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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 Chains That Bind

 

European Modernism (EM)

 

It might be helpful to know the state religion that most of us subscribe to , without being aware of its import?
 
We deploy it to analyse/criticise everything: yet itself escaping any such scrutiny
 
It is second nature now to us, in the EM world, and we assume its (im)proprieties to be self evident.
 
Even those loyal to EM ideas, in daily praxis, are unaware of its complex of assumptions.
 
It informs our education, our politics, and our culture: it even affects our most personal, intimate, hopes and aspirations.
 
To our everlasting discomfort.
 
It is, in fact, the very locus of our manifold alienation(s).
 
So, to ‘Know Thyself’, one needs to be explicitly aware of its epistemics.
 
Recall that EM was never, anywhere, ‘voted in’, as welcome anodyne: it was, everywhere, including within Europe itself , imposed by dint of force and fraud.
 
It constitutes the panoply of the chains that bind us.
 
*
 
So , what constitutes EM?
 
It has several components.
 
Firstly , it is a philosophy of crass materialism (everything is matter: and all objects are material) , aping classical Newtonian Physics.
Latter-day Quantum Physics debunks this notion.
 
Secondly , it adopts a triumphalist, self-serving view of Progress (expressed again in vulgar material terms: GDP, etc.). Worse, it takes it for granted that Progress is wherever Europe happens to find itself, because Europe is the gold standard.
 
Thirdly, it claims official science (scientism) as defined by it elites , as its foundation, rejecting any and all other epistemologies (e.g. acupuncture, homeopathy herbal treatments, et. al. , were all rejected as ‘non-science”).
 
Even worse, it marries science to the state, thereby risking despotism, substituting it for religion as in pre-Modern Europe.
 
Fourthly , it enables the Statist use of Force, as needed, to ‘force people to be free’ (JS Mill): another dangerous license for unlimited aggression, in favor of any ,and all, statist objectives.
 
Fifthly , it has a formal/mechanical /contractual /instrumentalist view of society , rejecting its organic features.
 
It’s Asocial Individualismthe most toxic notion in human history – actually sees society as but an instrument to be used to achieve individualist ends. The individual is sovereign, society is but a means.
 
Sixthly, it sees ‘nature’ as external to us as ‘humans’ who stand ‘above’ it. Women, children, and native peoples, were, on the other hand, all assimilated to being ‘naturvolk‘, to be raised/disciplined/ and tamed (Recall Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew trope).
Nature exists only to serve us: in fact, the economist Solow once implied, we can do without nature.
 
Seventhly, it privileges reason (in economics , this morphs into ‘rationality’ , where it is rational to be materialistic!), presumed to be free of anthropic bias, over other forms of knowing (intuition, ‘common sense’ , revelation, et. al).
It is also privileged above emotions (again women, children, and natives, were all assimilated to being irrational, for being ’emotive’ and ‘childlike’.)
 

Eighthly
, it sees us humans as untouched by essentialist properties such as instincts. Animals have instincts, Humans don’t (since the latter are cast, in the image of god: Darwin’s correction came much later but has not altered this). Levi Strauss , famously, wrote that “instincts explain nothing’.
 
Ninthly, it privileges humans as the ‘sovereigns of creation’, set above all other forms of life (anthropocentrism).
 
Tenthly , it sanctions adversarialism as innate in society (Spencer) , and validates the idea(l) of a brutish struggle for existence (Malthus). Distrust is institutionalized, and intra-societal aggression/anger promoted
 
Eleventh it substitutes abstract idylls (rarely or never realised) , as a decoy away from attending to real human needs (so they offer you the chimera of equality and democracy, not food and shelter).
 
Twelfth, it forces perpetual, strenuous, heroics as the idyll of life; climb every mountain, ford every stream, etc. (doing is endless, being is seen as passive), thereby overloading vulnerable flesh and blood humans with unbearable stress to ‘achieve’ as per systemic norms.
 
N.B. note the overlap between some elements of Judeo-Christian ideas and EM, as also between EuroCapitalism and Eurosocialism .
 

© R.Kanth 2022

 

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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Truth, Again*.

