Activism, Buddha, Buddhism, Philosophy, Socialism

On Accepting the Principle of Yathā Bhūta as a Basis For Understanding and Applying Political Philosophy, With An Addendum Explaining Satyagraha Socialism

You know, Sir, when you look at a tree or the clouds, the light on the water, when you know what it means to love, you will require no reason for being…In oneself lies the whole world. I discovered these words by the Brahmin philosopher and teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti and I felt enlightened. It is a moment of realization that comes not after a long time but within the here and now, which unites the now and the past and the future. The realization was a paradigm shift in the way I understood my own understanding of political theory. I have always seen politics as a tool used by human beings to leverage change in a society or for individuals and systems within the society. Politics was something external to the self to be applied into the real that is the world. I came to the realization, suddenly and inevitably, that politics is not an objective tool to be wielded against the world but instead politics is the social expression of mankind striving as a self-aware species to reconcile individual will with collective needs and impulses. The “reason”, the why of political striving is always oriented towards cooperation, at least so much as the real of politics is understood to represent a pure human impulse towards self-preservation coupled with compassion, in essence, love. Self-preservation should not be confused with the force of natural selection upon our minds and our genes but as a will towards life and expansion of knowledge. All not subject to pure sociopathy have a sense of this Joie de vivre and wish to see it expressed through compassionate and practical relations with their fellow beings and their intellectual contributions.

        Politics at its most basic and therefore most potent is awareness of how one’s own desires and needs conflict or overlap with others’, how to reconcile these conflicts, and how to administer and preserve justice. This must be decoupled with a commensurate understanding of economics as a mode of expressing human needs and appetites. The economics is the real of human hunger, human health, human well-being and human need for intellectual fulfillment and it is the “how” of getting what is needed where and in the correct way so as to preserve the potential for human well-being. This is in sharp contrast, indeed in direct conflict with, the individualistic and inevitably nihilistic system of capitalism, where the needs and desires of the human species are turned into base commodities to be sold, traded and patented. Every action deserves an arbitrary and avaricious reaction in capitalist philosophy and assumes that every human being is an isolated sphere of pure animalistic self-interest. An even cursory understanding of history and the eternal human urge towards creating societies and systems proves that the capitalistic mode of thought is naïve at best and anti-human at worst. The humane human society, when not corrupted by the capitalist impulse and the naïve rejection of human communal instincts, is biased towards cooperation, trust building and reinforcing and egalitarianism. Again this may not be the way that all human beings are allowed to express themselves through their society at this time but it is the ideal all human beings aspire to with their communities and systems.

        In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and none has too much. Rousseau believed in the human urge to create harmonious and fair systems and societies. What he called the social contract is what I see as the ever extant Real of politics underneath the unnatural corruption imposed on it by the unchecked individual greed of a small minority. The Real of politics should not be seen as a Platonic ideal attainable only through an opaque metaphysics. It is better understood as the existential reality of human interaction and thoughts made action. Buddhist philosophy speaks of yathā bhūta, things as they are and nature as it is without the imposition of artificial precepts of meaning and mission. I have come to see that we must cultivate the understanding of the qualities of reality and of our natural circumstances, a search termed dhamma vicaya by Theravada Buddhist philosophy. Now I must admit a bias against spiritualism as a virtue onto itself but I do believe that creative modes of expressing ideas and understanding ethics should be embraced and explored. Buddhism’s atheistic orientation and naturalistic view of metaphysics intrigues me and has helped to inform my ideas about politics and reality. My own dhamma vicaya has led me to discover that love is the center of all that is healthy, enduring and essential about society and social justice. Violent revolutions throughout history are the fruits of a culture and society disgusted to its core by the corruption of love and the rejection of the yathā bhūta.

