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Archive for the ‘germany’ Category

The girl in the picture is me

Posted by E on August 19, 2011

The girl in this picture is me. Or rather, it was me. The me I was between age 16-18. The me I lost when I left Toronto, after testifying against a bunch of neo-Nazi leaders who led an organization co-founded by a CSIS agent. Founded, and funded, by our own Canadian government.

Nobody knows what it is like to live in the underground. It’s been romanticized, glamorized, but unless somebody’s actually lived it, nobody can imagine the toll this life can take on you.

Nameless cities, countless names, and through it all, you just ask yourself, Why do I bother? Why not just let them find me – the ones who kept tracking me down, phoning me in the night with threats like “we’re coming to get you,” and “rats end up in the sewers.”

By writing this entry, I’m coming out. Not as gay (that happened a long time ago!), but as a poser. A faker. An impostor.

This is an open letter to all my friends who will be reading this, whether via this blog or through my Facebook account link. Friends I’ve made in different cities and different countries. Friends near and far who have all called me by different names. I’m here to tell you that no, I wasn’t going through eccentric, creative phases whenever I changed cities and switched names.

 There was a reason for it. At least at the time. But as the years went by, I found myself repeating a pattern that was no longer necessary, yet I didn’t know how to stop – lying. Lying had become part of my identity. Lying about my past, my family, my name. All of it as easy as a knee-jerk reflex. Because when you discard identities like you do clothing, sometimes you don’t know how to relate to others without exposing yourself. Even when the threat has long ended.

So for all those who called me Emma in Nova Scotia or Kat in Ottawa or Elisa in the GTA, or the countless little monikers I’ve worn between one place and the next, this entry should provide the answers to some of the questions you’ve always been too polite to ask.

Why am I “coming out” now? Some of you know about my novel Race Traitor, which is loosely based on my own story. You probably didn’t realize there was a connection. What you’ve been told is that it’s a cool little thriller I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. What you don’t know is that it’s full of demons. Not of the supernatural kind, because those can be vanquished easier than those who come to you in the night, through nightmares and flashbacks and terrors that leave you shaking and wondering what the hell’s the point of going forward.  These demons are real people, and they are out there in the world. Seducing and recruiting young, impressionable people, into movements that rob them of their minds and souls. And you owe it to this world, and to all of those lost youth, to understand what happened to me. And what forced me to write this book.

The irony is, this fall my memoir was going to come out with Penguin. I turned them down, because they wanted me to expose myself and offered me nothing to compensate for the threat to my life and that of my loved ones. So instead of telling my secrets, I turned the memoir into a novel, and wrote new secrets for a new character. I’ll never regret this decision. It led me to create an updated story that will reach far more readers than the decade-old story of a girl who disappeared in 1993.

I paid the price for my privacy. I had to publish it myself. Sure, it came close to being bought several times, but ultimately rejected with comments like “this isn’t pertinent to our society anymore. The heyday of right-wing extremists is over.”

Then the shootings and bombing in Norway happened. It was a wake up call for me. Ultimately I had to fire my agent, take my career back into my own hands, and publish the book myself. Incurring, of course, the silent disapproval of nearly all my writer friends who were horrified that I’d subject myself, and my manuscript, to the ghettos of the “Indie” world. Regardless of the quality of my writing, no respectable newspaper or magazine would review my work now. I’d effectively committed career suicide.

So where does this leave me? Yeah, I guess I could go around peddling my wares on writers’ forums now. Bombarding everybody with tweets and emails begging them to buy my book. But I won’t bother to do that. I won’t plead, beg, or steal you attention with requests that you buy it.

All I wanted to do is to tell you the truth about me, and the truth behind my book. If you don’t like the subject matter or don’t want to waste five bucks on something that took me over a year to write and a lifetime to escape, I don’t give a shit. Really.

 I don’t really give a damn about anything anymore.

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Posted in books, canada, commentary, crime, freedom, germany, history, letter, life, literature, news, politics, press, publishing, thoughts, toronto, writer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Norway’s attacks – debunking the terrorist myth

Posted by E on July 23, 2011

Since September 11, 2001, most people’s image of a terrorist has been that of an extremely religious, Muslim, bearded man with a burning hatred for the West. The reality of home-grown, white extremist groups and fringe left or right-wing nutcases has been relegated to the dusty corners of our consciousness. Despite the Oklahoma City bombing, despite the skinheads who marched on the streets of Toronto and London, Molotov cocktails in hand, Swastika banners in hand, we refuse to believe that a terrorist could be one of our own – not a Muslim, not a brown-skinned immigrant, but someone born and raised here.

