Tuesday, August 23, 2011
in myth, the stories make no sense, unlike our stories, which try desperately to make sense. men turn into crows, women are swallowed by witches and born again, coyotes pull the sky around them like a blanket. the myth was the news for longer than america has lived or will live, even if it lived three lives.
myth became the news. the story creates the world. the story never represents the real world, it represents the dreamlike nature of living in the world. the news becomes a myth striving for accuracy but always prevented by the nature of storytelling.
there is a new myth, that tripoli fell and gaddafi was defeated. a mad king gone down by swarms of young men with new guns and old shoes. its like present day archaeology. bombs were dropped from airplanes, but no one is sure where. men fought and murdered each other, but no one was sure for who. the pieces are spread out across the world like shredded newspaper. there are secrets and conspiracies, we only see their faces now and then dart from the edge of the screen into vision and back out again. now they cheer and cry out victory. but for what no one is sure, not even them.
a long time ago, old men and women sat among the young and told them stories of the world out there. the trees and the mountains and the skies and the plains made a great frontier between the home of life and the world that was bigger and aliver than all of them put together. They could see it out there, moving, waving in the wind, dark and wet and secret. unknown.
the unknown is so dark that it makes an infinity. darkness is the best light in which to see infinity.
the old men and women told them stories about what went on out there, in the immortal land outside their circle of light. where the stones and trees were alive like they were alive, where the animals were magicians. and that there is the otherworld, the world beyond us. because the great truth of the otherworld, of the land and the sky the universe and the bottom of the ocean is that it all lives, much more than we do. and this sense of a living, awake unknown suggests that we are small and unknowing, no matter how many roads we build into it. No matter how many walls of houses we surround ourselves with and say this is true. this is true and nothing else. this cross, this computer.
the mystery of tripoli falling is that it is a city in the desert. it fell because men in other cities pushed it over with their long arms. but none of them know what for. and the men with guns on the ground maybe seek only a paradise they know is not this, but not what it is. and the otherworld looks on. if only we talked to the otherworld as the haida did, walking across the mountains with their long legs and staring up into the wheeling stars and moving graciously like the land itself. i had a dream last night, of falling into the ocean and falling through progressive layers of fish, down farther than i could go, to where the water went black, and there were great whales and monsters passing by me, and i sank farther than that, and the fish still swirled around me, past surviving.
Posted by steven martin at 8/23/2011 08:22:00 PM
Saturday, August 13, 2011
one of the things that attracted me to anarchism is that it is almost incorruptible. any time anarchists get a suspicion that things aren't pure, they get ornery and walk away. this also explains anarchism's legendary ineffectiveness, producing exactly one coalition government in the 20th century and a bunch of revolutionary cells that went nowhere. and even then, spain's anarchist roots in the andalusian mountains relied more on a peasant culture that understood anarchism as a somewhat spiritual mission rather than an ideological and economic programme.
it's hard to describe exactly what makes anarchism a political ideology. it's strength lies in that it is an ethic. you can hyphenate anarchism with just about anything, anarcho-whathaveyou. there are anarcho-libertarians and anarcho-communists. you can't find political ideologies that span the spectrum the way anarchism does.
anarchism is an ethic. it is inherently suspicious of power and authority. so you can be a libertarian that rejects corporations or a communist that rejects the Party. anarchism affirms the paradox that while everyone is an equal in the community regardless of ability, everyone is also absolutely free and unique as an individual that cannot subsume to the community. this is possible because in anarchism, what is good is not rooted in an absolute. The good shifts times, places and ideas constantly, and its spirit must be continually sought out. The individual's inherent authority over their own life must at all times be humbled by the elusiveness of goodness and truth.
because power and authority are facts of human life, anarchists are realists - no government is eligible for loyalty and obedience. at the same time, anarchists are mostly socialists because this ethic is rooted in being responsible to one's brothers and sisters: the community is an essential part of being.
realism is the idea that all human politics are governed by the interests of power. all states and individuals are in a condition of competing for power. the most simple analogy is, suppose you find a gun in the wilderness. you look around, not knowing what else is out there. to pick up the gun is to claim power over human life. to refuse to pick up the gun means risking that someone else will, perhaps someone with less good will than you. this is a dilemma with no happy answer. if you pick up the gun, you will be compelled to use it or threaten to use it, usually with very good reasons. you will be in a position to dominate. and it is there that the corruptive effect of power begins. soon, you are addicted to wielding the gun, because it becomes the essential tool for your survival. if you don't, you allow that you are risking something terrible to happen to yourself or others at the hands of another unpredictable, confused human being in an unpredictable, confused world.
