26.3.17

HEART OF BALANCE: RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL SPEECH PART 1

DONALD TRUMP AND BREXIT…WHY?
I have read the reactions to Trump’s Presidential Inauguration address with some degree of amazement.  It is not so much the hubris and arrogance and narcissism that Trump displays, or his Inaugural Address which was also extraordinary with its ‘America First’ demagoguery and blatant nationalism.
I should suppose that hubris and narcissism are not uncommon traits among politicians.  No, what is unusual here is that not only are they not hidden beneath a mask of goodwill to all men and women but they are displayed and celebrated as qualities that effective leaders require.  This is both the reason we softie liberals look on in horror and the reason he attracts the voters who place great store on plain speaking, on God and Country, and on them damn elitist metropolitans with their global conspiracies.
But what has amazed and discombobulated me somewhat more has been the ferocity and plain viciousness of the responses from a supposedly liberal intelligentsia.  What is coming to be known as the alt-left and particularly, women.
The extraordinary cruelty with which Trump is attacked from the feminist alt-left consists of continual reference to his physical presentation, to attacks on his sexual potency (remember all the fuss about those small hands?)  To his wife’s looks with smirking reference to her unfeasibly perfect breasts.  To his supposed idiocy and buffoonery and his hair.  To allegations (completely unproven to date) that he is a user of prostitutes and in the pockets of Putin.  Rumour gathered by some freelance spy with a dodgy dossier presented as fact.   That he is a liar and deal-breaker.  Even the revered Gloria Steinem in a Guardian article referred to the jelly that emerges when Trump opens his jacket.  Extraordinarily rude crude and meaningless and I imagine the howls of protest from all these liberal feminists if a woman was to be defined purely on the grounds of her physical appearance.  Is it not that very thing that we have all been fighting for these last thirty years?  That we are judged equally upon our capacities and talents and not, like a tribe of hapless baboons focusing on our breasts and penises and bank accounts and inspecting each other’s bottoms for fleas?
The other astonishing thing about Trump’s ‘America First’ diatribe is how remarkably it misses all the chronic issues that face us now and in the not too distant future.
These can be ascribed to three external impending disasters and three internal ones.  The external pressures are-Global warming and resulting climate change, chronic and mostly permanent geo-political instability, and rampant technological innovation completely outstripping humanity’s ability to integrate and adapt to it.
The three internal crises are the chronic un-freedom of children due to fears for their safety, the internal alienation sweeping the western world with huge levels of mental health problems and the growing sense of and actuality of massive levels of inequality and the birth of a hugely enriched global elite with a sense of gross entitlement that matches their ludicrous levels of wealth.
Add to this the death throes of the three major Sky-God religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and we have an explosive mix which bodes ill indeed for future generations and the survival of the non-human world.
None of this was addressed in Trump’s speech.  Indeed, it headlined a commitment to exacerbate the very crises that face humanity.  It was aggressive, parochial, ignorant and stupid.  It celebrated paranoia, greed, suspicion, racism, militarism and the continued exploitation and rape of the world’s resources.  Imagine if instead of America First it had been called Earth First?
Let’s take these apocalyptic horsemen one at a time:  It is now evident that two degree warming is irreversible.  It may have been possible, if we had created a global movement to save the planet and transfer from fossil fuel dependence in the seventies, that about now we would have left the oil and gas in the ground and be largely solar, hydro, wind and nuclear in terms of meeting our energy needs.  That is now a dream.  Not only is every scientific community on the planet absolutely united about the coming warming but the climatic impact is unknown in terms of the complexity of the global weather systems that are held in a quite beautiful and sustaining balance of complex interrelated parts.  These impacts will be shocking and will hit the most vulnerable initially.  But what is most astounding about Trump’s America First speech is that not only is there no reference to this impending catastrophe but there is a commitment to drill for more oil, more gas, more fracking wherever and whenever it is to be found.  A two degree rise appears even preferable to what is now coming down the road.  A four degree rise?  Six?  A four metre rise in seal levels?  Twelve?  It has been a preventable catastrophe that future generations will look back on in dumbfounded stupefaction, should they survive to look.
Trump has assembled a cabal of oil, gas, big pharma and big agro and military interests that beggars belief.  A group of right wing ideologues funded by billionaires and secretive think tanks and global banking interests will now be running the biggest economy in the world.  It is the supreme irony that it is the sense of being left behind and forgotten that permeates the American working class in their rustbelt that has put this corporate global elite in charge of the American machine.
Geo-political instability sounds punchy but it is in fact like a creeping disease.  The Calais jungle, mass immigration, Syria, Isis, the middle eastern time bomb, the Russian expansion west, China, the massive corruption that infects much of Africa and Asia.  The impending fracturing of the European Union, people smuggling and trafficking, sexual slavery.  And atop it all sits a heartless organised criminality that feeds off the poor and the dispossessed like a vampire.  The impact of this on children is almost too unspeakable to contemplate.
The Syrian refugee crisis is a result of terror.  Of the terror of men, women and children slaughtered in their beds, hospitals, in their markets and schools and at prayer, deliberately targeted with hideous weapons such as barrel bombs and chlorine.  Bashar Al Assad and Vladimir Putin have brought back atrocity with a vengeance.  Isis has brought back a medieval barbarity to the battlefield and proven an attractive death cult for young muslim men as well as a hideously effective fighting force on the battlefield feeding on rape, murder and dreams of paradise in the arms of virgins.

