A sweeping vision

January 8, 2021 at 11:34 pm (Uncategorized)

is what I’m being inundated with, of European domination of the world through its various empires, of which the U.S. is just the latest extension, and its massive twin engines (picture those two suckers on the back of a mother of a motor yacht): technology, which equipped it to dominate and exploit both other humans and nature; and religion, which gave it the justification and the sense of superiority and entitlement to do so.

Domination is not a European impulse, it’s a human impulse. Think of Genghis Khan and Moctezuma and the Aryans who rode down into India from the steppes, etc. What has been uniquely successful and destructive about the European version is those twin engines. It’s because of them that there are too many of us humans (I myself am spun from petroleum and nitrogen fertilizer) and that a minority of us live lives of comfort and safety and plenty and diversion our ancestors could never have dreamed of, to which the majority aspires, all at staggering cost to the rest of the biosphere.

I’m not saying this is bad or good—it’s too big for that, too done a deal. It is not even possible to imagine other ways the world might have gone. This is it, what we’ve got. Other cultures with different or even similar aspirations and priorities were invaded, conquered, colonized, or allied and traded with, and became hybridized with European culture by force, or to survive; in self-defense, or out of curiosity and envy and opportunism. Some of these hybrids are more malignant than either parent, the way the monster of alcoholism isn’t lurking in the bottle or in the subconscious but is the product of a chemical reaction between the two. Pol Pot (“Politque Potentielle”) and Al-Wahhab studied in Paris. And from where did China get communism?

I can’t go all the way into this in one blog post. What I’ve been thinking about tonight is the role of one of Europe’s twin engines, Christianity, with its presumption of having the only right, real ,and powerful god, and therefore the right and the duty and the power to convert others or, failing that, kill them.

And Christianity’s peculiar relationship with the Jews.

How Christianity morphed from a universal and redemptive religion of the humble to a chauvinistic and warlike religion of the conqueror is another fascinating story. Maybe it had to do with its merger with Rome, the early prototype European empire. But it has its roots in the Hebrew bible, whose early chapters are horrifically bloody. Basically, there was believed to be a contest among gods, and Jahweh, the new god, and (a new claim) the only real god, sought to defeat the other gods by empowering his people, the offspring of Abraham, to defeat the peoples who believed in those gods, seize their lands, and slaughter their children. This may have provided the template for the Crusades, and for the conquest of the “New World.”

So jump ahead a millennium or five, and I’m thinking about Israel, which leftists call an outpost of the American empire. But really, Israel, settled by so many European Jews (who still dominate it culturally if not numerically) both before and after the Holocaust, is an outpost of Europe in the Middle East, culturally and militarily a promontory of the long European empire. And I thought further about the Jews’ uneasy status as Europeans, but not; serving the empire as financiers (not so exclusively now as at the end of the Middle Ages, when Jewish bankers financed the exploration and colonization of the New World because Christians were not allowed to charge interest), but also as scapegoats. If you entertain Freud’s equation of money with shit, then the Jews were a little like the Dalits of India, who traditionally handled sewage and garbage (though the Dalits were and are much more numerous, and poorer, because finally, money ain’t shit). The Jews were, and still are, cousins yet heathens, prodigal sons of the same god, necessary but mistrusted, dealers with the dark side so Christians didn’t have to, and subject to periodic exorcismic spasms of “convert, expel, or kill.” A semi-disowned, secret part of Europe that it has never been able to absorb or excise, a sort of parasitic twin. And suspected of being not quite white.

Ugh, I feel like I’ve just coughed up a parasitic twin myself. Enough for now.

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It’s a Vast Oversimplification…

November 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm (Uncategorized)

. . . but let’s entertain it for a moment: there are roughly two kinds of people in the world:

  • Those who are interested in power, money, and glory; and
  • those who are interested in something else.

Of course there is some apparent overlap, because plenty of people who are interested in, say, making scientific discoveries or writing novels, would like to get some glory, money, and power for it. But you’ll find that those also divide along the same lines: those who are primarily interested in the glory, money, etc., and those who are principally interested in what they’re doing and know that some power/money/glory will free them to do and share more of it. The latter tend to have a sense of “enough.” The absence of that sensor is an identifying characteristic of the former.

The first group of people is much smaller, but has in its favor

  • motivation, and
  • the command of material resources and the labor and “loyalty” of others. (Scare quotes because it’s the stomach kind, not the heart kind.)

The second group of people is much larger, and that’s all it has in its favor: numbers. But it’s very hard to rally those numbers, because these people are interested in a million different things and just want to be left alone to pursue them.

But the first group will not leave them alone.