        Human beings will only endure corruption, of ethics, systems, and justice for so long before they naturally lash out against the restraints used and the unjust punishment administered by a class that separates itself from the human family by seeking to profit individually from the toil and suffering of the many. The revolution may or may not lead to a new corruption when egoistic and greedy members of the people decide to take advantage of the turmoil inherent to volcanic social upheaval. This is not a sign of the corruption of revolution as a value but of the capitalistic/anti-human prerogative in hijacking human potential. This is a rejection of love and such a rejection can only be combated by the compassionate and diligent education of children by their parents, community, and society. Children are inclined towards fairness, compassion and intellectualism. These impulses can be stifled and retarded by parents and societies who have a vested interest in preserving individualistic privilege and power, be it monetary, religious, or systemic. Each child is born on its own path of dhamma vicaya, a search for the real of interaction between people and the ideal of pure love and cooperative striving. It is the duty of the generation in control to guide and aid every child as it becomes a compassionate and intelligent member of society. It is the responsibility of the present generation to nurture and preserve this natural impulse in the next generation.

        Love must be the center of any ethical political system. Now a political philosophy is distinct from the political real only so far as it is the expression of an individual’s exploration and interpretation of yathā bhūta, the world as it is now in the ever present moment. I believe Marxism is an ingenious and creative view of how human beings interact and how they can better understand and shape the systems that govern human needs and aspirations. Labor is the true value of economy, and how that labor is applied and towards what purpose is the question of Marxism. I have come to see that socialism, the practical expression of Marxism in society, can best be understood and applied through the contemplation of things as they are in the moment. The needs of human beings do not change in a basic sense, how those needs are met may change and may be improved or degraded depending on circumstances, but by accepting that every human will always need a place for it to feel safe, a way to preserve its health, a way to feed and water itself, and a way to express itself creatively and intellectually.

        Acquisition through manipulation of these needs is the essence of capitalism and inevitably throws a harmonious and humane system into chaos that leads to injustice. Socialism can only be comprehensible if it is understood as a political expression of love. What is love? Love is the understanding and contemplation of, fairness towards and patience with another human being. Love is the need for human contact and friendship and can be understood to include the affection shared by siblings, romantic partners, children, family and comrades. Love is a full comprehension and realization of  yathā bhūta because it finds joy in what is and in change and celebrates understanding. Marx may not have understood or been aware of this concept of love and contemplating reality as it is but he certainly realized that human endeavor is best served by harmony and a realization and discussion of needs and values. Division of labour presupposes cooperation or is only a specific form of cooperation […] Cooperation is the general form on which all social arrangements for increasing the productivity of social labour are based. Marx meant this as a thesis for understanding the eventual division and exploitation of labor as capital but I believe if you apply an appreciation of natural human impulse to cooperate and create harmonious and just systems the i.e. accepting the reality and value of love, this quote can be turned on its head and be seen to a declaration of intent to fulfill the needs of human beings.

Addendum

        I must explain my personal conception of how socialism cannot work and how it must work. I reject as perversions of human potential and love the systems of totalitarian control masquerading as applied Marxism know as late stage Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and the perversion known as fascism. These perversions used Marxist theory as a twisted apology for state usurpation and abuse of power. This led to a disgusting system of purges, humiliating anti-intellectualism and worst of all mass extermination and targeted violence. I do not believe it is possible to compel human beings to adapt to a new system through force without creating a reaction in the form of horrifically violent spasms of cruelty and pain. These cruelties will be suffered in large part by the poor and the defenseless and any “socialist” who claims to adhere to any of these systems is an ethical imbecile and intellectual misfit. If my socialism had to be given a name I would prefer Satyagraha Socialism. This of course is the philosophy of confronting and defeating power through the living of truth as a value and as a fact of existence and the understanding that the means of struggle are indistinguishable from the end itself. One must live struggle and live truth as an acceptance of what is and what always was regarding our lives, needs and innate dignity. This is the philosophy of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, of Mandela, and it is non-violent and filled with love even for ones enemies.

        Corrupt systems and the corrupt individuals who manipulate them can, indeed must, be combated with love and dignity and a willingness to be abused or die in order to not allow the evils of the corrupt system to continue unabated. Gandhi said that what he “pleaded for is renunciation of violence of the heart and consequent active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation.” I believe we can understand violence to mean the conflict between our own corrupt views of the world and truth as it is, so the renunciation of this violence would be a rejection of greed and crass individualism and the embrace of love and cooperation. The only socialist minded revolution that can succeed is one that embraces yathā bhūta and is informed by the humane doctrine of Satyagraha.

