DAY 55 – Wanted

August 5th, 2013 § 0 comments

Yes, the last post (get it?) was completed in something of a scramble – which set me thinking. While I can, and do, often take days and days rambling on composing a page, searching for the mot juste, trying to find a picture to go with a recipe, worrying about what words ending in -ou have a plural in -oux,
hqdefaultand so on – while, as I say, all that, every now and then, as yesterday, (Too many commas, pig!) something really important like the Bradley Manning verdict comes up for which my leisurely mode of composition, particularly at my advanced age, is badly suited.

[For example - in case you didn't know - more than 1,000 Palestinian herders -- including 452 children -- need your support to stop the Israeli military from forcing them permanently out of their homes in the southern West Bank. Israeli military helicopters and troops frequently raid villages, harass and arrest herders and their children at night, and block their roads. The Israeli military intends to demolish homes, cisterns, outdoor toilets, solar panels, wind turbines and the only two schools in the area, denying children their right to education. Israel's High Court of Justice is set to hear and decide upon this case on September 2, 2013. Israeli writers and law professors - who include David Grossman, Amos Oz, and A. B. Yehoshua - have demanded justice by launching two petitions; see the report here.]

I know you’ll say that it’s for that kind of instant response that God gave us Twitter (‘Hey, the cops have busted us, the stash is down the toilet and I need a shit!’); but the Internet is swarming with members of the blogging fraternity or sorority who can rush to virtual print in an hour or so with pages of crafted sentences and thoughtful opinions on the latest iniquities of their or someone else’s ruling class. Why not me?

Worrying, in the wee wee hours, about this question – and the more serious one of why I wasn’t making more progress with my book – I came up with an amazing solution. It appears that this country is full of young people called ‘The Unemployed’, many of whom are also ‘Graduates’ – and so skilled in anything from web design to sports psychiatry – and even ‘On Benefits’. Because they are young, they are full of inexhaustible energy. Their lack of work, instead of being a source of pleasure (‘Let’s go round to Tarquin’s, he’s got Final Fantasy XV and we can spend twelve hours getting totally hammered’), makes them demoralised. So deeply has the Protestant ethic permeated the national soul that they are ready to work for nothing, racing off to offer their services to lawyers, to NGOs, to banks, to n’importe qui, as ‘Interns’. unpaid-internshipIt beats me – I had no more energy at that age than I have now, and most of my friends were out of their heads most of the time (okay, it’s a sixties myth, but it sounds good). The idea of working for no money (except for some tiny skint authoritarian revolutionary sect) in those dear dead trade unionist days would have seemed frankly surreal.

Why, then, if these fresh-faced idealistic youngsters can work for banks, can’t they work for me? The banks can pay them nothing, so can I; and I can offer more interesting work – as foot-soldiers, along with me, Arundhati Roy, Wendy Brown, Naomi Klein and my other compadres in the grand assault on neoliberalism (which includes the banks). They can do the research for the blog, write the book, and get enthusiastic credit in those acknowledgment pages that everyone skips. It’ll be invaluable preparation for a lifetime of working for nothing. And I’ll give them coffee and biscuits, and maybe even lentils and rice from the local Hare Krishna man.

harekrishnaHare Krishna free food cart at Soas

Readers, I have experience of this; at over 70, I applied for a month’s unpaid ‘volunteer’ work with MSF – I was younger, and more idealistic, than I am now. I was told there were no other applicants, but even so I faced a fearsome interview, demands for a CV etc etc. I went off for a week’s holiday and returned to find someone ‘more suitable’ had suddenly materialized and been given the job. Younger? Almost certainly. Prettier? Very likely. Am I bitter? Why else would I be telling you this?

Nonviolent resistance

Where do the click militants of Avaaz live? Not in a world which has any relation to reality. The latest email I had from them asked for help in supporting ‘nonviolent resistance’ in Palestine and saying that ‘for years, the media has focused on Palestinian militants, and to this day, extremists on both sides are pushing peace further out of reach. But what’s lost in all that vitriol are the loving families like Fadel’s that just want a normal life.’ If Avaaz has only just woken up to the non-violent resistance, it’s been going on for years – people rebuilding demolished homes, demonstrators in the South Hebron Hills (see above), Israeli draft resisters and so on. Trouble is, they have always been met by extreme state violence, tear gas, shootings,administrative detention and so on. There are people providing ‘funds for lawyers’; what Avaaz doesn’t recognize is that in the racist Israeli justice system those lawyers have almost no chance of winning. ‘This occupation has gone on for too long and for too long the resolution of this conflict has been controlled by extremists on both sides’, say Avaaz. Who are the Palestinian extremists? The hunger strikers? Or do they mean the client Palestinian ‘leadership’ controlled by Abu Mazen? This sort of rhetoric of blaming both sides, in a system of colonial occupation, stinks.


An up-to-the-minute musical treat is 12’39” of Mohammed Assaf singing Ya Tir Ya Tair in Bethlehem –  with some Mondoweiss commentary to give the political edge. I’ve posted him before – and by the way, it turns out I had, as I suspected, posted Zappa before. An intern (to get back to that) could help me get a filing system and avoid these duplications, apart from deliberate ones.Let’s have more Icelandic techno, and we’ll get more originality.

Indeed, what vast gaps there are, how many areas of culture – and other human endeavours – have not been covered so far in these pathetic pages. For example, the work of Langston Hughes. (More to come.) And I hope Césaire will follow, when I have loads of time and some help with typing or copying a bilingual…

Cultural Exchange

In the Quarter of the Negroes
Where the doors are doors of paper
Dust of dingy atoms
Blows a scratchy sound.
Amorphous jack-o’-Lanterns caper
And the wind won’t wait for midnight
For fun to blow doors down.
By the river and the railroad
With fluid far-off going
Boundaries bind unbinding
A whirl of whisteles blowing.
No trains or steamboats going–
Yet Leontyne’s unpacking.

In the Quarter of the Negroes
Where the doorknob lets in Lieder
More than German ever bore,
Her yesterday past grandpa–
Not of her own doing–
In a pot of collard greens
Is gently stewing.

Pushcarts fold and unfold
In a supermarket sea.
And we better find out, mama,
Where is the colored laundromat
Since we moved up to Mount Vernon.

In the pot begind the paper doors
on the old iron stove what’s cooking?
What’s smelling, Leontyne?
Lieder, lovely Lieder
And a leaf of collard green.
Lovely Lieder, Leontyne.

You know, right at Christmas
They asked me if my blackness,
Would it rub off?
I said, Ask your mama.

Dreams and nightmares!
Nightmares, dreams, oh!
Dreaming that the Negroes
Of the South have taken over–
Voted all the Dixiecrats
Right out of power–

Martin Luther King is Governor of Georgia,
Dr. Rufus Clement his Chief Adviser,
A. Philip Randolph the High Grand Worthy.
In white pillared mansions
Sitting on their wide verandas,
Wealthy Negroes have white servants,
White sharecroppers work the black plantations,
And colored children have white mammies:
Mammy Faubus
Mammy Eastland
Mammy Wallace
Dear, dear darling old white mammies–
Sometimes even buried with our family.
Dear old
Mammy Faubus!

Culture, they say, is a two-way street:
Hand me my mint julep, mammy.
Hurry up!
Make haste!

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