are running around shooting everybody in sight because they’re not. Most of them are simply human sharks, moving through their communities, taking what they can from usually the weak and unaware, strictly for their own gratification and egos. And yes many are also at the top of society, who feel and act similarly, with each having their own projects to work on and corporations and governments to run. They operate with greed dictating their methods, no longer worrying about a curtain to shield them from our view, or considering an iota of anyone’s feelings, and are supported by legions of drone-like underlings consisting of lawyers, managers, brokers, bankers, and middle managers.

Two of the worst psychopaths running around today, are the American weapon manufacturers and the National Rifle Association, who have combined to bastardize the Second Amendment of the American Constitution to basically achieve sales targets and ever more vast amounts of cash, which is actually being very American. This is all accomplished because those elected, rather, those who have spent the most money get elected by getting people to vote for them by promising the world. Then when in office they abide by what young bureaucratic whips, party leadership and lobbyists, who have paid the most, tell them what to say and do. What has been produced by such people has created the world’s current gun epidemic. They deal in death for the almighty dollar and nothing else.

In reality, the majority of homicides, whether by gun or not,  arise from arguments, fights, drug deals and domestic disputes, while half of all murders involve a family member or intimate partner. We kill those closest to us. If guns are easily accessible, of course they will be used.

Gun violence is happening around the world, but it should not be so surprising that much of it is happening in totalitarian states disguised as democratic industrialized nations, populated by people who have simply become self-sufficient individuals, who only hang out with others who make similar personal consumer choices. Most are living paycheck to paycheck, if you got one, in a world that has become but a marketplace, which itself is based on fantasy and celebrity culture, with many brainwashed into thinking guns are cool. Many of us are living in communities where the politics are warped, and common sense, morality, and empathy have been lost or significantly undermined. Throughout the population, people are strutting around like it’s all about them, staring deeply into their phones, possessing the personalities of peacocks and attention spans of hummingbirds, maybe even thinking a camera crew is following them around,  This is not the case everywhere of course, but it is spreading as fast as obesity.

All the while climate change continues to affect our only true necessities as human beings, food and water, as our urban infrastructures, social services, education and health care erodes and fall down around us. But we still put on a mask each day and go to work. We are programmed to be proud of what we do, no matter what that may entail. Meanwhile everyone is so overwhelmed with information that they are stupefied, and finding it ever harder to believe what they are told. Underlying all this is what is hidden and ignored, and what is damaging us mentally, the reality that the majority of us are nothing but slaves, with little or no passion, nor love or peace left anymore in what we do; instead many of us are left with nothing but lust and greed for all the things out of our reach. And yes, many of us are depressed in some way, and yes, many of us will experience what could be classed as breakdowns or psychotic breaks from trying to fathom the contradictions that make up our lives where nothing is black and white anymore, just a sickly grey. Into this mixture the States adds insanely vast numbers of guns, colouring the world a far deathlier shade of grey, which inevitably bleeds red.

 

To be continued………

 

 

12/26/12

The Borborygmus that is Palestine – An Essay on Apartheid

Chapter 1

The first time, the area between what was Phoenicia (today – northern Lebanon and Syria), and Egypt to the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, was clearly called Palestine was by the Greeks in the

5th century BC. Though Palestine had always been there and has been called many other names. The region was among the earliest to see human habitation, animal domestication, agricultural communities and civilization.

The descendants of earlier peoples, such as the Kebarian culture, who lived in the area from about 20,000 to 12,000 years ago, were the hunters and gatherers, the Natufian, who created an Eastern Mediterranean culture which would be the first to implement the concepts of agriculture; originally developed to feed their livestock, and the first cultivation of cereals, specifically rye. The Natufian dominance lasted from 14,500 to 11,500 years ago. One of its settlements, now called Jericho, is the oldest inhabited city in the world. It lies near the Jordan River in the West Bank.

The next peoples were the Canaanites, a mix of many tribes, whose languages and cultures would be influenced by the civilizations of Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Phoenicia, Minoan Crete and Syria. Later, the region would be controlled by the Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks and Romans.

About 4,000 years ago, other groups of people began to arrive from the Aegean Sea region of Greece and Turkey and mix with the tribes of Canaanites and over the next couple of centuries, the many tribes of Palestine would become collectively known as the Philistines. Many of the people of Palestine had by now inhabited the area for over eight thousand years and were living predominately within small city-states and while the area was once covered in cedar and pine forests, over the centuries it had been nearly stripped clean by various empires, specifically the Ancient Egyptians, and the area had become a barren, eroded, hilly country with few and limited resources, nothing but a narrow ribbon of land squeezed between desert and sea, as little as 65 kilometres (40 miles). It also possesses the saltiest body of water on the planet, and the lowest point on its surface, that being the Red Sea, at 412m (1352ft) below sea level.

At about the same time, around 1900 BC, in Upper Mesopotamia (present day Kurdistan and Northern Iraq), an Ur, of the tribe of the Chaldees, and descendant of the ancient Sumerians, began to have visions, and a voice in his head telling him of a new promised land to the west. The voice told him that his tribe were the chosen people, and that they would have to toss aside their devotion to their numerous pagan gods and believe in only one god, which the Ur called El. After the death of his father, this Ur, forever known as Abraham, gathered up the few small tribes of the Chaldees and left their ancestral lands forever. Already being somewhat of a nomadic people, they migrated out of Mesopotamia, constantly wandering about in search of water and grazing land for their flocks of goats and sheep. Making their way through Syria and Jordan, they would eventually end up in Egypt, where after only a few years would be banished for “indifference” to the pharaoh at the time, Nebkaure Khety IV. They gathered their flocks and headed into the Sinai wilderness and onwards to the land of Canaan, which they entered for the first time, eventually settling down in Hebron, about 30 km (19 mi) from Jerusalem, in about 1850BC.

Both very elderly by now, Abraham and his first wife, Sarah, had never been able to have children together, though Abraham had gathered many wives. One of them, Hagar, had given birth to his first son, who had been named Ishmael. Sarah, now well past child bearing years became spiteful and talked Abraham into banishing Hagar and Ishmael from the tribe. It is said that with a heavy heart, Abraham banished them both into the Arabian Peninsula. But Hagar and Ishmael survived, with folklore and oral traditions recognizing Ishmael as the founder of the Arab nation.

Abraham had continued to have visions and spoke with his god El often, who one day told Abraham that Sarah, though very old, would produce a son as a “gift from God”, in his appreciation of Abraham’s obedience and discipline. Sure enough Sarah gave birth to her first child, a son whom they named Isaac. Still jealous and resentful of  Abraham’s other wives, Sarah became ever more protective of her son’s inheritance, and once again talked Abraham into banishing another favourite wife of his, Keturah, along with the six sons she and Abraham had together. This was also carried out, and Keturah, her sons and a small group of supporters headed out into the Arabian wilderness, where they would eventually become the ancestral tribal leaders of the Midian, in north-west Saudi Arabia. where 3,000 years later, the prophet Muhammad and Islam would be born. Dying in about 1830 BC, Abraham and Sarah were buried in the cave of Machpelah, in Hebron. A Muslim mosque marks the spot today. Abraham would become the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Isaac meanwhile, would lead his father’s tribes into becoming the Hebrew.

It is said, that this is the point in time where the seed of hatred began between Arab and Jew and would accumulate, and cause all the future confrontations between them, even up to the present day in the Israeli-Arab conflict, where they wish each other to be erased off of the planet. Four thousand years of resentment and loathing caused by, basically, a family feud and what particular god each family believed in.

