Reflections on “Shalimar the Clown” during a Cold Day in Early Spring

A quote from Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown seems to me to capture the political reality under which we live.  Perhaps the reality under which we’ve always lived; at least those of us deluded into thinking we’ve lived in a democracy:

…in this occult soil the seeds of the future are being planted, and the time of the invisible world will come, the time of the altered dialectic, the time of the dialectic gone underground, when anonymous spectral armies will fight in secret over the fate of the earth.

It involves an observation set in 1968, that magical year when everything seemed possible and we were set on changing the world for the better, when we profoundly believed that in our time, the phrase “idealistic utopian” would cease to be a pejorative; the time before the 70s and then the 80s when most of us were tamed by the traditional responsibilities of family life and children and all that that entails and we unexpectedly and suddenly became our parents and grandparents and other things less positive, the things against which we once thought we fought.

Perhaps, based on his own all too interesting life, Rushdie may have been reflecting on that unstructured structure that constantly strives, as do memeplexes of diverse flavors, to survive and grow and amalgamate everything around it, and, as around becomes grander, perhaps merely everything.  Perhaps, even unbeknown to himself, that is what he felt when he published Shalimar the Clown in 2006.  During that 2006 when a deep state within a state within many states, ironically already feeling itself all powerful, or at least more powerful than ever (after the convenient events of September 11, 2001), still concealed, was extending its tendrils through shadows and echoes and deep, dark smog. 

Shalimar the Clown focuses on a paradise gang raped and despoiled by rising powers but mirrored in other places today.  It tastes and smells of divided India invading the body of divided Kashmir and there planting its seed of mixed Jewish and French and American chromosomes in a metaphorically paradisiacal womb generating a disturbing progeny, kin to disturbing progenies planted in too many elsewheres.  Too many times.

As in all of Rushdie’s books, it is rife in sensorial splendor with sights and sounds mixed with flavors and aromas and caresses and blows in a stew of historical facts and philosophical speculations spiced with peppers and in this case, Himalayan salt.  A book in which to lose oneself and wake wiser.

A book certainly worth reading and rereading and rereading again, as I’ve done, as are all of Rushdie’s gifts to us.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Reflections on the Politics of Character Assassination and Personal Destruction: Yesterday’s, Today’s and Tomorrow’s

The Deep State’s relentless efforts to destroy Mr. Trump remind me of several other instances of successful destruction of once popular populist leaders. The link is populism but “populism” defined, not in the pejorative manner now being used by the corporate media and deluded academics, but in the sense of democracy unrestrained by the institutional fetters that make it little more than an illusion, a concept useful for those who really control the reins of power, but nothing more. Of course, populism comes in many flavors and some are not only wrong, but horribly wrong. That is the nature of real democracy, and of liberty, and of pluralism. None are inherently good or inherently evil. What the four media orchestrated Deep State campaigns I have in mind have in common is only that they involved populist rebellions against the status quo, and that they were, in their time, and even now, singularly squashed. Given what is happening with Mr. Trump today, I ask myself, as I frequently have with respect to others in the past, how much truth is there in what we have been taught and in some cases, why have contrary opinions been criminalized. In my experience, criminalization of thoughts and opinions almost always (perhaps always), means that something meaningful is being hidden. Probably something that might again resonate among the deprecated masses as it had before.

Of the four personages to whom I refer, the first was Napoleon Bonaparte, now to some extent, if not rehabilitated, at least the subject of some historical perspective. Not only was there an organized and well financed attempt after his final defeat to assassinate his character, successful for a time, but he was in all probability actually assassinated as well. Perhaps because Latin Americans, especially in Chile, perceived him as a possible champion and leader. Still, he is remembered for his military prowess rather than for having developed the modern legal and educational systems. And populism in his case, while it started in the context of a democratic revolution, “The” revolution, morphed into a non-democratic variant, as dis the second on my list.

The second shall remain nameless as any attempts to view him in more than one dimension is punishable as anathema, an abomination and perhaps, if society has its way, always will be. Perhaps deservedly so but, for those interested in unabridged truth, perhaps we’ll never know. Yet seemingly, like a zombie, his echoes refuse to stay dead although, who can know whether those who still admire him admire naught but the golem created by his enemies. Kind of like “Satanism”, a straw man creation of the Catholic Church all too useful as a means of maintaining control.

