Ancient Roman poet Ovid, a Marxist?


This 2016 video from England says about itself:

In this module, Dr Llewelyn Morgan (University of Oxford) thinks about Ovid’s Metamorphoses in relation to Virgil’s Aeneid.

Some time ago, this blog asked the question whether ancient Greek poet Homer was a Marxist.

My short answer was no. However, did ancient Homer at least have one idea in common with modern socialists?

Yes. In Homer’s Odyssey, book XVII, King Odysseus is disguised as a beggar. He tells his companion, the swineherd Eumaios, that he can stand lots of trouble. However, now he is hungry. Odysseus then says (lines 285-289; my translation),

“But one thing no one can deny is ravening hunger, a cursed plague bringing people much trouble. That is why people launch oared ships for faraway expeditions across the harvestless sea, to bring evil and death to enemies.”

Here Odysseus, and Homer, in fact say wars are about economic resources. They sound like Bertolt Brecht on eating and morality. Homer did have at least one idea, the idea about the origins of wars, in common with modern Marxists and other socialists.

Now, to Ovid. Like Homer, not really a Marxist. However, like Homer, he had a ´socialist´ idea about the origin of wars.

In Metamorphoses, lines 141 to 143, he writes, translated by Brookes More:

they penetrated to the bowels of earth
and dug up wealth, bad cause of all our ills,
rich ores which long ago the earth had hid
and deep removed to gloomy Stygian caves:
and soon destructive iron and harmful gold
were brought to light; and War, which uses both,
came forth and shook with sanguinary grip
his clashing arms.

These lines are about the ‘iron age’ of human history according to Ovid.

That brings us to, to some extent, another parallel between Ovid and Marxists. Ovid in lines 89-150 of Metamorphoses describes the, according to him, four ages of human (pre-)history.

The age of the first human beings is the ‘golden age’. A time when there was equality and no private property yet. A classless and stateless society. So, no need for repressive governments and wars. There is a parallel with what Karl Marx called ‘primitive communism‘; and what other social scientists call ‘hunter-gatherer societies’. There are differences: Ovid adds mythological elements, like golden age spring lasting all year and rivers of milk and nectar flowing.

According to Ovid, after the golden age come the silver, bronze and iron age. This is a variation on the five ages of mankind of ancient Greek poet Hesiod. Progressively, these ages get worse and more violent. While human beings get more and more depraved.

According to Marx and other social scientists, after primitive communism come various types of class societies. With a rise of repressive governments and wars. Contrary to Hesiod and Ovid, Marx and similar scientists don´t claim that human beings as a whole get more and more depraved.

Though Ovid was no Marxist, extreme right people might call him a ‘cultural Marxist‘. A term of abuse among ‘alt-right’ neonazis for everyone opposing their support of inequality, their misogyny, their wars, etc.

Short-faced bears, biggest bears ever


This 23 April 2019 video says about itself:

The Mystery Behind the Biggest Bears of All Time

The short-faced bears turned out to be remarkably adaptable, undergoing radical changes to meet the demands of two changing continents. And yet, for reasons we don’t quite understand, their adaptability wasn’t enough to keep them from going extinct.

Thanks to Fabrizio De Rossi and Studio 252mya for the Arctodus and Arctotherium illustrations. You can find more of their work here.

And thanks to Ceri Thomas for the Plionarctos and Arctotherium reconstructions! Check out more of Ceri’s paleoart at http://alphynix.tumblr.com and http://nixillustration.com.

Stop US wars, Afghan-American refugee woman implores


This 28 March 2019 video by United States Congresswoman and Democratic party presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says about itself:

Why an Afghan American is Crying for Our Future

If you share only one thing about Tulsi with your friends and family, make it this video. Over six minutes, this raw and emotional exchange encapsulates the reason she is running for president.

The video shows an Afghan American woman, distressed by the United States war on her native country and the Trump-Saudi war on Yemen.

Some films from the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 2. Kabul, City in the Wind, Midnight Traveler and What We Left Unfinished: The catastrophe of US intervention in Afghanistan: here.

