Nov 192010
 

January 17, 1961

Good evening, my fellow Americans: First, I should like to express my gratitude to the radio and television networks for the opportunity they have given me over the years to bring reports and messages to our nation. My special thanks go to them for the opportunity of addressing you this evening.

Three days from now, after a half century of service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on questions of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the nation.

My own relations with Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and finally to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the nation well rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should go forward. So my official relationship with Congress ends in a feeling on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, such basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations.

To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people.

Any failure traceable to arrogance or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us a grievous hurt, both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle – with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in the newer elements of our defenses; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research – these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration; the need to maintain balance in and among national programs – balance between the private and the public economy, balance between the cost and hoped for advantages – balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between the actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their Government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well in the face of threat and stress.

But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise.

Of these, I mention two only.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war – as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years – I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So – in this my last good night to you as your President – I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I – my fellow citizens – need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations’ great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

Now, on Friday noon, I am to become a private citizen. I am proud to do so. I look forward to it.

Thank you, and good night.

 Comments Off on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation
Nov 192010
 

“A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” -1983 American Heritage Dictionary

“Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” -Giovanni Gentile, entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana (plagiarized by Mussolini).

The following is an essay published on April 9, 1944 in the New York Times by US Vice President Henry Wallace on what is an American fascist.

On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:

What is a fascist?
How many fascists have we?
How dangerous are they?

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.

Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases:

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler’s game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini’s vaunted claim that he “made the trains run on time.” In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler’s claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to “make the trains run on time.” It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:

Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique. Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.

The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

 Comments Off on The Danger of American Fascism
Nov 192010
 

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -Niels Bohr

No problem is so formidable that you can’t walk away from it. -Charles M. Schulz

One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing. -Oscar Wilde

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. -Helen Keller

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -Niels Bohr

No problem is so formidable that you can’t walk away from it. -Charles M. Schulz

One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing. -Oscar Wilde

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. -Helen Keller

It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen. -Aristotle

Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. -Alice Walker

Fight for your opinions, but do not believe that they contain the whole truth, or the only truth. -Charles A. Dana

Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. -Gertrude Stein

Men have become the tools of their tools. -Henry David Thoreau

Reality is that which refuses to go away when I stop believing in it. -Phillip K. Dick

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity…and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. -William Blake

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. -Henry David Thoreau

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. -Anaïs Nin

The secret of joy is the mastery of pain. -Anaïs Nin

A good composer does not imitate; he steals. -Igor Stravinksy

The better work men do is always done under stress and at great personal cost. -William Carlos Williams

As regards the celebrated struggle for life, it seems to me for the present to have been rather asserted than proved. It does occur, but as the exception; the general aspect of life is not hunger and distress, but rather wealth, luxury, even absurd prodigality — where there is a struggle it is a struggle for power. -Friedrich Nietzsche

People only see what they are prepared to see. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love demands infinitely less than friendship. -George Jean Nathan

Only he is an artist who can make a riddle out of a solution. -Karl Kraus

We haven’t failed. We now know a thousand things that won’t work, so we are much closer to finding what will. -Thomas Edison

For all these new and evolutionary facts, meanings, purposes, new poetic messages, new forms and expressions, are inevitable. -Walt Whitman

No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings. -William Blake

A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm. -Hamlet

It is astonishing what you can do when you have a lot of energy, ambition and plenty of ignorance. -Alfred P. Sloan Jr.

The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion. -G.K. Chesterton

Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care. -William Safire

The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal. -H. L. Mencken

Maps encourage boldness. They’re like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible. -Mark Jenkins

There are some defeats more triumphant than victories. -Michel de Montaigne

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. -D. H. Lawrence

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. -James Thurber

Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest. -Alexandre Dumas

We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people. -Arthur Schopenhauer

Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Eat a third and drink a third and leave the remaining third of your stomach empty. Then, when you get angry, there will be sufficient room for your rage. -Babylonian Talmud

As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it. -Mahatma Gandhi

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. -Indian Proverb

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. -Marilyn vos Savant

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you is determinism; the way you play it is free will. -Jawaharlal Nehru

