22 Nov. 2007

Gandhi's War

Well, that's it folks. No more blogging for me. I am now working on a book, tentatively titled "Gandhi's War". Here are a few short extracts from the first draft:
If we tolerate the crimes and lies of our elected representatives, then what have we become? If the truth does not matter, then reality does not matter, and our lives are meaningless. If we allow great lies to go unchallenged, even if only for the sake of preserving the status quo, then we corrupt not only the fabric of our societies, but also the purity of our souls.

Do we really believe that by re-writing the history books we can re-write the past? If the laws which govern this reality we inhabit are deemed to be of no consequence, then we have gone beyond absurdity into nihilistic despair.

History suggests that the people with the courage and willpower to loudly oppose great powers have often suffered much in their own lifetimes. A cynic might suggest that these people’s struggle is therefore a selfish one. But there is nothing selfish about sacrificing your time, your energy, your career, your finances, your family unity and even your sanity, all for the sake of an intangible vision of truth.

The truly selfish are those who embrace such corrupt systems, who exploit inequalities for their own benefit, who shrug and say, “We all know it is wrong, but there is nothing we can do to change it, so we might as well accept it.” Ultimately, in every country and throughout history, these are the people who have granted power to those who abuse it.

* * * *

My sister died of cancer three months before George W. Bush was first elected President of the United States of America. B. was just thirty-four years of age. She left behind two baby boys, aged two and three. Her stomach, so recently pregnant, now swelled up again. But this time it became as hard as plastic. There was nothing the doctors could do for her, except proscribe massive doses of morphine for the pain.

Four year's later, while George W. Bush was battling for re-election, my father was also diagnosed with cancer. A cocky young surgeon at the government-run Gold Coast Hospital sent Dad home prematurely, telling him the cancer was inoperable:

“If the pain gets too bad,” he said, “Take paracetamol.”

Three days later, Dad was rushed back to hospital in great pain. Doctors diagnosed Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a curable form of cancer. Dad started chemotherapy, but it was already too late. His stomach swelled up even larger than B’s. The cancer cells moved up through the fluid in his spinal column, then began attacking his brain.

While Dad was battling cancer, my wife and I were going through the rituals of pregnancy. Dad became terminally bed-ridden just a month before our baby was due. I used to lie awake at night wondering what I would do if I were simultaneously summoned to level 9 of the hospital for my father's death, and level 2 for my baby's arrival. Should I abandon my father on his deathbed, or abandon my wife and baby in the delivery room?

Fortunately, I never had to make that choice. Dad's long agony ended one warm summer night, while the stars twinkled silently over the sea outside his window.

On the far side of the planet, a quarter of a million Iraqis were already dead. George W. Bush was celebrating his second election victory.

Aisha arrived eleven days late, just a few weeks after Dad died. Her name means "to live". She was born with her eyes open, cautiously examining the operating theater while a nurse the wiped blood from her face.


* * * *


I had always kept my blogging identity secret. It started out as a bit of a laugh, picking odd pseudonyms for online chats. But then one day I started thinking that the best way to end the war in Iraq might be to convert supporters one by one. Soon I found myself locked into endless arguments with unbelievably stupid people, who seemed to lack the imagination, the intelligence, or maybe the willpower to understand what I was trying to say.

I adopted the online name “gandhi” as a quick way to broadcast my pacifist anti-war attitudes. The wingnuts all thought the Mahatma was nuts, of course, but at least they knew what he stood for.
You bathe in your own urine, you peacenick dickfuck. Why should I listen to you?
Back in those days, when Bush was still popular, the pro-war bloggers were extremely aggressive. They called me every name under the sun. They trawled my website searching for personal information to use against me. They even threatened violence against my family.

Some of them were just complete psychos. They routinely ignored facts and turned reality on its head. One guy wrote a poem about me:
Who can take a blog post
Sprinkle it with joos?
Cover it in bullshit
And a homonim or two
The Ghandi Man
The Ghandi Man can
The Ghandi Man can
Cause he mixes it with hate
And makes the kool aid taste good

Who can take tomorrow
Dip it in a scream?
Multiply the sorrows
And collect up all the cream
The Ghandi Man
The Ghandi Man can
The Ghandi Man can
The Ghandi Man can
Cause he mixes it with hate
And makes the kool aid taste good
And the kool aid tastes good
The worst ones were the soldiers serving in Iraq, or people who said they were their friends or family of soldiers serving in Iraq. These jerks argued that anything any non-Army person said was necessarily ill-informed and therefore bullshit. They loved citing the latest troop movements on the ground, or throwing around the code names of the various squadrons and their top-secret missions, as if that proved that their every utterance was truth. One soldier even sent me a photo of a couple of Iraqi kids holding up a sign:
“Get a life, Gandhi, or come to Iraq.”
The real Mahatma Gandhi once said: "First they laugh at you, then they hate you, then you win.”

At this stage, the wingnuts were moving from the first phase to the second. If they couldn’t smother you with ridicule, or contradict you with media-supported lies, or somehow dilute your words with their Bizzarro World logic, then they just called you a “troll” and banned you from their Web site altogether. I was proud to have been banned from half a dozen top-rated sites.
The book is based on my blogging experiences here and at BushOut. It explores the human cost of blogging news that is relentlessly depressing. I know I am not the only one who has suffered these "bloggers blues", and I think it's a story that should be told.

If anyone wants to contribute their own stories, or knows a good publisher, please email me: gazo a@t dodo dot com dot AU.