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Caroline Leavitt interviews Harriet Levin Millan...

NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING NOVELIST, SCREENWRITER, EDITOR, NAMER, CRITIC, MOVIE ADDICT AND CHOCOHOLIC, Caroline Leavitt, blogs… 

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2016

Harriet Levin Millan talks about her profound novel-based-on-a-true-story, How Fast Can You Run, about a South Sudan refuge searching for the mother he was separated from when he was five.

“The best war novel told from a young boy’s perspective since Jerzy Kozinski’s The Painted Bird.”

—Nyoul Lueth Tong, author of There is a Country: New Writing from the New Country of South Sudan

Prepare to be amazed. When One Book, One Philadelphia asked author and Drexel University professor Harriet Levin Millan to choose ten of her undergraduate creative writing students to interview ten South Sudanese refugees for a special One Book writing project, she met Michael Majok Kuch, who became the subject of her novel. . Kuch survived the torching of his village in South Sudan, and was separated from his mother when he was only five. His quest to be reunited with her, and the plight of the refuge is both profound and moving. Thank you so much Harriet, for being here.

I always say every book starts with a yearning. What was yours?

My yearning was for Michael Majok Kuch, the S. Sudanese national, I based my novel on, to see his mother. They had been separated since Michael was five-years-old and their village was attacked in the middle of the night and they got separated. So by the time I met him, when he was a senior in college, he hadn’t seen her for nearly 22 years. [more…]

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Publishing

  • Atta Market, India

  • Atta Market
    Sector 18
    The sweat drips
    Down my back
    The shoe wallah
    Hits the sandals
    In the street
    Clapping
    To the mahem
    Of clothes, bags,
    Bangles, childish
    Windmills
    Watches, pajamas,
    Momos
    I enter into
    A shop
    The AC stings
    The droplets
    Running my back
    To catch up:
    300, 400, 800
    For this specially
    Designed pair
    They can double
    Up to be used in
    The shower
    Ergonomic
    I swear
    I get something
    Sparkly for 300
    He says they’re
    Fancy
    They’ll suit the purpose
    I cannot linger
    Any longer
    Pace is picking up again
    I have to brave the street
    And bargain
    Nail polish, lipstick
    Lashed on my hand
    Don’t give me that
    On how many thousands
    Have you tested it
    I’ll take this nicely wrapped
    Stick
    Peach; just perfect
    Give me a discount
    Please
    The kurti I want but I can’t show
    I do…
    How can I fake
    I’ll walk away
    Back and forth the
    Prices sway
    I get a little Less
    Off
    He perhaps gains more
    But each party is happy
    Since it’s a done deal
    And all
    Back in the throng
    Of the streets
    So many colours
    Protesting to me
    You should have
    Bought this or that
    Shined in turquoise
    Delighted
    In pink
    Perused in purple
    Yearned in yellow
    Danced like a
    Raucous rainbow
    I’m alright
    With what I’ve got
    It was a quieter
    Corner where I
    Stopped
    Cramming in with the
    Crowd
    Hugging
    Belongings
    Tight
    Wondering
    Where the metro
    Entry is
    How can it be out
    Of sight
    I’ve gone past
    Oh look there’s a rat
    Scurrying into
    Rubbled ground
    Plants popping
    Out of nowhere
    Don’t look down
    Keep your eyes
    Up
    Back to the metro
    Entry
    I can’t entertain
    This circle
    Endlessly
    Earrings, bindis
    Hot and relentless:
    Weddings
    Hopes ‘n’ dreams
    Survival
    Sings its
    Own song
    No need for
    Music
    With
    The traffic;
    The tips of
    Tambourines
    Plus
    Each hopeful
    Human
    Who
    Bravely
    Beats
    the time
    Along.
    Lydia Poems (Facebook)
    #Atta market #Adventureshoping #indiapoetry

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  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

    This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others.

     

    Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

    “You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

    “Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

    “It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

    “Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

    He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.”

    Sometimes that really made Floyd angry. “Is that right? Every bad thing? I made happen every bad thing that came into my life, Marcy?” He would tower over her, breathing heavily, staring at the top of her lacquered hair until she was silent.

    She looked closely at the big digits on the clock by the bed. It was almost 8:30 and she still had not done her makeup. From the drawer in the nightstand on her side of the bed she looked for her own pill organizer and then realized she had already taken it out. She put it under the light, right beside that picture of her two boys, smiling in the lap of a black Santa, and looked at Wednesday. There were still pills in the morning box but the evening box was empty. Maybe she took the evening pills by mistake. Not that it mattered ‘cause they were basically the same. Or maybe she hadn’t filled the PM part.

    Looking at the rainbow colored compartments (Wednesday was green, Thursday red) she thought of Wilson, who had the hardest time with his R’s when he was little – “Weeding Wainbow,” he would say about his favorite show, and his brother would laugh at him. She felt overcome for a moment and then heard her husband’s keys in the door.

    She took the morning pills, four altogether, as Floyd shouted at her from the kitchen.

    “Do you know how much they wanted for a half-gallon of milk?” She imagined his face as he said the price and the way he would look at her afterwards. He might be looking that way right now, even though she wasn’t there.

    “Cost of everything is going up,” she yelled back. Then she stood and headed for the bathroom. “I got to get a move on.”

    “Ain’t you even going to drink your milk?” She heard him swear as she closed the bathroom door.

    The bus driver turned out to be some white guy who’d been sleeping in the back while people waited outside. The whole bus was talking about it, even after they got out of the Holland Tunnel and were getting on the turnpike, people tisking and hmm-hmming until Floyd wanted to yell, “Who told you to stand out there in the first place? It’s not even cold.” But he kept quiet and sat by a window, alone thank you very much, though Tommy insisted on sitting right in front of him, while Marcy huddled on the other side with a bunch of ladies. They outnumbered the men five to one anyway; he let Tommy represent, going back and forth across the aisle like some congressman making a deal. Each time he went over to the ladies he would say something so low that Floyd couldn’t hear and they would all laugh and holler.

    “I think it’s about time for some music,” Tommy said after one of his sorties. He had a gym bag with him that also said Mets on it, and from it he pulled a boom box that he tried to balance on the seatback in front of him. He pushed play and Johnnie Taylor started in on “Who’s Making Love” and the ladies all laughed, even though the sound was kind of wobbly. From the front of the bus the driver said something, they could see him looking at them in the rear view mirror, but no one tried to hear him. In fact Tommy stood up, with the boom box on his shoulder, and started to shake it in the aisle, which made the driver get on the mike.

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” He had some kind of accent, Russian or something, but no one really paid him any mind.