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. -Thomas H. Huxley

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. -Mark Twain

There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have. -Don Herold

There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action. -Bertrand Russell

Committee–a group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done. -Fred Allen

If thou are a master, be sometimes blind; if a servant, sometimes deaf. -Thomas Fuller

Go often to the house of thy friend; for weeds soon choke up the unused path. -Scandinavian Proverb

The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid. -Art Spander

An epigraph to an essay on Cochin by Ashis Nandy from Raimundo Panikkar:
the self identity of Man is transcultural, and this cannot have any single point of reference. Pluralism is not synonymous with tolerance of a variety of opinions. Pluralism amounts to the recognition of the unthinkable, the absurd, and up to a limit, intolerable… Reality in itself does not need to be transparent, intelligible.

The characteristic structure of the aphorism itself implies at least two kinds of boundary crossing: a thrusting past banality to further reaches of insight, and an ongoing energy flow that reforms insight continuously in a transmissale form that invites perpetual continuation of the game. [from Lawrence Buell Emerson article]

Americans use tradition to evade history. – Richard E. Nicholls

The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. -William James

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. -Henry Ford

In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior. -Sir Francis Bacon

Security is a kind of death. -Tennessee Williams

Magnificent promises are always to be suspected. -Theodore Parker

The married are those who have taken the terrible risk of intimacy and, having taken it, know life without intimacy to be impossible. -Carolyn Heilbrun

The good or ill of a man lies within his own will. -Epictetus

Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame. -Erica Jong

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. -Aesop

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all. -Samuel Butler

Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory. -John Kenneth Galbraith

Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking. -John Maynard Keynes

You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience. -Stanislaw J. Lec

I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I’ve ever known. -Walt Disney

You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering. – Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. -Epictetus

What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. -Thomas Carlyle

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior. -Henry C. Link

Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought. -Sir William Osler

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings. -Okakura Kakuzo

If you wish your merit to be known, acknowledge that of other people. -Oriental Proverb

When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends. -Japanese Proverb

I would rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave. -E. M. Forster

Sometimes I think we’re alone. Sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the thought is staggering. -R. Buckminster Fuller

It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor. -Neil Gaiman

If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt. -Dean Martin

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards. -Fred Hoyle

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Ellen Parr

Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies. -Thomas Jefferson

The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. -Mark Twain

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. -Alfred Lord Tennyson

When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.-Bernard Bailey

Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. -Ambrose Bierce

Oh, darling, let your body in, let it tie you in, in comfort. -Anne Sexton

When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: ‘Only stand out of my light.’ Perhaps some day we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light. -John W. Gardner

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. -Edgar Allan Poe

If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out. -Jane Austen

It is easier to exclude harmful passions than to rule them, and to deny them admittance than to control them after they have been admitted. -Seneca

We may lay in a stock of pleasures, as we would lay in a stock of wine; but if we defer tasting them too long, we shall find that both are soured by age. -Charles Caleb Colton

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. -Mark Twain

My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. -Vladimir Nabokov

Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations. -Orson Welles

Good taste is the worst vice ever invented. -Edith Sitwell

I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it. -Garrison Keillor

Life is a long lesson in humility. -James M. Barrie

Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality. -Jules de Gaultier

I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine. -Fritz Perls

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. -Chinese Proverb

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. -Charles Dickens

Despise not any man, and do not spurn anything; for there is no man who has not his hour, nor is there anything that has not its place. -Ben Azai You must lose a fly to catch a trout. -George Herbert

Nothing is said that has not been said before. -Terence

When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. -Oscar Wilde

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

First there is a time when we believe everything, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe. -Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with. -Tenessee Williams

Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians. -Chester Bowles

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. -Arthur Schopenhauer

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations. -David Friedman

Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him: a new friend is as new wine; when it is old, thou shalt drink it with pleasure. -The Bible

If you scatter thorns, don’t go barefoot. -Italian Proverb

A cat is a puzzle for which there is no solution. -Hazel Nicholson

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. -Seneca

It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians. -Henrik Ibsen

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt

The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear. -Herbert Agar

Look well into yourself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if you always look there. -Marcus Aurelius

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells

Men cannot see their reflection in running water, but only in still water. -Chuang Tzu

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one. -George Bernard Shaw

The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. -Virginia Woolf

Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation, and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. -Mahatma Gandhi

He who sings scares away his woes. -Miguel de Cervantes

There are three ingredients to the good life; learning, earning, and yearning. -Christopher Morley

The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes — ah, that is where the art resides. -Artur Schnabel

Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. -Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

A person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance. -Anatole France

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Nov 192010
 

Jimmy Reid was a British trade union activist. He delivered this speech at Glasgow University in 1972.

Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.

Many may not have rationalised it. May not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it. It therefore conditions and colours their social attitudes. Alienation expresses itself in different ways in different people. It is to be found in what our courts often describe as the criminal antisocial behaviour of a section of the community. It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics. Of course, it would be wrong to say it was the sole reason for these things. But it is a much greater factor in all of them than is generally recognised.

Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially de-humanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well-adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else. They remind me of the character in the novel, Catch 22, the father of Major Major. He was a farmer in the American Mid-West. He hated suggestions for things like medi-care, social services, unemployment benefits or civil rights. He was, however, an enthusiast for the agricultural policies that paid farmers for not bringing their fields under cultivation. From the money he got for not growing alfalfa he bought more land in order not to grow alfalfa. He became rich. Pilgrims came from all over the state to sit at his feet and learn how to be a successful non-grower of alfalfa. His philosophy was simple. The poor didn’t work hard enough and so they were poor. He believed that the good Lord gave him two strong hands to grab as much as he could for himself. He is a comic figure. But think – have you not met his like here in Britain? Here in Scotland? I have.

It is easy and tempting to hate such people. However, it is wrong. They are as much products of society, and of a consequence of that society, human alienation, as the poor drop-out. They are losers. They have lost the essential elements of our common humanity. Man is a social being. Real fulfilment for any person lies in service to his fellow men and women. The big challenge to our civilisation is not Oz, a magazine I haven’t seen, let alone read. Nor is it permissiveness, although I agree our society is too permissive. Any society which, for example, permits over one million people to be unemployed is far too permissive for my liking. Nor is it moral laxity in the narrow sense that this word is generally employed – although in a sense here we come nearer to the problem. It does involve morality, ethics, and our concept of human values. The challenge we face is that of rooting out anything and everything that distorts and devalues human relations.

Let me give two examples from contemporary experience to illustrate the point.

Recently on television I saw an advert. The scene is a banquet. A gentleman is on his feet proposing a toast. His speech is full of phrases like “this full-bodied specimen”. Sitting beside him is a young, buxom woman. The image she projects is not pompous but foolish. She is visibly preening herself, believing that she is the object of the bloke’s eulogy. Then he concludes – “and now I give…”, then a brand name of what used to be described as Empire sherry. Then the laughter. Derisive and cruel laughter. The real point, of course, is this. In this charade, the viewers were obviously expected to identify not with the victim but with her tormentors.

The other illustration is the widespread, implicit acceptance of the concept and term “the rat race”. The picture it conjures up is one where we are scurrying around scrambling for position, trampling on others, back-stabbing, all in pursuit of personal success. Even genuinely intended, friendly advice can sometimes take the form of someone saying to you, “Listen, you look after number one.” Or as they say in London, “Bang the bell, Jack, I’m on the bus.”

To the students [of Glasgow University] I address this appeal. Reject these attitudes. Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts, and before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?”

Profit is the sole criterion used by the establishment to evaluate economic activity. From the rat race to lame ducks. The vocabulary in vogue is a give-away. It’s more reminiscent of a human menagerie than human society. The power structures that have inevitably emerged from this approach threaten and undermine our hard-won democratic rights. The whole process is towards the centralisation and concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands. The facts are there for all who want to see. Giant monopoly companies and consortia dominate almost every branch of our economy. The men who wield effective control within these giants exercise a power over their fellow men which is frightening and is a negation of democracy.

Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision-making by the people for the people. This is not simply an economic matter. In essence it is an ethical and moral question, for whoever takes the important economic decisions in society ipso facto determines the social priorities of that society.