Amazon.com record profits


This 10 September 2018 video from the USA is called 🤖Why Amazon Wanted to Put Workers in Cage-Like Devices.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

Amazon posts record $3.6 billion profit in first three months of 2019

27 April 2019

Amazon announced record first quarter profits on Thursday, more than doubling the amount made during the same period last year.

The international e-commerce and tech company is controlled by CEO Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person in modern history, with a net worth that currently exceeds $150 billion. It pulled in $3.6 billion in profit in the first three months of the year out of $60 billion in global sales. This was up from $1.6 billion in profits out of $51 billion in sales in the first quarter last year.

While Amazon retail sales are growing more slowly than in the past, the company was able to increase its profit margin by increasing the exploitation of employees and expanding sales of its cloud computing and advertising services.

“Right now, we are on a nice path where we are getting the most of out of the capacity we have,” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer, boasted in a conference call with investors. He was referring to a four percent fall in the cost for fulfilling orders, due to declines in the number of new warehouses and fewer new workers.

Costs declined despite a much-heralded increase in the minimum wage for all Amazon workers in the US last year to $15 an hour. This wage increase … turned out to be an accounting trick that has allowed Amazon to claw back stocks and other benefits from workers.

Despite these massive profits, Amazon’s accounting department has been able to utilize a variety of tax credits and tax breaks on executive stock options to pay no federal income taxes for the last two years. In 2018, Amazon received a rebate of $129 million, for an effecting tax rate of -1.2 percent. In 2017, Amazon received a rebate of $140 million, making its then effective tax rate -2.5 percent.

Since 2009, the second largest private employer in the United States has paid just 3 percent in income taxes on $27 billion in profits, well below the 21 percent corporate tax rate signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017.

With its record breaking first quarter, Amazon is on track to top the $11.2 billion in profits that it made in 2018. However, this is not enough for Wall Street, which responded to the earnings report by holding the company’s stock steady for the day Thursday. The message is clear: the exploitation of workers in the US and around the world must be increased ever further to ensure an even bigger haul next quarter and every quarter thereafter.

Amazon has promised that the pressure on its already hyper-exploited workers will increase with the announcement that it will transition from free two-day shipping for its Prime service subscribers to free one-day shipping.

“The one-day free shipping will come at a price to the employees,” Amazon whistleblower Shannon Allen told the World Socialist Web Site. “Coming soon to an Amazon [fulfillment center] near you: increased employee injuries, suicidal thoughts, increased anxiety and depression. And for the confident worker—isolation, increased productivity for the same amount of pay, less bathroom breaks, less water breaks, all while watching from your front-row station as your fellow employees get hauled away in the ambulance.”

“Speak up, have a backbone,” Allen appealed to Amazon workers. “That quote is written on the walls at Amazon. You have nothing to lose but your chains.”

Amazon’s workers are already among the most physically exploited, with warehouse workers in the US earning an average annual salary of $28,000 while being expected to sort and pack products and boxes at extraordinary rates. Many workers have suffered debilitating injuries due to broken equipment, strain from repetitive movement and heat exhaustion. Workers report urinating in bottles at their work stations rather than miss time sorting packages by walking to and from the bathroom.

An analysis by The Verge of documents submitted by Amazon in a labor dispute with a former worker found that the company has established an almost entirely automated system for tracking and firing workers who fail to “make rate”. More than ten percent of the workforce at one warehouse in Baltimore, about 300 full-time employees, were fired simply for missing package quotas. Extrapolated to the entire workforce across the United States, this implies that thousands lose their jobs every year for not moving quickly enough.

Out of the sweated labor of hundreds of thousands of workers around the world, Bezos added $50 billion to his net worth in 2018, making more in one second, $2,950, than the average Amazon worker in India made in an entire year, $2,796. If Bezos’ $150 billion fortune were divided up equally among his employees, each one would get a bonus of $232,000.

Bezos used his fortune to purchase the Washington Post for $250 million cash in 2013, giving him a critical tool for influencing national politics and developments in the nation’s capital. Shortly after his purchase of the paper, Amazon won a $600 million contract with the CIA. The company is currently bidding for a $10 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the Department of Defense and is planning to open its second headquarters in northern Virginia, just five minutes from the Pentagon.

