Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Dissidents

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 »

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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 »

The Good News of Ahmed Kathrada and His Words, 4.20.2017

My friend Pat Geier shared this short film on Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in prison alongside Nelson Mandela.

Share the Wealth with Colin McLaughlin: The Life of Eugene Debs

Eugene V. Debs was a free speech advocate, a presidential candidate, a trade unionist, and a man who dedicated his life to economic justice for the working class and antiwar efforts surrounding World War One, “The War To End All Wars.” (This nation entered that conflict 100 years ago this month.) We will discuss how these causes have been furthered since the time of Debs, and how some of the issues have stayed the same, or worsened. We can also ask ourselves if anyone in our current political arena emulates the life of Eugene Debs.

Colin McLaughlin has been working on a research project/theatrical production about Eugene Debs presidential run from prison, after he was convicted for opposing the first world war (and encouraging draft dodgers). Come discuss the saga of Eugene Debs, the play being written about him and his plight for social justice, the deep relevance of what he fought for, and how it relates to our current social/political landscape.

Join us
Sunday 23 April
Potluck begins at 6:00 p.m.
Colin begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Andrew Wimmer
5712 Arendes Dr.
South City Saint Louis
63116

The Good News of a Play, 3.31.2017

Playwright, clown, musician, and mensch Colin McLaughlin has invited friends over this evening to do a collective reading of his new play, Jailbird, about Eugene Debs. Colin asked me to read Debs’ famous statement to the judge at his trial for sedition, which includes the following: “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”  May Colin’s retrieval of Debs eventually spread light and spark determination all over the U.S. and beyond.

The Way It Looked In 1968

Within a short period of time there will be no Jewish workers in Israel. The Arabs shall be the workers; the Jews shall be the managers, inspectors, officials, and policemen and mainly secret service men. A state governing a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners is bound to become a Shin Bet state, with all that this would imply to the spirit of education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. This corruption, characteristic of any colonial regime, would be true for Israel. The administration will be forced to deal with the suppression of an Arab protest movement and the acquisition of Arab quislings. We must fear that even the army and its officers, a people’s army, will deteriorate by becoming an occupation army, and its officers, turned into military governors, will not differ from military governors elsewhere in the world.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Israeli philosopher and scholar
Yediot Ahronot
March 1968
Quoted in George Baramki Azar, Palestine: A Photographic Journey

Yesh Leibowitz

 

What One Veteran Said

Vietnam veteran Wayne Smith: We were broken. I had so much anger and pain. I was crushed. I left like I had blood on my hands. I resisted calling the Vietnamese gooks and dinks, but near the end of it I found those vulgar words would come out of my mouth several times; I had contempt for myself. How could I have been so stupid and foolish to believe this country? How could I have been so foolish to think that I could really save lives as a medic? How could I really make a difference in the face of so many catastrophic injuries? Read the rest of this entry »

The Way It Looked in 1970 (Pessimism of the Intelligence, Optimism of the Will)

What can we do to affect the events that are to come? First, we must not make the mistake of placing trust in the government. The large upsurge of antiwar sentiment can be an effective device for changing national policy if it is sustained in continuing mass actions across the country. Otherwise the administration can ride out the storm and continue as before to systemically demolish the society of South Vietnam and Laos. It is difficult week after week, month after month, to sustain a high level of protest against the war. American society becomes more polarized and the true, familiar Nixon emerges in the person of Mitchell or Agnew, as the threat of repression becomes more real, it will be hard to maintain the kinds of resistance and protest that the Vietnam catastrophe demands. As the reports of massacres and automated murder becomes routine, the impulse to respond by violence may become more difficult to stifle, despite the realization that this can only have the effect of bringing the mass of the population to “ignore resultant atrocities.” Continued mass actions, patient explanation, principled resistance can be boring, depressing. But those who program the B-52 attacks and the “pacification” exercises are not bored, and as long as they continue in their work, so must we.

–Noam Chomsky, “After Pinkville,”  At War with Asia, 83-84

 

Viet Cong Youth Volunteer La Thi Tam counts bombs dropped by American bombers. This was to enable delayed-fuse bombs to be located and deactivated. 1967

Viet Cong Youth Volunteer La Thi Tam counts bombs dropped by American bombers. This was to enable delayed-fuse bombs to be located and deactivated.

No Time for Literary Criticism

You are the voice of people with adhesive tape across their mouths
This is no time for literary criticism.
Nor for attacking the gorillas with surrealistic poems.
And what use are metaphors if slavery is not a metaphor,
If death in the river of the Dead is not a metaphor,
If the Squadron of Death is not?

–Ernesto Cardenal, from his Epistle to Monsignor Casaldáliga

Scan 43

Dom Pedro Casaldáliga

photo by Mev