The Inevitable

November 21, 2011

It occured to me recently, when I recognized the storm-trooper get-up of the Anti-OWS-Army-Of-The-One-Percent in Oakland and Seattle ‘ how much they looked like the firemen of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451;  all done -up in blue-black, with helmets and batons and authority to committ mayhem legally; the firemen whose ironic job it was to burn books. To charcoal what was written. To incinerate the  truth.

Jeus said “I am the truth,” which therefore means (if logic and equations mean anything anymore in this universe) that “The truth is me.”

Hug one, hug the other.

“So (he might say), “anytime you stumble upon the truth, dear Christians, you stumble upon me. And, any time you deny the truth (scientific or otherwise), I am denied —regardless of religious affiliation or any other excuse that suits your fancy.

Take another look at Ceasar’s 21st-Century army decked in work blue-black, face-masks, helmets and billy clubs and see if they don’t resemble in uniform and antagonism the good blue-black men of authority who, in Bradbury’s tale, enforce the whims of the toppest class: The Chosen (or so they think of themselves). The Inevitable.

Eating My Fabulous Fortune

November 17, 2011

In the Occupy Wall Street movement It may be that we’re witnessing an awakening of ordinary folks to the deleterious effect of narcissism in the world which has reached global proportions.

Narcissism, of course, is nothing new; it’s woven into the fabric of human stuff. If you run in human circles as most of us do you’re sure to run into a narcissist.

“Much woe flows from the misapprehension of a narcissist,” Roshi Bob says, which is no mystery when you consider the historical power of narcissism over conviviality and common sense. When a political system is gorged with self-interested money-grubbers who think they’re it you end up with a rude, crude and dirty world, haute couture notwithstanding.

A narcissist always breaks things down to matters of us and them: the Other vs. Me; Me vs. Nature. Conveniently disconnecting one’s self from the machine of which one is a part is a hallmark of narcissism. But while this may not have been globally life-threatening in the past, it’s not workable anymore.

Obviously, when there were fewer humans there were necessarily fewer and less destructive narcissists; given that their relative power to do widespread damage was limited by their numbers the scope of pillage, rape and ruin by narcissists was rather narrow; it was mostly personal, familial or tribal. As the world got bigger and things got more complex it became a state to state thing. It has now gone global. Here at home, in the fabulous free-market center of self-love, narcissism has led to economic disaster; farther afield narcissism is a full-blown planetary plague.

Polishing each other’s apple in the interest of self-interest, narcissists have become a petite but astronomically menacing power bloc with a long tradition. The most ancient known narcissist (of several religious traditions) was the biblical Cain.

The story goes that Adam and Eve’s first son, Cain, murdered his brother Abel in a fit of narcissistic pique. Murderers are narcissists to the core —bottom line: I-me-mine vs. you and yours. Cain over the centuries developed a spectacular following that  pushes the boundaries of religious tradition and runs rampant in the world. It has found its way into the nooks and crannies of the human psyche, the granite sepulchers of government, and the skyscraping glass coffins of corporations. If you know anything about homicide and it’s state sanctioned version: war; or its corporate manifestations: contract mercenaries and mercenary pollution, you know what I mean.

Beyond the more palpable link between narcissists and violence there’s also a not-often considered (but fundamental) connection between the accumulation of wealth and narcissism. What’s worse, my guess is that narcissism is 99% short-sighted. That level of myopia in those with such concentrated economic clout creates an oddly inverse condition in the relationship Us vs. Them —to wit: being 99% short-sighted they are the notorious 1% (the slice of the country’s population that controls most of the nation’s wealth) and may be considered to represent pure, distilled, lethal narcissism.

The inordinate self-love of narcissism, according to a definition posted on the Mayo Clinic website is a “…personality disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration … (they) believe they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings…”

In this context my autonomic image system immediately calls up the head of Donald Trump who, in his person, is the infamous 1% in spades —with his name plastered coast to coast upon America’s tackiest architecture. Fortunately Trump’s hair gives him away. It’s a semi-transparent shroud over the true nature of his pate: a desolation, a desert of virtually useless follicles who imagine themselves to be significant. Trump is the face of the narcissism that is driving the United States and the globe into the ground.

Of course anybody who has anything is (relative to those who have nothing) a narcissist to some extent, but the wealthy elite of the USA and the planet have managed to elevate a socially destructive personal trait to a state of quasi-holiness. They’ve managed —up till now— to not only corral most of the nation’s wealth in the vaults of their own fists but to have those they’ve robbed bow to their cleverness. They’ve played the hope of the American Dream (the hope of too many Americans to become filthy rich narcissists themselves) against a gullible middle class who not only dreams but (necessarily) sleeps. How else do you explain the Tea Party?

