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Stealing the Emporer’s clothes – appropriation example.

passagenwerk

photo ref. passagenwerk

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Gitanisation

men woman car

An old Spanish gypsy song has it (with a laugh, a hop and a cry) that the world is full of objects made by others for the taking. Why soil your hands with work when there are others who seem to need the status that goes with it? Let them produce the goods, we will take them when we need them.

Soiling their hands with work (until the lay offs began with the neo-liberal order) meant that people had a relation however dulled and abused with the process of production, with fabrication and its attendant skills.

This relation to production that the gitanie spurned for reasons of honor (the nomad code) is now absent in the new populations growing up into worklessness.

As it was for the hunter gather of the stone age the world is stuffed full of objects and nowadays since there is no relation to production, objects can be seen as natural or given. so that there is a seamless progression from walking down a street and plucking apples from trees growing on the railway embankment to zooming around on a scooter and plucking Rolex watches “come from the other side”.

When the neo-liberals began their crusade they did not think about whether creation would keep pace with destruction. Since they were not interested in social questions they did not ask what would happen if despite discouraging circumstances the poor increased their birthrate in adversity. And then learnt from other cultures fatalism and absence of civic sense. And began after three half-generations to be socially creative in the manufacture first of gangs then tribes who saw the world as a collection of objects to take, if you were fit enough to do so.

Paralell with the neo-liberal crusade another universe of objects has been built. The Internet. By now it is near enough to be called a rough and ready Borgian copy of everything people recognise on Earth. Millions of cameras attached 24/7 act as eyes and ears of a gigantic occurrence beast. There are visual artists like Richard Prince who make fortunes just from re-working this traffic flow.

Habituation to the experience of seeing images of Rolex watches transforms the original object into a template carried in the head. There is then an obsession to actualize it. The brain can only take so much stimulation before it throws up deferred pleasure and goes for the real thing, whatever the risk, or rather becomes eager to enter the risk area for its sense of lightness, its absence of hand holds, its tingle of the present moment and the fascinating idea you might not come back.

You could say the scooter robbers are copying and pasting, except those sticky old concrete objects refuse to duplicate. Don’t worry, in time the Rolex will re-grow on your wrist – the insurance companies are working on it.

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Macronism

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Living in France with the French as they go thru, at the lowest pitch, their Blair / Thatcher years and at a higher pitch the prototyping, the starting up of a steadier, saner, more people-friendly, ecologically (which means digitally) savvy Europe is a piece of luck. I wouldn’t wish to live anywhere else right now (except Paris!).

Macron, like Trump, is a post-modern ruler. By post-modern I mean a clean sweep over university dominated, thoughtful, seminar based government into flash-of-enlightenment, nimble footed media outflanking and betting the farm on enough weight of popular mass following you through the gap.

But Macron is intelligent enough, more than enough, to understand you can’t rule France like America (even tho for immigrants like me France is Europe’s America). Clearly Macron’s ambition is to prove that in ruling France he is capable of ruling Europe. I wish him luck, not having a vote I can afford to be neutral for a while. I enjoy his spectacle.

Both Trump and Macron are trouble-makers, perturbers, risk-takers but while Trump, typically of certain Americans, wears his wackiness on his sleeve, Macron, proudly wearing what suits him, deploys language not in 147 character snaps but in penetrating, wide ranging, intelligent discourse. And in France language is still respected, people still think that talking to each other as citizens is valuable in itself and vital for a sense both of home and future.

Macron’s vision (his wager?) is that the two lashing tails, the right and left of the popular dragon with its stock of crude, indeed cruel, stereotypes of bankers and blacks, will curl into place when he gets the radical structural reforms he wants under the current constitution. I am reminded of LBJ as Senate majority leader, according to Robert Caro, when he had the political genius to see what use could be made of the place, even under the old rules.

The only problem with vision is that it only depends on you, the concrete needs others. Watching Macron in a stunning series of Mediapart transmissions  I recalled times in my cannabis charged youth I could illuminate my glum companions with a word picture that brought them into helpfulness. But it never went further than that, somehow the day to day business of living seemed to be too absorbing to lay aside for the illuminations. The lights stayed out.

 

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On the beach the ghosts rattle,

lespritbritanique

I am tucked away in the hills, unsophisticated and a long way from the front line. English by birth, a privilege I wore but never embodied, I live on the honey and apples butt end of the Continent, a part of the world designed to receive, to welcome.