        Non-violent civil disobedience is actually an effective weapon against those who would abuse politics and systems for their own personal gain. The revolution may not end in the way that the revolutionaries expect or even wanted it to, but dignity will be regained and systems and societies on the brink of revolution or drastic change could be forced to a crisis point by targeted disobedience and protest, as Dr. King emphasized in his writings on protest, Satyagraha and Gandhi. Non-violent protest is not a reactionary philosophy and it is not a passive form of resistance or an admission of weakness. Dr. King explained the principle much better than I ever can in an interview published in Playboy magazine in 1965

        Nonviolence is a weapon fabricated of love. It is a sword that heals. Our nonviolent direct-action program has as its objective not the creation of tensions, but the surfacing of tensions already present. We set out to precipitate a crisis situation that must open the door to negotiation.

        To force a confrontation is a powerful political weapon that can be wielded by the people. Forcing the “surfacing of tensions already present” is the perfect reconciliation of yathā bhūta and dhamma vicaya, the realization and acceptance of the world as it is and the acting out constructively and decisively to further the cause of love as the best expression of a humanity striving to exist in the world and with each other peacefully and with dignity. To exploit the inherent tension within the now, of the realization of the Real of human existence and codependence, is a true revolutionary act and is the rational basis of Satayagraha Socialism. One must stand up and be heard as an expression of the truth. True power comes from the synthesis of contemplation and action. Violence is not an inevitable result of Satayagraha but if the systems of power react to the crisis exposed by non-violent action with violence it is within the right of the protester to protect himself by accepting the pain and punishment and enduring. Systemic and societal change leading to more justice for human beings can only be achieved through the exercise of love and the acceptance of the facts of the world as it is. There is no correcting the a priori fact of existing and striving and needing as a human being in the world but if we accept the yathā bhūta and our existence as a living fact of that precept. The acceptance of our life and our needs and the cultivation of our relationships with our fellow human beings is love and love is the only foundation upon which a true socialist system can be created.

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Capitalism, poetry, Socialism

Untitled

MullerDeath

The body is

a hungry thing

and it eats whatever

It can reach

It feeds upon the largesse

of the land

And its people

The body has an appetite

That cannot be satiated

So it consumes and

Hoovers up

The bounty of the world

It grows strong as the people

Starve

The body has no remorse

Not an ounce of humanity

It reaches out for all it wants

And munches greedily

It packs on the pounds

As the world grows skeletal

The body is a glutton and a fiend

It gobbles up societies and

Chews them up

Like a cow with its cud

The body masticates

And annihilates

And digests

And eliminates indiscriminately

Across the face of mankind

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Activism, Philosophy, racism

Thoughts On American Racism Part I

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“How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children [assumed] to be criminal, violent, malignant.” –Melissa Harris-Perry

                                                                                                                                       Part  I

                                                                                                               The Modern Racist Paradigm

I see his corpse up on the television screen, limp and cold and dead just dead. He wore clothing that matched much of my wardrobe and he had been holding a can of the fruit juice that I liked to drink. These strange little coincidences underscored my horror at viewing the image of Trayvon Martin’s corpse. I remembered another innocent corpse, this one scorched onto my conscience by a photograph in a book, Emmett Till and his mangled face and bruised and bloodied body. Trayvon died because his killer did not think he belonged in the neighborhood we was walking through, Emmett died because his killers did not think he should be flirting with the white woman who caught his eye at the general store. It was hate that killed these two young men, a sort of American hate that is as persistent as it is corrosive and poisonous. This is hate so deep that it strips the humanity from people with dark and brown skin and condemns them for the poverty that was imposed upon them by those condemning them for it! This hate has consumed the lives of millions emotionally, psychologically, and physically and continues to consume still more. Slavery, Jim Crow, Separate But Equal, The War On Drugs, Stand Your Ground. These are the names hate takes when hate wishes to justify itself and ingratiate itself with the powers and cultures that be. The roots of hate, the true, deep, primeval core of hate that must exist deep within the dark bowels of our collective history, the meaning of why we hate…These are concepts I do not have the capacity to truly understand or really even contemplate. Perhaps that is because I do not want to look with such a fixed and searching gaze directly into the hideous core of the American experiment. I, like far too many of my fellow citizens, do not want to grasp at that the peculiar institution is instead the essential institution for America.

