Monday, February 25, 2013

About the Pope

I know he was to be a transitory figure.  But his departure was quite the surprise.  What disturbs me, thought, about all theologians is a simple question.  It is the one question worth pondering for me.  If the nature of the supposed divinity is so ineluctable and so expansive; if that is, in a shitty little planet in the middle of the boonies, populated as it is by rats, asses, birds, fawns, ants and the queen bees—with the feminine principal so everpresent, (no? ) why is it that there are so many men pontificating at the center of things?  And that, mostly to overlook the abuse of children…starving?  And this, as the Taoists would say, is that. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Anniversary

From the Vault


Imagining walking in others' shoes makes it hard to breath sometimes.

You think you know people. Well, at least you hope you know who they are much in the same way they think they know themselves. .

You have a normal life; happy one moment, sad the next and always trying. You have fond memories of the space you occupy and the places you roam. You nod to the ones you think you know in the market place. You smile in the theater and exchange pleasantries in the playground and steal affectionate glances during intermissions in concerts.

You break bread with enough seemingly gentle people to feel at home and comfortable despite the whispers.

There are whispers.

There have always been whispers. It comes with the territory, you think. Some don't know any better and some might; and yet, it is hard to get them to stop. What can you do? How many fist fights? Life goes on really as it has always.

And whispers find echoes and suddenly the discombobulating fever pitch.

Some of the very same people you thought you knew-- your colleagues, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and those familiar faces around the playground and the market place no longer appear to you as you remembered.

Nothing is at it should be. You can count on nothing familiar.

The structure of your universe has been reconstituted radically even though the elements you'd always taken for granted are still visible. In your heart of hearts you always feared it might come to this, but could it be really happening now?

Somehow, the same disciplined, directed passions that made for the performance of a moving Mozart piece suddenly unleash to orchestrate transportation to camps where some of the ones dearest to you along with countless others are exterminated, en masse, with ruthless efficiency.

Light, heat, silence and eternal darkness.

Hills of hair. Undying shame.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Leap of Faith—a prequel

The following gave rise to the last post.  It is an experiment to see what I would sound like if I were insane.    This might make sense to no one. 

Being second in command of our humble household, I declared a moratorium on Internet use simply to think.  Thinking has been hard for a while.  I try to avoid it.  It doesn’t exactly give me a headache, but it scares me.  All kinds of odd sensations run through my body, and with each passing thought pictures and memories inevitably from the past.  And as is customary for someone who has gone insane a couple of times in the past 6-year, a pandemonium ensue.

I have been thinking about some instinctive reaction I had to a morning event a couple of days ago for a while now and the reasons why I quickly chose to do the things I did and avoided doing the second thing that came to my mind which I didn’t do and what they symbolized. 

And despite the fact that I am not religious, and having grown progressively more disenchanted by them A to Z, it wasn’t the “role of a dice” that popped in my mind so much as the phrase  “leap of faith.”  I guess that’s why I declared the moratorium to begin with.  It presupposed an innate trust one wouldn’t have in an autocracy.

 And yes I have a very well read bible too.  And I am definitely not a Muslim.  But if so many don’t believe the President of these United States, who’s going to believe me?  I have been to more Baptist and Catholic churches than Mosques.  Who cares really?  But I did talk to God once for at least one hour six years ago.  We shared a bottle of orange juice, and I persuaded him not to send the quakes.   He was angry too.  But remained quite emphatic.  The forbidden one was a grapefruit.  Go figure.  I don’t believe him.  But I learned afterwards that there is little place on the back of the head responsible for mystic experiences.  That’s why a lot of insane people see angels.  I saw them cry and speak the verses day after day for three weeks last year. 

I didn’t see any angels this time around.  But did talk extensively with a rhyming horse from Kentucky—no kidding-- For three weeks.  He talked in English in perfect rhythm and wouldn’t shut up.    But I have never figured out rhythm.  I could do rhymes occasionally.  Did you know they still say, according to the Greeks that rhyme is sign of crude poetry.  Easy for them to say!  Ton Agathon, tous Agathous, hoi Poloi.  Not all languages work like that I guess.

But if you want to see the real warning signs of the lurking danger, drop by Tallinn and have a piece of pizzas in downtown.  The young server was fluent in many tongues.  And me?  Can’t even get the English right.  But I did wake up once in Paris at 3 when some one in a speeding car yelled out Waaazzzz Uppp!  Not kidding.  That’s the real danger.  More wasted talent on home front.

