DAY 33 (an earlier error had it as 32, sorry folks)

March 20th, 2013 § 0 comments

How wise were our founding fathers when, in 1701 (so I’m told) they passed the Act of Settlement, which forever debars anyone holding allegiance to the Bishop of Rome from becoming King or Queen of England or anywhere similar! As I write, a lady claiming to be the President of Argentina is pressing upon the newly elected Argie Pope (see last post) the claims of her tinpot republic to the Falklands Islands.

charlieOver the sea to Skye

Can we doubt that, if Bonnie Prince Charlie or his descendants were upon the throne, they would instantly give way to demands from their spiritual leader? Was it for this that Henry VIII divorced and beheaded all those wives? It’s a disturbing enough thought that a mere ten years ago we were in the power of the crypto-Catholic Blair dynasty – and, given the general secretiveness of the sect, particularly Opus Dei (Brown, Dan, passim), there may be countless of them in high places. You can’t be too paranoid. We’d be handing over the islands for a handful of pesos to help with our debts, or for a few tins of corned beef.fray

At the other end of the social spectrum to Catholics we, of course, find the Methodists who are incapable of being posh (Methodists in the Bullingdon Club? They couldn’t keep up with the drinking.) So we have never had a Methodist Prime Minister – correct me if I’m wrong. How high have they risen in the class-ridden political system, one wonders? Lloyd George began as a Baptist, Ramsay Macdonald as a Presbyterian, Wilson a Congregationalist. (Isn’t this fascinating? Is there a conspiracy – by Opus Dei, say – to keep the Methodists out? But I digress.)

I go down in the morning and collect my paper – am I alone, or is the world in this year 2013 increasingly surreal? I learn that the reason for the onslaught on little Cyprus by the Merkel/IMF axis (which is reducing it to bankruptcy) is that ‘there are too many Russian deposits there’. Come again? Then I’m told that Russia may intervene to save Cyprus. Then that Russia is one of the most debt-free economies in the world. They must surely be trying to wind me up; Russia is a basket case, with its economy laid waste by robber capitalism, oligarchs, mafiosi and vodka. And populated by hopeless Chekhovian leftovers, selling cherry orchards, shooting seagulls, and never getting to Moscow. Yet it seems that they have loads of money, which they invest in sunny holiday islands dedicated to Aphrodite. It seems to me that this ludicrous story, and similar ones which are being put around, are an attempt to confuse, to delude, to make us lose our faith in Reason and go whoring after the false gods of Post-Modernism.

venusWhy put your money in Cyprus? I know that money likes rushing around, often staying in high-risk places (where it can get lots of interest), and then quitting while it’s ahead before the big bust; but in this case money seems not to have been that smart. Don’t get into the clutches of the Merkels of this world, is what I’d tell money.

Which brings me on to my current promotion, a journal called Theory, Culture and Society, a title which clearly includes just about everything of interest except perhaps netball. While as you might expect it devotes an inordinate amount of time to the blitherings of such as Foucault, Deleuze, etc, the particular vol. 28 no. 3 (November 2011) devoted to ‘Codes and Codings in Crisis’ is spot-on, covering all my personal manias from DNA to surveillance to financial markets to drones – it’s all there. As Adrian Mackenzie and Theo Vurdubakis say, introducing the issue: ‘Code is in a certain sense the terrain on which decisions concerning chance, pattern, order, values, time, otherness, nature and culture are enacted.’

I couldn’t have put it better myself. (I have derived no financial benefit from this endorsement, although if the editors of TCS want to gift me a subscription, that’s their affair.)

The Next Intifada…

Demonstrations in Gaza against Obama’s visit
Published today (updated) 20/03/2013 21:59
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Palestinian protesters on Wednesday torched photos of US President Barack Obama and US flags in front of office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza City.The protest started as dozens marched from the Unknown Soldier statue toward the UN office waving Palestinian flags. Representatives of nationalist and Islamic factions joined the rally. The protesters chanted slogans against Obama’s visit to the region.“We are out here today to say enough to the ongoing pressure on the Palestinian people and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority seeking to impose a unilateral settlement, and US preconditions forcing the PA to make more concessions,” said senior leader of the Islamic Jihad movement Khalid al-Batsh.Obama’s visit, he added, does not serve the Palestinian people’s interests, but rather support the idea of a Jewish state, and maintains Israel’s military superiority.Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Obama’s visit “is not welcomed because it means giving legitimacy to occupation and showing US political support at the expense of Palestinian rights.”Prominent leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Jamil Muzhir pointed out to a Palestinian consensus on opposing Obama’s visit to the region “as the visit will bring nothing new to the Palestinian people.”“Obama will try to exert pressure on the Palestinian president to get him to resume US-backed negotiations.”Several other leaders of Palestinian factions delivered speeches during the rally highlighting that Obama continues to side with Israel. “He will never be nonpartisan in his approach to the question of Palestine,” said Walid Al-Awad, a senior leader in the Palestinian People’s Party.

