Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: May, 2009

The Price is Worth It*

For Brooke Adams

Large nations do what they wish, while small nations accept what they must.
–Thucydides

Imperialism says it wants to make us happy!
–Ernesto Cardenal

One does not become revolutionary from science, but from indignation.
–Maurice Merleau-Ponty

 

Get rid of Moussadegh who nationalized Iran’s oil
Work with SAVAK torturers who know how to deal with trouble-makers
Support Shah’s mid-70s nuclear program aspirations
Claim the Iranian people love the Shah
We think the price is worth it

Destroy the village to save the village
Support thugs from Diem to Thieu
Blast South Vietnam to smithereens
Bomb the North (and Laos and Cambodia)
Nixon doesn’t care about civilians
Use Agent Orange, napalm, CBUs, search and destroy
General Westmoreland: Orientals don’t value life like us Westerners
Distribute 20 million bomb craters compliments of U.S. Air Force
Body counts show we’re winning
(McNamara later estimates three million Vietnamese dead from war)
We think the price is worth it Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

On Nervousness and Gnats

1.

pros•e•cute (pròs¹î-ky¡t´) verb pros•e•cut•ed, pros•e•cut•ing, pros•e•cutes verb, transitive 1. Law. a. To initiate civil or criminal court action against. b. To seek to obtain or enforce by legal action. 2.a. To pursue (an undertaking, for example) until completion; follow to the very end. b. To chase or pursue (a vessel): “He held a dispatch saying that [they] had prosecuted and probably killed an Echo-class missile submarine” (Tom Clancy). 3. To carry on, engage in, or practice.

American Heritage Dictionary

2.

“This whole thing about punishing people in past administrations reminds me more of a banana republic than the United States of America.

We don’t criminally prosecute people we disagree with when we change office.

There are lots of questions that could have been asked of the Clinton administration failing to recognize the war on terror. They did not. The Bush administration went forward and that’s the way our country should.

The president said he was going to be forward looking. Now he has opened up a stab in the back.

I am saying that those who want to have public hearings and show trials in the United States Congress, such as may be in the House, would be following tactics that are more appropriate for a banana republic.

I don’t think the Obama administration wants to say the next time the Republicans get in control they will have show hearings-trials and try to institute criminal prosecutions against people who carried out orders of the Obama administration.

So I don’t think that the president or anybody in the administration wants to be caught in that action, and I think there must be a number of leaders and former leaders of Congress who are pretty nervous about having their authorizations and appropriations questioned as violating the law.”

–Missouri Senator Kit Bond, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, 4.23.2009

3.

The above response by Senator Bond is remarkable for its impromptu bluntness.

We don’t criminally prosecute people with whom we disagree; however, we have a responsibility to prosecute people who have committed crimes. For instance, torturing human beings.

Like any student of 20th century European history, Senator Bond surely must know that stating one was following orders constitutes no justification for committing crimes.

Bond’s rhetoric is a case study in defensiveness: “banana republic,” “stab in the back,” and “show trials.” Like “a number of leaders and former leaders of Congress,” Bond appears nervous about where all this could lead. This is worth noting.

4.

“I have to turn down your summons to duty. I won’t come along to squeeze the trigger on your behalf. Of course, I have no illusions. To you I am a buzzing gnat that you will swat and try to crush before striding on. You’ll find yourself another gunner, more obedient and gifted than me. There’s no shortage. Your tank will rumble on. One single gnat can’t halt a tank, certainly not a column of tanks, certainly not the entire march of folly. But the gnat can buzz, irritate, infuriate, occasionally even sting. Ultimately, more and more gunners, drivers and commanders, who will see more and more aimless killing, will also start thinking and buzzing. There are already many hundreds of us. Ultimately our buzzing will ascend into a deafening outcry that will echo in your years and the ears of your children, and on the pages of history for many generations.”

–Israeli Yigal Bronner, from his letter to an Israeli general on his refusal to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories

5.

President Obama said, “No one is above the law.” Those are easy words in the abstract. But one must apply those words to our particular context. Thus, to be specific, former president Bush is not above the law.

What does it say to our own youth as well as people around the world, that because a person is powerful, he or she need not be accountable when they violate the law?