 
(for Tony Lawson)
 
It is neither
this nor
that

Neither
round
neither flat

Neither
thin
neither fat

Neither
left
neither right

Neither
fight
neither flight

Neither
dark
neither bright

neither friend
neither
foe

neither now
nor
long ago

*

Nor science
nor
philosophy

Magic
religiosity

Neither is it
east nor
west

It is neither
cursed
nor blest

Neither is
it good
nor bad

Nor is it
blithe
nor sad

It is both
rich
and bare

Neither
here and
neither there

And yet is
found just
everywhere

And greets
us all
but everyday

Strewn around
in
every way

In every
night
and every day

*

In body
mind spirit
and soul

End to end
pole
to pole

In pain
and joy
in grief
and smiles

In proximity
or
distal miles

It is not far
It is not
near

Nor in
courage
nor in fear

In surging
seas
nor sandy
lees

Nor in war
and
nor in peace

Nor in
bits and
nor in parts

Nor in guile
and nor in
arts

nor in
black and
nor in white

Nor in gender
nor in
caste

Nor in
present
nor in past

Nor in
nor out
Pandora’s
Box

Beyond the
pale
of paradox

*

Nor in
darkness
nor in light

Nor in
culture
nor in race

nor in doting
cringe
nor grace

Nor too soon
and none
too late

Nor in
prophecy
nor in fate

*

Eschew
Elaborate
Fineries

All
intricate
refineries

Temptings
of such
binaries

*

Ever hid
in plainest
sight

In mild
transcendence

burning
bright

Bathed in
dusk

ethereal
light

In body
mind spirit
and soul

End to end
pole
to pole

The Truth
beyond
such human
bounds

The Truth
beyond such
sights and sounds

The Truth
above anthropic
pounds

The Truth
is the Whole

 
Not a means
Nor a goal

It is just
The Whole

 
* Stanzas for a Post-Truth World
 

© R.Kanth 2022

 

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 Bell Jar

 

A ( hasty) Primer*

 

If you can feel that staying human is worthwhile, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.

George Orwell

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan…

Alexander Pope

 

My critique of Eurocentrism (EuroModernism, or EM) is simplicity itself.

I maintain that ALL of EM thinking is plain Wrong, not just bits of it.

Why?

It rests on an ontology/epistemology of humans (and society) that is flat out incorrect.

On Manifest Error, EM built an architecture of socio-human theory and praxis that has doomed us all and is now rushing us headlong into perdition. .

If so many of us live in depravity ,emotive deprivation, and/or depression ,it is solely owing for imbibing the false nostrums of EM.

It, perforce, converted a band of convivials into a company of strangers.

Unlike any social formation in history, it dehumanized our species by penalizing altruistic behavior and rewarding anti-social activities.

Worse, it compounded injury with insult by self-styling this obvious devolution as ‘progress’.

*

EM drew its premises from the then state of European society in transition from medieval values to modernist values : rampant domination and mutual distrust, coupled with egregious avarice and supernal greed.

The former produces its social and political theory, the latter its political economy.

Both served to ratify aggressive cupidity, and avarice , at one remove, and mutual distrust and (permanent ), domination, and incurable dissension/disaffection, at the other.

Contra it’s absurd reductionisms, we are neither economic nor political entities, in the main, but natural-cultural beings.: bringing creativity and imagination to the rituals of communal life.

In fact, it would be correct to say that we are quite consummate mythmaking animals.

At any rate, given its imperial reach and clout , EM was able to impose this iron cage on most of the planet (save a few native peoples).

But as its empire shrinks, its ideational hegemony is now also dwindling.

That is where we are today.

*

This is not to imply that there was no tangible content-gain at all in the transition effected by EM, as , per exemple, in the obvious abatement of extreme, medieval cruelty and rank injustice of the more egregious kind.

But such benefits were purchased at prohibitive, life-threatening , even exterminist, costs that life on the planet simply cannot afford.

It doomed us all to loneliness, anomie, desperation, and loss of meaning: the signature hallmarks of the dreadful alienations of E-Modernism.

*

Our real, collective, human nature is an open book: and plain to see for anyone who indulges in but a little self-examination.

Yes, self-examination.

Our very lived experience confirms the Theses I am advancing.

Its basis is instinctual, not environmental.

As animals, we are possessed of instincts that may be suppressed but not excised.

Care, consideration, and conviviality are our principal , nay primal , urges contrary to the misanthropic myths perpetuated by Modernist ideologues.

They are first expressed within the biological family, quite naturally, and then extended out.

