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Sunday, April 30, 2006


It is hard to write. It goes beyond the usual slothfulness of writers who much rather watch the Big Show in the Times Square or Piccadilly Circus of their mind's eye than force themselves to put pencil to paper and push that graphite tipped ploughshare back and forth on hardscrabble paper under the blazing hot sun. (I'll be back after a quick breather...)

I never realized how hard until I began to learn Arabic. I suddenly remembered how much work we had put into learning English! We studied Vocabulary, we had Reading Class, we diagrammed sentences, we had reading to do at home; we even 'sounded out' unfamiliar words. There is a website for an organization called 'adala which is a legal aid organization which helps to look after the rights of Palestinians in Israel. Palestinians form about 20% of the population of Israel. Now 'adala has its site in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. So I had the brainy idea of using the Arabic alongside the English for study. The outcome, however, was a surprise. Even though I am reading the short stories of Zakaria Tamir, I could not make any sense whatsoever of the articles in 'adala. I knew the meaning of the words. I had an English translation, so I knew what they were trying to say. But I could not figure out how they were trying to put their Arabic together. I was amazed. However, upon reflection, I may have found an explanation. 'adala is a legal association.
The main work of lawyers is not necessarily to write intelligibly for non-lawyers. We are so used to our native language that we are actually able to understand a wide range of people, even those who have a slender grasp of English. And we can probably read legalese. But not Arabic legalese. In Business writing, people write " I am in receipt of your letter." as if "receipt" were a state of being. I am in a "funk", I am in a" state of rage", I am in a "state of having-received-a-letter". Terrible. Surely, "I have received your letter" is preferable, but that is not what they say. Another instance is " per your instructions..." as if "per" means "according to". Not really. Not in this galaxy. Not under Augustus Caesar, not under George Bush. We read it and we understand it. Think how difficult it would be for someone new to the lingo, however.

I'm afraid 'adala's articles in my mind were like those magnets with words located on certain refrigerator doors and which one can push around to create poems with double entendres; just a bunch of words with no particular logical web connecting them. Think how wonderful it is to be able to write. Not only to write, but to write in such a way that other minds may actually follow your trail of words to whatever enchanted forest you choose to lead them. Not too shabby.

At this point we may have reached a Narrative and this concept, much used in recent Philosophy, may be much more than a trifling with words and a run at a story. I think a Narrative is the end result of Concept-Generating Intelligence experiencing the world about them. Narrative is the result of taking experience, creating Short Term Memory, and eventually creating Long Term Memory. ( Remembered dreams are the first conscious processing in this. The dreams and their structure may seem weird and wired, but they do exhibit structure and this structure is the first bit of consciousness on the way to Narrative.)
Narrative is not just writing, because we could be writing nonsense. It is writing which compels, writing which moves the soul, writing which makes us laugh, writing which reminds us of where we come from. The great bond of sympathy create by Narrative comes from its being common to all mankind. (note: narrative also exists in other conscious behaviors other than Language.) I will say that I believe writers have a great responsibility to their readers. All people have responsibility to each other. But the great artists have a greater burden. Their ability is truly God-given.

Now, I have read that Ann Coulter has recently run afoul of decency again by calling for someone to be killed with rat poison. She says she was kidding. Perhaps she and Pat Roberston can put together a new Kings of Comedy show: What's up with Hugo Chavez? Just kill 'em! " Bodda-bing. " What's up with the President of Iran? Nuke 'em." Bodda-bam. Every society has unstable people. If someone were to act upon this immoral urging, would Ms. Coulter disavow responsibility? Sooner or later, if the tenor of public discourse continues to be conducted at a level appropriate for thugs, a violent act in conformity to the spoken or written "thugese" will occur. Then what? ( There has been a Godfather Marathon here on TV. I have seen and heard that the criminal element has changed into legitimate businessmen over time. I believe some of the Godfather pictures trace this process. HOWEVER, what you do not frequently hear is that businessmen have also changed into being more like the criminal element. Enron comes to mind. Similarly, certain people in the media have adopted a manner of conversation which is strongly redolent of the underworld. I know an individual who refers to Ann Coulter as " Julia Streicher", not due to her politics but due to her intemperance.) A writer should never have to wake up with a moral hang-over. No one should. Maintain the bonds of Morality and Godliness.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mea Culpa Friday

