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On June 4th, Common Dreams’ lead story is titled, “‘This Isn’t Going Away’: Defying Curfews and Police Brutality in Relentless Push for Justice, Uprising Over Killing of George Floyd Keeps Growing.”

The same day, I received a mass email from Jee Leong Koh, a Singaporean poet living in Harlem. In an 800-word statement about the ongoing protest, riot and looting, there’s this passage:

The destruction of property during this American uprising is not at all senseless. Born out of unheeded rage, it is actually very purposeful. If you are systematically excluded, exploited, or discriminated against in the economy, it is logical that you would smash shop windows in order to be heard and set police cars on fire in order to be seen.

If Koh or his family owned a store that had been looted, I doubt he would find such destruction so logical and purposeful.

On May 28th, ESPN’s Chris Martin Palmer quote tweeted a photo of a six-story building in flames, “Burn that shit down. Burn it all down.”

On May 31st, Palmer tweeted, “They just attacked our sister community down the street. It’s a gated community and they tried to climb the gates. They had to beat them back. Then destroyed a Starbucks and are now in front of my building. Get these animals TF out of my neighborhood. Go back to where you live.”

Checking the news from Philadelphia, my old city, I found out a Rite Aid was looted for 15 hours straight. The local ABC newscast aired a FaceBook rant by Rashan Howard, “I need somebody to please explain to me how this represents getting justice for George Floyd. And you want to know why they don’t put supermarkets in black neighborhoods! This is why.”

That sort of bluntness almost never makes it on air, and unsurprisingly, the online version of the story omits the bit about supermarkets in ghettos.

In Kensington, a tiny drug store was also targeted by looters. On ABC, owner Catherine Tiang said, “I haven’t cried yet, it’s been really stressful.”

Her employee, Donna Knowles, added, “I thought about our patients. Oh my God, what are they going to do to get their medication? They depend on us.”

Block captain Hank Meleski Jr. summed up, “We try to stay together. We want to keep it as nice as we can here ’cause we live here.”

I’ve written about Kensington repeatedly, and know it reasonably well. (When a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter wanted to profile a Kensington bar, she asked me to guide her.) With its factories in ruins, many houses boarded up and junkies nodding on sidewalks, Kensington is a neighborhood that scares even those from Camden, NJ.

People only live or do business in Kensington because they can’t afford anywhere else. They’re the downtrodden you’ve heard so much about, and yet, their takes on race, blacks and cops don’t conform to what you’ve learnt from your Marxist professors.

Most non-black urban poor love cops! And not from some weird sentimentality, ideology or perversion, but because these donut chompers protect them, daily, from criminals, of which way, way too many are black.

These poor live near or work with blacks, ride with them on buses, and, compared to the middle and upper classes, are much more likely to date, marry or have black relatives. They know blacks from direct experiences, so treat them like individuals.

By contrast, too many of the more affluent and refined see blacks as just helpless victims of white racism, so even their worst acts, murdering, raping or, just recently, pummeling old white men and women at a nursing home, can be explained away as natural consequences of this injustice, which isn’t just systemic, but likely eternal, for whites are naturally racist, you see. They’re born guilty.

Three of the last five Philly mayors were black, and over a third of Philly cops are black, including the one who broke up a mugging against me, near the corner of 11th and South in 1992. Dude had a hammer, but I stalled him long enough to not get brained. After the conviction, the cop thanked me, “We’ve had him in here seven or eight times, but this is his first conviction.”

The street violence across America has hardened attitudes on all sides, so there are no winners except for America’s rulers, and I mean the real ones, not their political puppets. No matter how many bricks are thrown, windows broken, stores looted and people injured or killed among protestors and cops, they and their stock portfolios are safe, or so they think.

The current mayhem is not just spontaneous, but elaborately planned out, with bricks delivered, hidden weapons placed at intervals, communication across conflict theater via walkies talkies, scouts and even supply lines.

While some of this sophistication may be grassroots, it’s sensible to suspect there are also deep pockets and professional organization behind it, and unless the state investigates this angle, I will speculate that it is the culprit.

Generating chaos and hatred, America’s rulers reinforce all the worst charges against their divided subjects, such as blacks are lawless, cops are racist psychopaths and disgruntled young people are Antifa terrorists. As for the destruction of the country, this too is consistent with their long-term plan.

I’ve said that Mexico needs the wall more than the US, to prevent panicking Americans from fleeing into it, so short of escaping, Americans should organize and prepare themselves to stake out liberated zones. Those who don’t think they’re in a war are dead meat.

The following coronavirus missives come from Vung Tau, where I’m still hoping to return, and Philly, which I might just see again.

 

Jim B., a 63-year-old American expat since 1982, working in oil and gas. Originally from Little Rock, Ark, he has lived and worked in the UK, Norway, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

I flew into Tan Son Nhat from Kuala Lumpur on the 16th March, not realizing the shit storm that was enveloping the world. I got through the medical check by the skin of teeth without being forced into quarantine in an Army barracks. Apparently that happened later in the day. I spent a nervous few days waiting to be hauled out of my apartment where I was self-quarantining, but they never came for me although I was on the CV19 database.

After that Vung Tau was pretty much like everywhere else with social distancing and the like. Still going out with masks and stocking up on booze which got me through the boring times. There were also a couple of times I was cursed as a Tây [Westerner] as at one point it was perceived that most of the new cases were from tourists coming in from other countries. That has all quieted down as it has been demonstrated that even repatriated Vietnamese are bringing it in as well.

 
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[the below will be translated into Farsi and published at this website]

The Iranian people would like to know how would you interpret Floyd’s death: an isolated case of officers mistreating criminals or a sign of systematic anti-black racism?

-As we can clearly see in the film, Floyd was murdered, for an officer knelt on his neck as he was lying face down on the ground, handcuffed. He posed no threats to the cops. Although you may attribute his killing to racism, and there is plenty of it in the US, one must also remember that American cops kill a lot of whites, browns and yellows, too. Blacks are more often the victims of police brutality because cops have more run-ins with blacks. They commit more crimes.

Keep in mind, also, that American cops have become more militarized in recent decades, most notably after 9/11, and they’ve become more Israelized. Thousands have been sent to Israel to learn police tactics, which is curious, for Israel has the absolute worst record for police abuse in the world. Trained by Israelis, many American cops return home to treat Americans like occupied Palestinians. Kneeling on people’s face and neck is an Israeli staple.

During the last couple of years, we have frequently heard of pro-black protests in the US. Are we witnessing a surge in pro-black activism? If yes, then what’s the reason?

-As long as there are blacks in the US, there will be black activism and protests, because blacks will always feel aggrieved. Even in black run cities, where the mayor, police chief and district attorney are blacks, blacks are angry at “the system,” simply because they don’t compete as well as other races in that system. They open fewer businesses, make less money and fail more at schools. Generally speaking, black run countries also don’t fare as well in the global system, and by saying all this, I’m not defending any system or saying it should a measurement of one’s worth.