Oh, one other thing the second group has in its favor: evolution. Their interests are infinitely more conducive to the long-term survival of our species, if not to its short-term bang-pow-dazzle success.

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Mom Sounds Off

November 8, 2020 at 1:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

on the post-election mood—9 days before her 97th birthday.

Hey, Annie! What doing? Got an Election Hangover? Are you – as I am – a MishMash of emotional Cross-currents: a schemear of elation, exhaustion, anxiety spread across my breakfast pumpernickel?  Am I afraid that sulking Trump will hang in the air over us like a noxious fart? Are we doomed to suffer his indelible presence because he will intone neither the magic release: “I quit”, nor choke to death on the fatal promise, “NEVER!”?

🍷♥️

Sent from my iPhone

She’s like the nonagenarian Rachel Maddow.

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Please listen to this.

August 25, 2020 at 11:51 am (Uncategorized) ()

Nina Simone, in 1969, making Black lives matter—making life matter.

Of the 4 songs here, the first and third must be her own creations. She fills the covers to overflowing, too, but if your time is limited, don’t miss the originals.

00:04 4 women

07:23 band intro

08:16 Aretha Franklin’s “Somebody Save Me”

13:19 Ain’t got no

18:07 you don’t know what it’s like “To Love Somebody”

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The Love – Hate Election

August 24, 2020 at 6:14 pm (Uncategorized)

National political conventions are all about marketing, making the sale. They are targeted to a mass audience, not to the rather small class of political junkies, micropundits, and activists. Therefore, they are pitched to the heart, not the head; branded by emotion, not by ideology or policy.

Most people glaze over or break out in hives when confronted with isms or wonkery. They will vote for candidates who make them and their loved ones feel good and who they believe will make their lives feel better. For example, they want simple, affordable, comprehensive health insurance and they need it yesterday; they don’t care whether it’s called Medicare For All or precisely how it’s paid for.

You can say we have an ill-informed populace, or you can say that’s just how people are and there’s a wisdom to it. A naïvété too, of course. Hearts can be hoodwinked, but heads can be irrelevant. They just talk to other heads.

So, crudely put, the Democrats branded their convention Love and the Republicans are branding theirs Hate. (That’s the label, not the contents. The main ingredient inside both is Desire To Win.) I started thinking about which will prove stronger, which has the best shot at prevailing over the other. First I’ll make the case for Hate, laid out in a string of tweets I posted this morning. This is not negativity, it’s superstition. The Jewish philosophy of life is “Expect the worst, you might be pleasantly surprised.” My ancestors were sure that blithe optimism attracts the Evil Eye.

Republicans will point out, correctly, that Democrat Love is chocolate sauce poured over hate of Trump. Democrats will point out, correctly, that Republican Hate is really fear of demographic change. It’s natural to hate what threatens what we love (channeling Polly Chase for a moment), and the parties’ constituencies are now defined by which America they love: the diverse one of the future, or the white one of the past. That future is coming, inexorably, and the only way to slow its advance is what it always has been, brutal oppression, but on a larger scale than ever before. The best and worst of America since its founding are now fully out in the open and heading for a showdown. To beat Trump is to win a battle, not the war. To lose to Trump is to lose the war.

The video of George Floyd’s murder, coming on top of seven years’ effort by Black Lives Matter, seems to have finally opened the eyes of a majority of white Americans to what nonwhite Americans have always known. Those newly awakened, if not woke, white people now tentatively love the vision of the Beloved Community presented by the Democratic convention, especially since it was married with an older style of all-American happy talk, just with varied accents and many-colored faces. (Advertising has been test-marketing this vision for a while, and a heartwarming prototype can be found in the Paul Mazursky / Robin Williams film Moscow on the Hudson, in which my husband had a cameo.) But as much as they might come to love this feelgood vision, they also hate violence and disorder that threatens them. That is why the urban “riots” and shootings are Trump’s ace in the hole right now—the same dynamic that brought us Richard Nixon.

Now as then, you can be very sure that right-wing provocateurs are a big part of the action. The left should let them have it all. Let the Proud Boys dress up as a handful of anarchists and riot by themselves. To attract mass support and expose the opposition, protests and demonstrations for Black Lives Matter should ideally be disciplined, nonviolent, and free of ideology. (Let me dream.) It’s an uncomfortable fact that if the initial George Floyd protests had been completely nonviolent, they might not have gotten much attention. But when violence wears on, the weathervane of attention soon swivels the other way. Instead of violence pointing at injustice, it becomes fear pointing at violence—and disgust, especially when small businesses are destroyed.