    The hits kept coming; it must have been some kind of collection since Floyd never heard a deejay. Tommy jammed the boom box between the headrest and the window so it wouldn’t fall down and turned around to look at Floyd, but not before looking at the driver, who had his eyes on the road again.

    “How ‘bout a little taste?” Tommy said, taking a half-pint in a brown bag from the pocket of his jacket.

    “Too early for me,” Floyd said, looking out the window. To him it always looked like New Jersey was halfway through being torn down.

    Across the aisle Marcy was in the middle of a conversation with the other ladies but she didn’t feel quite right. It started as soon as she left the building; she had picked out a brooch to go with her blue blouse, a little gold tree with red apples on it, but she had left it sitting in front of the mirror. Now she felt naked, all that blue stretching out below her chin like an empty ocean almost and she felt like she was being pulled back from drowning each time one of them stopped talking. That meant somebody was supposed to say something, you were supposed to jump in like it was a game of double-Dutch.

    “What I value most is the privacy,” Marcy said, but no one answered. She had a feeling she had said that before. The topic was assisted living and how to know when you needed it.

    “Until you wake up privately dead,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. Marcy didn’t remember meeting her before, a friend of Helen’s was how she was introduced, but she didn’t like her now. She had these gray and white streaks in her hair, extensions by the look of it, but it reminded Marcy of mud. Besides she was probably the youngest woman of the bunch, what was she talking about dying for?

    “My boy checks in on us every night,” said Marcy and immediately wondered why she had. It wasn’t true. Most times she had to call Eric and he never sounded too happy to hear from her. He did come to visit though, once a month at least. They saw less of him after his divorce, though you’d think it would be the other way around.

    “Where are we?” she said suddenly, looking out the window. Everything looked the same.

    “You keep asking that,” the lady in the Kente cloth said, or maybe she said. Marcy wasn’t looking at her and the music Tommy was playing made her feel lost.

    “Sending this one out for all you ladies,” said Tommy, like he was some deejay, and they all laughed but Marcy didn’t think it was funny. It was that song about sitting on a park bench that always made her sad. “I see her face everywhere I go/on the street and even at the picture show/have you seen her?”

    There was a hospital up there high on a hill and for a second she felt that the bus was going to take off and fly straight up to its doors. She closed her eyes and felt herself rise.

    They parked in the lot of the Showboat casino. Though they could have gone anywhere they wanted, the thirty odd passengers that disembarked made for the Showboat as if summoned, shuffling and limping toward the entrance in a broken conga line.

    “No one says we got to go to this casino,” Floyd said to the crowd of ladies leading the way.

    “The Showboat has a Mardi Gras theme,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. She turned around to give Floyd the fisheye, pulling down her glasses as she did. “Besides, we got coupons for the Showboat.”

    He fell in line sullenly beside Tommy who offered him another drink. Floyd took a swallow this time without pulling down the brown paper to see what it was. It tasted like mouthwash.

    “Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

    “Little peppermint schnapps.” Tommy tried to slap Floyd on the back but the big man danced away, handing the bottle back as he moved.

    “What she mean by a ‘Mardi Gras theme,’ anyway?” Floyd said.

    Tommy shrugged. “As long as they got free drinks and blackjack I don’t much care.”

    Seagulls screamed overhead. Floyd saw his reflection scowling in the window of a parked Humvee. He went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras when he was in the Navy, how many years ago? He got lost and someone stole his wallet. A man dressed as a woman tried to put beads around his neck, he remembered. You could have your Mardi Gras.

    Marcy was among the first of the women to enter the casino and the air conditioning hit her like a cold wave. “Good thing I remembered my shawl!” she said but no one answered. The music and the sound of the slot machines, dinging and ringing with sirens going off every five minutes as if some crime was being committed, swallowed her voice.

    Marcy had thought to bring rolls of quarters and silver dollars. While the other ladies were getting change she was already pouring her silver into a red plastic cup provided to her by a girl in the shortest skirt she had ever seen.

    “You must be freezing!” Marcy said but the girl didn’t seem to hear her. Maybe she just got tired of people trying to talk to her.

    The slots area had thousands of machines and at noon it was already half filled, mostly old timers like her and Floyd. He and Tommy had set off in the other direction like there was a sign saying ‘Men, That Way.’ The carpets were in a pattern of red and orange and gold that reminded her of a kaleidoscope and the ceiling was made up to look like stained glass, though she knew real stained glass when she saw it and this wasn’t it. She felt like if she didn’t sit down she might just fall into the colors. She sat down at a quarter machine and began feeding it. She didn’t know where the other ladies had gone and looking over her shoulder left her none the wiser.

    “Y’all gonna have to find me,” she said and as if summoned a different lady in a short skirt appeared.

    “How you doing today?” she said. She had a tray filled with drinks and a notepad tucked into her belt. “Can I get you something to drink?”

    “Well I suppose you can!” Marcy turned in her chair to show her appreciation. “My name’s Marcy by the way, I come here from Brooklyn with a bunch of folks from my church group.”

    “Now isn’t that nice? My name’s Kim Sue. What can I get you?”

    Marcy smiled and opened her mouth. But she could not think of the names of any drinks, not just the fancy ones but any drink. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back underneath her blouse.

    “It’s funny,” she said, embarrassed. “My mind’s just a blank today.”

    “Sure, no problem!” Kim Sue smiled back at her like one of those Chinese dolls, her name right there on her badge. “We have beer and wine and soda and mixed drinks.” She kept smiling at Marcy and continued. “I could make you a nice white wine spritzer, if you like.”

    “Oh, that sounds nice,” said Marcy, and it did sound nice, like a sprinkler in the summer time, the kind the boys used to play in. Kim Sue left and Marcy returned to the machine. Cherries and plums rolled past, never stopping at the same time.

    Eric used to chase Wilson through the sprinklers in the park and sometimes when Marcy wasn’t looking he would hold his little brother down and try to pull off his shorts in front of all the other children. She would get so mad at him, always teasing like that, knowing it would make Wilson cry and come looking for her, but she had a job then, looking after a little white boy named Oskar whose parents lived in Park Slope and worked all the time. Oskar’a parents didn’t mind too much when she brought her boys with her when she took him to the park. “As long as you remember,” the father said, “that Oskar is your first priority.”

    Well of course he is, mister doctor man! Why would my own flesh and blood come before your little prince? Good gracious, the things that man would say. If the wife heard him she would weigh in and try to soften the blow. “What my husband means is that we don’t want you to get too distracted. Three children is a handful.”