Black resentment, though, is constantly stoked by the American media and many politicians, and they do this to divide and conquer the country. When blacks commit outrageous crimes against whites, browns or yellows, it’s downplayed or completely ignored by the media, which causes the victim’s group to feel resentment and anger. The ruling class wants a constantly seething population, and so far, it’s been very successful at having citizens always enraged at each other, instead of being united to fight against those who are actually kneeling on their necks.

Some US officials lamented the tragedy and the officer responsible for Floyd’s murder is to be put on trial. So why don’t the protesters give up?

-The protesters won’t be appeased even if the entire Minneapolis Police Department is convicted of first-degree murder, with every last officer executed on television. They’re not just angry at racism or police brutality, but mostly because they’ve been systematically disenfranchised, going back decades, so that they’re lucky to have a lousy job and a crummy and overpriced apartment, far from their worksite. They’re also angry because they’re socially isolated, a factor that’s almost never mentioned. Americans are among the loneliest people in earth. They don’t live in communities, but cells, with their cellphones their boon companions.

It was easy to predict the rioting, looting and street violence you see now. George Floyd’s death is a trigger, but also a pretext, for nearly every kind of American to unleash his anger. Even before the economic collapse that’s set off by the coronavirus, America was in serious decline and in deep trouble.

In contrast to the images of affluence and ecstasy beamed out by America to the rest of the world, American cities and towns were not happy places, for they’re filled with too many shuttered stores, ruins of factories, dull faces and misshapen bodies, from a lack of purposeful activities. Drug and alcohol abuses were rampant. I personally know young Americans who’ve died from heroin overdoses. Despair was already widespread, but 40 million more people unemployed and countless businesses abruptly destroyed, the anger and frustration will erupt for many more months. This is just the beginning.

Did Donald Trump act as a responsible president? What’s the buzz about his tweet?

-Trump is not a responsible president, but none of his recent predecessors has been either. Obama sounded better, but was just as complicit in the corruption and criminality of the US government. American elections are shams.

Five months before Trump was “elected,” I wrote, “In 2008, Obama was touted as a political outsider who will hose away all of the rot and bloody criminality of the Bush years. He turned out to be a deft move by our ruling class. Though fools still refuse to see it, Obama is a perfect servant of our military banking complex. Now, Trump is being trumpeted as another political outsider.

“A Trump presidency will temporarily appease restless, lower class whites, while serving as a magnet for liberal anger. This will buy our ruling class time as they continue to wage war abroad while impoverishing Americans back home. Like Obama, Trump won’t fulfill any of his election promises, and this, too, will be blamed on bipartisan politics.”

This, when many commentators thought the deep state would sabotage Trump’s candidacy or even murder him, but no one becomes a US president without the approval of the deep state. As for the mechanism of American “elections,” it is a joke, for it’s done mostly with machines that cannot be audited. They are as responsive to your wish as the slot machines at casinos.

How do you assess the behavior of the US corporate media? Did they provide their audience with fair, realistic coverage of the developments?

-As a nonstop brainwashing machine, the US corporate media can’t tell the truth about anything. It will often set up minor or false arguments to distract you from real issues, which are never addressed objectively or in depth.

With this coronavirus crisis, the corporate media report on Trump signing a $484 billion relief bill “to boost small business, hospitals and testing,” but they say nothing about the $6 trillion that were given to banks, large corporations and investors.

Though they talk endlessly about serving Main Street, American politicos are only loyal to Wall Street and Israel, but the American media, which are dominated by Jews, will never expose this. They’re in cahoots to serve Jewish interests.

As for American “intellectuals,” they know what topics to stay clear of if they don’t want to be demonized, ostracized and hounded out of a job. Like American newscasters, American “intellectuals” are also habitual liars. In such a climate, no truth can surface.

For several years, I was a commentator for Iran’s Press TV, so I was on dozens of YouTube videos, but suddenly they were all erased, along with all Press TV videos. Since 2015, I’ve written for Unz Review, so I’m humbled and honored to be featured along with Gilad Atzmon, Kevin Barrett, Laurent Guyenot, Whitney Webb, Paul Craig Roberts, Michael Hudson, the Saker, Pepe Escobar, Philip Girardi, Ron Paul and Ron Unz himself, etc. I mean, these are all top-notch public intellectuals, but suddenly, Unz Review was banned by FaceBook and suppressed by Google, so its traffic has dropped tremendously. There is not a healthy debate about anything in the USA.

The American mental landscape is absolutely surreal, for just about everything you’re allowed to see, hear, smell or touch is bullshit.

How does the police treatment of the protests compare to similar protests in other countries? Is the US well placed to lecture other governments on how to treat the opposition?

 
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On April 29th, an American friend wrote from Spain, where he’d lived for 20 years, “The government announced new (legal) abilities to track and monitor people’s telephones. My youngest [son] asked if we could go to the U.S. if Spain moves towards communism. I didn’t know how to respond! Frightening where this could go.”

I replied, “Last thing you’d want to do is move to the USA. It’s a very angry and divided country that will erupt soon. Stay in Spain.”

As triggered by the filmed death of George Floyd, the nationwide rioting, looting and violence against authorities have begun. Since the entire 99% have been disenfranchised, relentlessly provoked and humiliated, every aggrieved group is out on the streets causing mayhem. Plus, there are likely hired berserkers, dispatched by hidden hands, to stoke further confusion and division among the populace.

Blacks, whites, browns, yellows, far left, far right, conservatives, liberals, nativists and immigrants are all pointing fingers at each other, but the engineers of this societal implosion are entirely unscathed and mostly unmentionable, as usual. Kicking back, they must be enjoying this sick show.

On May 18th, Mike Whitney asked, “Is the lockdown the greatest policy disaster in U.S. history?” but maybe it’s all planned out, for it serves our rulers to have mass impoverishment, increased social fragmentation, abject dependency on the state and a destructive anger that’s misframed and misdirected by paid politicos and the brainwashing media.

As the little guys go bankrupt, die and kill each other off, the big boys will swoop in for bargains of all kinds, from buildings to babes. They’ll whoop it up like loaded tourists in any broken down, fourth world hell hole.

So who are the boffo bosses in what’s left of America? Those who control our money and information flows, of course, the smug smirkers who indebt us all and warp our perceptions, at will. Raping our wallets, they bugger our minds.

For decades, they’ve wrecked Main Street to enrich Wall Street, so what’s happening now, including the $6 trillion stealth giveaway to banks, corporations and investors, is only an intensification of what they’ve done all along.

As for American politicians, they’re all bought, bugged, honey trapped or browbeaten by their masters, which aren’t “the people,” for sure, or are you that naïve? When Jeffrey Epstein was killed or disappeared, a hurricane size exhalation of relief whooshed from inside the Beltway.

Kevin Barrett speaks of the “Zionist-dominated usury banking cartel that rules the West,” and for a decade, Gilad Atzmon has stressed that “we are all Palestinians,” since we aren’t even allowed to name our oppressor.

We’re penned in a world where the grossest Jewish crimes draw less condemnation, if any, than the mere coupling of “Jewish” with “crime,” as if the concept itself is the worst sin imaginable. To utter it in any context is to become an instant Nazi who wishes to delouse every last Jew, we’ve been led to believe.

