Men Alas Lend On

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Sky News’ coverage of the national celebrations in Soweto’s FMB stadium today is anchored by [white] Jeremy Thompson. As I left for work, a [white] woman was diving into the [black] dancing crowd with the usual ludicrous voxpop prompts. “Tell us why you’re here.” I found myself irritated that Sky hadn’t thought to post a black person to cover this event of all events. I laughed out loud when they grabbed a [black] soldier on security detail and asked him what Nelson Mandela meant to him. “He showed the whites the meaning of wisdom,” he said. The woman from the Sky hurried on. 

There was a shot of David Cameron arriving. Day in the Commons. Arms fair in Beijing. Trumped-up Iraqi WMD-style invasion sabre rattling. Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Cameron manages that scrubbed Eton tie over the shoulder look whatever the situation. Behind him come a gaggle of Whitehall undead including John “Top Lip” Major and Gordon “Mad Cow” Brown. Global pre-eminences slipping into the security cordon include yellow-lensed meme-vampire Bono and the Spice Girls, for whom I can’t think of an ironic epithet. The US looks better, with the all-black presidential family getting off the plane ahead of the neo-teutonic George Bush II, his evil-looking father and their shrewd-eyed wives. Other genocidal luminaries include Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, and poor old Bobby Mugabe. I have the live stream running in a small window on my Mac as we speak, lest I miss the shot of Mr Black Magic himself––Tony Blair–– arriving. 

While there is something awful about the armed guarded presence of these goons––all of whom could be reasonably accused of furthering projects ethically opposed to Mandela’s, we have to ask what would Madiba himself say to them? Information will have arrived in your Facebook stream about Cameron’s 1985 membership of Conservative Students, who produced the infamous “Hang Nelson Mandela” poster, and his role in the Tory Policy Unit, who in 1989 went on a sanctions-busting visit to PW Botha’s apartheid regime. This dirt from the past should hardly surprise you, of course. British toffs aren’t exactly known for their leanings towards genetic diversity [with the possible exception of Prince Harry].       

But scroll back a bit and your Facebook stream will also inform you that when he was released, Mandela saw that if he didn’t leave his entirely justifiable bitterness and hatred behind he would be captive forever––held in that most portable, rubbery and persistent cage of all, the captivity of negativity. 

Nelson ‘Rolihlahla’ Mandela was indeed named––Rolihlahla means ‘troublemaker’ in Xhosa––with foresight. We can––perhaps must––mention Cameron’s pro-Botha past and daylight robbery present. But if we are to change him we must for-give. We must examine ourselves and perhaps walk in his shoes before we cast any stones. Haven’t we got stuff wrong? Supported the ‘wrong’ side? Do we not require to be forgiven? Do we not in fact expect to be given space––distance between our past and our present––that we might be appraised anew, afresh? Is this not in fact what happens? Without this space, this for-giveness, how can things change?

I am not, to be sure, talking of erasing our past in the Orwellian sense currently in vogue at Tory HQ. I am not advocating wiping records of speeches and acts such that David Cameron and other luminaries may float in a mediatised now. We must all be held to account––as indeed we all are in the end––but this holding to account must not be that in which Muammar Ghadaffi and Saddam Hussein met their ends. What was achieved there? What was learned? What if Saddam’s reconciliation had become the prototype of a new process at The Hague? We would have been riveted to our screens as we watched him break down emotionally before bereaved families. We would have learned something from him. We would have learned something from those bereaved mothers and fathers who broke down with him and forgave him. We would have learned that vanquished and vanquisher are but two sides of the same coin.    

This is the moral of the Mandela story. He could have led black South Africa into revolution and revenge, as Mugabe tried to do. Mandela’s vision was enlightened by his own suffering. He understood the turning of the great the wheel of karma.

Rest in peace, Tata Madiba. Thank you for the space you held for all of us. May we understand your example and have the strength to follow it. The strength to forgive.

