Setting Ourselves On Fire

I’ve lived my entire life with the spectre of thermonuclear fire consuming the world. It hovered over us as we contemplated the future of what we’d started in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, sometimes, joked about it — dark humor, laughing in the face of annihilation. 

When I say my entire life, I’m not exaggerating. My father was in college when I was born and he had a post-nuclear apocalypse poem published in a UMaine literary journal. My parents also had vinyl of the Kingston Trio playing “The Merry Minuet” at iconic NYC nightclub the hungry i. (With apologies for the typical white supremacist perspective that the continent of Africa is  analogous to nation-states.)

…Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.

And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.

They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.

After listening to that on repeat for several years, is it any wonder I flinched every time a plane flew overhead? Such was my childhood. 

Then there were the racial assassinations of the 60’s. James Baldwin’s prophetic book The Fire Next Time was on our shelves. It’s a metaphor, it’s Biblical, and it also coexisted with the arson that accompanied many riots. Cue Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose famous quote on that deserves its full context:

And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity. [emphasis mine]

(Do I need to point out how much worse things have gotten for Black people in incarceration nation since MLK said that?)

So I’ve worried about inequality and injustice, and I’ve worried about U.S. wars with their destruction and self-inflicted moral injuries. 

Photo by Malcolm Browne for Associated Press

Back when the corporate press showed more of the news, we watched as a Buddhist monk in Vietnam died by self-immolation. Widely perceived as a protest against the war,  Thích Quang Duc’s act called attention to persecution of Buddhists by the puppet government of South Vietnam in 1963.

Many years and many U.S. puppet governments later, it slowly became apparent that we should all be more aware of global warming and climate change ending us. And that wars and, more broadly, militarism are a big part of that.

A long preamble leading up to this news: 

a Buddhist burned himself to death in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Earth Day 2022 to call attention to extreme climate crisis.

This image from an unknown videographer appears to be a still from a video allegedly of Wynn Bruce’s self-immolation, and an emergency responder trying to put the fire out.

But under the 21st century’s corporate information control regime, hardly anybody heard about it.

Image source: UK Daily Mail “Pictured: Climate activist, 50, who died after lighting himself ablaze in front of the Supreme Court on Earth Day wrote ‘4/22/2022’ and a fire emoji in a Facebook post from 2020”

In fact the first few stories about Bruce’s act in the U.S. corporate press neglected to include…climate change. This is consistent with their focus on profits over life and is a major contributing factor to the increased threat of climate chaos.

The same is true of their chronic neglect of the military elephant in the climate change room. To know the facts about that, you’d need to turn to alternative media, or search out collections like this one.

Nonstop coverage of atrocities allegedly committed on behalf of the villain du jour pushes out useful, actionable information.

Today, as the world gallops toward nuclear confrontation in the proxy war between the U.S./NATO and Russia, U.S. taxpayers recently sent $1 billion in weapons to Ukraine’s puppet government while the corporate press applauded and ice shelves collapsed.

Leading intellectuals wonder not if but how we will set ourselves on fire unto death. Will it be long painful years of heat, floods, drought, and sea level rise? Or a relatively brief nuclear war being inexplicably promoted by the talking heads employed to manufacture consent? Stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “Setting Ourselves On Fire

  1. Dear Woman Blogger:

    We need something different and special.

    A new global peace movement is prepared, but it has a twist. The movement will be led by WOMEN! The plan is one step away from beginning.

    The plan is a Global Movement of Nonviolence, For the Children (GMofNV). A GMofNV is designed to unite the “people” of the world under one umbrella — NONVIOLENCE.

    Woman Blogger, will you write about it. Please contact me for information and ask me about Chair of the Elders, Mary Robinson, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres, and Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

    My email is: Andre (at) GlobalStrategyofNonviolence.org.

    Thank you!
    Peace and Love! Andre 617-964-5267

  2. I so relate to your article, Andre. I’m shocked that I didn’t hear about the 4/22/22 horrific event, but not shocked that his purpose wasn’t mentioned.

    I maintained a vigil against nuclear weapons north of the White House for 18 years (1984-2002), and there was a man who set himself on fire in 1985. A friend ran across the street and rolled him in snow, but he died the next day. There was no mention of why he did it either.

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