- Joseph Brodsky, "1 January 1965"
The Wise Men will unlearn your name.
Above your head no star will flame.
One weary sound will be the same—
the hoarse roar of the gale.
The shadows fall from your tired eyes
as your lone bedside candle dies,
for here the calendar breeds nights
till stores of candles fail.
What prompts this melancholy key?
A long familiar melody.
It sounds again. So let it be.
Let it sound from this night.
Let it sound in my hour of death—
as gratefulness of eyes and lips
for that which sometimes makes us lift
our gaze to the far sky.
You glare in silence at the wall.
Your stocking gapes: no gifts at all.
It's clear that you are now too old
to trust in good Saint Nick;
that it's too late for miracles.
—But suddenly, lifting your eyes
to heaven's light, you realize:
your life is a sheer gift.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Anita Atina, "Faking It, Is Easy!"
Faking it, is easy
Life, love, happiness
All prey to a mask we adorn
When its too difficult to say no
Or accept that you’ve grown apart
So the neighbours won’t know
You’re not feelin’ great, anymore
Faking joie de vivre
Or loneliness would break your heart
Faking it, is easy
The price of not faking
Is to feel the pain
And not hide
Is to open your tender heart
To rejection and abuse
And still not loose faith
And believe in the hope, that you will
Find another who isn’t faking it
Faking it, after all, is easy, we all do it!
Monday, December 28, 2015
Saturday, December 26, 2015
"For centuries it has been an understood thing that one alluded to scholars alone when one spoke of cultured men; but experience tells us that it would be difficult to find any necessary relation between the two classes to-day. For at present the exploitation of a man for the purpose of science is accepted everywhere without the slightest scruple. Who still ventures to ask, What may be the value of a science which consumes its minions in this vampire fashion? The division of labour in science is practically struggling towards the same goal which religions in certain parts of the world are consciously striving after,--that is to say, towards the decrease and even the destruction of learning. That, however, which, in the case of certain religions, is a perfectly justifiable aim, both in regard to their origin and their history, can only amount to self-immolation when transferred to the realm of science. In all matters of a general and serious nature, and above all, in regard to the highest philosophical problems, we have now already reached a point at which the scientific man, as such, is no longer allowed to speak. On the other hand, that adhesive and tenacious stratum which has now filled up the interstices between the sciences--Journalism--believes it has a mission to fulfil here, and this it does, according to its own particular lights--that is to say, as its name implies, after the fashion of a day-labourer.Nietzsche, "On the Future of Our Educational Institutions"
"It is precisely in journalism that the two tendencies combine and become one. The expansion and the diminution of education here join hands. The newspaper actually steps into the place of culture, and he who, even as a scholar, wishes to voice any claim for education, must avail himself of this viscous stratum of communication which cements the seams between all forms of life, all classes, all arts, and all sciences, and which is as firm and reliable as news paper is, as a rule. In the newspaper the peculiar educational aims of the present culminate, just as the journalist, the servant of the moment, has stepped into the place of the genius, of the leader for all time, of the deliverer from the tyranny of the moment. Now, tell me, distinguished master, what hopes could I still have in a struggle against the general topsy-turvification of all genuine aims for education; with what courage can I, a single teacher, step forward, when I know that the moment any seeds of real culture are sown, they will be mercilessly crushed by the roller of this pseudo-culture? Imagine how useless the most energetic work on the part of the individual teacher must be, who would fain lead a pupil back into the distant and evasive Hellenic world and to the real home of culture, when in less than an hour, that same pupil will have recourse to a newspaper, the latest novel, or one of those learned books, the very style of which already bears the revolting impress of modern barbaric culture--"
And in order that I may not shock you with general propositions, let us first try to recall one of those public school experiences which we have all had, and from which we have all suffered. Under severe examination what, as a matter of fact, is the present system of teaching German in public schools?
"I shall first of all tell you what it should be. Everybody speaks and writes German as thoroughly badly as it is just possible to do so in an age of newspaper German: that is why the growing youth who happens to be both noble and gifted has to be taken by force and put under the glass shade of good taste and of severe linguistic discipline. If this is not possible, I would prefer in future that Latin be spoken; for I am ashamed of a language so bungled and vitiated.
The public schools are certainly the seats of this obesity, if, indeed, they have not degenerated into the abodes of that elegant barbarism which is boasted of as being 'German culture of the present!'"
"But," asked the other, "what is to become of that large body of teachers who have not been endowed with a true gift for culture, and who set up as teachers merely to gain a livelihood from the profession, because there is a demand for them, because a superfluity of schools brings with it a superfluity of teachers? Where shall they go when antiquity peremptorily orders them to withdraw? Must they not be sacrificed to those powers of the present who, day after day, call out to them from the never-ending columns of the press: 'We are culture! We are education! We are at the zenith! We are the apexes of the pyramids! We are the aims of universal history!'--when they hear the seductive promises, when the shameful signs of non-culture, the plebeian publicity of the so-called 'interest of culture' are extolled for their benefit in magazines and newspapers as an entirely new and the best possible, full-grown form of culture! Wither shall the poor fellows fly when they feel the presentiment that these promises are not true--where but to the most obtuse, sterile scientificality, that here the shriek of culture may no longer be audible to them? Pursued in this way, must they not end, like the ostrich, by burying their heads in the sand? Is it not a real happiness for them, buried as they are among dialects, etymologies, and conjectures, to lead a life like that of the ants, even though they are miles removed from true culture, if only they can close their ears tightly and be deaf to the voice of the 'elegant' culture of the time.
"You are right, my friend," said the philosopher, "but whence comes the urgent necessity for a surplus of schools for culture, which further gives rise to the necessity for a surplus of teachers?--when we so clearly see that the demand for a surplus springs from a sphere which is hostile to culture, and that the consequences of this surplus only lead to non-culture. Indeed, we can discuss this dire necessity only in so far as the modern State is willing to discuss these things with us, and is prepared to follow up its demands by force: which phenomenon certainly makes the same impression upon most people as if they were addressed by the eternal law of things. For the rest, a 'Culture-State', to use the current expression, which makes such demands, is rather a novelty, and has only come to a 'self-understanding' within the last half century, i.e. in a period when (to use the favourite popular word) so many 'self-understood' things came into being, but which are in themselves not 'self-understood' at all. This right to higher education has been taken so seriously by the most powerful of modern States--Prussia--that the objectionable principle it has adopted, taken in connection with the well-known daring and hardihood of this State, is seen to have a menacing and dangerous consequence for the true German spirit; for we see endeavours being made in this quarter to raise the public school, formally systematised, up to the so-called 'level of the time'. Here is to be found all that mechanism by means of which as many scholars as possible are urged on to take up courses of public school training: here, indeed, the State has its most powerful inducement--the concession of certain privileges respecting military service, with the natural consequence that, according to the unprejudiced evidence of statistical officials, by this, and by this only, can we explain the universal congestion of all Prussian public schools, and the urgent and continual need for new ones. What more can the State do for a surplus of educational institutions than bring all the higher and the majority of the lower civil service appointments, the right of entry to the universities, and even the most influential military posts into close connection with the public school: and all this in a country where both universal military service and the highest offices of the State unconsciously attract all gifted natures to them. The public school is here looked upon as an honourable aim, and every one who feels himself urged on to the sphere of government will be found on his way to it. This is a new and quite original occurrence: the State assumes the attitude of a mystogogue of culture, and, whilst it promotes its own ends, it obliges every one of its servants not to appear in its presence without the torch of universal State education in their hands, by the flickering light of which they may again recognize the State as the highest goal, as the reward of all their strivings after education.
"Now this last phenomenon should indeed surprise them; it should remind them of that allied, slowly understood tendency of a philosophy which was formerly promoted for reasons of State, namely, the tendency of the Hegelian philosophy: yea, it would perhaps be no exaggeration to say that, in the subordination of all strivings after education to reasons of State, Prussia has appropriated, with success, the principle and the useful heirloom of the Hegelian philosophy, whose apotheosis of the State in this subordination certainly reaches its height."