The simple tribal society is the very matrix of the above values, and their original natural/societal home.

We are inescapably tribal in nature:

but that is only about equivalent to noting that we thrive in packs and herds (families and clans/tribes) just many of our animal cousins.

This baseline infrastructure of our societal being is what EM attempts to destroy in the name of abstract idylls.

You might conceive of EM as the First Great Reset.

Why?

For sharing the same rationale as the one being planned by the WEF today:

to reorganise society to suit the tributary needs of the predator-governors of society.

Family, clan, and community identifications/loyalties, were obstacles to the homogenisation of us all into a vast Precariat, tied to the wheel, at one end , and the gambler-governors at the other playing their game of thrones.

In effect , the social economy of affections was replaced by the political economy of interests – and defined it as advancement.

*

However, returning to our tribal origins, instincts again intercede(d) to create a tension within the integrated tribal system.

Men and women are instinctually conditioned to have dissimilar urges.

This is as easily verifiable , across time, place, and culture, as to be trivially true.

Women as progenitors and initial food-providers to the infant, are possessed by nature, of nurturance.
Men have predatorial instincts expressed , at the apex, in a readiness to kill.

This tension is smoothed over in tribal modes by women imprisoning the proclivities of men within emotive bonds, basically domesticating them.

Why do they (have to) do it?:

because the human infant (more helpless than many of our animal cousins) cannot be nurtured if there is random violence in its vicinity.

They , sort, of ‘secure’ the perimeter (interestingly, it is as if men take after chimps, and women after bonobos).

In effect, men have to be tamed (via emotional bonds) much as nature, for the social organism to reproduce safely.

Incidentally, there is no other restraint that has ever worked nearly as well.

*

This is not a permanent snare, however, and at some point, men break away from intra-tribal bondings to adventurism , be it military, political, or economic, whence the dissolution of tribal societies begins.

It is in this sense that it is women who patiently (and naturally) build a human society, whilst men, at some point, tear it apart.

That’s the real ‘animal spirits’ that Keynes invoked , if in another context.

We call the rest (post-tribal orderings) that follows history: or, more aptly, HIS STORY.

*

EM began its recasting of our species-being between the 16th and 18th centuries,

in its own aggressive image.

Given the realities of late medieval society, the mores of their tribal past were already a distal memory.

However , the former still retained one important concept: that of a Social Compact recognizing the organic nature of the community despite its deep class cleavages.

Here, EM took a quantum leap into Dystopia by abrogating that Compact and replacing it with the now familiar notion of a Contract.

To that sacrilege, it added the Final Corrosion that was to define Modernism forever: Asocial Individualism, essentially positing society as but a means to personal/individual advancement(s) (which is what the upstart mercantile elites were doing, anyway).

It is this momentous ‘innovation’ that separates EM Europeans from All other peoples (btw not ALL of Europe succumbed to this: the miore tribalist Euros, like the Scandinavian nations, also couldn’t wholly absorb this, which is why their capitalisms are so much more muted and ‘communal’).

The Other may accept EModernism: but not Asocial Individualism.

That may well be the true differentia specifica , today, between the EM West and the EM Other.

*

EM ‘economics’ only enshrines these travesties in its banal oeuvre.

The nation-state is also forged in this period, and becomes the corral of merchant princes/potentates , within which all denizens are permanently imprisoned at the mercy of the executive whims of the governors.

And Martin Luther restructures religious duty as between the individual and god, much as the economy is seen as a deal between the individual and the market (blunting the societal welfare side of the Church of Rome)

In all of the above the self-seeking/acquisitive individual is placed above communal bondings and responsibilities.

These were the fateful steps, taken with seven-league boots, no less, with which Europe left all of humanity , including its own past, behind.

EM was now complete as the New World Ordering, we all genuflect to.

It was , in a sense, an effort to convert mammals into reptiles.

More prosaically, women, toilers, and native peoples (never fully integrated into EM mores) found themselves, in common cause, against predacious (mainly male) commercial elites.

*

The Task before us becomes apparent.

We need to recognize and recapture our own essential human nature, and revive our local, micro-communities within which it was always expressed.

This is not necessarily for any larger purpose of ‘emancipation’ (another EM trope) but purely to retrieve our own personal lives from rack and ruin if lived on the false premises of EM which have us ensnared in delusion.

Human integrity is spontaneously evoked only within face-to face gemeinschaft orderings(this is just natural).

