Friday 16 December 2011

River of Shit.

"It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe."
Up, Down, Appendices, Dregs.

Background music:
     The Fugs, Wide, Wide River, aka 'River of Shit', and,
     Bobbie Dye-lon with Idiot Wind.

"... from the Grand Coulee dam to The Capitol."

Peter Kent by Aislin.Peter Kent formally withdraws from Kyoto (and the world, and our collective fate).

The mouth of the river; or the mouthpiece as it were. If you watch this video carefully you will see that he seems to have a tic, in his nose - too much coke in Durban was it? Shared a few lines with Elizabeth May and Mardi Tindal did he? That might explain why they flatter him (and more?) so eagerly.

I grabbed the video from the Guardian but it is only a portion of what he said. (I did trim off the shill for Toyota - don't these people understand that cars are part of the problem?) Here's the (stinking, and only approximate) text, which mentions questions - if I find any more clips I will post them here.

If it is true as Kent says that "the Durban platform is a way forward that builds on our work at Copenhagen and at Cancun," then whatever is built will be on a foundation of sand (and given what I am going to say about Chris Hedges below, I do hesitate to use biblical imagery).

$1,600 a day? Each? So about the same as the F-35's then? Is that it?

The cabinet and their mouldy master tell us that we absolutely must have the F-35's to preserve our sovereignty. Is it a trade-off then? Is it either sovereignty or existence but not both? ... Ummm, just for me y'unnerstan' but I would prefer existence.

Justin Trudeau.One MP got it right, Justin Trudeau:

"Oh, you piece of shit!"     Exactly. Not eloquent, not polite, not ordinary to praise such an outburst; but in this case, yes. Applause, a standing ovation here in this small apartment, with tears in my eyes.

Thank you Justin Trudeau. (!)

A-and here's someone else who gets it, or close; She says:
"Climate activists are starting to realize that we've lost this fight — the ultimate battle for life on Earth; that the fight was too big and the enemies of life on Earth too many in number and too strong in influence. But each one of us can [must?] keep fighting because to not fight is not an option."
I have to quibble just a little: 1) I won't declare that we have lost the ultimate battle until 2015 comes and goes and CO2e emissions have not levelled off. It is a line in the sand I'll admit - and some say we have already stepped over it - but my reading of Jim Hansen's latest (and many others before that) makes me think 2015. And, 2) I think there needs to be a very close look at the complacency, forbearance, and reserve of k-k-Canadians in general to see why we are losing this fight, not just at the strength, wiliness, and guile of our foes.

Listen again to Tim DeChristoper at Power Shift this spring. If people went a few at a time and continuously obstructed - his example was coal, mountain-top removal - then Obama would either have to call out the troops or call off the mining.

What would Tim's idea look like in Canada? Six people stood up and turned their backs on Kent in Durban. What if six more stood up and turned their backs on him every time he spoke, anywhere? What if six people stood outside his riding office every day with their backs turned? What if six people did the same in the riding of every cabinet minister? Could the bought-and-paid-for media ignore it? Could Harper overlook such an opportunity to fill his prisons (and the ones he yearns to build)?

(Maybe it doesn't take six. But it does take at least two, as I know to my cost from having stood by myself for a day giving away '350' buttons on Queen Street last year - Bummer! (Except for the short time my son spent there with me.)


It has become customary to lump all of the guilt and responsibility onto the corporations - and upon the 1% who are, presumably, the main corporate beneficiaries. Some numerical illiterates even imagine that the 1% comprises as few as 400 people - I had this directly from someone at Occupy in a conversation one day, and then verified that such a nonsensical opinion exists (after a fashion) using Google & Bing.

David Blackwood, Fire Down On The Labrador, 1980.But what about the shareholders, who are they? Who owns the shares? Who buys and sells striving for profit and who gets the dividends? Individuals? Yes; and estate funds created by loving husbands to secure loving widows, and banks, and pension funds, and unions. Even the sacred credit-unions trade in stocks don't they?