From the Olympian heights of an executive suite, in an atmosphere where your success is judged by the extent to which you can maximise profits, the overwhelming tendency must be to see people as units of production, as indices in your accountants’ books. To appreciate fully the inhumanity of this situation, you have to see the hurt and despair in the eyes of a man suddenly told he is redundant, without provision made for suitable alternative employment, with the prospect in the West of Scotland, if he is in his late forties or fifties, of spending the rest of his life in the Labour Exchange. Someone, somewhere has decided he is unwanted, unneeded, and is to be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. From the very depth of my being, I challenge the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable.

The concentration of power in the economic field is matched by the centralisation of decision-making in the political institutions of society. The power of Parliament has undoubtedly been eroded over past decades, with more and more authority being invested in the Executive. The power of local authorities has been and is being systematically undermined. The only justification I can see for local government is as a counter- balance to the centralised character of national government.

Local government is to be restructured. What an opportunity, one would think, for de-centralising as much power as possible back to the local communities. Instead, the proposals are for centralising local government. It’s once again a blue-print for bureaucracy, not democracy. If these proposals are implemented, in a few years when asked “Where do you come from?” I can reply: “The Western Region.” It even sounds like a hospital board.

It stretches from Oban to Girvan and eastwards to include most of the Glasgow conurbation. As in other matters, I must ask the politicians who favour these proposals – where and how in your calculations did you quantify the value of a community? Of community life? Of a sense of belonging? Of the feeling of identification? These are rhetorical questions. I know the answer. Such human considerations do not feature in their thought processes.

Everything that is proposed from the establishment seems almost calculated to minimise the role of the people, to miniaturise man. I can understand how attractive this prospect must be to those at the top. Those of us who refuse to be pawns in their power game can be picked up by their bureaucratic tweezers and dropped in a filing cabinet under “M” for malcontent or maladjusted. When you think of some of the high flats around us, it can hardly be an accident that they are as near as one could get to an architectural representation of a filing cabinet.

If modern technology requires greater and larger productive units, let’s make our wealth-producing resources and potential subject to public control and to social accountability. Let’s gear our society to social need, not personal greed. Given such creative re-orientation of society, there is no doubt in my mind that in a few years we could eradicate in our country the scourge of poverty, the underprivileged, slums, and insecurity.

Even this is not enough. To measure social progress purely by material advance is not enough. Our aim must be the enrichment of the whole quality of life. It requires a social and cultural, or if you wish, a spiritual transformation of our country. A necessary part of this must be the restructuring of the institutions of government and, where necessary, the evolution of additional structures so as to involve the people in the decision-making processes of our society. The so-called experts will tell you that this would be cumbersome or marginally inefficient. I am prepared to sacrifice a margin of efficiency for the value of the people’s participation. Anyway, in the longer term, I reject this argument.

To unleash the latent potential of our people requires that we give them responsibility. The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing compared to the untapped resources of our people. I am convinced that the great mass of our people go through life without even a glimmer of what they could have contributed to their fellow human beings. This is a personal tragedy. It’s a social crime. The flowering of each individual’s personality and talents is the pre-condition for everyone’s development.

In this context education has a vital role to play. If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with a full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession. The creative use of leisure, in communion with and in service to our fellow human beings, can and must become an important element in self-fulfilment.

Universities must be in the forefront of development, must meet social needs and not lag behind them. It is my earnest desire that this great University of Glasgow should be in the vanguard, initiating changes and setting the example for others to follow. Part of our educational process must be the involvement of all sections of the university on the governing bodies. The case for student representation is unanswerable. It is inevitable.

My conclusion is to re-affirm what I hope and certainly intend to be the spirit permeating this address. It’s an affirmation of faith in humanity. All that is good in man’s heritage involves recognition of our common humanity, an unashamed acknowledgement that man is good by nature. Burns expressed it in a poem that technically was not his best, yet captured the spirit. In “Why should we idly waste our prime…”:

“The golden age, we’ll then revive, each man shall be a brother,

In harmony we all shall live and till the earth together,

In virtue trained, enlightened youth shall move each fellow creature,

And time shall surely prove the truth that man is good by nature.”