But traditional families and values must be protected at all cost.  Homogeneity in some sense is both essential, necessary and aesthetically appealing in the context of multi-ethnic societies, I think.  And if they didn’t feel so (rightly) beleaguered at home without empathy or sympathy, perhaps we wouldn’t be scared of every piss ant Mo and Al.   But there has to be tolerance for the fringes that will always intermingle no matter what country they are in.  It’s the easiest rebuke to Freud.

 Although you must admit, if the question of white socks should pop up the way that it does, times are fundamentally out of joint!  And it was traumatizing enough—all the cat and mouse games in Iran.     But we’ll get to the socks too.

 A fair enough question though!  I guess I’ve babbled enough from the very beginning of this blog about the audacity to appear naked in public.  And who do you think taught me that?    Yes I am sure one particular group which should be quite numerous, I trust, is livid with the ungrateful parasitic snake—defiler of all thing decent.  But I’ve always aspired to be ethical in life and am quite a Spartan minus the military knowhow.   My expression of anger was more out of affection than animosity. They should have known better. We’ll get to that too.

 So yes, the voices quickly settled on the question of the differences between being a citizen of a Republic, or some subject in an Autocracy.  And I guess technically I am both.   Why then the Brooding Persian?  Because I thought the moment someone bothered to figure out the name of the writer on the blog, the message would become loud and clear.  And then, of course, it was the chain of transmission that would have been the give away.  And the name is in Herodotus in its Greek version.  A Great section to read about missed opportunities!
And so…

The impulse to protect friends, associates and the loved ones and the innocent from harm or undue embarrassment is important.  But there are certain principals that are equally important as well.  Freedom of speech, or of association and of assembly without (excessive) surveillance or fear—one hopes for in vain for them these days sadly.   But yes.    As the Greeks were fond of saying, once the winged words clear the barrier of the teeth, no way of calling them back.  You say what you must and deal with the consequences.  No deleting or re-writing the past.  We do what we must.

That’s why it is important to think before talking I guess. And that’s why, despite my intense loathing for certain religion, I don’t bash it!  There is a simple reason.  In countries with authoritarian rules, when citizens are so pummeled that they have no respect for the laws, what will be there to temper the baser instincts if you undermine religion too quickly.  But after centuries of creative readings, if you create the proper cultural context, I think, the assholes will simply re-interpret.  It’s the nature of the game.

 But yes this is as good a time as any to stand up for freedom of speech no matter who gets offended. And no, thankfully, I didn’t think sensible adults working in tandem no matter what their personal differences, would intentionally cause a pandemonium against what I perceive to be the stated policy of their superiors.  That too presupposed trust.  But just in case I was wrong, pending verification, I did cover my own ass with help I trust. Symbolic I guess.  But seriously, who would want a headless Barbie?  Kind of cute though!

Yes I know, I am mumbling, but it helps to clear my head. I haven’t written in a long time. 

Do I feel like a parasite?  Yes, absolutely.  Am I ashamed? Yes, terribly. Do I think I would call other people a parasite in a civilized society?  No!  For the simple reason that technically; one has to learn to become one’s own most brutal detractor and be generous to others.   And sometimes, sadly, no matter what one does or how hard one tries in life, things just don’t pan out.  But there is (sometimes) always a tomorrow.  When you get tangled up, you just tango on—my favorite movie line.

But believe you me, as someone who spent the last four years working for a pittance dealing with cockroach infested consoles and having worked shitload of other menial jobs as well as a few good ones and after a couple of universities, pound for pound there is more natural, brilliant talent being wasted than getting trained.   I still believe, though, that if you try hard enough it might even out at the end. Not for poor Baxter the horse obviously.  But hey, hope –the essential condition of humanity.

I thought when I left, given the circumstances, and the list of the things that I could and could not do (and I guess the applications must still be there from 10 years ago) the best course of action left to me was to do the series of moves that I took.  That in a small way was an expression of a measure of my gratitude.  And I thought a display of a (relatively) responsible lonely citizen.

 I called it exactly as I saw it.  That too I learned in Texas.  And it broke my heart that they weren’t seeing what by all account should have been clear—so clear in fact that a lone camel jock saw it.  Yes, anger was understandable. But really can’t just kill everyone or pretend that the enemy is just simple while simultaneously a whopping threat.    Not cool.    And on a personal note, that is what society is all about, no?  Not everyone is a genius, and not everyone is a small business owner and not everyone has it to become a world-class soldier.