So the number of beneficiaries grows, doesn't it eh? The implicated; the complicit. Well more than 1%; like an iceberg, drifting in the cold Labrador current, waiting for the Titanic, only a portion, a smallish portion at that, showing above the waves (or like a whale witnessing a fire).

Onça-pintada, detail of photograph by Araquém Alcântara.And the 1% grows and grows until it's 99% again. This must be the dialectical snake eating its own tail; and getting fat doing it?

Or simpler still if you like: How much shit does it take to stink? Can you spread it thinly enough that it doesn't stink? Is that possible?

But hey: an iceberg 'waiting'? A whale 'witnessing'? Not really eh? Have another look at Araquém's onça-pintada. Is it looking at you? And if so, what is it seeing? Can you personify a jaguar?

Someone paying attention may remember that Blackwood's whale has also figured here before, and that I was unhappy to find, when I viewed some originals at the AGO, that the grin I had imagined was just ... geometry.

Chris Hedges, right ...

I guess provenance matters: his latest, below, came to me via the Greenspiration newsletter, linking to TruthOut, which was reposted from TruthDig which is the original I guess.

Attached to the article are links to a gazillion social media parasites: RSS (Google), Digg, Facebook, TwitThis, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YahooBuzz, BlinkList,, Fark, Furl, LinkedIn, Mixx, MyShare, NewsVine, Propeller, SphereIt, Technorati, YahooMyWeb (holyfuck what a list!) plus an embedded ad, tailored by my browser for 'Toronto' from GroupOn (bringing to mind their recent IPO).

Maybe it was just lucky to have watched Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 in a Rio theatre, when I was more-or-less operating in another language so that I was sensitized to recognize his bullshit as bullshit. To see Chris Hedges apparently working with him (?) the link was side-by-each with the article, which I am coming to, so I looked at it first. Oh my.

Bosco: Espírito Natalino.I also note that the half-dozen newsletters I get are all mad for donations just now (not to mention Wikipedia) - something to do with Christmas perhaps. Dozens and dozens of emails. They have all had donations already, more than I can afford; and the repeated entreaties grate on the few remaining nerves.

(It is not me they want, it is my donation. When I meet them at rallies they don't have time to speak to me. They mostly do not answer my emails and letters - and when they do it is just like the government - boilerplate.)

Or if you watch the names of the tracking sites flash by as you load any web page you eventually figgure out that all of them, like sea lice on a salmon, are being informed of your every click. They are all mad to know you - not you of course, but your market potential, your 'value' in hits whatever currency it is they use, in tiny fractions of pennies. A-and all the software I use is mad to install 'automatic update' which I assume is just more of the same.

On the other hand, I have not removed SiteMeter either - I admit to curiosity about who is reading this nonsense, where they are on the planet, how they arrived, what they wanted to see (mostly it seems to be the samba dancers), and so on. So ...

(You could also look at that computer there in front of you. If you own it, then consider how long you have had it and how long you expect it to last; if not, think about it on behalf of who does own it. Ask how much tantalum and tin and gold it contains; and then calculate how many Congolese women had to be raped for it to exist - a macabre calculus. ... But that's another story ...)

The Mad Hatter.
The Mad Hatter.
The Mad Hatter.
All quite mad. Mad as hatters. Me included.

(Is it any wonder that we are mad? Could anyone stare straight up this environmental shotgun barrel - for decades! - and not be tinged & smudged & tainted by madness? The mystery is that neither despair nor madness has stopped us, yet. And that mystery has not so much to do with either faith or magic or miracles, no.)

The last time I was on about Chris Hedges was just a few days ago, here - and I am still waiting for a few more of his books to arrive - so none of this is a bona fide conclusion just yet.

(Though I find myself wondering after reading it several times if he has lost the fucking plot.)

He wants to 'revitalize traditional Christianity' then? Is that it? Does anyone care? And when did the 'unofficial credo' of Occupy become the Beatitudes exactly?