With its ability to extract massive profits from a highly exploited global workforce, Amazon is becoming the model for companies around the world. Last month, Amazon and automaker Volkswagen announced a partnership to create an industrial cloud to “reinvent [VW’s] manufacturing and logistics processes.” The joint venture promises the “Amazonification” of the auto industry, with the further casualization of labor and the implementation of technologies that allow for ever more precise tracking and control of workers’ every movement.

May Day 2019 all over the world


This 13 April 2019 video says about itself:

Labour Day 2019 | International Workers’ Day | History & Facts

Labour day is also known as International Workers’ Day or May Day is an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. It takes place every year on May 1.

US teachers in the Carolinas to hold mass protests on May Day: here.

From the Socialist Equality Party in Sri Lanka:

Socialist Equality Party in Sri Lanka to hold May Day meeting in Colombo

The new wave of international class struggle and the fight for socialism

26 April 2019

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) in Sri Lanka will hold a public meeting at New Town Hall in Colombo on May 1 at 3 p.m. to mark the international workers’ day.

The SEP meeting is being organised in defiance of suggestions that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government will attempt to use last Sunday’s terrorist bombings as a pretext for banning May Day events. If the government bans May Day, the SEP and the IYSSE will fight to mobilise workers to defend their right to celebrate this long-held tradition of the working class.

The central theme of the SEP/IYSSE event will be the rising wave of international class struggles and the fight for socialism. We urge workers, youth and intellectuals to attend the Colombo May Day rally and also register and participate in the International Committee of the Fourth International’s Online May Day Rally on May 4.

Exploiting the terrorist attacks, the government has imposed draconian emergency regulations, censored social media and given the military and police sweeping powers to arrest and detain people. The purpose of these anti-democratic measures is not to stop terrorist attacks but to crack down on the growing struggles of the working class and oppressed masses against the government’s austerity measures.

The global financial crisis of 2008 was a systemic breakdown of capitalist profit system. In every country, the ruling elites responded by unleashing brutal austerity measures aimed at placing the burden of the crisis onto working people.

Workers are rising up around the world in an ever-widening wave of strikes and protests in an attempt to defeat the unrelenting attacks on their living standards and basic social and democratic rights. The past six months has seen strikes by more than 70,000 workers in Matamoros, Mexico, thousands of teachers in the United States, and more recently 300,000 teachers in Poland, as well as millions of workers in India, over 100,000 plantation workers in Sri Lanka and the “yellow vest” protests in France.

The ruling class has responded to the international upsurge with repression and rapid moves towards dictatorial forms of rule. This agenda is being advanced in Sri Lanka with the bogus pretexts of “fighting terrorism” and conducting a “war on drugs”.

The imperialist powers, led by the US, are spending billions on the military while attacking free speech and censoring socialist, left-wing and anti-war publications, in preparation to drag mankind into a catastrophic third world war. This is what lies behind the persecution and illegal imprisonment of WikiLeaks publisher and journalist Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who courageously exposed US war crimes.

The urgent task confronting the working class, whether in the advanced or less developed capitalist countries, is the development of a unified world movement to overthrow capitalism and establish workers’ government to implement socialism and put an end to imperialist war, social inequality and dictatorship.

We call upon workers, young people and WSWS readers to attend the Colombo May Day meeting that will discuss this revolutionary perspective.

Date and time: Wednesday, May 1, 3 p.m.

Venue: New Town Hall, Green Path, Colombo

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) in Sri Lanka held a successful May Day meeting at the New Town Hall in Colombo on the afternoon of May 1. The meeting’s theme was “The rising wave of international class struggle and the fight for socialism.” Some 200 workers, students, youth, professionals and housewives, including SEP members and supporters from areas throughout the island, including war-ravaged Jaffna peninsula, attended the meeting, despite the government’s efforts to exploit the Easter terror attacks by banning any May Day celebrations: here.

Architecture, cats, birds of Tilos, Greece


This 13 July 2016 video says about itself:

Views from around the Island of Tilos, an island in the Dodecanese just west of Rhodes. Includes views from Ilidi Rock apartments and the castle at Megalo Chorio.