    Now that was the kind of thing only a white person would say. Where she came from three children was just getting started, even if she was done after Wilson, something her own mother could never understand.

    “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am,” Marcy would say. “I won’t ever let Oskar out of my sight.”

    All these people thinking someone was going to steal their child then, like the whole country had gone crazy. Soon they’d be putting their pictures on milk cartons and billboards and on TV during the news – “Have you seen Brandon?” Usually white kids. If a black kid went missing generally people know who took him.

    “Here you go, ma’am.”

    Kim Sue was back with her drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a straw that went in curlicues, like a roller coaster, like this was for a child. She started fishing in her coin cup.

    “Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

    Like I didn’t know that. She pulled out a Susan B. Anthony and put it on her tray. “That’s for you,” she said.

    “Very nice of you, ma’am. And if you need anything else you just let me know.”

    She turned to leave and Marcy was afraid to see her go. “Kim Sue, it’s like your momma gave you two names.”

    “Kim is my family name. Family name comes first in Korean.”

    “Is that right?” said Marcy. “Well I think family should come first, don’t you?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    Marcy thought that was something else she should write in her book but realized that she hadn’t brought it with her, and then forgot what she had said. “But they probably don’t spell it like that in Korea, do they? The Sue, I mean.”

    “No, ma’am, we have a different alphabet.”

    “Now isn’t that something?”

    She was balancing a tray full of drinks while she talked to Marcy so she let her go, disappearing into the big Tiffany lamp around them. A band was playing Dixieland and Marcy strained her eyes to see them. The music seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

    “Let me tell you another,” she said, sipping on her drink. The lady at the machine next to her looked at Marcy and then moved away, taking her quarters with her. She watched as the drink spun up the straw when she sucked. Here we go loop de loop.

    Sometimes Eric would help her push the stroller as they went around the park, and Wilson would run so far ahead she would shout after him. “Don’t go where I can’t see you!” she’d holler, and Oskar, too big to be pushed around in a stroller, would try and stand up and yell after her. “Go where I can’t see you!”

    Wilson would hide like that at home as well; hide so good she couldn’t find him sometimes. They were living in Prospect-Lefferts, more house than they needed but you could afford those big limestone buildings then even on a Con Ed salary and Wilson would go into different rooms and be so quiet that she would get hysterical, be practically beside herself by the time her husband got home. Then they would hear him laughing. “Got you!” he would say and emerge from the cupboard or from behind the sideboard and Floyd would get so mad. That one time he came out of her closet wearing her bra and Floyd just about went crazy; took off his belt and chased him.

    She put in a coin and pulled the lever: a watermelon; a bell; the number seven in gold.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned her head but nobody was there. Who had spoken? Just turning her head made the colors around her move and when she looked at the floor she saw the pattern there was moving too. It was like a flying carpet, the Vale of Cashmere –

    The Vale of Cashmere! That was the name of that strange corner of the park where she took the boys now and then. They were getting older; other boys took the place of Oskar, and Eric got too big to want to be with them. But Wilson kept her company as she made the rounds, bought them ice cream and wiped their sticky hands. People used to call it The Swamp and there was a muddy pond okay and some hanging trees.

    “How come you don’t play with boys your own age?” one of the kids had asked him once.

    “I just like to help my momma,” he’d said.

    He was the one who found out the real name of The Swamp, checked an old book out of the library and showed her on the map. There was a poem that went with it and Wilson stood up by the pond and put one finger in the air as he read: “Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/With its roses the brightest the earth ever gave?”

    Another babysitter saw them by the pond once and came over to warn them. “You shouldn’t be down in there,” she said, afraid to come too close with her stroller in front of her. “They say men get together down there.”

    And after that Marcy noticed them, lurking about, standing in the trees. Once when she came down with Wilson and a stroller two men ran out, going in different directions.

    She didn’t think about it again for years, until Wilson was grown and still living at home, and he came back one night that first time with his face all bloody, drunk or high on something and smiled at her, blood on his teeth.

    “Hey, Momma, I been to the Vale of Cashmere!”

    That’s when Floyd said no more.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned and the colors whooshed like a scarf being wrapped around her head. She saw her this time, a little woman, no bigger than a dragonfly like the ones the boys chased in the park, Wilson would put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, while Eric tried to cover it up with his hand so they would smother.

    “I’m looking for three sevens,” Marcy said to the dragonfly woman. “Are there some other numbers to play?”

    “That is the question, isn’t it?” said the faerie. “Are there other numbers to play?”

    And then she flew away, just like a little hummingbird, and Marcy got up to follow her, passing into the pattern of colors and leaving her cup of coins behind.

    Floyd went through all his money the first hour. Not all his money but all the money he’d meant to spend, the money he put in his shirt pocket, seemed to fly off the table. Dealer beat him every time: if Floyd had 18, the dealer had 19; if Floyd sat on a 19, the dealer hit him with two bricks.

    “I guess this lady feels like she has to show us what a blackjack looks like,” said Tommy, when the dealer drew her third in ten minutes. She apologized to them both, even though they didn’t tip her, and Tommy’s luck was better than hers: He doubled down twice and made a hundred bucks in the blink of an eye. All Floyd could do, once he had spent the money he had earmarked for this outing, was sit there and simmer in his resentment while Tommy’s chip pile grew.

    That was when Helen, the lady in the purple pantsuit, came and asked if he knew where Marcy was.

    “I thought she was with you,” said Floyd. It came out like an accusation.

    “Well, we agreed to meet for lunch at three,” she said, “but then nobody could find Marcy. We figured maybe you two went off together.”

    And that’s how well you know us, Floyd thought. “Maybe she just went off to another casino by herself,” he said. Even though he was losing, and wasn’t even playing at the time, he didn’t want to have to leave his spot and go look for his wife. “There’s no law says we got to stay here.”

    “Blackjack,” said the dealer, flipping another ace.

    But after a minute he did get up to look, as he knew he would, leaving Tommy, who still had a hot hand and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

    “Did you try the ladies room?” he asked Helen.

    “That was one of the first places we looked. They have sofas in there, you know.” She paused. “Do you think we should call security?”

    The suggestion made his blood pressure rise. “No, I don’t think we should call security. Christ sake, grown woman goes off for a few minutes and you want to call the cavalry?”

    “Does she have a cell phone?”

    “Our son gave her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it.” This was literally half true: Eric had given them each one last Christmas, and neither of them could figure out how to use it. By the time Floyd got the hang of it he realized that the only person he would call was his wife, which was kind of stupid since he saw her all the time anyway.