Every sort of capitalized Christianity has already made itself completely irrelevant - from the idiot United Church of Canada leader moving her lips in Durban last week, to Douglas Stoute, the Anglican rector of St. James' in Toronto, and that other fat Anglican pig in London, wazizname ... Graeme Knowles, both of whom evicted Occupy. (Eviction is the kick-off for Hedges' article remember.) And sure, there are some religious individuals I admire greatly, Sister Dorothy for one; but I do not make the connection between their courage and Christ, or even between their courage and their advanced spiritual condition, which Hedges seems to take for granted.

And if you want to invent another Church, Chris me son; even if it's only some kind of lower-case church - please just fuck off.

The gist of it is obvious: Yet another church, this one in New York - Trinity Wall Street, Episcopalian this time - is evicting Occupy, with full washing of the hands as is customary. There are more details from several points of view in something called The New York Observer. And Chris Hedges figgures that if church people would just stand up then maybe ... and he tries to set an example and be present and a witness. All good. If I were there in New York City I would be shoulder-to-shoulder with him. But the little rhetorical bones he uses to join it up to christianity when he tells this story are the kind that stick in my throat - and there are so many. 'Turns' is what Newfies call 'em (the little bones); hence 'turny' which for me goes straight to 'crooked'. I gag and try to spit them out out.

(If you don't have this particular reflex then you probably won't understand anything I've said here. That's OK.)

The churches have repeatedly shown that they will not stand up as institutions. Everyone knows this. The reason pan-handlers tend to hang out there is that they know there is a good chance of touching one of the soft-hearted individuals who are often seen passing through those precincts.

It's individuals you need to reach out to, not institutions - time to stop beating the dead horses.

One problem (which pan-handlers also know about - and Arundhati Roy, who, to her credit, is not afraid to say it) is that they smell, these individuals, rich and poor; they have real and immediate needs of all kinds, they snore, fart, eat with their mouths open, smile at you in ways that may seem lascivious (or, worse than lascivious, in ways you do not, possibly cannot, understand), they have outrageous opinions; they are 'present' and that can be too much. Institutions are useless, but they are ... comprehensible, manageable, homogeneous; they coyly pretend to obey rules; and if you must speak to a person in one of them you can be assured that she or he is speaking in the proper code.

And another problem is that rhetoric can lead you astray. You adopt the cadence, indulge the embellishments, get into the swing - and then sometimes say things you do not really mean or have not thought quite through. Dangerous - and that, for the record, is what I think happened here. But necessary too - practice makes perfect.

(It is what sometimes, often, always, happens to me - don't believe a word you read here - and practice, unfortunately, has not improved it a bit.)

"There's no there there." Someone famous said that; though they were talking about Los Angeles I think, not the Church.

Or simpler: Do you remember Chickenman? On the radio in Montreal years back? "He's everywhere! He's everywhere!." (Meaning that he was nowhere.)

Are you waiting for magic? Is that it? Are you waiting for a miracle? You and C.S. Lewis? Doh!?

(Did I say? Is it clear that Chris Hedges is important and important to me? Did I thank him for Death of the Liberal Class and the insights it gave me? If not, I meant to. Did I say I am waiting for what comes next from him? I am.)

The Project Delivery System by Jim Weller.I set out to draw a line, threading through John Porter's Vertical Mosaic (there is neither preface nor conclusion to it or they would be posted here), through the story of Jean Billard's wife in the 2nd last post, through Gwynne Dyer's article in the last post, to an old memory of a day in Glen Milne's class ("boys and girls are fishin' together") when Jim Weller from Public Works described a hierarchy; the 'planning system' was it? No, it was 'The Project Delivery System' - that must be why I have kept the notes all these years. I didn't even know how to spell 'feasibility' in those halcyon days; and it was Glen who insisted that we learn how to spell 'hierarchy' too.

The line didn't get drawn. I can't even remember where it was headed to. Oh Well.

I stepped out of the quack's office building into a cool December morning at Main & Danforth; she never guessed that her cancer-free diagnosis almost disappointed me. Too early for Sultan to have his excellent shawarma on the go ... so, take the bus and hit the Tim's then, and waiting for the bus, remembering things ... for a moment or two I had a vision which I have now attempted to relate.