For any American who believes in justice, Senator Bond has unwittingly alerted us to the task ahead. For starters, we, the people, must push for prosecution of those high officials who instigated a policy of torture.

One or two gnats won’t bother Senator Bond and his past and present colleagues.

But it could be hard to ignore a hundred that “buzz, irritate, infuriate, occasionally even sting.”

A thousand could “ascend into a deafening outcry.”

Thanks to Rhoda, Andrew, Nima, and Lalenka, for last night’s discussion.

Jesuit Values

The Jesuits clearly influenced me with their strict organization, their discipline, and their values. [p. 118]

I believe that Christ was a great revolutionary. That’s what I believe. His entire doctrine was devoted to the humble, the poor; his doctrine was devoted to fighting against abuse, injustice, and the degradation of human beings. I’d say there’s a lot in common between the spirit and essence of his teaching and socialism. [p. 17]

Well, Christ multiplied the fish and loaves to feed the people. That is precisely what we want to do with the revolution and socialism: multiply the fish and the loaves to feed the people: multiply the schools, teachers, hospitals, and doctors; multiply the factories, the fields under cultivation, and the jobs; multiply industrial and agricultural productivity; and multiply the research centers and the number of scientific research projects for the same purpose. [p.249]

–Fidel Castro, from Fidel and Religion: Conversations with Frei Betto on Marxism and Liberation Theology (2006 edition)

Fidel and Religion

America and Brandeis

One of Allen Ginsberg’s more famous poems is his “America.” Yesterday, I came across a contemporary revision of it (to some degree) by a woman who goes by Victoria the Obscure.

I post both below….

America
Allen Ginsberg
1956

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
from Russia.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.
Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and
twentyfivethousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his
automobiles more so they’re all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy.
America you don’re really want to go to war.
America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

 

 

Brandeis
Victoria the Obscure
2009

Brandeis I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
Brandeis two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 2009.
I can’t stand my own mind.
Brandeis when will we end the recession?
Go fuck yourself with your budget crisis
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
Brandeis when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million students?
Brandeis why are your libraries full of tears?
Brandeis when will you stop wasting money on local eggs?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into financial services and pay my tuition with my good looks?
Brandeis after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your poverty is too much for me.
You made me want to be a scholar.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Carl J Shapiro is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
Brandeis stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
Brandeis the apple blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
fraud.
Brandeis I feel sentimental about the activists.
Brandeis I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Dartmouth Road I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t sing our alma mater.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
Brandeis I still haven’t told you what you did to my dreams after the faculty meeting.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let our educational life be run by Wall Street Journal?
I’m obsessed by Wall St Journal.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the c-store.
I read it in the basement of the Goldbfarb Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am Brandeis.
I am talking to myself again.
The Administration is rising against me.
I haven’t got a poor students’s chance.
I’d better consider my financial resources.
My financial resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and
twentyfivethousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my dorms nor the millions of students who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the merit aid of scholars, majors is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m considerate.
Brandeis how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Glen or Glenda my bathrooms are as individual as his
bathrooms more so they’re all different sexes
Brandeis I will sell you funds $2500 apiece $500 down for your old curriculum
Brandeis free the Arts program
Brandeis save the undergraduate curriculum
Brandeis academic excellence must not die
Brandeis I am the laid off faculty
Brandeis when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1935 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy.
Brandeis you don’re really want to go to change your academic philosophy.
Brandeis it’s them bad financiers.
Them finaicers them financiers and them alumani. And them financiers.
Jehuda Reinharz wants to eat us students alive. He’s power mad. He wants to take
our scholarships from out our pockets.
He wants to shut down Rose Art. He needs a new admissions building. He wants more money from abroad students. Him big bureaucracy running our education.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Jews lose money. Him need part-time workers.
Hah. He make us all work sixteen hours a day (for a useless interdisciplinary major). Help.
Brandeis this is quite serious.
Brandeis this is the impression I get from reading the internet.
Brandeis is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to stay at your school, waste money for a poor degree
I’m too intelligent and focused anyway.
Brandeis I’m putting my pretentious shoulder to the wheel.

The Scholars by William Butler Yeats

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?