    They looked all the places that they had already looked and the lady in the Kente cloth joined them, acting more concerned that Floyd felt. “We need a system,” she said, as they circled the room for the second time. The place was more crowded than ever and Floyd could hardly hear what she was saying. “How about I go stake out the buffet and you stay here?” she suggested to Helen.

    “How ‘bout I go stake out the buffet?” Helen said. “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

    Floyd said they could both go feed themselves and take their time doing it; Marcy would turn up. He stood like a sentinel beneath the bells and sirens of the Mardi Gras slots, scowling most of the time. He hated slot machines; there was no sport in it, as he often told his wife. Blackjack at least you were playing the odds. Slots to him was just dumb luck, like a rabbit betting it wouldn’t get run over when it ran across the road. Twice he thought he saw his wife, and each time he took pleasure in anticipating just how much grief he was going to give her. But each time he was wrong.

    By four o’clock they were back together, Tommy too, and they began to set out in search parties. They were a small group: most of the travelers didn’t want to leave their stations, since the bus was scheduled to leave at six and this whole business had already cut into their time as it was. The lady in the Kente cloth, who finally introduced herself as Niobe, took charge. She contacted the hotel security, who seemed to have some experience with old folks wandering off, and as the witching hour neared, and the day-trippers started heading back toward the bus, she went out and argued with the bus driver, who was pretty adamant about leaving on time.

    “You can’t just go off and leave an old lady alone,” she scolded him. The engine was already running, gently shaking the bus, while the AC gusted out the door in heavy welcoming breaths.

    “I won’t be leaving her alone,” the driver said. “I will be leaving you to find her.”

    He agreed to wait as they made one last search. A handful of them fanned out, going to neighboring casinos and restaurants, off the boardwalk and into the side streets. Floyd couldn’t help but think that Marcy was messing with him the whole time, and when he saw the impatient faces of the other folks on the bus – they’d lost their money and had their fill, they just wanted to go home – he couldn’t help but side with them.

    Most of the people he saw as he wandered were wearing shorts and T-shirts. Used to be people would get dressed up to go someplace. And when did everybody get so fat? Walking down the boardwalk, bag of French fries in your hand, what did you expect? The new motto for the city was “Always Turned On,” which he found kind of creepy. There was nothing that he saw that turned him on.

    Doors were open, air conditioning blasting out, cooling nothing. Floyd took to popping into places and doing a quick look around, not even asking half the time if they’d seen anyone who looked like his wife. One, they couldn’t hear you with all that noise and two, half of them couldn’t speak English.

    “You seen an old black lady?” he shouted at one girl scooping ice cream. Her nails were so long he figured they might end up in somebody’s cone. “Blue shirt, about this high?” She stared at him like he was the one with the language problem.

    He kept walking. Going in and out of the summer sun was making him dizzy, to say nothing of thirsty. He wished for the first time that Tommy was with him. That man would always stop for a drink. He saw people in those rolling chairs, being pushed by young people, girls sometimes. And you wonder why you so fat?

    Down at one end of the boardwalk he found what looked like a real bar. The crowd had trickled off as the sun sank lower in the sky. Go on, get out of here. A lot of good you been. Floyd ducked inside and felt the rivers of sweat roll out from under his hat and chill on his face and neck. His glasses steamed as he took a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He perched on the stool and looked up at the game on TV. The waitress brought him his drink and man did that taste good. No skimping on the gin, either. He forgot to ask her about Marcy. His wallet was bothering him, he felt like he was balancing on it. When she asked him if he wanted to start a tab he simply nodded.

    “You got a phone?” She pointed to an old-fashioned booth in the back, kind Superman used to change in. The place was filling up, young couples waiting for dinner. Went back to the hotel to put your dress shorts on? Once inside the paneled wood booth he forgot who he was going to call. Eric, right. He searched the scraps of paper in his wallet for the number he never had cause to memorize and let it ring, go to voicemail, and then dialed again.

    “Hello?”

    “This ain’t no telemarketer.”

    “Hey, Pop.” He did not sound happy to hear from him and Floyd had already put enough change in the machine so he cut straight to the point.

    “We in Atlantic City and your mother’s gone missing.” He backtracked from there, explaining the whole afternoon in greater detail than Eric needed, but never did his son sound any more excited than Floyd felt. He asked the obvious questions – had they called the police? Who else was looking?

    “Did she have her cell phone?” he asked, pointedly.

    “That’s why I was calling,” Floyd said. “I figured maybe she’d called you.”

    Eric was silent, and Floyd knew that he knew he was lying. He imagined him at home, still in his work clothes, the sound on the TV muted, his eyes on the game. From his perch in the booth Floyd could see the TV over the bar. Jeter was trying to steal.

    “I’m sure she’ll turn up, Pop. I mean, where’s she gonna go?”

    “I know that.”

    “You got your cell phone with you? So I can call you if she does?”

    Floyd muttered something and got off the phone. That boy would go to his grave asking about those damn phones. He should just wrap them up and give them back to him for Christmas. Turn ‘em into salt-and-pepper shakers.

    When he got back to his seat at the bar Jeter got picked off and he ordered another drink. Now they could send the search party out for him. The tumblers were tall and when he turned in his seat he found he had company. Big old white dude with long hair and a pointed beard. He was sipping a Budweiser longneck and looking at the screen. His arms were covered in tattoos; dragons, snakes and skulls disappeared into his shirtsleeves.

    “Fuckin’ Yankees,” he said and turned to look at Floyd. “Nice hat.”

    Floyd turned to face his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “You wouldn’t believe how long I had this hat,” he said.

    “There isn’t much I wouldn’t believe,” the man said.

    They got to talking. Turned out he worked in a tattoo parlor on the boardwalk, which explained all the ink. Half way through his second drink and Floyd was feeling generous in his opinions.

    “Back in the day,” he said, “man had a tattoo it meant he’d been someplace. In the service, in the joint, you know.”

    “I hear you,” the man said. “These days it just means you been to the mall.” He drained his beer and held up the empty. “Buy you a drink?”

    “Let me buy you a drink,” said Floyd, and pulled out the fat wallet that had been giving him such a pain and laid it on the counter. Soon he had the pictures out and was showing him snaps of Eric, bragging on his job even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he did. Then one of the whole family, when everyone was young.

    “Where’s your other boy?” the stranger asked.

    Floyd made a face like he was sucking on a lime. “Wilson got killed in a hold-up ten years ago,” he said.

    “Oh, man, I am sorry. They catch the guy who did it?”

    “No, it was in Prospect Park one night. Lot of crime in there.”

    “That’s why I could never live in the city,” the man said, which struck Tommy as funny. Most people would be scared of him, even in Brooklyn.