The assassinations of Evers, Malcolm X, King, the lynching of thousands upon thousands, the sexual assault and rape of thousands of women, men and children, the slaughter of thousands by “law and order” forces, the 400 year dark edifice known as slavery. The suppression of the black vote, the mass imprisonment of black men and boys, the economic and psychological warfare that was and continues to be Jim Crow. I have no point to make after this list. The point is the list. American history is not a progression from slavery to freedom as much it is a self-perpetuating cycle of fear and lust manifesting itself in volcanic bouts of racial violence and class warfare. White, conservative, capitalist, Christian men have ruled America through the various governments that have been imposed and have imposed themselves upon the continent. The structures of power have always been in white hands, and this continues to be the case. Racism has not abated, but in this day and age it behooves the smart power broker or businessman to pretend at tolerance and fairness. They know what to say and where to keep the fickle liberals and willfully ignorant conservatives happy and content with their own passive racism. Reverse racism is the shame of the oppressor displacing itself as hostility. Fear, which begets hatred which in turn begets shame,  is the consistent zeitgeist of the community of bigots

Reverse Racism. Post-Racial Society. White Pride. We are berated with such sentiments today from white Americans desperate to escape the fear that consumes them because of their knowledge of how much they have to lose if the rest of America is allowed, finally, an equal chance at making their peace with the American system. White America feels it must scramble to use the levers of power to protect and empower themselves as much as they can before they inevitably lose power to a rising collective of empowered blacks, latinos, women, asians, enlightened whites, and LGBT people ready to compromise, reform and revolutionize the American system and its culture, economy and laws. The future is not white, the future is multi-colored. White Americans fail or refuse to realize that they will have a place, an equal place, in an American future that is based on true democracy, love, and shared responsibility. Instead they see the empowerment of all as a violation of the “right” of one segment of humanity to dominate and exploit the others.

The powerless are said to be the ones with the real power. George Zimmerman’s attorney introduced us to a seemingly new, but ultimately familiar, paradigm in the ongoing attempt to refuse any dignity to black and brown people. Now, we are told, there is no such thing as an unarmed black man or child. No no, we forget that the danger inherent to black people is so profound that the concrete sidewalk itself is weapon enough to justify his being killed by a person who “feels threatened” by his very being. This is as profoundly hateful a sentiment as any in the history of white self-justification and obfuscation on matters of race and justice. Black men kill, white men defend themselves and white women. A white man cannot kill a black man because, by the logic of hate, if a black man dies at the hand of a white man, or a man working from point from within the spectrum of white privilege like Zimmerman, the black man must have been to blame. Even by being blameless he is condemned and castigated and condemned by his color. In the eyes of white power dark skin is the ultimate weapon, because it is a constant reminder that the wall separating those in power from those without is an imaginary and will fall when human beings stand up together as one people. In every case involving a black man or youth it is he who is on trial, even if he is the victim.

The great and criminally under-appreciated journalist and human rights activist Ida B. Wells said

No nation, savage or civilized, save only the United States of America, has confessed its inability to protect its women save by hanging, shooting, and burning alleged offenders

In the place of woman substitute privilege and we have in one sentence the problem of white America.

The political classes who seek to exploit white anxieties and inbreed racism understand that language matters and that whomever controls the vocabulary of an issues often controls the issue itself. Today there are a proliferation of terms used to both demean black Americans, belittle their struggle, and undermine their progress towards gaining full equality as citizens and human beings. Paul Gorski, an education reformer and civil rights activist, makes the point that racism and the necessary and inevitable denial of racism by the racist exist on a continuum and do not always conform to popular notions of the issue and, in fact, racists are

quick to distance [themselves] from that prejudice, as if [they were]  somehow shielded from its permeation