Today Norway struggles with a momentous tragedy in its history – the bombing of a government building in Oslo and a savage massacre that took the lives of at least 80 youths in a Labour Party youth camp. The suspect – an Aryan-looking, blond and blue-eyed killer, well-known for his links to right-wing extremists, according to AFP sources.

We continue to have a heads-under-the-sand mentality in North America – that right-wing fanaticism doesn’t exist anymore, that violent skinheads and neo-fascists have been relegated to a harmless, inactive status, merely losers on Jerry Springer who garner a few laughs with their Klan-totting robes, but not much more a threat than that. And certainly NOT the types of people who can mobilize like Al-Queda, who can recruit alienated youth and train them to hate, and to kill.

When I was sixteen years old, I experienced first-hand the recruitment tactics of such a group. I witnessed more than a sixteen-year old should witness, and I testified against some very prominent neo-Nazis in open court. When the dust cleared, it became known that the white supremacist group I was being hunted by had been co-founded by an agent provocateur of the Canadian Intelligence Security Service (CSIS), our version of the CIA.

This man was provided funds to sustain this group, many of whose members travelled to Libya to meet with Moammar Gaddafi, who was at the time in the process of connecting various terrorist groups from across the world, funding and giving them access to secret training camps in the desert.

 

The fact that a government agent would have a hand in not only establishing, but fuelling a radical white supremacist group, provoked a temporary outrage in the Canadian public, but not a lasting drive for change. Within a few years, the entire story was forgotten. The former agent provocateur was relocated to another province, given a massive house in the suburbs and a generous allowance for another three years. For what amounts to teaching violent neo-Nazis how to terrorize innocent civilians, and how to smuggle guns over the border from the US. A government report came out that basically acknowledged that Operation Governor had been compromised by an “overzealous” source who might have gone “a little too far”, but nothing was ever done to bring those responsible to justice.

In fact, when I submitted my book for publication over the past year, comments ranged from the flippant to the entirely dismissive, as in the editor from Canada’s Douglas & McIntyre, who sent this rejection note: “I just feel like the issue of white supremacy has had its day, and it would take something more current for a book on this to break out.”

Just tonight, Norway’s Prime Minister, faltering before the press, answered the question “Is right-wing extremism a problem in this country?” with a wishful self-denying “No, we don’t have a big problem with right-wing extremists.” What? That’s after 92+ people have been murdered by a neo-fascist. But in his head, like in publishers and most journalists’ minds, when a Muslim kills, it’s an organized plot. When a neo-fascist kills, it’s one lone, crazy gunman. Nothing to really worry ourselves about.

To the establishment, terrorists have to be Islamic fundamentalists. Even if a Timothy McVeigh or Anders Behring Breivik pops up every few years and takes the lives of hundreds or thousands of people in the process. The fallacy of thought behind editorial boards and mass media is dismissive and shockingly small-minded. The reality is, even if a lone gunman is behind a massacre, there is an entire ideology of hatred behind him.

I suppose that soon I’ll have to list my book on Kindle, since there seem to be no interested publishers in New York who want to buy a novel based on this stuff (but they’d easily offer a million bucks to Kim Kardashian or Casey Anthony for a ghost-written memoir). I owe it to people to put this book out. I’ve received funding from Ontario and Canada arts councils for this project, and there are many of us who I believe it’s an important book since it depicts the step-by-step process of indoctrination of young people into radical terrorist groups.

But traditional publishers do not see my book as “commercial enough” (St Martins / Minotaur). Beyond the disappointment I have in the system, I genuinely wonder what Douglas & McIntyre, Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have to say tonight. I wonder if they really think a terrorist must have a Muslim face. That the subject of radical right-wingers is passé. Because if they do, they are very, very wrong. And Norway is paying the price for such a flawed assumption.

Posted in canada, commentary, crime, culture, europe, freedom, germany, literature, news, politics, press, publishing, war, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Berlin, Beijing – behind the smoke and mirrors, a monster rears its ugly head

Posted by E on August 22, 2008

Berlin 1936 = Beijing 2008. I bet Leni Riefenstahl is rolling in her grave wishing she could’ve gotten a crack at filming this one.

How are they similar? In both cases, a hopelessly corrupt IOC awards the Olympic games to a savage totalitarian state, while the world turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed by that state.

Violations against open discourse started early: as foreign journalists began converging on Beijing to cover the Summer Olympics, restrictions began to be placed on journalistic freedoms.