    “So what happens when folks get old?” said Floyd, changing the subject. “Maybe they don’t want all those tattoos any more.”

    “Shit, you don’t have to wait ‘til your old to regret something stupid you did.” The man laughed and Floyd got a glimmer of a gold tooth in his head. “People come in all the time wanting to have tattoos taken off, usually the name of some girl that don’t love them anymore.”

    “Can you do it?”

    “Sure,” the man said. “Hurts like hell and costs twice as much. But we can do it. Easier just to change it, though.”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Well, there was this one girl who loved a guy named Chris and had it tattooed on her ass. Until she found Jesus and then we just added a ‘T’.”

    He didn’t smile at first and it took Floyd a minute to figure it was a joke. He smiled first. “Hey, I got one,” he said. The stranger’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. “There was this guy who loved this old girl so much he had her name tattooed on his Johnson.”

    “Now that’s gotta hurt!”

    “Hell, yeah.” Floyd wiped his mouth. “Then they broke up, you know, and soon he started missing her real bad. So he went all over looking for her, from Wisconsin all the way down to Jamaica. Then he’s in the bathroom one day and he looks over and he sees this other guy’s dick.” He stopped for a minute. The stranger kept staring at him. “Now I can’t remember that girl’s name.”

    “Is it important?”

    “Yeah, it’s the whole punch line.”

    “Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

    He felt flushed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. There he stared straight ahead at the wall and read all the graffiti as if looking for a message. And by the time he got back to the bar he was not surprised to see the stranger was gone and with him his wallet though all Floyd could feel was a keen sense of disappointment: He remembered the end of the joke now. He had remembered that old girl’s name.

    ______________________

    voice from the planet

    ‘Vale of Cashmere’ was first published by Harvard Square Editions in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others. Sean Elder’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Salon, Slate, Vogue, Elle, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Details and many other publications. The essay he contributed to the collection of men’s writings The Bastard On the Couch (Morrow, 2004) was reprinted on three continents; his essay on ecstasy, included in the collection of drug writings entitled White Rabbit (Chronicle Books, 1995) was called “seminal” by Granta; and a piece he wrote about being a stay-at-home dad for Oprah was included in her best of O collection, Live Your Best Life (Oxmoor, 2005). He has co-authored several books, including Websites That Work with designer Roger Black (Adobe Press, 1997) and Mission Al Jazeera with former Marine captain Josh Rushing (Palgrave, 2007). He also works as a book doctor and helped edit the forthcoming Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa (Hyperion, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter.

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  • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

  • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

    aao cover

    My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

    Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

    The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

    Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

    There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

    An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

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    The Road Taken

     
    Some are marked
    for splendor
    I revelled in
    decline
     
    Some feed on
    fame and fortune
    I feted
    on repine
     
    Some waded
    in ambrosia
    I reared away
    from wine
     
    Some leapt
    to seek Excalibur
    I lay in
    swamps supine
     
    Some rushed
    wanton to Arcady
    I stood waiting
    for a sign
     
    Some gorged to
    their earthly fill
    I supped on
    dreams divine
     
    Some hankered
    for another’s weal
    I yielded
    what was mine
     
    *
     

    Some feasted deep
    on bounty fair
    I’m still fasting
    by the shrine

     
    I may never have
    the golden grail
    but the crown of
    thorns is mine

     
    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     
    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    The Last Crisis?

     
    We are living through the Last Crisis of Late (European) Modernity (EM).
     
    A system constructed on Two self-subverting scaffolds, Asocial Individualism (AI) and Avaricious Adversarialism(AA) is simply bound to implode.
     
    A human society simply cannot be sustained on that basis.
     
    This was the egregious error of the European Enlightentment.
     
    It had a grossly flawed understanding of human nature.
     
    *
     
    All our latter-day crises stem from those false, initial premises.
     
    These cannot be mended by deploying any item in the (E)Modernist tool-kit, be it liberal, conservative, or, socialist.
     
    As Einstein pointed out, issues can never be resolved using the same means as those that created the problem(s).
     
    *
     
    But, who dares to think outside the box?
     
    No happy emoluments await one in that perilous enterprise.
    EM teaches us to question everything – except EM.
     
    So we continue , within the system, to chase our own tails, all but merrily.
     
    *
     
    Against the fallacies of EM, I have suggested the following postulates, for serious reflection.
     
    1. We are NOT Asocial Individualists, nor are we Avaricious Adversarials , except when forced onto that Procrustean bed by force and fraud.
     
    2. We flourish best in Gemeinschaft formations, rather than in Modernist<emGessellschaft
    corrals.
     
    Human integrity loses its pith and meaning when we depart from face-to-face relations.
     
    3. We are affective, communal, cooperative, convivial beings rather than competitive, covetous, rationalist calculators of personal worth and well-being, as EM decrees us to be (A Buddhist qua Buddhist cannot pass a Micro-Econ Exam without having to concede that ‘more is better‘).
     
    4. Nation and State are imposed entities ( The Treaty of Westphalia institutionalised that dual for all of us), by ruling elites, corresponding to their need for tribute, taxation, and territory.
     
    5. Human societies are built from below on the basis of family, kinship, and community: only (some ) native peoples still live within that healing matrix. Most of us live in the engineered alienation of the modern nation state, which is amongst the endemic causes of all modern conflicts.
     
    6. Human societies evolve spontaneously requiring no plan, no agenda, no manifests. We build societies much like ants and bees, instinctually.
     
    7.Instincts are the fabled dog that does not bark in EM discourse, advisedly: to accept that is to admit we are organic beings with organic needs: so we may not be ‘engineered’ to conform to this or that political fantasy
     
    8. The meretricious EM idylls of liberty, democracy, equality, et al are all modes of decoys and detours , diverting us from the brute facts of EM oppression (tying most of us to the Wheel of Permanent Drudgery) , so we safely expend our lives in a fine frenzy, seeking chimera that are ever denied and/or delayed.
     
    9. Like Sysiphus we still carry those burdens, up the hill, in vain hopes of an imminent good (EM utopias, like heaven – which they replaced, historically – always lie, safely, beyond the present). That , alas, never arrives.
     
    *
     
    Stepping off the EM treadmill is equivalent to breathing, again, for the first time: understanding ourselves, our needs, and the grim nature of the spin of the system.
     
    Life can then be redirected, within a clear vision of who we are, to providing for our real, communal, needs , unfiltered by the endless, ever more extortionist demands of the system for our labor, our time, our minds, our fealties, and our resources.
     
    As I have said before, EM ideas of who we are are no less than a dire libel upon the human race.
     
