Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Dissidents

As Broad and Powerful as Possible

Mark Rudd, Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen (William Morrow, 2010)

If a white person wants to help our cause, ask him what he thinks of John Brown. Do you know what Brown did? He went to war.

Malcolm X

 

Underground is an often engaging book, thanks to Mark Rudd’s honesty, maturity, and sense of humor. He was a privileged middle-class Jewish baby-boomer who went to Columbia University, got radicalized, became committed to ending the U.S. war on Indochina, and escalated his commitment, so he thought, to the faction of the movement that resorted to armed violence. What if, in 1970, Dan Berrigan had been able to sit down (when he was underground) and had a heart to heart with Rudd? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Preferential Option for the Rich

“[You in the Western countries]  have organized your lives around inhuman values [which] are inhuman because they cannot be universalized. The system rests on a few using the majority of the resources, while the majority can’t even cover their basic necessities. It is crucial to define a system of values and a norm of living that takes into account every human being.”

–Father Ignacio Ellacuría
Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy

Finkelstein’s Gaza

I just received  Norman  Finkelstein’s latest book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom.  I noticed this blurb by Alice Walker:

“This is the voice I listen for, when I want to learn the deepest reality about Jews, Zionists, Israelis, and Palestinians. Norman Finkelstein is surely one of the forty honest humans the Scripture alludes to who can save ‘Sodom’ (our Earth) by pointing out, again and again, the sometimes soul-shriveling but unavoidable Truth. There is no one like him today, but in my bones I know this incredible warrior for Humanity and Justice is an archetype that has always been. And will always be. Small comfort in these dark times, perhaps, but a comfort I am deeply grateful for.”

 

Three Hours in the Morning

In Talking with Sartre, U.S. professor John Gerassi explores a fascinating range of subjects with the French intellectual, writer, and activist.  At the book’s conclusion, Gerassi writes, “What we must do instead, he said, is commit ourselves over and over again. No act is pure. All acts are choices, which alienate some. No one can live without dirty hands. To be simply opposed is also to be responsible for not being in favor, for not advocating change. To fall back on the proposition that human actions are predetermined is to renounce mankind. No writer can accept the totalitarianism implied by ‘human nature.’ If he writes, he wants to change the world—and himself. Writing is an act. It is commitment.”   Throughout,  I became particularly intrigued by Sartre’s musings and reflections on the writing life…

Projects don’t exclude death—projects are the antithesis of death. That’s an important difference. The project is an act. Writing is an act. My projects right now: the next part of CDR. Then I think I want to write my political testament.  16

I never changed in my being: I am what I am and write. 30

Once one decides to be a writer, one’s conception of life, one’s whole being changes. … travel, experience as many different circumstances as possible. Go into every world. Go see how the pimps live in Constantinople. Why Constantinople? There are pimps right here, around the corner. Because travel, experience, give a richness to the writing. All adventures help, including sexual adventures, love, et cetera….A writer has to choose the false against the true. When you decided to be a writer, you couldn’t make that choice because you wanted a revolution, you worked for a revolution. I was nothing but what I wrote. You had a goal. I was my goal. 34 Read the rest of this entry »

On “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” by Carly Hofstetter

Carly is taking my Humanities class at Maryville and shared the following with me, and I am happy to share with you.

After watching this documentary I realized I know little to nothing about China, or about the struggle their people face, like Ai Weiwei. It’s shocking to think that the things that he faced are something many people face in China. Just because people try to speak up about basic human rights and common decency. I think Ai Weiwei’s a strong man, even though he grew up in a period where many artists like his father were persecuted because of who they were and their ideas. Growing up in a situation like that you’d think he’d stray from the artist path, but instead he continues what his father and many other artists were doing. He’s not radical about it either, he chooses what battles to face and doesn’t stop until he sees results. Other artist are scared to express themselves or their feelings against the government but Ai Weiwei isn’t. His art is so blunt and to the point, where as others hide their true meaning. He doesn’t let the government scare him into being something he’s not. He stays true to himself, which is a kind hearted person who cares for the people of his country.
Read the rest of this entry »

For All My Friends Who Are Free Spirits

“What is now proved was once only imagin’d.”
–William Blake

Free Spirits desire the emancipation of all humankind
Free Spirits conceive a habitable, harmonian world
Free Spirits know that no revolution has gone far enough
Free Spirits reject cynicism & despair
Free Spirits resolve immobilizing antinomies
Free Spirits dream extravagantly
Free Spirits prepare the negation of capital
Free Spirits meditate social transformation
Free Spirits subvert the culture of regression and death
Free Spirits affirm the power of the imagination Read the rest of this entry »

After Reading a 2002 Book by Arundhati Roy

What is happening to our world is almost too colossal for human comprehension to contain. But it is a terrible, terrible thing. To contemplate its girth and circumference, to attempt to define it, to try and fight it all at once, is impossible. The only way to combat it is by fighting specific wars in specific ways. A good place to begin would be the Narmada Valley. In the present circumstances, the only thing in the world worth globalizing, is dissent.