"But," said the philosopher's companion, "what purposes can the State have in view with such a strange aim? For that it has some State objects in view is seen in the manner in which the conditions of Prussian schools are admired by, meditated upon, and occasionally imitated by other States. These other States obviously presuppose something here that, if adopted, would tend towards the maintenance and power of the State, like our well-known and popular conscription. Where every one proudly wears his soldier's uniform at regular intervals, where almost every one has absorbed a uniform type of national culture through the public schools, enthusiastic hyperboles may well be uttered concerning the systems employed in former times, and a form of State omnipotence which was attained only in antiquity, and which almost every young man, by both instinct and training, thinks it is the crowning glory and highest aim of human beings to reach."
"Such a comparison," said the philosopher, "would be quite hyperbolical, and would not hobble along on one leg only. For, indeed, the ancient State emphatically did not share the utilitarian point of view of recognising as culture only what was directly useful to the State itself, and was far from wishing to destroy those impulses which did not seem to be immediately applicable. For this very reason the profound Greek had for the State that strong feeling of admiration and thankfulness which is so distasteful to modern men; because he clearly recognised not only that without such State protection the germs of his culture could not develop, but also that all his inimitable and perennial culture had flourished so luxuriantly under the wise and careful guardianship of the protection afforded by the State. The State was for his culture not a supervisor, regulator, and watchman, but a vigorous and muscular companion and friend, ready for war, who accompanied his noble, admired, and, as it were, ethereal friend through disagreeable realty, earning his thanks therefor. This, however, does not happen when a modern State lays claim to such hearty gratitude because it renders such chivalrous service to German culture and art; for in this regard its past is a ignominious as its present, as a proof of which we have but to think of the manner in which the memory of our great poets and artists is celebrated in German cities, and how the highest objects of these German masters are supported on the part of the State.
"There must therefore be peculiar circumstances surrounding both this purpose towards which the State is tending, and which always promotes what is here called 'education'; and surrounding likewise the culture thus promoted, which subordinates itself to this purpose of the State. With the real German spirit and the education derived therefrom, such as I have slowly outlined for you, this purpose of the State is at war, hiddenly or openly: the spirit of education, which is welcomed and encouraged with such interest by the State, and owing to which the schools of this country are so much admired abroad, must accordingly originate in a sphere that never comes into contact with this true German spirit: with that spirit which speaks to us so wondrously from the inner heart of the German Reformation, German music, and German philosophy, and which, like a noble exile, is regarded with such indifference and scorn by the luxurious education afforded by the State. This spirit is a stranger: it passes by in solitary sadness, and far away from it the censer of pseudo-culture is swung backwards and forwards, which, amidst the acclamations of 'educated' teachers and journalists, arrogates to itself its name and privileges, and metes out insulting treatment to the word 'German". Why does the State require that surplus of educational institutions, of teachers? Why this education of the masses on such an extended scale? Because the true German spirit is hated, because the aristocratic nature of true culture is feared, because the people endeavour in this way to drive single great individuals into self-exile, so that the claims of the masses to education may be, so to speak, planted down and carefully tended, in order that the many may in this way endeavour to escape the rigid and strict discipline of the few great leaders, so that the masses may be persuaded that they can easily find the path for themselves--following the guiding star of the State!
"A new phenomenon! The State as the guiding star of culture! In the meantime one thing consoles me: This German spirit, which people are combating so much, and for which they have substituted a gaudily locum tenens, this spirit is brave: it will fight and redeem itself into a purer age, noble, as it is now, and victorious, as it one day will be, it will always preserve in its mind a certain pitiful toleration of the State, if the latter, hard-pressed in the hour of extremity, secures such a pseudo-culture as its associate. For what, after all, do we know about the difficult task of governing men, i.e. to keep law, order, quietness, and peace among millions of boundlessly egotistical, unjust, unreasonable, dishonourable, envious, malignant, and hence very narrow-minded and perverse human beings; and thus to protect the few things that the State has conquered for itself against covetous neighbours and jealous robbers? Such a hard-pressed State holds out its arms to any associate, grasps at any straw; and when such an associate does introduce himself with flowery eloquence, when he adjudges the State, as Hegel did, to be an 'absolutely complete ethical organism', the be-all and end-all of every one's education, and goes on to indicate how he himself can best promote the interests of the State--who will be surprised, if, without further parley, the State falls upon his neck and cries aloud in a barbaric voice of full conviction: 'Yes! Thou art education! Thou art indeed culture!'
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Deeply lost in the night.- Franz Kafka, "At Night*"
Just as one sometimes lowers one's head to reflect, thus to be utterly lost in the night. All around people are asleep. It's just play acting, an innocent self-deception, that they sleep in houses, in safe beds, under a safe roof, stretched out or curled up on mattresses, in sheets, under blankets; in reality they have flocked together as they had once upon a time and again later in a deserted region, a camp in the open, a countless number of men, an army, a people, under a cold sky on cold earth, collapsed where once they had stood, forehead pressed on the arm, face to the ground, breathing quietly.
And you are watching, are one of the watchmen, you find the next one by brandishing a burning stick from the brushwood pile beside you.
Why are you watching?
Someone must watch, it is said. Someone must be there.
* Wikipedia notes that “Kafka suggested the tale was influenced both by his persistent insomnia and a desire to relate the potential dangers of people in society who are not watched when they should be.”
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
- Ima Ryma, "If War Then We"
We the People have been at war,
And thousands have paid highest price,
This 21st century for
The whole time spent in sacrifice.
Less than one half of one percent
Of We the People have served in
The armed forces - that's evident.
Where have We, the rest of us, been?
We have been at home being free,
Expecting service from a few,
To do duty that all of We
Ought to be enlisting to do.
If We are the People We claim,
Then We all need skin in the game.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
The flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East into Western Europe has provoked a set of reactions strikingly similar to those we display on learning we have a terminal illness, according to the schema described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her classic study On Death and Dying. First there is denial: ‘It’s not so serious, let’s just ignore it’ (we don’t hear much of this any longer). Then there is anger – how can this happen to me? – which explodes when denial is no longer plausible: ‘Refugees are a threat to our way of life; Muslim fundamentalists are hiding among them; they have to be stopped!’ There is bargaining: ‘OK, let’s decide on quotas; let them have refugee camps in their own countries.’ There is depression: ‘We are lost, Europe is turning into Europastan!’ What we haven’t yet seen is Kübler-Ross’s fifth stage, acceptance, which in this case would involve the drawing up of an all-European plan to deal with the refugees.- Slavoj Žižek, "The Non-Existence of Norway"
What should be done? Public opinion is sharply divided. Left liberals express their outrage that Europe is allowing thousands to drown in the Mediterranean: Europe, they say, should show solidarity and throw open its doors. Anti-immigrant populists say we need to protect our way of life: foreigners should solve their own problems. Both solutions sound bad, but which is worse? To paraphrase Stalin, they are both worse. The greatest hypocrites are those who call for open borders. They know very well this will never happen: it would instantly trigger a populist revolt in Europe. They play the beautiful soul, superior to the corrupted world while continuing to get along in it. The anti-immigrant populist also knows very well that, left to themselves, people in Africa and the Middle East will not succeed in solving their own problems and changing their societies. Why not? Because we in Western Europe are preventing them from doing so. It was Western intervention in Libya that threw the country into chaos. It was the US attack on Iraq that created the conditions for the rise of Islamic State. The ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic between the Christian south and the Muslim north is not just an explosion of ethnic hatred, it was triggered by the discovery of oil in the north: France and China are fighting for the control of resources through their proxies. It was a global hunger for minerals, including coltan, cobalt, diamonds and copper, that abetted the ‘warlordism’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s and early 2000s.