It abates as we move toward gesellschaft formations (as entailed in EM nation-states).

Once self-aware of our own , inherent, humanity, and rid of the phony barrage of expectations and ambitions thrust upon us, disengagement with the hypertrophic paraphernalia of Imperial State and Authoritarian Society will follow, as an adjunct, if gradually.

Why?

Because natural emotive ties with kith and kin and community, ever exceed any artificially inseminated loyalties to Modernist notions of state and nation.

Mind, this is NOT a sketch of yet another EM style Utopia, by any stretch.

Utopia is a vainglorious EM fantasy with no precedent other than the ‘heaven’ of religious imagination: in effect it is its secular equivalent.

It will not at all guarantee ‘democracy, equality or liberty’, the delusional chimeras – nay sops – of EM.

But it will give us back what we need most as human beings.

Recall, we are mammals with rather simple needs (the governors distract us with meretricious ‘wants’ that help perpetuate their domination)

Let me spell out what that means via a small detour.

*

Have a look at the human family.

It is neither democratic, individualist, nor free, nor equal.

Stop and think.

It gainsays every abstract idyll of EM !!

Imagine that!

A Non-Modernist anachronism, subsisting plumb in the middle of EM societies.

Yet, it gives all of us, via the related, and equally ubiquitous , concept of ‘home’:

across time, space, and cultures, what we crave most: a cradle of hospitality.

That should tell you who we really are as opposed to EM fantasy.

So, when EM took that quantum leap away from family, community, co-operation,

and the social compact , in the name of progress, it sent us all spinning wildly into orbit.

The orbit of a foredoomed, alienated , existence: banished forever from the very

fount of our species-being.

In that enforced orbit, were we lost, and are still lost, seeking dreary, vain,

unrequiting solace, in soulless regimes of production and consumption, competing

against one another, turned away from natural domains of nurturance, whilst being

subject to exploitation, conquest, genocide, and empire.

Worse we are beguiled into believing that all can still be redeemed at the level of civil society and the state, by virtue of (permanent) struggle.

Absolutely not.

They are the EM entities what have to be abandoned/sublated.

Besides, the underlying idea that we can declare ourselves , societally, by fiat, into any utopian project as crosses our minds is both a fatal conceit and a ludicrous denial of realism.

*

Against much of the foregoing, juxtapose the Marx-Engels, and wholly E-Modernist , flaunt to ‘abolish the family’.

All the more ironic, because guess where Marx got his idyll of ‘communism’ from?

Yes, from the very tribal society I have been talking about.

He called it ‘primitive communism’.

And what is a tribe, but one big extended family?

So, Marx certainly understood the unique felicities of the tribal form, but his EM ideas – materialism, in particular -had him wishing it were ‘upgraded’ to Modernist standards of productivity, etc.

Besides , it was all to be accomplished within the nation-state, the very EM space that defines/promotes our alienation.

Now you know why EuroSocialism failed:

it equated the ‘ideal society (socialism) ’ with an ever augmenting bowl of goulash, within the false unity of ‘nation’.

It had lost track of who we are as humans.

*

There is no elaborate ‘proof’ needed for any of the above.

Strip away Modernist delusions, and we stand revealed for who we are.

We are human: and it takes but a little reflection to realise how we have been deceived.

Each of us knows that s/he is really far better than what the system requires her/him to be.

History and social science have been authored by EM votaries (as the spoils of conquest): and most of the intelligentsia are under its spell.

But lay people will ‘get it’ without undue toil.

In fact, all of us recognize the benefice of kith/kindred/community – for its being natural – without at all being aware of its full significance.

Indeed, our unconstrained choices daly gainsay the travesties of EM tutelage.

So, it is time to pierce the veil.

This, the highest error of EM: for wholly forgetting we are , primarily, natural beings in a natural universe (despite the social airs we affect).

Whence, I make little effort to engage EM ideologues.

Life is too short , especially in these times, for such extended argument.

If what I say is true, it needs no ‘defense’; if it is false, it would be silly to defend it.

Put aptly , “it is true because it is realizable: and it is realisable because it is true”.

In sum, EM philosophers have radically misinterpreted (and, thereby, nearly destroyed ) the world: the point , however, is to swiftly sublate, and transcend, their abstractions.

