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December 15, 2006


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Between Socrates and outing lies the skomma. Lean too much one way, risk deflection to the nugatory. Too much the other way, incite the masses to strategems of self-murder. Our selves, the only thing blogs should not be afflicted with, fill the interstices from here to Neptune. The news must be spoken in a singsong voice that remembers that everyone is three and a half. Let's hear that Faure requiem for the five millionth time - that's kelcha. Belt out a prayerful round of facetiae, don the beat poet's buskin, channel Ginsberg tuned to Lenny Bruce doing the still small voice. Too bad everyone under 35 is watching Entourage. They'll never taste the sweet epigram that way.

Martial's epigrams - is that literature? Can he be taught in class? Demeaning to young girls, gays, Jews, old men, old women, merchants, slaves, rich people, cuckolds, legacy hunters, politicians, physicians, morticians, cosmetologists, other writers, just about everyone. A fine role model for a pariah.

an equal opportunity pariah. would your bordello retain him?

Clicked through and read a number of the epigrams ... also recently went to see Borat the movie ... see some similarities but a difference in style, might be the years and the languages in play.

Borat plays a Fool, the one who pretends to be dumber than he is. Martial is an insider who speaks truth to peers and superiors as insult, invective, cruel jest. Note though even in Martial that the objects of his cruel "instruction" are not named. He address "Fulvia" or whomever, but they are types, not particular persons. Note, in both, though, the elements of "pornography," and "scatology." The body is a constant reminder that we are not the gods we consider ourselves. From ashes to ashes and dust to dust, remember man that thou art full of shit. That is the refrain of both satire and sermon. The reminder grows louder in ages of empire, as the Emperor declares himself a god. The slave in the conqueror's chariot in the ceremonial victory parade through Rome, murmurs, "Remember Caesar that you are mortal."

To have a triumph, a Roman general had to kill at least 5,000 enemy troops. Though he might deny it out of modesty, Mr. Bush has sent 120 times that amount of the people we're fighting for to paradise. At the next big D.C. ceremony, Kofi Annan will stand behind Mr. Bush. In whiteface. What should Mr. Annan say?

"Those the gods would destroy they first make successful."

"Dude ... righteous ! Democracy is messy, and you is one mean nasty mofo, the Dale Carnegie of how to make a mess and influence enemies" ... ?

"Massa, you are a small little man. You will die, alone and hated. All for naught."

A slave might think treasonous words, but would not speak them. What enters the public transcript? A parable? A dark saying? "Mr. President, have them bring you the stone the builders rejected, that is the keystone." The literal and heartfelt for a slave is what is not possible to say out loud.

"A slave might think treasonous words, but would not speak them."

A successful slave, success being defined here as a kind of truncated longevity, but longevity nonetheless.
As contrasted to the inevitable consequences of spoken treason.
There have been slaves, and not all of them cast in the record as heroic, or even significant, who foreswore silence. A long invisible chain of the unrecorded and unbroken there at the side of what we see on the road looking back, lost names, gone.
Young black Africans who died before the boats came, or on the boats, or in the first days of plantation living.
The Spanish master-tongue defied in Nahuatl in incidents that didn't even get footnoted.
The American revolution could be held as a kind of refusal of slavery, a new kind, a slavery that crept back in to the agora, kept creeping back in throughout the 19th c. until Haymarket, itself a kind of slaves' rebellion, and all the disparate bloody messes of early 20th c union/commie organizing.
El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chiapas, the big ragged quilt of revolutionary struggle in Latin America then and now - a refusal of the chains, masked as economic function, that were slipped around the legs and necks of peasants in increments, disguised as necessary and inevitable.
Successful slaves keep silent.
We've trained ourselves to imagine the past as composed of the known mostly, with a little filler here and there of the vague and unclear, but it's the opposite really isn't it? Mostly unknown, mostly vague. For every Spartacus and Geronimo and Dred Scott a thousand times as many whose names we'll never know.
So imagination instructs, for all its extrapolative danger, at least as adequately as the historians' little collection of books.

Roy, your remarks are very much in the line of James Scott's study of Dominance and Resistance. He points out what is shockingly obvious on first hearing, and shocking that we had not realized so acutely before reading it: The history of the slave is written by the Master; the public transcript by definition is the transcript of those in charge of the media. Maybe that is what makes blogging so exhilerating. We have a chance to write ourselves into the public transcript, even if on the margins, in a Dumpster, in parables. With blogging (of a certain sort), the private transcript of the marginal begins to appear in the public square, if only as distraction and graffiti, not heard but overheard, not seen but conspicuously invisible.

Of course most blogging is just private babble, or an effort of the private self to
"fit in" with the public transcript and make a name for oneself. I see more and more of that among giving blogs.

WB is a holdover from an earlier era, when blogging was neither forbidden nor permitted, neither acknowledged nor ignored, but off in the hinterlands, a private party in a nearly deserted public space.

Now that the web is so public it requires an act of will to write in the old style - so few do anymore. It has become an insurrectionary gesture, just talking, having fun, being insubordinate, as if we were still "out of sight and out of mind."

Yes, writing "nugae" these days is enough to drive one to drink.

I still can't believe anyone gives a damn what is written here. The confluence of blogging and other content systems and search engines and the like that mine the links for syntactic clues to meaning does create a situation where things can pop up synchronistically. Still, it's got to be a good thing.

I still remember the days when digital networks were a specialists realm, hackers and technologists, plus a few intrepid academics from across the disciplines. The coming of the Internet to the masses was a shock for me ten years ago, now the continued expansion and evolution is expected, old hat.

Don't! Miss! USA! Tara! Conner!

Thanks for bringing us back to reality, Juke.