If we really want to stem the flow of refugees, then, it is crucial to recognise that most of them come from ‘failed states’, where public authority is more or less inoperative: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, DRC and so on. This disintegration of state power is not a local phenomenon but a result of international politics and the global economic system, in some cases – like Libya and Iraq – a direct outcome of Western intervention. (One should also note that the ‘failed states’ of the Middle East were condemned to failure by the boundaries drawn up during the First World War by Britain and France.)
It has not escaped notice that the wealthiest countries in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates, Qatar) have been much less open to refugees than the not so rich (Turkey, Egypt, Iran etc). Saudi Arabia has even returned ‘Muslim’ refugees to Somalia. Is this because Saudi Arabia is a fundamentalist theocracy which cannot tolerate foreign intruders? Yes, but Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil revenues makes it a fully integrated economic partner of the West. There should be serious international pressure on Saudi Arabia (and Kuwait and Qatar and the Emirates) to accept a large contingent of the refugees, especially since, by supporting the anti-Assad rebels, the Saudis bear a measure of responsibility for the current situation in Syria.
New forms of slavery are the hallmark of these wealthy countries: millions of immigrant workers on the Arabian peninsula are deprived of elementary civil rights and freedoms; in Asia, millions of workers live in sweatshops organised like concentration camps. But there are examples closer to home. On 1 December 2013 a Chinese-owned clothing factory in Prato, near Florence, burned down, killing seven workers trapped in an improvised cardboard dormitory. ‘No one can say they are surprised at this,’ Roberto Pistonina, a local trade unionist, remarked, ‘because everyone has known for years that, in the area between Florence and Prato, hundreds if not thousands of people are living and working in conditions of near slavery.’ There are more than four thousand Chinese-owned businesses in Prato, and thousands of Chinese immigrants are believed to be living in the city illegally, working as many as 16 hours a day for a network of workshops and wholesalers.
The new slavery is not confined to the suburbs of Shanghai, or Dubai, or Qatar. It is in our midst; we just don’t see it, or pretend not to see it. Sweated labour is a structural necessity of today’s global capitalism. Many of the refugees entering Europe will become part of its growing precarious workforce, in many cases at the expense of local workers, who react to the threat by joining the latest wave of anti-immigrant populism.
In escaping their war-torn homelands, the refugees are possessed by a dream. Refugees arriving in southern Italy do not want to stay there: many of them are trying to get to Scandinavia. The thousands of migrants in Calais are not satisfied with France: they are ready to risk their lives to enter the UK. Tens of thousands of refugees in Balkan countries are desperate to get to Germany. They assert their dreams as their unconditional right, and demand from the European authorities not only proper food and medical care but also transportation to the destination of their choice. There is something enigmatically utopian in this demand: as if it were the duty of Europe to realise their dreams – dreams which, incidentally, are out of reach of most Europeans (surely a good number of Southern and Eastern Europeans would prefer to live in Norway too?). It is precisely when people find themselves in poverty, distress and danger – when we’d expect them to settle for a minimum of safety and wellbeing – that their utopianism becomes most intransigent. But the hard truth to be faced by the refugees is that ‘there is no Norway,’ even in Norway.
We must abandon the notion that it is inherently racist or proto-fascist for host populations to talk of protecting their ‘way of life’. If we don’t, the way will be clear for the forward march of anti-immigration sentiment in Europe whose latest manifestation is in Sweden, where according to the latest polling the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats have overtaken the Social Democrats as the country’s most popular party. The standard left-liberal line on this is an arrogant moralism: the moment we give any credence to the idea of ‘protecting our way of life’, we compromise our position, since we’re merely proposing a more modest version of what anti-immigrant populists openly advocate. And this is indeed the cautious approach that centrist parties have adopted in recent years. They reject the open racism of anti-immigrant populists, but at the same time profess that they ‘understand the concerns’ of ordinary people, and so enact a more ‘rational’ anti-immigration policy.
We should nevertheless reject the left-liberal attitude. The complaints that moralise the situation – ‘Europe is indifferent to the suffering of others’ etc – are merely the obverse of anti-immigrant brutality. They share the presupposition, which is in no way self-evident, that the defence of one’s own way of life is incompatible with ethical universalism. We should avoid getting trapped in the liberal self-interrogation, ‘How much tolerance can we afford?’ Should we tolerate migrants who prevent their children going to state schools; who force their women to dress and behave in a certain way; who arrange their children’s marriages; who discriminate against homosexuals? We can never be tolerant enough, or we are always already too tolerant. The only way to break this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance: we should offer others not just our respect, but the prospect of joining them in a common struggle, since our problems today are problems we share.
Refugees are the price we pay for a globalised economy in which commodities – but not people – are permitted to circulate freely. The idea of porous borders, of being inundated by foreigners, is immanent to global capitalism. The migrations in Europe are not unique. In South Africa, more than a million refugees from neighbouring states came under attack in April from the local poor for stealing their jobs. There will be more of these stories, caused not only by armed conflict but also by economic crises, natural disasters, climate change and so on. There was a moment, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when the Japanese authorities were preparing to evacuate the entire Tokyo area – more than twenty million people. If that had happened, where would they have gone? Should they have been given a piece of land to develop in Japan, or been dispersed around the world? What if climate change makes northern Siberia more habitable and appropriate for agriculture, while large parts of sub-Saharan Africa become too dry to support a large population? How will the redistribution of people be organised? When events of this kind happened in the past, the social transformations were wild and spontaneous, accompanied by violence and destruction.
Humankind should get ready to live in a more ‘plastic’ and nomadic way. One thing is clear: national sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new methods of global co-operation and decision-making devised. First, in the present moment, Europe must reassert its commitment to provide for the dignified treatment of the refugees. There should be no compromise here: large migrations are our future, and the only alternative to such a commitment is renewed barbarism (what some call a ‘clash of civilisations’).
Second, as a necessary consequence of this commitment, Europe should impose clear rules and regulations. Control of the stream of refugees should be enforced through an administrative network encompassing all of the members of the European Union (to prevent local barbarisms like those of the authorities in Hungary or Slovakia). Refugees should be assured of their safety, but it should also be made clear to them that they must accept the destination allocated to them by European authorities, and that they will have to respect the laws and social norms of European states: no tolerance of religious, sexist or ethnic violence; no right to impose on others one’s own religion or way of life; respect for every individual’s freedom to abandon his or her communal customs, etc. If a woman chooses to cover her face, her choice must be respected; if she chooses not to cover her face, her freedom not to do so must be guaranteed. Such rules privilege the Western European way of life, but that is the price to be paid for European hospitality. These rules should be clearly stated and enforced, by repressive measures – against foreign fundamentalists as well as against our own racists – where necessary.
Third, a new kind of international military and economic intervention will have to be invented – a kind of intervention that avoids the neocolonial traps of the recent past. The cases of Iraq, Syria and Libya demonstrate how the wrong sort of intervention (in Iraq and Libya) as well as non-intervention (in Syria, where, beneath the appearance of non-intervention, external powers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia are deeply involved) end up in the same deadlock.
Fourth, most important and most difficult of all, there is a need for radical economic change which would abolish the conditions that create refugees. Without a transformation in the workings of global capitalism, non-European refugees will soon be joined by migrants from Greece and other countries within the Union. When I was young, such an organised attempt at regulation was called communism. Maybe we should reinvent it. Maybe this is, in the long term, the only solution.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
- Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, "The Other Side of a Mirror"
I sat before my glass one day,
And conjured up a vision bare,
Unlike the aspects glad and gay,
That erst were found reflected there –
The vision of a woman, wild
With more than womanly despair.
Her hair stood back on either side
A face bereft of loveliness.
It had no envy now to hide
What once no man on earth could guess.
It formed the thorny aureole
Of hard unsanctified distress.
Her lips were open – not a sound
Came through the parted lines of red.
Whate'er it was, the hideous wound
In silence and in secret bled.
No sigh relieved her speechless woe,
She had no voice to speak her dread.