The third person, the one I think about most frequently today, was former United States president Richard Millhouse Nixon. In light of what is happening before our eyes, perhaps he deserves another look. But what a successful hatchet job was done on him, novel then, not so much today. He cursed, like so many political leaders then (and probably now), was racist and perhaps xenophobic, but certainly no more so than his predecessors, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Nor, … if he was corrupt, … any more corrupt than either of them and certainly less corrupt than his successors: William Jefferson Clinton, Barrack Hussein Obama and Joseph Biden. Indeed, the “Watergate scandal that thrust him from office was tame compared to the machinations of the Obama administration in the elections of 2016, but then, times have changed (albeit old perceptions have been cast in stone). I lived through the Nixon era and remember it well, and I recall how much the Deep State hated him, not for the foibles attributed to him, but for having broken the “solid South”, for having ended the War in Vietnam and much more for his unforgiveable opening to China and rapprochement with the Soviet Union, for having ended the military draft and succeeded in obtaining the vote for eighteen year olds. For having proposed not only universal healthcare but also a guaranteed minimum income (something he referred to as the negative income tax). For having established the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Council, the Environmental Protection Agency and for having signed the Clean Air Act of 1970, the initial Clean Water Act (although he vetoed the second) and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. While portrayed as a racist and closet segregationist, he desegregated more schools than all previous presidents combined, approved a strengthened Voting Rights Act, developed policies to aid minority businesses and supported affirmative action. He promoted passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as well as the Consumer Product Safety Act. Finally, at least with respect to this reflection, he also endorsed the never passed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Hmmm, hardly the monster the Deep State, Democratic Party and corporate media have imbedded in the national conscience and in our history books, but Hell, he was a trouble maker with no respect for the status quo. He was horrible in a bipartisan manner in Latin America, especially with reference to a real 9/11, the one that took place in Chile in 1973, but the Deep State was much more than fine with that, and with the War on Drugs, but those bipartisan accommodations were not nearly enough. And he is dead, finally!!!

So, about the fourth person on my list, the Donald (as he perhaps likes to perceive of himself). It’s hard to believe that the Deep State and its minions would launch a campaign more virulent than that launched against former president Nixon but yet, here we are. I do not support his policies, they treat symptoms and not causes, and his personality, pompous and abrasive, is off putting to say the least, but then again, in context, perhaps no more off putting or abrasive than that of the leaders of the Democratic Party or of the corporate media. It is clear that the populist nerve he touched with his astoundingly unexpected triumphs in 2016, not only in the presidential election but in the GOP primaries, terrified the powers that be in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Contrasted with the ruthless efficiency with which the Democratic Party destroyed its own populist insurgency and turned its leadership into tame puppets, it is no wonder that the Deep State came out of the shadows and did whatever it took, unrestrained, to destroy Mr. Trump in a scorched earth, no holds barred, damn the costs campaign, one that did not end with the manipulated if not necessarily “stolen” elections of 2020. Another truth we’ll never find.

Now, as in the case of the other three subjects of this analysis, political defeat is not enough, destruction is essential, and as in the case of Napoleon, assassination, if necessary, does not seem out of the question. That is at least as true among traditionalist Deep State Republicans as it is among Democrats, after all, he is the instrument through which the populist Tea Party movement wrested control of the Republican Party from the Deep State, and they are terrified that, even having helped overthrow him, they are unlikely to regain control, and if they don’t and he returns, there’ll be Hell to pay. So you have where we are today. Without any good options at all, not that there have been any since … hmmm, I don’t seem to have a “since” in real American History.

As in all four cases, truth today is utterly irrelevant, hypocrisy a positive rather than a negative, and consequences, well they’re something to be dealt with when the populist problem, both from the left (the Sanderistas) and from the right (the Tea Party) has been put to rest and the masses of the Bernie Bros and the despicables utterly defeated. The obvious fear that these four persons enjoyed popular support too widespread to be tolerated needs to be assuaged so that the denizens of the Deep State and their elitist masters can continue to feed in peace. Still, like weeds, their sort keeps popping up.

An interesting observation is that, as in the case of the Trump policies, ruthless as these tactics and strategies are, they only treat the symptoms that give rise to populism, leaving the causes, like the roots of weeds, all too alive and ready to sprout anew. Causes like institutionalized inequity and injustice, institutionalized income inequality, minimized welfare services and rare opportunities for real upward mobility. Causes like the manipulated divide and conquer polarization caused by identity politics that exacerbates rather than resolves social ills such as racism, misogyny, xenophobia and sexism: the causes, issues and realities that give rise to populism on the left as well as on the right, and keep its dying embers alive.