Whatever the destruction of the coronavirus, it is fleeting and miniscule compared to what has been wrought by Jewish parasites, and I’m not talking about Mrs. Neff and her chopped liver special, obviously. She, too, is dispensable.

Here’s hoping these sinister playas have finally overplayed their hands, for viruses can’t survive without a live host. From a dead America, fresh organisms will spring, even if many of us won’t be around to witness this flowering.

Meanwhile, we’ll have to tolerate, resist, stake out or defend new norms, on top of scrounging for meals. As the below correspondent articulates, “We are all in deeper trouble than most anyone’s experience, alive, is at all prepared to handle,” and the man’s no softie. A Vietnam vet, he’s weathered some horrors.

 

Richard F., a retired 69-year-old American, living in Indianapolis

Here in Indianapolis, IN, my daily life has changed in rather small, social ways as a result of the virus panic. A Vietnam veteran, with seven years army (four in Korea—Seoul and Pusan) and an army brat to boot, I retired thirteen years ago in the Washington, DC area, where I had worked, as a general contractor doing federal contract construction work, and raised a family, since the late 70’s. Post retirement and children’s education, brought separation from my 2d wife and three years in a cabin I’d built in West Virginia. Solitude and no amenities/utilities bought me a more solid sense of self sufficiency, but some loneliness for female companionship.

I left and traveled, by truck and train, all around the country for the next several years, using my eldest daughter and husband’s home in Littleton, CO as a home base. I bought property east of Denver to build a house on, then I met a woman from Indianapolis online. We got on well, met several times and in 2012 I deeded the property to my daughter and relocated to Indianapolis to be with my new-found love. I have no family anywhere in the Midwest and had never set foot in Indiana, but for driving through. That relationship lasted 5 1/2 years.

I moved, with my dog, Finn (had him since birth in 2009), into an apartment in a modest senior community on the north side of the city and sold my truck. I chose the community carefully for its walking and biking proximity to grocery stores, a library branch, the local, old railroad bed Monon trail and easy access to city bus stops, in order to get to the large VA hospital downtown as necessary and elsewhere. It worked out damn well, in all respects, until this spring.

The first of the year brought the news of the virus, and forever suspecting the worst of our fearless leaders’ intentions, at all levels and persuasions (Indiana is saturated with very common, law-abiding Republicans at all levels and a population that does nothing better than acquiesce and toe the line as directed), and the legitimacy of this latest of scares, I began stockpiling necessities with daily, often-times twice daily, walks and/or bus trips to the local Kroger, Target, Fresh Thyme, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese groceries. I bought a lot of beer (and continue) too, storing what I didn’t drink casually under my bed and in the closet. I was earlier than most and made quick business of it. It continues, but at a much lesser pace. These forays have brought me, on a few occasions, face to face with various ‘Karen’ types who have elected to chastise and shame-attempt me over my non-mask wearing ways. These instances I have found interesting and challenging, in responding to in as calm and faux-magnanimous manner as I’ve been able to muster.

I had befriended any number of people (even a few questionably eligible women) here since arriving. As fate would have it, though, two of my best friends are and have been two black (I’m not) women, one in her early 80’s and the other in her late 70’s, who had gone out of their way to introduce themselves to me and make me feel welcome when I first arrived. Neither is local to Indianapolis either, but have children and other family here whom I have since met and developed other, separate and favorable relationships with. Out of those two friendships began regular brunch and birthday gatherings, help with little projects and most everyday communications on health and other normal, friendly, neighborly matters.

 
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Although the compulsion to travel is universal, nearly all of it is only done virtually, and I’m not just talking about the internet, of course, but reading books, looking at photos, telling and hearing stories, or just thinking.

We can’t stand to be confined to one miserable or paradisal spot while knowing everything else is out there, so even while sitting still, we must move, if only mentally, as our legs shake and our eyes dart nonstop.

Every country is huge, man. Gigantic! A small town is already infinite. Only our bodies and minds are tiny.

Going anywhere, we’re lesser than an ant touring Tokyo. With his pin sized intellect, he’s undoubtedly thinking, “I’ve got this bitch. Tokyo ain’t shit.”

Again, I’m sitting in Lotte Mart, drinking a cheap cup of coffee. How did I become so wealthy? There’s abundance everywhere I look, with everything manufactured, delivered and arranged, most tastefully, for me. (I got here on the Busan Subway, which had been laid out and maintained at great cost, also for me.) Within reach is a package that reads, “DESSERT FOR LUCKY RICH,” and nearby are so many varieties of rice, all cleanly husked and elegantly packaged. As for the people, everyone is so clean and nattily dressed, because they dare not startle or offend me. Had I stayed in my room, I’d have denied myself all of this splendor.

On the subway, a middle-aged man in a well-worn black suit walked through two cars to address everyone, section by section, then he’d bow deeply, as if apologizing. Everyone ignored him. He wore glasses with thick, black frame. His chin jutted out. His chest was sunken.

On the platform of Seomyeon Station, a mannish woman’s jean jacket had a large, dark shape on her back, where a ridiculously glittery red heart had been.

Yesterday I was in Waegwan, a village of 34,000. I had glimpsed it just once from a passing train, and knew nothing about it. My hunch was amply rewarded. Right across the station, there was Café Plenty, with its tiny teddy bear clutching a cross, two small Rothkoesque paintings and a plant vase inscribed with “LOVE GROWS BEST IN LITTLE HOUSES.” The music was like Liberace paying tribute to Erik Satie.

The traditional market had these ornate, lacy gates that made me think of seaside arcades, but inside, the mood was subdued, for commerce was slow. I noticed a shutdown Vietnamese eatery, Hidden Corner Joint. When the coronavirus flared up in South Korea 3+ months ago, many Vietnamese fled home, thus starving these businesses. I’ve seen a bunch.

At a hearing aid business, there’s a sign showing four US Presidents, all Republicans. Along with Ford, Reagan, Bush and Bush, there was also the CEO of Starkey Labs, Bill Austin, although his last name was misspelled as “Osten.” When it’s not your alphabet, words are just wiggly lines. I’m only starting to figure out the Korean for s, a and ong, and I’ve learnt exactly two words, “neh” for “yes,” and “mandu” for “dumpling.”

“Neh, mandu,” and since I also know Cass and Terra, the two (godawful) brands of cheap Korean beers, I’m a fully functioning member of South Korean society. “Neh, mandu. Cass.”

In a foreign place, you can make the dumbest mistakes, so a couple times, I’ve picked up packets of tampons thinking they’re facial tissues, but that’s OK. Now that I’m an expert on Korean tampons, I can unequivocally recommend NADA 101, for the name alone. Surely, it’s a riff on Dylan’s “It’s alright ma, I’m only bleeding.”

As a minority, and soon-to-be undocumented worker, I should look into running for office under an anti-discrimination, social justice platform, for I’ve had it up to here, man, with all the microscopic aggression directed against me, day and night, by all 50 million Koreans! Smiling, some even attempt to speak to me in English, as if I don’t understand their language, which is true enough, but that’s not the point. Out of pure malice, they’re only using English to waterboard me with their deeply inhumane accusation that I don’t belong here! Just this afternoon, I walked by a woman who wore a black T-shirt with big white letters, aimed right at my face (mostly because I was looking at her boobs), “IT’S TIME TO GO HOME.”

