February 27, 2012

Capitalism versus individual freedom

Capitalism is antithetical to individualism. Capitalism replaces individualism with commodification. People are nothing more than units of production and consumption in the accounting of capital. Even the "masters" of capital are mere servants to the cancer of profit. Individualism is a threat to capitalism.

(Conversely, only with socialism can the individual be free to be him- or herself. See Oscar Wilde's essay "The Soul of Man under Socialism".)

human rights, anarchism

February 26, 2012


There once was a foolish young clerk
Who was after some fun in the park

With two saucy sisters

But three loyal fisters

Had bites that were worse nor his bark.

February 19, 2012

The Dream Awakes

Finnegans Wake is the last novel written by James Joyce. After Ulysses was published in 1922, installments of Work In Progress soon began to appear, the final title being a secret between the writer and his partner, Nora Barnacle. The finished book was published in 1939, and Joyce died less than two years later, leaving a work the reading of which is still very much “in progress.”

The language of Finnegans Wake is confounding; consider, for example, “O here here how hoth sprowled met the duskt the father of fornciationists but, (O my shining stars and body!) how hath fanespanned most high heaven the skysign of soft advertisement!” The language is like that of a dream, not quite conscious or formed, shimmering with layers of possible meaning. Yet this is a return to possibility, shaped by the experiences of the world we have fallen (into sleep) from. One of the many sources Joyce drew from is the Ancient Egyptian story of Osiris, torn apart by his brother or son, Set, the pieces gathered and reassembled by his sister or wife, Isis, and their other brother or son, Horus, slaying Set, allowing Horus to rise as the new day’s sun. So in Finnegans Wake, we have fragments and allusions and confusing messages that the reader must, like Isis, put together into a recognizable form.

The book begins with the fall of Finnegan, a hod carrier, from a scaffold. At his wake, in keeping with the American vaudeville song, “Finnegan’s Wake,” a fight breaks out, whiskey splashes on Finnegan’s corpse, and he rises up again alive. But Joyce has him put back down again (“Now be aisy, good Mr Finnimore, sir. And take your laysure like a god on pension and don’t be walking abroad”). Someone else is sailing in to take over the story: Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, whose initials HCE (“Here Comes Everybody”) lend themselves to phrase after phrase throughout the book.

HCE is a foreigner and takes a native Irish wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle (whose initials ALP as well are found in phrase after phrase), and they settle down to run a public house in Chapelizod, a suburb of Dublin. HCE personifies the city of Dublin (which was founded by Vikings), and ALP personifies the Liffey river, on whose banks the city was built. Joyce universalizes his tale by making them stand as well for every city-river pair in the world. And they are, like Eve and Adam, the primeval parents of all the Irish and all humanity.

ALP and HCE have a daughter, Issy, whose person is often split, and two sons, Shem and Shaun, eternal rivals for replacing their father and for Issy’s affection (among other things). Shem and Shaun often are seen with a third fellow in which their two halves may join against HCE or in winning Issy.

A scandal in the park threatens HCE’s reputation, perhaps his life. In a midden heap, a hen named Biddy finds the letter that ALP has dictated a letter to Shem which Shaun is charged with carrying to the ruling power of the time, which may be HCE himself. It is a letter that is hoped will redeem his past, just as Finnegans Wake is a vast “comedy” that seeks to redeem human history.

The progress of the book, however, is far from simple as it draws in mythologies, theologies, mysteries, philosophies, histories, sociologies, astrologies, other fictions, alchemy, music, color, nature, sexuality, human development, and dozens of languages to create the world drama in whose cycles we live.

Wikipedia, Sept 2–13, 2002

February 14, 2012

The divine right of money

Paul Craig Roberts writes in Counterpunch:

Austerity is the price charged by the EU for lending the Greek government the money to pay to the banks. In other words, the question was austerity or default. However, the question was decided without the participation of the Greek people. ...

Some say that the EU is using the banks for the EU’s agenda, and others say the banks are using the EU for the banks’ agenda.

Indeed, they may be using each other. Regardless, democracy is not part of the process. ...

Violence begets violence. Violence in the streets is a response to the economic violence being committed against the Greek people. ...

Perhaps future historians will conclude that democracy once served the interests of money in order to break free of the power of kings, aristocracy, and government predations, but as money established control over governments, democracy became a liability. Historians will speak of the transition from the divine right of kings to the divine right of money.

February 11, 2012

Simple Fact

The simple fact is that industrial society is based on ever more concentrated sources of energy that add to both the power of those who control society and the productivity of those whose work makes continually increasing wealth and power possible.

The simple fact is that industrial society can not continue on less concentrated sources of energy, such as the sun and wind. Rather than sharing their abundance out of the secure comfort of their power, those who control society would instead concentrate the benefits of such diminishing energy to maintain their power and comfort at the expense of the rest of society (and the environment).

Rather than help to facilitate that horrible future by advocating "alternatives" and "sustainability", we need to do everything we can to slow things down, deescalate, decentralize, ... deindustrialize.