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Vote Inner Obama

inner-obamaMunivara Ashram, Ubud, Bali. Lifting my torso into cobra pose one afternoon, my sweating face was suddenly gripped between the powerful hands of Mr Ketut Arsana. Are you Obama? he said. And so began my curious resonance with the Black President.

As I write, from Kinokuniya bookstore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is adjusting itself to vague disillusionment at the non-result of the 13th general election. Shortly after midnight last night, the ruling party, Barisan National, was announced as the winner. BN is the current version of the same power base that has ruled this young country since the legendary Mahatir Muhammad (aka Dr Umum) architected Malaysia’s particular mix of nationalism, federalism, corporatism, ethnic and religious diversity in 1981. Umum held his post as Prime Minister and head of UMNO (then ruling party, now incorporated into the BN coalition) for a record 22 years.

Ethnically mamak (Malaysian Indian Muslim) Dr Umum was (is) a living legend. In his time he was the man who stood up to the old colonial powers in trade battles. On several famous occasions – Apartheid South Africa and Bosnia for instance – he called them on their hypocrisy and double standards. In turn he was criticised – not unlike the late Hugo Chavez perhaps – for his centralisation of power and erosion of civil liberties. There was the famous showdown with former UMNO deputy Anwar Ibrahim, which lead to the latter’s imprisonment on charges of buggery. Malaysia still has no free press. (Well, does anyone?) To the West, Dr Umum became “Asia’s Dr No.”

As with any power base that resists change over time, stagnant channels begin to stink. Croneyism, money and houses for votes for instance. To be expected, you could argue, and all rather innocent against the politrix of big boys like Bush and Blair. This morning, Malaysians – a sizeable minority at least – suffered a blue Monday. The blue BN pennants continue to flutter from every available lamppost and railing. Probably they’ll still be fluttering there in six months time. The will of the people – a sizeable minority at least – has failed.

Probably the majority of Malaysians voted for no change. The choice after all was between BN and a coalition including Chinese, Sikh, Hindu, Islamic and assorted other elements – in other words Barisan National or not. A magician’s choice. One imagines the long, deft hand of Dr Umum behind this strategy. Or perhaps this is a little too 007.

The heavily televised BN victory stumbled home last night amidst odd notes. Live TV crews battled exhaustion then studio hysteria to think of new angles on what was in effect an ordeal of televised absurdity. As the night wore on the only surprise was the extent of the BN majority. In the closing moments there were cries of foul play. Bus, plane, ship loads of illegal Bangladeshi labourers had been spotted outside polling stations. The live vote count website went down. The electricity supply to the main counting centre was switched off in honour of Earth Hour.

With no independent press to follow up these stories – easily dismissed on TV by BN officials – their shadows linger. Facebook Malaysians are today expressing their disgust by blacking out their profile pictures. It’s not activism Argentina or Bolivia style, exactly, but then it’s very hot here today. Others are calling for President Obama to come to Malaysia’s rescue.

It is an entirely understandable lament. Despite broken election promises (e.g. failure to dissolve that grizzled fragment of Hell on Earth known as Guantanamo) the Black President remains the most powerful icon of democratic power on the planet. Skeptics are quick to point out Obama’s many u-turns, swerves and dips, but his image continues to soar. He is a Good Man doing his best within a corrupt system. He is playing their game. If he didn’t he’d be assassinated. Or his family would. He sees the way forward for America and has the unenviable task of transmitting some tough truths to the Gung Ho nation. And so on and so forth. Arguments you will have heard in discussion with friends and relatives already.

I rather like Obama. I look a bit like Obama. To the political skeptic, the reader of indie news feeds on the internet, liking Obama is woefully – dangerously – naive. It is to labour in the black sleep of illusion. The skeptics might goad me into a fact fight. Leftie healthcare versus American involvement in Syria perhaps. But I find myself less and less interested in the facts. Obama did this, signed that, said he’d do this and then didn’t. Rather than political heat, I prefer the shade of my Obama icon.