 

Chapter 2

Meanwhile, Canaan at the time was inhabited by dozens of tribes, split between nomadic herders, and farmers huddled around springs and wells. Most all of Canaan’s city states would grow up either on or near a well, where eventually walls would be built to protect the precious water from the goats and sheep of the herders. Because of this and either times of unrest, famine or drought, the herders had to often immigrate to surrounding areas to feed and water their flocks and themselves, or just as often becoming enslaved and relocating as refugees or slaves.

With one of the first civilizations in the world, the Sumer of Mesopotamia, disappearing into history and the Egyptian pyramids already more than 800 years old, many tribes in Canaan, including the Hebrew would end up in Egypt, as slaves, farmers, herders and craftsmen.

The Hebrew tribes emigrated, perhaps enslaved, to Egypt a couple of centuries after Abraham’s death and would stay for two hundred years. Over the generations the majority of them in fact did quite well, with many arising to respectful positions as craftsmen, traders, scribes and advisers to the Egyptian Royal Courts. One of the Hebrew, Moses, had been raised by the pharaoh’s daughter and had become a prince of the Royal Court, as well as a respected military commander. But after killing an Egyptian for beating a slave, Moses headed for the hills. Over the next few years he became a herdsman and wandered the hilly desert country as a nomad. Meeting other Hebrew herders and their small clans, Moses came to learn that the Hebrew people were descendants of Abraham, the patriarch with whom their one god had formed a covenant. Growing up reading and writing various texts and languages, he had studied ancient Sumerian, Ur and Babylonian tablets, which told epic stories of great floods and described the laws of the earlier Sumerian people. Linking oral traditions of Moses’ ancestors and earlier cultures, along with these readings, he began to discover his own roots and the origins of his own people, as well as enhancing earlier ideologies into the narrative which would become the concepts of Judaeo and Christian traditions. He also began to have visions and a voice in his head, which also spoke to him through his staff, rocks and burning bushes. Moses was told that he should lead the Hebrew back to their promised land. The voice in his head introduced himself as Yahweh, the only one true god of the Hebrew.

Around 1400 BC, Egypt entered a time of environmental and economic collapse, which coincided with one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, the Santorini or Thera eruption, which destroyed the Minoan civilization, and effected most all the populations of the Eastern Mediterranean area. It was at this time that Moses would return from his self-exile and then lead the Hebrew tribes out of Egypt.

After leaving Egypt, the Hebrew would spend the next fifty years wandering about the Sinai wilderness. Moses explained to his people that Yahweh not only promised them their land around Hebron, but all of Palestine, and that it was their divine right. But they could not enter their promised land until the generation of people that had come out of Egypt with Moses, along with their ungodliness behaviour and attitude began to die off and a new generation could emerge to carry out their god’s will. And sure enough, soon after Moses died the tribes of Hebrew would swarm out of the hills of the Sinai and sweep across Palestine, bent on war and conquest. The earlier aspects of their faith – extinction of will, passive meditation, mournfulness, mysticism, and the softness of the Sun of Abraham’s time, would not do. To achieve victory they now needed their god Yahweh to become a fierce and jealous god of vengeance with an “eye for eye” brutality. And he did.

Palestine was inhabited at the time by many powerful and prosperous kings, in strong walled cities surrounded by agricultural communities, the population a melting pot of tribes, including the Ishmaelite, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Midianite, and Qahtanites, with much of the population still living on lands where thousands of generations of their ancestors had lived, hundreds of centuries before Abraham.

But over the next four hundred years, the Hebrew would pillage, raze cities and towns to the ground, and beat much of Palestine into submission. Attacking the peoples that had always lived in these lands with the modus operandi; after conquering a farm, village or city, every man, woman, child, and domesticated animal, be put to the sword. It worked. By 900 BC many of the original inhabitants of Palestine had been killed, displaced or assimilated into the surrounding populations, losing nearly all of their distinctive and vibrant cultures. Eventually the loose confederation of Hebrew tribes would unite to become a nation themselves. Samuel, a religious judge, was appointed the king of the new united kingdom of Israel. With Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin proclaimed king and war-leader soon after.

 

Chapter 3

The still being written books that would make up their bible, the Torah (Old Testament), gave birth to their distinct religion, which they called Judaism and themselves, Jews. From the beginning they placed themselves apart from all other humans and religions, by making Judaism only for their race and no other, and very unique at the time, they only had the one god. Though the Torah speaks about tolerance, this attitude of Judaism would foster racism and the Jewish people would from then on become persecuted for such beliefs.

In about 600 BC, the Babylonians would invade Palestine and Israel, and then return to Babylon with nearly half the Jewish population in tow as slaves, though many would return over the next decades, with many having worked once again as scribes and advisers, and studied in the greatest libraries in the world at the time, in the greatest city of it’s time Babylon. Soon after returning, the books that make up the Torah would be copied and edited a few more times and eventually became the collection of books it is today.

Less than five hundred years later a greater Diaspora would occur when the Romans, having already conquered and attempted to subdue Palestine, would squash the rising of the Jews fighting against the oppression of Roman tyranny and the Jews would leave Palestine en mass. During the hostilities and rebellions, a Jew called Jesus was crucified, and nearly a hundred years later another new religion would come into being, centred on both, the Torah and the teachings of Jesus, and be called Christianity. At about the same time the Diaspora had run its course and very few Jews were left in Palestine after 100 AD.

Over the next 1800 plus years, the Palestinian people would be controlled by the Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphates, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Mameluks and Ottomans. During the “war to end all wars” in 1917, the British captured Palestine and Jerusalem from the Ottomans-Turks and were awarded a mandate to govern the region in 1922, though revolts by non-Jewish Palestinians were a continuous thorn in their side, the way they carried on about wanting rights and such things.

In 1920, the League of Nations reported that there were 700,000 people living in Palestine, with 80% being Muslim, including small groups of Arab Bedouin and peoples of mixed races. There were some 77,000 Orthodox Christians, who also spoke Arabic, and other minorities of Latin and Greek Catholics, while the Jewish population was about 76,000.

From about 100 to 1850 there were always only a handful of Jews in Palestine, by the end of the 19th century perhaps a couple of hundred, but after the persecutions in Russia and especially after World War Two and the holocaust, the Jewish people began to return to Palestine in greater numbers. By 1948 the population of Palestine had risen to 1.9 million, of whom 68% were Arabs and 32% Jews. The intolerance, racism and hatred each race held for each other, and the British, escalated and continued unabated until 1947, when the British had had enough and wished to terminate the mandate.

The United Nations General Assembly recommended partitioning Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state and a resolution that the city of Jerusalem be designated a Special International Regime. The Jewish leaders agreed while the Arab leaders did not, and the day after the establishment of the State of Israel was declared in 1948, civil war began before the sun was up. More than 700,000 Palestinians had to flee or were driven from their ancestral homes and would be never allowed to return. More than 110,000 refugees made their way into Lebanon, the rest into Jordan, Syria and Egypt, while in the three years after the war, about the same number of Jews would immigrate to Israel from surrounding Arabian areas. The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 would last for nine months with over 15,000 deaths and many times more causalities. When the smoke cleared, Israel kept all the area given to them by the UN, took control of almost 60% of the land that was given to the proposed Arab state, including Jaffa, Galilee and territories in the West Bank and captured West Jerusalem. Jordan captured the remainder of the West Bank and East-Jerusalem, while Egypt took the Gaza Strip. No Palestinian state was created.