 I killed a bird once with a gun years ago and both six years ago, and last year was running for my life from their reincarnated mates out to get me.  Honest.  Some of these kids will never recover.  That’s why I avoid eye contact.  Face of trauma!  Evil personified.  So I’ve retreated without many friends.  It hasn’t always been like this. 

 But we all do what we can.  And no there is no chance in hell I could ever become an artist.  The world just looks different now due to a sclerosis, that’s all.  No delusions of grandeur here.

And yes, the Mongol quip was sort of rude. But the seal was what it was.  No shame dying a fool either.  Some even live as fools.  It can be quite liberating at times.  Beside, I liked my own fragment attributed to Franklin a lot better that hers.  But as we must know by now, it was also a complement.

And why the movies?  I got shot in the nose once and was attacked in North Africa by a sword-wielding thug.  And obviously there are all other mental conditions that have quite a number of nerve endings going haywire.  I feel a number of sensations in my guts somewhere between anxiety, fear, and eros.  And a few other novel sensations elsewhere.  I don’t drink much.  And the pills are toxic and there is only one other kind left and I’ve got the hives to show for it.   But the movies help.

 Why the particular genres?  My favorite is for obvious reason, of course.  A part is insanity I suppose.  But I think a bit of reversal is called for judging by all the other abusive stuff I don’t have stomach for.   A multi ethic cast of men should take one for the team for the next few years in more ways than one. Call it chivalry beyond opening a simple door if you must.    Just my opinion!.  Especially in a few other parts of the world I know.  And every once in a while, I have to check to see if I haven’t switched teams.  I have never been sure of much of anything in life.

And the socks again!  One part is now simply routine Persian pigheadedness.  If you pathologize and generalize, and don’t go away without actually coming in after politely knocking first, then expect the returned favor and an additional pinkie as chaser.   It is as American as apple pie.  That too I learned in Texas. Well sort of.  My father was a hell of soldier.  There must be a file on him too somewhere.  So, Live by the rules you preach.  And I drove the mullahs mad too with this habit.  But they left me alone.

But seriously, look, it was the same principle with two, three posts that were intended as an appeal to decency shot in anger as politely as possible.    Anyone who has read books in other’s traditions can do a number on them.  But do we really want to live in a world with everyone at everyone else’s throats with superficialities.  I am open to all discussions about race, gender, cultural superiority, inferiority,--any and all things  but it can be done better.  And I don’t have any problem being the inferior.  So speak as freely as you must.

But keep an eye on China.  Their texts looked very superficial but deceptively so.

And yes another part is definitely me and the associations with getting shot.  But in certain ones, there is an unbridled passion unrivaled even by the Brazilians.  The French in my opinion get the opposite done right. Don’t get me started with the German and the Russians or the Italians.    And yes and no about the race aspect of it!  It is getting out of hand and silly and formulaic.  But the older ones, something about them that I just don’t understand but feel.  It is authentic.   And again the few authentic ones in reverse are absolutely delightful but unfortunately rare.  The recent cantankerous southern belle one was a blast. More please.  People are getting too uptight and suffocated and suffocating and the atmosphere is getting explosive.

Think of a good genre as intermediate step between no aesthetic judgment and Art if ruffled feathers need to be set back in place.

 Does anyone really understand, though, why one gets to relax in some ways and not others?  And from what I ‘ve gathered it is a universal pastime everywhere anyways and is supposed to be a private matter in a true Republic last I heard.  This too I learned here.     And last, but no least, being lost, sick, dejected and out of it for now are big factors. 

For the record, I still don’t believe in conspiracies.  If two people breath together, three people will figure it out.  But, what do I know, I only understand simple straightforward English.