In the tradition of fabulous ju-jitsu adepts (like Uma Thurmond’s eye-plucking Bill-killer) the top money-grubbers of the country have made their fortunes on the absurd idea that sequestering more wealth into fewer hands (theirs) provides a spring board for the terminally credulous to join the club of top ranking narcissists. But the terminally credulous are finally beginning to realize that when all is said and done they are spring boarding into an empty pool.

by Jim Culleny
11/17/11

A Campaign o’ Dolts

November 6, 2011

I don’t often agree with The New York Times’ Ross Douthat, but I think he’s got a point in his column today.  Speaking of the failed meritocracy of modern American leaders he says:

“In meritocracies . . . it’s the very intelligence of our leaders that creates the worst disasters. Convinced that their own skills are equal to any task or challenge, meritocrats take risks than lower-wattage elites would never even contemplate, embark on more hubristic projects, and become infatuated with statistical models that hold out the promise of a perfectly rational and frictionless world.

“Inevitably, pride goeth before a fall. Robert McNamara and the Vietnam-era whiz kids thought they had reduced war to an exact science. Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin thought that they had done the same to global economics. The architects of the Iraq war thought that the American military could liberate the Middle East from the toils of history; the architects of the European Union thought that a common currency could do the same for Europe. And Jon Corzine thought that his investment acumen equipped him to turn a second-tier brokerage firm into the next Goldman Sachs, by leveraging big, betting big and waiting for the payoff.”

But turning to dolts isn’t the answer either. Running ideological idiots for office instead of brilliant ones is not going to get us to the promised land. That will take some humility.  Though I don’t put much stock in the literalness of the Bible many of the leaders portrayed in that book had a high humility quotient. Some like Moses and the prophets, when pressed into service by god reacted with great reluctance saying, “Lord, Lord, not me; I’m not up to the task.” Today we get hubristic freaks who, under the weight of enormous egos, jump in without a clue.

As Douthat concludes:

“What you see in today’s Republican primary campaign is . . . a revolt against the ruling class that our (failed) meritocracy has forged, and a search for outsiders with thinner résumés but better instincts.       

“But from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain, the outsiders haven’t risen to the challenge. It will do America no good to replace the arrogant with the ignorant, the overconfident with the incompetent.       

“In place of reckless meritocrats, we don’t need feckless know-nothings. We need intelligent leaders with a sense of their own limits, experienced people whose lives have taught them caution. We still need the best and brightest, but we need them to have somehow learned humility along the way.”

(Un)occupy Oakland: An Open Source Love Poem

I.

They have come for the city I love

city of taco trucks, wetlands reclaimed
water fowl with attitude, gutted
neighborhoods, city of toxic
waste dumps and the oldest wildlife refuge
in North America.
City owned by spirits
of Ohlone, home
to the international treaty
council, inter-tribal friendship house

City
in which I love and work, make art,
dance, share food, cycle dark streets at 2am
wind in my face, ecstasy
pumping my pedals.

City where women make family
with women
men with men
picnic in parks with their children
walk strollers through streets.

City that birthed the Black Panthers
who took on the state
with the deadliest of arsenals:
free breakfast for children, free clinics,
grocery giveaways, shoemaking
senior transport, bussing to prisons
legal aid.

City where homicide rate for black men
rivals that of US soldiers in combat.

City where I have walked precincts
rung doorbells, learned that real
democracy
is street by street, house by house
get the money out and
get the people in.

City of struggling libraries
50-year old indie bookshops
temples to Oshun, Kali-Ma, Kwan Yin.

City where Marx, Boal,
Bhaktin, Freire are taught
next to tattoo shops
bike collectives rub shoulders
with sex shops, marijuana
dispensaries snuggle banks

City of pho, kimchee, platanos, nopales
of injera, tom kha gai, braised goat,
nabeyaki udon, houmous and chaat,
of dim sum and wheatgrass and chicken-n-waffles.

City of capoiera and belly-dance,
martial arts, punk rock, hip-hop,
salsa, bachata, tango
city of funk and blues and jazz.

City that shut down for 52 hours
in 1946, dragged jukeboxes
into the streets, jammed
to “Pistol-Packin’ Mama” for the rights
of 400 female store clerks
to fair wages and unions.

City of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union,
who refused for a record 10 days
in 1984 to unload a ship from South Africa
in the world’s 4th largest port
faced down million dollar fines.

City of nail parlours, hair brokers, tarot dens
nano-tech, biotech, startups
women-owned auto shops
gondolas on a lake fruity
with sewage, magical
with lights.