Of course, perhaps “give rise to populism” is an incongruous phrase in a purportedly democratic society. Perhaps, in a non-virulent strain like that found once upon a time among the left wing of the Democratic Party led by the likes of Tulsi Gabbard and Dennis Kucinich, populism might still provide hope. But that hope is safely and helplessly mired in the Democratic Party quicksand that keeps its populists immobile and prevents the development of a viable left wing populist movement in the United States.

I wonder what Tulsi Gabbard plans to do next?


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Thoughts on a Terrible Day in January, 2021

Incoherence and hypocrisy seem in total control today. Truth has been vanquished, at least for now. Intolerance in the name of tolerance is the order of the day. Censorship in the name of liberty has become the rule.

Sigmund Freud, perhaps in the throes of depression, seeking solace once wrote “in darker times there was a person who thought as you do”. In the United States these are clearly such darker times and it is time to take stock as to who the real antagonists are.

The civic crisis in the United States today is not between purported fascist right wing extremists and radical leftist communists. That is the scenario that has been drawn to divide and polarize us by those who seek to maintain complete control over us. Today’s battle pits the populist wings, both left and right, against the Deep State and its minions, and, as should now be obvious, there is nothing the Deep State will not do, is not doing, to grasp and maintain power. It does so through Identity Politics which politicizes serious social ills, not in order to resolve them but as a tool to distract us and set us at each other’s throats, to divide us, to divide our families, to generate hate and vanquish empathy. Empathy leads to discourse, to open minds and to solutions, and that is intolerable to the Deep State.

The portion of our populace involved in empowering the total takeover by the Deep State is magnified by its minions, but they too are victims, manipulated emotionally by a constant barrage of propaganda where truth has no place, nor does constancy nor logic. Hypocrisy rules. The sane still exist, they exist on the left and on the right wings of the political spectrum, differing as to policies but with a profound faith in democracy and dialogue. Things seem hopeless today but the United States is not the whole world, nor is today eternity. If we on the left and on the right, those who have woken to the reality that the government is not our friend and that the major political parties, like the corporate media, are all too efficient tools of the worst among us, if we keep dialogue open and seek what unites us instead of what divides us, someday we may prevail and this dark night will witness a new dawn.

To many who have been deluded by centuries of propaganda presented as history, perhaps the injustice they face today, the frustration and impotence in the face raw power, will lead to a metamorphosis in our dealings with the world at large, with recognition that tolerance for differences and the choices of others in other societies must be respected and not merely eradicated. That while terrorism exists, those whom we have labelled terrorists are merely desperate people who have been flagrantly denied access to justice and served up hubris instead. Like the hubris we face today.

Let us not be like those enthralled with power who believe they can change minds through ridicule and belittling while keeping their own minds tightly shut. Today is their day but it needn’t last forever. Don’t isolate and withdraw. Find those with whom you do not agree and with kindness and diplomacy and reason and examples, engage in dialogue; willing to listen as well as to preach, and someday this too will be behind us.

“Someday”, as the beautiful African American anthem proclaims, “We Will Overcome”.


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Reflections on a January Morn as 2021 Spreads its Sullied Wings

Bald eagles tear at white doves, they always have and seemingly always will.

Pandora’s Box has been open for a while now and its contents, for a time useful, at least to some, are now inconvenient.  Tides turn, shoes are exchanged; perceptions change seemingly overnight.

“What’s good for the goose is [not] good for the gander”! “Do as I say, not as I do”!  “Close the damned barn door, all the horses have already left”!

“Shut the damn lid on that terrible box!”  Wishful thinking as roosters come home to roost.

“A nation divided against itself cannot stand”, at least until it’s been taken apart and rebuilt and the divisions healed, … Or perhaps just “eliminated”. 

“Eliminate them all, the lying treasonous bastards” echoes from all sides.

From the grandstands and especially the press box, cheering and laughter eggs the bloodied players on as from deep within the bowels of Hell, Caligula laughs.

“I see” exclaims the blind woman as her deaf mute neighbor ripostes “you obviously lie” and life moves on, the blind led by the deaf and dumb into tombs that once served as echo chambers for deluded mobs.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Response to the Latest Criticism of VMI by the Corporate Media in a Case a Bit too Close to Home: The expulsion of a black cadet, the son of a Citadel graduate, for violating the VMI Honor Code

On December 21, 2020 Ian Shapira published an article in the Washington Post entitled “A Black VMI cadet was threatened with a lynching, then with expulsion”. 