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Leap of Faith

Do questions and observations that are pointed, pertinent, astute, (rightly) judgmental, and relevant about one’s sense of one’s Republic, and one’s responsibilities; a set of devastating questions that would normally elicit shame and disappointed in one’s own conduct in any sane, responsible, introspective adult, not be more effective if done in a manner commensurate with the stated principles of the said Republic?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

About a Delisting

It has been a while. With the election approaching fast, and all the recent religious inspired silliness and the global turmoil, life seems to have gotten slightly more frenzied all around. My mind too has been in turmoil.
 So it turns out that a particularly devious bugger of a sclerosis had found an abode in the right hemisphere of our puny brain, thus causing all manners of mischief. But I suppose we all have to make do with the hand that’s dealt us. A bit of confusion and lots of entertainment on the cheap has been the story of my recent past.
 The most immediate impact these days is the alterations in my visual perception of the world. All kinds of interesting patterns and shapes present themselves in nature and in the sky. Not hallucinations, mind you. Things just look different. Occasionally, cartoonish characters in the clouds cause a slight chuckle. Mind is funny that way. And don’t even get me started on what I can see on the web! Anyhow, lots of interesting events all around us.
 So today, I was thinking that we do live in interesting times indeed if two of our more intrepid reporters on different sides of the political spectrum end up roughly on the same side of a single issue. The People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran is being taken off the list. Danielle Pletka’s Terrorist no more and Green Greenwald’s Five lessons from the delisting offer insightful takes on the matter.
 If the full story here is how easy it is to sway prominent members of respectable society with a pittance-- in the higher scheme of things that is, then we are in more trouble than what we expected;  I mean, why risk reputation and standing for a few thousand dollars?
 I tend to believe, however, that what we are additionally witnessing is the emergence of the broad contours of the likely war plans this Administration is developing should it survive the election.
The massive bombing campaign against the Iranian military assets intended to degrade external warfare capabilities of the regime seriously in a few months; once that is, the increasingly effective sanctions regime has had time to deprive the IR of the possibilities of an effective reconstruction in the aftermath.
Then, the opening of assorted military fronts using indigenous forces—once the central control has been weakened-- in Kurdistan and/or either Baluchistan or Khuzestan with minimal expenditure of American treasure or life.  It all hinges, perhaps, on how things end up in Syria and whether or not the vulnerable flank in the oil rich gulf monarchies could be protected so the shock to the markets is kept to a minimum. We’ll get to see soon, I suppose.
 A sober piece on the subject, Iran talk, What’s in a war.
In the meanwhile, as long as everyone is in the repackaging business these days, some one should actually take a closer look at the flag of the MEK, if it hasn’t been changed already , and prevail upon the leadership the necessity of altering the Quranik verse out of respect for the sensitivities of the new patrons.
 I would volunteer Mr. Gingrich seeing what a cordial and gentlemanly relation he has forged with Ms. Rajavi judging by the picture above.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Plot

"Did an elite branch of Iran's military handpick a divorced, 56-year-old Iranian-American used-car salesman from Texas to hire a hitman from a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the ambassador to Saudi Arabia by blowing up a bomb in a crowded restaurant in Washington?"

This is how Reza Sayyah of CNN quite succinctly summarised the bombshell that the US Attorney General Eric Holder dropped in Washington DC on October 11.

I am of a certain generation and analytical bend of mind that I cannot believe that Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, can in bright daylight come to national television and just straight lie about a matter so dire and dangerous in its actual and potential consequences.

We have no way of challenging the veracity of what he says. He is privy to intelligence. We are not. He is a figure of authority - we must take what he says seriously. The very assumption and presumption of a democracy is that people in position of such power and authority don't just lie.

And yet: Every which way you look at it: The story is so outlandish, so bizarre, so utterly ridiculous that it has left almost everyone across the political spectrum with a sense of: "... say what?"

Read the rest of Hamid Dabashi's Legal questions follow Iran's 'bizzare Plot'.

I am going to go out on a limb here and offer a simple conjecture.

While sharing many of Mr. Dabashi's misgivings, there was a phrase that caught my attention in his discussion of months of legal wranglings among President's team.

Dabashi uses the phrase "juridical narrative" referencing any implied American disinformation campaign, fig, or a white lie (all my terms of course), whereas there is somewhat of script-o-matic component to this plot. And this latter opens up the possibilities of involvement by a fundamentalist religious faction in Iran (outside of the Government) for me. And here is the rest of my conjecture:

Remember a while back a movie about the supposed return of Mahdi?

Well, contrary to the reports in both right of the center American media and some Christian fundamentalist outfits, the good folks associated with the movie got a lot of flack in Iran because of certain "heretical" interpretations put forth in the movie so far as the big wig Ayatollahs were concerned. And the outcome of all the back and forth was that embarrassing incident with one of the top advisers to President Ahmadinezhad being accused of sorcery and relieved of duties.

