Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

May 16, 2014

Older White Guys Bonding

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Older White Guys Bonding

I took a short walk about an hour ago, to get some stamps and lottery tickets.

Just before reaching the first store, I run into an older white guy. We both say Hi. He does a double take and says, “Hey, do you have a brother who lives in Lowell?” I say, “No, my brother lives in Pelham.” He says, “Oh, because you look just like this guy Roger, don’t know what his last name is.” I tell him my name. He replies “I’m John M—-” and we shake hands.

In the very next breath he asks what I think of black people, saying that his wife doesn’t like the Haitians because they use the system for money, while we have to go out to work. I say that white people do the same thing. He says not as much as black people. I say, “Oh sure, and so do the Cambodians, the Hispanics . . .” He interrupts me and says, “Oh, the Cambodians. They’re the worst.” I say no, they’re not.

John closes our conversation saying that sometimes when he meets people who do not agree with him, it makes him feel stupid. I tell him that it is nice to meet him, and I’ll see him around. He says goodbye in a friendly way.

I go across the street and buy stamps at the local supermarket. I cross the next street over, and get lottery tickets at the packy. I start my walk back home, and run into John again, sitting on the wall at the same corner. I ask if he is waiting for the bus. He says yes. I ask him where he is going.

He tells me where, and says that he lost two homes to predatory loans, but that he got a good lawyer who got him into this nice place for housing. I ask how much he pays for rent. He says $400-something. I ask who pays the rest? He hesitates. Then says the state has an elderly housing program.

All along, I had been wondering if he had seen me walking in the neighborhood with my “black” girlfriend. He asks my age, and then tells me to see Susan-something, if I want to get an apartment there, that to mention his name, and say that I have known him for 20 years—that sometimes we have to lie.

I say “Thanks anyway,” and that I’ll see him around. We smile and part ways.
   

May 12, 2014, 1:00pm

   

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May 22, 2013

Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa

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Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa
   
   

Pyramid of Capitalist SystemPart of the ideal in creating an economy is to figure out how to optimize growth and production and decrease scarcity, while at the same time distributing goods in beneficial ways. Furthermore, with the absence of tyranny, everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth. So any command aspects of the economy would only be to serve the greater good, as would any and all self-interest aspects.

What happens when some people, our infirm for instance, cannot participate in the machinery of the economic system? More generally, what happens with those who are unable, such that common interest collides with self interest? The idea is to return to the ideal and say that “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” That is where the re-creation or evolution of the economic system pivots, where at all times it is in service to a representative government, an ideal that should remain what we are continuously striving to perfect, no matter how entrenched our imperfect system gets.

Those unable or less able to participate in what has been set up to benefit us all, still should participate fully in the benefits. We just have a hard time getting a system going that works like that, as we continuously compromise ourselves to the imperfect system. There is no good reason, other than some ultimate benefit to everyone, that Bill Gates should have more money and access to the good life, than any other single one of us. He may be a good person, but he is not billions of times better as a person than someone who is unable to do works such as he has done. The bottom line, as it were, is that we would value each citizen equally and fully, and to be continuously questioning how we can change our economic system such that it serves each and all of us better.

The same thing that happens with those who are either unable or less able to participate in an economic system that pivots on self interest, is what happens with those attending to the arts and spiritual aspects of life. They are either sidelined or not in the game. The strength of an economy is measured by what the bean counters can attend to. Yet art and spirituality cannot be effectively measured this way. Where is the evidence that Frida Kahlo’s paintings are worthy of anything more or other than a place on a rich person’s wall? What The Water Gave Me, by Frida KahloThere may be none, but they are far more and otherwise worthy. That our bean-counting market system makes little or less room for the theologians and artists among us, does not mean that they should not be part of the “everyone” who “would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth,” or be the beneficiaries of what might be considered the charity of the more “fortunate”.