With all the dumplings I’ve eaten, I’ve contributed so much to the South Korean economy. Don’t Koreans realize I built their, I mean our, country?

In Busan, most whites I see are Russians, so when I spotted a white in Waegwan, I thought maybe he was Russian, then I saw six blacks, four women and two men, marching into the train station.

I’ve been in South Korea for three months, and just about every day, I’d walk miles and take the subway, train or bus all over, but only yesterday did I see sagging pants, showing underwear! Cultures are different in every way.

It turned out they were American soldiers, among the 1,500 stationed at nearby Camp Carroll. They were going to the gigantic Shinsegae Shopping Mall in Dongdaegu. They don’t get out much, apparently. When I overheard a woman say, “We’re in car number one,” I realized they were standing at the wrong section of the platform, so I told them where to go.

(Since Korean trains tend to stop very briefly at each station, you better get on quickly. If you get on the wrong car, you might have to walk nearly the length of the train to get to your seat, a real pain in the ass.)

Back in Busan, I looked up Waegwan. During the Korean War, the US Army believed North Korean soldiers were among refugees trying to cross a bridge there, so it blew up this bridge, killing hundreds of people.

I also found out about Lou’s Chi-Town, run by a real Chicagoan. Though they don’t have Chicago hot dogs, what’s wrong with you, Lou? I might have to run back to Waegwan, just to try Lou’s cheesesteak. Mostly, though, I want to hear Lou’s story.

Cattle chuted through iconic sights, the mass tourist comes home with photos, mostly of himself, to show that he has been to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague, Venice and Barcelona, etc., all in a week, but a city’s highlights is its least authentic selves, for they are packaged for outsiders, and swarmed by them, while locals mostly stay away.

To experience a truer Paris, you should spend an afternoon in Belleville instead of around the Eiffel Tower, and since each city is already its greatest museum, you would gain more insights roaming randomly through Parisian streets than you could at the Louvre.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: South Korea 
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Coming to South Korea on a 90-day tourist visa, I never thought I would need to renew it, but thanks to the coronavirus, I had to, just last week.

Encountering bureaucracy anywhere is usually stressful, but thankfully, the process here was quick and straightforward. Koreans know how to be efficient. Buses and trains always run on time, and my dealings with a Busan bank has also been extremely smooth.

Setting up an appointment online, I filled out a brief form, then added, on my own initiative, a letter in English, which I also had translated into Korean. I stated that although I was an American citizen, I had been living in Vietnam, so needed to return there. I had no US home. With my situation clearly stated, the officer took less than five minutes to stamp 30 more days onto my passport.

My guesthouse is filled with people who are stuck. There’s Javier from Spain, who needs to go back to his home in Thailand, but since this doesn’t seem possible soon, he may have to fly to Spain. Twenty-four-year-old Gustavo from Brazil got a visa extension, then, just days ago, managed to book a flight home. Gustavo came here to improve his Korean, which he had studied in Brazil. His English is excellent.

“You’re going to miss this place!” I said to Gustavo.

“I know. I will.”

“So when are you going to return?”

“I need to save money first. I want to go to graduate school here. I will apply back in Brazil.”

“What will you study?”

“Linguistics.”

“Wow, that’s great. You’re gifted.”

“Thank you.”

Short of cash, Gustavo has been exchanging labor for room and board at the guesthouse. Several others are doing the same.

Just as in Seoul, Busan’s main train station is a hub for the homeless. Each evening, more than a hundred line up to receive a hot dinner ladled up by a Christian charity. It also dishes out sermons and songs, heartily belted out, accompanied by a guitar. At night, several homeless sleep within sight of my guesthouse’s front door, and once, a drunk one pissed right outside it. This door is never locked, however, for there’s no danger of anyone coming in to steal the computer, printer, coffee machine or food, and female guests have no fear of encountering an intruder at 3 in the morning.

Regarding the coronavirus crisis, much has been made of the Swedish model, but what about the Korean one? As I’ve stated repeatedly, life goes on here. This week, I took a three-hour bus trip to Namhae, visited a hilltop Buddhist temple in Beomeosa, strolled with the festive crowd through the bar and restaurant district of Seomyeon and basked my sorry assed carcass on Dadaepo Beach. In Namsan-dong, I followed a cranky old guy with a cane into a basement café, only to find it oddly dark and lined with semi private booths.

Cheap, eight-pronged lighting fixtures glowed red, blue and viridian. A TV was left on to drown out moist noises. It turned out to be a hostess joint, but with only one “girl.”

Likely over 45-years-old, she was still sweet to behold, but since I had never had an appetite for such, I gulped my Americano while she comforted the old fart. Having survived war, poverty, backbreaking labor, widowhood and ungrateful children and grandchildren, he certainly deserved some boobies, if not a handjob. Only $2.40 lighter, I reemerged into the sunshine.

Most of us are invigorated and comforted by the proximity of other bodies, so even when living alone, we prefer to have social spaces nearby. Bars, restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and parks all fulfill this essential need. We don’t go to the stadium just to watch the game, but to be subsumed into a tribe, be it Wolverines, Buckeyes or Red Sox. Stadia are wombs, for sure.

Men have a more insistent need to get out, and that’s why they become long distance truckers, airline pilots, sailors and mercenaries, etc.

When Kurtz’ wife asked Marlow about her husband’s last utterance, Marlow answered, “The last word he pronounced was—your name.” Of course, it was, most famously, “The horror! The horror!” An overly familiar horror is equated with one in a diseased-infested and hostile jungle.

Waking this morning, I could have stayed in my guesthouse room to write this, but I chose to take the subway many miles away, because, to begin with, it was soothing to see folks on the subway. I’m always touched by the sight of old Korean women who dress like small girls, with frills, ruffles and cartoon figures on their clothing, and even on the subway, many of them don’t bother to take their ridiculous huge visors off. Dozing, one had her money purse carelessly placed on the seat next to her.

Wrapping this up, I’m at Lotte Mart, which is named after Charlotte of The Sorrows of Young Werther, by the way. To my right is some middle-aged guy in a cowboy hat, with two large books on his table, a very rare sight nowadays, of course. He’s also writing, but with a pen. At another table, four people are happily munching french fries. Shoppers’ babble fills the air.

It’s sunny outside. Water you must pay for, but sunlight and air are still free, though rationed. While you read these coronavirus missives from California and Vietnam, I’m getting back on that subway. I’m getting antsy. Life beckons.

 

Bill, a retired American living in Morro Bay, CA

There are definitely worse places to be stuck in right now than Morro Bay. It is about mid-way between the LA and SF metro areas, about 3-4 hours drive from each, and definitely not big city, so things are much less crowded and more relaxed here so far. The grocery stores require everyone to mask up before entering, but you can still walk around town outside to your heart’s content without getting dirty looks or police attention. The parking lots to all the beaches have been barricaded off, but you are still allowed to walk down there if you park on the street (with signs advising cars to park at least 10 feet apart!) Lots of food grows near here and the farmers markets are still open and full of food, so while we can’t always get our favorites, we probably won’t be the first to starve if the supply chain snaps completely. I retired about 3-1/2 years ago and no longer have a job to worry about losing, but income streams and even money itself are on uncertain footing nowadays. I’ve hedged as well as I know how against that eventuality.