And at the risk of being too overtly sloppy in my own thinking, I would say, wouldn't the sloppiness, the callousness, the carelessness, lack of intelligence and the frenzy with which this supposed plot was to unfold indicate a certain muddled thinking that comes with being utterly fed up with the conditions under which the much anticipated Messiah is not making the promised appearance?

And hence, would it be too terribly inconceivable that in a moment of over-enthused frenzy, some people associated with the Hojjatieh movement--a people mind you that have recently been under a great deal of pressure, in retaliation, and with a great deal of bitterness and vindictiveness--fully expecting great rewards, came to pull whatever resources they could muster for one last hurrah?

A gesture of defiance, mind you, that, if successful, would promise to unleash all the requisite hell and fury which finally would bring about the necessary conditions for the return of the Messiah leading to the ultimate battle of Good and Evil. And a plan that, even in failure, would actually ensure an embarrassing outcome for those who have caused so much angst amongst our good believers still nursing one hell of a bruised ego for now. Wouldn't all the expected frenzy end up being that sweet revenge as a dish best served cold?

Who would the actual losers be whatever the outcome?

Is it inconceivable that the actual culprits in this bizarre plot could be the more militant, bitter, and vindictive version of the comatose American Engineer,Mr.Harold Camping, and what we are witnessing is another iteration of Iran-Contra affair for the Twenty-first century involving a few marginalized zealots linked to, but utterly disenchanted with, the Chain of Command--however broadly understood.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

What of Lazarus?

A few beers (Irish) and a number of conversations with much cherished, profoundly missed imaginary friends and I am filled with the yearning to offer in gratitude a redacted version of an old post:

And "Nous sommes tous Americaines", no?

But that is the saddest part about being Iranian you see. Our obscene expectations and our maximalist bubble only mask our minimalism and our tendency always in settling for the grotesque.

All this brings us back to conspiracies and to conspiracy theories. In one sense no escaping them ever either in democracies or autocracies. But the fundamental problem for me with those who peddle them is that they enable avoidance of responsibility and accountability.

If indeed there is that invisible omnipresent hand of the British and others behind every one of the many significant historical events and our misfortunes, then naturally there'll be no sense wanting to examine the concrete policies, their exact scope or their consequences. More generally, no sense either determining the real causes or the actual forces in action in order to better deal with or to counter them.

Obviously too, it'll be a moot point trying to find the identity of the ones who list these very same consequences as accomplishments on their CVs.

The very same ones, mind you, who go on to teach, consult or ultimately work on some board or other while reminiscing fondly about the good "old days of adventure" over drinks at some bar or a country club. Or those who, as fashionable of late, make a killing on royalties from the sales of memoirs about their masterstrokes some years down the road.

But once we've gotten to this point in discussion, the context makes things notoriously difficult to navigate further. Even the most banal aspects of what constitute East-West encounters become thorny.

In thinking through these encounters, a signpost for me has always been Homer's Odyssey --particularly the confrontation between our wily Odysseus and the Cyclops.

Odysseus is considered by some as the archetypal Western man. Think about his curious nature; his craftiness and his disposition that accounts for his wanderings and wonder and naturally also his expectations of gifts--all very admirable, I suppose, but also quite problematic.

Doesn't he go on to blind and torment another being-- no matter how little sympathy any of us might actually feel for creatures such as Cyclops Polyphemus, pretending to be "Noman." (Nobody)

The following excerpts from a translation of Book IX:

when I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as plausibly as I could: 'Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always called me.' […]

We drove the sharp end of the beam into the monster's eye, and bearing upon it with all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were boring a hole in a ship's plank with an auger, which two men with a wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose.

We ran away in a fright, but he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him crying, and asked what was the matter with him.

"'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they, 'that you make such a noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep? Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?

"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 'Noman is killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!' "'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be ill; when Jove makes people ill, there is no help[wise] for it, and you had better pray to your father Neptune.'
When we had got twice as far as we were before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue. "'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage creature further;

[…] "But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'

My Greek tutor directed my attention some years ago to the word play in the original Greek text between Outis (Nobody, Noman), outis (no one, nobody), and Metis/me tis (no anyone, anything, someone, something) also faculty of (particular kind of) wisdom, craft or cunning.