It’s my belief that all the factors to make a practical reality of such a world are maturing now. I would like to think that our generation took mankind some way along the road towards this goal. It’s a goal worth fighting for.

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Nov 192010
 

In memory of Warren Zevon

I

I want you to tell me if, on Grammy night, you didn’t get one hell of a kick
out of all those bling-it-ons in their bullet-proof broughams,
all those line-managers who couldn’t manage a line of coke,

all those Barmecides offering beakers of barm –
if you didn’t get a kick out of being as incongruous
there as John Donne at a Junior Prom.

Two graves must hide, Warren, thine and mine corse
who, on the day we met, happened
also to meet an individual dragging a full-length cross

along 42nd Street and kept mum, each earning extra Brownie points
for letting that cup pass. The alcoholic
knows that to enter in these bonds

is to be free, yeah right. The young John Donne who sets a Glock
on his dish in the cafeteria
knows that, even as he plots to clean some A&R man’s clock,

his muse on dromedary
trots to the Indias of spice and mine
and the Parsi Towers of Silence, even as he buses his tray

with its half-eaten dish of beef chow mein
to the bus-station, he’s already gone half-way to meet the Space Lab.
The Space Lab (italics mine),

where you worked on how many mint juleps
it takes to make a hangover
while playing piano for all those schlubs you could eclipse

and cloud with a wink. I long to talk to some old lover’s
ghost about the night after night you tipped the scales
for the Everly Brothers,

Frank and Jesse, while learning to inhale
through a French inhaler like a child soldier from the Ivory Coast
learning to parch a locust on a machete, a child soldier who would e-mail

you, at your request,
a copy of “ Death Be Not Proud ”, a child soldier who would hi-lite
a locust with a flame. If your grave be broke up again some second guest

to entertain, let it serve as hallowed
ground where those young shavers
from the Ivory Coast may find their careers, as you found yours, on hold,

where Tim McGraw and OutKast, not to speak of those underachievers
who don a black hat or a goatee
as a computer screen dons a screen-saver

or the Princeton sky its seventeen-year cicadas,
will find themselves on hold. You who went searching for a true, plain heart
as an unreconstructed renegade

must have come to believe, with Frank and Jesse, no hate could hurt
our bodies like our love. Another low-down
dirty shame . . . To wicked spirits horrid

shapes assigned . . . Every nickel nudging the nickelodeon.
O wrangling schools . . . O wrangling schools that search what fire
shall burn this world, had none the wit to smell Izaak Walton

pressing down on Donne’s funeral pyre,
yeah right, to smell the locust parched by that Ivory Coast subaltern,
had none the wit unto this knowledge to aspire,

that this your fever, the fever that still turns
the turntable, might be it? For every turn, like every tuning, is open,
every thorn a durian,

every “bin” a “ben”
on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Such a pilgrimage were sweet,
Warren, barreling down the autobahn

through West Hollywood
in your little black Corvette (part-barge,
part hermaphrodite brig), our eyes set not on the noted weed

but the noted seaweed of Nobu Matsuhisa. Those child soldiers who parch
a locust on a machete while tending a .50 caliber
Browning with a dodgy breech

will know how the blood labors
to beget Matsuhisa-san’s seared toro. At the winter solstice, as I filed
past a band of ticket-scalpers

who would my ruined fortune flout
at Madison Square Garden, I glimpsed a man in a Tibetan
cap, nay-saying a flute,

whom I took at first to be an older Brian Jones, what with his flipping a butane
lighter in my face and saying, “I shall be made thy music . . .”
At that very moment, quite unbidden,

the ghost of Minoru Yamasaki
(who had trailed me from the bar at Nobu) exhorted me to “Turn them speakers
up full blast now Lucies, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks,

is sunk so low as my Twin Towers . . .”. Brian Jones’s patent winkle-pickers
reflected a patent sky. “All strange wonders that befell
me while the rest of them recorded Beggars

Banquet and I was sunk so low in Twickenham, lovers coming with crystal vials
to take my tears . . .”. “I’ll do my crying in the rain
with Don and Phil,”

said Yamasaki-san, “I’ll do my crying with Frank and Jesse waiting for a train . . .
Those lines you wrote about the blood-bath
at my Twin Towers, about the sky being full of carrion,

those were my Twin Towers, right?” Brian, meanwhile, continued to puff
on the flute as if he were indeed corporeal,
as if he were no less substantial than the elder-pith

nay on which he played a hurry home early
version of “Walk Right Back”, the “Walk Right Back”
you yourself had played night after night with Frank and Jesse Everly.