We can, and must, rehumanise the world randered , bitter, bare, and barren – by centuries of EM hegemony.

 

*Books are harder to read than to write :so pieces like this are shorthand to get to the nub of matters: this is a rudimentary sketch only – by no means comprehensive or complete, and omits supporting arguments (from history and anthropology) that would be appropriate in a more formal presentation.

 

© R.Kanth 2022

 

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 Brotherhood

 

It’s a tale of Two Cousinages.
 
Both alike in dignity.
 
And taste. And temperament.

 
And their conjoint, star-crossed, sway.
 
*
 
One, the House of Pox Britannica.
 
Here, a minor sampler of their derring-do.
 


 
The other, the House of Pox Americana.
 
Here, a pocket sketch.

On Exceptionalism?


 
*
 
How will history judge them?
 
We must take care, lest they write their own histories ,
as they have writ of Others.

 
What will history say?
 
A pox on both their Houses – that have made worm’s meat of millions, and still, to this day, none abashed, continue to do so?
 
*
 
Yes , this is what a true History might say:
 
Let it come as
no surprise
a fame flaunted
on brazen lies

 
By frothing seas
on desert sands
raining havoc on
subaltern lands

 
On a zillion native
peoples slain
was built their
vaunted legerdemain

 

© 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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End of Hegemony?

 
It’s over.
 
Categorically.
 
Who knew it would end this way?
No pundit I know of.
 
But the savants will surface, now, post-factum.
 
20/20 hindsight?
 
You can depend on it.
 
*
 
What am I talking about?
 
It is the End of Western Hegemony.
 
In fact, it is the end of Hegemony itself, of any kind.
 
For ever. For good. For keeps.
 
This is the way Their world ends.
Eliot was right.
Not with a bang, but a whimper.
 
And we are ALL better off for it.
 
*
 
Most of all, the hoi polloi of the west, who have carried their vampire oligarchies on their back, for a long while.
 
Not dissimilar to how the rest of the world carried the west , on their backs, for 400 years.
 
*
 

Oddly, this was all , wholly, self-subversion.
 
No hostile power threatened them.
 
They did it, with gleeful, consummate, efficiency, to themselves.

 
They were the clear aggressors, for centuries.
 
Only 10 countries (barely) escaped the looting and rapine.
 
*
 
A multi-polar world is being restored.
It is only natural.
It is our received state of being.

 
Along with their hatchets, They now need to learn to bury their hubris, vanity, and egos.
 
*
 
The East has returned to its hoary placement in medieval times.
It will never be retracted, again.
 
Peace will prevail.
 
Even if the west still wishes to lash out, wildly, in more war.
 
Why?
 
Because they will discover they are only using boomerangs for weapons.
 
*
 

They that turned ploughshares into swords, now have to turn it all around.
 
It’s a steep learning curve, admittedly.
 
Let’s wish them luck.
 
*
 
Let’s hope it will augur a New Era, on the lines of RL Stevenson’s Requiem, where:

 
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

 
*
 
Humanity stands, I feel, on the brink of a glorious age.
 
Feel it?
 
It is in the air!
 
It is time for the ‘wretched of the earth’ to rejoice!
 
The Great Wheel of History has completed yet another
revolution.
 
Huzzah!
 
Postscript: As and when our species climbs the next rung of evolution, we might yet transcend the antique victor/victim binary, in keeping with these sibylline lines from Emerson:
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

 
Until then, I regret, ‘ignorant armies ‘ will still continue to ‘clash by night’.

 

© 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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Ultima Thule?

 
We are close.
 
*
 
They’ve pushed it all as far as they could.
As far as it could be pushed.
 
*
 

They’ve pushed empire.
They’ve pushed hegemony.
They’ve pushed lies.
They’ve pushed false flags.
They’ve pushed proxy wars
.
 
*
 
They’ve pushed Post-Truth norms.
They’ve pushed Post-Human boundaries.
They’ve pushed Post-Modernist delusions.

 
*
 
They gave us, owing to the above, the only Amoral Society (yes, it is an oxymoron) that has ever existed.
 
As a template, for others.
 
*
 
And now what?
 

Now comes the Pushback.
 
*
 
It has to.
 
Newton’s Third Law.
 
It is still operative.

 
*
 
The Great European War Machine, is all but out of gas.

 
Now, like King Canute, they are resorting to commanding the waves.
 