The heart of Palestine has always been Jerusalem, the holy city of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During its long history, Jerusalem has been completely destroyed, twice, withered under siege 23 times, attacked over 50 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The place may be the shrine of the three main religions but the stench of violence, hatred and intolerance that pervades over it forever lingers. Even today, the status of Jerusalem is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nineteen years later, during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel would capture East Jerusalem and then annex it, though the international community rejected this annexation as illegal and consider East Jerusalem a Palestinian territory under Israeli military occupation. Israel refers to Jerusalem as their “undivided capital” even if no one else does, and though all branches of the Israeli government are located there, Israel’s commercial capital city is Tel-Aviv. Today there are more than 720,000 people living in Jerusalem; 465,000 are Jews, mostly living in West Jerusalem and about 250,000 Palestinians, mostly Muslim and mostly living in East Jerusalem.

Besides East Jerusalem, the Israelis would also capture the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Overall, Israel’s territory grew by a factor of three, gaining at least 300 km in the south, 60 km to the east, and 20 km in the north. And though the Camp David Accords of 1978 would return the Sinai to Egypt, Israel would keep the rest, for as US president John F. Kennedy stated years earlier, “Israel was not created in order to disappear, Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”

Israeli casualties numbered about 800 killed, 4,500 wounded, 15 captured, with 46 aircraft destroyed. In contrast, Egypt alone had 10-15,000 killed or missing. All be told, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq’s casualties were over 22,000 killed, 5,000 captured and untold numbers of wounded. They also lost hundreds of tanks and had an estimated 452 aircraft destroyed. For every Israeli who was killed, 27 Arabs would lose their lives. But then as proven 3000 years ago when the Israeli’s first conquered Palestine, they are very adept at killing fellow human beings and would ever become more proficient at it as time went on.

 

Chapter 4

The Palestinians, now led by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), were devastated, with over one million Palestinian Arabs placed under Israeli military control in the newly captured territories. The PLO would relocate its headquarters to Jordan, already home to thousands of Palestinian refugees. During the war 300,000 Palestinians had fled from the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries, while in the Golan Heights about 100,000 Syrians also had to flee. The end of the Six-Day war launched new Israeli policy to secure their captured territories through the process of creating permanent settlements. Dozens of villages were destroyed, both as punishment and to chase away those who lived there. In a few cities a third of the homes would be razed to the ground, evicting thousands of Palestinians. In the Jericho area alone, over 70,000 Palestinians had to flee; altogether, over 25% of the population of the West Bank were either forced and intimidated to leave or fled voluntarily in panic and fear. Though a few months later Israel announced that it would allow the return of these refugees, in reality perhaps 16,000 were allowed back.

The PLO, founded in 1964 by Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader and President of the Fatah political party (founded in 1959), would grow in importance and strength after the Six-Day War, with Arafat spending much of his life fighting  for Palestinian self-determination; “where a state has the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status, with no external compulsion or interference so long as such rights are based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, with no concern as to how the decision is to be made, or what the outcome should be, whether it be independence, protection, some form of autonomy or even full assimilation.”- Geneva Convention.

The PLO’s ideology would further embrace the concept and political strategy of what would become known as Sumud, meaning “steadfast perseverance” or “firm and unwavering,” through the understanding of the nature of “logical argumentation of oppression and resistance.” There are two forms of Sumud. The first is “static Sumud” which is passive and defined as the “maintenance of Palestinians on their land.” The second is “resistance Sumud” which is much more forceful and whose aim is to seek ways of building alternative institutions to resist and undermine the occupation of their lands.

By September 1970, King Hussein of Jordan felt he was losing control over his monarchy with the influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, and moved to suppress the militancy of Palestinian organizations operating within his borders. Thousands, especially Palestinians, died. By July 1971, the PLO and thousands of its fighters would be finally driven out of Jordan. They would flee to Southern Lebanon, joining hundreds of thousands of fellow Palestinian refugees from the war in 1967.

By 1975 there were over 300,000 refugees in southern Lebanon, with the PLO creating a state within a state, which caused a demographic imbalance within Lebanese society and its democratic institutions. With the PLO’s arrival, fighting along the Israeli-Lebanese border escalated. The PLO would align themselves with the Lebanese National Movement, a coalition of Muslims, and Arab nationalists and leftists who opposed the rightist, Christian, ancestral Maronite-dominated government of Lebanon, and before too long civil war broke out in Lebanon which would fulminate for ten plus years. Eventually Iranian-supported Shi’a militant groups from Syria would also join in on the fighting.

In 1982, with the civil war spilling over its border and concern over Syrian influence of Lebanon, Israel invaded southern Lebanon. Initially Israel’s objective was to push the PLO forces back 40km (25mi) to the north but after attacking the PLO, Syrian, leftist and Muslim Lebanese forces, they found themselves occupying all of southern Lebanon. After surrounding the remaining PLO and elements of the Syrian army in West Beirut, the Israeli’s laid siege, killing upwards of 5,000 fighters and civilians. Under a truce and International peacekeeper protection, Arafat and the PLO were allowed to relocate to Tripoli and within a few weeks of fighting, Israel’s forces would defeat most of the Palestinian militants left in Lebanon. By 1985, with continuing international outrage over Israel’s role in Christian led massacres of Palestinian refugees, as well as the Israeli population’s disillusionment with the war,  Israel would withdraw to a 10km (6mi) occupied strip of South Lebanon.

The 1982 Lebanon War lasted but a few months while the actual conflict would continue on in seemingly tit for tat skirmishes up to the present day. The human cost of the war was typical for this holiest of lands; either 368 or 657 Israeli’s killed versus 9,800 Syrian and Palestinian combatants, along with perhaps 16,000 Lebanese civilians, with over 30,000 wounded.

The resistance movement of Islamic militant groups, such as the Shi’a and other Palestinian guerrilla forces, would consolidate with the Shi’a political party, Hezbollah, and the Lebanese party, Amal, and with remnants of the PLO, would carry out guerrilla warfare against Israel over this tiny occupied strip of southern Lebanon for the next 18 years. Though by the early 1990’s, the Palestinian organization’s political and military infrastructures in Lebanon, which had taken 15 years to build, ceased to exist. The Lebanese civil war abated in 1990 when Syria would establish complete dominance over Lebanon.

The Palestinians, in their ongoing struggle for national liberation and an end to the Israeli illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would continue to fight and retaliate up to the present day, countering apartheid and the Israeli “defence forces” might and technology, with everything from armed attacks on Israeli soldiers, police and civilians to suicide bombings, launching rockets and mortars into Israel, kidnapping of soldiers, shootings, assassinations, stabbings, stoning and lynching to non-violent actions such as civil disobedience and resistance, mass protests, general strikes, graffiti and barricades.

To counter the Palestinians wrath, the Israeli’s created their “Iron Fist” policy. A policy devoted to erasing any idea of Palestinian nationalism whatsoever. A policy “founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers, and daily intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation,” with an “all-pervading element of humiliation.” Over a six year period in the eighties the Israelis would arrest more than 120,000 Palestinians. By 1990, one Israeli prison alone, in the Negev, held about one out of every 50 West Bank and Gazan males older than 16 years. Israeli tactics also included seriously curbing Palestinians movements, with checkpoints and enforcing a strict curfew in certain areas. This was accompanied by economic integration and increasing Israeli settlements such that, the Jewish settler population in the West Bank alone, nearly doubled from 35,000 in 1984, to 64,000 in 1988, reaching 130,000 by the mid nineties. With both sides guaranteeing that all future generations of both Muslim and Jew would grow up with continuing anger, racism and hatred towards each other just from the daily stress of potential conflict.

