I saw Dan Brown speaking last night (20th May, 2013) in Dublin. Mr Brown seems a very nice man, polite, open and able to tell a good story. What concerns me is the big lie that is being peddled in his new book, Inferno.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those literary critics who despairs of Dan Brown’s prose, I enjoyed the Da Vinvi Code, I’m concerned with the ideas he’s propagating.
On page 215 of my hardback edition a character says; ‘…our current path (population growth) is a pretty simple formula for destruction…the end will arrive very abruptly…it will be more like driving off a cliff.’
The main character, Robert Langdon, simply exhales in response as he tries to take in what he has heard.
Then, near the end, a character asks is the villain of the book an evil man, or someone who loved mankind so much that he was willing to contemplate infecting humans in a way that would sterilise one third of us. The response given is that the end justifies the means.
I believe that Inferno supports the idea that humanity is heading for disaster, because of population growth.
And that is a lie.
The idea that world population is either too high already or heading that way is dangerous. Very dangerous.
Malthus started this when he predicted in 1798 that the world would be out of food by 1890, due to population growth. He recommended killing off the have-nots in the world to ensure there was enough food for the rich.
Malthus’ ideas underpinned the theories of eugenecists of the early 20th century who gained power in a variety of countries and enforced marriage restrictions, segregation (both racial segregation and segregation of the mentally ill from the rest of the population), compulsory sterilization, forced abortion and genocide.
That’s where this lie leads. Overpopulation theories underpin fascism and genocide.
The world is not heading for overpopulation. The entire population of the world, with a house and yard for each family, could fit inside the state of Texas.
You don’t believe me? Watch this 92 second video:
Then watch this 2 minute video about the threat of extinction in the developed world:
This is the one that people in power in the west are likely to fear. Will we be over run by Asians? This is the fear that will allow fascism to return in the 21st century. This fear, stoked up, will allow the bombing and starving of “overpopulated countries” to save the west.
This is the fear that will allow the neo Nazis to gain power.
And if you’re afraid that there won’t be enough food to feed everyone watch this 90 second video that blows that myth up:
And then consider this; all it would cost to feed the poor of the world each year is fifty billion dollars. Here’s the proof. Taxing the tax dodgers would pay for it.
Explain to me why the US government can print hundreds of billions to save the bankers in a financial crisis, but not print fifty billion a year to inject confidence and save the poor?
The answer is simple.
It is fear.
Fear that if the poor aren’t kept in check we will be overrun.
But fear doesn’t justify the murdering or sterilisation of millions. Fear justifies us thinking of ways to help the poor, to educate and put our hand out to them. They are human, like us. Do you respect human life or not?
And if you don’t, surely that allows others not to respect your right to live?
What would you think if someone decided you and your family need to be eradicated for the ‘good of humanity?’
The ideas in Inferno need to be countered. Otherwise the fascists will come back.
And you might be on their killing agenda.
The end does not justify the means. All that theory does is give an excuse to anyone in power to kill at will, based on any crackpot theory they think up.
Please spread this post, retweet, share and tell everyone you know. Inferno is wrong. Fascism is wrong. It’s all a lie.
“WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” Smedley Butler the most decorated US Marine at the time of his death wrote that in an essay entitled, “War is a Racket,” back in 1935.
Smedley served all his life in the military, won two medals of honor during combat and saw first hand the horrors of war.
Currently, there are a lot of people profiting from war. Three of the largest arms manufacturers in the world are:
No 3. Beoing – 49% of their 2010 sales worldwide of $64.3 billion were arms related. They have about 160,000 employees and their main military products include the F-15 fighter jet.
No 2. BAE – achieved €32.9 billion of arms sales in 2010. They employ about 98,000 and their products include the Bradley fighting vehicle and the F-35 fighter jet.
No 1. Lockheed Martin – achieved $45 billion of arms sales in 2010. They employ 132,000 and their products include the F-16 and Trident nuclear missiles.
But maybe all this war machinery is a necessary evil.