And they will be just as effective.
 
*
 

Day by day, the world is changing track(s).
 
The Old Hegemons will find themselves , if they persist, left behind.
 
Far behind.
 

From being the engine of history, they will fast become the loose caboose at the far end, about to be shunted off the rails.
 
*
 
Sic transit gloria mundi?
 
Not quite: there was nothing glorious about it, ever.
 
But their innings is over.
 
It is ineluctable.
 
*
 
Except , there is still One Thing they can do.
 
One Big Last Act of Madness.
 
They can blow up the rails, for everyone.
 
Sure, they can do it.
 
Recall the Nord Stream Pipeline?
 
As I have said, it is a Crisis of Hegemony, over-riding many other crises.
*
 
But will they?
 
That’s what remains to be seen.
 
And if you think they might, I suggest you be well ahead of the curve.
 
Else we might be faced with a likely scenario, on the evening news.
 
It could go something like this.
 
The World ends tonight at 9.
Details at 11.
And now, a word from our sponsors.

 

© 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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Questioning The Matrix

 
We live, be it in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, in a wholly European (I include the Americas within that term) world.
 
That truth is so obvious as to be trite.
 
Yet, few of us realise its enormous significance.
 
One sub-continent managed, over 400 years , to set its epistemic , and ontic, stamp (which I term EuroModernism or EM)on virtually the entire world.
 
Only tribal formations remain autonomous, thankfully, and outside its hegemonic spell.
 
*
 
Irony is that even the most stridently anti-colonial regimes nonetheless adhere to its mores, institutions, legal, societal, and political systems.
 
Parliaments, Courts, Media, Militaries, and Police, are all constituted in the Western mold, virtually everywhere.
 
This is simply stunning.
 
Europe managed to inflict a banal homogeneity upon the entire world, as though other cultures, institutions, ideologies, and practices, simply did not exist.
 
*
 
Not all of this was achieved by force and fraud, though most of it certainly was.
 
Even the erstwhile , adversarial, communist non-European world drew its inspiration from European extant political traditions.
 

To oppose European dominance, in this or that domain, whilst daily breathing its socio-cultural ethos is a specially otiose undertaking.
 
*
 
The so-called Multilaterals, that administer so much of the world, the UN, World Bank, IMF, WTO, WEF,et. al. are all little more than limpid rubber-stamps for Western agendas.
 
The axial ideas of Growth and Progress, i.e., perpetual expansion , are quintessentially European ideas: and their consequences have brought the planet to the brink of resource exhaustion.
 
Marginal, flash in the pan, pushbacks. like Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness notion are few and far between.
 
*
 
No, contrary to the EM liturgy, we do not need to be ‘developed’ or ‘industrialised’ , nor be required to submit to any such set of tendentious, exploitative, ‘macro’ objectives, imposed upon the many by the few that rule over them.
 

Those are merely the canny slogans of ruling elites who batten , with ever cumulating quanta of wealth and power, upon such specious stratagems.
 

It is really high time that Non-Europeans recognised their own heritage , legacies, not to mention genius, and drew inspiration therefrom.
 
Their intellectual slavery borders close to the shameful.
 
*
 
Diversity, we must recall, is the original state of our planet.
 
It would be good to keep it intact: for all of us.

 
The prospect of an implacable EM consumerism, with its concomitants of mass society and mass drudgery for the millions, taking over the entire world, is far too dreadful to contemplate.
 
Yet, it stares us in the face.
 
*
 

Btw it may be instructive to know that the Bushmen(and women) put in, on average, a 2 1/2 day workweek(https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/10/01/551018759/are-hunter-gatherers-the-happiest-humans-to-inhabit-earth; also, https://stage2.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/kanth-a-400-year-program-of-modernist-thinking-is-exploding).
 
There exist – and have existed – far saner alternates – for us humans – to making war and making work , endlessly, on an exponentially advancing basis.
 
It takes but a smidgeon of imagination to realise that.
 
*
 
As I have oft hinted, the greatest human need may simply be to huddle?.
 
A need-based society would have a very different configuration than a greed-based one.
 
We need to know/understand who we are, in essence, as anthropic beings, before swallowing the toxic blue pill of EuroModernism(EM).
 
A little realist anthropology serves as a powerful antidote to many of the delusions of European Modernism.
 