 

Chapter 5

Since 1988, when the Palestinians put forth their “Palestinian Declaration of Independence,” three-quarters of the world’s countries recognize the West Bank and Gaza as being the State of Palestine, except by the United Nations, Israel, the United States, Canada and a few other Western nations. To this day Palestine has more ambassadors around the world than Israel does. In 1993, for the first time face to face, Israel would meet with the PLO, the representative of the Palestinian people, in what would become known as the Oslo Accords. It provided the creation of a Palestinian interim self-government, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), who would be responsible for the administration of the territory under its control. The Accord also called for the withdrawal of Israel from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Main issues such as Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and security was not discussed and neither the Oslo Accords nor the 1995 Oslo II Accords, promised Palestinian statehood. As to the Gaza Strip, Israel would finally get around to withdrawing their settlers and military presence in 2005, though maintained control of the airspace and coast, while they continue to systematically set up illegal settlements in the West Bank.

The Oslo Accords also declared that the West Bank territory to be divided into three separate areas and administration divisions. Area A, covering about 18% of Palestinian land and 55% of the Palestinian West Bank population, would be under the control of the Palestinian Authority and include most of the major Palestinian cities, the PA would also be responsible for security control. Area B covers 21% of the territory and about 44% of West Bank Palestinians and is mostly  rural communities, under Palestinian civil administration and joint Israeli security control, while Area C is under complete control by the Israeli’s and includes all the areas they have established settlements. Today Area C encompasses more than 60% of Palestinian territory, yet only 4% (about 150,000) of the Palestinian population live there because they face severe restrictions on planning, building and accessing services and the area’s natural resources, with 70% of the area off-limits to Palestinian construction and a further 29% heavily restricted. Israeli plans call for less than 1% of Area C to be for Palestinian development.

There are now about 350,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers who live in Area C, with about 15,000 added every year. As of 2010, there were 192,000 Israeli’s living in settlements in East Jerusalem, with a further 100 settlements not officially recognized by Israel and which are illegal under both the Geneva Convention and even Israeli law, but none the less have been provided with infrastructure, water, sewage and other services by the Israeli authorities. In 2011 alone, Israel demolished more than 560 Palestinian structures, including 46 rainwater collection pools, in Area C, instantly making more than 1,200 people homeless. Today more than half a million Israel settlers are living in enclaves within the Palestinian territories. The consensus of the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab league and the majority of legal scholars, hold that all Israeli settlements on the West Bank beyond the Green Line (the demarcation line set out in 1949) are illegal under international law.

The eventual conclusion for Area C, according to Israel, is for all the Palestinians still living there to move to Areas A and B, where it will be easier to contain them, a’la Gaza. But truth be told, they need the land for their ever growing population. Make no mistake; Israel’s number one concern is its maintenance of its Jewish demographic majority. Indeed much of their policy making is based on the threat of non-Jewish population growth, immigration and water rights. While the key issues we are told through the media are mutual recognition, borders and security, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements and Palestinian freedom of movement.

The governments of Palestine and specifically Israel are placing incredible pressure on the current stress levels of their populations and environment, especially considering how small the area is and how densely packed their cities are. Including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, Israel covers 22,072 square km (8,522 sq mi), with a population of 7,933,200 people as of 2012 and is the 34th most densely crowded country in the world. 78% are Jewish, (nearly 6.2 million), 20 % are Arabs (just over 1.4 million), while the remaining population is listed as “others.” In contrast, the Palestinian territories cover 6,220 sq km (2400 sq mi) with a population of an estimated 3.8 million people, including the 1.7 million living in the open air prison called the Gaza Strip, with 10 to 11 million Palestinian refugees, scattered in nearby countries and around the world.

In comparison, the largest island on the west coast of North America is Vancouver Island, at over 32,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi) with a population of 759,366 people. An area larger than Palestine and Israel combined. Most Vancouver islanders live on its southern tip, in the 13 municipalities which make up the Greater Victoria District, an area covering 2,341 sq km (903 sq mi), though metro Victoria actually covers only about 696 sq km (268 sq mi), with a combined population of just over 340,000 people. The Gaza Strip meanwhile is only 41km (25mi) long, 6 to 12km (3-7mi) wide and a total area of 365sqkm (141sqmi), one-sixth the size of the Greater Victoria district, but with a population of 1.7 million.

Though many attempts have been made for a Palestinian state, with the reasonable and logical solution of a two-state solution, the fighting is seemingly never ending, whether conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells, secret police or individuals. Not only do the Israeli military and Palestinian freedom fighters loathe each other to the point where they view each other as not being human beings, their societies despise each other as well, even though, according to a number of polls taken in 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians prefer the two-state solution as the means to resolve the conflict. An independent Palestinian state living alongside an independent Israeli state is a great idea, the most logical for sure. But with only about 3.8 million Palestinians still existing by surviving in the present day territories and Israel bulging at the seams with its ever growing population of  7 million and need for land, water and resources, I sadly see why the Israelis do what they do, which causes retaliation and ever more hatred. I am sure they would love to just go for it all and erase the Palestinian people off the planet by however means and then just move in. And then after another decade, their population growth and need for resources and water would dictate they expand even more, maybe Lebanon or Jordan or even Syria would be next.

 

Chapter 6

The most significant threats to a two-state solution are the Israeli settlements within Palestine, the number of Palestinian refugees, and as mentioned, water. First off, the enclaves that Israel sets up in occupied territories are populated with “settlers” we are told. The word bringing up thoughts of families made up of good and hard-working folks, moving into the frontier to create a life for themselves, a just, empathic, tolerant and law-abiding people, simple homesteaders. While in reality any “settler” who decides to move onto land that is not theirs, and which was only recently vacated of its native population through incitement and cruel violence would have to be psychotic. Each “settler” knows very well what environment they are entering and are no doubt very well prepared, supported and armed. Then after moving in they often wake up in fear of their very own survival. Not a place for a family or a “settler,” but as already mentioned, in May 2012, over half a million Israeli settlers illegally live on Palestinian soil. To-date Israel has ignored nearly 100 UN Security Council resolutions calling for them to withdraw to pre-67’ borders. In May 2012, 27 ministers of the European Union condemned the escalating incitement and settler violence. Israel paid them no mind.

In 2008, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, determined that; the segregated road network in the West Bank, with 500-600 checkpoints throughout the territories; the continuous construction of separation walls of monolithic proportions; the expansion of Israeli settlements and restriction of growth of Palestinian towns; the discrimination in granting of services, budgets and access to natural resources; blatant violations of human dignity; and the ethnically cleansing underway in Jerusalem is “reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Today there are approximately 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, 1 .5 million of them living in refugee camps, scattered throughout, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. Most were born outside of Israel, but are the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees who had to flee in 1948 when their land was given to the Israelis. Israel, above all else, is a country which lives in constant fear of the Palestinians returning to their original lands en force. But this would not be allowed to happen because realistically, two to five million Palestinians returning to Israel would be the end of Israel.