It is an act of what Carlos Castaneda called controlled folly. I know that Obama could be torn down – not unlike those statues of Saddam Hussein – yet I choose to prefer that he isn’t. Why? Energetically speaking it is preferable that he’s there. For now. For millions of people he is a projection of hope. Are we asleep, deluded, suckered by the telly? No we’re not. I’ll wager that – to varying degrees consciously – we’ve weighed up fact versus feeling and decided to keep the Obama figure on the inner altar. It feels better. Maybe we just like his face. Otherwise what? Obviously it wasn’t Mitt Romney.

Nor is it the ‘truth’ that all of it is illusion. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Democracy. How do we feel pulling up the flagstones and watching the quicksand squirming beneath? Anxious? Depressed? Cynical? At the very least deeply skeptical in anything like the Goodness of Humanity or a Divine Plan or Evolution out of the eternal human condition of – well – damnation really, isn’t it? How’s that feel?

Umum, Najib, Anwar, Cameron

Non-illusions: Umum, Najib, Anwar, Cameron

Of course, there are times when we must turn from our smiling icon – be it Buddha, Ganesha or Obama – and face the facts. From time to time we must stare into the Abyss of Not What We Believe. We must have our faces pushed into the dirt. The bubble bursts. We see the illusion for what it is and are no longer – can no longer be – illuded by it. An illusion is only an illusion when it is not an illusion. Amongst many benefits, the process of disillusionment elevates one beyond the reaches of duff illusions like Malaysian Prime Minsiter Najib, rival Anwar Ibrahim, or for that matter British Prime Minister David Cameron. Maybe we just don’t like their faces.

Strip by strip the onion is peeled. (I read earlier that onions have more genes than humans.) Ultimately we become our own icon. Or rather, we realise that the blackness, presidentness, earthiness, goodness, fairness and love we project onto the icon is our own. In the final election, we vote Inner Obama. In my case the campaign seems to be going well. Apparently I look like him.

Everything is hijacked

Avraham Burg wrote in the New York Times:

The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel. Rude and arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government, exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with “no Arabs” and “no gentiles.” They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel, to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora. In the absence of a binding constitution, Israel has no real protection for its minorities or for their freedom of worship and expression. [Israel’s Fading Democracy, NYTimes, 4 Aug 2012]

A paragraph from an excellent and balanced article from “a former speaker of the Knesset, the author of “The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes” and the chairman of Molad, the Center for Renewal of Democracy.”

I mentioned in my article on Rachel Corrie, the American activist who died protesting against expansionist bulldozing in Gaza, that everything had been hijacked – Judaism, Christianity, Islam. All of them for political purposes. All of them by agglomerations of worldly power seeking – in a way – to emulate true power, the power of Spirit/God/Divinity.

Going back to Shakespeare quote with which I began this blog, that of the three witches in Macbeth – “Fair is foul and foul is fair” – we can view the “fundamentalist coalition” [Burg] in Israel in exactly the same light as we can the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, and the would-be state envisioned by people like Tod Akin, that expert on female anatomy. And of course with states that pursue Democracy.

As said Joni Mitchell, “Language is a virus.” A few thousand years ago, in specific temporal, locative and social contexts, various Middle Easterners uttered various words. Some time later they were written down, exposing them to all the potential for manipulation, quotation out of context, interpretation and reinterpretation that tools like Facebook, Twitter and Facebook facilitate so massively today. Very long story short: everything got hijacked by those who betrayed those words – who abused their power. Which is one of the oldest, most karmically entangled tricks in the book. (#rape is another.)

All languages hark (distantly) back to something I will call Language. The various Books all contain reference to the Word, the Logos, the Command of God. As a shaman, I can say from experience that the world is made of this Language. The Mind always interprets through the senses. Shamanism contains, amongst other things, various methods for retuning that interpretation. The tuning varies, in a small sense, in every person, from day to day, from hour to hour, minute to minute. We experience the world differently according to mood etc. Shamanic methods allow a more substantial retuning. The aim of this retuning is communion with Nature, in other words, to hear the Language of which it is constructed.

The techniques are necessary – not as dogmatic obstacles to communion placed their by priestly elitism – but to circumvent, pass through, go beyond the normal envelope of the Mind, which has been hijacked by language (small L). There is an Einstein quote popular at the moment that expresses a similar idea:

You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.