Today is Mea Culpa Friday. My wife said my tirade against Boomers ignores the sacrifice of those who died in Vietnam. Yes it does. Forgive me this. In every generation there are those who give all, those whose honor is unstained, those who are loyal, those who are godly, those whose very actions keep the world in existence by what they do. Our soldiers are among these souls. In the Book of Numbers, I believe, there is a short description how a returning soldier is to purify himself before returning to his people. A state of ritual impurity was recognized for those who killed. A soldier fighting for his country was not subject to the strict prohibition against killing, but he could not escape ritual impurity. The re-integration of soldiers into society was a large issue after their return from Vietnam. The ultimate job of a soldier is to kill on behalf of those at home who will not bear the burden of killing. To be in the face of great violence and to be compelled to violent acts injure the soul. We should have provided a more effective passage from war to home, for many Vietnam soldiers faced neglect at best and active disapproval at worst. I was talking, or,rather, listening to Fahd last night. He had not been to Arabic class since last fall, praise be. Last night, we had not secured the strategic railways in our rear, so to speak,and we were stuck between Fahd and a hard place. He said that he had spoken with numerous personnel who had been in Iraq and had been rotated home and they were pretty negative about what they had to do there. I realize Fahd is not the most dependable source. However, we may see the same problem as this war comes to its end: as it becomes more and more unpopular, soldiers returning from Iraq may run into the same wall of silence and opprobrium that greeted those Vietnam vets. Or, it might be worse. That's what surprises me about the present age: there's always a new wrinkle that's worse. We have seen people traveling about the country staging protests at the funerals of the slain, ostensibly protesting whatever tolerant and benign disposition has escaped solitary and become part of the public forum: gay rights in this instance. So even in death, these soldiers whom we asked to go to war cannot be at peace. This cannot be the result.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Ministry of Democracy:1

The government of Palestine has been formed by the Hamas party. A number of people who are not franchised to vote maintain that the Palestinian voters have seriously erred - a failure of democracy, in short. Ideally, Democracy should lead to results that make us happy. It says so in the Federalist Papers, does it not? The elections in Iraq were recently held, but they were not held until the reverend Ali As-Sistani sent his supporters peacefully into the streets demanding a vote. If an election were held at an inopportune time, the wrong type of people might be elected. There is a National Endowment for Democracy which provides funds for democracy, but always with the proviso that the ends MUST justify the means: if we send you money, we must have a compliant government. It would be good if the government were elected lawfully, but... I digress. (When I was young, I never thought to see the dark, dystopic visions of the future contained within the less cheery yarns of science fiction come true. Who could imagine pyramids of naked prisoners and gleeful soldiers? I have been thrown off balance by the present. Forgive my digressions.)

What the uncomplicated minds of our theoreticians of democracy do not seem to be aware of is the history of Democracy. Observe the concentration of wealth into the hands of the few in our country. Observe the growth of the permanent poor. Be mindful that basic health care is not available for all and multiple cosmetic surgeries are available for the rich. Now, in what process did Democracy arise in Ancient Greece? How did it arise in Athens? It came to fruition in a struggle between the rich and the not-rich, the Oligoi and the Demos, the few and the many. We could use an old term and call it a class struggle. This struggle occurred in almost every city state in Ancient Greece. Athens had one outcome, Sparta had another.
It is apparent that Democracy to our government means a continuation of what we see before us: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I do not mind the rich getting richer. What I find totally unchristian is the acceptance of the progressive degradation of the poor - OR the soon-to-be poor. Everything that flows from the present leaders, whether in government or not, is another face of the selfish, corrupt Proteus of a capitalism which in its essence rejects Christian charity. Capitalism is not constrained to reject Charity; WE have chosen to do so and have chosen to accept this disgusting form of Capitalism which I am sure even Adam Smith would view with abhorrence if it were to lumber drunkenly into his chambers!
Democracy was born in sharing power. And just as wealth means power, so does power mean wealth in an equivalence of social well being. We may be creating a situation in our own country which will lead to a civic contest for Democracy. What we are trying to spread throughout the world is not Democracy. What is it, then? I am not sure yet.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts: 1