Nor does it mean that we should align with bean counters who only wonder if people would be more productive and earn more money if and how they are spiritual and enjoy which types of art. It is only one aspect of art, of Frida Kahlo’s works, that somehow they would make anyone a more productive employee. Art is not for the economy’s sake. Art is in no way in service to the market system. One of its functions is to be there to expose the economy for its faults. Who’s judging who? Art judges economy, not vice versa.

The manufacturing tycoon’s money is merely his, because the rest of us say he can have it, and only for as long as the rest of say he can have it. It may be a game of Monopoly we’ve decided to play, but Monopoly is only a game, and a person’s net value is not ultimately measured in how she plays such a game, or even her interest in it. Any money we say that the tycoon must give over to art or spirituality, that part that we say that he cannot have, is not his. That’s our money in a representative government—just as in a monarchy we would say he is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We get the bean counters, who want artists and theologians to justify themselves to the economy, when their justification is to the greater citizenry, to humanity as a whole, to humanity through time, and any life or spirituality that may be transcendent of that. It is part of being human to create good art, bad art, and everything in between. It is a sick, lopsided society that, when the economy is failing, the artists and theologians are made to suffer disproportionately.

Yes, there is a case for bad art. For instance, Samina Malik, who was jailed in the UK for writing a bad poem, and then rightly let go. The creative process is so misunderstood, the political machinery in its ignorance had her incarcerated for a time.

Let’s look at another case of poetry, one that may or may not be good, depending on what you as an individual think of it. After then-poet laureate of New Jersey Amiri Baraka recited his poem Somebody Blew Up America, the state decided to no longer have a poet laureate, to completely do away with the position. The challenge to the political establishment was too great.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, BakuA benefit from art and spirituality is that they challenge the status quo of the money machine, which can lead to an industrial machine, a science machine, a technology machine, to the point of being a threat. Laws are created to prevent such threats, and artists and spiritual activists throughout time, up to and including today, are imprisoned, some tortured, and some even killed for their expressions.

Arts and humanities show us more of what it means to be human. At a basic level, an artist may simply be displaying what it is like to be another person. Culturally broader art steps outside the established modes of thinking and being, to display wider possibilities than are available in society. When it is not pointing directly to the outcomes of greed and the plight of those left outside the machinery, it can be bringing us beauty to consider, or even ugliness, other ways of seeing the world and our place in it, that are not part of the paradigm needed to produce goods and make profits.

I have news for you atheists: there may be a god. You don’t know. You have decided. That there is no room for god in commerce, is a great pull to atheism. Atheists have selected to believe that which is available within the limitations of commerce and industry. When we check out at a store, the cashier says, “Thank you” to us, not “Thank you and god bless”–heaven forbid. Or how about, “Thank you, you are loved”?

There are fully other sides to being human, than those fostered by the economy left to itself as a system, a system bent on growing and absorbing each of us. There are aspects to being human that an economy given full power would not allow us to participate in, or even hint at. Art so threatens. Spirituality brings morals and ethics that threaten. These parts of us are transcendent of the social and economic systems that we have chosen for ourselves.

We need to interject, to say that everyone gets to participate in art and spirituality, just as “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” We are all not only above the law, but above the economy.
   

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December 6, 2007

Today is World Samina Malik Day: Terrorize your lyrics

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A reminder about December 6th, World Samina Malik Day. It is after 11:00pm here on East Coast USA, which means that it is already December 6th in half the world. I greet you in freedom, and with poetic license to do so–for now. Yet, this is the day Samina will be sentenced for writing poetry, no matter how lenient or harsh. Sentenced.

She is an online poet. Her being found guilty convicts us all, every poet who has ever imagined and wrote outside the bounds of the politically correct. Every poet.

Last month, she was found guilty of a “lesser charge” of “possessing documents likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” What she downloaded, however, are documents likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of lyricism. In fact, she did not only think about committing lyricism, she did it.