The article dealt with the expulsion of the son of a Citadel graduate for having been “adjudged” to have violated the Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) Honor Code.  I am a 1968 part-Hispanic graduate of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina and the article hit very close to home in a very conflicted manner because the young man involved is the son of a Citadel graduate and VMI is in many aspects the institution most similar to my own alma mater. 

The first part of the article dealt with racism at VMI.  Racism, that scourge that has afflicted us since Europeans first set foot in this hemisphere and which, like xenophobia and misogyny, has no place in our society or our culture but which cannot merely be erased from our history by destroying its indicia or by setting us at each other’s throats.  The incident seems to have been appropriately dealt with, the guilty student was suspended for a year after admitting his misconduct and apologizing to the black student involved for it, and then elected not to return to VMI, an institution at which he did not belong.  The second chapter is significantly more complicated, it dealt with the eventual expulsion of the black cadet involved in the racist incident for a violation of VMI’s Honor Code in a totally unrelated matter initiated by a faculty member, not another cadet.  Read the article.  Although it appears somewhat biased against VMI which the Washington Post seems to have targeted for extinction, the facts are there and they seem clear.

I wrote the following in response to letters circulated to my former Citadel classmates by Chris Hoffman, our class representative.  One of those letters was written by our former classmate, Michael Barrett, a long-time Citadel history professor and also for a long time the faculty advisor to the Citadel’s own Honor Court.  The letters circulated by Chris called the incident to our attention and asked that we reflect on what it means to us, to our beloved institution, and to the other institutions that make an honor system a treasured core value.  The honor system at the United States Military Academy at West Point has also recently been shaken by a large scale violation of its Honor Code on which ours was originally modeled but to which we have managed to remain true, not being subjected to the same political pressures as are the service academies. 

The reflections Chris called on us to make are certainly timely in these very troubled times.  The Honor Code used at the Citadel, VMI and the service academies is short and simple, it should be easy to understand if not to live by.  It provides as follows: “A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do”.  My message to my classmates in response to the letters circulated by Chris was essentially as follows:

Honor systems are trying.  My second son elected not to attend the Citadel because he took it seriously and decided that while he could easily respond for his own actions, he did not feel he could turn in a friend.  I was disappointed that he did not follow the path I and his elder brother had “sowed” for him but very proud of his integrity.  Honor systems such as those adopted at the Citadel and VMI are for the very few and as difficult to administer as they are to live by.  That is something too many of today’s journalists cannot understand but that does not mean that they are always wrong, even when they may lack empathy and objectivity in their reporting.

This particular situation is sad because it reflects on the institution most like ours, one experiencing troubled times, and at the same time, it deals with the son of one of our own.  I am pleased to know that our honor system seems superior not only to that employed at VMI but to those used in the service academies.  It is among the aspects of our alma mater we hold most dear and which permits us, as Pat Conroy once wrote, to entrust the keys to our homes to anyone who wears the ring, whether we know him or her or not (although admittedly we have our own bad apples and malcontents).

These are trying times when truth for far too many has become an abstraction and irrelevancy.  When hypocrisy is the order of the day.  But we are each among those most fortunate because of the traditions woven into our being during our four years together at a place we love, even if she sometimes seemed a harsh mistress.

Hopefully, at some point in this sad case, the truth will out and justice will be served, but as the Boo[1] taught us through his own experiences, that is not always the case, and it is when injustice prevails that our mettle is truly tested. 

When to our own selves we must most be true.

Honor should not be a difficult concept to grasp but it is, especially today.  It is disappointing that politics has diluted its rigor at the service academies, something which I believe those sworn to abide by its terms in those historic institutions do not support, but honor and truth seem irrelevant in a society where almost all news is challenged as fake by one side of the political spectrum or the other.  Real heroes, which we desperately need, seem in short supply, although they are probably abundant and merely unrecognized.  All of our systems of justice seem to be failing us having become terminally politicized, but systems of justice, as in the case of honor systems, are as difficult to administer as they are to live by.  Hopefully VMI, the service academies, my beloved Citadel, and the other institutions that take honor systems seriously will avoid their pitfalls, improve them, and continue to produce the very best among us.