Those heavily invested in rationality find this idea challenging – rationality does not want to cede to Rationality (Language is infinitely more direct and Rational than language).

Thinking holographically – as within, so without – what we see in the various strivings out there in the world for the Sharia State, the Jewish State, the Buddhist State, the Democratic State are the grindings of illusion, the rubric of language masquerading as Language, of power masquerading as Power – if you like, as the Dark masquerading as the Light. Which is essentially the job of the Dark.

True Power cannot be used. This is what the “submission” of Islam is talking about. It is what Jesus, Moses and all the other prophets have always talked about. Bickering over language about Power has gotten us nowhere. Or rather, it has gotten us entangled in language, which is a function not of Power but of Identity. The small power of the small self.

I have a dream. I have touched it a number of times. In shamanic ceremonies, in qi gong and meditation sessions and drumming circles. Those moments when the differences of language are suddenly seen for what they are. Those moments when we see the illusions, and are no longer illuded by them. What we see instead is a bunch of Beings. A bunch of souls incarnate, fundamentally and essentially of the same stuff.

Many reading this will know exactly what I mean. Some will smile wryly at such “hippy” dreaming. Sooner rather than later, everyone will get it. It’s not that difficult. Your mind at this point will be thinking, Ok so we play drums and get all loved up and simple…then what? Ignore these thoughts. This is the static of language, of habit, of identity.

Nothing I am saying here is new, rather it is very old. What might be new is the application of this sort of language in the political sphere. Avraham Burg concludes:

When a true Israeli democracy is established, our prime minister will go to Capitol Hill and win applause from both sides of the aisle. Every time the prime minister says “peace” the world will actually believe him, and when he talks about justice and equality people will feel that these are synonyms for Judaism and Israelis.

I empathise with this dream. With one qualification. That these old words – Jew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Israeli, American, Palestinian – will all have to go. They are the viruses of language, illusions of identity – personal and social – that we must go beyond in order to hear Language. Perhaps even speak it. And we shall. The accelerated strife of the world is due to the necessary rupturing of illusions. There are more peaceful ways to see through them, of course. At any rate, we’ll get through, and see that those old words all meant much the same thing all along.

 

Spin and Win

Roll up roll up if you’re not already rolled up and jammed in a tube train/behind a desk/down the pub/in front of the telly/at a sushi bar in Westfields. Priceless double think and irony going for a song. Where to start…how about here:

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'Screen Shot' 2011-11-02 at 20.15.03

Before we delve…

Actually, before we do anything I will enable typographic safety mode: encapsulate anything that might be seen to ‘refer’ to the ‘real’ and therefore litigious world in quotes. Borrowing from the dynamic of simulation, this syntactic tongue in cheek will serve to dissimilate from any ‘statement’ ‘made’ ‘here’ that might be used against ‘author’ or ‘reader’ at some hypothetical point in the future, that point itself being hypothetically subsequent (or at least near) to another point – the point at which ‘you’ ‘decide’ ‘you’ have ‘had enough’. That point has already been algorithmically computed, according to e.g. your average proximity to St Paul’s Cathedral over the last few weeks, your average delay in paying your council tax and a complex function of the content of websites you visit – this one assuredly fattening your stakes of being Guantanamoed by forces outsourced from Serco, Capita, Veolia, First Capital Connect or whichever’s CEO is in favour on the golf course at the moment. I leave off the quotes in that last sentence by way of heroic experiment.

‘That’ said, we can continue.

Before we delve into the ‘substance’ of the ‘fresh nuclear fears’ we make two observations:

  • that ‘war’ with ‘Iran’ is a foregone conclusion, given the presentation of the ‘question’ under More on this story: “Is the US heading for war with Iran?”
  • that the Devil has a sense of humour, which manifests particularly easily through advertisement placing algorithms, here gently nudged in order to place “click here to spin and win…” on this ‘page’ ‘about’ ‘war’ with ‘Iran’.