Since China was awarded the Games, China’s Communist Government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have continually given guarantees to the world’s media that journalists would have unrestricted access to the Internet.
Then, the Chinese Government blew that commitment into disarray when 20,000 journalists covering the August 8 – 24 Games in Beijing were told they would be blocked from accessing some Internet sites.

China has also designated 3 parks in Beijing for “sanctioned demonstrations”, promising that there would be room for protests, provided that those planning to organize a peaceful protest would submit a petition in advance. The result: people were rounded up and arrested instead. No protest ever took place.

Australia’s Media Alliance spokesman Christopher Warren was quoted as comparing the upcoming Games to those hosted by Nazi Germany in 1936. “This promises to be the most restricted Olympics, in terms of reporting the Games and its social and political context, since Berlin in 1936”.

Everyone who has watched the Olympics has witnessed pro-Chinese cheating, none more evident than in the gymnastics fiasco. Not only are at least two of the girls underage, but in my opinion it’s pretty clear the judges have been bought. Not surprising, though, since the field of gymnastics, like figure skating, is notorious for bribing and buying of judges.

China has spent in excess of 43 billion dollars (yes, you read that right) to showcase their superiority over (and shame) all other nations who have ever hosted an Olympics. You can rest assured that the message “We’re Bigger, We’re Better” does not stop with the theatrics of the opening ceremonies, to dubbed musical productions or with little girls who are considered too ugly to represent China and must sing below a stage.

The smoke and mirrors that cover an insatiable urge to beat all others will not put all its hopes on the shoulders of mere human beings. Just think about it – if you’ve gone all the way and spent 43 billion dollars on a show, what’s a few more paltry million to buy off some judges?

This is a country where you go to jail if you speak out against the regime. Where ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted and murdered in the open. Where you must fit in, must not think for yourself, must become a robot for the State.

Communism and fascism are similar in that way: they curtail the freedom to be an intellectual, to have free thought, to breathe without looking over your shoulder. They curtail the kind of music you can listen to, the kinds of magazines you read, the choice of vocation, job, and career you may ever have dreamed to have.

These are nations where children with aptitude are kidnapped from their parents and thrown into provincial facilities where they are forced to train for 16 hours a day, just to show the State as powerful and full of glory. Gold medals are stacked upon the broken bones, wilted minds and ruined bodies of young people.

You can also count on the fact that pre-Olympic discussions took place, where Chinese judging officials have been not only bribed with better apartments and salaries, but also warned that if they brought shame upon China (by marking them less than anyone else), they would be deported to some gulag somewhere and would wish for an early death.

You think it can’t happen again? Guess what? It’s happening already.

Posted in censorship, china, commentary, communism, culture, freedom, germany, news, olympics, politics, tibet, war | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

C for Courage, F for Freedom, R for Resistance – Sophie Scholl and V for Vendetta: a contrast of ideologies

Posted by E on August 7, 2007

sophie-scholl.jpgsophiescholl-film.jpg 

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure! Every individual human being has a claim to a useful and just state, which secures freedom of the individual as well as the good of the whole.
– from leaflets distributed by the White Rose

When I first saw the movie V for Vendetta a couple of years back, there was a striking familiarity about it, one that I just couldn’t, try as I might, put my finger on. A sensation of déjà vu, like a fleeting fragrance, echoed through my memory.
“I know this story”, I said to myself. “I have heard these words before.”
Months went by and that nagging itch just didn’t go away. I felt Vendetta tapped into a collective unconsciousness for a lot of people, myself included.

I spent my teenage years involved with revolutionary movements; I knew people who spent their lives as part of an underground of political activity. So the explosive theories of V were not exactly foreign to me; the concept of overthrowing a corrupt system was just a refrain of earlier days. Still, there was something else there.

Months later, I finally saw a film I had put off seeing for various personal reasons. The German movie Sophie Scholl – the Final Days is about the journey of two siblings involved with the covert WW2 resistance group The White Rose. The ending of that journey is betrayed by the title, and the film is a realistic glimpse (based on newly-discovered interrogation and arrest records) of only the final six days of their lives.

Sophie and her brother Hans were bright university students who came from a privileged liberal family. Prior to their political activity, Hans was a member of the Nazi party while Sophie had an active membership in the Hitler Youth. Although not covered in the film, Sophie’s disillusionment with the BDM (the girls’ wing of the HY) stemmed from her observation of others’ treatment of a Jewish friend.

Along with a number of other students from the Munich University (curiously, not much of the group’s involvement is depicted in the film), they founded The White Rose, a non-violent resistance group that lasted from June 1942 to February 1943.