As to water, Israel receives most all of its water from two large underground aquifers, both running under the 1948 boundary, the Green Line, and into the West Bank. Israel consumes 95% of the output of the Western Aquifer and 82% of the North-eastern Aquifer, not leaving much for the millions of Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza. In 2012 it was reported that the 450,000 settlers living in the West Bank used more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians who also live there. Because of climate change, where in 2012 the Jordan River ran at its lowest level in recorded history, water will become much more an issue in the near future, not only for Israel and Palestine, but for many areas of the planet. Globally, wars over water are already being fought, with many more just around the corner, for as the population of the planet escalates each artificially distinct society of the one species of man will want to be the lone survivor.

The estimates for people killed between 1948 and 2009 in Palestine vary from 13,000 to 30,000 though these numbers are even more inaccurate when taking into account the true civilian death toll, which most always seems just a guess and/or afterthought, and the unknown hundreds, perhaps thousands of deaths from landmines and explosive remnants of war. After reading multiple lists and numbers, it seems the “official” death toll, from direct conflict between Israeli and Palestinian for the fifteen years between 1987 and 2011, and attributed to either Israeli military operations, artillery shelling, rocket attacks, search and arrest campaigns, barrier demonstrations, targeted killing and settler violence, is 8,096 Palestinians killed, 1,633 of them under 16 yr s, with 1,514 Israelis killed, 147 of them under 16 yr s. More recent estimates determine that altogether, deaths from the Israeli-Arab wars from 1945 to 2010, exceeds 92,000 people.

 

Chapter 7

Then there is the Israeli controlled ghetto, the Gaza Strip; 41 kilometres (25 miles) of beach, 6 to 12 kilometres (3 to 7 miles) wide; with a 11 km (6 mi) southern border with Egypt, a 51 km (32 mi) western and northern border with Israel, a population of 1.7 million Palestinians and a 3.2% growth rate, the 7th highest in the world. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but remained in control of anything or anyone going in or out of Gaza, whether by air, land or sea. In the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization Hamas, garnered the majority of votes and by 2007, after scrapes and skirmishes with the Palestinian political party Fatah and the Palestine Authority, held control of the Gaza Strip. Israel, United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, countries that do not include Iran, Russia, Turkey and several Arab countries. Hamas was freely elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza to be their government on a platform based on their reputation for brutal honesty and that they are averse to corruption. Ever since, the Israeli’s have carried out a systematic, collective punishment on Gaza’s population while pretending to focus on the lunatic extremists that live within. While in reality Israel is creating terrorists faster than they can kill them, with their treatment of all non-Jewish people in Gaza about the same as South Africa’s treatment of non-whites was.

Daily life for a Palestinian living in Gaza is often made up of being harassed at checkpoints, imprisoned arbitrarily, denied clean water and sanitation, induced malnutrition and stressed of air bombardment or ground invasion that could happen at any time. Most of the population are permanently mentally scarred, living each day with the sound of either, jets, helicopters or drones overhead, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. There are no safe places in Gaza.

In June 2005 there were 3900 factories operating in Gaza with over 35,000 employed, by June 2007 only 195 factories were still operating with 1750 employed and only at 25% to 50% operating capacity. That same year Israel banned most all imports and exports and suspended 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations. In Feb.2008 Israel reduces electricity it sells to Gaza by 10%. The month before, knowing  a person  needs a minimum of 1200 calories per day to prevent a humanitarian crisis; Israel subtracts 8% to adjust for the “culture and experience of the Gazans” by intentionally allowing fewer trucks and supplies in to meet that need. While in the West, a Burger King Triple Whopper is 1,240 calories alone. In 2010 Gaza’s unemployment rate was 40% with 80% of its population living on less than $2.00 a day. Imports such as pipe and other building materials, which are being destroyed each time the Israelis strike, but which Israel deems could be used to make weapons, are banned.

In 2008-09, the 1st Gaza War, which the Israelis called “Operation Cast Lead” was fought and lasted three weeks, with over 1,400 Palestinians killed, including 930 civilians, and  9 Israeli deaths (3 civilian), 4 of which were from friendly fire. Of the Palestinian deaths, what sort of stands out is the seemingly intentional targeting of its hospitals and ambulances, with 17 health personnel killed and 26 injured, with a total of  29 ambulances damaged or destroyed by bombs or crushed by armoured vehicles. Emergency vehicles were often denied access to sites until it was too late to save the wounded, and then once they received clearance to enter, the Israelis would fire upon the site for the second time. Altogether 48% of Gaza health facilities were directly or indirectly hit by shelling.

Later that year, in Nov. 2009, a panel of international jurists, all veterans of human rights investigations in Sudan, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia, along with a detailed UN sponsored investigation which confirmed human rights abuse, came to the conclusion that war crimes were being committed by both Israel and Palestine. The United States immediately condemned the decision for failing to absolve Israel of any responsibility and blocked the United Nations from investigating.

The 2nd Gaza War,” called “Pillar of Cloud”, a “defensive action” by the Israelis, was fought from Nov. 14th to the 21st, 2012. It started weeks before, with Israel indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians in several isolated incidents, including the deaths of a couple of youths out kicking a ball around, and then began in earnest after they assassinated the chief of Hama’s military wing. Gaza retaliated, duh. Israel stated that their aims were to stop such indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza and to disrupt the capabilities of extremist organizations operating within Gaza. Hamas declared that they, being victims living under violent occupation had the right to defend its people and respond to Israeli attacks. Indeed, the Article 1 (4) of protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention states that even a non-state, such as Palestine, or “any state or people under oppressive occupation, has the right to resist and use force to pursue the right of self-determination.” To suppress such actions goes against the Geneva Convention, UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Though in this case, and once again, The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and other Western countries supported Israel’s right to defend itself, even though Israel is the oppressive occupier.

The Israeli military struck over 1,500 targets in Gaza, none being surgical in nature, for with Gaza being so dense, even one grenade takes out many and damages much. The strikes paid no heed to collateral damage such as actual people, targeting houses, apartment blocks, civil institutions, police stations, farms, the Islamic National bank, and numerous offices housing Hamas government ministries. Also hit were media outlets, suspected rocket launch pads, cache sites and Hamas command posts. The bombardment of Gaza was by air, land and sea, with the sky abuzz with drones, helicopter gunships and jets. Many neighbourhoods were reduced to rubble, displacing more than 10,000 Palestinians. In eight days of fighting, over 160 Palestinians would be killed, 90 of them being civilians, including over 30 children. An estimated 1,300 to 1,500 Palestinians were injured. For the population it would have been very hard to even just think clearly under such conditions, let alone survive through the trauma of each day. It has been estimated that the majority of the 1.7 million people and nearly all the children in Gaza suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

At the same time, Palestinian militant groups fired over 1,400 rockets into Israel, with another 142 falling short and exploding within Gaza itself, killing Palestinians. Of the rest, 875 rockets fell in “open areas”, 58 actually hit urban areas in Israel, and more than 302 were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. All told, Palestinian rockets killed four Israeli civilians, three of them in a direct hit on a home, two Israeli soldiers and an unknown number of Palestinian civilians. Israel announced afterwards that there were 21 Israeli’s injured by shrapnel, 28 injured during alarms and in the rush to hide, and more than 200 Israelis treated for anxiety. Since 2007, when Hamas came into power, up to Dec. 2012, the total number of Israelis killed by rocket, mortar or anti-tank fire from Gaza- 56, the number of Palestinians in Gaza killed by Israeli fire over that same time- 3,054.