There were rumblings from Al Bla’ira not so long ago – we can trust them to be ahead of the game at least – but what has ‘happened’ that we are being primed with images of men in trademark War On Terror suits? According the Guardian article:

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

Which ‘implies’ that:

  • the US has been planning ‘this’ for some time.
  • the UK’s exemplary, democratic ‘government‘ is not in agreement over the automatic transmission of US military will to the UK.
  • therefore, any actual ‘democratic action’ will have no effect whatsoever.
and ‘could’ be seen to imply that:
  • there’s plenty of money available for military action against middle eastern countries.

Now clock this textbook doublespeak:

The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks…They made clear that Barack Obama has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election.

Actually, it’s Triplespeak. The statement begs the question: who are Whitehall officials to be making clear what Barack Obama might or might not want to do?

As ‘I’ wrote in The Special Relationship some months ago, I sort of want to kinda like you know like Barack. Lets indulge this fantasy a bit longer then, and look elsewhere for the ‘source’ of any ‘provocative military venture’. The Guardian article notes that:

Washington has been warned by Israel against leaving any military action until it is too late.

And searching for ‘Iran’ on ‘the BBC website’ produces:

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'Screen Shot' 2011-11-02 at 21.20.41

Ok you got me – a little doublespeak of my own there.

But you get the point. Liking or hating Obama is about as close to the action as liking or hating Jimmy Saville, or worrying about why anyone would want to remake Total Recall. (Surely we can’t have Colin Farrell saying, ‘We’ve got get out of here!’)

‘So’ the fait accomplit of ‘war’ with ‘Iran’ would ‘appear’ to rest on Hilary Clinton’s judgment of the Iranians for

  • trying to ‘assassinate’ the Saudi ambassador to the US
  • blocking their own people’s freedom of access to the internet
The alleged assassination, according to another Guardian article, ‘began’ with this plot-point:
24 May One Iranian, Manssor Arbabsiar, meets in Mexico with a person posing as an associate of a drug trafficking cartel, but who in reality is an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

So highly spun is Clinton’s assurance that the US is doing ‘everything’ to stop ‘Iranian jamming’ of its own internet that we feel we ought to take it at face value, perhaps even conjecturing that the US wants nothing more than for ordinary Iranians to catch Colin Farrell’s remade ‘We’ve got to get out of here!’

But even a momentary fluctuation in the Whitehouse trance will have you ‘remember’ that:

The Stuxnet computer worm, thought to have been engineered by the Americans and Israelis, sabotaged many of the centrifuges the Iranians were using to enrich uranium.

Only long distance spinners will have the stomach for these last statement-side improvised doublespeak devices: ‘thought’ to have been engineered, but no such doubt in the purpose of the ‘Iranian’ centrifuges.

Medallists might care to ‘observe’ that Israel ‘is’ one of the four nations outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 0f 1970 ‘known’ to ‘possess’ nuclear weapons.

Olympians may pause a moment in their sprint across town to the desk or Westfields or whatever, to wonder exactly how stupid ‘officials’ must think them to be.

Martyrs might have a go at pitching a tent in front of the MI6 building (ever noticed how all the gates say ‘OUT’?)

But only winners, motivated by uncomputable irony, will load up the original Guardian page and see what ‘big prizes’ the ‘spin and win’ ad has in store…

[Answers in the comment box.]

Industrialised intimacy

 

the dream

the dream

Twitterings from Number Ten have been heard recently, with regards implementing “filtered feed” broadband internet to UK households. ISP have been quick to clarify that the system would only apply to new contracts on an opt-in basis.

Any discussion about “the sex industry” must begin with the acknowledgement, at least, that the term is a contradiction in terms. Isn’t sex something intimate and delicate? Industry is something machinistic, mass produced, relentless. Ergo, the industrialisation of intimacy is dia-bolical. Sex was something intimate and delicate, once upon a time.