A little history would help, too: it is precisely in the modern period that Europe carried out, demonstrably, amongst the worst carnages in all of human history: destroying societies, cultures, and habitats, under the gleaming banners of liberte and egalite.
 
Maybe we might consider such matters before we start fancying our gratuitously complex , modernist, societal arrangements – ever gaining, by the day, in harshness, oppressiveness, and punitiveness – as god’s gift to the anthropic world?
 
*
 
Perhaps, it’s time to think (not even rethink) , for the very first time: there may be not much time left, given the latter-day trajectory of the European world.
 
Not to become more ‘enlightened’: but to save what remains of the anthropic world from the manic sweep of rapacious greed and implacable paradigmatic despotism -, as exercised by the European template of ‘Progress’, for 400 years.
 
The constitution of the Lead EM Hegemon adjures one to engage in the pursuit of ‘happiness’: a well chosen word, surely.
 
Chasing after chimera could be what all of idle EM sloganeering is tantamount to?
 
*
 
More modestly , we may need to accept the plain fact that life may simply be about living: not with doing and becoming, and fulfilling lofty , concocted, idylls dreamed up in the elite salons of avant garde EM philosophers under the generous, even hallucinogenic, influence of free flowing claret.
 
To repeat: Europe has been the locus, and the fons et origo , of Two Global Conflagrations, and is now, avidly, lusting for a Third, and Last (to finish the job).
 
Does that not hold any caveats for us all not to tread their unsanguine pathways (this is not Europhobia: I would , equally, oppose Africa , or Asia, or any other continental force, if it indulged in any of the above)?
 
Peoples , left to themselves, follow their own paths: that option was wrested away, by brute force, when EuroModernists conquered the entire world (barely 10 countries escaped full European colonisation and occupation), and imposed their will upon them.
 
What remains to be Undone is the on-going colonisation of the minds of the ex-colonials.
 
*
 
Let me state it another way: even if it were to be argued that EM ideas , institutions, and practices, were benevolent, noble, and virtuous, it would still be odious for the world to be compelled to accept and conform to them – by force.

The ultimate, even mordant, irony is that the very system that denied free choice to virtually the entire world, any time it could, now claims to be the sublime paragon of ‘freedom’.

 

© 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 Offer

 

They made an offer, with a snigger, for my time.
Begrudgingly, I complied.
 
They made an offer, with a smile, for my labor.
Unhappily, I agreed.
 
They made an offer, with a grin, for my talent.
Wanly, I consented.
 
They made an offer , with a smirk, for my heart.
Sadly, I accepted.
 
They made an offer, with a wink, for my values.
Despairingly, I assented.
 
They made an offer, with a simper, for my autonomy.
In tears, I nodded.
 
They made an offer, with a sneer, for my culture.
In grief, I assented.
 
Then they made an offer, with a leer, for my soul.
 
*
 
And I said.
 
You know not, mon ami, what you ask.
 
You ask of me what you yourself, unknowingly, forfeited aeons ago, in your grand ‘enlightenment’.
 
You took from me all you could take, if more than I could give:
my time, labor, talent, heart, values, autonomy, and culture.
 
But now you ask of me the one thing that is impossible, the one thing that is non-tradable.
 
*
 
You cleared the underbrush of values, affections, and loyalties,
and built a House on Greed alone, and termed it Progress.
 
You sprayed its environs with the lethal toxins of raw materialism, to disinfect it, permanently, of any and all possible anthropic norms.
 
What a grand mess of pottage, resulted: yes, a truly Gross, Domestic, Pottage!
 
And where has it brought you?
 
Look about you!
 
To the very brink of assured , mutual, annihilation.
 
*
 
So, I am sorry, but I intend to keep my soul.
 
And one day, if we both survive, you will come to me, and trade all of your gaudy accumulations to savor, again, but a smidgeon of it; to recall what you surrendered on your way to the crass stupefaction of the senses , that is the vainglorious, profligate, coin of the realm of the ‘first world‘.
 
And then, just possibly, you might relearn the primal mantras of anthropic decency: mutual care, consideration, and conviviality.
 

No, I blame you not, in any of this.
 
For the chains simply fell upon you, as you slept, deep in dogmatic slumbers, for centuries, imagining that you were building the “best of all possible worlds”.
 
The most unbreachable prisons can oft be the ones that the inmates build themselves, lovingly, in their lapidary ignorance?.