When I go to the Metrop I take no weapon and although territory is parcelled out by the strongest on the street I still imagine I can sit at any pavement cafe. The notion of public space remains valuable to me. I do not want to retreat with look alike think alikes into gated (cloisonné) communities but the tide is going out and leaving stark and bare our differences, we no longer swim in the same medium, we have to shout across gaps. Everybody shrinking into hardened, pre-fabricated shells, drawing back in (rétrécissement) for hard shelled years of drought.

And now there is a new strike against me, a new colour slashed across my back thanks to Brexit. Have to think about it, if I start to disentangle my Englishness from my European roots it doesn’t add up to much, natch, otherwise I wouldn’t be this side of the Channel. And not just roots but shoots since of my four granddaughters two are half Italian and two half Spanish.

How to live with this future coming on so quick like raging fire? There are models for it. English people of the Catholic faith who refused to attend the State Anglican services in the sixteenth century were labelled recusants, a word whose time has maybe come again like the @ did.

“But the question is not the same with this Brexit thing”

“True but I like the word, recusant”

It seems churlish not to be able to identify with the country I was born in, to feel a foreigner there, to have to disavow its current posture yet I have day to day life to think of. I may become an adopted child of Marianne (liberté égalité frivolité ) and will do so with a sense of return since my ancestors, persecuted for their religion, left for England in 1715.

But then who is to say which English? The Northern Islanders who see the world as their oyster are unassimilated Europeans. There is something that doesn’t quite click, there is a bee in their bonnet, something makes their pants itch to be off. We see the irritation over here amongst some of the second homers who just don’t get practices which conform to personal and family space not to efficiency.

Now the vote has been taken, I have no beef with their choice, I’d sooner it was over with and quick. Thatchers children have grown up and swiped the reins from nanny. English reserve has been cast aside, ale swapped for lager, and a piratical mercantile race re-engineered (see Hakylut) I doubt they’ll find new lands though, nor ignorant savages. In which case they’ll come back over here for the honey and the apples no doubt…

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“He drives a slick silver Audi that smells of new leather and stale cigarette smoke…” (Fahrinisa Oswald)

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I could never be a people smuggler, I haven’t got the smarts. Skipping over the primary situation of the overloaded boat people with the fake life jackets and assuming they’ve got as far as mainland Greece, thanks to Inside the world of human smuggling even those of us standing at the sidelines can peek thru cracks in the Wall and see stuff for ourselves when it gets to  Airport stage.

Where some see the refugee burden as a cost for Greece, its economy already overburdened, others see an opportunity if you sport a blind eye, since it harnesses the pressure of the desire to move on up to native ingenuity in by-passing rules and the tech savvy of young people with a taste for success.

The vocabulary has been there a long time, false papers, bribed guards it hasn’t needed a lot of organising and once the wheel starts to spin it sucks in the refugees cash and funnels it down into Greece and spreads it in neat packets, steadily rising, around Athens and other significant localities. Watch out for Gangsta Rococco building boom, tell it by the screaming heads on the gateposts.

Free ports, enterprise zones. Except here it is not top down, it is constructed informally by unknowing and unknown agents. The community at large is left with the problem of what goes along with this creative process, the ugliness, the violence organised or not, the slavery, the corruption. But just who is the community at large?. Is it the city of Athens? Is it Greece, is it Europe?

In 1941 Arthur Koestler wrote the classic insiders study of how human hierarchies get constructed from zero. Titled The Scum of the Earth it dealt with his imprisonment by the French as an enemy of the state. He came to realise that in a finite crowd every transaction changes both the parties standing in relation to all the other parties. A form of sorting by having or successfully pretending to have an advantage, knowing when and how to deploy it and, very important, having a self conscious idea of better conditions, more sleep, more space, more food, more security, always in relation to the enclosing powers, the guards and the criminals.

History’s giant brown peristaltic motion squeezed a bunch of people into bare-bones living, primitive sanitation, physical cruelty and sub-existence rations just so that a gifted science journalist could bear witness you might think. Something like this must be going on today in those places centered on a depository for arrivals surrounded by a more or less porous fence and then a host community. The fact that the fence is porous implies association with the host community, “I walk carrying my baggage, in one hand I carry the good stuff, in the other the bad. Do you want to help me clean up?”

I am not a responsible person so it is not for me to wonder why  refugees with  fake Italian or French passports (despite supposed EU joined up action) aren’t faced with having to speak Italian or French at the airport check-in. The teeth of the comb meant to filter the good and the bad end up being human somewhere down the line. Human hence fallible, bribable, complex and these complex human encounters, so far unmodelable, allied with faceless ubiquitous technologies and their savvier than thou operators that are making, below the media horizon, a new transnational diasporic world whose crowds will not stop swirling chaotically in and around the embittered old white elites in their shrinking, stinking, fortified refuges.