It all becomes so contemporary when you consider all the other words such as ODIS: travails, pain; NOSOS: sickness, disease, and OIOS, lonely. Over the past many centuries “Nobodies” have blinded countless people. But a few things have changed as well since.

For one, a more sophisticated band of Cyclops has composed the perfect repartee to Odysseus. The nebulous “Great Satan,” and "Elderly Dragon," (Britain) is the omnipresent absence that serves to counter the absent presence of the elusive Nobodies.

These bands of Cyclops kill, maim, torture, and gorge on the young while sadly they are not even as gentle or competent shepherds as the originals.

And those who think themselves entitled to stake claim to the legacy of the Odysseus too are suffering from their own regression. Or is it that they've learned a lesson?

Some have become too much the weasel, as far as I am concerned, to publicly sing of their own "valiance." They hide behind their tribe or the entirety of their cities in order to avoid reckoning. This incidentally is what annoys me most about those who cloak behind the prophylactic of "visceral anti Americanism."

Simply put, I doubt anyone would ever say in a job interview that "Yes, yes, give me this post because America gradated from high school in 1948, and then America went onto get his PhD at Harvard; America thus came to focus all his steep learning which translated into the recommendations of the team that originally crafted the policy of sending guns and cakes to the Ayatollahs at the same time as subsidizing to the tune of billions Saddam's chemical warfare against the Iranians while also financing and arming the Salafists and other Islamist killers like Usama."

And as a corollary, I simply don't understand either the rational behind that sense of entitlement manifest in the gibberish (again) so fashionable in certain circles.

Bluntly put, if some happen to have developed a certain craft or skill, how is it exactly that they come to feel they can claim the household too? If some have mastered the craft of plumbing, why is it exactly that they feel entitled to direct everyone's affairs and also own the faucets and the wells? And why is it exactly that they feel the urge to determine who is to be in charge of anything?

If some come with the skills of an Archeologist, why should they feel entitled to leave with most of the artifacts? And if some come with medical skills and penicillin, why should they feel entitled to canoodle on the posterior?

And why is it exactly that a "No" to any of these propositions comes to warrant accusations of "ingratitude?"

Frankly, even if there is disgust for the Cyclops, the shenanigans of the diciples of Odessues are just way too predictable nowadays and mostly a yawner. Not much of a surprise then when we the sheep no longer feel compelled to offer free rides to certain caliber of men

Monday, July 11, 2011


An aspect of Bipolar Disorder I find slightly annoying these days is simple movement. Everything immediately points beyond itself thus making reflection, in the old fashioned sense of the word, a tad difficult.

Granted, it has its virtues. As long as there is puzzle, it proves captivating. It helps with word play, languages, and pattern recognition—variations on themes, if you will. I guess the major complaint here comes down to having become fed up with loose associations. In the sense that shapes of plants, animals, clouds, and often faces lead to one another-- each reminding me of some other, and occasionally meshing in. As do texts.

So, I picked up a book a while back that was billed as “a contribution to the critical debate on the current state of world politics,” Democracy in What State?

A few of the more cerebral thinkers of the left have put forth theses worth pondering leisurely. So I have been preoccupied with Alain Badiou’s free rendition of a passage in Plato that is highly entertaining:

Democratic man lives only for the pure present, transient desire is his only law. Today he regales himself with a four-course dinner and vintage wine; tomorrow he is all about Buddha, ascetic fasting, streams of crystal-clear water, and sustainable development. Monday he tries to get back in shape by pedaling for hours on a stationary bicycle; Tuesday he sleeps all day, then smokes and gorges again in the evening. Wednesday he declares that he is going to read some philosophy, but prefers doing nothing in the end. At Thursday’s dinner party he crackles with zeal for politics, fumes indignantly at the next person’s opinion. And heatedly denounces the society of consumption and spectacle. That evening he goes to see a Ridley Scott blockbuster about medieval warriors. Back home, he falls to sleep and dreams of liberating oppressed peoples by force of arms. Next morning he goes to work, feeling distinctly seedy, and tries without success to seduce the secretary from the office next door. […] There you have a life, or lifestyle, or lifeworld, or whatever you want to call it: no order, no ideas, but nothing too disagreeable or distressing either. It is as free as it is unsignifying, and insignificance isn’t too high a price to pay for freedom.