February 8, 2012

The Laundromat of Wickedness

Peter de Vries, The Tents of Wickedness (1959) —

He awoke in a strange bed. Not awoke exactly, but felt it penetrate his consciousness that it was a strange bed in a strange place, before sinking into even deeper slumber . . .

. . . Then for some reason he could not explain, except within the logic of dreams where no explanations are required but oddity itself imposes its kind of clarity, he was in one of those places where people take their laundry to wash it in automatic machines. The public Laundromat. It would be a mistake to say he was there in person: he was rather there in spirit, to witness the two old women who were the only customers as they drew the soiled family clothes from their bags and chucked them into the washers. The machines were side by side, the center pair in a glistening white row of perhaps ten. The women sat side by side on a bench to gossip, and as the machines simultaneously commenced the first of the cycles, the drone of their words mingled with the hum of the motors and the wash and splash of the water and the clothes, while all of it seemed to be going on in Swallow’s head itself, where it merged in an endlessly flowing river of dialogue.


It was a literary friendship. (Laughter from the toothless crones.) Can’t you see them in their trysting shanty, talking about books. Well, it’s the sterne realities they’ll be facing now.


What he minds most they say is the being a laughing stock. It’s his rire end to be seen sticking through the britches he was too big for.


And hers out front. They must have known it would illicit comment.


That sort’s not practical, the artistic — and when it comes to the poets! I understand he could be treacly in his tastes for all that. Not even above a little Tennyson.


Chacun à son goo. And that’s not all. Think o’ them fancy composers they must have cuddled up listening to. Everything was fine and d’indy then, but I de falla now to see a bright side to the situation. Now don’t fly off the handel about the modern stuff, Molly, that’s not what the subject is about. Let’s stick to it for once, for a luscious one it is, my duck.


I’m not shootin’ me mouth off about that aspect of it either. There ought to be a law against all these illicit relations. What’s needed is some good plain penal reform.


Beginning with his. Cut it off without a pity — and don’t stop there either. Let him die intestate, him on his Castro convertible.


So he’ll never go whole hog again? (Laughter) But he won’t soon again anyway, I’ll be bound. Still, it’d be a stop in the right direction.

(There is a pause and they suddenly turn silent and thoughtful, even sad. There is a transition in the machine and a change of tempo in the wash)


(Half humming) Ha hee ha ho a low . . . It’s keening the sound of these machines makes me feel like doing. A mournful ancient seadark sound it is, this in the Laundromat, as of all the waters washing all the shores in the weary world. The splash and swish of the suds reminds me of all the rivers running into the sea, yet the sea not full. There, the pre-rinse is over, and now it’s the water frothing and swirling in the seacove, lonely beyond knowing, my Molly, the last outlet of Time . . . the wash everything comes out in as they do be sayin’.


Stop your lip, woman, and leave the poetry to them as can moan it proper. Poets are born, not made.


Aye, but we know one was made, don’t we now? And proper too she was. She priapubly had them lined up waiting their turn. Had I the queue for passion she has I wouldn’t be doin’ meown washin’, let alone others’. There’s food for thought there — intravenus injection. Still ’twas she, not I, met with a foetal accident.


Ah, you’re a foul-mouthed sweet old soul. Yes, made she was I must admit — and made once, maid no more.


Stop grinning with them two remaining teeth. They remind me of cloves, which reminds me I’ve got to get home and fix a ham for the poor old clod I’ve remaining to me. An incurable rheumatic. Ah well I love him just the same, the same. He’s persona non Groton, but he’s mine, and he wouldn’t go cheatin’ on me even if he had the opportunity, like that other blatherskite.


Oh, let’s not blacken the lad to the point of using him as a sinonim for all ruttin’ off the reservation. I’ve heard rumors he was the one prevailed upon. The soft sell and then the hard sell, and him so young and rubicund. It’s the company he kept.


Kept is it now? He keep anyone, that cheapskate, at least to hear tell? He’d never get in that deep — he’d never get fiscally involved if he could help. Furs and flowers, and then Christmas coming round and she up there in the flat waiting over the eggnog, in hopes that St. Necklace soon would be there. And him with his Santa Claustrophobia. No, not him. Just once he slipped and now he’s slapped and that’s the long and the short of it. Slapped around just like that clothes behind the glass there. Did you ever hear the one about the woman who looked at one of these and said, ‘Well, if that’s television . . .’?


Oh, woman, if you can’t tell jokes at least no older than yourself, button up. Here comes the Spin-dry. Then you can spread your washin’ proper and get home to cook that ham. How do you cook a ham?


(Growing absent) So little thyme. Sanctuary much, he’ll say ironiclike. He was good for the jests he was, once and many a spare quid for a case of bottles. Remembrance of Things Pabst, that’s the story of our life, and ah, how we lay dreaming on the grass. Him reading to me books with plots. How Greene Was My Valley of Decision then. Yes right off, and him with the wherewithal to hitch us up straight off. Legal Tender Is the Night. Him laying in bed drunk singing as I dropped my shift on the cold hotel room floor, Sister Carrie Me Back to old Virginibus Puerisque. It’s all a welter mitty in my head, thinkin’ back so fondly. For the lad it’s Beth In the Afternoon. As I went walking down the street I metamorphosis. It’s like that Spin-dry in my head as it must be in his too. I hear he’s mental now, aw, let’s have a kind thought for the chap. This is the end for him: delirium: tear-a-lira-lirium: stream of conscience: you pays your money and you takes your joyce.