After work tomorrow, which here will be after she is sentenced, I will dress like her (which for me will mean looking like an aging ninja in jeans). I will download The Koran, to align myself with Muslim thought, and consider myself a brother born foreign. Links are available here: Wikipedia: The Qur’an. I will visit Islamic forums and blogs, and download the al Qaeda manual. Links to some Islamic sites can be found at the bottom here: World Samina Malik Day.

I will surf and muse from there. I will look for the taboo, the non-PC. I will look into beheading, and surf and muse from there, to Torture, Al-Qaeda Style, and beyond. All this in preparation for an act of lyricism, to be a lyrical terrorist, to be a poet.

Please join me, where horror and political protest merge into the ears of those who would be politically correct, where terror enters lyricism, where Lyrical Babe became Lyrical Terrorist. Let’s do her taboo. You may.

   

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December 19, 2006

Adonis: ‘We, in Arab society, do not understand the meaning of freedom’

   

Duration 4:40

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This is from The Middle East Media Research Institute: Special Dispatch Series, No. 1393

The video above is better viewed on the MEMRI site from here:

MEMRI TV Clip 1335

Below is the transcript translated into English by MEMRI.

   

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Renowned Syrian Poet ‘Adonis’: ‘We, In Arab Society, Do Not Understand The Meaning Of Freedom’

The poet Ali Ahmad Sa’id (b. 1930), known by his pseudonym “Adonis,” a 2005 candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, left his native Syria for Lebanon in the 1950s following six months’ imprisonment for political activity. In 1973, he received his Ph.D. from St. JosephUniversity in Beirut; in 1985, he settled in Paris, where he now works as a writer and literary critic. Among other occupations, he has edited the modernist magazine Mawaqif (Viewpoints), and translated some of the great French poets into Arabic. The following are excerpts from interviews with Adonis, which aired on ANB TV on November 26, 2006 and on Dubai TV on March 11, 2006.

November 26, 2006 Interview

to view this clip: MEMRI TV Clip 1335

Adonis: “The difference between Europe and the Islamic world is in quality, not in degree. What I mean is that the Christian view of the world is not political, but humanistic. It is human beings who are the basis for politics.

“A Christian has great liberty to separate his religious faith from his political activity. The mistake committed by the Church in the Middle Ages was rectified–obviously after a struggle and violent revolutions–and political rule was entirely separated from politics . . .”

Interviewer: “From religion . . .”

Adonis: “From religion, sorry. In our case, political rule was based . . . Ever since the struggle over who would inherit Prophet Muhammad’s place, political rule was essentially based on religion.”

Interviewer: “But there were great revolutions in the Arab and Islamic world. Take, for example, the ideology of Arab nationalism. This ideology may be connected with Islamic culture, but it is still a man-made ideology.”

Adonis: “But the ideology of Arab nationalism, in all its forms, is a religious ideology, in the sense that it has never raised any cardinal question concerning religion.”

[. . .]

“The Arabs have managed to turn democracy or the revolution into a dynastic or monarchic regime, which is handed down. Most Arab regimes are monarchic regimes, one way or another.”

Interviewer: “Including the republics . . .”

Adonis: “Especially the republics. In my opinion, while it is true that colonialism has played a role, and the wars with Israel have played a role, the greatest responsibility is, nevertheless, on us Arabs.”

[. . .]

“The Arab individual does not elect from among people of different opinions who represent different currents. The Arab is accustomed to voting according to pre-determined concepts. Whoever represents this pre-determined concept . . . The nationalist will vote for a nationalist, and the communist will vote for a communist. These are all types of religious sects. The tribal and sectarian structure has not disintegrated, and has not melted down into the new structure of democracy and the democratic option.”

[. . .]

“There can be no living culture in the world if you cannot criticize its foundations–the religion.

“We lack the courage to ask any question about any religious issue.

“For example, as a Muslim, I cannot say a single word about the Prophet Moses.

“The Prophet Moses did not say anything to me as a Muslim, whereas the Israeli Jew can criticize Moses and all the prophets in the Torah, and he can even question the divinity of the Torah.”

[. . .]

