One Cipher More

1927-2014

IN THE CRUX OF SOLITUDE: 1927-2014

In his Nobel lecture (1982), with all the gracious elegance and fearless depth that makes his voice so absolutely essential to our times, Gabriel García Márquez confronted the western literary class with the lethal hypocrisies of its own Latin projections. Knowing that the most fantastic tales belong not to fiction but to lived history, he began the lecture with a reminder that the celebrated magical aspect of Latin American realism actually descends from the early days of European perceptual invention:

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Living inside the long and ongoing history of such fantastic mythic confabulations, how can real lives be made credible? Such is the nature of what García Márquez refers to as the “crux” of Latin American solitude, a crux that exacts a heavy price. For during those very same years when the “originality” (a word carefully chosen) of Latin American literature was endlessly lauded and emulated throughout Europe and North America, Latin American political autonomy was being brutally suppressed:

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The scale of solitude replicates into the scales of violence, murder and exile, an exile most often sought inside the same “safe zones” in Europe and North America where the projectors of Latin fantasy and subjugation were kept well oiled, brightly burning. We cannot help but wonder how many well-trousered bums squirmed in their seats on that occasion, while García Márquez calmly provided a few statistical details:

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As the great poet of mnemonic echo chambers and other haunted spaces, García Márquez was well aware of others – Mann, Neruda, Faulkner- who had stood at the Nobel lectern, “on a day like today,” —

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In 1950, Faulkner (for whom García Márquez felt a special affinity) had spoken at his own Nobel banquet, in such a way that makes it seem as if he had been present to hear García Márquez in 1982, just moments before:

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And so it has been, through the immortal and inexhaustible voice of Gabriel García Márquez, who wrote of himself in words that may well serve as an epitaph:  “ … this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune.

One cipher more; one cipher in search of an opposite utopia; off the crux, free from the solitude. A cipher that becomes one with infinity.


Completely Destroyed

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Should anyone still be baffled by the utter collapse of USA moral authority in the dark world of global politics, we recommend a close reading of a recent report submitted by a noted forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Emily  Keram, as part of a renewed effort to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, a British resident still being held at Guantanamo Bay without charge, despite having been cleared for release for the past seven years. Below, we focus on quotes from Shaker Aamer himself, as he describes his experience of torture at the Bagram detention facility to Dr. Keram:

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As we have proposed elsewhere, torture is not a means of acquiring intelligence; torture is a teaching delivered by the powerful, to destroy utterly any semblance of subjective identity, agency and autonomy. As Mr. Aamer tells Dr. Keram,

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Systems of torture are constantly in the process of refinement, with humans serving as laboratory animals inside the behavioral maze. How does this differ from the monstrous activities of the Nazi doctors? Even kindness is refashioned as an implement for inflicting deep psychic damage:

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THE MARRIAGE OF REASON AND SQUALOR

THE MARRIAGE OF REASON AND SQUALOR

From Bagram and Kandahar, Mr. Aamer was then taken to further indefinite detainment at Guantanamo Bay, where the complicity of medical personnel became ever more perverse:

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Will that also be our defense, when we are finally held accountable for these actions? That we were possessed by evil djinn? In the attempted destruction of human beings like Shaker Aamer, we have also destroyed ourselves.


Not A Bug Splat

Now comes a simple yet powerful project inspired by the peripatetic JR, created through the collaboration of unnamed artists (no doubt fearful of being classified as “terrorist sympathizers”) with local villagers, and supported by human rights organizations Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights.

ATTENTION RAPTORS AND PREDATORS

ATTENTION RAPTORS AND PREDATORS

From the artists’ own site:

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AGAINST THE DISPOSITION MATRIX

AGAINST THE DISPOSITION MATRIX

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In a useful drone strike lexicon compiled by the CBC, we are reminded that “Bugsplat” is also the name for the actual software used to calculate and assess collateral damage (dead civilians) resulting from various categories of airstrikes.

The US military  first used the apparently rather buggy software during the Iraq war in 2003; officials told the Washington Post that it would “more precisely model potential damage by a particular type and size of bomb dropped by a particular aircraft flying at a given altitude.”