    They turned, over time, a Band of Convivials into an unhappy Company of Strangers.
     
    *
     
    You can see much of this for yourself: look around you, the people you work with, the people you work for, the people you know, the people you live close to – what are the ties that bind you to them , and vice versa?
     
    Excise the forces of necessitycommerce and power– from those equations, above, and what is the residual?
     
    What happened to the life-endowing desiderata of your Affective Life</em>?
     
    It’s nothing less than a grisly travesty.
     
    The Good Life cannot be built upon anomie, alienation, and angst.
     
    Those are precisely the states of being that the system generates, on an ever ascending scale.
     
    The Amoral Society is built by shredding any and all sources of societal empathy, a situation near-perfected today in the US .
     
    Its grim data of daily mass-murder and mayhem , not to mention the frozen tundra of its social relations, stand as tragic, irrefutable, testimony to that.
     
    It goes beyond even the ghoulish to realise that all this stands as the very Template of Progress within the EM world.
     
    Dystopia, intended or not, is its necessary, ultimate , consequence.

     
    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     
    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    Earth Day?

     

    Reflections On The Planet’s Day of Birth
     

    (For Guy McPherson)

     

    Evening mists

    at morn

    gloaming dusk

    at dawn
     

    Sun keeps

    burning low

    the moon just

    lost its glow
     

    Nature’s weary

    of time

    as I work this

    wayward rhyme
     

    *
     
    An era is

    passing on

    ere long will

    all be gone
     

    Who left to

    witness bear

    to wake wonder

    or care?
     

    *
     
    What price that

    grail of gold?

    what left neither

    bought nor sold?

     

    Seas

    restless churn

    forests

    silent burn
     

    The stars do

    fade away

    nothing surreal

    can stay?
     
    *

     
    End of the world

    is nigh?

    forlorn both

    earth and sky
     

    Save the heart

    in endless quest

    beyond requital

    or rest
     

    Though wan

    and woebegone

    still softly

    sojourns on
     
    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     
    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    The Crux

     
    The crux of my critique is simplicity itself.
     
    The ontological/epistemic basis of ALL EM theorising is patently false.
     
    As such, ALL of EM social theory is wrong.
     
    They read nature, mostly (subject to correction by latter-day quantum ideas) right, but ‘human nature’ (noting the oxymoron) wrong.
     
    Why?
     
    Because they ‘deduced’ so called ‘human nature’ by simply examining themselves (and extrapolating) , in context, of the adversarial, avaricious, dog-eat-dog, world they lived in (similar to Hobbes assuming a ‘state of nature’ that actually reflected English societal life, and Smith , looking into his heart, and seeing a Glasgovian ‘propensity to truck and barter’ sealed within it: ditto with Freud taking the traits of his effete, Viennese, clientele , to be universal, etc.).
     
    Their economics, politics, and social theory was, thereby, at once, particularistic and perverse; not even vaguely general, and far, far , from being universal.
     
    In just the same way that an adequate physics is a sine qua non of getting chemistry and biology right, a true anthropology is needed to theorise economy and society, accurately
     
    Whence the Himalayan blunders of EM ‘economics’, Freudian ‘psychology’, and so forth.
     
    *
     
    So what is the truth?
     
    We are , instinctually, affective, heat-seeking, convivial, communal, co-operative, mammals, content with home , hearth , family, and kinship , before rogue ‘animal spirits’ of men – yes, men– extend and expend themselves in corralling power and wealth, leading to the subversion of our primal, tribal, gemeinschaft, social forms into the familiar class-ridden, exploitative, gesellschaft formations of empire-state-and nation (or, ESN, roughly in that historical order).
     
    The simple, tribal form is eminently the domain where the ‘paradigm of femininity’ POF (nurturance) thrives, whereas ESN formations are where the ‘paradigm of masculinity’, or POM (domination, exploitation, expropriation) reigns.
     
    Slavery, feudalism, and capitalism, in European history, are all in the latter mold: in the non-European world they had mirror counterparts in various tributary, imperial, formations.
     
    So EM , or European Modernism, within which the non-tribal world lives today , is in the latter POM cast, ever restless, ever chafing, ever crusading for more, recklessly expansionist, and predatory; and , ultimately, destructive of ALL forms of life.
     
    Those of us trapped within its nihilist ideology suffer the EM languishments of angst, anomie, and alienation, doomed to struggle, suffer, and perish , unrequited.
     
    What a waste of (the abundant potential of )human life!
     
    *
     

    If you think I exaggerate, consider who, or rather what, gave us WW1 and WW2 , and now are, in giddy madness, rushing us all into WW3.
     
    Neither Non-European (non EM) societies, nor their ideologies, are capable of even thinking in such exterminist terms.
     
    The (so-called) barbarians, of yore, Mongols, Huns, et al. were structurally incapable of such dire, rank , overweening , misanthropy.
     
    For all their stupendous ravages, they still left the world – ecological and societal – mostly intact.
     
    That is more than the EM Hegemons of today would care to guarantee, in lapidary insouciance, even to their very own posterity.
     
    Evil Incarnate, and yet for being Amoral, unaware/uncaring of it all.
     
    *
     

    If such are the fruits of ‘enlightenment’, perhaps the world might have been safer if Europe had remained unenlightened, rapt in ignorant slumbers?
     
    If this is what, in the net, ‘progress’ produces, one can hardly abstain from relentless interrogation of the meretricious idyll.
     
    So called ‘growth’ and ‘development’, the key watchwords of this litany, are but the cover for a simpler, more primal, EM urge: imperial expansion.
     
    In sum, I am far from unaware of the benefits of EM, such as they are: I just happen to think that they are simply not , in human and evolutionary terms, anywhere near being even remotely cost -effective.
     
    Human life and human needs are altogether simple, even banal: it is EM ideologues who, steeped in masochistic discontent, and cumulationist drives, concocted its entirely suppositional, vainglorious, overbearing, ‘complexity’ and pseudo-sophistication.
     
    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    The Post Human Society

     

    https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783110455311/html
     
    The Work ( Writ in 1992/Published in 2015, by De Gruyter ), in belles-lettristic form, constitutes the set of my initial, affective , preliminary, reactions to the cultural logos of the Lead Hegemon of EuroModernism.
     
    I have since refined these first impressions, developing a Transcendent Critique of Eurocentrism, but this work was an important first step.
     
    It is free to download, for the interested, as per the link provided, above.
     
    Ps readers can judge for themselves how much of what I say there remains applicable to this day.
     