anarchism faces this question. at it's best, it understands the gun. and it understands that one must never trust the man with the gun, even if it's you. maybe especially if it's you, because you are your own best deceiver. anarchism is an ethic rather than an ideology because it requires that nothing can have absolute authority, not even an idea, and so is open to being changed, rejected or renewed. there are fanatical anarchists, but they destroy the spirit of anarchism.
anarchism's answer to this problem is to take the gun and learn how not to need to use it. but to be a hell of a good shot
Posted by steven martin at 8/13/2011 12:28:00 AM
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
people don't remember anything. sirens every night. they're sending a new satellite to jupiter. it will sail around a planet a hundred times the size of planet earth. it will see its red storms, storms the size of the earth. there is a sea of darkness that goes on forever between us and it.
i was walking the street last week and a young fellow smoking a joint who slept in an rooming house down on yonge street and was going crazy because there are no walls, just dividers and a tyrannical asian woman who scratched up his arm looking for crack in his gymbag, he said he thought something big was going to happen soon. i said something big is always happening. he said yeah but like the end of the world. i said it is always the end of the world for someone somewhere.
then we speculated that everything was run on electricity. if you cut off the electricity you could plunge the world into chaos. all some terrorist would have to do is stop the electricity. all the computers would go down. all the lights in all the cities. all the phones. bank records would be gone. the sirens would go silent. we agreed we would get out of the city as fast as we could. we would catch fish and hunt and learn to do things.
generators might run some things, but everything would be back in darkness. then there would be fires to keep out the darkness. then the fires would spread. nasa would lose contact with its satellites, and it would drift, sending back messages now and again, asking, are you listening? are you listening?
Posted by steven martin at 8/10/2011 10:39:00 PM
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
"in this mad and vile world, fiume is the symbol of liberty"
- gabriele d'annunzio
In the last weeks of summer in the year 1920, the italian poet gabriele d'annunzio marched with a small army of deserters on the ancient city of fiume on the adriatic sea in what is now croatia. d'annunzio must seem almost drunken, raging in his world war one fighter plane, ranting about nietzsche and his heart pounding with the beauty that fascism might give birth to in the world.
when he marched into the city and confronted the van of the defending army, he demanded they kill him first if they chose to stop his army. instead he was embraced and he strode into the city to the adulation of the italian population, who flooded the streets like a mob of children.
d'annunzio was furious that his beloved italy had given up fiume to yugoslavia, but since his beloved italy would not listen to him, he mesmerized a brigade of the italian army to follow him there and seize the city in its name.
this strange conqueror created a state out of his own imagination. maybe for the first and last time, a drunken poet was the law of a country. in the constitution, a muddy, ecstatic contradiction of fascist and anarchist principles, music was a first principle of the state, dedicated as a social and religious institution, whatever that means. but choral and orchestral celebrations were held for free. freedom of religion and atheism were protected. in the constitution, there were guarantees for a beautiful life, the development of spiritual man, women were guaranteed freedom from husbandly authority,
the state was dominated by nine corporations, each one representing each of the major industries of the state, accompanied by a tenth for the "best people" reserved for the "mysterious forces of progress and adventure."
fiume was the island of the futurists. wandering down its ancient avenues, tyrannized by artists, soldiers drunk on the corner, the tyrants carousing and pleading with the people to take up the glass and the guitar into the late hours.
as the italian government in its embarassment blockaded the sea ports and pressured d'annunzio to abandon the city, he sought out and employed pirate bands to attack the blockade and raid towns.
by december, with the regular italian army marching on the city, d'annunzio capitulated. capitulation in war gets rough treatment. often it is the best of the worst, and saves many lives. for this d'annunzio deserves credit. hell, eventually mussolini made him a prince. the aristocracy in any given place rarely suffers. one can only imagine the jails of fiume were filled with many proletarian princes in the years following no one will commemorate a stamp or a statue to.
fiume, the tyranny of artists, was born and died in a season. in the autumn of 1920. one wonders how long it could have lived, one wonders if anyone worked very much. the world can be so easily changed with a single gesture, is so easily created. and just as easily collapsed.
the world was then as it is now, choked with the fault lines of empires, every wilderness dominated, everything living hunted down and cataloged. then, fiume was mad
Posted by steven martin at 8/02/2011 08:49:00 PM