II

I knelt beside my sister’s bed, Warren, the valleys and the peaks
of the EKGs, the crepusculine X-rays,
the out-of-date blister-packs

discarded by those child soldiers from the Ivory Coast or Zaire,
and couldn’t think that she had sunk so low
she might not make the anniversary

of our mother’s death from this same cancer, this same quick, quick, slow
conversion of manna to gall
from which she died thirty years ago. I knelt and adjusted the sillyhow

of her oxygen mask, its vinyl caul
unlikely now to save Maureen from drowning in her own spit.
I thought of how the wrangling schools

need look no further than her bed
to find what fire shall burn this world – or that heaven
which “is one with” this world – to find how gold to airy thinness beat

may crinkle like cellophane
in a flame, like cellophane or the flimmerings of gauze
by which a needle is held fast in a vein.

So break off, Warren, break off this last lamenting kiss
as Christ broke with Iscariot
and gave himself to those loosey-goosey

Whisky A Go Going mint julep- and margarita-
and gimlet-grinders, those gin fizz-
iognomists. My first guitar, a Cort, and my first amp, a Crate,

I myself had tried to push through a Fuzz Face
or some shit-kicking stomp box
till I blew every fuse

in Central New Jersey. At the autumnal equinox
as on St Lucies when sunbeams in the east are spread
I’d pretend the Crate was a Vox

AC-50 Super Twin. I was playing support
for some star in the unchangeable firmament
in which the flesh, Warren, is merely a bruise on the spirit,

a warm-up for the main event
as the hymnal ushers in the honky-tonk
or the oxygen tent

raises the curtain on the oxygen mask. How well you knew that dank
spot on the outskirts
of Jerusalem where the kids still squeeze between the tanks

to suck the life out of a cigarette,
the maple-bud in spring like something coming to a head,
some pill that can’t be sugared,

another hit
of hooch or horse that double-ties the subtile knot
to which we’ve paid so little heed

all those years of running amuck in Kent.
Go tell court-huntsmen that the oxygen-masked King will ride
ten thousand days and nights

on a stride piano, yeah right,
through the hell in which Ignatius of “Ignatius His Conclave”
was strung out on Mandrax and mandrake root,

ten thousand nights of the “chemical life”
(as Auden styled it, turning the speakers up full blast),
the “chemical life” that gives way to ten thousand days of rehab and golf

in the afternoon, televangelists,
push up and bench press with Buddhist and Parsi,
ten thousand days after which you realized

the flesh is indeed no more than a bruise
on the spirit. The werewolf with the Japanese menu in his hand,
keen as he was to show his prowess

with the chopsticks, realized it ain’t
that pretty, ain’t that pretty at all
to be completely wasted when you’re testing your chops, hint hint,

on a Gibson Les Paul
overdriven through a Fender Vibratone,
ain’t that pretty to crawl

to Ensenada for methadone.
Were we not weaned till then from Mandrax and mandrake
or snorted we in the seven sleepers’ den
a line of coke, or wore long sleeves to cover the wreak
of injecting diacetylmorphine?
I was playing a Fender through a Marshall rig

that was so massively overdriven
I couldn’t hear the phone ring, didn’t hear that excitable boy
extol the virtues of Peruvian

over Bolivian marching powder, that excitable hula-hula boy,
the Jackson Browne sound-alike,
who waited on us in Nobu (Nobu or Koi?)

where the fishionistas (sic) walked the catwalk
for as long as they could manage a line
of coke with their sushi deluxe,

for as long as they were able for the baby abalone
with garlic sauce. We watched those two parascenders parascend
off Malibu like two true, plain

hearts who struggle to fend
off the great crash – two true, plain hearts like yourself and Maureen
who struggled to fend off the great crash that has us end

where we began, all strung out on heroin
on the outskirts of La Caldera,
our last few grains of heroin-ash stashed in a well-wrought urn.