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Trump’s flamboyant putsch, sorry, I mean pitch.

 

There are those who say the object of the world is to generate fiction, well, here’s one to be going on with.

I wager one of the more far out of the communications advisers in Donald’s camp will suggest he don military threads for the inauguration like they tend to do below the north south American belt, Mexico here we come, jealous of your juntas. And big sunglasses.

I am sure the Generals about to take positions of civil executive power in Washington will be itching to slip into their green or blue serge as they stand with their heavy, career damaged faces just back of Trump on the Capitol steps.

The fact that British Bosswoman Teresa May sent her Chiefs of Staff, her military top brass, to talk with Trump’s people rather than her Ambassador indicates that the military industrial complex which former President Eisenhower famously warned about now sits openly at the top table. A glance at Bartholomew’s Mini World Atlas, in reach of my armchair, shows why this may be so right now.

We know that a lot of Trump’s support comes from people who don’t go along with the idea of a multicolored, multistrand, networked future. They would prefer to resist, stand on a shrinking ice island and fight back. Their main external support is white Russia and the other ex Soviet countries who, urged on by their Church, have an uncomplicatedly negative view of people with dark skin.

I think this accounts for the mixed signals spattering out of Trump. Yes he does want to get into bed with Russian gas and oil and dammit all develop the country (gold elevators) but he doesn’t want them treading on his toes elsewhere on the globe. I’m sure they are well on their way to a deal since Trump’s magnificently overblown persona is something that vibrates the Russian soul – think Yeltsin.

The Russo-americo military would nod their heads vigourously if I let them peek at the line I have drawn on my Atlas. The heartland of the citadel is the Arctic ocean with its interior lines of communication. The two major blocs, the Americas and the ex-Soviet Union drop down from there. The tricky part is Europe, which is why the political evolutions there are central to this new, hot, game. My pencil wavers when it comes to the Scandinavian countries, Benelux and Germany, they could go either way. The Marines are arriving in Norway at this moment. They are going to learn to ski and to practice killing on packs of savage dogs with pre-torn throats.

Brexit means of course that Britain will be an American owned threat tasked to bully and subvert the easy going muddle headed frogs dagos wops and greeks. According to the MIC the countries bordering the northern Mediterranean shore are porous, soft, crumbling away. You can’t make a wall which stands up to the alien faith populations breaking out of the sea with bricks like that. The MIC sees it like – lets get those beach casualties up nearer to the D Day mark, say fifteen per cent, that should discourage them some…

Now I’ve got that bitter taste rising in my mouth. Would it were blood or spit but its just the residue from the breakfast coffee. Time to get out of the armchair and see if the legs still work.

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North American History

Willis W. Harman (1919-1997) stole into my life thru a back door in a book I am writing about America called Success=True. He gave me this authentically chilling film noire line,

“There’s a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose.”

The line was delivered to Michael Rossman of the Berkley Free Speech Movement when Harman  (sometimes misknown as Harmon) was with Stanford Research Institute in the “early seventies”.

My question was which were the sides? And my temptation was to backdate it to the early sixties for my book’s narrative. I knew I would get into trouble and I did, the whole of the writing got out of gear and shuddered to a halt. I had to climb out of the wreck and try to fix it. First of all, I thought, I have to disentangle the Harman thing.

I asked myself which would have been the two sides in the early seventies and would this retroje(c)t backwards? My flash card stereotypes were ready: crew cut CIA goon stroke mad scientist up against soft flowing hippy poet revolutionary.

But it turned out to be not so simple. I read an interview with Willis Harman in 1995 by Sarah Van Guelder. Judge for your self but I couldn’t fit the gun slinger of the early seventies with the guy who was saying,

“It turns out that if you look at the assumptions underlying our economic system – especially the ones regarding the prerogatives of ownership – and then you look at the goals we humans have about how we want to live our lives, there is no compatibility. The assumptions can never lead to the goals”

Was Harman’s life arc like the American Stalinists of the 1930’s who became hard line neo-conservatives, only in reverse?

And then there was a letter Harman wrote on Stanford Research Institute paper to Al Hubbard (known as the Johnny Appleseed of LSD) in October 1968,

“Our investigations of some of the current social movements affecting education indicate that the drug usage prevalent among student members of the New Left is not entirely undesigned. Some of it appears to be present as a deliberate weapon aimed at political change.