 

© 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 Joy of Science?

 
 

Nothing human that is not prey to corruption.
 

All our ideologies – political , religious – are run though with verifiable distortion: from wishful thinking to outright deception.

We are, stated simply, mythmaking animals.

Religion, e.g., is replete with pure banana oil, sufficient to stagger the thinking mind.

Yet, millions succumb to its drivel, either wilfully, or perforce.

Political ideology is just as full of arid fantasy giving the hoi polloi the delectable Kool-Aid of the chimera of hope.

You know the hoary litany : equality, democracy, etc.

Both serve the same social function, admirably: of maintaining social order. and reconciling the downtrodden and the impuissant to their lot in social life.

Both are solid testaments to human gullibility.

As Einstein put it: I know of only 2 Infinities: that of space., and that of human stupidity. About the first, I am unsure. About the second, I am absolutely certain.

I could not improve on that.

*

But what of Science?

How corrupt is that?

Well, what passes for ‘social science’ in the EuroModernist genre is bunk.

To understand this , one has to know the rich social history of Europe, inclusive of the struggles against the Church of Rome ( Luther, et. al) and the fear of the revolt of the masses (the Fr. Revolution), 1789 onward.

In sociology, canonical figures like Comte and Weber , were wholly cognisant of what had to elided/suppressed, and created entire systems of ideas to blunt critical discourse about what I have termed EuroModernistEM – society (translate, if loosely, as EuroCapitalism).
 
*
 
So-called ‘Economics’, per exemple, is a textbook example of apologetics: from the Ricardians , and Malthus, in their struggles over the Poor Laws and the Corn Laws, to latter-day figures like Friedman, et. al.

Stated simply: its ‘Science’, since its inception, has been/ is wholly subservient to Policy diktats (See my Political Economy and Laissez-Faire tome)

Knowledge of social history is a vital desideratum to evaluate such matters: and it is a knowledge that is rarely permitted to intrude into pedagogy.

 

Indeed , I have called Economics the crown jewel of the hegemonic ideology of EM</em> (See my Against Economics Work).

It is the latter’s very patois, its lingua franca : whence the patent absurdity of garnering a Nobel (Memorial) Prize , in return for its utterly specious services.

And Anthropology was no more than a servile adjunct to empire: to ‘crack the codes’ of The Other, for conquest and appropriation.

That is EM ‘social science’ , in a nutshell.

Dull, and dispiriting?

Oui.

And yet, a serviceable Tool for System Maintenance?.

*

How about the Natural Sciences?

Only here, there is some latitude for serious inquiry, though held in check, as needed, by the usual funding constraints and tenure politics.

The urgency here to solve real , practical problems: to develop military armaments (Dr Strangelove), and new consumer technologies, permits the latitude mentioned above.

So, one should set aside the ‘Big Bang genre of pure speculation – that’s all it is – and look, instead, to the quantum-physics style of applied research, to assess real utility.

So, natural science delivers utilities that can and do serve humankind, whereas social science , principally, delivers astute propaganda for the power elites.

*

The real miracle is that science, in any sense , survives at all, given the existential realities of power and wealth.

As a rather astute philosopher once observed, if the fact that the angles of a triangles add up to 180 degrees were to be inimical to the ruling elites, it would be denied/or/suppressed.

The hyperbole, in the above , is essential to grasp the vital point.

Still , I venture, it is the only human achievement that is worthy of note.

With a nouvelle ‘neo-fascism’ – market fascism – around the corner, it remains to be seen whether it will continue.

A new charlatanism, in the image of Lysenko and Eysenck may well drown it?

We can but wait, and see?

Oui.

 

© 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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Devolution?

 
 
I am that
ancient
mariner
 
still rapt in
the
albatross
 
I am that
fool named
Midas
 
with the gold
turned
to dross
 
*
 
Antic echoes
bleed
me
 
conscience
reeks
with flaws
 
weary wears
the
spirit
 
I cannot
spot
due cause
 
*
 
In sunrise
I spy
the sunset
 
in profit
I feel
the loss
 

In all
moods
contrary
 
I am not
the man
I was

 
*
 
Though anarchy
surround
me
 
I still cling
to
laws
 
were I to
be
a rolling stone
 
fain would I
gather
moss
 
*
 
Whence
the dudgeon
buildeth

I am not
who I
once was

 

© 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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