But why then did US arms sales total $66.3 billion in 2011, more than three-quarters of global arms sales? Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals. We don’t need this level of arms sales.
To illustrate the growth and market for arms sales consider this, US arms sales to Saudi Arabia totaled $33.4 billion in 2011. That amount surpassed the entire total of US arms sales to all countries in the world in 2009, $31 billion.
Keep this in mind when you contemplate our future. The number one killer in history is governments. In the 21st century they killed 292 million people.
Smedley had this to say about how profitable war is, “In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. . . . new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the war.”
The trillion dollars a year that emerges from the US Defense Department doesn’t all end up in the pay of ordinary soldiers. Here’s who Smedley thought paid for all this.
“The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.”
So have things changed since then?
Yes they have. These days our great arms companies sell their wares to debt ridden African countries, fearful Sheikhs and brow beaten allies to ensure their trough is filled higher and higher each year.
I don’t expect any of this to change soon, but I am fearful that new wars will be sought out by a military industrial machine which needs to keep production lines rolling, faster and faster.
The end of the Iraq war and the pullout from Afghanistan will lead to reduced demand for their goods, if they are not careful. The surge in spending by countries fearful of Iran must be maintained.
In my novel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, a plot to profit from war is described. My fear is that the people on both sides of this conflict will be the losers, sacrificial victims in the search for profits from the greatest racketeers the world has ever known.
China is waking.
A new Silk Road is being planned that will see high speed trains connecting China to India, Iran and points west.
The year Chinese dominance will be permanently unassailable is projected by some to be 2040, only a generation from now. By 2040 the Chinese economy, at current projections, will be a $123 trillion behemoth, three times the economic output of the whole world in 2000.
In 2040 the average Chinese megacity dweller is projected to be living twice as well as the average Frenchman. China’s share of global GDP in 2040, projected at 40 percent, will dwarf that of the United States (14 percent) and the European Union (5 percent).
So what will China look like over the next few decades?
Already Ikea stores in the outskirts of Beijing struggle to keep up with the numbers of consumers swarming in the doors. This year (2013) China will have the biggest high speed rail network in the world with 800 bullet trains.
That’s all very well, but what about other, less promising aspects of modern China? According to a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Senior Colonel, Liu Mingfu, China should build the world’s strongest military and move swiftly to topple the United States as the global “champion”.
“China’s big goal in the 21st century is to become world number one, the top power,” Liu writes in his popular Chinese-language book, “The China Dream”.
But military power will not be the only outcome of China’s upcoming economic dominance. China will also colonize by purchase. A famous letter warning about this was published by Warren Buffet in 2004. His argument was unassailable. America had been living beyond its means. Has anything changed?
China’s sustained growth is a direct result of its banking policies and specifically its approach to the financial crisis. In China the banks and the government are one. The government issues and prints its own money.
In America, and in China, the supply of money is inflated by stimulus spending and monetary policy. But in China a higher percentage of stimulus spending goes into the hands of workers and consumers. Simply put, less is needed to repay government borrowing. This process, accelerating in the recent crisis, may lead to China becoming dominant even sooner than predicted above.
So what can we look forward to if China does become the world’s leading power?
The Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) supports the idea of “Asian values”. The idea that the “welfare” of the collective should always be put ahead of the rights of any individual whenever conflicts between these arise.
The Government of the PRC also argues that there is a government responsibility to create a “harmonious society”, and that in some cases it is necessary to persuade or force individuals to make sacrifices in their rights for the wider needs of society. In China the principle of obeying authority is deeply embedded. Confucian ideas, revered ever more widely as communist ideas falter in China, give great weight to understanding each person’s correct place in society. Everyone must know their place and behave properly. A superior who has received the “Mandate of Heaven” should be obeyed because of his moral rectitude.
How do you think such ideas would play out in the individualistic West? What do you think?
This post has been created following my research in preparation for The Manhattan Puzzle, my third novel.
Author of The Istanbul Puzzle, Laurence O’Bryan, discussed some literary mysteries with Independent.ie’s Kevin Flanagan as part of the UNESCO City of Literature series of events in Dublin at Freemasons’ Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin in late 2012.