No one today really knows whether the black former VMI cadet, the son of a fellow Citadel alumni whom, although I do not know, I would trust with everything I own, committed an honor violation or not. Except for him.  But it appears that some modifications to the manner in which adjudications are arrived at in VMI’s honor system should be considered, albeit not its rigor, and that the service academies should either discard their honor systems if they deem them anachronistic or return to the rigor that once made them so useful in producing principled leaders. 

Honor systems are pretty much black and white and, even if they involve long grey lines, do not work in shades of grey.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.


[1] Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, known by most as “The Boo”, was the assistant commandant of cadets in charge of discipline at the Citadel during the 1960’s and ironically, probably the person most beloved by its corps of cadets because of his fairness, integrity, humor and sense of honor.

Stray Thoughts on an Ides in December

The Ides of March in the year 44 was a bummer, at least for one Senator.
Interestingly, the next day was probably the date set for Bacchanalia. Probably a somber one that year.

But today is the Ides of December and the year 44 is 2044 years in the past, or perhaps 2043.

Mithras’ birthday is now ten days away. A day now celebrated by his adversaries as that of their own divinity. Poor Mithras, most of his attributes appropriated by the once-almost-Hebrew-king.

Siddhartha’s birthday is not as easily defined although it’s said to fall in the late spring.

Mithras, now faded into myth, perhaps joining Isis, once his rival, there. And Rome? Rome is gone but still here, the village on the Tiber grown to Empire, shrunk to parish and now? Rome. Now what?

An idea and a city and a sheath for the Vatican. The Vatican, interestingly once Caligula’s playground.

The Ides of December. I wonder what Gaius did on that date during late 45 when years counted down instead of up, although those living then were not aware of that oddity.

Of course, neither were those who lived in the temporal vacuum at the turn of that millennium.

Yeshua ben Miriam (or ben Yosef, or ben Adonai) would have been about four then. He’d probably been told he’d been born in the spring with the other lambs.

I wonder if he’d have been surprised that his birth was to be transposed to coincide with Saturnalia.

But I guess Bacchanalia was not really more appropriate, although there was the connection with wine, and of course, with bodies.

Come to think of it, it’s almost Saturnalia now.

Time for masters and slaves to trade places and for chastity to be set aside. Interesting that Chanukah and Saturnalia sometimes coincide. And that Saturnalia ends just in time for Christmas to start.

Ides and Nones and Kalends, where are they now?

Perhaps somewhere in time with Mithras and Isis and sox and handkerchiefs that mysteriously disappear through that interdimensional, intertemporal portal we refer to as a washing machine (or is it the dryer).

Hmmm, Saturnalia. Is it possible we misinterpret what Santa is bellowing when he says “Ho ho ho?


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Thoughts on a Strange Thanksgiving

November 26, 2020, one more shopping month until Christmas.  A strange Thanksgiving.  But then again, as an American holiday, it is always oxymoronically strange.

This year, at the macro level, orchestrated polarization is the rule, distrust and an utter lack of confidence in the existence or importance of veracity.  Half the population is thrilled that the “despicables” have been taught their lesson and put in their place and who cares what the cost was while the other half is more bitter than ever and their worst instincts are probably honed for a rematch.  Not a pretty sight nor one that generates feelings of gratitude.

At the micro level however, we have our families and loved ones, our hobbies and pet projects, and for many, albeit perhaps not for most, the delight one feels when tangibly helping others by sharing what we have. 

Perhaps the latter defines that for which we can be thankful on this very complex and perplexing holiday, one with distasteful historical roots based on colonists deluding naïve indigenous peoples from whom they would shortly steal everything, spreading murder and mayhem in the name of a beneficent deity who, in their strictly enforced opinion, sentenced all who would not follow puritanical dictates to perpetual torture.

Columbus Day has undergone a drastic transformation in many places, now a day of mourning for the European invasion of the Americas and destruction of indigenous cultures. I ask myself: what will indigenous Americans celebrate today? Or what will the descendants of those Europeans who did not share Puritan religious perceptions and paid for their heresies in flames celebrate? Perhaps someday Thanksgiving Day too will become a day of mourning, mourning our own Holocausts.

The Puritans seem to be making a comeback although on a sociopolitical rather than spiritual level, with condemnation of nonconformance in the name of tolerance in vogue, the nouveaux “enlightened” supporting, with their votes, those who, in the name of democracy and liberty, spread death and destruction all over the world.  An echo from our past that never seems to end.

