Yesterday, this day's madness did prepare;
To - Morrow’s, silence, triumph, or despair.
We know how to pile up falsehoods that look genuine.
But we know when we wish how to utter truths.
The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.
Even though fields are hard to plough don’t give up, fight back. Use your fertile minds and strong bodies and special spirit to achieve your dreams.
Mr. Putin we do have an obligation to examine any and all attempts that consciously and without shame continually refuse, rewrite, and persistently deny well known happenings or attempt to destroy individuals. We do have an obligation to de-falsify false historical narrative. The words we appeal as human beings to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest written in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 1955 on nuclear disarmament are a much more relevant guide today than ever. Those words should be our universal guide today.
You know that resentment simmers, inequality grows and there is a greater economic asymmetry between center and provinces. Russians like all people want to eat better, live better in a healthy environment and breathe freer in a secure community. Repression of some kind has occurred at some time and everywhere; Stalin’s reign lead to the death of about a million people while life in general in the USSR wasn’t that much different from most countries. The so third wave of migration to the U.S. numbered nearly 25 million Europeans who made the long trip looking for a better life. To survive each group pushed itself up on the backs of other and Afro-Americans had a back that was the most burdened.
Under a bust of Lenin, an elderly lady stood asking to be let live a little. It occurred during the ongoing protests, which are not a clear-cut case of people being against Vladimir Putin or for Alexei Navalny. With a stroke of your pen Mr. Putin, Alexei Navalny can be free.
Covid has not yet left us. No country of size has achieved herd immunity. Siberia burns earlier this year. Sanitation and environmental pollution are significant issues in Russia while in the oceans masks now float and fins are hacked from sharks. The effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima will be with us for a long time to come. Today, the Biden-Putin Geneva Summit has a chance to ensure the world that the likelihood of nuclear conflict between the two superpowers approaches zero.
The Summit in perpetuity should and with sincerity give us the etiology of how existential problems have come to be but in a hopeful fashion and how each will move to a higher level of neutrality. Hope and trust in our world where inequality and social dementia prevail are major elements for success. It should provide a win-win framework in which adversarial positions are tempered. It is a great opportunity for two superpowers to investigate together the origins of the coronavirus in tandem with public health defined as a global security issue as well as to establish an agenda of mutual activities. It would be a fantastic humanitarian gesture if Alexei Navalny was freed and if a pardon was extended to the Kings Bay Ploughshares 7.
In this way Mr. Putin’s early aim of greater international recognition of Russia and to bring East and West closer would take a significant step in that direction. One activity from Athens and Belgrade already proposed is brain research serving geopolitics and the process of America-Russia rapprochement based on strong past historical activities between the two. Our thesis is that reexamination of past research in brain research between America (left brain-split brain) and Russia (right brain) and the dichotomy of bionics-bioengineering can be useful to communication and improved relations. The neurosciences (brain function, mythology, behavior) in conjunction with artificial intelligence can be useful to current decision-making of a geopolitical nature (health diplomacy, conflict resolution).
The world is living on borrowed time as it looks down a road of mounting insecurity in its forward journey with diminishing prospects for a better life for many and with little room in which status quo politics or the international community can maneuver to avoid an increasingly unstable and hostile future.
In parallel with Covid we are living another pandemic of ordinary individuals being destroyed, killed, designated dissidents, dangerous and detained, imprisoned, incarcerated and tortured, sucked out of society by the state and Para state organs. Most recently Roman Protasevich a journalist was arrested by Belarusian authorities following an extraordinary diversion of his flight, to Minsk. Meanwhile Columbia, Myamar, Palestine, Yemen.
On reading the scribbled words – delay of execution until further orders – the fearful old man said I thought my son would be pardoned, you may order him to be shot next week. My old friend, Abraham Lincoln replied, you are not very well acquainted with me. If your son never looks on death till further orders come from me, he will live longer than Methuselah. Prison does not confer longevity and the health of Alexei Navalny is already compromised. Sign his release Mr. Putin and give democracy a boost with one strike for humanity.
Dostoevsky received a last-minute reprieve as he faced the firing squad and was sent to a Siberian labor camp. One of his cellmates went mad. Reprieve gave the world great literature. Maxim Gorky was saved from the dungeon in 1905 by international protest while his death in 1936 was alleged to have been a result of poisoning. He suffered from tuberculosis; Alexei Navalny who was poisoned with a neurotoxin, does not yet have antibiotic-resistant TB.
Osip Mandelstam ridiculed Stalin as the Kremlin climber in a poem then only recited. It said he was surrounded by cronies and delighted in executions that rolled of his tongue like berries. It seems that Stalin told Pasternak that his fellow poet would be all right, after being turned in and arrested. However, stress of arrest, imprisonment, and interrogations, led to mental illness which precipitated an attempted suicide. He was exiled with his wife and relative freedom to a place of his own choosing. This was a case of isolation and protection. In 1938, he was denounced to the secret police for stirring up trouble in the writers’ community and sentenced to five years in the Gulag for anti-Soviet activity but died in transit close to Vladivostock.