My sisters, my wife, those few friends I have been able to stay in touch with, tradespeople I come into contact with—all seem way too concerned about the virus itself, and completely oblivious about the wider implications of what we are doing to ourselves. They believe I’m being overly dramatic when I tell them that things will likely never go back to “normal” again, especially in the US.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Coronavirus, South Korea, Vietnam 
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From the moment I was born, I’ve wanted to write a 20,000-word tribute to Barbra Streisand, but this is not it, unfortunately. I’m still not ready. Instead, I want to talk about how we routinely distort, embellish or simply erase much the past, so what’s preserved and presented is not so embarrassing.

It’s a universal impulse. Photos are carefully chosen or touched up, personal accounts are self-exculpating if not glorifying, too many histories are cartoony tomes, and lifelong assholes are eulogized.

I know a man in his 60’s who was exposed as having a five-year-old bastard with a much younger woman. Before his wife could finalize their divorce, the geriatric Priapus dropped dead, however, so his obituary simply stated that he was a “loving father and faithful husband who would be deeply missed by his grieving wife, daughters and grandchildren.”

At Unz Review, the American Pravda series has called bullshit on the dogmatic versions of World War II, the Holocaust, JFK’s assassination, 9/11 and other key events. It has forced us to see beyond the clichés about Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and John McCain, etc. Though the “moon landings” are not scrutinized here, others at Unz have raised a huge red flag on the gold tinfoil-wrapped mother of all achievements.

What a joke it is to display that farcical lander at the Smithsonian. I’ve seen it many times. Go look for yourself.

Since historians have so often lied, it is imperative that we reexamine the past endlessly, and when there’s a law against it, such as the case with the Holocaust, we can be sure the official falsehood can’t withstand inquiry, so must be defended by force.

At least no one is defending Jankiel Wiernik and Vasily Grossman for claiming that an SS man, Josef Hirtreiter, could tear a child in half with his bare hands.

Grossman, “This creature specialized in the killing of children. Evidently endowed with unusual strength, it would suddenly snatch a child out of the crowd, swing him or her about like a cudgel and then either smash their head against the ground or simply tear them in half. When I first heard about this creature—supposedly human, supposedly born of a woman—I could not believe the unthinkable things I was told. But when I heard these stories repeated by eyewitnesses, when I realized that these witnesses saw them as mere details, entirely in keeping with everything else about the hellish regime of Treblinka, then I came to believe that what I had heard was true.”

Yes, as true as Elie Wiesel’s infants being tossed into the air as targets for machine guns, his hanged boy writhing for more than half an hour because he was too light for the rope, and a dying boy playing Beethoven, on his last night on earth, for the dead and dying. As has been pointed out in an Alexander Cockburn article, permanently featured at Unz, there’s no way the violin strings could have survived the maddening cold during that 30-mile march through the snow, assuming there was even a violin, but hey, Wiesel was a guy who claimed to have read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in a nonexistent Yiddish translation.

Shameless liars and fabulists aside, even honest accounts are necessary selective, thus unavoidably subjective.

In a recent Unz article, Guillaume Durocher explains, “Any historian’s work is only as good as his criteria for accepting documents and other data as valid, his criteria for highlighting or accepting this or that fact from the huge mass of historical data, and his inferences.” So even the best and most enlightening history is woefully incomplete. That’s why we must keep investigating.

Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line? As soon as it’s written, said or even thought, Barbra, it’s been revised or hedged, if not doctored. Oh, how I love you!

See, even that blunt headed declaration is not exactly how I really feel about Barbra, but we can do it all again, and again, as in refining each remembrance, description and definition, so as to inch closer to a truer understanding of anything, for as painful as it is to remember, the worst is to memorialize bullshit, and it’s positively evil to make others revere the same, so let’s comb through every inch of that cursed earth for bone fragments or bullshit, whatever turns up. What’s your objection?

Lordy, and I began this doodle aiming only to retrieve lost trivia, as in the way we really were. Here in Busan, I see an Englishacademy,” or hagwon, nearly every block, but the English on people’s clothing and shop signs are often ridiculous. For example, there’s a chain of clothing stores called “WELL MADE,” so far so good, but here’s its slogan, as stated in bold on each façade, “FOR OUR WORK AND LIFE BALANCE WITH INDIAN.”

For such a large chain, with stores everywhere, you’d think they must have at least one English proficient employee who could say, “Wait a second here, this doesn’t make any sense.”

There are so many other weird examples, and even the names of English academies can be off, such as “ADVANCE ENGLISH” or “UNIQUE ENGLISH.” No one should learn basic English to become like James Joyce of Finnegans Wake.

The English literature on Japan is quite vast, but not so with Korea. There is one book, though, that delves into the strange world of English teaching here. In No Couches in Korea, Kevin M. Maher tells us:

We were left to fend for ourselves—we had no program, few resources, an owner who couldn’t speak English, and a director who didn’t care. We taught however we wanted. If a teacher was sex-minded, he steered his respective classes into sexual topics. Students that liked that, would take their course. If a teacher were politicized or religious, they would gear their lessons in that direction. Years later, I would see every kind of teacher in all sorts of different situations. They used the classroom as a venue to teach and argue for their personal values or causes. Other teachers always brought board games to every class. Their discussion would be generated around that game.

Maher taught in Busan in 1996-97, and among his three roommates was a Rush and comic book geek who loudly complained of his sexual frustration and watched TV from six inches away. Everyone shunned him. Still, this insufferable weirdo was also an English teacher because he was, well, a white native speaker of English.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: South Korea 
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Five months into the coronavirus crisis, there is no consensus about anything.

When this virus was mostly limited to China, I tried to get as close as possible, so for two weeks, I stayed in Lao Cai, Vietnam. Nearly each day, I walked along the Red River to look into Yunnan, and what I saw were closed stores, empty streets and almost no pedestrians. Each night, though, the high-rises were lit up as usual. Seeing such desolation, I never imagined it would soon spread across much of the world.

In Hekou, there’s a large red banner showing Xi Jinping standing at a podium, with this message in Chinese, Vietnamese and English, “Adhere to the Road of Peaceful Development / Promoting the Construction of a Community of Shared Destiny.”

In Lao Cai, there’s a Trump Kids Kindergarten, by the way, and it’s run by the local Communist Party.

Leaving Lao Cai, I went to Si Ma Cai. Inhabited mostly by tribal peoples, this extremely remote district of 26,000 people blurs right into China, with plenty of smuggling going each way. One fine morning, I decided to just trek into the mountains. (I have a cousin whose estranged wife became a drug mule to China, by the way. This quiet, sweet and stoic woman was caught and executed.)

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I once crossed into Mexico from Candelaria, TX, because there was no border check, only a universally ignored sign saying it was illegal to do so.