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, history is not everything and sometimes, out of the depths of evil good things come.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

November 22, 1963

Image for post

Fifty-seven years ago the day dawned normally, and then some hours later, out of Dallas, shocked the Hell out of us, for an instant levelling the walls of polarization that then infected us, for a few days turning Americans into one people, hiding the tons of coalescing ugly realities, realities of the Great Chicago march of the Dead to vote for a handsome young president, and of his subsequent betrayal of the Mafia and the Deep State that placed him in the apparent seat of power, and then, the “unfortunate consequences of that betrayal. 

During the ensuing years of that decade we were traumatized by even worse polarization as the emerging Deep State brutalized idealists on both the left and the right until the traditionalist politicians in both major parties acted like Ray Bradbury’s firemen and calmed things down.  For a while.  But they did not capture all the sparks and today, just like that dawn in Dallas on November 22, 1963, we are at each other’s’ throats, cleverly manipulated by an evil corporate media. And the Deep State, more omnipotent now, moves on over a highway paved in billions.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Observations from Deep within Dark Shadows in a Blairian World

Given that, unless a truly dark horse emerges amidst a tsunami of voters who finally find their courage and discard their blinders, I’ll need to dull my sensibilities a bit, … so, … I’m about to settle in to abide our continuing dystopia, re-reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. Thank goodness for decent whiskey, although Irish is hard to find here so I’ll settle for Scotch.

A prelude first though.  An introductory act to set the stage.

“A rant, a rant, my kingdom for a rant”, although not being a king, or a prince, or a duke, or a count, that may not get me much of a rant.  So, “Observations from Deep within Dark Shadows in a Blairian World”!  What might that mean the week before another ultimate existential presidential election in the United States, where “the sky is really falling this time, …  Honest mister”!  An election too much like the last one albeit with an even worst Democratic Party candidate, but a Hell of a lot more manipulation by the media and pollsters and Deep State operatives, and Hollywood celebrities basking in their self-proclaimed wisdom.  As it was back at the end of the second war to end all wars but which like the first, utterly failed in its mission thus wasting tens upon tens upon tens of millions of lives, now become hundreds upon hundreds of millions, it is again the Russians who are being blamed, although they are no longer Stalinist-communists, or communists at all really.  And of course the Chinese, and the Iranians, and perhaps the Venezuelans and Nicaraguans and Syrians and who knows who else too.  Paranoia???  Who, .. us?  Is there a reason mirror sales are down and those of deceptive self-portraits of ourselves-in-others’-faces are up?  And “selfies”, well what can one say about that phenomenon.  And what is “sexting” all about (and why didn’t it exist when I had something to sext about?)

Or perhaps the title should be different, perhaps something like “Reflections on a Dank and Dark, All Hollows Eve”, but one where Halloween parties are outlawed under Puritan anti-fun strictures in their modern day, politically correct incarnations, and “tricks or treats” are what our major political parties play at, constantly and consistently”, but that seems a bit lengthy.  “Observations from Deep within Dark Shadows in a Blairian World” it is then although, from “Utopia to Dystopia” fits rather nicely as well

Anyway, …

Back to Animal Farm!

Sooo, to start:  George Orwell, a name associated with dystopia, both in fairy-tales-of-sorts and science fiction.  Who and what was he to have become so prescient?  A much more eloquent Edgar Cayce perhaps; a more transparent Nostradamus.  Or a Cassandra for our times.  And politically?  Anti-communist conservatives have loved him for three quarters of a century, but so have anarchists and liberals and libertarians.  So, what was he?

A “democratic socialist”, of course, what else?  Like Einstein and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  And, until recently, Noam Chomsky.  But, then, we wasn’t even really George Orwell.  I’d forgotten that George Orwell was a pen name; that he has really christened Eric Blair and thus, instead of Orwellian, our world is Blairian.  That he had transplanted roots that saw first light in South Asia, solid colonialist British Civil service roots, and that he as an “Eatonite”, fabulously incongruous, although not a happy Eatonite.  And I’m only at the third page of the 1996 Russell Baker preface.  This should be fun.

….

So, I’ve finished the preface and wonder how Russell Baker could have been more mistaken in his jubilant optimism at the “defeat” of the dark forces Blair and Huxley and Koestler had identified.  Indeed, Baker’s heroes are, in fact, today’s villains, virtually identical in all too many respects to the bad guys of the second war to end all wars, just more subtly so and with better narrative creative control.  Thus Zionist-Israel, almost incredibly, mirrors the Nazis (how Blairian) and the United States, as it has always been, remains true to the worst of the British, those islanders who have for centuries been as ruthless and deadly as any of the axis powers but have impacted many more people for a really long time, a record the United States seems determined to break.