    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    Dolor of Gaia

     

    Oft did I travel in the haunts of old

    memories warm lienholders though cold

    by Stygian charnels b’neath leafy groves

    beside seething beaches sultry coves

    reminisced deep recalling such forms

    shadows departed dead antic norms

    pleated of travesty latticed of spite

    impassable glooms split by tendrils of light

    O the dim worlds entered all unprepared

    guilty innocent where no one is spared

    beseeched high heavens found heavens all bare

    as dystopic disorder reigned everywhere

     

    What penances expiate our sordid sins

    what love absolves afore prayer begins?

    what fair deeds of charity still remain

    to repeal forever our birthmarks of Cain?

    upon the planet’s long wrenched breast

    there be no redemption nor any sweet rest

    she ready casts off our worn mortal coils

    curtailing our trespass moribunding our toils

    touch her once more prostrate at her feet

    in Homeric despair are we made obsolete

     

    Forfeit all mercy she doles us our due

    O in Homeric dolor she bids us adieu

    in fealty to Others as Mother to All

    She lets go the Lapsarian Children of Baal

    [©R.Kanth 2023]
     

    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    On Hypocracy

     

    In 1789 , in Philadelphia, the aged icon, Ben Franklin , made an ominous prediction.

    It’s not quoted too often, understandably.

    He said that the – newly drafted – Constitution would assure a modicum of good government , until such time that the corruption of the people brought about its end, producing the only government really suiting it: despotism.

    My thought(s): are we there yet?
     
    *
     
    In 1986, I published a book (Political Economy and Laissez-Faire) in which I showed that the key idylls of western capitalism – laissez-faire, free trade, etc., – were no more than topically relevant ploys to secure the contextual interests of the emergent (wannabe) rulers.

    In fact, political economists played a key role in assuring the victory of the manufacturing middle classes, the emergent rulers of the new world: a role they still play, in our time, in dead earnest.

    Since then, in later works (such as Breaking With the Enlightenment) I showed that the high-toned sloganeering of the Modernist Revolutions (French, and American : with the litany of liberte, egalite, et. al) was also deceptive , serving only to endow the industrial-commercial elites, with the power that lay, at the time, with the landed aristocracy: against whom they were pitted, in keen struggle.

    The liberte idyll was deployed to break the ideological fetters of the ancien regime (such as Canon Law: the Just Price, the Laws against Usury, etc.) that inhibited untrammeled (i.e. , ruthless ) capital accumulation.

    The egalite idea was used to establish/justify their own claims to power alongside/against the ruling nobility.

    But both notions also served a dual purpose, being double-edged instruments.

    These ideas were offered, disingenuously, to the laboring classes and the peasantry: enticing them to believe that they too were to be beneficiaries of such ‘freedoms’ – so they could serve, willingly, as cannon-fodder in the ensuing political struggles.

    As they did, unfortunately.
     
    *
     
    Of course, it was all pure eyewash.

    As it was with the US Constitution , preaching that ‘all men are created equal’, which really meant white men (and only men ).

    The (Con)founding Fathers might well turn in their graves to see how a later epoch would try to extend this to Other men, and women ( no part of their plan).

    And today, where rights – when available at all – are become privileges, we see how easily all such liberties can be suspended , willy-nilly , as/when it suits the same orders.

    No mystery, that: unless you live in Shangri-La – that much is simply the nature of the propaganda of power.

    To untangle fact from fantasy requires insight into the mechanics of societal domination.

    Official ‘social science’ is not designed to teach that.
     
    *
     
    All this leads to an obvious conclusion, and one that I have made repeatedly, in all my Works.

    That all the grandiloquent ‘declarations’ of these revolutions, were tendentious – being context-driven dissimulations only.

    One believes it at one’s peril.

    And there is real pathos in this.

    The oppressed fell for the bait – and labored prodigiously, like the English working class, to invest the manufacturing ‘middle classes’ with political power in the 1820s and 1830’s ; only to have the latter , cannily, deny them the very franchise they had fought for in, 1832, with the Reform Act.

    Current mythology has it that it is western capitalism that ‘gave us’ democracy, as a free gift out of its political largesse.

    Bilge.

    It was the noble English working-class – the Chartist movement – that put universal democracy on the agenda: the US ‘democracy’ – Republic, rather – of 1789, was a sham one, intended only for propertied white, Christian, men.

    Toward the last decades of the 19th century, and later, when the new century opened, it was the socialist movement , and the Russian Revolution, that forced hasty concessions from western elites in that direction (by dint of their example: and in fear of similar political movements sprouting at home).

    Strikingly, and by way of illustration, women got the vote in the US (1920) , only after Soviet Russia had granted it first, in 1918.

    And now, with the collapse of socialism and the USSR, things are reverting back to original form, with white supremacy and rank misogyny right back on the cards.

    How the Wheel turns!
     
    *
     
    In fact, it is the sudden collapse of the USSR that helped the West return, in indecent haste, to its erstwhile roots.

    Far from shutting down NATO, e.g., they expanded it : to serve as the master tool of western power, with the clear objective of creating and policing client-state regimes all over the world.

    Not to mention grabbing any and all resources they can (Libya, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, et.al) get away with.

    And they’ve gotten away with it, and much else, for centuries.

    In a way , they are, easily, without any risk of hyperbole, and verifiably, the most daringly successful pirates in human history (geniuses, also, at instituting , and glorifying, the canons of ‘international law’ : for Others).

    Full spectrum domination, that’s the Anglo-Norman norm today: as it was, a century ago.

    That is what we are living through now, with all dissenting nations on their hit-list.

    Where do memes like liberte, egalite , and democracy , fit in that Great Game?

    Nowhere.

    Those terms are but tools of legitimation only.

    One needs to beware of such limpid chicanery.

    As has been well said, if appearance and reality coincided, there’d be no need for science.

    The regime we really live under , in these times, is what I have , elsewhere, designated (semi-seriously) as Hypocracy.
     
    *
     
    It is obvious that, left to its own devices, (the governors of ) ‘western civ.’ will, with absolute certainty, destroy us all.

    First, it created the very operational system of economy that has brought the ecological world to near-collapse.

    Then – just to ensure the job is well done – it ushered in the nuclear age.

    And now – in case we survive the first two depredations – it is also busy trying its best to turn us all into Transhuman zombies.

    Think of it all as highly methodical madness: an insanity that is the direct consequence of having lost, over generations, our real anthropic moorings within the stabilising loci of community, kindred, and the co-operative, convivial, ties that bind.

    Those who , within the frame of an antiquated materialist philosophy, blame it all on ‘Capitalism’ , have missed the operative causal agency, here , altogether.