For any of you who didn’t make it below is the Q&A I prepared. There were some extra questions on the night, and a reading of Chapters One from The Jerusalem puzzle, but you will get a good idea of the event from this post:
Kevin: Are you a freemason, Laurence?
Laurence: No, but I want to thank the organisation for allowing us to use their building this evening. I find this hall fascinating. The whole building is a museum, an architectural gem of Victorian Dublin. The relevance of Masonry is not for me to make any judgements on, but I think if we knew more about their historical role in Ireland’s affairs it would be a good thing.
Kevin: Would you consider yourself to be writing literary mysteries?
Laurence: Yes. Mysteries are distinguished by the reader not knowing what is going to happen or who murdered the victim. Mysteries often start with a murder as The Istanbul Puzzle does. Stories which are mostly thrillers look forward to an event, an assassination for instance, and make you want to read on to find out will it happen. These are the traditional definitions of these two categories of crime novels.
Kevin: Is the mystery novel worthy of a place in the canons of literature?
Laurence: I will quote something from a book called The Technique of the Mystery Story. “A liking for mystery is not a mark of poor taste or an indication of inferior intellect. Its readers form an audience greatly misunderstood by other literary people, whose mentality lacks this bent. But what especial audience is not misunderstood. Do not many people say to music lovers, “I don’t see how you can sit through Parsifal? Do not some scoff at people who trail through art galleries, catalogue in hand?”
Kevin: When was that written?
Laurence: 1913. And it goes on to say, “Supercilious persons who profess to have a high regard for the dignity of literature are loath to admit that detective stories belong to the category of serious writing.” So there has been a long debate about the place of the mystery story in literature. That tract went on to say “We must consider the rightful place of the mystery story in fiction. It is neither below nor above the other types of story, but side by side with character studies, society sketches or symbolic romances.”
Kevin: Let’s move forward a little. What is this mystery about the Big Sleep?
Laurence: Raymond Chandler is acknowledged as one of the finest crime and mystery writers. He wrote novels, and for Hollywood. The Big Sleep with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart is perhaps his best known movie. The mystery for me and a lot of other people, was who killed the Sternwood family chauffeur, Owen Taylor in the movie. The story goes that in 1946 when the novel was being directed by Howard Hawks, it had been published in 1939, he got into an argument with Humphrey Bogart about who killed Owen, so they telegrammed Raymond Chandler to ask him. He replied, by telegram, “Damned if I know”.
William Faulkner had also worked on that script, but Chandler didn’t blame him, he stood his ground. And there was no reason for Philip Marlow, the private detective at the centre of The Big Sleep to know who killed Owen, so he didn’t feel it necessary to explain every loose ending.
This is one of the aspects of the Philip Marlow books that I like. Every loose end isn’t tied up. Every crime isn’t paid for. It’s true to life in that we don’t get answers to all the questions around us, we have to make do with the little glimpses of the truth we spy now and again.
Kevin: Is that what your novels are like?
Laurence: Yes. Not all the riddles are answered, but the big ones are. By the way The Big Sleep was Lauren Bacall’s renaissance movie. If she hadn’t done well in it she might have been dropped. Some scenes were rewritten and expanded just for her after the test screenings. And she did contribute a good deal to what is now considered one of Holywood’s finest movies.
Kevin: What other mysteries can you tell us about?
Laurence: One that has always intrigued me was who was Godot, in waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s world famous play.
Kevin: So what’s your theory?
Laurence: Godot has been suggested to be God, a rich employer or a rescuer of some kind. Hope seems the most likely answer to me, Samuel Becket himself said if he knew who Godot was he would have said so in the play. Perhaps we are all waiting for our own version of Godot. Perhaps waiting is the essence of what it is to be human. If it is, then mystery stories fit in very well with it all. We are waiting to find out the answer to the puzzle of life.
Kevin: So is there a hidden meaning to these puzzle novels you are writing?