….

On to the C. M. Woodhouse introduction.  “Woodhouse”, that name has a pleasant populist ring to it but set amidst aristocratic anglophilic echoes.  One wonders at its origins, perhaps in the mists, humble, but then, its evolution steadily climbing, until, ….  Then again, how is the name “Baker” any different?  Blair deserved better “introductors”, although Woodhouse was not bad, just not phantasmagorical or truly prescient, although, unlike Baker who was “prefacing within a decade of Animal Farm’s publication, Woodhouse had a half century during which to observe and ponder, still, it was a meaningful decade, one that introduced us to the GOP’s Joe McCarthy, now apparently a Democratic Party icon.  Interesting that for some utterly inexplicable reason, that makes me wonder what one of my childhood heroes, Walter R. Brooks’ Freddy the Pig, would have thought of his literary species-mate and star of Animal Farm (at least as seen from his own mirror), “Napoleon”.  And Napoleon, of course, makes me think of bees.  No bees in the book though, at least none that I can recall.

So, on to the book itself.  It’s been a decade over a half century since I first read it (three score years I think that is), and, more’s the pity, that long since I last read it as well.  I was a high school student then, also reading things like Ayn Rand’s mysteriously mystical blend of pseudo-philosophy which, for some reason, had no place for widows or orphans or for the residual detritus of endless wars.  I’ve morphed frequently since then, wondering just yesterday whether, in fact, there is anything behind my own mask, or anyone else’s for that matter, except, of course, for very young children, perhaps the only real human beings among us, assuming that being human is a good thing.

“Napoleon”, sheeesh!!!  How British to name the villain after the only real threat the British Empire ever faced, yester-year’s “Hitler”, which makes one wonder if perceptions concerning that most infamous of Austrians will ever change.  Napoleon certainly has, in every direction possible, not surprising given his complex character and even more complex genius, flaws and all, and his apparently acquired taste for arsenic as a seasoning.  But, … in Animal Farm “Napoleon” it is.  Ironic given his association as a porcine with Joseph Stalin (who we are told, Blair intended to excoriate in the novel), the Man of Steel (almost contemporaneously with the introduction of Superman) who did to the Nazis what Czar Alexander did to the French in the preceding century.  But we all have our ethnic prejudices to “bear”.  Perhaps it’s a sort of karma.

“Moses, the tame raven, the spy, a treacherous prophet preaching the importance of accepting things as they are, and of enjoying rewards for such predelictive apathy in the afterlife.  A very clever metaphor without varying the name, just the form.  “Sugarcandy Mountain”, like the Abrahamic variants of Heaven, in this case seemingly premised on a delightfully addictive poison, a Marxian opiate of sorts for the Animalist masses.  Clever fellow that the Moses, the original as well as the Blairian.  Damned apples and milk too!!!  Especially the apples.  Again the fruit at the center of the demise of a fledgling Paradise, the forbidden fruit that the One had reserved to himself now once again reserved to the privileged few, a metaphor morphing into allegory, … but why pick on the milk?

The coup by Napoleon and the subsequent perpetual threat of the return of Jones and demonization of the Trotskyite “Snowball” is, of course, all too familiar, but now, today, it is unexpectedly echoed in the perpetual calls to beware the Russians, and the Chinese, and the constantly replicated Russiagate fraud.  As in Animal Farm, truth in the United States has become utterly irrelevant, hypocrisy rampant, and while Stalin is very, very long dead, as is the Soviet Union, they are still all too useful in ways Blair may have foreseen but perhaps tactically misunderstood.  I wonder if he believed that any of the international political contenders at the time wore white hats?  Certainly none of the principle contenders in the United States have since Blair wrote Animal Farm (although I did like Ike, but I was very young then).  Still, saving the worst for last, sort of, journalists today have assumed a role combining the porcine Napoleon’s trained dogs (my apologies to canines everywhere for the comparison) and “Squealer”, the pig.

….

Finished, yuck!