“We, in Arab society, do not understand the meaning of freedom. We say that freedom means writing an article. Freedom is much deeper than that.”

Interviewer: “Even writing an article is not possible.”

Adonis: “True. Arab society is based on many types of invisible slavery, and the ideology and political rule conceal them with worthless slogans and political discourse. The underlying structure of Arab societies is a structure of slavery, not of liberty.”

   

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March 11, 2006 Interview

to view this clip: MEMRI TV Clip 1076

Adonis: “Words are treated as a crime today. Throughout history, there has never been anything similar to what’s happening today in our Arab society–when you say a word, it is like committing a crime.”

Interviewer: “True.”

Adonis: “Words and opinions are treated as a crime. This is inconceivable.”

Interviewer: “You can be arrested for writing an article.”

Adonis: “That’s one example.”

[. . .]

“In the Koran itself, it says that Allah listened to his first enemy, Satan, and Satan refused to obey him. I believe that Allah was capable of wiping out Satan, yet He listened to Satan’s refusal to obey Him.

“At the very least, we demand that Muslims today listen to people with different opinions.”

[. . .]

Interviewer: “How do you view the plan for democracy, the ‘Greater Middle East’ plan?”

Adonis: “First of all, I oppose any external intervention in Arab affairs. If the Arabs are so inept that they cannot be democratic by themselves, they can never be democratic through the intervention of others.

“If we want to be democratic, we must be so by ourselves. But the preconditions for democracy do not exist in Arab society, and cannot exist unless religion is reexamined in a new and accurate way, and unless religion becomes a personal and spiritual experience, which must be respected.

“On the other hand, all issues pertaining to civil and human affairs must be left up to the law and to the people themselves.”

Interviewer: “Mr. Adonis, how do you view the democracy in Palestine, which brought Hamas to power?”

Adonis: “I support it, but I oppose the establishment of any state on the basis of religion, even if it’s done by Hamas.”

Interviewer: “Even if it liberates Palestine?”

Adonis: “Yes, because in such a case, it would be my duty to fight this religious state.”

[. . .]

Interviewer: “What are the reasons for growing glorification of dictatorships–sometimes in the name of pan-Arabism, and other times in the name of rejecting foreigners? The glorification comes even from the elites, as can be seen, for example, in the Saddam Hussein trial, and in all the people who support him.”

Adonis: “This phenomenon is very dangerous, and I believe it has to do with the concept of ‘oneness,’ which is reflected–in practical or political terms–in the concept of the hero, the savior, or the leader. This concept offers an inner sense of security to people who are afraid of freedom. Some human beings are afraid of freedom.”

Interviewer: “Because it is synonymous with anarchy?”

Adonis: “No, because being free is a great burden. It is by no means easy.”

Interviewer: “You’ve got to have a boss . . .”

Adonis: “When you are free, you have to face reality, the world in its entirety. You have to deal with the world’s problems, with everything . . .”

Interviewer: “With all the issues . . .”

Adonis: “On the other hand, if we are slaves, we can be content and not have to deal with anything. Just as Allah solves all our problems, the dictator will solve all our problems.”

[. . .]

“I don’t understand what is happening in Arab society today. I don’t know how to interpret this situation, except by making the following hypothesis: When I look at the Arab world, with all its resources, the capacities of Arab individuals, especially abroad–you will find among them great philosophers, scientists, engineers, and doctors. In other words, the Arab individual is no less smart, no less a genius, than anyone else in the world. He can excel–but only outside his society. I have nothing against the individuals–only against the institutions and the regimes.

“If I look at the Arabs, with all their resources and great capacities, and I compare what they have achieved over the past century with what others have achieved in that period, I would have to say that we Arabs are in a phase of extinction, in the sense that we have no creative presence in the world.”

Interviewer: “Are we on the brink of extinction, or are we already extinct?”

Adonis: “We have become extinct. We have the quantity. We have the masses of people, but a people becomes extinct when it no longer has a creative capacity, and the capacity to change its world.”

