Monday, April 01, 2013

Purple Haze: Putting the ghosts of Savo Island to rest

Did you know that one of the first American naval battles fought in the South Pacific against the Japanese imperial fleet during World War II took place in the Solomon Sea, off the shore of some god-forsaken volcanic outcropping called Savo Island -- and right next to another god-forsaken rocky island called Guadalcanal? And that the American navy lost that battle -- bigtime? And that 1033 American sailors and Marines died from wounds received at Savo Island? And that four Allied heavy cruisers were sunk?

According to naval historian Lt. Col. David E. Quantock, "The Battle of Savo Island occurred early in the morning on 9 August 1942, when the Japanese 8th fleet surprised the Allied Task Force shortly after the landing at Guadalcanal. In approximately 37 minutes, the Japanese Navy destroyed four Allied heavy cruisers and killed more than 1000 American and Australian sailors, handing the U.S. Navy the worst defeat in its history. There were many strategic, operational, and tactical reasons for this debacle; however, the one common thread through the entire disaster was the poorly framed command and control relationships."

Soon after this tragic event, a new housing project for naval personnel was constructed in Berkeley, CA, and named after that sad and humiliating battle. According to the January 3, 1945 Berkeley Gazette, "Located across the street from the WACs barracks, [Savo Island] will consist of 192 units [where] some combat personnel returning to shore jobs may rent a single-bedroom unit for as low as $11 a month."

And one of the children raised in this new housing project was Jimi Hendrix. And we all now what happened to him.

And then Vietnam came and went. And Nick Terse's excellent new book, "Kill Everything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam," tells us the most accurate story to date about what really happened in Vietnam. As one reviewer put it, "'Kill Anything That Moves' is a hard book to read. You want to look away but finally turn the pages and read of mass killings and targeted assassinations of Vietnamese civilians, rape committed casually and coldly in sight of officers, sport killings and road rage incidents."

And the ghosts from Savo Island, Vietnam and all the other bloody and unnecessary "wars" perpetrated by greedy corporatists and/or their "poorly framed command and control" have just kept on piling up since then. The 9-11 blunder, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq -- and now Syria, Iran and North Korea are also in the mix

And these ghosts of more and more dead people from more and more unjust American wars seem to keep showing up at Savo Island. Why? Because "someone had blundered" on War Street (again) -- or because someone else on Wall Street had gotten greedy (again).
In 1974, the old Savo Island housing project in Berkeley was torn down and then Jimmy Carter (my hero, he built housing like this in every single city and town in America in 1979) gave orders to build a new, renovated Savo Island right on the same site -- but as a housing cooperative. However, somehow I think that the ghosts of the old Savo Island still remain. There have been murders here. And suicides. And cancer victims. And hoarders. And addicts. And all-too-many cases of people going bat-shite crazy -- perhaps even me!

The current Savo Island housing project is supposed to be an idealistic neighborhood cooperative, a perfect example of neighbors "caring and sharing" -- yet now the only thing that we neighbors seem to do together is to bicker and quarrel night and day about every single little thing.

And now that our extensive new re-hab in progress and I've been forced to move out of my sweet little home for a month, I've also come to notice that every time I even set foot back on the property even for few minutes, I start to get this irrational feeling that it's time to either fight or flee, almost like I was back on Guadalcanal myself!

Perhaps all the ghosts of all the dead from all those unnecessary American wars are still coming back to haunt us.

Can anyone recommend a good exorcist?

PS: And during the period that I have been out of my apartment during this re-hab, I've also been taking quite an extensive tour of Berkeley -- renting rooms in people's houses and apartments, sleeping on people's floors, staying in cheap motels and house-sitting people's dogs. It's been quite a wild ride. But the squabbling at Savo Island has still remained a constant in my life. For instance, some of my neighbors at Savo have just accused me of staying up at the luxurious Claremont resort and spa in high style -- at our co-op's expense! Don't I wish. Up there in the hot tub. Just me and a million or so ghosts.

PPS: I was watching a documentary on the Holocaust in Germany during World War II the other day -- such inhuman brutality. In Nazi Germany, corporatists treated living and breathing men, women and children as mere instruments of profit, and all compassion was gone. This cold and brutal objectification of human life serves us as an obvious example of cwhat happens when orporate profit-driven motivation is taken to its extreme.

And so here is a warning: What German corporations did to the Jews -- worked them to death, callously starved them and even stole their gold teeth -- all in the name of making a profit? Then American multinational corporations may be about to do this to you and me too.

When profit alone is allowed to be king, hatred is then thrown into the mix and all compassion is dead, then no one is safe.



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