City of one-hundred-twenty-five
freaking languages
the most ethnically diverse
in the USA.

Here on the shores of a lake
where all the waters, fresh and salt
of history and revolution mingle
they have come for the city I love.

II.

They have come for the people I love
butch dykes and tranny boys
trans men and drag queens
the two-spirit, gender-queer
dreadlocked and pierced
dancers and drummers
unionists stevedores
copwatchers carpenters
labor historians bodyworkers
scholars shamans jugglers
welders mechanics plumbers
painters truckdrivers fruitpickers
immigrant activists hemp weavers
raw-fooders rollerbladers
bikers builders engineers
wheelchair warriors war resisters
musicians journalists co-op creators
bakers of bread, growers of food
reclaimers of contaminated soil
cleaners of polluted waterways
teachers nurses healers
layers of pipe and cable, strippers of asbestos
urban farmers scientists union organizers
radical lawyers artists
internationalists

the ones who know that making a movement
is a life’s work; know
how to go limp when arrested; how
to eat from the land, make
cities beautiful, livable; heal
without surgery, drugs; raise
a child without violence.

They have come for my people
with military helicopters, armored
vehicles, with rubber bullets, teargas
with flash-bang grenades and gratuitous
destruction, police bussed in
from 17 departments outside Oakland
with pepper spray and sticks
with 40mm canisters aimed
to fracture skulls, they have come
for the people I love.

III.

They have come for the dream that we dreamed
a city of parks and libraries
Jingletown Art Murmur
First Fridays Sistahs
Steppin’ In Pride
Bay Area Solidarity Summer
Women’s Cancer Resource Center
Pueblo Community Health
Destiny Arts, Food Justice
a city of Refuge, a city
of safe streets, where migrants
walk unafraid, vibrant schools
food co-ops in every ‘hood

acupuncture
for the people, yoga
for the people, power
to the people, books
not bars, living wage green
jobs not jails
clean air and water
public healthcare, public transport
urban farms on every block
children making art and science and music
adults making home, community.

Tonight, last night, the night before
the helicopters roared
at 4am, a pack
of jackals in the sky, snarled
contempt at all that lives and grows
desecrated sunrise.

IV.

Look.
A thousand candles. Look
she who was thrown out
of her wheelchair by the police,
illuminated. See
the ones with the wrist casts, dressings
on wounds, eyes rinsed of teargas
with camomile tea, watch
the street medics check their supplies
mediators earth the rage, watch
how we labor
at strategy, technique, dialogue
at race, class, gender, disability
at coalition-building, at complexity
conversation by careful
conversation. Watch us
do
this
thing.

See us
fifty, sixty-thousand strong
wave on wave
rolled two miles back
from Port of Oakland, carnival
of joyous justice ¿De
quién son las calles? ¡Son nuestras
las calles!

Look
there under the jeer
of the low-circling ‘copter, three
generations of hijabi women
do yoga asanas
on the straw floor
of Frank Ogawa – Oscar Grant plaza.

They have come
for the city I love
for the people I love
and the people I love
and the city I love
keep
coming
back.
.

by Shailja Patel

Sticks and Stones…

November 3, 2011

A very angry but confused guy called Elizabeth Warren a “socialist whore” at a political gathering. Warren handled it well but was troubled more by the tainted info swirling around the man’s skull and where it comes from than the guy’s outburst.

As Ryan Grim of Huffington Post noted:

“The assault stuck with Warren, and she continued to think about it throughout the night. Hours later, she she said she wasn’t upset with the man himself, but rather with those who attempt to channel his anger in a malevolent direction. ‘I was thinking more about the heckler. I’m not angry with him, but he didn’t come up with the idea that his biggest problem was Occupy Wall Street. There’s someone else pre-packaging that poison — and that’s who makes me angry,’ she said.

Ever since the advent of Ronald Reagan the American people have be subjected to a national brainwashing of sorts. We’ve been relentlessly indoctrinated by politicians and corporate media to worship wealth, the wealthy and the god, business.  We honor war profiteers like Dick Cheney of Halliburton and global polluters like Exxon Mobile as if they were saints. We forget that most corporate suits will lie and cheat their way to profit and galactic serverance agreements, no matter what, just as tobacco-purveying CEOs who stood before congress in the 1990s swore that their product did not kill.

Since the labor-busting-huge-deficit-creating Ronald Reagan ushered in a new age of wealth and glitz, it’s been down-hill for the nation and average Americans.

That poor guy who sees Warren as a socialist whore is sumultaneously unable to see himself as a corporate dupe.  It’s sad, really.

Jim Culleny
11/3/11