"I still can't believe anyone gives a damn what is written here." In some world we wants it can be said, "That which is not permitted is forbidden." Controlling the public transcript is critical to maintaining various pious or profitable fictions, like brands, frames, reputation. It all depends on what other roles you play, as well as that of blogger. People expect consistency and due subordination. When the Trickster emerges on the threshold, it calls into question the steadiness of the frame itself, raising questions as to whether Wealth Bondage is as invincible as it appears to be. "Dirt is matter out of place." Garbage belongs outside, not inside.

A perhaps somewhat unpleasant alternative to the public/private transcript formulation, which in its binary neatness tends to provide us with a clear organizing principle in which all the virtues line up neatly on one side of the divide -

might be to look at the domestic "history" of the US over the past couple hundred years, and what we tell ourselves about it - our passion for equalities, the ending of various forms of bigotry, the pursuit of happiness and entrepreneurial bliss for all, etc. - freedom on the march inside our borders,

then, outside: an unending chronicle of the grossest modes of chauvinism, racism, fascist sympathizing, exploitation of resources, interference in sovereign nations whereever we turn, a regular juggernaut of elitist, triumphal, massively uniformed, amoral self-interest, genocidal humanitarianism around the globe --

then see how the external US transcribes the forces and values of the internal US - it's not secret, it's not around the edges, it's not the artsy product of the marginalized, it's hardly subversive, it's simply the outside what USians normally call their daily life. It's US writ large - so large we don't see it, until we do, and then it can become the best gloss on our internal deceit yet writ, and it's writ by the very highest legitimate powers in our system, the Masters, if you will. It's quite plain, no code, the part they wrote where they thought no one that counted was bothering to look.

What the stark binary of Oppressor/oppressed does is to distribute the values of the "successful" oppressed over both sides of the threshold. That is the power of the idea. The Times: "All the news that fit to print." To be published, heard, included, taken seriously, you have to subordinate your efforts to amplifying and extending the public transcript. The virtues, like successfully supporting a family, or winning honors, or advancing in a career, are on the side of the line marked "Public Transcript." The vices or dysfunctions like malingering, shirking, foot dragging, murmuring, gossiping, having a bad attitude, being insubordinate, uppity, difficult, are virtues from the private transcript that surface in the public and must be chastened and suppressed. This close to what Bey may have meant by "the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." One can complicate the binary structure, but the essential wisdom of it is what JJ encapsulates, "Fit in or fuck off." The art of fitting in with a slight deviation is the moral of the Trickster tales. You don't resist oppression, you succeed within it, Uncle Tom as the beau ideal of Uncle Remus, an Uncle Tom whose loyalties are mixed.

An optimistic bit of self-regard from the Social Darwinists gives us the happy thought that it - Social Darwinism - is going somewhere.
So these trimmings and culls from the greater mass are mere process, the inevitable necessities of getting to that somewhere.
In the oppressors it's plug-ugly, selfish blind hubristic, too often just raw evil; in the oppressed it's banjos and the blues, tales that lift the weary heart, stinging turns in cloaked narratives etc etc.
Red Cloud, more than anyone else in my limited readings, had the weight of it.
It's a little facile, that screed above, with its ghostly rebels acknowledged, celebrated, because what of those who are left?
The shame of simply surviving in that dynamic, stuff like that.
This is what we have.
Scots and Irish driven all the way to Bakersfield eventually; African natives carried in waves that broke against the Pacific, ending in Watts and Compton; Jews pogromed out of the shtetls and into Brooklyn or Chicago or Kansas City, but all of them, us, here.
With all the guilt and complicity of surviving, the wound being as much the fact of that shaping - that what happened is what we are. Like a child of rape, or incest, like original sin, what was wrong is also what we are. So now what?

Thank you, Roy. The facile part I plead guilty to. What James Scott is articulating is not unlike what you are emphasizing, though his perspective is that of an anthropologist and academic. He is saying, as you are, that the dominant culture, and the dominant narrative not only rolls over the subordinate culture, but also that it reduces them to silence in the public record, or tells their stories for them, with the accentuation of the dominant group ("blues and banjos," "cowboys and Indians," rap videos). Further, he makes vivid that there is no insurrectionary moment, for most subordinate peoples, or if there is it is easily put down. Rather, and this is the point I am trying to assimilate in a lived way, he points out that for most subordinate groups it goes on for centuries, forever. So, the question becomes how to live without hope, or how to assimilate your own story back from the dominant culture in a way that advances your interests and that of your children, without losing all truth. That is a bind to be in. For to advance, or even survive, the slave, the cubicle dweller, the Indian on the reservation, has to accomodate himself or herself to reality, to the happiness drills, to the emotional labor, of serving the dominant group, without demur and with some apparent enthusiasm. Further, this accomodation goes inward into the consciousness of the subordinate group, and becomes now part of their stories, their hero stories, their ideals. The ideal of a writer under the Vichy Regime will not be open resistance, instead we get, pardon me, Paul deMan, and other elaborate understandings of the self, of consciousness, of textuality, all of which suggest that heroic action would be premature even naive because understanding is indefinitely deferred, delayed, differed. Or we get Cyncism in Greece under Roman rule, a standing apart, and making elegant jests, or we get Stoicism, a retreat inward, to the inner citidel of the self. Or we get the Rapture series, from the subordinated Scots Irish called rednecks, dreaming of a violent end of Yankee/liberal rule. Or we get the Dumpster, outback of Wealth Bondage, where I mutter what I dare not say to Candidia's face, and for good reason.

Yes, writing "nugae" these days is enough to drive one to drink. ... So now what ?"

too facile by half, but it would also seem that to live without hope is enough to drive one to link ?

Not back as a gloss on Wirearchy. Driven to link.

Holiday noogies to all you old reprobates. May your candles burn at both ends.  :-)

And may we all have a candle to burn.

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