[. . .]

“The great Sumerians became extinct, the great Greeks became extinct, and the Pharaohs became extinct. The clearest sign of this extinction is when we intellectuals continue to think in the context of this extinction.”

Interviewer: “That is very dangerous.”

Adonis: “That is our real intellectual crisis. We are facing a new world with ideas that no longer exist, and in a context that is obsolete. We must sever ourselves completely from that context, on all levels, and think of a new Arab identity, a new culture, and a new Arab society.”

[. . .]

“Imagine that Arab societies had no Western influence. What would be left? The Muslims must . . .”

Interviewer: “What would be left?”

Adonis: “Nothing. Nothing would be left except for the mosque, the church, and commerce, of course.”

[. . .]

“The Muslims today–forgive me for saying this–with their accepted interpretation [of the religious text], are the first to destroy Islam, whereas those who criticize the Muslims–the non-believers, the infidels, as they call them–are the ones who perceive in Islam the vitality that could adapt it to life. These infidels serve Islam better than the believers.”

   

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November 11, 2006

September 30, 2006: Massacre. September 29, 1960: Tenzin Gyatsu’s prayer.

   


   

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

–Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
   

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A Romanian ProTV station on a massacre of Tibetan refugees by Chinese soldiers on Nangapa pass in the Himilayas on Sept. 30, 2006. See more coverage and get involved in the struggle to free Tibet at Students for a Free Tibet and Tibet Will Be Free.
   

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from his website
   

a prayerby His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet
   

Words of Truth
   

Honoring and Invoking the Great Compassion
of the Three Jewels; the Buddha, the Teachings,
and the Spiritual Community

   

O Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and disciples
of the past, present, and future:
Having remarkable qualities
Immeasurably vast as the ocean,
Who regard all helpless sentient beings
as your only child;
Please consider the truth of my anguished pleas.

Buddha’s full teachings dispel the pain of worldly
existence and self-oriented peace;
May they flourish, spreading prosperity and happiness throughout this spacious world.
O holders of the Dharma: scholars
and realized practitioners;
May your ten fold virtuous practice prevail.

Humble sentient beings, tormented
by sufferings without cease,
Completely suppressed by seemingly endless
and terribly intense, negative deeds,
May all their fears from unbearable war, famine,
and disease be pacified,
To freely breathe an ocean of happiness and well-being.
And particularly the pious people
of the Land of Snows who, through various means,
Are mercilessly destroyed by barbaric hordes
on the side of darkness,
Kindly let the power of your compassion arise,
To quickly stem the flow of blood and tears.

Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion,
Maddened by delusion’s evils,
wantonly destroy themselves and others;
May they achieve the eye of wisdom,
knowing what must be done and undone,
And abide in the glory of friendship and love.

May this heartfelt wish of total freedom for all Tibet,
Which has been awaited for a long time,
be spontaneously fulfilled;
Please grant soon the good fortune to enjoy
The happy celebration of spiritual with temporal rule.

O protector Chenrezig, compassionately care for
Those who have undergone myriad hardships,
Completely sacrificing their most cherished lives,
bodies, and wealth,
For the sake of the teachings, practitioners,
people, and nation.

Thus, the protector Chenrezig made vast prayers
Before the Buddhas and Bodhisativas
To fully embrace the Land of Snows;
May the good results of these prayers now quickly appear.
By the profound interdependence of emptiness
and relative forms,
Together with the force of great compassion
in the Three Jewels and their Words of Truth,
And through the power
of the infallible law of actions and their fruits,
May this truthful prayer be unhindered
and quickly fulfilled.
   

This prayer, Words of Truth, was composed by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, on 29 September 1960 at his temporary headquarters in the Swarg Ashram at Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal State, India. This prayer for restoring peace, the Buddhist teachings, and the culture and self-determina-tion of the Tibetan people in their homeland was written after repeated requests by Tibetan government officials along with the unanimous consensus of the monastic and lay communities.
   

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If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
   

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