A middle-aged woman who works at the Tim's was mopping the floor at the entrance as I went out. I like her - the indignity of working there seems to irritate her and I am glad to see that someone still knows something. It's not easy I don't think. So I said, with a smile, "No rest for the weary." And she came back in less than a beat, also smiling: "The wicked," she said, "not the weary, the wicked."

[there was more, just here, which I took out]

Be well.

(eighth blackbird: VIII / I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too, / That the blackbird is involved / In what I know.   Lonely Motel: Music from Slide - Addiction: one too many unchecked fantasies / one too many unchallenged assumptions /one too many unexamined beliefs /and you slide into addiction ...)


Some of it sinks; some floats. It runs all the way from side to side and from top to bottom - like Jesus' cross. All the way from the fundament to the tippy-top fontanelle and 7th chakra. From Jesus to Jack Daniels. From shit to shinola.

The 60's leftards who were urging us to abandon we/they distinctions turned out to be right. I can't see any other way. And the necessary compassion (to keep things together), the essential; only the authentic, the original, will do. (Oh no! Not again!? Is this going towards that damned Ivan Illich story again!? ... Yep. Here. :-)

Easier said than done it is - though I have met at least one Occupy-er who tries it out. And me. Yeah, I know it may not seem so, but I am trying too, in my way.

How can you hold in your mind, at once, some beautiful aspect of this planet: I watched two loons once, many years ago in Big Whiteshell Lake east of Winnipeg, saw them swimming, saw them flying, and a peculiar twist when they seemed to join together as they flew which I will never forget, though I am not sure what they were doing up there, fucking? can birds do it in the air?; or, or ... a smile glimpsed on the subway, a child holding on to your finger;

And (at once remember) all of it, a nossa querida Terra inteira becoming unsuitable for human creation, human flourishing, eudaemonia?

I said to my daughter one day, "The world is getting to be an ugly place," thinking of ignorant armies striving by night; and she said, "No it's not dad," thinking (I imagine) of her children, one of them quite new at the time. We were both right; I'd say, maybe she wouldn't.

I often walk beside Lake Ontario, along a beach that is not really a beach (it was put there), but nonetheless I am entranced by the waves and wavelets sliding brightly up and down the sand, all of it sparkling, sometimes. The water, taken in not far from where I walk, but so full of chlorine by the time it comes out of the tap that I have to let it stand for hours before it's fit to drink, and even then, conscious of chemicals in it I know I should fear, do fear. Wondering, as I make my morning coffee, if this deuterium-water stuff boils first?



1. Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord?, Chris Hedges, December 5 2011.

Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord?, Chris Hedges, December 5 2011.

also at TruthOut

Chris Hedges gave an abbreviated version of this talk Saturday morning in Liberty Square in New York City as part of an appeal to Trinity Church to turn over to the Occupy Wall Street movement an empty lot, known as Duarte Square, that the church owns at Canal Street and 6th Avenue. Occupy Wall Street protesters, following the call, began a hunger strike at the gates of the church-owned property. Three of the demonstrators were arrested Sunday on charges of trespassing, and three others took their places.

The Occupy movement is the force that will revitalize traditional Christianity in the United States or signal its moral, social and political irrelevance. The mainstream church, battered by declining numbers and a failure to defiantly condemn the crimes and cruelty of the corporate state, as well as a refusal to vigorously attack the charlatans of the Christian right, whose misuse of the Gospel to champion unfettered capitalism, bigotry and imperialism is heretical, has become a marginal force in the life of most Americans, especially the young. Outside the doors of churches, many of which have trouble filling a quarter of the pews on Sundays, struggles a movement, driven largely by young men and women, which has as its unofficial credo the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It was the church in Latin America, especially in Central America and Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, which provided the physical space, moral support and direction for the opposition to dictatorship. It was the church in East Germany that organized the peaceful opposition marches in Leipzig that would bring down the communist regime in that country. It was the church in Czechoslovakia, and its 90-year-old cardinal, that blessed and defended the Velvet Revolution. It was the church, and especially the African-American church, that made possible the civil rights movements. And it is the church, especially Trinity Church in New York City with its open park space at Canal and 6th, which can make manifest its commitment to the Gospel and nonviolent social change by permitting the Occupy movement to use this empty space, just as churches in other cities that hold unused physical space have a moral imperative to turn them over to Occupy movements. If this nonviolent movement fails, it will eventually be replaced by one that will employ violence. And if it fails it will fail in part because good men and women, especially those in the church, did nothing.