In 1945, in Saken the calendar still moved slowly, buds opened and birds lost to winter, sang again. Two young men in love with the same girl met at a mountain spring one was just home from Russia’s eastern front. Meanwhile, in the Crimea, Stalin turned to Vorapayev a war injured colonel and asked: “What are our most urgent needs? … People, clever people came the answer. Stalin continued unfortunately, we have too many officials in Moscow and too few leaders in the provinces. Afterward, Lena said to the colonel, they don’t report the truth to Stalin, it’s all plans and plans but what about us human beings.
It is worth recalling circa 1920-1930, that black people couldn't get a meal in a New York cafe, or walk safely in the south, where lynching was not a crime, while in the Caucuses Armenians were frequently lynched by Russian Cossacks and brutally exterminated by the Ottoman Turks. Nikolai Vavilov, Russian geneticist, plant geographer and man of public health travelled the world on what he called a mission for all humanity to collect and store seeds. He looked to a future in which world hunger would be eliminated. Ironically, he died of starvation in the Gulag eating frozen cabbage and moldy flour before being tossed into an unmarked grave. Felix d’Herelle a French Canadian nominated for the Nobel Prize was welcomed as a hero by Stalin and worked in the Tbilisi Institute of Public Health where on its grounds he built a cottage happy to be working again with his friend and founder of the Institute, George Eliava. They had met in Paris at the Institute Pasteur. Eliava, institute staff and his Polish wife, a soprano were all executed. Beria denounced him as an enemy of the people. His real crime was being in love with the same woman as Beria. D'Hérelle fled Tbilisi and gained an intervention from the French president with Stalin to stay his friends’ execution. Beria said no to Stalin.
Meanwhile, in America Paul Robeson Singer-activist, son of a slave was outspoken against racism and fascism. After a stenographer refused to take dictation from a nigger Robeson gave up law. He was ultimately branded as a traitor because of his relationship with the USSR. After four African-Americans were murdered in Georgia, he headed a march of three thousand delegates, met with the president, Harry S. Truman, and demanded an American crusade against lynching with stronger federal action. Later it would be Muhammad Ali who having returned from the Italian Olympics with a coveted Olympic gold medal around his neck was refused service in a soda fountain with a sorry we don't serve coloreds.
And the doggerel then: “The negro now … By eternal grace… Must learn to stay in the negro's place… In the Sunny South, the land of the Free… Let the White Supreme forever be”, whose sentiment still prevails. Right-wing supremacy today takes in racism, abuse of children, hatred of women and growing anti-Jewish sentiment.
Paul Robeson became well known at a time when segregation was legal in the United States. During the 1920s and '30s Robeson performed in the Soviet Union several times and his son went to the same boarding school as Stalin’s son. 2021 marks 60 years since the Freedom Riders, challenged segregation on public transportation, which included the late John Lewis. They were threatened, arrested, and attacked by mobs throughout the Deep South. One unique expression from 2020 came from John Lewis who recalled that a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road led into a nightmare.
Robeson began with worldwide success as an actor with a legendary voice equal to that of Chaliapin and with an aim to end racism in America. He took part in anti-Nazi demonstrations and performed for Allied soldiers during World War II. He saw the Soviet Union as a country that created hope among black people with a constitution banning racism. He sang songs promoting world peace and human rights in many languages including I thought I saw Joe Hill last night. Paul Robeson sang I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree while he himself was likened to the tallest tree in our forest.
His relationship with the USSR was highly controversial and he was blacklisted during McCarthyism and became a target of the FBI. In 1961 it was reported that Robeson suffered a heart attack in Moscow while another report said he had attempted suicide suffering hallucinations and severe depression. The symptoms came on following a surprise party thrown for him at his Moscow hotel. He never fully recovered. Robeson had announced that when he returned to the United States he would assume a leading role in the emerging civil rights movement.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), strode towards freedom as the architect of the non-violent civil rights movement and received the Nobel Peace Prize. His fiery thoughts on inequality were scathing, especially, injustice in health, which he found to be the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death. Both Martin Luther King and Paul Robeson had been under official surveillance for decades in America.
50 and 60 years on from the martyrdom of Martin Luther King and the demise of Paul Robeson racism is alive as a mean occupant of this our world. Certainly, for Robeson both America and Russia failed as Promised Lands. Nevertheless, for a celebration of his 75th birthday, he recorded a message, declaring: I want you to know that I am the same Paul, dedicated as ever to the worldwide cause of humanity for freedom, peace and brotherhood.
The ongoing arms race with its colossal profits and the weakening of institutions and democracy make peace promotion much more difficult. Without the humane efforts of world leaders to reduce inequality, emphasize meritocracy and institutional autonomy and give education a more philosophical bent leading it to life’s fulfillment nothing much will change. It has to empower Youth. Mr. Navalny who represents youth has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and peace our greatest need.
Mr. Putin you like other leaders have sent humanitarian oxygen to India as several thousand per day found themselves in a sinking submarine gasping for breath. Stand with Mr. Biden today during your Geneva summit and give peace a chance. Otherwise, future generations may see Vavilov’s slow starvation on frozen cabbage and moldy flour as a dreadful paradise and Tulsa repeated.
I still stand behind a proposal I once made that a panel be convened to assess symptoms, causes and outcomes of the collective state of social dementia. Do keep in mind two useful maxims arising from public health; unlikely events can have an extreme impact and well-designed interventions can take us down the wrong road. This Geneva Summit can put the directional signposts in place.