(His head spins furiously at top speed. Then something mercifully clicks the end of the cycle and the whirling slows. The spectral blur sorts itself out in a circle of faces wreathing the bed, into which he looks up. Dr. Bradshaw is there, then another physician, a nurse, and Crystal too, wiping his brow.)


(Raking his boyish gray hair) It’s the most amazing case of auto-suggestion I’ve ever encountered in my thirty years as a family doctor in these parts. To think so strongly you’re a swine as to turn into one! Look at it. I mean the eyes. Like beads.


And the red along the face — not just around the eyes. If it isn’t arrested the whole skin surface will be covered with it, which might be fatal. The only case on record like it that I recall is in Tender Is the Night. The woman in Diver’s sanatorium there, remember? [Then this man isn’t a doctor but a critic, and the consultations are literary, not medical. Could it be Blackmur? Or Burke? One of the giants? One of the Symbol Simons of literature?] It was related to the blush. When guilt is so strong it has to be organically realized —


(Resentfully) You mean this is derivative too? I tell you I won’t —

(Hands press him firmly back onto the bed)


He seems to take it so personally. But there, he’s dropped off again. He must be exhausted. But now to get back to what we were saying, there’s another way of analyzing this particular hysteria. The need to convert himself into a swine may be an indirect way of blaming the woman.


You mean the Biblical legend — ?


I was thinking mainly of the Circe scene in The Odyssey, where she changes them all into pigs, remember? Thus it becomes, you see, the woman’s work, the woman who’s responsible.

(Swallow sits bolt upright, profoundly elated)


We’ve done it! A Homeric parallel. This is it! We’ve made it! We’re in! Tell Cowley, tell Warren, get everybody on the wire, we’re in, do you hear! A Homeric parallel! At last! Get Wilson on the wire, get Hyman and Daiches and Jarrell! Shoot it to the newspapers and magazines. Wire Prescott and Rolo and Gissen and Hobson and Hutchens and Hicks —


He’s really delirious now.

(The two washerwomen briefly reappear, keening and chanting “Dear a lear and leerious . . . ”)


You need to cut it both ways now, with hidden meanings I’m afreud. You Rahv Pater to play ball, and a little Levin levineth the whole ump. Ah well, they were boobs in the wood, those two, like us all, beside this babbling book that has no end. My years ache with the melancholy plaint of footnotes, and my poor head rumbles when the Kazins go rolling along. And that other bunch washing their Lenin in public. Who will resolve all this and bring White peace again? Look look, the desk is groaning, and my poor chair’s gone ashen. What’s left for the likes of us but to draw up our chair to the fire of a night, and munch the tried old crusts again. What ails the new loaf I can tell you straight. It’s too inbread and lax —


Lacks what?


That good old William Butler Yeast.


That does it! I’m going home to Maugham.

(The two women fade, gently moaning “Tear a leer a lirium . . . He’s a merewolf.”)


Phone Fadiman —


Shh . . .

(Another voice is heard offstage, growing louder. It is a Dutch accent of somebody obviously shouldering his way forward)


Dr. Van Kuykens, thank God you’ve come. (There is a stir of handshaking all around, while a hand with a cool cloth continually soothes Swallow’s brow) This thing has gotten a little beyond me. I mean while we doctors like to keep abreast of psychosomatic medicine as the situation calls for these days, we’re not geared for anything like this. It’s an amazing case. Organically realized delusion. I’m sure you can tell by one look what he fancies himself to be.

(Dr. Van Kuykens wedges a round, smooth-shaven face into the circle. He looks Swallow over, feeling his forehead and taking his pulse. He lifts Swallow’s left eyelid and lets it drop.)


I can certainly see what dis is at a glance. Dis man has got trichinosis!


Trichinosis! (They back sheepishly off) I never gave that a . . .


Severe edema of the eyes. Bad enough to make dem almost disappear. Soreness of de muscles I’m sure from de vay he moofs on de bed . . . (He breaks off, openmouthed a moment.) You mean I have come all de way from Rotterdam to diagnose an case of trichinosis? Och, God in hemel, wat is me dit? Ezels! (Going away) Give him aspirin, a mustard bath to bring de fever down, absolute rest and quiet. Plenty of nourishing food as soon as he can take it, and in a few days maybe a little light readink.


February 7, 2012

Homecoming, a poem

by Eric Rosenbloom
copyright 2012

Where are you turning toward now?
All your shipmates have gone
And the days alone are long
Of sameness and sameness before the prow.

Remember the one that remains
Embraced by ethereal arms
Or washed by the earthiest rains —
Your time like the darkness comes.

You forgot all the names
And work turns to play
While your voice is echoing the air —

And she rose above the waves
To call you forth that fateful day
When you joined the waters forever.