And in her lurid eyes there shone
The dying flame of life's desire,
Made mad because its hope was gone,
And kindled at the leaping fire
Of jealousy, and fierce revenge,
And strength that could not change nor tire.
Shade of a shadow in the glass,
O set the crystal surface free!
Pass – as the fairer visions pass –
Nor ever more return, to be
The ghost of a distracted hour,
That heard me whisper, "I am she!"
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise"
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
As was often the case with Magritte's works, the title Golconda was found by his poet friend Louis Scutenaire. Golkonda is a ruined city in the state of Telangana, India, near Hyderabad, which from the mid-14th century until the end of the 17th was the capital of two successive kingdoms; the fame it acquired through being the center of the region's legendary diamond industry was such that its name remains, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "a synonym for 'mine of wealth'."
Friday, December 4, 2015
is the reason that I'm so obsessed with you
And when I asked you your name you said John Wayne
And I guess it's true
Coz then you shot me down
Doubled over and I hit the ground right in front of you
I guess in the Wild West
it's ok to shoot the pest that's annoying you
Sunday, November 29, 2015
“Finished, it's finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished. Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there's a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap. I can't be punished any more. I'll go now to my kitchen, ten feet by ten feet by ten feet, and wait for him to whistle me. Nice dimensions, nice proportions, I'll lean on the table, and look at the wall, and wait for him to whistle me.”― Samuel Beckett, "Endgame"
Friday, November 27, 2015
Founded by Hartford N. Gunn Jr., PBS began operations on October 5, 1970, taking over many of the functions of its predecessor, National Educational Television (NET), which later merged with Newark, New Jersey station WNDT to form WNET. In 1973 it merged with Educational Television Stations.
Unlike the five major commercial broadcast television networks in the United States, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW – which compensate their affiliate stations to carry their programs – PBS is not a network but a program distributor that provides television content and related services to its member stations. Each station is charged with the responsibility of programming local content (often news, interview, cultural and public affairs programs) for their individual market or state that supplements content provided by PBS and other public television distributors.
In a television network structure, affiliates give up portions of their local advertising airtime in exchange for carrying network programming, and the network pays its affiliates a share of the revenue it earns from advertising (although this structure has been reversed in recent years, with the network compensated by the stations). By contrast, PBS member stations pay fees for the shows acquired and distributed by the national organization. Under this relationship, PBS member stations have greater latitude in local scheduling than their commercial broadcasting counterparts. Scheduling of PBS-distributed series may vary greatly depending on the market. This can be a source of tension as stations seek to preserve their localism, and PBS strives to market a consistent national lineup. However, PBS has a policy of "common carriage," which requires most stations to clear the national prime time programs on a common programming schedule to market them nationally more effectively. Management at former Los Angeles member KCET cited unresolvable financial and programming disputes among its major reasons for leaving PBS after over 40 years in January 2011.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Friday, November 20, 2015
- Waldo Williams, "What is it to be human?"
What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.
What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.
What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.
What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.
Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.
What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Here they met a quite different Aleksandr Petrovich, who declared from the very start that, where hitherto he had demanded their mere wit, now he would demand their highest intelligence - not the intelligence which can make fun of a fool and hold him up to ridicule, but that which can suffer any insult, can suffer a fool - and feel no irritation. Now he started to demand of them what others demand from children. It was this he called intelligence of the highest order. To be able, in the face of every possible disappointment, to preserve the sublime calm in which man should remain in perpetuity - that is what he called intelligence.- Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol, "Dead Souls: A Poem"
Thursday, November 5, 2015
It is this immanent gap that eludes Althusser's theory of the Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs). According to Althusser, what distinguishes the State from other social apparatuses is that- Slavoj Zizek, "Absolute Recoil"...everything that operates in it and in its name, whether the political apparatus or the ideological apparatuses, is silently buttressed by the existence and presence of public, armed physical force. That it is not fully visible or actively employed, that it very often intervenes only intermittently, or remains hidden and invisible - all this is simply one further form of its existence and action... one had to make a show of one's force so as not to have to make use of it;...it suffices to deploy one's (military) force to achieve, by intimidation, results that would normally have been achieved by sending it into action. We may go further, and say that one can also not make a show of one's force so as not to have to make use of it. When threats of brite force, or the force of law, subject the actors in a given situation to obvious pressure, there is no longer any need to make a show of this force; there may be more to be gained from hiding it. The army tanks that were stationed under the trees of Rambouillet Forest in May 1968 are an example. They played, by virtue of their absence, a decisive role in quelling the 1968 riots in Paris.The first thing to note here is the radical change of terrain that occurs when we pass from the first to the second level of avoiding the use of direct force. First one makes a show of force so as not to have to use it; then, one does not make a show of force so as not to have to use it. We are effectively dealing here with a kind of negation of negation: first we "negate" the direct use of force by replacing it with a mere show - say, in a tense situation in which the authorities expect violent demonstrations, they decide to parade columns of tanks through the working-class quarters of the city, expecting that this will dissuade the protestors; then this "negation" is itself "negated", ie, there is no show of force, but the authorities expect this to have an even more powerful deterrent effect than an open display of force - since the protestors know there is a police (or military) force ready to confront them, its very absence makes it all the more ominous and omnipotent. The first negation operates at the level of the imaginary: the real of the brutal use of force is substituted by a fascinating spectacle designed to deter protestors. The second negation operates at the level of the symbolic: it is only within the symbolic order of differentiality that "the presence-absence (a presence rendered effective by its very absence)" functions, ie, that absence can count as a positive feature even more powerful than presence. And it is this properly symbolic dimension that Althusser ignores, as it is clear from a footnote attached to the quoted passage, in which Althusser draws attention to how Perry Anderson likened "the presence-absence... of the state's armed forces to the monetary gold reserves of the Central bank's:general circulation in all its forms (which are practically infinite) takes place independently of the presence of the gold stocks on the market. Yet, such circulation would be impossible if these reserves did not exist... they "impinge" on the market" simply because they make this market (this market and no other) possible, in exactly the same way as the invisible (should I say "repressed"? - that is indeed the right term as far as most people are concerned, since they "do not care to know" that these reserves exist and play a determinant role) presence of the police or armed forces impinges on a situation.From this second example, we can clearly see what Althusser misses: the "little piece of the real" (the armed force, gold reserves) that can remain in the background since it can perform its function without being used, that people believe there is an armed force hidden in the background (or gold reserves in an inaccessible bank vault). The real in the background that serves as the ultimate guarantee and support of the public power is thus a spectral entity- not only does it not need to exist in reality, if it did appear and directly intervene in reality, then it would risk losing its power, since as Lacan made clear, omnipotence (toute-puissance) necessarily reverts into "all-in-potency" (tout en puissance): a father who is perceived as "omnipotent" can only sustain this position if his power remains forever a "potential," a threat which is never actualized. The full use of force, painful as it might be, makes it part of reality and as such by definition limited. This- and not only the shame of what they had done - was the reason the Chinese authorities turned their crackdown at Tiananmen Square, in which (at least) hundreds died, into a non-event: it was a direct exercise of brute force, but it took place at night, invisibly, like a nightmarish-spectral event of rumor; peace and order were immediately restored, all traces of the conflict erased, the appearance of life carrying on as normal resumed. If a regime gets involved in open warfare against its own population, it risks losing not only the minimum of its legitimacy but the very source of its power.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Hamsadhvani (meaning Sound of Swans) also spelled as Hansadhwani, is a rāga in Carnatic music (musical scale of Carnatic tradition of Indian classical music). It is an audava rāgam (or owdava rāga, meaning pentatonic scale). It is a janya rāga (derived scale), as it does not have all the seven swaras (musical notes).