Having neglected Rabindranath Tagore in my poetry section (and what about Pablo Neruda, I hear you ask), let’s try to make up with a poem which, if not in Bengali, is at least long:

I Won’t Let You Go!

By Rabindranath Tagore, translated from the Bengali by Fakrul Alam
April 15, 2011

The carriage is ready; it’s afternoon;
The late autumnal sun blazes;
A midday breeze swirls dust
Off the deserted rural road;
In the cool shade of a peepal tree
A worn out beggar woman dozes
On a tattered cloth. As in a night
Coming after an excess of sunlight
Everything is still, silent, somnolent—
Only my house is astir,
Its inmates incapable of sleep!

Autumn’s come and gone; holiday’s over,
I leave for my far off workplace.
Our servants run around the house
Packing bags and baggage with ropes and strings,
Although her eyes are full of tears,
And her heart is leaden, my wife
Has not a moment to sit down and cry.
She makes sure that everything is ready
For the journey. My bags are full,
But she thinks I don’t have enough!
I exclaim, “Must I take all?
Boxes, jugs, pots, pans and plates,
Bowls, bottles, and bedclothes too!
What will I do with so many things?
Let me only take some of them
And leave the rest behind.”

But nobody heeds me.
“What if you need this or that?
Where will you get them then?
Here I’ve fine rice, excellent lentils
Betel leaves and areca nuts; in those bowls
Are date-palm molasses and ripe coconuts;
There two jugs of the best mustard oil,
Mango cakes, dried mango sticks and milk,
Here in these bottles, medicines
And in those bowls, delicious sweets—
Promise, dear, you’ll eat them!”
I realize it’s pointless to protest
And let bags and baggage pile up.
I look at my watch and then my dear wife,
And say softly, “Goodbye.”
She glances away, turning her head,
Hiding her face in her sari’s edge,
Fighting tears lest they bring bad luck.

My four-year-old daughter waits outside
Pensively. Any other day,
She would have had a bath by now
And before she had taken a bite or two,
Her eyelids would droop in sleep.
This day her mother has no time for her
And hasn’t noticed that she hasn’t bathed
Or had lunch. All this time she had been
Sticking close to me like my shadow,
Watching my going-away rituals in rapt silence.
Tired now, thinking who knows what,
She stands outside the door silently.
When I say, “Goodbye darling,”
She declares sad-eyed and solemnly,
“I won’t let you go,” staying put,
Making no attempt to take me by the arm
Or blocking my way; as if proclaiming thus
The dictate of her heart. As if only saying
“I won’t let you go” was enough.
And yet the time has come, alas!
She has to let me go!

Silly daughter of mine, was it you speaking?
What gave you the strength
To say so emphatically, “I won’t let you go”?
What made you feel you could stop me
From leaving with only a pair of hands?
How could you think of holding me back
And blocking me with your frail little body
Stirred only by a heart full of love?
Timid and shy as we are, the most we say
Even when our heart bursts with pain is
“Don’t feel like letting you go!”
And to hear your little mouth declare firmly
“I won’t let you go,” to hear you assert
Love’s claim with such intensity!
And yet I feel the world smiling wryly
As it takes me away from my family.
I bid leave, but as in a framed picture,
I register the little one’s image—defeated,
In tears, sitting in the doorway,
And I wipe my tears and leave.

As I depart I see on both sides of the road
Ripening paddy fields basking in the sun.
Towering trees border the highway,
And reflect intently on their own shades.
The autumnal Ganges is in full flow.
White cloudlets recline on a blue sky,
Like newborn calves who’ve had their fill
Of their mother’s milk and sleep peacefully.
I sigh as I look at bright sunlight
Spreading across old, exhausted earth.