Laurence: I’m not sure. Meaning are emerging afterwards. The Istanbul Puzzle, for instance, could be said, on one level, the metaphorical level. to be about the search for love and the value of relationships. The Jerusalem Puzzle, coming out Dec 3rd on ebook and Jan 3rd in paperback, could be considered to be about historical secrets.
Kevin: What historical secrets?
Laurence: Well, I will give you a clue, it’s about the meaning of the symbol they find in The Istanbul Puzzle.
Laurence: The symbol is not one of these masonic symbols. It’s a square with an arrow inside. Let me just say this one thing more about it. Imagine what you would think if you saw such a symbol in real life, what it would mean.
Kevin: So that’s all you’re going to tell us?
Laurence: That’s the second clue I have given out about this symbol.
Kevin: Can you tell us where your puzzle series of novels will end up?
Laurence: In Ireland of course.
Kevin: Just to get back to our theme. What is your next literary mystery?
Laurence: What happened to Moriarty, the arch criminal in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Moriarty was believed by the Jesuits at Stoneyhurst in Lancashire, England, to be a Prefect of Discipline there, a priest there where Conan Doyle went to Stoneyhurst as a wayward student. Two students were also named Moriarty at the time Doyle was there.
Actually Moriarty made an appearance in only one Sherlock Holmes novel up to that point, The Final Solution, and the intention seems to have been that his appearance came about to enable Doyle to kill Holmes off, as no greater task would present itself to Holmes than ridding the world of this master criminal.
Moriarty was the crime lord of England to whom many great crimes were attributed and to whom other criminals paid tribute in exchange for his protection. He and Holmes fall over the Reichenbach Falls together in Switzerland, apparently to their death at the end of The Final Solution.
Doyle was forced though in 1905 to publish the Return of Sherlock Holmes after a campaign by his readers to revive the detective after he had been killed off in 1893. Holmes, according to Doyle in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, survived the fall, but Moriarty didn’t. He then went into hiding to avoid Moriarty’s henchmen.
There is a theory though that Moriarty survived as well. Whether he survived a hundred years to be reborn in the BBC1 series Sherlock is another matter. We are still waiting to see how the death of Holmes, his suicide this time, will be resolved in Series Three of Sherlock. Holmes, by the way, is the most commonly portrayed character on screen with over 250 screen adaptations in the past one hundred years.
I for one believe Moriarty is still alive. If Sherlock Holmes survived then so did Moriarty.
It is clear from Vicky Ward’s book, The Devil’s Casino, that many of the wives of senior Lehman executives were spoiled-princesses.
Prostrating themselves at the high-altar of the firm, gilding every ageing lily and fighting like Cinderella’s fat sisters were the everyday obsessions of these icons of corporate triumphalism.
It’s not hard to feel a little envy, of course, when you read about the opulence (more Jimmy Choos than it is healthy to imagine) they surrounded themselves with, but outrage at the waste and self obsession follows soon afterwards.
And the saddest thing is that none of these wives seems to have been happy. Jealousy, status worry and fear about your husband’s future are not confined to the middle classes. They are sentiments no less keenly felt at a high-altitude corporate camp.
Of course an elevated sense of your own superiority, and plush surroundings must be a continuing compensation for them. One that all those billions, and all that risk was well worth, wasn’t it?
Vanity Fair had a good article about the Devil’s Casino: http://tinyurl.com/yhm6arq
Written February 2012
I am spending time in the old city of Jerusalem. If I stay here any longer I’ll probably have to apply for a resident’s permit. And as I am staying in East Jerusalem that may be tricky.
My reason for being here, aside from the welcome sun, is to research the next stage of Sean and Isabel’s adventures. If you read The Istanbul Puzzle you’ll probably know that there are a few questions at the end still hanging.
The Jerusalem Puzzle will move the story forward and answer some key questions.