Hamsadhvani is also extensively used in Hindustani music and said to be borrowed into it from Carnatic music. It was created by the Carnatic composer Ramaswami Dikshitar (1735–1817) and brought into Hindustani music by Ustad Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendibazaar gharana.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Autumn"
Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
On Oct. 15, Daniel A. Bell, the author of The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, sat on a panel hosted by Asia Society’s ChinaFile Presents series. The event, co-hosted by the New York Review of Books, also included panelists Timothy Garton Ash, Zhang Taisu, Andrew Nathan, and others, who discussed with Bell the question his book addresses — does China have an identifiable political model, and if so, what is it? The following ChinaFile conversation includes excerpts, edited for clarity, of that discussion.
Daniel A. Bell, chair professor of the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing and director of the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center:For much of Chinese imperial history, public officials were selected first by examination and then by performance evaluations at lower levels of government. The fascinating thing is that this system has been reestablished in form over the past 30 years in China — highly imperfectly, as we’ll see. When this idea hit me, I began writing op-eds, and I was severely criticized by my liberal friends and my Confucian friends who asked, “What’s happened to this guy? He’s become a staunch defender of the government.” But that’s not what I mean.
I call my method contextual political theory: the idea that a political theorist should aim to make coherent and rationally defensible the leading political ideals of a society. I happen to find myself in China, so what are the leading political ideals of Chinese society? I label it “vertical democratic meritocracy,” the ideal that has informed political reform in China over the past 30 years. But there is still a huge gap between the ideal and the practice. This ideal is good, at least reasonably good, and can and should continue to inspire political reform in China in the foreseeable future.
What is this idea of “vertical democratic meritocracy”? This is the idea that democracy works well at lower levels of government. This is a view that Western political theorists have argued, starting with Aristotle, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. If you have a small political community the issues are fairly easy to understand, and you know the moral character of the leaders you’re choosing, thus making a strong case for democracy at the lower level. But, in a huge country, as you go up the political chain of command, the issues become more complex and mistakes become more costly.
There’s a need to institutionalize a system to select and promote leaders with superior qualities. It’s a good case for democracy at the lower level, and for meritocracy up top — and in between, we don’t exactly know what’s going to work, so there should be allowances for lots of experimentation and testing for different ways for selecting and promoting political leaders.
Democracy on the bottom, experimentation in the middle, and meritocracy on top — that’s a pretty good way of thinking about how to govern a large country, and I argue that it fits Chinese political culture pretty well. There was a terrible experiment with populism during the Cultural Revolution, so there’s a strong case to reestablish this kind of political meritocracy.
Let me say a little bit about the gap between the reality and the ideal. I am not defending the status quo. I am defending this ideal that I use as a standard to evaluate the status quo. How could it be improved? For one thing, democracy at the lower levels of government: elections at the village level have improved but there’s still a long way to go to make the elections more free and competitive. There’s a very good case for other features of democratic values and institutions to inform the political process — deliberation, consultation, public hearings, referenda. All these tools are very important, as well as certain levels of democratic elections at higher levels of government. There’s a case for more democracy. There’s also a case for better scientific evaluation of the experiments. Nowadays you have experiments at middle levels of government, but who decides whether they’re successful or not? There’s a need for more expert evaluation of what counts as success.
Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford:I think we owe Daniel a debt of gratitude for giving us a much more sophisticated version of the China model than Eric Li, Zhang Weiwei, or the egregious Col. Liu Mingfu. This is at least one we can engage with rationally.Andrew J. Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University:
Secondly, I think it would be a very good thing if there were a China model. It would be good for China, because it would increase the probability of a peaceful evolution. It would be good for the West, I think, because it’s good for the West to have a serious credible ideological competitor. I would argue many of the problems of the West — the hubris of the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis — are partly derived from the fact that after the end of the Cold War we did not have a serious competitor. So, it would be great if it existed.
Thirdly, and this is in agreement with Daniel, clearly there has been significant political reform and change. This is not a version of the Soviet Union. There’s policy experimentation in the cities and local government of the provinces. Anyone who’s been to a Chinese university knows that there’s fierce competition from the brightest if not the best students to be recruited to the Communist Party. All true. Nonetheless, I’m afraid that the system I see on repeated visits to China and compare with other communist and post-communist systems, is simply not the one that Daniel describes. He just said political meritocracy is not working as well as it should. But the answer is that it’s not working as well as it should, because it isn’t political meritocracy. It actually isn’t.
Let me give you one example from the book. He describes a meeting with the minister responsible for the organization department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who describes the selection process for the secretary general of that important department. Nominations from all sides. Examinations. Examinations put out in the corridor for public scrutiny. An inspection team. Finally a vote. A wonderful meritocratic process. Now, neither Daniel nor I were actually behind those closed doors, but we know a lot about how the CCP works — and it doesn’t work like that. There is massive factionalism, factional struggle, clientelism, patronage, and corruption. We know that from numerous studies of the party, and indeed from books the party itself has published. So we know that the selection of that very important person was not the glorious theory described by the ministry of the organization committee. And incidentally, I think one thing we have to discuss with Daniel is whether he’s actually looking at the practice, in which case we have to test what he says against the practice, or the theory, in which case let’s look at the theory, which is largely Leninist. Daniel also mentioned the lack of free speech, the…worsening lack of free speech. How you can have a genuine meritocracy, when you cannot publicly canvas all the credible policy alternatives, is very hard to see. In short, I think political meritocracy is not working because it’s not political meritocracy. And I think this means it’s actually going to be very difficult for this system to manage the extremely complex challenges it’s facing as economic growth slows down, the supply of cheap labor is exhausted, and society becomes increasingly mature and educated, with higher aspirations. So I wish it were true. But I’m afraid it’s not.Daniel has said correctly that this is a book of political theory. His training at McGill and his early writing was to promote and explain a theory called communitarianism, which is a critique of liberal democracy that is internal to the West. He’s been to China, and he’s written that when he got to some places — Singapore, Hong Kong, and then China — he found in Confucianism and in Chinese culture a version of communitarianism that seemed to him even stronger and better. So this is not really a book about the real China. It isn’t intended to be a book about the real China. It’s very easy, however, to misunderstand it as a book about the real China. But it’s really a book of theory, a book of idealism, of a model in the sense of the other meaning of the word model — as something that we might imagine as a kind of blueprint. I want people to understand that Daniel himself is describing the book as a book of theory. What is the theory behind it? Bell mentions three levels: democracy, experimentation, and meritocracy. It is chiefly a defense of political meritocracy. So that’s the key to his argument. And what is meritocracy? It’s the selection of leaders who have both ability and virtue, and virtue is very important to Daniel as a political philosopher and as an ethical philosopher.
My big disagreement with the book is whether the meritocratic selection of people by ability and virtue produces a better form of government. And I think the core fallacy in that argument as theory is that it overlooks the exercise of power. It focuses on the selection of rulers but doesn’t pay attention to how those rulers are checked and balanced and overseen by a free society. Whether the Chinese system or whether an imaginary meritocratic system could actually select better people than democracy selects is speculative. I admit that democracy doesn’t always select the best people. I think that examples that we’ve seen of dictatorships also show us that they don’t usually select the best people. Whether Xi Jinping is a man of ethical superiority, I doubt, and I think Obama is probably a more virtuous person than Xi Jinping, but who knows? The key to democracy is not in the selection of leaders. The selection of leaders is very important, but what makes democracy better than authoritarianism is the checking of leaders by the freedom of others, and this is a point I think that Daniel overlooks, though he has acknowledged what he calls a gap between the ideal and the practice in China. That gap is not an accident. That gap is produced by the structure of the political system. When he talks in his book about liberal democracy, he doesn’t talk about a gap between the ideal and the practice. He just talks about the imperfections of actual liberal democracies, as they are in practice, and those imperfections exist.