What immense sadness has engulfed
The entire sky and the whole world!
The farther I go the more clearly I hear
Those poignant words “Won’t let you go!”
From world’s end to the blue dome of the sky
Echoes the eternal cry: “Won’t let you go!”
Everything cries, “I won’t let you go!”
Mother Earth too cries out to the tiny grass
It hugs on its bosom, “I won’t let you go!”
Someone trying to snatch from darkness
The flame of a dying lamp exclaims
A hundred times, “I won’t let you go!”
It’s the oldest cry resounding from earth to heaven
The solemnest lament, “I won’t let you go!”
And yet, alas, we have to let go; and yet,
Of course, we must go. And this is how it has been,
From time immemorial. Since creation’s currents
Began streaming relentlessly towards extinction’s sea
With burning eyes and outstretched arms
We’ve all been crying out in vain endlessly,
“Won’t let go, won’t let you go!”
Filling earth’s shores with laments
As everything ebbs inexorably away.
The waves up front cry out to the ones in the rear,
“Won’t let go, won’t let you go!”—
But no one listens. . .

Everywhere around me this day I hear
My daughter’s plaintive voice; it keeps ringing
In my ears and piercing the heart of the universe.
Earth resounds with a child’s unreasonable cry.
Forever it loses what it gets and yet it won’t
Slacken its grip; forever it calls us
With unending love like my four-year-old daughter:
“Won’t let you go!” Though sad-faced and in tears,
Its pride shattered at every step,
Love refuses to accept defeat and cries out
In desperation, “Won’t let you go!”
Defeated each time it blurts out,
“Can the one I love stay away?
Can anything in the universe compare
In strength or be as boundless as my desire?”
And even as it proclaims proudly,
“Won’t let you go” the one it treasures
Is blown away instantly, like dust
Wafted by the arid wayward breeze. And then
Tears stream down its eyes. Like a tree
Uprooted, it collapses headfirst, humiliated.
And yet Love insists, “God keeps his Word
I have proof in the pledge He made of a right
Given eternally.” And thus emboldened,
Fragile Love stands up to Death
And boasts, “Death, you don’t exist!”
Death laughs at such folly. And so Love,
Undying, though weighed down by Death,
Pervades the universe, solemn-faced,
Full of fears, forever in a flutter and tears.
A weary hopefulness covers the world
Like a gray fog. I see two inconsolable arms
Vainly trying to bind saddened, silent earth.
Under swift currents a quiet shade—
The allure of a cloud that will soon shed tears.

And thus this day the rustling trees
Induce in me yearnings. In midday heat
The lazy indifferent wind plays listlessly
With dry leaves. The slow day wanes,
Lengthening the shade under the banyan tree.
Eternity’s flute plays a pastoral lament
Heard over the universe. Responding,
Listless Earth sits down in a paddy field
By the river’s side, loosening her tresses,
Flinging a golden scarf across her bosom
That gleams in the golden sun. She is silent,
Her eyes still as she looks at the distant blue sky.
I take a look at her sad, sorrowful face,
As if in a doorway, silent, absorbed, sad.
Just like my four-year-old daughter!

As for music: having gone on about the Methodists, it’s appropriate to play a version of that old favourite ‘And Can it Be’ by Charles Wesley (music by Thomas Campbell, responsible therefore for the amazing lines 5-6). I should point out that for the more conservative hymn critic, ‘leaps are wide and untamed, and repetitions get out of control’ – guy called Westermeyer, ‘Let the People Sing’, p.198. Never mind, here’s a magical version in Swahili by a Rwandan group! The Swahili lyrics are on the Youtube page – but in case they get erased here they are. I hope Wesley would have approved of the bit about uhuru in the second chorus (Is that ‘My chains fell off, my heart was free)?

2. Roho yangu ilifungwa sana, thambi na giza vilinilemea, ukaniangaza rohoni, gereza yangu ikangaa mno. ikafunguka minyororo yangu yote nikaondoka nikaanza kukufuata.

Ref: Siku ile nikapata uhuru kweli kwako mungu.

3. Mungu wangu alitowa damu, siwezi kuelewa neno hili, Viumbe vyote vya mbinguni navyo haviwezi kufahamu; Najua tu nikwa rehema zake mungu malaika watu wote wamsujudu mno.

Ref: Ni rehema tumwabudu tumwamini ndiye mwokozi.

I wouldn’t mind having it sung at my funeral; although you might sing ‘Jesus’ Love is Very Wonderful‘, and I wouldn’t be around to complain…


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