According to the CBC, the CIA also uses Bugsplat in the ongoing drone strike killings. Other entries in the drone lexicon:

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We have tracked the discussion about the moral disposition of the matrix in a number of past DP posts. Against the perverse logic of the omniscient exterminator, this artwork provides an opening into another way of thinking about our projected “threats”. Do we dare to get off our naugahyde barcaloungers and enter therein?

NO BUGS DOWN HERE

NO BUGS DOWN HERE


Dump Not Lard

WE NEED TO SCALE UP

WE NEED TO SCALE UP

Undeterred by the refusal of a handful of stubborn Scots to become part of his golf fantasyland at Menie in Aberdeenshire, nor by the prospect of a large wind farm that would interfere with the view while on the back nine, Donald Trump recently announced plans to expand his Celtic development plans to the west coast of Ireland — and beyond. With nothing better to do shortly past midnight, we decided to take a flier and send an email query to The Donald’s private account, which we received from his good pal Michael Forbes. We appear to have caught him in a talkative mood in the early hours of April Fool’s day, and a reply swiftly followed:

DP     We have followed your project in Scotland with much interest. Now that you have purchased a new property in Ireland, does this mean you may exit from Aberdeenshire? Have you had enough of the hard-headed Scots?

DT     I don’t care how hard their heads are. The problem is, crack them open, and they’re full of fresh cow pies. Wind power is yesterday’s news if you want to make real money. The only wind that interests me blows from a thousand backswings. That kind of wind, you can take to the bank.

DP     Do you think the Irish will be more receptive to your vision?

DT     Their economy right now is deep in the crapper. If they don’t come to grips with my line of titanium clubs, they’ll be eating potato soup for the next three generations.

I HATE POTATO SOUP

I HATE POTATO SOUP

DP     But much recent research indicates that the economics of golf are deteriorating, and that demographic trends will not make the situation any better.

DT     The problem is one of scale. Eighteen or thirty six holes are not enough anymore. The market demands a longer journey. My vision for Ireland will do that. Over the next decade or so, we intend to give Ireland the first countrywide golf course in the world.

DP     Countrywide?

DT     Eighteen thousand holes, should take an average person three years to play. Like I say, a serious journey, for the serious golfer. Sort of a modern day pilgrimage.

DP     So what, you intend to buy a thousand golf courses, and then link them up somehow?

DT     Not just golf courses. We’ll buy any little plot of green on the map. This course needs to be disruptive. Holes could be anywhere – village greens, cemeteries, parks. The golf course we bought is just a home base. The golf course of the future will be everywhere. That kind of excitement will give golfers their mojo back. Getting back to the roots.

DP    The roots?

DT     In the olden days, shepherds would whack skulls around all over those damn islands. That’s the origin of golf. No fixed course, just strong men with sturdy sticks, knocking heads. That’s what I want to do. Restore that sense of freedom, no boundaries, no restrictions.

PILGRIMAGE FOR FREE SWINGERS

PILGRIMAGE FOR FREE SWINGERS

DP     So what will it cost, to travel this free-swinging pilgrimage route?

DT     There’s the beauty of the thing. Players will pay a one time fee, we’re thinking 10,000 Euros, and then that gives them an official passport to play the whole course. Travel all around the country, buying meat pies and woolie sweaters and pints of beer and plastic leprechauns, all along the way, not just at country clubs but in every backwards village. We get paid up front and the pilgrims can take as long as they want. The longer they take, the more moolah they spend along the way, bringing joy wherever they putt.

DP     Will there be some sort of prize, when players finish?

DT     Oh yes. Once they’re done, they send in their passport with stamps and documentation, and we send out one of my signature red golfing caps, and a locket of my very own hair, something to pass down to the grandchildren, a true heirloom.

HEIRLOOM QUALITY

HEIRLOOM QUALITY

DP     Given what happened in Scotland, are you sure you have popular support for this vision?

DT     What choice do the Irish have? They’ve been royally fleeced by the EU, and left shivering butt naked in the damp night. I’m offering a bright ray of sunshine. I don’t see any losers in the picture, nothing but winners, beginning with me and ending way down the food chain.

DP     So Ireland’s gain is Scotland’s loss, eh?