The Palestinians in Gaza have no army, air-force or navy, nor airport or seaport. Their fighters consist of approximately 10,000 al-Qassam (Hamas) militant brigades, 10,000 other security forces and about 8,000 extreme Islam Jihadists. Israel had their entire Southern Command participating as well as 75,000 reservists prepared and ready to go on a moment’s notice. The deadliest weapon Hamas possesses is the longer range, 75km (46 mile), Fajr-5 rocket with an explosive payload of 175 kg (385 lb), the Israeli military prefers to strike back using their own MPR-500 advanced-penetration precision-guided bomb, which carries an explosive payload of 900 kilos (2,000lbs); and then there are the physical characteristics of the area, in that Gaza is only 365 sq km (141 sq mi), while Israel is over 20,000 sq km (7,900 sq mi).

Israel’s new toy, the U.S. backed Iron Dome missile defence system, consists of five truck-towed batteries of radar-guided interceptor missiles which engage only when rockets threaten populated areas of Israel and often will fire two interceptor missiles at once. Each battery costs about $50 million, each missile $62,000, while the estimated cost of one short-range Qassam M-75 rocket built in a Gaza workshop or garage, about $800. Israel has plans to eventually have 13 batteries in its Iron Dome system. During Pillar of Cloud they shot off about $30 million worth of missiles. But with overwhelming American support, in vast amounts of money and arms from their industrial military complex, Israel sees no reason to quit in its goal to become a colonial empire and fortress in the Middle East. In fact, besides the $3 billion per year the U.S gives to the Israeli military machine, two weeks after Palestine was recognized as a non-member state in the UN, the United States agreed to sell Israel $647 million in munitions to make up for what Israel expended during the eight-day Pillar of Cloud ravaging of Gaza. The deal included 6,900 precision bomb kits and 10,000 bombs of various kits. It is generous of the States, the three or four of the richest corporations in America will become even richer. Hell, weapons manufacturers and NRA (National Rifle Association) lobbyists in the States are making billions from their own population alone, not including the trillions that American weapons manufacturers and security companies are making and have made in Iraq and Afghanistan. With no iota of concern for such things as deaths, especially children, it is simply the cost of doing business.

During the Pillar of Cloud operations, 35 Palestinian children died from Israeli bombardments, of armaments mostly made in the United States. Five times the number of all Israeli deaths combined, which included no children. Meanwhile the United States has killed 168 children by drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006; another 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year alone, and another 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq; in Yemen the numbers could be higher. While at home they are just as proficient. There have been 16 mass shootings in the U.S. just this year, leaving 88 people dead, including the 20 children killed with a military semi-auto in Newtown, Connecticut, where some of the children killed were shot up to 11 times, at point blank range. If one were to add the other 400 children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year and the tens of thousands of adults shot and killed, one could say the NRA and America’s leaders are responsible for killing more Americans in one year, than their enemies, real or imagined, even bin Laden, had at any time over the past twenty years. As it is, a gun kills someone in the United States every 20 minutes; twice the death rate of AIDS. In Duval County, in Florida, there have been 100 murders by guns in the past year, more than all of Britain, a nation of 63 million people. As one can see, wars don’t kill Americans, Americans kill Americans.

 

Chapter 8

While in Palestine, over 53% of Palestinians are under the age of 18, growing up in basically concentration camps, with limited access to necessities like running water, food, electricity and education. Their daily lives are filled with the pressures of persecution, brutality, hatred, coercion and injustice, each child trying to deal with the stress from the ever potentiality of conflict, bombardment, and/or extinction of their race. It is estimated that over 92% of Palestinian children are coping with some sort of trauma, while the cloaking smell of revenge, oppression and death is quickly erasing their dreams of peace and security in their future. They are of a generation who are becoming numb to further pain and suffering. A generation of children who not only have abandoned hope for a better life but who also have had their dreams taken away from them, a life where common sense and compassion do not exist any more.

Other ways Israel is defending itself, before, during and after the latest Gaza War, include the concepts – since 70% of Palestinians in Gaza live on fishing, their fleet is limited to fish only up to 4.8 km (3 mi) offshore, instead of the Oslo Accords guaranteed 32 km (20 mi) limit. Often fired upon, the fleet is totally blockaded from leaving the beach at least a couple of times per month, though for only 2 to 3 days at a time, with the Israeli’s knowing full well if such blockades go longer than 4 days, people in Gaza would start starving to death, and people would complain. As it is about 80% of Palestinians in Gaza exist on food aid, with an anaemia epidemic running out of control. Another reason for the 3 mile limit could be because 5 km (3.5 mi) off Gaza lies a natural gas offshore drilling rig, which in reality should be a Palestinian drilling rig.

After a ceasefire was reached in the latest hostilities, Israel seized 35% of the agricultural land in Gaza, as a “buffer zone.” Any Palestinian farmer who gets too close to the newly erected fence is shot without warning of any kind. Israel also seized aquifers and seawater desalination plants which is quickly turning much of Gaza’s water supply into a health hazard, though many areas of Gaza have had no running water for years, while current and escalating restrictions have created such a breakdown of sewage infrastructure, that within ten years, Gaza could very well be not fit to be lived in. Another technique the Israeli’s employ is, in areas of Palestine and Gaza under night time curfew, anyone outside after dark is shot without warning, and then regardless of who they are, is listed as a terrorist. And lastly, Israel controls the Gaza economy, what little there is left, by occasionally withholding import taxes. What it all means is that Israel has dehumanized their prey, just like all true killers do. And yes, Palestinians dehumanize, retaliate and become killers as well.

This is not saying all Jews and Muslims of Israel and Palestine are psychotic serial killers, far from it, but when Israel states they are defending themselves by punishing an entire population and occupying Palestinian territory is simply wrong and immoral. In reality much of the violence and overwhelming suffering  in Israel and Palestine is not created by the general population, but rather by fanatic extremist jihadists that Hamas cannot control, and other groups, such as the out of control and vicious Jewish settlers, whom Israel can’t or won’t control, and its racist military. And though both sides have committed great immoral transgressions against one another, Israel is much more capable in the killing department. Israel is by far the strongest military in the entire Middle East, in fact, the 2012 Global Militarisation Index, put out by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion, listed Israel as the world’s most militarised nation, followed by Singapore, Syria, Russia, Jordan and Cyprus. Israel also has one of the world’s highest standards of living and is heavily supported by the fading superpower, the United States. The Gaza Strip meanwhile is but an oppressed, impoverished ghetto with a weak government barely in control, making it through a complete and total blockade, living one day at a time, alongside a few thousand madmen.

While Israel and its Pillar of Cloud defensive operation was blitzkrieging Gaza, with Hamas and other Palestinian groups continuing to retaliate and fight for their independence and freedom, the Palestinian Authority was preparing for the upcoming meeting of the U.N., where it would be put to vote whether or not to give Palestine, United Nations “non-member observer state status”, and confirmation its state includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. You’d think this would no doubt force the resumption of a peace deal and get both sides talking as grown-ups should, abiding by international laws and values of humanity. But after decades of trying to negotiate an agreement with Israel to stop annexation and settlement in the West Bank and though they have, by as much as they can control, cooperated on many levels with both Israeli and American security forces, they have never even come close to getting an agreement or even initial dialogue with Israel for a formal two-state settlement. With Israel it is never going to happen, because it goes against its manifest destiny vision of a “Greater Israel” which includes all the Palestinian territories.