III

I want you to tell me, Warren, if you didn’t watch those two hang-gliders
and think of the individual we saw drag
his full-length cross through the under-the-counter-culture

of 42nd Street? 42nd or Canal? A certain individual, whatreck,
who might easily have taken in a 4 a.m. show at the Clark and got to grips
with the usherette’s leg in the dark,

who might have recognized the usherette for a certain demirep
who’d registered her domain
in the Adelphi, having already learned the ropes

from the old bluesmen
who played in the Blue Note. That must have been your first brush
with greatness, in Chicago, before the mean

streets of LA where your Moses met the bulrush
of Stravinsky and every chord became a cordon sanitaire
against the bum’s rush

your Russian Jewish father had given you in Culver and Century
Cities, your G major seeing his G major
in gloves-off gambling, and though music did in the center

sit right through that Wanderjahre
with Stravinsky, I’m certain it would also lean and hearken
after the jubilation and the jeers

of the boxing ring in which your father took on some cocksure Puerto Rican,
in which every Baby Grand cried out for a Crybaby
and the Everlasting Life we bargain

for was invented by some record company Pooh-Bah
who has forgotten, in the midst of things,
that every operation’s mom-and-pop,

your Scottish Mormon mother teaching you the right swing
against your father’s left, your common
G on the Chickering

sounding against the G-men
who plagued him about that pyramid scheme he set up in the Faeroes
with Mr Cambio and Mr Gombeen.

I want you to tell me if grief, brought to numbers, cannot be so fierce,
pace Donne’s sales pitch,
for he tames, that fetters it in verse,
throwing up a last ditch
against the mounted sorrows, for I have more, Warren, I have more,
more as an even flame two hearts did touch

and left us mere
philosophers whose blood still labors to beget
child-soldiers toasting locust S’mores,

the A&R men lining their pockets
while Roland battled the Bantu to their knees,
the Bantu who boogie-woogied

with Saint Ignatius
through their post traumatic stress disorder,
the Les Paul pushed through a Pignose

like a, yeah right, Rotorooter
through a sewage line, the A&R men taking the mazuma
and crossing the border

to load up on sashimi
with Yamasaki-san, a headless Childe Roland
coming to his dark twin Towers of Silence, zoom zoom,

those Towers the Parsis still delineate
as scaffolds for sky-burial, a quorum
of vultures letting their time-chastened lant

fall to their knees as they hold on like grim
death to the bellied-up Brian Jones, their office indulgently to fit
actives to passives in the doldrums

of the swimming-pool, the fishionistas (qv) with their food fads
having nothing on these rare
birds that divide

the spoils, Warren, these rare
birds that divide the spoils
with the gasbag, gobshite, gumptionless A&R

men who couldn’t tell a hollow-body Les Paul with double-coil
pickups pushed through a Princeton Reverb
from a slab of London broil

an excitable boy might rub
all over his chest, the vultures working piecemeal
at his chest like the chest on which a Russian Jewish cardsharp

and a Scottish Mormon broke the seal
as surely as one VIP opening her bosom made one Viper Room
an everywhere, every Glock sighing for a glockenspiel,

every frame a freeze-frame
of two alcoholics barreling down to Ensenada
in a little black Corvette, vroom vroom,

for Diet, yeah right, Diet Mountain Dew,
that individual carrying his cross knowing the flesh is a callus
on the spirit as surely as you knew the mesotheliomata

on both lungs meant the situation was lose-lose,
every full-length cross-carrier almost certainly up to some sort of high jinks
else a great Prince in prison lies,

lies belly-up on a Space Lab scaffold where the turkey buzzards pink
Matsuhisa-san’s seared toro,
turkey buzzards waiting for you to eclipse and cloud them with a wink

as they hold out their wings and of the sun his working vigor borrow
before they parascend through the Viper Room or the Whiskey A Go Go,
each within its own “cleansing breeze”, its own cathartes aura.

[Published in The Times Literary Supplement, June 2, 2006.]

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