Oil, money, banks, guns and blood.

The history of power, control, those who wield it, and where it has taken us all.

There is a real pain in me as I start into today’s post. A pain that comes from agonising over whether or not to write in this vein. A pain that has its roots in me being forced to accept that global politics, money and power-plays are much worse than I ever wanted to believe.

What, you must be asking, has got me plunging so far into this dark place? When just twenty-four hours ago I was writing of peace, calm and deep meditation?

Simply a film!

A film that was uploaded by the BBC a few days ago exclusively on to their BBC iPlayer platform.

The film is called Bitter Lake and here’s the trailer.

The full film is 2 hours, 20 minutes long. (But note that the film is age-restricted for obvious reasons.)

I can’t encourage you to watch it. For if you do, the world may never seem the same to you.

But Jeannie and I did watch it and think it should be shared widely. And, yes, it has changed the world for us.

Here’s how it is described by Adam Curtis and the BBC.

Published on Jan 26, 2015
Shown exclusively on the BBC iPlayer service in the UK
This upload is for those outside of the UK

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis

Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events.

But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis – leaving us bewildered and disorientated.

And journalism – that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative – now also just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information.

Events come and go like waves of a fever. We – and the journalists – live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog – and then disappear again, unexplained.

And the formats – in news and documentaries – have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them.

In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other.

I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy – because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.

I have made a film that tries to respond to this in two ways.

It tells a big story about why the stories we are told today have stopped making sense.

But it is also an experiment in a new way of reporting the world. To do this I’ve used techniques that you wouldn’t normally associate with TV journalism. My aim is to make something more emotional and involving – so it reconnects and feels more real.

BBC iPlayer has given me the opportunity to do this – because it isn’t restrained by the rigid formats and schedules of network television. It’s a place you can go to experiment and try out new ideas.

It is also liberating – both because things can be any length, and also because it allows the audience to watch the films in different ways.

The film is called Bitter Lake. It is a bit of an epic – it’s two hours twenty minutes long.

It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence – and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened – because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.

But there is one other country at the center of the film.

Afghanistan.

This is because Afghanistan is the place that has repeatedly confronted politicians, as their power declines, with the terrible truth – that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. Let alone control it.

The film shows in detail how all the foreigners who went to Afghanistan created an almost totally fictional version of the country in their minds.

They couldn’t see the complex reality that was in front of them – because the stories they had been told about the world had become so simplified that they lacked the perceptual apparatus to see reality any longer.

And this blindness led to a terrible disaster – support for a blatantly undemocratic government, wholesale financial corruption and thousands of needless deaths.

A horrific scandal that we, in our disconnected bubble here in Britain, seem hardly aware of. And even if we are – it is dismissed as being just too complex to understand.

But it is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil – but instead really tries to makes sense of it.

I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.

These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them I have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.

A counterpoint to the thin, narrow and increasingly destructive stories told by those in power today.

And I must include this comment from the relevant page on BBC Blogs:

Quite simply one of the best films I’ve ever watched. The theme and content made so many connections linking events of the last 40 years. It’s perhaps time to reflect on power ,control and those who wield it . The official narrative is not our narrative , we have a choice to decide what we believe . Time to reflect and make that choice.
Thanks for such an informing film.

Here is the film.

12 thoughts on “Oil, money, banks, guns and blood.

      1. As with Val, I have just watched the film Paul, and concur with her appraisal. None of the content was new to me, though the style of delivery was certainly novel. It felt a little like a Michael Palin narration of a David Lynch documentary with a really good soundtrack, and I would love to see more of this kind of program delivery in the mainstream media – though actually, because there is so little of it, I tend to ignore the MSM! So, full marks from me for Adam Curtis and for the BBC too for airing it on iPlayer.

        Now, where are we? Val’s words are a good place to begin: “Nothing is what is seems, or will ever be the same again.” Nobody knows for sure, but piecing together fragments of world events, my instinct (fwiw) tells me that we are in the incipient stages of the collapse of the 20th.c. paradigm. Neoliberalism has failed; further than that, Capitalism has failed – we have no free markets where it counts; they’re all rigged. Politics has failed too, having been bought out by the corporates. [There are over 30,000 lobbyists in Washington alone] All that Western Governments have to offer is a doomed re-run of failed practices (same with Japan actually). Worse still, they have gone down on their knees and begged the financial sector to create a fix. The private banks have been given access to vast sums of QE cash at virtually zero interest in order to continue rigging markets (via their agents) all to their benefit whilst also creating huge market distortions in asset bubbles. Has the wealth they created trickled down? Has it hell. Whilst all this is going on, and as the film so clearly demonstrates, the Middle East looks like fulfilling its promise of the last century as being the flashpoint for warfare on a vast scale. And of course, if by some miracle we escape financial collapse, and world peace is not threatened by warfare, then the environment is going down the pan because – guess what? – our politicians have failed us once again. I have said enough on this.

        Have you read or are you familiar with Chris Hedges Paul? He is someone who is worth paying attention to in my view. There are lots of videos of him on YouTube. An English film-maker Temujin Doran made a documentary of the content of his book Death of the Liberal Class and which I provide a link to below. I should warn viewers that it is relentlessly bleak, and the editing and soundtrack may irritate some (it did me a bit). Otherwise, do bear in mind the name of Chris Hedges for insights into where we may be heading.

  1. I will set aside time to watch this Paul. Thank you!
    Without being informed yet … my thinking is that the world we live is is so complex, stressful and fast that we can’t absorb everything that happens. We simplify and label, in order to make sense. We chop and segment in order to understand, but we miss the full story and many have lost the ability to grasp the bigger picture…. or are too fearful of going against the expectations of others and becoming one of “them” instead of one of “us”.

    1. Val, I wouldn’t disagree with your response, not at all. However, when you have watched the film I wonder if your feelings will have taken on more of a ‘hard edge’? Most interested in hearing that.

      1. I just watched the movie Paul. It is powerful and very disturbing. As you say, it undermines what we believe is real. It also reveals the complexity – misunderstanding – manipulation – corruption – opium, oil and the struggle for power – naivety – chaos
        In the dualistic fairy tale world of good vs evil it has created a nightmare of errors.
        Nothing is what is seems.
        Or will ever be the same again.

        Thank you for sharing this Paul.

  2. Giant American global corporations, the 200 largest ones, do 100 billion dollars of tax evasion through Luxembourg alone. Each year. Many are media companies. Wonder why stories make no sense?

    Juncker directed that. Now he is head of the European Commission, and insist Greece shall pay every single penny.

    As it happened, my dad was among a European group of geologists working for the Afghan government, who discovered Afghanistan’s riches… In the 1970s. All hell broke loose shortly thereafter.

    I write about these sorts of things, day in, day out. But most people prefer the opium of feel-good…
    https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/hope-from-greece/

  3. Val, Hariod, Patrice: Thank you!

    I want time to let your wonderful comments and views settle in to my deeper consciousness before replying further. Indeed, I may ‘reply’ in the form of another post – not sure yet.

    Thank you, again.

  4. Hi Paul, there did not seem to be a link for BITTER LAKE. I checked out the Adam Curtis stuff, but it did not go forward to BITTER LAKE;

    I suspect that what I will see will amplify where my own internal awarenesses have come to. Truth is a hard thing to accept.

    Regards,

    Lew …

    1. Lew, delighted to hear from you. Yes, I see the YouTube video is now blocked from appearing on this website.

      Here’s the direct YouTube link that is certainly working for me.

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