DT     It could have been Scotland. But they blew it with all that wind power garbage. Plus they’re a bunch of knuckleheads even as water boys for the English – can you imagine how impossible they’ll be, out in the world on their own? Time to cut my losses, and move on to the Emerald Isle, where the little people still know how to roll over and take one for the team.


Grow Your Own

A faithful DP correspondent based in Dublin has alerted us to online documentation of an art exhibition that transpired at Trinity College late last year, exploring pesky ethical and philosophical issues related to perfecting our deeply flawed humanity through biosynthetic enhancements: Grow Your Own.

The entire exhibition is worth perusal, though we found the project created by the Japanese artist Ai Hasegawa of particular interest. It seems Ms. Hasegawa wishes to resolve the paradoxes of her reproductive “dilemma chart” by giving birth to edible endangered species, such as Maui’s dolphins.

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LINK TO VIDEO

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WATER BIRTH: LINK TO VIDEO

Ms. Hasegawa also proposes her biosynthetic dolphin birth as a novel solution to a different dilemma, that of the omnivore environmentalist:

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At first, we thought this must be a brilliant and subtle bit of performance art, above all in the context of ongoing attempts to end the slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen. Alas, once again reality exceeds even the most refined sushi-grade satire, and it appears that Ms. Hasegawa is quite earnest in her endeavors.

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THE BONES FROM PARADISE LOST

The artist takes note:

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THE FUTURE OF THE FAMILY FARM?


Trophic Cascades

While tracking wolf-related stories and studies, we came across an excellent video that nicely summarizes how restoring the integrity of the food chain can actually reshape the landscape, a process that was intuitively noted by Aldo Leopold over sixty years ago in his pioneering essay, Thinking Like A  Mountain.

The video is linked to the image below, followed by a transcript of the most meaty section of George Monbiot’s somewhat breathless narration that was lifted, it seems, from a TED talk (accounting for the evangelical tone), though the same ideas are given a more detailed and satisfying exposition in his recent book, Feral.

Monbiot has taken a good deal of stick in the British press for his proposal to reintroduce wolves to the Scottish Highlands, yet evidence from the experience at Yellowstone National Park speaks persuasively for itself.

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MOUNTAIN THINKER

MOUNTAIN THINKER

Of course, the cascade can flow equally as powerfully in the other direction, as documented by Lisa-ann Gershwin in her wide-ranging research on the proliferation of jellyfish as a consequence of the elimination of natural predators, together with other human disruptions. Gershwin refers to our “gelatinous future” in her book, Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean. In her closing paragraph, she writes:

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SALTY GELATIN

DO SUSHI THE FUTURE?

Gershwin’s important book made a brief media splash towards the end of last year, and then sank into the unfathomable dead zone of yesterday’s news. Our corresponding poet Jon Swan offers the following rumination:

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Education Under Attack

Now comes a powerful report from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The authors note the gradual erasure of boundary lines between battle zones and what used to be called “civil society”. The tendency to accept widespread civilian casualties (including children) and damage to civic structures (including schools) as an inevitable by-product of asymmetrical warfare has served to accelerate this process, whereby all of society becomes absorbed into the violent space of the forever war.

Though not discussed in the report, the United States has a long history of crossing the line, so much so that one might identify the practice as a distinguishing marker within our military DNA: indiscriminate massacres such as Wounded Knee; “scorched earth” campaigns such as Sherman’s march to the sea; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; carpet bombings of villages and food supplies in Vietnam and Cambodia; and most recently, the widespread use of UAV drones which expose entire populations to the psychological trauma of unceasing threat and scrutiny.

Yet as the GCPEA study extensively documents, the USA hardly retains a monopoly on such violent transgressions, as attacks on schools have become increasingly central to a wide range of conflicts from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The entire document is worth a careful review; below, we publish a montage of excerpts, including (most importantly) measures used by communities to protect against such attacks.

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And now the response…

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Itch of the Absolute

We are indebted to Simon Critchley, writing in his consistently illuminating The Stone, for steering us towards a remarkable excerpt from the BBC series The Ascent of Man, presented by Dr. Jacob Bronowski.