    It is really Asocial Individualism (AI) – which founds the Amoral Society – that produces the wild , runaway, recklessness we see abounding today.

    Iceland is Capitalist, but lacks the distortions of AI, and remains – if, within capitalist bounds – ‘responsible’, and accountable, to community norms: not so, the UK and the US.

    It’s a vital difference.

    In that sense, the more important precipitants of societal conduct are cultural factors, rather than economic ones.

    The latter is, itself, ‘embedded’ in culture.

    It is in that singular trait (i.e., AI) that Western Civ is utterly unique: this tenet has not really taken real root anyplace else, despite the fact that adoption of western socio-economic norms moves us all , inevitably, toward that fateful template – which , then, is prelude to catastrophe.
     
    *
     
    At any rate, we live now in the mature version of this long gestating , institutional, modus.

    I call it Hypocracy ( i.e. a system that preaches one philosophy, and practices another).

    Rule by a canny combination of cannon, and chicanery , alone (with no regard to traditional means of ‘legitimation’)

    Yes.

    Perhaps, Political science just gained a new designation?

    If nothing else, possibly Ben Franklin would have felt vindicated.
     
    *
     
    So , that’s how we arrived at this terrible pass in history.

    If we are to find an exit from this highway to hell, it is not by following existing European paradigms, but by breaking with them.

    Nature (as far as we can gather from the apparent means of social contentment) did not design us to be insatiable producers and consumers of things.

    Our collective salvation lies in rediscovery of our real anthropic essence: which is embedded in the quiescent , co-operative, communal, affective, relationships of care and consideration, not in idylls and practices that glorify the solitary, gratuitously heroic, individual (or ‘national’) ego, engaged in the futile ‘devil take the hindmost’ one-upmanship of a winner-take all race.

    That latter is not a human race, at all : but a race to the bottom – of human extinction.

    By that latter phrase, I mean something other than is ordinarily understood: that we are destroying, in this dubious struggle, not our species, nor even the planet: but the precious life-blood of our humanity.

    Even Hobbes might have been appalled to see his putative ‘state of nature’ – i.e. , the laws of the jungle -reproduced : in society.

    So, ask yourself: do you really want your life, and that of your kin and progeny, to be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ (and devoid of empathy, sympathy , and conviviality)?

    What will it take to grasp this: yet another mass shooting?

    We’ve had 146 already this year: and it’s only April.

    Can there a more telling index of the utter failure of our – gratuitously vaunted – ‘ way of life’?

    Or is it , actually, rather, an unmistakable ‘way of death’?

    Worth mulling?

     
    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     

    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    L’esprit

     

    (for Asha & Michael)

     

    The heart can speak

    yet it sings

    a bird can walk

    but it wings

     

    Lightness soars but

    everywhere

    even in this woestruck

    world of care

     

    The Modern World

    wreaks gravitas

    more than

    spirit can bear

     

    Let the lilting heart

    yearn it to sing

    let the chirruping bird

    learn it to wing

     

    Whilst we on the shore

    worry work and weep

    look in the seas

    dolphins love – and leap!
     
    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     

    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    In Essence

     
    We live in a self-aware, and spontaneous, universe, both social and natural.
     
    The Great Error of Modernist Europe (I term it Eurocentric Modernism, or EM ) was to believe that somehow we can engineer ourselves into this or that ideal, be it left-wing or right wing in inspiration.
     
    So, they compelled the rest of the world, and they still do it to this day: to follow this or that plan.
     
    Of course , naturally, they preferred a plan that suited their own interests, of the time, as might be expected.
     
    *
     
    But the real problem is much deeper.
     
    Like all living beings , we are instinctual in nature.
     
    So we simply cannot be ‘programmed’ to achieve some, or other ideal: except very briefly , either by sheer force, or by dint of propaganda.
     
    Men are far easier to program, mainly because they are the programmers, – they follow leaders, owing to a varying mix of male bonding and totemic fealty – but women simply cannot be easily, or effectively, programmed.
     
    Because their instinctual awareness is much deeper, and they bear heavy responsibility for new life , which is a far more vital concern than the more trivial issue of subscribing to this or that form of idealism , that comes and goes like fashions in couture.
     
    *
     
    A human society is always built instinctually , and spontaneously, on family, kinship, and community (all tribal formations arise in this fashion) , NOT on democracy, equality, and/or liberty which are but concocted political ideals.
     
    I do not take up the issue here of whether they are good or bad, right or wrong: though I could, and in much detail.
     
    That really does not matter; they are, stated simply idylls.
     
    Once this point is grasped, the sources of the crisis of the EM world become transparently obvious.
     
    Of course, one has to step well outside the EM matrix to glean this, which may be difficult, if not impossible, for many ( I can sympathise with that: for few of us could be expected to endure the exile that would ensue).
     
    *
     
    As I have said before, one needs an adequate physics to understand Nature, and , similarly, an accurate anthropology to understand society.
     
    Unfortunately, EM constructed its social (including economics, politics, philosophy, et. al.) theory out of thin air.
     
    As if all one has to so is to manufacture a fanciful manifesto, plim with meretricious ideals :and, presto!, it can be realized (if at frightful cost, one might add) , just like that!
     
    Stated simply , it has no idea of who we are as human beings, and therefore, what real human needs are.
    *
     

    Time to rectify that error?
     
    I actually believe it’s past time.
     
    All we need to do is to step out of the iron cage of EM to see what human life is all about: in its brevity, fragility, and ineffable hopelessness.
     
    All hid in plain sight by the conquistadorian bravado of the EM call to perpetual, adversarial, arms, ever tilting at false goals, false hopes, and false notions of the summum bonum..
     

    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     

    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    Grace

     
    Swear no more
    of ties that bind
    we’re long
    succumbed to
    blight
     
    Make me no
    sundry promises
    we are riven
    by grudge
    and spite
     
    No fealty
    or sacrament
    we’re shorn
    of sacral
    truth
     
    Art given
    to artifice
    we rue
    the sparsity
    of ruth
     
    Love weaves
    no beechen
    plot anon
    the grape wilts
    upon the vine
     
    No ambrosia
    that will not
    cloy
    no veritas
    wakes in wine
     
    All’s awry
    twixt earth
    and sky
    forfeit
    all benefice
    divine

     

    [© R.Kanth 2023]

     

    Professor Rajani Kanth, is Author of Coda (A Novel), A Day in the Life (Novel), and Expiations (Verse), and Farewell to Modernism (Political Economy Tract).

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    Yan Huang, Author of LIVING TREASURES:

    From Bill McKibben

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