Nothing Adds Up When You do the Alternative Math

Photo Source Dustin and Jennifer Stacey | CC BY 2.0

A disgruntled, off his meds, “lone wolf” gunman walks into a bar. We all know how that story ends: He orders 300 rounds. The actual punchline is that we are all shocked that a hired killer for the US military would bring the slaughter home and murder a dozen or so of his compatriots for no apparent reason. Or rather, for reasons having nothing to do with “geopolitics”. In fact, questions surrounding the wholesale massacre of civilians, infrastructure, even forests and oceans are best left to the “experts” overseeing their destruction. If the logic of that particular irony is lost on you, perhaps you have not yet mastered “alternative math”, which, like “alternative facts”provides falsified outcomes based on lies and delusions.

Funnier still, is how we view military violence as somehow less disturbing than a single ‘crazy’ guy, even when lone gunman and soldier serve the same master, guided by the same imperative: Serve and protect neoliberalism. One killer obeys a direct and explicit order to kill, while the other is driven to homicide, compelled by the murderous dog whistle implicit in every aspect of life under capitalism – from its banking services, healthcare and housing policies (or lack thereof) farms, food production, political parties, infrastructure – all the way down to its dating rituals and coffee chains. The “invisible hand” that guides the market also pulls the trigger.

Meanwhile, we are left to grapple with deliberately planted red herrings such as “mental illness, Donald Trump and gun control”. Notice how “capitalism” is never a grapple-worthy subject, even if its abolishment would greatly diminish the demand for automatic weapons, politicians and antidepressants. Capitalism has dispensed with the need for math, replacing it with a paradox: When wealth accumulates, nothing adds up.

Here’s another brain teaser in the form of a riddle: The world’s fourth largest military with an undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal launches dozens of deadly airstrikes on an imprisoned refugee population with an average age of 15. Who is the real victim here? If you said “Israel”, you could very well be eligible for a Nobel Prize in the new field of alternative math.

According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israeli forces have killed 205 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since March 30th. The report also cites the 21,288 injured, including 5,345 from live ammunition. Thirty-eight of the dead and 4,250 of the wounded were children. If you do the alternative math, the numbers support tragic Israeli losses just as they did in 2014 when Israeli onslaughts into Gaza killed 2,200 Palestinians compared to seven Israelis. If facts don’t need to line up to convey reality, then numbers don’t need to add up to account for culpability.

The most recent escalation of violence can be attributed to an Israeli violation of a ceasefire when Israeli forces snuck into Gaza to assassinate a Hamas leader, resulting in the most recent deadly airstrikes on Palestinian territory, claiming further lives and the destruction of Gaza’s already frail infrastructure.

Despite the failure of the mission’s stated goals of extracting information from a targeted Qassem commander, the botched raid was declared (behind closed doors, at least) a success. Israel was clearly after more than the intelligence a captured fighter could provide about tunnels, or even the fates of two missing Israeli soldiers from a previous incursion. It needed a pretext to continue its violence with the sort of invented justification necessary to stave off world condemnation.

This clear violation of the fragile truce in place at the time Israeli commandos were skulking around outside a mosque in drag (Yes, you read that right) was calculated to provoke more rocket fire, justifying yet another round of Israeli airstrikes under the guise of responding to Hamas’ violation of a ceasefire.

The timeline of these recently transpired events provide obvious evidence of just who blew up the deal. Still, these “alternative facts”, like alternative math, will confirm Israel’s versions of events. More than likely, you will likely have read coverage of these events as “Hamas Blah Blah Blah” in the US media during an extreme weather event like a Trump Tweet Storm.

On the rather rare occasions of an Israeli death at the hands of someone motivated by say, great resentment at having to live permanently under a worsening military occupation, who sees a chance for retribution, it will be the dead Israeli lionized as a martyr and remembered as a human, while thousands of Palestinians are erased from memory and history. In Israel, much like the US, the lower (and whiter) the death toll, the greater the chance for public mourning and outcry.

Recently, thousands of protesters gathered across the country to condemn their government for . . . Wait for it! . . . putting a temporary hold on its military strikes. If someone ever asks you to define ‘irony’, point out that the country that boasts the world’s largest vegan population per capita is demanding more bloodshed and openly braying for genocide. “The World’s Most Humane Army” gives a minute warning for schools and hospitals to evacuate before bombing them. Alternate calculus speeds up the time it takes to commit an atrocity and calls zero chance for survival a “window of opportunity”.

Israel is turning into one of those ‘Aristocrat’ jokes where escalating obscenities and absurdity intersect to illustrate a point about class. Replace the eponymous punchline with ‘The Jewish State’ and you can highlight a litany of high crimes and low level thuggery, culminating in the ultimate irony of one built on the principles of European fascism and South African apartheid. “So what do you call this barbarous, racist regime that imprisons its majority population behind barbwire, openly endorses ethnic cleansing, and shoots children in the face”? The comedy, (if you can call sickening irony by that particular term) is boundless with gruesome possibility:

“Hitler meets hummus in this wacky send up of a gay, alt-right hipster in Tel Aviv” is how you could pitch this to Adam Sandler’s people in Beverly Hills. Paradoxes and yuks aplenty as Gaydolph Schittler’s Pride parade float careens into Hamas held territory. Sandler’s proven record of flops always yield low returns, proving the efficacy of alternative math in monetizing failure, and elevating its worst offenders.

Neoliberal economists have recalibrated data to reflect wishful thinking (By exterminating all impediments to wealth, we will prosper endlessly) rather than reality. (We kinda need plants, animals and oxygen to survive) which explains how every bad idea in the world is declared a “winner”, even when a vote (or body) count proves otherwise.

Speaking of Hollywood, have you heard the one about the washed up Scottish actor who attended a glittery, star-studded charity event? After pledging a sizable chunk of his dwindling royalty cheques to the IDF so that it can better transform Gaza into a smoldering, corpse-strewn moonscape, Gerald Butler returns to his house in the Hollywood Hills to find it destroyed by the worst forest fire in the state’s history. Burn! Poetic justice, not to be undone by bad math, can still deliver a feisty little slap to a very deserving target. Karma, however, will deliver a more decisive blow to the rest of us.

Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.