This video is the sequel.

After 23 April 2019, 24 April on Tilos.

In the morning, a golden oriole sings in Megalo Chorio.

Again, to the Skafi footpath.

A kestrel flying.

Painted lady butterflies.

Megalo Chorio, 24 April 2019

Meanwhile, in Megalo Chorio village the buildings still stand …

Megalo Chorio, on 24 April 2019

Megalo Chorio, alley, 24 April 2019

… on both sides of narrow alleys …

Megalo Chorio, gate, 24 April 2019

… with sometimes a gate …

Megalo Chorio, church, 24 April 2019

… sometimes leading to churches …

Megalo Chorio, flowers, 24 April 2019

… sometimes leading to flowers …

Megalo Chorio, mosaic, 24 April 2019

… or to mosaics …

Megalo Chorio, cats, 24 April 2019

or to cats …

Megalo Chorio, tree, 24 April 2019

or to this tree.

Saudi regime kills, United States billionaires profit


This 25 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

UN condemns Saudi executions, US barely reacts

Amnesty International and members of the US Congress are expressing outrage over the mass execution of 37 prisoners in Saudi Arabia. While their trials failed to meet international standards of fairness and their deaths have drawn worldwide rebuke, the US State Department has refused to condemn them. RT America’s Dan Cohen reports for News.Views.Hughes.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Amid mass beheadings, Wall Street scrambles for Saudi profits

27 April 2019

The hideous public beheadings of 37 men in a single day in Saudi Arabia last Tuesday have provoked scant protest from Western governments or the corporate media.

The same newspapers and broadcast networks that have summoned up their moral outrage over abuses, both manufactured and real, by governments in Russia, China, Iran, Syria and Venezuela are clearly unmoved by these criminal executions. They maintain their stony silence even though those who were decapitated with swords included three young men who were arrested as minors, tortured into signing confessions and convicted of “terrorism” for daring to join protests against the country’s monarchical dictatorship.

One of those beheaded was Abdulkarem al-Hawaj, arrested when he was just 16 by Saudi security forces for attending a protest in the country’s Eastern Province, home to most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority population. Beginning in 2011, the oil-rich province has seen protests over the systematic discrimination and oppression against Shias at the hands of a monarchy whose rule is bound up with the official state-sponsored religious doctrine of Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative Sunni sect.

Abdulkarem’s real “crime” was apparently the fact that he used social media to encourage participation in a demonstration. He was held in solitary confinement, beaten, tortured with electric cables and hung in chains by his wrists until he submitted to signing a false confession.

Also murdered in the barbaric execution spree was Mujtaba al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was arrested at an airport as he was about to board a plane to the United States, where he was to become a student at Western Michigan University. His crime was also daring to demonstrate against the Saudi royal dictatorship.

His father, who represented him at his sham trial, accused the state of creating the “illusion” of a “terrorist cell” where none existed. “He was subjected to psychological and physical abuse which drained his strength”, Sweikat’s father told the court. “The interrogator dictated the confession to Sweikat and forced him to sign it so that the torture would stop. He signed it.”

As in all the other cases, the court ignored the evidence of torture and forced confessions and imposed the sentence of death by decapitation already dictated by the House of Saud.

The US government has said next to nothing about these atrocities. A State Department spokesman issued a boilerplate statement allowing that “We have seen these reports. We urge the government of Saudi Arabia, and all governments, to ensure trial guarantees, freedom from arbitrary and extrajudicial detention, transparency, rule of law, and freedom of religion and belief.”

During the same two days after the Saudi public beheadings, which included the crucifixion of one of the victims and the display of a severed head on a pike to intimidate anyone thinking of opposing the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the US State Department managed to churn out statements condemning Russia for “gross human rights violations” in Chechnya; Venezuela for use of “intimidation and imprisonment” against the US-funded right-wing opposition; and Havana for acting to “suppress the human rights of the Cuban people.”