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Now to the excerpt, with DP transcription and still images below, as Dr. Bronowski walks through the ruins of Auschwitz, towards the pond where the ashes of victims from the crematoria were dumped:

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EMBLEMS OF THE ITCH

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ACCUMULATIONS OF THE ABSOLUTE

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NO MERCY HERE

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In this pond are the ashes of many of Dr. Bronowski’s own relatives, though his immediate family had immigrated to England in 1920.

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FEELING OUR WAY FORWARD

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We have long been troubled by that odd beseech from Cromwell, and finally decided to get to the bottom of it. From a fascinating study conducted by the estimable Philomantis, it appears that there has been a poorly digested text resulting in a King James Bible confusion between Christ’s tender mercy with its gut location.

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Now that we have cleared up that murky bit of business, we return to Dr. Bronowski’s beautiful play of tolerance, with its emphasis on feeling our way forward,  whether through art or science, and on the necessity to touch people.

Alas, history appears to be driving the human species away from this imperative, and back into the dark and violent drama of arrogant righteousness. We have been here before — and it does not end well.

Writing in the opening paragraphs of his powerful book of essays, Science and Human Values (a book that begs to be rediscovered), Dr. Bronowski sets the stage like this, among yet more ashes:

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IS YOU OR IS YOU AIN'T?

IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T?


Nothing But Dung

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We urge close consideration of the above Moyers interview with Mike Lofgren, concerning the ongoing plunder of the American economy by an entrenched network of cronies that Lofgren calls “the Deep State”. The interview is supplemented by a Lofgren essay that provides a concise summary of his core analysis, which we have excerpted below:

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Winwood Reade’s “universal history”, titled The Martyrdom of Man, was published in 1872 and is available online here. The passage cited by Lofgren reads as follows:

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WASHINGTON BELTWAY

Returning to Lofgren:

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FIDDLER BY THE FIRE

FIDDLER BY THE FIRE

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UNCOMFORTABLE EXPOSURE

UNCOMFORTABLE EXPOSURE

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Such a figure exists, but he is presently without passport, living in exile.

RECENT UNRAVELLING

RECENT UNRAVELLING OF A CRONY STATE

Winwood Reade describes the apex of empire in a passage directly following the one cited by Lofgren:

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BANQUET OF FLAMINGO TONGUES THE DAY AFTER INGESTION


The Time Tunnel

TIME TUNNEL

THIS SCENE IS SET IN A TIME TUNNEL   —-  YEAH

With The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer and his anonymous collaborators give us a rare film that rewards repeated viewings; we have watched it closely several times since its release last year, emerging after each viewing with very different thoughts and insights. The filmmakers’ open spirit of tentative – even stumbling – enquiry is perfectly matched to the complexity and depth of the tunnel, as it winds through Indonesian minefields of genocide, trauma, memory, the rhythms of history and the complicity of cinema in all of the above.

Any attempt to come to grips with the psychology of the perpetrator of war crimes is bound to be morally ambiguous, as we have previously noted in reference to the exceptional work of Gitta Sereny; we only wish she were still around to watch this bravely uncompromising film, as it burrows down into the dark tunnel, in search of tangled mnemonic roots and fungal blooms.

In a recent interview with the LA Times, Oppenheimer speaks about one of the main “characters” in the film (and one of the main perpetrators of the genocide), Anwar Congo:

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Again and again, we enter into the convoluted language of guilt, shame and raging self-exoneration, as evidenced in the below testimony from another perpetrator, Herman Koto:

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You can cut off all the heads of your victims, yet their eyes remain open. As Anwar Congo reconstructs the scene, which will later be re-enacted:

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Oppenheimer again, on the complicity of American Cowboy & Indian movies, in the shaping of a genocidal imagination:

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THE RAISON D’ETRE

When asked about the most promising response to the film in Indonesia, Oppenheimer says:

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Can such spaces of reconciliation be sustained, or will they eventually become yet another layer of oblivion and impunity? Only time inside the tunnel will tell.

For historical context and background, we found a recent essay by Benedict Anderson useful, as we continue to think about this extraordinary film. Be sure to view the director’s cut; the theatrical release attempts to tidy up the messy reality, where meaning resides in densely ambiguous moments that refuse to be neatly story-boarded.

DEEP IN THE TUNNEL

ANWAR CONGO DEEP INSIDE THE MNEMONIC CHA CHA

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