The original passage, as Mr. Badiou reminds us, is in Book VIII of the Republic:

And he does not accept or admit into the guard-house the words of truth when anyone tells him [561c] that some pleasures arise from honorable and good desires, and others from those that are base, and that we ought to practice and esteem the one and control and subdue the others; but he shakes his head at all such admonitions and avers that they are all alike and to be equally esteemed.” “Such is indeed his state of mind and his conduct.” “And does he not,” said I, “also live out his life in this fashion, day by day indulging the appetite of the day, now wine-bibbing and abandoning himself to the lascivious pleasing of the flute and again drinking only water and dieting; [561d] and at one time exercising his body, and sometimes idling and neglecting all things, and at another time seeming to occupy himself with philosophy. And frequently he goes in for politics and bounces up and says and does whatever enters his head. And if military men excite his emulation, thither he rushes, and if moneyed men, to that he turns, and there is no order or compulsion in his existence, but he calls this life of his the life of pleasure and freedom and happiness and [561e] cleaves to it to the end.” “That is a perfect description,” he said, “of a devotee of equality.” “I certainly think,” said I, “that he is a manifold man stuffed with most excellent differences, and that like that city he is the fair and many-colored one whom many a man and woman would count fortunate in his life, as containing within himself the greatest number of patterns of constitutions and qualities.” “Yes, that is so,” he said

Then the flutes reminded me of another interesting passage in Lucian of Samosata’s Timon the Misanthrop:

Whom have we now? is this Thrasycles the philosopher? sure enough it is. A halo of beard, eyebrows an inch above their place, superiority in his air, a look that might storm heaven, locks waving to the wind--’tis a very Boreas or Triton from Zeuxis' pencil. This hero of the careful get-up, the solemn gait, the plain attire--in the morning he will utter a thousand maxims, expounding Virtue, arraigning self-indulgence, lauding simplicity; and then, when he gets to dinner after his bath, his servant fills him a bumper (he prefers it neat), and draining this Lethe-draught he proceeds to turn his morning maxima inside out; he swoops like a hawk on dainty dishes, elbows his neighbour aside, fouls his beard with trickling sauce, laps like a dog, with his nose in his plate, as if he expected to find Virtue there, and runs his finger all round the bowl, not to lose a drop of the gravy.
Let him monopolize pastry or joint, he will still criticize the carving--that is all the satisfaction his ravenous greed brings him--; when the wine is in, singing and dancing are delights not fierce enough; he must brawl and rave. He has plenty to say in his cups--he is then at his best in that kind--upon temperance and decorum; he is full of these when his potations have reduced him to ridiculous stuttering. Next the wine disagrees with him, and at last he is carried out of the room, holding on with all his might to the flute-girl. Take him sober, for that matter, and you will hardly find his match at lying, effrontery or avarice. He is facile princeps of flatterers, perjury sits on his tongue-tip, imposture goes before him, and shamelessness is his good comrade; oh, he is a most ingenious piece of work, finished at all points, a multum in parvo. I am afraid his kind heart will be grieved presently. Why, how is this, Thrasycles?

So, with both the Democratic man and Philosopher as the bud of jokes and the music, wine, banter and such, I was reminded of one of Karl Marx’s famous passages. Only I could have sworn there was a violin there somewhere as well. Or perhaps it was some other passage I was thinking of entirely.

There is no violin in this one. Neither is there a secretary nor a flautist; but hey, at least there is cleavage of sorts.

What can I say, it has been years:

And finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.

See what I mean. It just feels as if I am perpetually drifting.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Love of a lifetime

I had the unqualified blessing of living with Rachel Avnery for 58 years. Last Saturday I took leave of her body. She was as beautiful in death as she was in life. I could not take my eyes off her face.

I am writing this to help myself accept the unacceptable. I beg your indulgence.

If a human being can be summed up in one word, hers was: empathy.

Uri Avnery's moving tribute to his companion of 58 years--fellow peace activist, journalist, educator, photographer--Rachel.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Of Gods and Redeemers

I have been seeing the car for a while now and took the pic. For what it's worth, some Iranian too have been waiting for the missing Messiah. For a long, long time. For your reading pleasure on this wonderful morning, an ancient Iranian Hymn:

Hymn on the Second Coming of Jesus
- Manichaean
Hymn in Persian with Parthian words.

Speak to me,  Lord and Friend, and reveal to me, Son

of the most beloved, the time of your coming, when

you will appear at the end.
Oh great Redeemer, my Teacher, speak of that time and its signs.