Where is the church now? Where are the clergy? Why do so many church doors remain shut? Why do so many churches refuse to carry out the central mandate of the Christian Gospel and lift up the cross?

Some day they are going to have to answer the question: “Where were you when they crucified my Lord?”

Let me tell you on this first Sunday in Advent, when we celebrate hope, when we remember in the church how Mary and Joseph left Nazareth for Bethlehem, why I am in Liberty Square. I am here because I have tried, however imperfectly, to live by the radical message of the Gospel. I am here because I know that it is not what we say or profess but what we do. I am here because I have seen in my many years overseas as a foreign correspondent that great men and women of moral probity arise in all cultures and all religions to fight the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed. I am here because I have seen that it is possible to be a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu or an atheist and carry the cross. The words are different but the self-sacrifice and thirst for justice are the same. And these men and women, who may not profess what I profess or believe what I believe, are my brothers and sisters. And I stand with them honoring and respecting our differences and finding hope and strength and love in our common commitment.

At times like these I hear the voices of the saints who went before us. The suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who announced that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God, and the suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who said, “The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” Or Henry David Thoreau, who told us we should be men and women first and subjects afterward, that we should cultivate a respect not for the law but for what is right. And Frederick Douglass, who warned us: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” And the great 19th century populist Mary Elizabeth Lease, who thundered: “Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master.” And Gen. Smedley Butler, who said that after 33 years and four months in the Marine Corps he had come to understand that he had been nothing more than a gangster for capitalism, making Mexico safe for American oil interests, making Haiti and Cuba safe for banks and pacifying the Dominican Republic for sugar companies. War, he said, is a racket in which newly dominated countries are exploited by the financial elites and Wall Street while the citizens foot the bill and sacrifice their young men and women on the battlefield for corporate greed. Or Eugene V. Debs, the socialist presidential candidate, who in 1912 pulled almost a million votes, or 6 percent, and who was sent to prison by Woodrow Wilson for opposing the First World War, and who told the world: “While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” And Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who when he was criticized for walking with Martin Luther King on the Sabbath in Selma answered: “I pray with my feet” and who quoted Samuel Johnson, who said: “The opposite of good is not evil. The opposite of good is indifference.” And Rosa Parks, who defied the segregated bus system and said “the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” And Philip Berrigan, who said: “If enough Christians follow the Gospel, they can bring any state to its knees.”

And the poet Langston Hughes, who wrote:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

And Martin Luther King, who said: “On some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ And there comes a time when a true follower of Jesus Christ must take a stand that’s neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take a stand because it is right.”

Where were you when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there to halt the genocide of Native Americans? Were you there when Sitting Bull died on the cross? Were you there to halt the enslavement of African-Americans? Were you there to halt the mobs that terrorized black men, women and even children with lynching during Jim Crow? Were you there when they persecuted union organizers and Joe Hill died on the cross? Were you there to halt the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II? Were you there to halt Bull Connor’s dogs as they were unleashed on civil rights marchers in Birmingham? Were you there when Martin Luther King died upon the cross? Were you there when Malcolm X died on the cross? Were you there to halt the hate crimes, discrimination and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who are transgender? Were you there when Matthew Shepard died on the cross? Were you there to halt the abuse and at times enslavement of workers in the farmlands of this country? Were you there to halt the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Vietnamese during the war in Vietnam or hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan? Were you there to halt Israel’s saturation bombing of Lebanon and Gaza? Were you there when Rachel Corrie died on the cross? Were you there to halt the corporate forces that have left working men and women and the poor in this country bereft of a sustainable income, hope and dignity? Were you there to share your food with your neighbor in Liberty Square? Were you there to become homeless with them?

Where were you when they crucified my Lord?

I know where I was.


With you.


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