My vague plan to absentmindedly mosey into the Middle Kingdom didn’t succeed. Here’s my caption to a photo from February 21st, “One of the last houses before the border. Couldn’t go any further. A soldier ran out of that house right there to stop me, and he was courteous about it. It took me three hours to walk here from Si Ma Cai. Mountain roads, up and down, a real pain in the ass. Almost no one has heard of this village, Na Cáng, and it’s not on any map. Two narrow lanes, too small for a car, lead to it. There is an elementary school, so kudos to that teacher.”

Leaving the Chinese border, I took a bus to Hanoi, but instead of going further south to eternally warm Vung Tau, where a room by the beach could be had for just $128 a month, a Tiger Beer cost 64 cents, and deeply satisfying conversations with close friends awaited me, I decided to fly to Seoul.

I emailed my buddy Rudy List in Michigan, “I’m flying to South Korea tomorrow night. Something this crazy, only you or I would do. I want to see how an advanced society deal with this coronavirus crisis…”

Rudy, “I have never received a more meaningful compliment. Thank you!!!” Actually, Rudy is much battier than I am. In 1975, he walked alone into Iraq from Iran, as machine guns on either side were trained on each other, “It was the loneliest two hundred yards I’ve ever walked. Either side could have shot me and blamed it on the other.”

Fact is, no one knows entirely why he does anything. What may appear as courage is actually pant-soiling cowardice, and sadism is dressed up as empathy, or vice versa. Maybe I’m just in love with Corona-Chan? As Anatoly Karlin will tell you, she’s one hot babe.

Outside Busan Station, I saw this on the back of a woman’s coat, “It’s either the flu or love… the symptoms are the same.” Seeing my photo of it, Ian Keenan comments, “Precisely the most commonly cited subtext of Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera.” If any plague is love, it must be the earth falling in love with itself.

As luck would have it, I’m in the freest country on earth right now, where stores, restaurants and bars are all open, and subways, buses and trains run on regular schedules. I must have emerged from over half of Busan’s 150 subway stations. There are a dozen beaches here, each with its own character, and even the countryside can be reached by public transportation. As someone who walks compulsively for miles nearly each day, I’d be in a cranky mess if forced to be sheltered in place.

With its unmatched coronavirus coverage, Unz Review has become a vital symposium on this global catastrophe. Brilliant analyses and key statements abound.

Gilad Atzmon, “Since we do not know its provenance, we should treat the current epidemic as a potentially criminal act as well as a medical event. We must begin the search for the perpetrators who may be at the centre of this possible crime of global genocidal proportions,” and he calls on whistle blowers to come forward.

Citing a list of circumstantial evidences, including the fact that America’s intelligence agencies “were aware of the deadly viral outbreak in Wuhan more than a month before any officials in the Chinese government itself,” Ron Unz is convinced this pandemic is an American biowarfare attack on China.

Agreeing with Unz, Kevin Barrett expands, “Independent historians have convincingly argued that such history-changing crises as World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the 1971 birth of the petrodollar, 9/11, and the 2008 collapse were all engineered by the Zionist-dominated usury banking cartel that rules the West. In every case, the bankster cartel has profited from the destruction of real economies and real value. When smaller competitors go broke, the big banksters buy up hard assets at pennies on the dollar, further consolidating wealth in the hands of the few. And crises and wars force governments to go ever-deeper into debt, borrowing from the banksters at compound interest that will enslave future generations.”

As led by China and Russia, the economic integration of Eurasia leaves the US out in the cold, so it has no choice but to demonize and attack both relentlessly, on several fronts. If the coronavirus pandemic is indeed the work of Uncle Sam, then he may have shot himself in the foot, or even worse, in the head. Banksters can’t benefit from hard assets if the polity itself has been shredded. Sure, the coming unrest will give the state a pretext to mow down discontents and browbeat the rest, but perhaps our rulers have, finally, underestimated our collective rage.

Meanwhile, let’s hear how three individuals are dealing with this madness in Japan and Idaho:

Renzo, an Italian in his 40’s who’s been living in Japan for 17 years

The hotel I am employed at was temporarily closed from April 7th following this situation, with reopening just now rescheduled for June 1st.

Fortunately, my salary has been guaranteed these two months, and also there will be a cash handout of about 1,000USD per person from the government.

We still can go out; everyone here wears a mask but aside from that really not much else happening to prevent things getting worse.

Shops are bustling with people, the real number of COVID-19 infections likely several times higher than government reports are indicating daily.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Coronavirus, Japan, South Korea 
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With the world becoming so stupid, by design, there is no mind or focus left to pay attention to any of the arts, so beauty is increasingly perverted and language sickens, by design.

Numbed by nonstop media sewage, just about every man is divorced from his own thoughts even, so of course he can barely read anything, much less understand it. There is no reflection or contemplation left, and even remembering is difficult.

Since all serious writing is neglected, Norman Lewis is just another ignored writer. Still, I want to draw your attention to one of his most resonant passages. It is pertinent now.

The setting is Naples in 1944, a war-torn, starving city where “the Middle Ages had returned to display all their deformities, their diseases, and their desperate trickeries.”

Lewis is in a restaurant that’s freezing and stinks of sewers, where horsemeat is served as veal. All the other diners are dressed in coats made from stolen blankets, but they are the lucky ones, for they can afford to eat:

No attempt was made to isolate the customers from the street. Ragged, hawk-eyed boys — the celebrated scugnizzi of Naples — wandered among the tables ready to dive on any crust that appeared to be overlooked, or to snatch up leftovers before they could be thrown to the cats. Once again I couldn’t help noticing the intelligence — almost the intellectuality — of their expressions. No attempt was made to chase them away. They were simply treated as nonexistent. The customers had withdrawn from the world while they communed with their food. An extraordinary cripple was dragged in, balancing face downwards on a trolley, only a few inches from the ground, arms and legs thrust out in spider fashion. Nobody took his eyes off his food for one second to glance down at him. This youth could not use his hands. One of the scugnizzi hunted down a piece of bread for him, turned his head sideways to stuff it between his teeth, and he was dragged out.

Suddenly five or six little girls between the ages of nine and twelve appeared in the doorway. They wore hideous straight black uniforms buttoned under their chins, and black boots and stockings, and their hair had been shorn short, prison-style. They were all weeping, and as they clung to each other and groped their way towards us, bumping into chairs and tables, I realised they were all blind. Tragedy and despair had been thrust upon us, and would not be shut out. I expected the indifferent diners to push back their plates, to get up and hold out their arms, but nobody moved. Forkfuls of food were thrust into open mouths, the rattle of conversation continued, nobody saw the tears.

Lattarullo explained that these little girls were from an orphanage on the Vomero, where he had heard — and he made a face — conditions were very bad. They had been brought down here, he found out, on a half-day’s outing by an attendant who seemed unable or unwilling to stop them from being lured away by the smell of food.

The experience changed my outlook. Until now I had clung to the comforting belief that human beings eventually come to terms with pain and sorrow. Now I understood I was wrong, and like Paul I suffered a conversion — but to pessimism. These little girls, any one of whom could be my daughter, came into the restaurant weeping, and they were weeping when they were led away. I knew that, condemned to everlasting darkness, hunger and loss, they would weep on incessantly. They would never recover from their pain, and I would never recover from the memory of it.