On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts was the title of a pamphlet by Thomas DeQuincy of Confessions of an English Opium Eater fame. I never read it entirely. At the time I came across it, I was in a quandary as to how to evaluate the morality of Art and individual expression. I was stuck in a mire and my analytic neurons were beginning to look for work elsewhere. I have heard that Art is subservient to the State, to a Class, or it is above and beyond such things and is independent of earthly concerns. Certain tasteless representations of religious objects in proximity to waste products, I think, were in our view at the time. When I read the title of DeQuincy's essay, there was an immediate "ah-ha!" I realized that anything under the sun that a man can do may be considered to be Art if only enough of mankind believes it to be. Even Murder may be a Fine Art if there are artists of Murder, and if there are critics of Murder, and IF there is an audience for Murder. And there is. Murder is a Fine Art. The audience is ourselves. There is an Industry which caters to our perversity. From the Bombing of Baghdad and Son of Bombing of Baghdad to the Unpleasantness in Aruba, Murder is an Art which ranges from High to Low and intrudes into our homes.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

We Don't Persecute Other Religions

I was talking with the nurse who was taking my height and weight. I seem to have decreased in height, not in weight. There is always a decrease, a diminution, a thinning, a weeding out, a certain sparseness, a diminuendo of those things which I fancy render one attractive and a corresponding accentuation of the characteristics we share with the troll species.

So, we were speaking of religion. (We seem to be a lot like those inhabitants of Constantinople Gibbon talks so much about: if you ask the greengrocer how much are leeks today, he answers that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, and so on.)
We spoke of Christianity and Islam. She said that whatever one thinks of Christianity, at least we here in this country do not kill people for their religious beliefs.

Now, interestingly enough, this was the day when about 6 Branch Davidians who escaped the bonfire in Waco were to be released from prison. I mentioned them. She was silent. I was embarrassed over being so combative. I'm usually not so quick, either. I think this was also the day when the Chinese leader was received at the White House.
I know it is difficult to believe that the good old USA killed people over their religious beliefs. The Branch Davidians' religious beliefs must have been secondary to some other beliefs which rendered them outside the rules of civilization. And the tragedy must have been a mistake. While we are about propping up the indefensible, Abu Ghraib was an aberration and reflects nothing about the people in whose name that war is fought. The intent of an evil act changes homicide to manslaughter.

However, the end result is the same from the victim's point of view. If you were to formulate a legal canon and a philosophy of morality strictly from the viewpoint of victims, not the intent of the perpetrator, the distinction between homicide and manslaughter might disappear. It is not clear whether God shares our forensic distinctions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I was speaking to a nurse who was drawing blood from my arm today. She spoke of the Roman Catholic Church. Coincidentally, I am feeling more sympathetic to the Bishop of Rome recently. The Nurse trusts all men of good will. However, when it comes to Power, she trusts the RC Church. She trusts the Church because it has already learned many lessons about the abuse of power. The Church has seen itself corrupted by worshipping Power in its 2,000 year history. It has had valuable experience. Not so for the Christian Right. They desire Power more than Charity, she thinks, and they are yet to learn the hard lessons of placing desire for Power before God. Amen. I never thought I would live to see the day when we became the icon of torture and abuse. I hope I am spared the day when the Christian Right is learning that Power tends to corrupt and the absolute Power of the mightiest nation on earth corrupts absolutely.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I have gotten in the habit of reading the BBC News when I rise. Then, if time allows, I look at news from some corporate outlet, such as The New York Times.

I can not get over the incredible lemming rush to war in 2002-2003 where no opposition was expressed in Big Business News. The BBC remained independent and committed to covering the news. How often do we hear, " Everybody got the intelligence on WMD wrong! It's no one's fault. Everyone was wrong."? This would be one thing if it were true.

However, it is patently false. The UN inspection team, headed by Hans Blix, was in Iraq and was saying that there were no WMDs. I followed Hans Blix on the BBC. Now, how can something that purports to be a News Organization get this wrong?
Last night, I heard that the price of oil was skyrocketing due to global instability. Part of this instability was Hugo Chavez of Venezuela who constantly threatens to cut off the oil shipped to the USA. Mr. Chavez appears to be democratically elected. He has mentioned cutting supply IF the USA continues to try to destabilize his government. That is a big IF. And the government of Venezuela is referred to now as a regime in the US media.

There is a hint of the underworld in regime. That is why regime change is good. Thus, News Organizations get this right, but they then distort it and strain it to a different meanings. In that passage of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus forbids the taking of oaths, He adds that we should let our yes be a yes and our no be a no. The News Organizations of the USA would respond like Pilate: " Quid est veritas?", but they would do so with that sneer which displays the higher wisdom of Mammon worship.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Like Ike

In a previous post, " Conservatives and St.Paul", I said some things about the Boomers and their parents. Some of my more clever friends have disagreed with my opinion. Since they are Boomers themselves, they feel that I have injured them. They cannot believe I think the whole Boomer generation is a convention of the Fisher Kings, so terribly maimed in soul. Too bad. I do.