Washington’s patent indifference to the mass executions in Saudi Arabia exposes the cynicism and hypocrisy of all of US imperialism’s “human rights” pretensions and its feigned outrage over alleged crimes carried out by governments it views as strategic rivals or ones it is seeking to overthrow. The United States has long counted Saudi Arabia as a pillar of imperialist domination and reaction in the Middle East, and the Obama administration exhibited a similar reaction to the mass execution of 47 men in January 2016.

But just as blatant as the complicity of the US government with the crimes of the Saudi regime is the embrace of the bloody monarchical dictatorship by Wall Street and global finance capital.

In October of last year, a significant number of Wall Street moguls and chiefs of international finance houses canceled their trips to an annual Saudi investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert”. The gathering—which was attended by lower-ranking operatives of their firms—came just weeks after the brutal murder and dismemberment of the well known Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

A regime insider who had served as an aide to the Saudi intelligence chief and a semi-official interlocutor between the House of Saud and the Western media before falling out with Riyadh, Khashoggi’s grim fate at the hands of a Saudi military and intelligence death squad was traced by the CIA and other intelligence agencies directly to an order given by Crown Prince bin Salman.

While the death of the well-placed journalist, who had been given a column in the Washington Post after going into self-exile in the US, elicited a brief period of attention and protests from the US media and politicians, six months have passed, and the crime has largely been forgotten. US officials speak vaguely about the need for “accountability” while studiously ignoring that the author of the grisly assassination is none other than their closest ally, bin Salman.

Six months was more than enough time for Wall Street to cast aside any inhibitions and jump with both feet into the latest Saudi “Financial Sector Conference”, which convened at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center. While its opening came in the immediate wake of the mass executions, the conference center is miles away from Riyadh’s Deera Square where the executioners hack off heads with swords, so the Wall Street CEOs did not have to worry about staining their Prada shoes with blood.

The mood at the conference was a reprise of the giddy reception that bin Salman received during his visit the US just a year ago, when he was embraced as a visionary and “reformer” by billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey.

“We are excited about the role that we can play here,” HSBC CEO John Flint told this week’s Riyadh conference. “This is an economy we have a lot of confidence in. I think the future is bright.”

He boasted that a number of former HSBC bankers had joined the head-chopping Saudi regime. “That’s been a privilege of ours, to see so many of our ex-colleagues actually in the audience and serving their country now.”

Among the others attending at the conference were BlackRock Inc’s CEO Larry Fink, JPMorgan’s chief executive officer Daniel Pinto, the World Bank’s vice president for development finance Akihiko Nishio, as well as representatives of various other banks and hedge funds.

BlackRock’s Fink was among the most effusive. He brushed aside any qualms about the hideous crimes of the Saudi regime, which include not only this week’s mass executions and the assassination of Khashoggi, but the near-genocidal US-backed war that has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and brought millions to the brink of starvation.

“The fact that there are issues in the press does not tell me I must run away from a place. In many cases, it tells me I should run to and invest because what we are most frightened of are things that we don’t talk about”, he stated, uttering not a word more about the “things we don’t talk about.”

The magnet pulling in all of the finance capitalist parasites is Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company, Aramco, whose income equals that of the five biggest energy conglomerates in the world and tops the combined net profits of Apple and Google.

Many of the banks and finance houses represented in Riyadh, including JPMorgan, HSBC, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, participated this month in Aramco’s floating of $12 billion worth of bonds.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told the conference in Riyadh that Aramco’s bond sale was “only the beginning,” holding out the prospect that the oil giant may go for an initial public offering (IPO) as early as next year.

“There will be more,” he added. “I won’t tell you what and when, and it won’t be bonds only. Aramco sooner than you think will be accessing equity markets.”

Blackrock’s Fink, who described “reforms” by the Saudi monarchy as “amazing,” said he saw “very large opportunities” across the Middle East, insisting that the region is “becoming more secure.”

To describe the Middle East, after a quarter-century of US imperialist wars that have killed millions and shattered entire societies, as “more secure” is delusional.

No doubt for Fink and his fellow financial oligarchs the mass beheadings of “terrorists”–a synonym for agitators, troublemakers and dissidents–is not a problem, but rather an attraction. They feel that the defense of their vast wealth under conditions of unprecedented social inequality and an increasingly combative working class will require similar measures at home and abroad.