Since it’s so richly evocative, we can go on discussing forever, but here’s my poor take on it. First of, what would you have done? Lewis took Lattarullo out because he knew his friend was hungry, and they ordered macaroni, so it wasn’t like they were whooping it up.

Still, Lewis had money, presumably enough to buy all six girls dinner, but what about all the hungry scugnizzi? They weren’t just swarming outside the restaurant’s door, but all over Naples, and what about the child prostitutes, who weren’t just starving but routinely raped?

Since no one can save everybody, even if he wants to, he should help whomever he can, you may be saying, but are you doing that, and to what extent?

Like all those diners hunched over his miserable food, we are basically hoarders, all of us, for we just love to commune with our private pleasures as we withdraw from the world. We’ve earned these respites from our own suffering, damn it, for each of us is shortchanged and starving, if only figuratively.

What you have in Naples is a collision between the haves and have nots, and it’s so jarring because, normally, restaurants are the most segregated places. Menus placed outside prevent the insufficiently funded from entering, but even without clearly stated prices, the riffraff know better than to march into an establishment that’s too finely appointed.

Even lowest end eateries are exclusive, however, for in each society, there are indigents who can’t afford to eat anywhere, including at home, if they have one. Every city, then, has echoes of Naples in 1944. The abjectly poor, we will always have, nearby enough.

So what, you may be saying, most of the poor are that way because they have made bad choices, have dissolute habits or are just plain stupid. They can’t compete. Society would be better off if its losers would just die off, a natural process, and hasn’t this how it has always been?

For nearly all of human history, the poor have always bred less, had fewer surviving children and be the first to die from any disease, or just starvation, and this is great, argues Gregory Clark in A Farewell to Alms, for it allows survivors to enjoy a higher standard of living.

Society is dragged down by its weakest members, and none is more of a burden than those who contribute nothing, such as the very old or disabled, like those weeping blind girls in Naples. Thank God there are plagues to flush down shitholes these useless eaters.

Clark, “If we understand the Malthusian model we see that the plague was not the harsh judgment of a vengeful Old Testament God on a sinful Europe, but merely a mild reproof by a beneficent New Age–style deity. We saw that the plague, by increasing death rates at any given material living standard, raised living standards all across Europe in these years.”

Instead of fearing the coronavirus, we should rejoice and welcome another visit by this beneficent New Age Goddess. Let us pray she won’t hesitate to give our messy house a thorough cleaning. Soon, there will be more of everything to go around, except traffic jams.

If you’re knocked off, then you’re already on your last crippled or gangrened legs, morbidly obese or astoundingly unlucky, but life is riddled with dangers. Shit happens. Be a good sport.

Aren’t you exhausted? I am. So many lives are being ruined. As we put on masks, our rulers take theirs off. Shielded from us losers, they keep on feasting as we stumble about, as blind as ever.

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Coronavirus, Poverty 
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In South Korea, you can still get on buses and trains, or just wander around for miles at your leisure, so yesterday, I was in Gimhae. Like all Korean cities, it unashamedly flaunts nondescript, skyscraping condos and sterile, soulless churches that surely prove there is no God, for there’s no way he would tolerate so much brazenly ghastly architecture for his Jesusfuckin’ houses, man.

But that’s a minor gripe. There’s much to admire here, such as public mini toilets for toddlers, deep fried battered hot dogs dusted with sugar, long distance buses that always leave exactly on time, brain-scrambling English that’s stronger than paper acid and the eminently lickable rapper Soyeon cooing, “Is it call from hell?”

Gratuitously indulged, pampered and forgiven by the Spring sun, I lingered at a Gimhae playground. Watching the lovely kids, I noticed one girl had this on her jacket, “AVEC PLAISIR.” Western languages are cool here, so you’ll see many Koreans with some occidental declaration on their clothing, often nonsensical. “Between Contraries Relation,” “Idealist Gleam Clasher” or “tu seras pour moj [sic] unique au monde, et je serai pour toi unique au monde,” etc. Waiting for a train, a tall, lanky and clearly retarded boy had “INDIVIDUAL” on his stylish wind breaker. His mom had to chase him around as he marched all over the platform, grumbling to himself. It was touching, such love.

Though I’m sure the small girl had no idea what’s on her back, it was apt, for much of what we do is pleasurable, or was, though the sensations have mostly evaporated already, leaving merely thoughts.

Exiting an unprecedented era of excess and waste, we’re plunged into a much more constrained universe. Quite suddenly, life has become a nostalgia for living. Surely this can’t last, but don’t expect a recovery. With the global economic collapse just beginning, protests, riots and desperate fleeing will only intensify, and we’ll be lucky to escape war, for whatever that’s likely to erupt will be deceptively framed, as usual, and won’t solve any of the hoi polloi’s problems.

Meanwhile, all is still relatively calm. As beaten down Americans wait for hours to receive emergency food, Nancy Pelosi Antoinette beamingly shows the world her stash of artisinal ice cream. With masks ubiquitous, smiles have mostly disappeared, but you can still hear laughters, if muffled. Wounded, the economy will lurch along in stops and starts, when not crawling on all fours. We’ll inhabit the afterimage of affluence.

I’ve had beer with three of the four correspondents in this batch of Coronavirus Missives, but that was once upon a time…

 

Jay Johnston, a 55-year-old American English teacher in Zaragoza, Spain

We are just passing the 40 days and 40 nights zenith of our quarantine in Spain. And it’s raining. But that’s good for this area.

The quarantine has been extended until May 9. My friends and students in the medical biz say don’t hold your breath. Also let kids under 13 out today with a chaperone. Terrible failure. The end is not nigh.

Some good things have come from this shutdown. It seems folks have gotten a handle on standing in line and using a bidet. I’ve found I can stay at home and be relaxed. My relationship with the son I live with has improved and I’m eating better even though I’m broke.

I have been an English as a second language teacher here in Zaragoza for around 20 years. We commonly jump between working for private academies and for ourselves. At the end of the last academic year, the company I was teaching for went out of business. This was unfortunate, obviously, for a number of reasons but life goes on. I went on unemployment, which is a pretty good system here, was able to keep some of my private classes and set my sights on opening my own business. Skipping past the ups and downs, I finally found a space and made an investment. In February. Did the interior myself, unemployment almost gone. Impeccable timing.

Many many others are in a very bad way. The economy was fragile to begin with. Civil servants are still being paid (working or not), of course. Many people, such as my oldest, are able to work from home. Some have contracts which can’t be terminated. But others were fired before the government supposedly outlawed it. There’s always a loophole. The self-employed are able to pay less tax and defer permit fees until a later date. All tourism and pleasure activity on hold. Many medium to bigger size companies are waiting on money to pay employees under a condition called ERTE that is from the European Union. But Spain hasn’t released that money yet because the E.U. has put them under a microscope as to distributing the funds correctly. Banks and other loansharks are ready to give. And eat.