The speakers, the righteous and chosen ones, who must live

in the Realm of the Lie, Do not accumulate herds and belongings.

Therefore they are persecuted.
Ha, this irate potentate! How long will he continue to rule?

How long will the poor and the Family of Peace be persecuted?

Tell me what reward the wise and righteous ones
that are now
persecuted will have.

Read the rest in the Gnostic Society Library.

And then one of my absolute favorites:

Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a time when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus.  But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And who of Huitzilopochtli.

H.L.Mencken's short "Memorial Service."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Usama, Stories & Alasdair MacIntyre

So here is Ahmadinezhad peddling his own version of the events leading to the demise of Usama. And a short article dealing with assorted conspiracy theories centering on the execution of Usama by a team of Navy Seals.

I hadn’t been too terribly pleased myself with the way we have been given tidbits of often contradictory accounts of the events surrounding Usama’s final moments. Then my sister sent me the (1st funny) pic which got me thinking along a different line entirely.

This event has had various factions within the American Gov. spending a long time thinking and planning over. So it makes no sense to accuse them of incompetence or lying or spreading disinformation. I mean, where does that get any of us?

After all, high powered folk in the business of “strategic communication” have had a job to perform and let us agree that they do their best under the circumstances. The best and the brightest in action strategically communicating, which is to say, pitching a story.

In today’s serious parlance, a narrative is taking shape and the picture of a vain Usama watching himself on a t.v. is a small part of an ongoing ( terribly expensive) effort. But what could it be?

There is “something” Arendtesque about the above image and some of the other information we have been given so far.


I am inclined to read the following as a part of the emerging narrative:

Karl Jaspers highlighted the risk involved in the use of this term ‘radical evil’ in his correspondence with Arendt after the war. Jaspers argued that it might endow the perpetrators with what he called a ‘streak of satanic greatness’ and mystify them and their deeds in ‘myth and legend’. It was against this danger that Jaspers emphasised the prosaic triviality’ of the perpetrators and coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ to bring this to the surface. He argued, for instance, that the great advantage of treating the perpetrators as ‘mere criminals’ was to present them ‘in their total banality’. Arendt immediately expressed her agreement in principle and acknowledged that in her own use of the term she was coming too close to ‘mythologising the horrible’. No longer mindful of its original source she only introduced the term ‘banality of evil’ in her writings at the time of the Eichmann trial, to face up to the fact that the perpetrators were ‘men like ourselves’ who demonstrated what terrible deeds ‘ordinary men’ are capable of. It was a rejoinder to conventional images of the ‘Nazi monster’ that had nothing to do with ‘men like ourselves’ and which painted the world in terms of a dichotomy between our own absolute innocence and the unspeakable Nazi beast. What she took from the Eichmann case was that the perpetrators of the most radical evil could be rather
pedestrian, bourgeois individuals, rooted in an everydayness that made them incapable of critical reflection or serious moral judgement, marked more by ‘thoughtlessness’ and ‘remoteness from reality’ than by any streak of Satanic greatness.... The mark of his character was sheer ‘thoughtlessness’ and it was this which predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the modern age. The lesson Arendt took from Jerusalem was that ‘such remoteness from reality and such thoughtlessness can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together’, and that we have to come to terms with the fact that the man responsible for the execution of the Holocaust was terrifyingly normal: ‘the deeds were monstrous but the doer … was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous’.

What of MacIntyre you might ask? Chapter 15 of After Virtue might offer us some clue to the thinking of another faction. But that’s best left for another post.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Death of a Parasite

Thank the photographer for this poignant image from Tora Bora

President Bush once aptly described Usama as the "ultimate parasite who saw a weakness and exploited it." Usama's demise has been long overdue. It'll be a while before any of us could properly ascertain the ramifications of the disappearance of a man who has been responsible for so many deaths. And so much misery and torment from N.Y to Tora Bora.

This has been an interesting evening.

And in a moment of unabashed giddiness, I couldn't resist being reminded of all those reports of Usama sightings in Iran over the years-- from the Fox News to the Debkafiles.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

There are a handful of images in memory that haunt, agitate, perturb like the image above. The photojournalist, Chris Hondros who captured the scene, was killed recently along with Tim Hetherington in Libya.

An affectionate piece: A Photojournalist Remembered

As for the child, Samar?

Photojournalism, Ethics and the Afterlife of a Photograph