Saturday, December 04, 2004

A Game of Go


For me, his is the dead season of the year. From the end of October to the midst of January it feels like I can hardly think at all. The world seems dead and my heart dies with it. I don't think it's Seasonal Affective Disorder: It is the daylight that bothers me. Once the sun goes down I am (almost) fine. Such a good excuse! Do I need one?


My sluggish thoughts are possessed of an image--of a game of go. Like chess, go is a war-game--a game of strategy. Players of both chess and go tend to say that go has the deeper strategies.

I know why this image is in my head: Our last national election has revealed that the bonds of trust that made the US a nation are irretrievably broken. Those who want the destruction of democracy have seized power, and that seizure is no longer open to legal challenge. America is no longer a We, based on a respect for rights and a rule of law--or an intention of this. It is now a state of conflict without commonly respected rules. In a game of co-operation there may be sub-games of conflict, but now conflict dominates. Co-operation is not possible.

Go is deceptively simple: Players alternate placing black and white stones on the cross-points of a 19 x 19 board. The goal is to wall off territory, and the player who does this best wins. As in chess, it is possible to capture the opponent's pieces. But this happens only occasionally, although the potential for it shapes the game.

Sometimes one over-extends, and the opponent envelops a group of one's stones and threatens them with destruction. Each new stone that is put into such a group will be a liability if the group is captured, so it is necessary to assess correctly if the group can be saved. If it cannot, one must find a new position to build that will not be so vulnerable. Finding the new position is hard because the loss of the old group creates a large area of weakness that favors the opponent.

Of course, the campaign of our last national (s)election is the over-extended group. What is the position of re-grouping? I have been making no progress on this at all.


Melanie writes (and reads and posts) a lot. Yesterday is already in the archives. In "More Peaceful, More Free" she cites a number of articles about the run up to next January's Iraqi elections, and the deteriorating security situation.

She adds:"Declare victory and get out, George. You don't really have another choice." But of course, he wont.

Deep Dark replies:"These stories are not isolated events.

"The cost of trying to prop up a Potemkin Fallujah will draw US resources heavily, and trying to secure it will tie up even more. Meanwhile Baghdad continues to deteriorate and the airport road is a litmus strip.

"In the very heart of the occupation, the airport - Green zone axis, the US is losing control. Bombs on commercial jets, the key highway a no-go zone after 20 months of growing warfare. The Green zone itself is being mortared and rocketed regularly, the car bombs and suicide attacks are taking place inside the safe place where only months ago smart young Americans could walk and play in their new territory.

"All the signs are gathering, the Iraqis are winning this thing and the end is much closer now than the beginning. The centre cannot hold. It will be all over soon.

"Then the real war can begin."

Melanie: "Deep Dark, As near as I can tell, the real war started in July/August of 2003."

So I add: "Well, there are levels. Properly speaking, I suppose the war began in March 2003. But as you say, in July or August it reached a new level: The Walkover became the Occupation, and the Occupation did not go as well. First there was the stripping away of America's allies, which was effectively completed the following spring. By summer that had moved on to the occupation by the Helpless Puppet, and that is going less well still. Soon will come open defeat--which Deep Dark seems to be alluding to. Already US forces are being coaxed out along thin, unsustainable supply lines reaching from Kuwait in the south to Kirkuk in the north. The cutting and encirclement that some of us expected last August may be being saved for this winter. After that, the war does not end: It escalates in several directions hard to predict. In Iraq itself decisions will have be made about who controls what--this might expand into civil war. Meanwhile a US invasion of Iran is already being prepared, surely meant to occur after the Inauguration in January. On the other hand, the Crusade--the Clash of Civilizations--that Bush has openly proclaimed, has, by force of evidence, been accepted as a fact by much of the world. Yesterday there were anti-American riots in Morocco. Morocco! What does that have to do with Iraq? Precisely nothing, which is why, though a minor sign, it is a truly bad one. The war will spread through the Middle East, and the US attempt to secure oil supplies will accelerate the spread. This will cause the war to move into Africa--places like the Sudan, Nigeria, and Chad. More: Indonesia or Malasia. Then the really imponderables: How will China weigh in? Against the US surely, but by what means and when? They may have already guaranteed the Iranians a nuclear bomb--but nobody is sure, and they are too deft to admit it. Europe will try to remain aloof--and fail; They will try to keep their casualties down and will depend on non-military measures and a sort of double-dealing that will be hard to come to grips with. They will fare better than we will.

"We still have one window that I am aware of. The US dollar is already slipping against the world's other major currencies, for reasons that are structural and amount to trade and national policies that are destroying our nation's good faith and credit. This could lead to an economic crash within two years; the war will accelerate the timetable. The crash, with its resulting hardship, will open up the chance of changing policy and leadership: The war might end: That is the hope. If we blow off that window I do not believe the US survives at all."


Does this make any sense? Our infrastructure will be wrecked; People will be in bankruptcy; Young people will be unemployed and broke or overseas fighting in disastrous wars; Food will be a problem; Water may be a problem; One or more of the epidemics waiting to punch through the ever-widening holes in our public health system may be on the loose. Why is this an opportunity?

This will be our head-in-the-toilet moment, the moment when our drinking-binge, drug-binge, faith-based fantasy binge reveals itself as the direct road to death. Do we want to survive? That will be the time to decide. How do we prepare for a positive decision?

We need to imagine what will be, in the context of the general disaster.

Food: Currently food depends on oil, which means it is going to go. Plant a garden; Find local farmers and support them: This will make the difference between life and death.

Water: Most water supplies are local; This is fortunate. Keep control of your local government and make sure the water infrastructure is maintained. Don't privatize: If you privatize you have no water--it is as simple as that.

Energy: Get off the grid. Unrealistic? Maybe; But there has been a solar-powered 12-volt movement that has been quietly growing for years. Maybe it's time to become part of it. If you have any assets, put some toward this: Sometime after the crash dollars are going to hyperinflate and become worthless anyway.

Media: The media is our most direct enemy. Even if it did not willingly serve as a propaganda machine for the Bush regime, as an engine of addiction it is part of the fantasy-based world. New information channels are needed. Right now the internet is serving as part of the new information system--That is why we are here! With the crash, more people will be ready to give up the lies that have become too plain to ignore. They will be ready to seek real information--it needs to be available.

Economics: Capitalism, as practiced in the US, has failed us utterly. The New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt was a partly successful attempt to save capitalism by adding stabilizing goverment controls. With the oil crisis of 1978 government control was increasingly viewed as a failure, and was sold as such. A move to instability was begun. The crash will be the culmination. It is unlikely that Americans will be persuaded to socialism. What then? My one thought is that until people are valued inherently, and the economy reflects that, we will not start resolving our problems. My one reminder, that perhaps I will elaborate on later, is that corporate enterprise is inherently a form of government, but differs from public government by being private, secret, unnaccountable, and irresponsible. These flaws cannot be fixed--They are part of its nature. Corporations have succeeded because they facilitate aggression and theft, but of course these are reasons to suppress them rather than encourage them.

Share: Units of co-operation will need to be built up, and these must have identifiable insides and outsides. Larger groups will be formed by linking up smaller ones.


Hope will have arrived when we no longer believe we can buy our way out of our problems. Our history weighs against us on this. And right now everybody is playing the lotto, and everyone is hoping to escape. But our history also includes the taking of practical decisions. We need to be ready.