I will provide a brief summary. World War II was horrendous. Remember Sherman's "War is Hell" remains true except for the present government who found war to be a photo-op on an aircraft carrier. How many boomers had fathers who would wake up from nightmares from the memory of the violence? There wasn't a lot of psychiatric understanding of post-traumatic syndrome. There is now, but we choose not to fund treatment. Back then, we offered the brave ones who fought a good life, a quiet life, a life wherein they could forget how awesomely horrific the world is. And they had the intelligent man who lead the war as President, Dwight David Eisenhower, or Ike. Ike provided the quiet and tranquil illusion for the men who had served under him in the war which was the creator of all holocausts.

When it became obvious in the 60's that certain issues had to be addressed, the War generation did not wish to face it. After all, they had fought enough. They'd seen Pearl, the Bulge, Iwo Jima, Auschwitz... So rightly it was the burden of the younger generation. In time, this generation could not find God without drugs, could not find being in the world without violence, could not find the True Charity that first moved them. So they quit. They went into the world of business, but they did it in a particularly soulless way, for they did not feel comfortable with God. So we had incredible wealth and growth accompanied by incredible poverty and degradation...and we have the present state of affairs where the Attorney General of this country argues for torture in front of elected representatives who are owned by lobbyists. We still do not have the Charity we lost.

Listen to public discourse. Charity has been mugged and dragged into a forgotten alley. I prefer FDR, Harry Truman, and Ike. (Of course, there's still Jimmy Carter, thank heavens.) The era of Ozzie and Harriet was a breather for those who had given all. Now we have the era of those who have given NOTHING and have gleefully taken everything: the Boomers. When I speak of Boomers, I mean the whole generation. We tend to think of Boomers as being somewhat liberal. No, these distinctions of liberal and conservative are invalid here just as they are in most of the places they are used. For even the very conservative religious leaders feel unnaturally empowered by being in this generation, so much so that they will counsel assassinations, they will affirm that they know the mind of God, and they will promote Idolatry under the guise of the Intelligent Design Theory.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Gift of Democracy

I study the Arabic Language and am reading the short stories of Zakaria Tamir. My teacher has a number of courses with many more students. Since my teacher is Syrian, the desire to suppress any specific personal information has been expressed. So when I speak of my Arabic study, I suppose I will have a lot of strange constructions, such as " it has been indicated" and "it was said" and various uses of the passive and the subjunctive , as IF I WERE a journalist with a source to hide.

I decided to study Arabic in 2002. When I tell people I am doing so, they give me a funny look, as if it were the most outrageous waste of time imaginable. Even more inane than the landscape design around developments. My teacher had a student who was perplexed that some Iraqis were incapable of appreciating the gift of democracy we in America had so thoughfully given them. He considered it a precious gift and could not understand their attitude. We have heard similar expressions on the BT ( boob-tube ) and the bt ( boob-transistor, or radio).
We have given them this gift. It's up to them now whether they appreciate it or throw a slipper at it. ( If you don't get "throwing slippers", you have not been paying attention for the past three years or so.) After all, the United States and George Washington's Army were handed independence as as gift by the French who so thoughfully intervened and did all the fighting against the British.
Or did I get that wrong? And, surely, the United States, in great gratitude never ever descended to waging a civil war. Or did they? Independence of mind and soul can not be a gift. A people have to struggle for it. It may be bloody, such as the War of Independence, or it may not, such as Gandhi-Ji's way. ( Of course, India had its blood: Jallian Walla Bagh.) Which people has been given democracy? Vietnam? The USA? If the idea of the Gift of Democracy is contrary to the obvious, what purpose does it serve, except to try to salve the Conscience of a people who have forgotten morality?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

To Bill

 Don Imus

Listening and watching Imus in the Morning. I began watching because it reminded me of my brother-in-law, Bill. He passed away in the fall of 2004 and September became the cruelest month.

He had listened to Imus forever. When my wife and sister-in-law and myself viewed The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, we loved it. Our friends seemed to merely tolerate it. They thought the characters were over the top and not at all life-like; they had o.d.ed on The Royal Tenenbaums and were not receptive.

 Well, they had never spent any time with an individual like Bill, who forced Life to spread out in order to encompass his great zest for life. They believed people like Steve Zissou to be outrageous figments of the imagination. We had the good fortune to have known such a person. If Nikos Kazantzakis had known Bill, he would have written Zorba about him. God bless you, Billy.