Before Pillar of Cloud, the Palestinian people were very aware of the upcoming UN decision, the Palestinian Authority had been working on it for decades, trying their best to stay off the angry road Israel strutted, and to instead pursue state status at the UN by adopting the non-violent, diplomatic and multilateral approach to gaining their freedom and dignity back, while at the same time trying to control the often foreign, gathering of lunatic extremist groups within their own population, and withstanding the extreme oppression of their people by Israel.

Preparing for the forthcoming UN decision, it was reported that the Palestine Authority, the military wing of Hamas and several Israeli civilian peacemakers were close to creating an agreement for a long-term ceasefire, while the world contemplated their hoped for status in the UN. For one reason or another, this was proving difficult to reach, but a short-term ceasefire agreement was being agreed upon. But just before such an agreement could be signed, the Hamas military’s leader was assassinated by an Israeli jet launched missile that bulls-eyed his car, as he drove downs a busy street in Gaza. Pillar of Cloud began soon after.

Eight days after the Pillar of Cloud Israeli assault on Gaza began a cease-fire was reached, negotiated by Egypt’s fundamentalist president, Mohamed Morsi. Then eight days after that, on Nov 29/12, the UN’s General Assembly met in New York City, 65 years to the day since Palestine was first partitioned by the UN. One hundred and eighty-eight countries of the world participated in deciding whether Palestine would be elevated to a “non-member observer state.” Of these, 138 nations, including the European nations France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland voted yes, 41 nations, including Britain and Germany abstained, while only 9 nations voted unequivocally no – Israel, the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, the Federated State of Micronesia; which the US is wholly responsible for their defence,  the Pacific islands, Marshall and Palau; also influenced by the US, which provides both with defence, funding grants and access to social services, and another Micronesian nation, Nauri, the world’s smallest republic covering 21 sq km (8.1sqmi), with a population of just over 9,000 people. Also located within the Micronesian group of islands is Wake Island, the US Air Force base, airfield and missile facility.

 

Chapter 9

Another recent UN resolution, approved by a vote of 174-6 with 6 abstentions, called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Joining Israel in the negative vote were once again, the United States, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

The NPT was a treaty signed in 1970 aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and technology and to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy. As of 2012, 190 parties have joined, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, France, the UK and China. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement in history. Not in the NPT are India, Pakistan, and North Korea, with all three having openly declared they do indeed have nuclear weapons and have openly tested them. Israel stands alone, admitting nothing behind an opaque curtain. At the same time they demand that other Middle Eastern countries do not, under any circumstances, develop nuclear technology.  Estimates of Israel’s nuclear capacity range from 75 to 400 nuclear warheads, capable of being delivered by intercontinental missile, aircraft, and submarine. Israel most worries about Iran and its nuclear program, originally started and financed by the US and other Western European countries in the 1950’s and ending with the Shah of Iran’s exit in 1979, at which time the Iranians themselves continued any development and research. Israel worries of the Iranian rhetoric about wanting to erase Israel off the planet, while in reality if Iran ever did develop a weapon, somehow tested one, and then fired off a couple at Israel, they would, within seconds, be taken out themselves, entirely and completely, seriously, not a win-win situation. But then when has madness made any sense.

Though Palestine still cannot vote at the General Assembly, becoming a state rather than an entity does allow them other benefits such as membership in other UN agencies and organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), which scares the bejesus out of Israel. The fear that Palestine will bring forth a case over the illegal annexations and construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and/or the attacks on the West Bank and Gaza and/or war crimes, is one of the main reasons Israel and its supporters were adamantly against the General Assembly’s passing of the resolution. Palestinian officials have since stated that they have no immediate intentions to take such a road.

After the vote was taken, the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the representatives of 188 countries; “The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: enough of aggression, settlements and occupation.” He also spoke about the need to resume negotiations with Israel and called the successful resolution the “birth certificate of the reality of Palestine,” at the conclusion of his speech the seated members of the UN General Assembly rose to a standing ovation, while those who voted against stayed seated and became invisible. It is clear that the Palestinians are trying to “create momentum for progress and credibility for legal and political solutions.” For beneath the hatred, oppression and persecution, the Israelis and Palestinians themselves are the ones who have to start listening to each other and find a way to live side by side. But for any negotiations to work Israel and Palestine, must start abiding by the laws of nations and humanity itself, and to know, like any human, we are or rather should be, held accountable for our actions. Their disgust for each other, the extreme ingrained insecurity they both possess, and plainly show to the world, and how both of their hypocritical scriptures have somehow replaced sorrow, compassion and empathy with hatred is beginning to wear thin with many fellow inhabitants of the earth. Collective disgust towards Israel and Palestine is accumulating the world over, unfortunately history has proven the next step is most always, more and more people will simply stop caring.

The countries who voted against the UN resolution were livid. US lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican voted that they would cut-off aid if the Palestinians used their new-found status against Israel in any way. Palestine I am sure is well aware of the cost they will be further taking. In 2011 Palestine was granted membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in retaliation Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, which is always in financial distress, with the US following along and withholding millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, as well as cutting off their financing to UNESCO entirely.

Canada announced angrily that they will take “retaliatory measures against the Palestinians for forcing the statehood issue onto the world stage.” Though not revealed, the most obvious option would be for them to suspend aid to the Palestinians, even though on the Canadian Foreign Affairs website it states that, “Canada believes that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law which is key to ensuring the protection of civilians, and can contribute to the creation of a climate conducive to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.” The tongue in cheek was well hidden, considering both Canada and the US have no qualms about looking the other way whenever Israel decides it should defend itself.

Israel declared that, “The Palestinians unilateral step at the UN is a blatant and fundamental violation of the agreements vouched on by the international community.” The next day they announced their plans to unilaterally build 3,000 new homes/enclaves within the area of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, called the E1 corridor, the illegal settlements would for all intents and purposes permanently slice the West Bank in half. As if human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law are not unilateral enough.

Both the US and Canada had to back pedal a bit. Condemning the move, they called Israeli ambassadors in to have a little chat. But Israel would go on to remind the world that “no matter the symbolic political games the UN General Assembly wishes to play, Israel alone controls the land, water and air of the Palestinian territories and will not waver on their intentions to permanently annex all three” and that the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip will continue. A few days after the UN resolution passing, Israel would confiscate over $118 million of tax revenues that they collected for the Palestinian Authority for the month of November, stating it was to offset continuing Palestinian debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.

Chapter 10

Israel’s tone continues to clearly show they have no intentions of allowing talks about any peace process and seem to be literally dead set against one. The arrogance of Israel’s ethnicity and religious beliefs has blinded them. They continue to be oblivious to many aspects of the realities of human behaviour, such as when people realize that they are a part of the problem, only then do they tend to then become a part of the solution, and that those who gain the greatest opportunities and accomplishments in life and society are those who master the “we.” Or further, that the most respected leaders’ minds work selflessly, with mutual respect for mutual benefit, and understand that influence only begins when a person or population feels they are being listened to and that they are understood. They also understand that compromise is rarely win-win, because rarely are both sides truly pleased, but that creative cooperation most always leads to success. Proving such realities have been thrown to the side of the road years ago, not only in Israel but nearly everywhere else in the world as well, especially in the US and Canada, an Israeli government minister declared during the attack on Gaza, that Israel should “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” and when a popular Israeli model admitted she had prayed for the welfare of the people on both sides in the conflict, she was accused of being “an enemy of the state.”