As part of my research in old Jerusalem, where the book is mainly set, I have spent a lot of time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the legendary site of Jesus’ crucifiction, his tomb and the burial place of Adam’s skull, according to some 2nd century sources. Whatever your beliefs, this place is an extraordinary building, a mix of mainly Crusader and 19th century, Armenian, Catholic and Orthodoxy all rolled into one. This was the place a lot of people died for before the crusades, during the crusades, and ever afterwards. Richard the Lion Heart and Saladin fought over this place and almost every other Empire since has had plans to capture it.
Here is what the entrance to the legendary tomb of Jesus looks like now (click each image to see it in all its glory):
This church is the most important place of pilgrimage in the Christian world. Bar none.
What I found though, at the end of my last visit, was a less than spiritual place. I had queued to get in to the small chapel where Jesus’ tomb is supposed to be with cries of “hurry, hurry, we are closing,” echoing in my ears. I’d visited where Mary, Mother of Jesus fell into an eternal sleep (legend says), on Mount Zion the day before and I was lucky that I went down into that underground tomb with the sound of a Polish group singing hymns echoing in my ears. That place was spiritual.
Much of the rest of the old city is a heady mix of the Arab souk, with plastic toys and wooden crosses for tourists, and a wedge of Abercrombie and coffee shop Westerness pushing up close to the city from the Jewish and modern western side.
To me Jerusalem is where three great faiths, Christianity, the Jewish faith and Islam all overlap with their bits fraying.
The Islamic faith is well represented here in the famous Golden Dome and mosques and the regular call to prayer filling the air.
The Jewish faith is evident in the devotion at the Western Wall, the Orthodox faithful almost everywhere, and through the joy of young men being escorted with drums and horns through the crowds.
The Christian faith is evident in the extraordinary churches and the pilgrims from all parts of the Christian world walking the Via Dolorosa carrying crosses and following the legendary route of Jesus to his death.
This city is an ancient fraying tapestry of faith and colour, tradition and prayer, belief and culture, the old and the modern mixed and interwoven.
I know there are many things in serious dispute here, but I hope to God compassion comes into play for a unique people and a unique place when this city’s future is decided.
The Jerusalem Puzzle, my next novel, will take readers to the heart of Jerusalem. It will expose some of the very real puzzles that are at the core of this truly amazing city. I hope you’ll like it as much as you liked The Istanbul Puzzle.
Cost, as of end 2012, of the financial bail out in the U.S. alone:
* $29 billion for Bear Stearns
* $143.8 billion for AIG (this far)
* $100 billion for Fannie Mae
* $100 billion for Freddie Mac
* $700 billion for Wall Street, including Bank of America (Merrill Lynch),
Citigroup, JP Morgan (WaMu), Wells Fargo (Wachovia), Morgan Stanley, Goldman
Sachs, and a lot more
* $25 billion for The Big Three in Detroit
* $8 billion for IndyMac
* $150 billion stimulus package (from January ’09)
* $50 billion for money market funds
* $138 billion for Lehman Bros. (post bankruptcy) through JP Morgan
* $620 billion for general currency swaps from the Fed
ROUGH TOTAL: $2,063,800,000,000
Yes, over $2 trillion dollars. As of the end of 2012.
That’s about $6,800 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.A..
But there isn’t enough money available to balance the budget?
Is our optimistic faith in science about to be shattered? Are we heading back to the dark ages in medicine?
Before the early 20th century, treatments for infections were based primarily on folklore. Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming and other scientists worked hard and suffered to produce the treatments that we all now take for granted.
Chief among these are the antibiotics that most of us take as a first defense against all sorts of common infections. Before the era of antibiotics, before 1941 that is, in some countries as many as 20% of women died after giving birth because there was almost no way to treat many infections.
The list of diseases we are all in danger from in the next five years, as the era of effective antibiotics ends includes:
- dental infections
- blood, kidney and urinary infections
- TB, pneumonia and other chest infections
- Gonorrhea and other STDs (Chlamydia is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the 3rd world)
- Surgical wound infections – most surgery would not be possible without antibiotics
- Chemo and transplants will not be possible
- Typhoid fever, diphtheria, leprosy, Bubonic plague - which kills 2 out 3 infected individuals without antibiotic treatment.