While there are more and more ‘Facebook of Sex’ type websites, whereby people meet up for anything from a straightforward shag (if such a thing still exists) to group sadomasochism, this wave of ‘sexuality’ is not bringing people together, it is, as researchers have been warning for some time, moving us further and further apart. The coming together is highly conditional – boxes must be ticked: tattoos, fetish, threesome, group, gay, lesbian, bi, hardcore, anal. No doubt there is a growing number of couples who met via these sites. Perhaps the dimensions of their relationships are limited. Perhaps love finds a way.

Defenders of porn, be they unreconstructed ‘respect the cock’ testesauruses, animus-ridden ‘inspect the cock’ ‘feminists’ or closet addicts, generally drag in old arguments about liberty, freedom of expression, assertion of female power, outlet for male sexual tension without which there would be more sexual assault, more rape. Defenders of porn will say: It’s always been the same; ancient times, medieval times, there was mad stuff going on; these days it’s just because we have the cameras and the internet that we see it.

Like any addict who denies there is a problem, the porn addict must continue the self-delusion of control, must insist that the relationship between psyche and media is one way. As much as porn might be an expression of parts of the psyche, it also leaves an impression.

Like all media, porn is psychoactive.

From the naked bodies piled one atop the other in Abu Ghraib to the murders of Meredith Kirchner and Joanna Yeates, we see actions in the world resembling those simulated in pornography. These examples are extremes, yes, but are they extremities, tips of the iceberg of mass dynamic?

With increased exposure to porn many men need higher and higher levels of stimulation, or more and more extreme situations, in order to become aroused.

Naomi Wolf, quoted by TowerTales on Tmblr

Like all media, porn is subject to the dynamic Jean Baudrillard called the Precession of Simulacra.

In other words, reality is hidden/buried/preceded by its simulation. The simulation is then simulated. As Kevin says in We need to Talk About Kevin, “People on TV – they’re watching TV.” Further layers are laid down, until we are quite removed from the original, from reality, and still removing.

Porn, once upon a time, was a relatively simple visual simulation. A painting of a couple having sex. A black and white photograph of a woman with her breasts exposed. A crumpled page from a magazine found in the undergrowth. Today, porn consists of many more layers. It has moved – we could even say ‘evolved’ – rapidly through its classic stages of bared body parts, through the utopian stage of bikini and heels by the pool, through the hardcore stage  to what I will call the biodegrading plastic stage. Here things get all mixed up.

The confusion is due in large part to the mass availability of the tools of the trade: cameras, webcams, computers and physical privacy (itself the diabolical result of the destruction of intimacy). Anyone can live the dream via simulation. The simulation –inside the screen – has more power than the real event. Hence the teenage muggers and rapists who film their victims on mobile phones and mass-publish the videos on the internet. Hence the men sexually diminished by overexposure to porn.

It doesn’t stop there. Because the simulation is more powerful than the real event, the real event is diminished. The actual fetish, lesbian, group, anal or whatever event is accessory to the simulation. Therefore the ethics and sensibilities of the simulation – which are nil, because it is a simulation – apply to the accessory. The rapist, the date rapist, the sexual abuser, the sexual tyrant operates inside a simulation in which other parties are only accessories. Women who assert themselves sexually in the biodegrading plastic phase must do so by wearing the simulation layer. “Stripper” heels and so on.

Sure, it can be a turn on.

Vagus nerve pulse trains are a powerful business. The vagus nerve connects pretty much all the major organs, including the reproductive ones. We are passionate, fun-loving, sensation-loving creatures. The rush of sexual arousal is all-consuming. We are on fire, at the apogee of physical being. Naturally, such intensity, such abandonment cannot be always available.

Porn tells us it is. Porn, like other diabolical devices like cocaine and its cracked derivatives, lift the neurological lid on old limbic pathways. The reptilian brain. Cold blooded. Seeks rushes of heat. At the extremes, Abu Ghraib, sex crimes. In the middle – well, anything goes, it’s only simulation. Knock yourself out.

Thing is with neural pulse trains is they attenuate. You need a bigger and bigger hit. Eventually you blow a fuse. And once you blow your fuse it takes a long time to recover – for the women degraded, the men hooked, society in general.