Done once again, and once again it seems so easy to transpose this inspired collection of metaphors into allegory, and allegory into dismay.  The observation “we have seen the enemy and he is us” comes to mind, both in the sense of our gullibility on the one hand (Boxer the wonderful horse), our pernicious bleating on another (the sheep, so reminiscent of protestors for fun and profit who deprive everyone else of the right to an opinion, while not really holding one of their own), the utterly selfish self-propagating elites (the pigs) on one foot (having run out of hands) but especially, those who so consistently distort the truth and rewrite our history (“Squealer”) and make possible every travesty and betrayal, our purported journalists (I prefer not to speculate to what bodily appendage or part I ought to ascribe them).  Without them, evil cannot prosper, or at least prosper for long.

Eric Blair is beyond the veil, he has been for a long time, but as is the case with the Trojan princess and seeress Cassandra, with Aldous Huxley, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Gore Vidal and with myriads of other fruitless prophets, possibly watching us, glad to no longer be incarnate among us.

Animal Farm, a depressing fairy tale, but one very worth reading.

Next, a reread of Eric Blair’s “1984”.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic consultant employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Masks and Dreams and ….

“Is there anything behind my mask” he asked himself, wondering whether, if he were writing this, the phrase should have been enclosed in quotation marks. 

Had there ever been anything behind his mask? 

He seemed to remember that once there’d been a great deal.  Once, when most things had been safely abed in the softly yielding world of the inchoate, or, he then wondered, “was that before he’d been born, when he’d been safely ensconced inside of his mother’s womb”?

If a mask, it was a changing thing, dynamic in a negative way.  “Yes”, changing quite a bit, getting older, fading, wrinkling, becoming less relevant.  “Strange”, he observed, that as one grew wiser, more full of knowledge and experience, one was perceived by those one had parented as more and more foolish and less and less relevant.  History seemed to claim that at some point way back when, that had been different and age had been associated with wisdom, and decisions had been made by the wise, but that was probably an inverse temporal mirage, “way back when” a mythical time never to be approached.

He smiled recalling when the shoe had been on the other foot.  How much wiser he’d felt way back, well, not quite when, but way back, … back in the sixties when we had all the answers and the “times they were a ‘changing and “you’d better start swimming” (“you” now being “they” or “them”) or you’ll sink like a stone ….”  And he wondered at the mask he then wore, and the masks that surrounded him, and the masks of those then so out of touch.

Then he wondered about other people, those whom he knew, those he read about, those he saw on television, and he wondered whether there was a difference in that regard between television personalities who claimed to be real and those who knew their characters were fictional, and then wondered which of the two were most real?  Certainly not the journalists, but that was another theme, another story, an anti-reality of sorts.

Masks and faces and masks.  He recalled reading about the handicapper general in Kurt Vonnegut´s prescient 1961 novel, “Harrison Bergeron”, and wondered why it wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as George Orwell’s paeans to dystopia, “Animal Farm” and “1984”?  They should have been the three musketeers of Cassandric literature he thought, but then, who the hell was he to ask?

“Cassandra”, hmmm, … the Trojan seeress and princess who was always right but never heeded, was she a mask as well?

Interesting that now everyone in fact had to wear a mask.  Protection against the pandemic, perhaps a permanent new style given that it might never recede, at least until the Democrats attained the presidency, and the Senate, and the House, and the Supreme Court, and all the state governments too, and all the local governments, in short, the beneficent dictatorship, and, having thrown the rascals out, all of “them”, or at least all of “them” who would not conform, then, as we’ve been promised, as with Nixon and the Vietnam war, the secret solution would be revealed and we’d all be well.  Well, of course, except for the millions who’d died.  Bad timing that.  And it’ll be off with our masks, at least the evident masks, the ones we’ll be fined if we don’t wear, which is fine with me, I certainly want to avoid the latest plague.

Hmmm, so, … about the ubiquitous “they” and “them”?  Were they just masks as well, hollow and empty and perhaps, ephemeral? 

He laughed, wondering how many people thought of “him” as one of “them”.  He walked to the mirror and stared, imagining all those he’d been and wondering how much of that imagining was remembrance.  Was any of it real or had he been born just now, filled with false memories, false emotions, false empathy. 

“Or” he pondered, was he the dream of an insane plant, were we all?

Then something strange occurred to him, profoundly sad he thought, but he wasn´t sure.  Perhaps it was full of hope given what purported reality had seemingly become.  Wouldn’t everything be better if we were in fact all just part of an insane plants nightmare?

But then, he thought, feeling a bit depressed, a bit let down:

What would happen when the plant awoke (or was it woke)?
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic consultant employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.