Taisu Zhang, associate professor at the Duke University School of Law:I want to further follow on this theoretical discussion. One theoretical concern I had reading the book was whether the book is actually comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. The argument of the book goes like this: There is a theory of political meritocracy, which is partially embodied in the Chinese system. It has the potential to generate better governance results, better governance outcomes than this arguably flawed model of Western democracy. In a sense, you are judging both the Chinese model and the Western model on whether it generates good governance results. But that is, to some political theorists, kind of a strange way to judge the Western democratic model, because the Western democratic model initially conceived, especially for example in the early American republic, was not necessarily purely or even primarily designed to generate good governance results. It was designed to further the democratic ideal of one person, one vote, of representative government. The core virtue of democratic government was in the innate legitimacy and the innate justice of elections, of the selection process. In which case, arguing that democracy tends to generate bad governance results tends to miss the theoretical point of what actually makes democracy go in democratic countries. And you could even further this point to discuss whether this also overlooks some certain theoretical aspects of the meritocracy model.
For example, if you look at the meritocracy model and how it functions in late imperial China by the examination system, because of the shrinking of the size of the state throughout the Qing [dynasty], the state goes from extracting eight to nine percent of GDP per year as state revenue to pretty much less than one percent by the end of the dynasty. The increasing insignificance of the state meant that generating good governance via the state itself was of increasing less importance. But that said, the overwhelming social importance of the examination still held. And why was that? Because in the mind of Chinese elites, this is the only just way, the only socially legitimate way to select leaders, through an open, transparent, free-for-all academic examination. So there is also an element of selection-based legitimacy in the meritocracy model as well. Even purely evaluating that model on the basis of whether it generates good governance results may be overlooking some of the other things that go into whether that model actually functions or not. Perhaps a separate question the book should perhaps ask, but at this point does not fully ask, is — does either model agree with the perceived social legitimacy of selection in either society? Are they actually selecting leaders in a perceived-to-be legitimate way, based on the conditions of their own society? Of course what is perceived to be a legitimate way of selection evolves over time, and you could argue that in China today, what may be the most socially legitimate way and socially popular way of selecting leaders may be considerably more democratic than the party allows. That could be a problem.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day
We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man
We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but truly mending
Brick by brick, heart by heart
Now, maybe now
We start learning how
We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man
When your trust is all but shattered
When your faith is all but killed
You can give up, bitter and battered
Or you can slowly start to build
A beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But finally a city of man.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Krákumál (Death Song of Ragnar Lodbrok)
We hewed with the brand!
Long since we went to Gothland for the slaying of the Worm,
There I won Thora and my name of Leathern-Breeches,
Since I pierced that serpent through, with my blade of inlaid steel.
We hewed with the brand!
Young was I when east of Oere-sound we made good breakfast for the wolves,
While our steels sang on the high-crested helms much food did they find,
Blood-stained the sea, the ravens waded through.
We hewed with the brand!
Ere twenty years passed o'er us, high-borne were our spears,
At Dvina's mouth in the far east eight jarls did we lay low,
Warriors died; the crimson death colored the sea and ravens feasted.
We hewed with the brand!
The war-queen loved us when we sent the Helsinga to Odin's halls,
Keen bit the feathered arrow when our ships reached Iva's flood East Baltic ,
Gay was the music of sword on breast-plate and cleft shield.
We hewed with the brand!
Great was our courage when fierce Herraudr, 'mid his winged steeds, died.
No jarl more fearless sent his framing coursers o'er the main;
His stout heart drove him, fearless, by the sea-fowls' haunt.
We hewed with the brand!
The brand bit sore at Scarpa-reef Scarborough , the sword flew from its sheath,
Crimson the borders of our moon-shields when King Raven died;
Loud roared the spear on Ulla's field, as low lay Eystan the King.
We hewed with the brand!
O'er us was fated Herthiof to win a mighty victory,
There fell my son, bold Rognvald, before the host of spears.
His bow, unerring, shot in Sudorey Hebrides its last fatal bolt.
We hewed with the brand!
In Ireland King Marstan let not the she-wolf nor the eagle starve.
A sacrifice he made at Wetherford Waterford , for the steel-thorn issuing from its sheath,
Pierced to the heart of Ragnar, fearless son of mine.
We hewed with the brand!
South we played at war with three kings, the blood of the Irish dyed the sea,
Then stormed we to the sword-play at the river-mouth of Anglesey,
No kissing of a girl was it to fight as we fought there.
We hewed with the brand!
Little did I wot that at the hands of Ella my death should come!
Yet what boots it? None can withstand his fate and well is it
To quaff the mead in skull-boughs drinking horns in the great hall of Odin.
We hewed with the brand!
Before cold death does no brave man quail; no thought of fear have I.
Soon with the battle wake when Aslaug's sons their bitter blades unsheath,
Soon will they learn the manner of my death, stout hearts of their brave mother!
We hewed with the brand!
My life is well-nigh o'er; sharp is the pang that the serpent gives.
Goinn the Snake, nests deep in my heart. No more will my children rest;
Great wrath will be theirs at the undoing of their sire.
We hewed with the brand!
Full gladly do I go! See the Valkyrjar fresh from Odin's halls!
High-seated among heroes shall I quaff the yellow-mead.
The Aesir welcome me. Laughing gladly do I die!
The complete Old Norse skaldic poem "Krákumál" (Lay of Kráka), probably composed at the end of the 12th century on Iceland, consists of 29 stanzas.
In 1782, Rev. James Johnstone translated the above 13 stanzas. He was an eminent Scandinavian antiquary, and for some years chaplain to the English envoy extraordinary in Denmark.
Ragnar Lodbrok (Ragnar 'Hairy-Breeches', Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók) was a semi-legendary king of Sweden and Denmark who reigned sometime in the eighth or ninth centuries. As the "Ragnars saga loðbrókar" has it, he was a renowned Viking and dragon-killer. He died bravely, laughing in the face of death, in a snakepit in which his enemy Ælla of Northumbria had him thrown. His sons avenge him.
Note that Ragnar has a vision of entering Valhall even though he does *not* die in battle ! This is one of ca. five similar instances in written lore when a non-battle death still leaves the hero eligible for Valhall. These examples are usually ignored in modern heathen discussions about who goes or doesn´t go to Valhall...
"We hewed with the brand" = We fought with the sword.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
- Red Mint, "Red Dress" (2014)
Red alluring dress
Wearing a woman.
Red versus black, -
I envy God
Not power, but the vision.
Quivering eyelashes will
Furbish the dirty feet
Smelling of Mother - - -
Let's get acquainted.
Is measured by
Friday, October 9, 2015
- John Donne, "The Indifferent"
I can love both fair and brown,
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays,
Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays,
Her whom the country formed, and whom the town,
Her who believes, and her who tries,
Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
And her who is dry cork, and never cries;
I can love her, and her, and you, and you,
I can love any, so she be not true.
Will no other vice content you?
Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?
Or doth a fear that men are true torment you?
O we are not, be not you so;
Let me, and do you, twenty know.
Rob me, but bind me not, and let me go.
Must I, who came to travail thorough you,
Grow your fixed subject, because you are true?
Venus heard me sigh this song,
And by love's sweetest part, variety, she swore,
She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more.
She went, examined, and returned ere long,
And said, Alas! some two or three
Poor heretics in love there be,
Which think to ’stablish dangerous constancy.
But I have told them, Since you will be true,
You shall be true to them who are false to you.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
“Love desires personality; therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces. […] This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; what for the Buddhist (or Theosophist) personality is the fall of man, for the Christian is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea. The world-soul of the Theosophists [or Buddhist] asks man to love it only in order that man may throw himself into it. But the divine center of Christianity actually threw man out of it in order that he might love it. […] All modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into different living souls.”G.K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"
Friday, October 2, 2015
- William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 129"
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
παροικία, παροικίας, ἡ (παροικέω, which see), a Biblical and ecclesiastical word a dwelling near or with one; hence, a sojourning, dwelling in a strange land: properly, Acts 13:17 (2 Esdr. 8:35; Psalm 119:5 (); Wis. 19:10; Prol. of Sir. 21; cf. Fritzsche on Judith 5:9). Metaphorically, the life of man here on earth, likened to a sojourning: 1 Peter 1:17 (Genesis 47:9); see παρεπίδημος (and references under παροικέω).Thayer's Greek Lexicon
Despite the prevailing mood of constricted parochialism that pervades the Christian faith and the commonly presumed vision of the Church as a world within the world, an enclave much like a gated community, the very notion of "parish" - given its Greek etymology of "paroikia" - was to begin with meant to refer to a world as the place where you're kept from forget(ting) you're not here to stay, but (moreover, immediately Boutin adds) on a journey.- Gabriel Vahanian, "Theopoetics of the World"
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Sunday, September 27, 2015
- Artis (~2008)
Uncompromising love, even a dog punished returns to lick the fingers of its master.
"Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit."
Eyes that look beyond the faults of those who love it,
"In the final analysis, love is the only reflection of man's worth."
Always eager to greet us, and anxious to go along,
"We are each of us angels with only one wing. We can only fly while embracing each other.'
Leading the blind and the disabled gracefully,
"The soul that can speak with its eyes can also kiss with a gaze."
Warning of dangers nearby, ever watchful of all approaching,
"A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion."
Friday, September 25, 2015
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
- Emily Brontë, "Last Lines"
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life - that in me has rest,
As I - undying Life - have power in thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou - thou art Being and Breath,
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
Friday, September 18, 2015
- Billy Collins, "Writing in the Afterlife"
I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,
shot with pristine light,
not this sulphurous haze,
the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.
Many have pictured a river here,
but no one mentioned all the boats,
their benches crowded with naked passengers,
each bent over a writing tablet.
I knew I would not always be a child
with a model train and a model tunnel,
and I knew I would not live forever,
jumping all day through the hoop of myself.
I had heard about the journey to the other side
and the clink of the final coin
in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,
but how could anyone have guessed
that as soon as we arrived
we would be asked to describe this place
and to include as much detail as possible—
not just the water, he insists,
rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,
not simply the shackles, but the rusty,
iron, ankle-shredding shackles—
and that our next assignment would be
to jot down, off the tops of our heads,
our thoughts and feelings about being dead,
not really an assignment,
the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—
think of it more as an exercise, he groans,
think of writing as a process,
a never-ending, infernal process,
and now the boats have become jammed together,
bow against stern, stern locked to bow,
and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens.
Monday, September 14, 2015
Dalí's paintings Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at a distance of 20 meters is transformed into the portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko), and the original Lincoln in Dalivision lithographs produced from these paintings were some of the first examples of the photomosaic artistic approach by a recognized artist. "The Recognition of Faces," by Leon Harmon (Scientific American, November 1973) was the first published work on photomosaic concepts. Harmon was a Bell Labs researcher who had been developing this concept, and the first image in this article was the well recognized portrait of Abraham Lincoln from the U.S. five dollar bill made from a collection of solid gray mosaics. Dalí began his first painting that led to Lincoln in Dalivision in 1974 and finished the version that would be used for Lincoln in Dalivision in 1976. Harmon's Lincoln mosaic was the basis for all of Dalí's Lincoln photomosaics, which is evident by comparing the solid gray mosaics from Harmon's paper and the final works of art by Dalí.
Friday, September 11, 2015
I am all pain yet there is no relief
In this darkness, where is light?
falling apart from grief, alone and abandoned
where is my tower of strength in life?
I ran from Chakhmaleh to Ghom
to see you Mahdi with no success
The mullah of the town said, I must have not been worthy
Said, maybe you talked to me but I didn't hear
Maybe because I am full of sin and transgressions Mahdi
I am quite unhappy with myself Mahdi
Where are you that I may wash your feet with my tears
My passion is meeting you and I wait for your resurrection
Sir, let me tell you something with all my heart
Its six months that I have not been paid my monthly salary
You that runs the whole affairs of the world
Maybe throw a half glance our way too, your devotee
No straight is left in my legs holly sir
I am awake all night thinking of my predicament
My daughter, your servant, her wedding is coming up
maybe somebody can take her hand, so she can live in more comfort
All our hopes rests on you sir
don't let me be embarrassed in front of my family
It counts for nothing that I am a father of a [Iran/Iraq war] martyr
I saw no benefits from the "Maryr Organization"
That sin should be counted for those who say
who say those same people [who run the Organization] are like bandits
But I know nothing of politics
at the end some people come and some people go
But we stay the same poor schmuck that we were before
dear sir, please you make our prayers come true
Mahdi, you have made a fool of us
we plead to you, call on you so often
but you don't give us a helping hand, you don't hear this prayer
Mahdi, how long should we call on God?
Visiting you also belongs to those who in your name
buy and sell hundreds like me
Generation after generation we have been Schmucks
In the news we live but in the census we are dead
when your hands are empty [when poor] you are a vagabond
They have sucked our marrow dry, where are you Mahdi?
A hungry stomach can't raise its voice
you are in the well [Chamkaran well, near Ghom, said to be Mahdi's temporary's living quarters till his resurrection] and you know nothing of where we are at
the pressures from these American Sanctions
is it for anyone other than those like me oh holy one?
Everything is futile and aimless except subsidies [refers to a plan to direct basic subsidies based on income]
and that has also specified based on some plan or politics
that those like me can't get their heads around it
when would ever our intellect be able to comprehend the holy government? [government run by God's representative on earth as it is portrayed currently]
I swear to you dear sir, I am tired of living
Just take this life and bring me comfort for God's sake
one time we are somebody's impoverished
and we are given promises of water and energy and a house [Khomeini's now famouse promiss of free amenities upon IRA's success after revolution of 79]
Another time we have to go to war and die
[based on the] the bullshit of "Karbalah we are coming" [Khomeini's edict that the war with Iraq will not end till the city of Karballah in Iraq is taken by Iranian forces]
Eight years of living with false progress
with brats [of government officials] living in Dubai, London and Hawaii
Eight years we joked about it and lived with it
Then July 3, 09 [came around] and the [university] student martyrs
the gulf with its oil that's no longer ours
we are now children, abandoned orphaned children
What ever earth covers the grave of the Great Koroush
May it be a blessing to your long life, when will you come back?
There is a lump in our throat from sorrow Mahdi
you are not there or you have closed your eyes Mahdi
Mahdi, you have made a fool of us
we plead to you, call on you so often
but you don't give us a helping hand, you don't hear this prayer
Mahdi, how much longer should we call on God ....
Thursday, September 10, 2015
“I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!”― Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Sylvia Plath, "Mirror"
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
-Slavoj Zizek, Excerpted from “Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism”
Slavoj Žižek: Ayn Rand’s Tea Party lie — Now we know who John Galt is
How long will Tea Party base stick to basic irrationality of protecting working people by protecting the 1 percent?
This paradox was rendered palpable in the autumn 2013 shutdown of the U.S. state apparatus. What was this shutdown really about?
In the middle of April 2009, I was taking a rest in a hotel room in Syracuse, N.Y., jumping between two channels: a PBS documentary on Pete Seeger, the great American country singer of the Left, and a Fox News report on the anti-tax “Tea Party” in Austin, Texas, in which another country singer performed an anti-Obama populist song full of complaints about how Washington is taxing hard-working ordinary people to finance rich Wall Street financiers. There was a weird similarity between the two singers: both formulated an anti-establishment populist complaint against the exploitative rich and the state, calling for radical measures including civil disobedience.
All of which is another painful reminder that, at least with regard to the form of organization, today’s radical-populist Right strangely reminds us of the old radical-populist Left. Are today’s Christian survivalist-fundamentalist groups, with their half-legal status and seeing the main threat to their freedom in the oppressive state apparatus, not organized like the Black Panthers in the 1960s? In both cases, we have a militarized group getting ready for the final battle. How long will this masterful ideological manipulation continue to work? How long will the base of the Tea Party stick to the fundamental irrationality of its agenda to protect the interest of the hard-working ordinary people by privileging the “exploitative rich” and thereby literally countering their own interests?