As to Hamas, which combines Palestinian nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism, it is the bee in Israel’s bonnet. Israel may not agree much with Hama’s ideology and policies, but terrorizing an entire population is not the remedy for such a situation, especially considering that, though deemed terrorists by Israel and her allies, in reality Hamas devotes 90% of their estimated $70 million annual budget to social, welfare, cultural and educational services. Most of their budget comes from Saudi Arabia, other Arab countries, Muslim charities, Palestinians living abroad and which is the ire of Israel, they receive about $20-30 million from Iran. But since the situation in Syria started in 2011, Hamas, the majority of which are Sunni-Islamic, have distanced themselves from Shia-Islamic dominated Iran due to their support of the Syrian dictator al-Assad. And in the past couple of years it seems their disposition towards a more central-is tic decision making process is growing rather than diminishing, with the rhetoric of their founding charter calling for the destruction of Israel slowly changing and becoming old news. They have recently stated that they would promote a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. Israel would rather this fact not be broadcast too loudly, once again totally ignoring the fact a two-state solution is the only answer.

The people of Palestine, and no doubt most decent Israelis, wish for peace and to simply just getting along as neighbours should, where the citizens of each have a sense of shared values. They obey the laws and act peacefully within their society, which hopefully possesses a certain degree of equality, and where unrealistic fears are diminished so that racism and abhorrence to a fellow human being’s existence passes and empathy moves in and embraces. Instead of comparing the best of one’s own ethnic culture to the worst of another, Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jew must somehow wake up and realize they are both of the same species, with the same needs, wants and desires, with the majority of each other’s populations innocent.

The problems lie with the hateful, egotistical and ambitious elite at the top pulling the strings and playing games. Living within a realm where there is no differentiation between politics, religion and business, for they are all but engines of consumerism, with the industrial military complex making the majority of the money by influencing government leaders to continue to seed their populations with fear, anger and insecurity. As the collapse of the international economy continues and climate change escalates, in droughts, flooding, the decline in crop yields, rising food prices and dwindling fresh water, the elites become an ever more secluded group, living within protected enclaves and fenced compounds gorging themselves on nothing but the best and lots of it. Meanwhile enraged populations the world over have become even more enraged as their societies break down. To keep the current inequality and severe imbalance in place between the haves and the never-will haves, the new paradigm of “modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons,” is turning many countries in the world into fascist police states, where freedom is lost and replaced with security.

Will Israel’s diplomatic, financial and military supporters continue to ignore, seemingly with near disdain, international law and basic human rights and continue funding Israel’s apartheid-like ways? As a Canadian I can say that though Canada has stated they will support Israel in its defence, whenever it goes on the offensive, it is a decision made by the Harper government of Canada alone. I and my fellow Canadians were certainly not asked of our opinion, much like also not being asked our opinion of how embarrassing Canada’s behaviour and attitude is at every international meeting that is dealing with climate change or how proud we are of being awarded the “Dodo Award” from the international environmental community.

If Israel, with its extreme nationalistic Zionism as its official value system, which opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies and makes a key legal distinction between “Jew” and “Non-Jew”, continues unabated the end game is a Greater Israel that is erased of all non-Jewish peoples and settled by the Jewish people alone. Much like South Africa’s original intentions under their official value system of apartheid and which also made a key legal distinction but between “white,” “coloured,” “Indian” and “Black.”

 

Chapter 11

Today Israel stands at a crossroads. One road leads to the above. It would be a violent road. Each step it took Israel would be increasingly at odds with civil society and then, hopefully, with other governments, as it takes over Palestine, expelling and killing every non-Jew in their path or who resists. Devastating sanctions would be made against Israel, much like what is now done to Syria, North Korea and Iran. In reality such a thing happening, as in Israel fulfilling their “destiny”, would involve so much maniacal violence and ethnic-al cleansing that peoples and countries would be unable to support them and not just stand aside and allow it to continue. At least one can only hope. Because the question remains, will enough people finally stand up, ignore the 24 hour news cycle, and demand their will upon their leaders to have the courage to do what is right for humanity and not for corporate, soulless entities?

Another road for Israel, which would also lead to violence and further bloodshed, is the road of not trying to exterminate the Palestinian people outright, but just take complete control of all Palestine. This would still create a Greater Israel, but the Jewish people could become a minority very quickly, just by the birth rate alone, and this goes against all that is Zionism. The entire area would become palaces, Jewish enclaves and city-forts, ghettos and the largest concentration camp ever, all on complete security lock down, with a population densely packed together like a Gaza Strip on steroids. Hatred, racism, revenge and intolerance would continue dripping off of people, as it does today, generation after generation.

The only solution is two distinct and separate countries living beside each other, just like the rest of the world does and for the most part quite peacefully. Security would be easier to establish and each country would then be judged on its own intrinsic worth and not by how much violence each one could inflict on the other.

Sadly, this will not happen, no matter how much the Palestinian Authorities become recognized and go about their quest for the right to self govern themselves in their rightful lands through the courts of international law and the United Nations. Because the Israelis continue to elect right-wing fanatical governments who still feel they need to strut around like the typical bully, and who have become both, very predictable and ever the more isolated. But then being imaginative and willing to engage in dialogue has never been one of the Israeli’s strong points. They also do not understand that in the reality that is war, even when you win, on many levels you lose. Indeed, I’m sure to many people all over the world who might care or have even heard of the Arab-Jewish conflict, Israel and Palestine have become yet another pair of bad actors, in an often repeated bad film where everyone knows how it will end and everybody dies.

While the Israeli, American and Canadian leaders were condemning Hamas, who were being merciless bombarded “hopefully back to the dark ages” in the latest Gaza war, not one of them realized that the true threat to Israel comes not from tiny, impoverished and oppressed Gaza but from the policies of the Israeli government itself. The holocaust of the Second World War we are told should forever be remembered so that it will never happen again. Yet it has happened many times since, from Cambodia to Rwanda to Serbia and to the Sudan, and it is what is happening in Palestine today, just not so quickly, but more apartheid-like, so nobody notices as much.

When Israel, and the few remaining countries in the world that support them, say the Palestinians should just go back from whence they came and allow a Greater Israel state to be created, there is a serious disconnect happening, while the words – delusional and ignorant – spring to mind. Because where the Palestinians came from is exactly where they are living now and therefore, there is nowhere else for them to go. So either the occupation ends and a two-state agreement is signed or everyone should just step aside and allow the Israelis to continue to immorally ethnically cleanse the territories they illegally occupy to the very point of Palestinian extermination. Then let the world condemn them for their actions, and at the same time allow the Palestinians the right to fight for their lives, their land and their existence by all means possible. Would they then be condemned by the world for their re-actions? The stench of unmentionable horrors each side would inflict on each other would bring outsiders into the fray, especially religious and corporate psychopaths. Then the supposedly holiest place on the planet would continue to be one of the most unholiest and nothing but a black hole of violence and hatred, while the rest of the world stands on the sidelines and watches. And then after the dust settles we’ll tell ourselves that we must remember what just happened and never forget, lest it ever happen again.

“Elites Will Make Gazans of Us All”,   Chris Hedges

It’s mostly punishment…. Testimonies by Veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces from Gaza and the Occupied Territories, Oded Na’aman

Ten voices on the Palestinian bid for UN membership, CBC News