I’ve had it up to my tits with it all. I’m tired of applauding every night at 19:58 in community-appreciation when the government seems way out of it’s depth, can’t follow it’s own rules, spends shitloads on faulty products/equipment, actively pursues widening the rift (which has existed for a long time) between all parties and citizens and still finds time to give themselves a pay rise. And these are the supposed socialists! Par for the course too common. That goes for all camps. They’re all the same. A student asked me the other day if I preferred security or freedom, a choice put to us in disguise. I said both. My responsibility is to treat freedom with respect.

Tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow. I try to stay optimistic. The future is bleak. The government did pause dislodging people. The utility companies and my landlords say fuck you. Infections are beginning to subside. Waiting on the second wave. Time to let some people out, they’ll behave. Male/female dramatically spits on street with child in hand. Don’t worry, we’ve got pictures of them. Covid-19 has opened the floodgates but the spillway is already full.

Hypocrisy has been around forever, but it feels new and fresh. The end justifies the means, join or die.

I think I’ll just keep on truckin’, rooting around for gold. Gotta wake up and look at myself in the mirror every day. And cook.

 

T, an American soldier in his 40’s who’s been stationed in South Korea for a year

I tried to avoid being assigned to Korea for years expecting the worse and have been pleasantly surprised at how advanced and great of a place Korea is to live. The only negative I can think of is the air pollution. Most days it is not that bad but it is noticeable, especially after a morning run.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Coronavirus, Malaysia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan 
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There are coronavirus cases in at least 185 countries, with none reported in North Korea. As Western Europe’s infection rate slows, Turkey’s and Russia’s accelerate. Africa’s death toll remains a remarkably low 1,136, but reliable statistics are impossible to get anywhere, not just in Africa. Coronavirus deaths may be wrongly attributed or simply uncounted.

In New York City, at least two journalists have had their drones confiscated as they tried to photograph mass burials on Hart Island. An image by George Steinmetz shows a long and deep trench with an aluminum ladder. There are nude trees, a broken chapel, large puddles everywhere and workers standing on stacks of plywood coffins.

In Vietnam, there are rice ATMs to stave off starvation, but these are available in only a handful of cities. Protests and even riots over government handling of the coronavirus pandemic have already erupted across the globe. In Colombia, prison revolts have killed at least 23 inmates. In Paris, Arab protesters clash with police and burn down squad cars. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, corpses lie in streets or bobble, face down, on undulating waves.

Here in Busan, stores and restaurants are still open, but not the bars. People stroll along beaches, take their kids to parks. I often take the subway or buses around town. Yesterday, I was in Jangnim-don g, a poor, out-of-the-way neighborhood with rundown alleys, a large, cheerful market and plenty of factories nearby. Men in threadbare suits played chess in a tiny park. Others downed soju in barely marked eateries. I walked, paused and looked. The proximity of other bodies and faces was comforting.

Two thirds of American restaurant workers have lost their jobs. On April 24th, Georgia will be the first state to restart its economy, but the world is no longer the same.

Let’s hear how some folks are doing:


Tom, a 79-year-old American, living in southern France

I am married to my love of 14 years, a Russian from Latvia. Living since last June in a small village in southern France. I moved permanently from Vero Beach, Florida where we lived for 5 years. Prior to that we lived in the mountains near the coast of southern Spain and before that in central France….Etc., Etc.

We moved here primarily to leave the USA which I consider to be beyond hope as I view it as corrupt beyond words. I grew up there when life was normal, i.e. before it became a hopeless nation of Greed.

Since we have settled here life has been pretty good, fairly easy to get residency and get enrolled in the great health system. It is not perfect, as the leader is Macron, who was employed by Rothchild’s bank prior to his job as President. When the great “Flu” started, he happily locked down the entire country, including requiring you to fill out a permission paper each time you leave the house, with name, address, date of birth, signature, purpose of trip and time leaving. He assigned 100,000 police to randomly stop and check you.

I don’t like being on house arrest at all for no good reason. The French people we know don’t seem to mind…..my theory is that in general, they are a bit afraid of their own shadow…and easily taken in by mass media propaganda. The first week, the yellow vest protests were out on Saturday, but then stopped.

This Easter, we sneaked to a monastery to celebrate. My wife is Russian orthodox and to marry her in a church, I was required to become orthodox as well. We go to an orthodox church if we can find one. They are not common outside of Russia or Greece. We did a google search and wow, amazed to find sort of an “orthodox church” 15 KM away up in the mountains.

It was strange trying to find it. We felt it was reasonably safe once we got to the small road, as unlikely for cops to be there. There was finally a small sign..saying orthodox monastery. When we arrived, we did not see anyone, but wandered around looking at the place. Then a monk came out and said hello and talked with Olga in Russian.

He explained that there were 10 monks living there of various nationalities. It was a Romanian Orthodox monastery formed about 20 years ago. He said we could join them for Sunday Vespers if we wanted. So, we returned the following Sunday to their little chapel.

On Orthodox Easter Sunday, my wife brings dyed eggs, candy and an apple pie to be blessed by the priest. By the way, two other law breaking “criminals” were there as well.

My current view of this “Flu” is that it’s about the same as a previous bad flu season such as 1968. The economy in France after they stop this craziness will probably still be OK, as the people unemployed due to this receive most of their pay every week anyway. Supply chain disruptions should not be terrible as France produces most of its food and other essentials. They also have the largest percentage of GDP for social services in Europe.

But, the USA is thoroughly F–Cked after this is over, which will probably be middle to end of May, I hope. I have been a sort of wandering nomad for most of my life and this lock down bulls–t is putting a brake on that.

 

Floyd Rudmin, a 74-year-old retired psychology professor, with forte statistics and in health psychology. From 1968-1970, he worked in the Philippine Malaria Eradication Service. Most of his teaching career was in Norway

I am retired, in good health, with sufficient pension and savings, no debts, no dependents, and no living elderly parents to worry about.

Impacts, 1) no swimming or yoga, 2) disorientation of day-of-week (the only landmark is Tuesday evenings is garbage night), 3) loss of eating-drinking socializing.

My opinions:

a) I think governments are over-reacting, as per massive money creation and stopping the economy. When they under-reacted in January: when we should have been curtailing air travel, ordering supplies, raising standards in nursing homes.

b) I am annoyed by secrecy about cases. I would like a publicly available spreadsheet giving details of each case (not name or address), but including postal code.

c) There is a general belief by public, politicians, media, and physicians, that anything a physician says is “scientifically true.” As a person who worked in a medical faculty doing research, I think most “experts” are reciting dogma or are surmising. Neither is “science.” I have written to several of our CBC (Canada’s public broadcaster) journalists, that they have to ask medical experts, “Please tell us more about the studies that show what you just said is true.” For example, we hear over and over that this virus is spread by droplets, not by aerosol (in aerosol, the viruses one by one are floating around). I would like to hear how this was determined.

d) When I hear or read reports negative of China, I discount them as a continuation of pre-virus vilification of China and Xi, in concert with similar projects against Russia, Iran, and Venezuela.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Coronavirus 
Linh Dinh
About Linh Dinh

Born in Vietnam in 1963, Linh Dinh came to the US in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). He has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. He is also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and he has been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US, and has also published widely in Vietnamese.