Some of us remember the old infamous Communist tirades against the bourgeois “formal” freedom—ridiculous as they are, there is an element of truth in this distinction between “formal” and “actual” freedom. A manager in a company in crisis has the “freedom” to fire worker A or B, but not the freedom to change the situation which imposes on him this choice. The moment we approach the U.S. healthcare debate in this way, the “freedom to choose” appears in a different way. True, a large part of the population will be effectively delivered of the dubious “freedom” to worry about who will cover their illness, to find a way through the intricate network of financial and other decisions. Being able to take basic healthcare for granted, to count on it like one counts on a water supply without worrying about having to choose the water company, people will simply gain more time and energy to dedicate to other things.
The lesson to be learned is that freedom of choice is something which actually functions only if a complex network of legal, educational, ethical, economic and other conditions exists as the invisible thick background of the exercise of our freedom. This is why, as an antidote to the ideology of choice, countries like Norway should be held as a model: although all main agents respect a basic social agreement and large social projects are enacted in solidarity, social productivity and dynamics are at an extraordinary level, flatly denying the common wisdom that such a society should be stagnating.
Not many people know—and even fewer appreciate the irony of the fact—that “My Way,” Frank Sinatra’s iconic song that supposedly expresses American individualism, is an Americanized version of the French song “Comme d’habitude,” which means “as usual,” or “as is customary.” It is all to easy to see this couple—the French original and its American version—as yet another example of the opposition between sterile French manners and American inventiveness (the French follow established customs, while Americans look for new solutions)—but what if we drop the false appearance of opposition and discern in the habit of “comme d’habitude” the hidden sad truth of the much-praised search for new ways? In order to be able to do it “my Way,” each of us has to rely on quite a lot of things going on comme d’habitude. Quite a lot of things, in other words, have to be regulated if we are to enjoy our non-regulated freedom.
One of the weird consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown and the measures taken to counteract it (enormous sums of money to help banks) was the revival of the work of Ayn Rand, the fullest ideological expression of radical “greed is good” capitalism: the sales of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged exploded. According to some, there are already signs that the scenario described in Atlas Shrugged—the “creative capitalists” themselves going on strike—is now being enacted. Yet this reaction almost totally misreads the situation: most of the gigantic sums of bail-out money went precisely to those deregulated Randian “titans” who failed in their “creative” schemes and in doing so brought about the meltdown. It is not the great creative geniuses who are now helping lazy ordinary people; rather, it is the ordinary taxpayers who are helping the failed “creative geniuses.” One should simply recall that the ideologico-political father of the long economic process which ended up in the 2008 meltdown was Alan Greenspan, a card-carrying Randian “objectivist.” So now we finally know who John Galt is—the idiot responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown and, consequentially, for the threat of the shutdown of state apparatuses.
In order truly to awaken from the Randian capitalist “dogmatic dream” (as Kant would have put it), we should apply to our situation Brecht’s quip from the Beggar’s Opera: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” What is the stealing of a couple of thousand dollars, for which one goes to prison, compared to financial speculations which deprive tens of millions of their homes and savings, and are then rewarded by state help of sublime grandeur? Maybe José Saramago was right when he proposed treating the big bank managers and others responsible for the meltdown as perpetrators of crimes against humanity, whose place is in the Hague Tribunal; maybe one should not treat this proposal just as a poetic exaggeration in the style of Jonathan Swift, but take it seriously. This, however, will never happen since, after the doctrine of the bank too big to indict (since, one can argue, its indictment would have catastrophic consequences for the financial and moral status of the ruling elites).
These elites, the main culprits for the 2008 financial meltdown, now impose themselves as experts, the only ones who can lead us on the painful path of financial recovery, and whose advice should therefore trump parliamentary politics, or, as Mario Monti put it: “Those who govern must not allow themselves to be completely bound by parliamentarians.” What, then, is this higher force whose authority can suspend the decisions of the democratically elected representatives of the people? The answer was provided back in 1998 by Hans Tietmeyer, then governor of the Deutsches Bundesbank, who praised national governments for preferring “the permanent plebiscite of global markets” to the “plebiscite of the ballot box.” Note the democratic rhetoric of this obscene statement: global markets are more democratic than parliamentary elections since the process of voting goes on in them permanently (and is permanently reflected in market fluctuations) and at a global level—not only every four years, and within the confines of a nation-state. The underlying idea is that, freed from this higher control of markets (and experts), parliamentary-democratic decisions are “irresponsible.”
What is new today is that, with the continuing crisis which began in 2008, this same distrust of democracy—once confined to the Third World or post-Communist developing countries—is gaining ground in developed Western countries themselves: what was a decade or two ago patronizing advice to others now concerns ourselves. But what if this distrust is justified? What if only experts can save us, with full or less-than-full democracy?
The least one can say is that the current crisis offers many proofs of how it is not the people but the experts themselves who, in large part, don’t know what they are doing. In Western Europe, we are effectively witnessing a growing incapability of the ruling elite—they know less and less how to rule. Look at how Europe is dealing with the Greek crisis: putting pressure on Greece to repay debts, but at the same time ruining its economy through imposed austerity measures and thereby ensuring the Greek debt will never be repaid. At the end of December 2012, the IMF itself released research showing that the economic damage from aggressive austerity measures may be as much as three times larger than previously assumed, thereby cancelling its own advice on austerity in the Euro-zone crisis.
Now, the IMF admits that forcing Greece and other debt-burdened countries to reduce their deficits too quickly would be counterproductive—now, after hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost because of such “miscalculations.” And herein resides the true message of the “irrational” popular protests all around Europe. The protesters know very well what they don’t know: they don’t pretend to have fast and easy answers, but what their instinct is telling them is nonetheless true—that those in power also don’t know it. In Europe today, the blind are leading the blind. Austerity politics is not really science, not even in a minimal sense. It is much closer to a contemporary form of superstition—a kind of gut reaction to an impenetrably complex situation, a common sense reaction of ‘”things went wrong, we are somehow guilty, we have to pay the price and suffer, so let’s do something that hurts and spend less.”
Austerity is not “too radical,” as some Leftist critics claim, but, on the contrary, too superficial: an act of avoiding the true roots of the crisis.
Another example of such magic thinking (and a true model of what Hegel called abstract thinking) is the so-called “Laffer curve,” evoked by free-market advocates as a reason against excessive taxation. The Laffer curve is a representation of the relationship between possible rates of taxation and the resulting levels of government revenue, illustrating how taxable income will change in response to changes in the rate of taxation. It postulates that no tax revenue will be raised at the extreme tax rates of 0 per cent and 100 per cent, and that there must be at least one rate where tax revenue would be a nonzero maximum: even from the standpoint of the government which taxes business, the highest revenue is not gained by the highest taxes. There is a point at which higher taxes start to work as a disincentive, causing capital flight and consequently lower tax revenues.
The implicit premise of this reasoning is that today the tax rate is already too high, and that lowering the tax rate would therefore not only help business but also raise tax revenues. The problem with this reasoning is that, while in some abstract sense it is true, things get more complex the moment we locate taxation into the totality of economic reproduction. A great part of the money collected by taxation is again spent on the products of private business, thereby giving incentive to it. More important even, the proceeds of taxation are also spent on creating the appropriate conditions for business.
Let us take two comparable cities, one with a lower business tax rate and the other with a higher one. In the first, city public education and healthcare are in a bad condition, crime is exploding, and so on; the second city, meanwhile, spends higher revenues on better education, better energy supply, better transport, etc. Is it not reasonable to suppose that many businesses would find the second city more attractive for investment? So, paradoxically, if the first city decides to follow the second in its tax policy, raising taxes may give more incentive to private business.
(And, incidentally, many half-developed ex-Communist countries to which developed countries are outsourcing their industries are exploited, in the sense that Western business gains access to a cheaper skilled workforce that has benefited from public education: thus, the socialist state provides free education for the workforces of Western companies.)