Why is this happening?
Bacteria of all the above classes are becoming immune to antibiotics as they evolve. In some cases even the strongest antibiotics are ineffective in treating simple infections. This evolution was bound to happen. Our willingness to take antibiotics as an easy cure-all and our unwillingness to finish a course of treatment have all contributed to the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
It looks very much like the future is going to end up like the past. There are not enough antibiotic development programs worldwide, profits are low in this area, and despite our knowledge of all this governments are still not intervening to make it easier to invest in groundbreaking science. Even if they did start now we are likely to face a period where your doctor might shake his head when you come in with an infection and say, “We can’t treat this infection anymore.”
So what can we all do?
1. Stop taking antibiotics unless there is a very good reason. Otherwise the above situation will come even quicker.
2. Wash our hands before meals & when we come home, like your mother used to teach you.
3. Encourage others to do the same.
So what has this to do with The Istanbul Puzzle, my novel launched January 19, 2012, by Harper Collins? It’s a part of the plot.
In early April 1453 Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan of all the Ottomans, and only 21 years old, began the last great siege of Constantinople. He had an army of 200,000 men and a navy of 320 vessels at his command. When the city fell 57 days later a tremor passed through Europe. Ottoman Muslim armies appeared to be unstoppable.
The voyages of Christopher Columbus, financed to avoid Ottoman control of the spice trade, were one outcome. Constantinople’s change of name to Istanbul was another. A third was the birth of the legend of Dracula.
Vlad the Impaler, Prince Drăculea, from the Latin draco meaning dragon, was 22 when Constantinople fell. He had spent four years while a teenager as a prisoner in the Ottoman court. For much of that time he was beaten and abused for his stubbornness, particularly his unwillingness to convert to Islam. For his courage he was later inducted into the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order of the late Holy Roman Empire, which required its members to defend Christianity, by whatever means necessary.
When Vlad came to power a few years later he decided to impose law and order the hard way. He had his enemies impaled and raided his rivals territories, forcing one to read his own eulogy while kneeling before a grave prepared for him. Rampant criminality, treachery and the wars all around him were the backdrop to what happened next.
When Dracula refused to pay tribute to Mehmet, a small matter of 10,000 ducats and 500 boys, the Ottomans decided to put down the upstart Prince.
So began a war of infamous savagery. Raids, where men, women and children who were not Christian were impaled, burnt alive or beheaded were a feature of Vlad’s tactics.
Mehmet then marched on Vlad’s home town on Targoviste in Wallachia with an army of 90,000. The Prince had about 30,000 troops at his command.
When Mehment saw the decaying remains of 20,000 Ottoman soldiers on the road into Targoviste he was sickened. Legend tells that he returned to Constantinople leaving the conduct of the war to his generals.
The Prince’s territories were occupied and devastated. So began a guerilla war of night attacks and endless raids that became celebrated across Europe.
The Genoese later thanked Vlad, as he saved them from an attack by Mehmet’s ships, so absorbed were the Ottomans in campaigns against the Prince.
Prince Dracula died fighting the Ottomans after treachery on his own side undermined him. Soon after his name became associated with unmitigated cruelty. Pamphlets detailing grisly impalements of whole villages were circulated by his enemies.
There is no doubt though that Prince Dracula was an exceptionally cruel ruler. Thieves, adulterers and liars could expect no mercy. Skinning alive, boiling and slow impalement were some of the treats he enjoyed inflicting on those unfortunate enough to cross his path.
The legend of vampires, people who live forever and drink the blood of their victims, was common in Wallachia and Moldovia, the Prince’s hunting ground, long before the Irish author Bram Stoker married such cruelty with a tale of the undead. Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula, about an English solicitor who travels to a remote castle in the Carpathian mountains has never been out of print since.
Whatever your view on the clash of civilisations, the cruel way that Europe once defended itself from Islamic conquest is the ultimate source, in my opinion, behind the Dracula and vampire stories that are now so popular they need their own section in many bookshops.
Cruelty has a fascination that lasts for a hell of a long time.