–Arundhati Roy, Power Politics, 86

 

What Roy Teaches Me:

You have to do research, as the neo-liberal devil is in the details.

You have to walk with people struggling and accompany and risk with them.

You have to incarnate your freedoms, lest they fall into rhetoric that is debased from desuetude.

You have to ask the fundamental questions—who benefits, who pays, who get marginalized?

You have to be SMART, with goals and targets, and relentlessness. Read the rest of this entry »

What I Can Use: Notes on Waldman and Birman’s Civil Disobediences

“Emerson was not a systematic reader, but he had a genius for skimming and a comprehensive system for taking notes…. He read rapidly, looking for what he could use.” p. 67

“He read widely in every field that interested him and he was always pushing into new fields. He read, as he wrote, rapidly. He read actively, as a writer does, looking for what he could use.” p. 99

“Not only must one have the courage to appropriate freely whatever one recognizes as one’s own, one must have the much greater courage to resist and refuse everything that is not one’s own material.” 174

—Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire

_______________________

29 January 2016 Notes from Anne Waldman and Lisa Birman, eds., Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action

This work is helpful for re-looking at Dear Layla, ideas for classes, stimulus to various practices.

Dear Layla is, literally, specifically, “an essay.”  [What is his genre? —- “Treatise, memoir, travelogue, elegy, novel, dance of the dead… the books seem built of elements of all of these and of none.”  —Hunt, on Sebald, 394]

Dear Layla —“Sentiment at realizing you’ve arrived at the thing that will penetrate through  your own core to other people’s core, and do it through the real world. Describing the real world in such a way as to find the pattern of the real world.” —Ginsberg,  265

Dear Layla —“Writers and intellectuals bear great responsibility for this because if one gives up the right to narrate or intervene, both at home and in other parts of the world, that vacuum will be filled by the discourses of ‘experts.’” —Alcalay, 451

Dear Layla —“Invoke Investigative and Documentary Poetics. Know the score! Know the history!”  —Waldman, 329 Read the rest of this entry »

The Usefulness of Human Rights

Reading the odd, short book Things That Can and Cannot Be Said, I was reminded of the gripping 1979 study by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky on “the political economy of human rights.” The date of publication is significant. The Carter administration had been in power over two years. It was Carter’s task, after the U.S. generated bloodbaths in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in the 1960s and 70s, to restore faith in the American Way, by assuring the world that “human rights” was the heart and soul of American policy. You could see how true this was by considering the close, cozy relations between the Carter presidency and dictators like Somoza, Duvalier, Suharto, the South American generals, and the Shah of Iran.

Actor John Cusack invited writer Arundhati Roy to rendezvous with whistle blower Edward Snowden and Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Dan Ellsberg. Things That Can and Cannot Be Said has short essays and conversations about issues pertaining to state power and surveillance. Most interesting for me, though, are Roy’s remarks on human rights scattered over a few pages: Read the rest of this entry »

A Witness to Power’s Mendacity

A while back I reread David Barsamian’s first collection of interviews with Noam Chomsky, entitled Chronicles of Dissent.  Actually, I first heard the material starting in the mid-1980s, listening to Barsamian’s cassette tapes of interviews as I drove around Louisville and back and forth to Cincinnati and Chicago in  the often grim days of the second Reagan Administration. Since then, Chomsky’s readership has expanded considerably; even in his late eighties, the linguist still produces two or three books a year. I’ve lost count of the number of collaborative works he’s done with Barsamian.

Something I’ve found refreshing about Chomsky’s lectures and interviews is he speaks pretty much in plain English. There’s no academic jargon. And there’s no cheerleading for American Exceptionalism.  Here’s one terse example: “When the guys we don’t like do it, it’s terrorism. When the guys we do like do it, it’s retaliation.”  When ISIS beheads people, it’s barbarism. When Israel uses white phosphorus on people in Gaza, it’s self-defense.

The media play a key role in focusing attention in how we as US citizens and those of our allies suffer or are harmed. Here’s Chomsky commenting on an issue form the mid-80s : “There’s a big fuss and there should be, about American veterans who have suffered under Agent Orange. However, there’s a slight observation that might be made, and that is that the people of Vietnam suffered a thousand times as much, and we’re certainly not trying to help them, in fact we want to increase their suffering.” U.S. veterans finally came to be seen as “worthy” of care and consideration; what the U.S. did to Vietnam and its people is “unworthy” of U.S.  compassion, much less reparations. Read the rest of this entry »