None of this is going to change with America First, in fact it’s all going to get a lot worse.  Terror works well for autocrats and ideologues.  It works well for the Trumpist cabal.  It works well for the Putinistas.
To be continued:

BOOK REVIEW: 'A Good Lie Ain't Easy' by Nico Lee

A good lie ain’t easy by Nico Lee  Reviewed by Tony Dougan  Mega Dodo Publishing 2016 Available March 2017 from Amazon and other 'real' bookshops




Full disclosure.  Nico emailed me after reading my book reviews on Amazon and my blog- heartofbalance.blogspot.com 
As a non-professional writer and poet who has been writing all my life I am terribly needy for validation and recognition.  Add to this mix the querulous vanity of the artist and the chronic empathy needed to create and you have a spaniel with a pen wagging his stupid tale at the slightest tickle behind the ear.  So of course I agreed to write an independent review of Nico’s novel and only later was I once again reminded of the sheer bloody hard work that reviewing entails.  Of the necessity of the utmost care.  Three readings and a score of meditations later here is the review.

READING 1:  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  OMG!
I am so courteous to exclamation marks  I always open the door for them and doff my cap to any question mark I come across and flatteringly compliment its graceful art of balancing on the single ball while issuing an interrogation.  Nico Lee has no such respect.  He herds vast regiments of exclamations without cease.  He summons legions of question marks to roll off the end of the sentence like lemmings.  He uses trios of full stops everywhere.  The grammar is beaten, thrashed, humiliated and genetically modified into strange hybrids.
The non-sequiturs head off into the sunset on a train of three dots…
What is this book about?  A road trip ostensibly but a road trip possibly across the highways of the author’s subconscious?
Reading this book has been like spending relentless hours with a mildly autistic, overly well-read teenager who is hanging’ with his homies who have all misplaced their ritalin.
It’s like H.P Lovecraft sired a child with Jack Kerouac and then found Ezra Pound and William Burroughs had swapped it for their baby at the Maternity Unit in downtown Providence.  The brood mare-the surrogate mother-being Poppy Z Brite with a sperm donation from Thomas Ligotti-(or did Poppy seduce him following a literary conference in Lallaland, Mississippi, mistaking the bookish horror jock for a promising serial killer?)
Who are these three brothers and a mysterious English girl hurtling from town to one stop town across a highway to nowhere?  They are Boyd, William and I.  And the girl is Sarah:
‘She laughs, sashays to the bathroom on chubby calves.
“I’m gonna take a shower now honey, y’all wanna join me?”
I follow, too tired to argue.’  WTF?
There follows a poetic discourse on burlesque involving a cross dressing John Steed from ’The Avengers’ then, fifty lines later:
‘When we get out of the shower Sarah puts on the glasses that make her look like a tougher Johnny Depp but still…nothing much, nothing much.’
It means the anatomy of burlesque involving John Steed in a corset took place in the shower!
I am a discombobulated reader.
There follows a series of discourses on film, politics and literature.  One example:
‘I’ve only started to use the word ‘presidential’ as an adjective to describe my penis since Obama got in.’
And in conclusion:  ‘…I bet George W. had a small cock, especially for a Texan.’
A rumination on Moby Dick is followed by: ‘When I first read Conan-Doyle (there is no hyphen in the name) I conflated the falls with the Rickenbacker guitar.  Images of Moriarty falling to his death double-tapping the flight of the bumble bee.’  This is genuinely funny in a neurotic way and the book is full of such ‘comedic’ moments.
Then on page 67 Sarah drops a bombshell:
‘I…I think I might be pregnant…’
I read to the end like a dutiful digger of holes and start my review questioning the very premise of the book.  My review begins:
‘The narrative mania rolls like an express train of punch-drunk narration that negates both plot and descriptive nuance.  Who are these characters but ghosts that hurtle out of the author’s pen onto the page as barely disguised simulacrum-neuroses opportunities for the authors divagations?’
And most embarrassingly of all: ‘Where is the intellectual glue that binds sentence to thought?  Where is the dialectic in the work that must drive STORY?’  OMG!

READING 2:
I hate writing critically negative reviews, because I know the care and hope and intelligence that goes into making a work of art.  So I decide to sit with it for a while and read it again.  For some reason the book has unsettled me and sits like a worm in my mind.  Like a cracked mirror it is facing me with my own, earlier acknowledged, servile relationship to language.  Why can’t I, like Nico Lee, kick it against a wall till it breaks?  Why can’t I pull it into unlikely shapes until it screams?  Don’t all the great makers torture their material until it submits to their will?  Isn’t this how it becomes true?
And the kicker:  Why can’t I be this original?

READING 3:
So that’s it.  I eventually realise that this is a great little book!  The divagation’s of the writer ARE the point.  They are relentlessly sad and funny little sonnets and this is as much a work of poetry as prose weaving little descriptive dramas around a barely seen core of confused gender and sexuality, the fear of parenthood and settlement, death and loss and the growing sense of alienation in the post-modern world.  The meme of Evil Knievel’s great and crazy Canyon leap. Get this:
‘Reading.  Reading Raymond Chandler.  Reading Marcel Proust.  And Gertrude Stein.  Reading Chandler, Stein and Proust.  Will probably.  Not definitely.  But certainly probably.  Reading them together, en masse.  As a block.  As a Bloch?  Proust joke, unnecessary?  (Yes).
I digress.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  Reading.  Reading in Sarah’s beloved old British Library.  Or on a train, or in a hotel.  Reading.  Reading Proust.  Reading Chandler.  Reading Stein.  Reading Chandler, and Stein, and Proust.  Reading them all at once.  Would probably.  I say probably.  Probably only.  Probably only but here’s the confirmation.  Reading all three.  Reading Chandler and Stein and Proust.  Would probably make you think in very long paragraphs, full of short repetitive sentences.’  Brilliant!
Reader!  Read it!  I urge you!