After centuries of oppression and corruption, hate may be justified and cathartic. But for now, let it be the Republicans’ brand. Only that can weaken it—by diluting its fuel of fear.

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Strange thought

December 31, 2019 at 11:39 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Every work of literature springs from the same impulse as a baby’s cry.

[UPDATE] Or, differently put: writing is just fancy crying.

Or laughing.

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The Future Is Yours

December 1, 2019 at 10:37 pm (By Ron, Uncategorized) ()

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You are incomplete, unfinished.  As goes your self, so go your actions;  half finished plans, dreams delayed,  your heart a field of broken toys.  The world in its wisdom has brought you to this point and the full depth of your sufferings and failures transcends the sugar spun follies of youth.

But as someone who has lived a panoply of lives you know an even deeper truth:

The World Is A Lie.

The world lies to you for its purposes which rarely — if ever! — align with your own.  It wants you simple, practical, ordered, humble, but not humble as an alloy of your strengths with deeper hued wisdom, but humble as a making lame, a cutting of tendons so that you may not go further!

There is no victory in this; you must create the World for Yourself.   This day reminds you of this!  Struggles against the Coalitions of your worst aspects will be driven from the field on this day!

Austlitz2019

Never forget that all may be accomplished, that the Grande Armee of your soulcrafting can bring you only triumph on this your Austerlitz Day!

Austerlitz2019-2

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Godzilla vs. Megalon

September 30, 2019 at 2:29 pm (By Amba, Uncategorized) ()

In The Law, human beings attempted to create an authority that would transcend their own best efforts to besmirch, evade, manipulate, and abuse it. A North Star of dispassionate justice that would shine far above the nonstop mud wrestling of human affairs.

In practice, of course, the law, a human product, has often been used as the protector of privilege or the refuge of scoundrels. But it is a work in progress, and over time it’s been hewn and refined and fought over toward something that begins to vaguely resemble the ideal of objectivity—to extend its protection to the powerless and its demand for accountability to the powerful, “without fear or favor.”

Those words, as you’ll see if you follow the link, arose in the context of journalism, which has now largely made a travesty of them. Only The Law is left.

(Digression: it’s interesting that the English, who tore through this globe creating, exploiting, and destroying with their mind-boggling drive to industrialize, capitalize, and colonize—a truth brought home to me by copyediting this forthcoming book—also created much of what we now know as The Law, and slowly, from Magna Carta to the reformers of the 19th century, broadened its protection, imperfectly, from the rights of property to the rights of the naked person.)

Here, you hear the authority and dignity of The Law awakening, shaking its wings, clearing its throat—not a moment too soon. Things have finally gone too far, rousing it from its “stony sleep,”  like the more-than-equal and opposite monster to Yeats’s in “The Second Coming“:

somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. 

In The Law, we finally have a Godzilla to fight the Megalon of chaos.

Or, in a more mundane image, the parents burst through the door just as the kids who’ve been gleefully trashing the house are about to burn it down.

But The Law is no human parent. It’s our own imagining of a power authoritative and impartial enough to stop us from destroying each other and ourselves.

 

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The Old Healer

March 27, 2019 at 8:50 pm (By Amba, Uncategorized)

Bob Chapra, a Feldenkrais Method practitioner in (I think) Philadelphia, posted this on Facebook. I thought it worth sharing, not least for the beautiful photograph.

Old Healer

The old healer to the soul:

It’s not your back that hurts, but the burden.

It’s not your eyes that hurt, but injustice.

It’s not your head that hurts, it’s your thoughts.

Not the throat, but what you don’t express or say with anger.

Not the stomach that hurts, but what the soul does not digest.

It’s not the liver that hurts, it’s the anger.

It’s not your heart that hurts, but love.

And it is love itself that contains the most powerful medicine.

 

(Author unknown)

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Undeniable

December 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm (By Ron, Uncategorized) ()

Your enemies scoffed. Your friends fretted,  the closest of them doing so silently, almost stoically.  You had none of these feelings, for reasons you could not explain even to those most cherished.

the battle of austerlitz2

The future was yours to shape as you will — it is your Austerlitz Day! No whim or caprice shall be denied you today;  the heavens do not grant these days freely or often.  But it is this day, more than any other that reminds of what great triumphs you can achieve.  Do not fret or fear any obstacle; wryly view these as that which makes your success that much more amazing, more profound!  See your as yet unaccomplished goals in life as already vanquished foes, praying for your mercy and forbearance!  Your strength is more than willing to be generous in their defeat, because you know that the Fates could have turned on you and not them.  Forward!  Even more glory awaits!

vol2chap14_7

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