This German film, the third adaptation of the story (with another Hollywood adaptation featuring Christina Ricci as Sophie coming out soon) is the most accurate rendition to date of the Scholls’ final days.
Sauce Magazine describes the story: “On Feb. 18, 1943, the siblings go to the Munich campus to stack propaganda flyers while all the other students are in class. But a janitor spies the pair, and they are quickly arrested for distributing seditionist literature. Seemingly unruffled, the clever Scholl spins such a convincing web of lies that her interrogators are prepared to let her go. But then a damning bit of evidence is discovered, and she has no recourse but to admit guilt.

What follows over the next few days is a stark and powerful interrogation-turned-debate between Scholl and her captor, Gestapo officer Robert Mohr (Alexander Held). The outcome, of course, is inevitable. But Scholl remains stalwart, refusing to give up the others in the resistance. Even Mohr respects her, and he wrestles with the convictions of her morality. He offers her a way out, pleading with her to refute her words, but she refuses and is handed over to a sham court to await her death sentence and execution.”

Noy Thrupkaew of American Prospect describes the lead character: “Julia Jentsch makes an indelible Sophie – girlish face set in nearly supernatural resolve. There are faint quavers, perhaps one cry of anguish, tears silver her lower lashes, but that is all. Sophie lies with unbelievable skill, her brain clacking away as her face betrays nothing. Finally confronted with her brother’s confession, she gives up the game, but with a fierce pride that is just as disconcerting as her cool lies.

That so much of the film centers on Sophie’s interrogation is at once thrilling and vexing – under such attack, why should Sophie reveal herself to her interrogator or to us? Sophie’s dignity falls around her like a mantle, and we are left to admire her steely composure, just as we strain to see past it. She obscures herself with lies at first, and then after her confession, engages in an ideological battle with Mohr, increasingly unnerved by her unshaken conviction. Here, the film loses some of its pitched momentum — the two seem less like three-dimensional characters than representatives in a clash of civilizations: liberal intellectual idealist versus impoverished, embittered working-class foot soldier.”

As I watched Sophie Scholl-the Final Days, I was suddenly flooded with the realization of what had bugged me all that time about V for Vendetta: as a child I had read about the White Rose and that underground group of students, and there were clear parallels between reality and fiction.

In fact, one can hardly abstain from comparing the two films. Both coming out at the same time, one being about V, a larger-than-life masked super-hero freedom-fighter who uses every means necessary to bring about social change, and assists a young woman named Evie to break from the matrix; the other about an indescript, yet real young girl with enough integrity to listen to nothing but her conscience and convictions.

V for Vendetta shows us a world of abject totalitarianism. In such a world, when enough people disappear, those who remain will come to believe that the state’s masters are truly all-powerful, capable of inflicting swift and harsh punishment if they step out of line for even an instant. Of course, many will also bow to the state because they believe that the state can protect them from all the bad things in the world. In either case, mass obedience rests not on the state’s day-to-day acts of oppression but the belief that the state has unlimited power to protect and punish.

Anything that undermines the people’s belief in the state’s omnipresence weakens the people’s acceptance of authoritarianism, and thus anything which causes the people to look at the state with less than awe must be suppressed. V for Vendetta makes this point by showing how the state regards humor at its expense as almost equally as great a threat to its’ rule as V’s attacks.

But where the summer blockbuster V for Vendetta chooses to cop out and rely on an explosive, muddled ending, the ending of Sophie Scholl can be described as steely, horrific, and visceral to the core.

There have been other reviews that compare these two films and their angles, but to me it always comes back to what kind of activism you find conscientious – non-violent resistance vs. terrorism in the name of freedom.

I will not stand here and argue that I oppose the latter without exceptions, since the label “terrorist” is often accorded to anyone who rebels against the status quo. In Eastern Europe, the revolutionaries who brought down communist dictatorships had to resort to such force and indeed were labeled terrorists. But their action in 1989 was necessary to give birth to the freedom that is now taken for granted. I have seen that freedom in the country of my birth, Romania, and it is undescribably sweet.

But after all the roads I’ve traveled on, the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve spoken to, I must confess that it isn’t a bold revolutionary act that makes an impression on me – but the quiet inner resolution that makes one individual refuse to back down.

Whether the lone Chinese man in front of the oncoming tank in Tiananmen square, the Buddhist nun arrested in Tibet, or a young girl like Sophie Scholl who distributes a secret pamphlet – the revolution is in the expression of silent dissent and integrity. The revolution lives – not in a grenade, but in the written word.

Posted in commentary, freedom, germany, life, movie, movie review, politics, revolution, sophie scholl, white rose | 3 Comments »