We are concerned with assessing the significance of this as it impacts on matters of long range educational policy. In this connection it would be advantageous to have you considered in the capacity of a special investigative agent who might have access to relevant data which is not ordinarily available. If this can be arranged I believe it could help us a great deal”

Harman was turned on by Hubbard in 1956 and showed no sign of repenting use of mind-expanding drugs. Perhaps as an ex-engineer (he had been a colleague of LSD pioneer Myron Stolaroff on the board of Ampex) he instinctively opted for working within a tight set up, cleansed of the whatever and that’s the way it goes of flower child fatalism.

In a charcoal suit, even stoned, you can merge with the granite walls of the corporation which in turn merges with the universe while Michael Rossman’s side let their tiny naked soul-pieces build patterns directly from multi-colored ubermatter.

Or perhaps Harman’s “two sides” schtick was an argument between two philosophies of change. One side wedded to a psychedelically enlightened elite with ultra modern persuasive (read coercive) power to direct the unenlightened masses. The other side setting psychedelic fire to the bundle of dead wood in each citizen and changing society by ten million tiny transformations.

It is the old old story isn’t it? The struggle during the Reformation to have the Bible translated into the vernacular rather than kept in the priest’s tongue. As Claire Luce, one of the lucky few, influential in her own right and husband of Time-Life boss Henry said,

“We wouldn’t want everyone doing too much of a good thing”

Whose side are you on?

*

All of this bugged me. Harman resisted being squeezed into my text. I had to take time off, chop wood, shift sand, re-make the level of the garden pond a second time, feeling out whether to go in deeper or let the iceberg of my ignorance float unattached to maybe smash my book a month down the line.

I plunged into the Wikipedia wormholes, came out at unexpected places, resisted deep conspiracy whirlpools and wrestled together a holding statement that went something like this: the program of turning on the elite went a long way until it began to suffer from its own contradictions. Like a pincer movement where one claw doesn’t really know what the other claw is doing. You’ve got these brilliant young chemists making the stuff in pails and dishing it out to the street, then you’ve got the war medicine people slipping it into circuits they believe they control.

“So what’s the prey”

“Its the squashy center where most people loan their dreams to the powerful for life”

By this reading the contradictions flared up to a crisis in 1965, around the time they needed a hell of a lot more young men’s bodies in Vietnam. In October 1966 LBJ signed a new law banning LSD, despite ex-pharmacist Hubert Humphrey lobbying for it’s controlled use. They sealed off the pass. But by that time there was a generation moving at all levels in society who had gone thru a mind expanding experience. Not all of the trips had been good, some of the charcoal suit people came back to their offices with a hint of malevolent madness in their eyes, they were out to get someone for that. Madness in those higher echelons persists because structures and processes were established and endure that had been built in its light.

On the way to that holding statement I got some nice licks I thought I could use even if I had to drop Harman. Like the phrase the men who stare at goats At first I took this as a neat descriptive of behavioral scientists but then the information came that there was indeed a Company program to see whether by thought power humans could kill animals.

And then there was this,

We now know that the total number of possible states of the brain can be given only by a number of truly astronomical proportions- according to Anokhin (1971), one followed by a line of zeros stretching out into space twenty four times the distance from the earth to the moon!

Like a first year yeshiva student I asked,

“Yes but how big do you write your zeros?

And there was the highly suggestive results from Puthoff and Targ (1974) that appeared to show that we can have unconscious knowledge of a state of mind of another which is not available to consciousness,

If a stroboscopic light is shined in a subject’s eyes, a characteristic alpha component appears in his electroencephalogram. Some prior rapport is established between two remotely isolated subjects. The light is flashed in one subject’s eyes and the other is asked to guess whether the light is on or off. Subject is usually unable to guess better than chance but the telltale alpha component appears in his EEG. Unconsciously he knows with certainty when the light is in the other person’s eyes while he is denying such knowledge to his conscious mind.

*

The November rains had come and our trees were dropping leaves at our feet. The slope down to the bamboos was getting its clay wetted to perfect slip state. Time to get on, I took the simplest path. I put the chilling line into this piece. I knew I would never reach the early seventies with Success=True except as an epilogue, and I felt no desire to change the construction. I made a list of what I knew of Harman’s life, with a rule not to look further, and turning back to the interrupted chapter erased the line and went on,

The coaming of the pool was underlit with a cool lime green. A flashbulb caught them dancing, Willis Harmon with his eyes half shut and something scruffy about his shirt, a little drunk. And Arlene with a fixed grin just coming out of a jive twirl.

“I see it like this…”

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