The prejudice in question is of course against Black Americans in particular. Terms and apologies such as “reverse racism”, “I have a black friend so I can say what I want about race” and “they always see racism when it doesn’t exist” are just a few of the myriad ways white Americans seek to express their racism without having to deal with the now extant social stigma that comes with open expression of prejudiced views and behaviors. Outright racial slurs and insults have been replaced, at least in polite company or in public, with talk of “low information voters”, insinuations about the utilization of welfare and social programs, and outrage over the supposed collapse of “morality” and “culture”. The “Post-Racial” society that the white  establishment and their apologists said had come about after the election of Barack Obama is an example of this narrative taking the form of a meme that pervades society and becomes a justification for the very prejudice that was declared obsolete. Since the election of Obama there has been a resurgence of prejudiced statements, legislation and attitudes within the American culture and political systems. New voting restrictions, racially motivated redistricting, attacks on reproductive rights and healthcare access for the poor (a group with a disproportional number of black and other minority peoples) and rhetoric shaming those who use welfare, public assistance or food stamps. Indeed the “black President” who supposedly ushered in this post-racial utopia is termed by his white conservative detractors as the “Food Stamp” President and his parentage and upbringing are constantly called into question. One idiot lynching a dummy figure of the first black president is one thing but racist memes introduced into the body politic that deal with the very legitimacy of the presidency of Obama is clearly a sign that racism is still festering in many areas of American society and its institutions. The modern racist paradigm is based upon the historical and systemic dehumanization of black and brown peoples over centuries. Chattel slavery led to feudal exploitation which led to political and social marginalization which continues to this day. Those condemned to struggle are blamed for their own debasement. The racists then claim that the social ills and psychological conditions that inevitably arise from this debasement are a result of the inherent inferiority of black and brown peoples. White crime and immorality  is often systemic and entrenched within corrupt systems. Black crime or other moral failings, driven by the social conditions imposed by unjust individuals and systems, are seen by whites as more personal, innate, and violent and this idea is re-enforced by a media controlled by those with a vested interest in maintaining the racial and class status quo. The cycle of abuse, reaction, and inevitable debasement is allowed to continue even though the conditions and systems that led to the problem may be long gone or at least proscribed by laws and social mobility.

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Activism

Zimmerman Not Guilty. US Justice is a joke.

TRAYVON_MARTIN_NEW_PHOTO_1

I don’t have much to say besides this: I guess it is legal to kill a young black man if he walks in the wrong neighborhood in front of the wrong racist person. George Zimmerman got away with a lynching today pure and simple. This nation’s justice system hates black people and black men in particular. No justice was served tonight. No justice ever will be served for Trayvon Martin and his family. I am ashamed of the US tonight.

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Fiction

Hunting the Red Cat

new-england-colonies-3

It was dead of night in the King’s Commonwealth of Massachusetts, November the 12th going on the 13th in the year of our Lord 1699. The darkness of that night was barely held at by the light of a hundred candles and half as many lanterns. Most slept fitfully if they slept at all in their little homes and in their purchased beds at the Inn and Tavern in the township, if a village of 135 could indeed lay claim to such a title, of Mead in the westerly regions of this wild country. Every child was lulled to sleep with stories of red men dancing and cavorting around their blazing pyres, faces painted with the most remarkable colors of pigment and dye that could possibly be imagined. Was it ironic then that it was these selfsame savages who populated the nightmares of these good Christian children?

            At the aforementioned tavern nightmares were held at bay with the potent tonic of ale and passably pleasurable company. Men sat at benches that had been worn into a begrudging familiarity with their hindquarters, and the few women who ventured from the homes and hearths sat lonesome by the only window staring out into the night they were not ready to embrace. The men were a more cheerful lot and they assaulted the fearsome potential of the darkness with well fermented songs

Wild’s the wood that the red cat roams

A looming shadow’s darkening thy hearth and home

Trepidation’s less than folly

For the red cat’s hungry

Lick’s his chops and sharpens claw

‘pon the Elmwood bark worn raw

Leering eyes the only light

Save for the half-heart moon on winter’s eve night

            Not all of the men at the tavern were so hearty and sociable however. One Remark Danbury, a cobbler’s apprentice, sat alone at a table adjacent to the one occupied by the well lubricated troubadours. He had been nursing the same lukewarm brew for the better part of the evening, silently contemplating whether or not to join in the manly revelries of his neighbors. He could not bring himself to approach these men though; each was a businessman or a community leader in his own right and were not usually in the practice of welcoming apprentices into their midst. They were a hoary but respected bunch these men, and it would take more than a free round to ingratiate them to a near-no-account like Remark Danbury. He knew he had to do something more than noteworthy in order to earn a place at that table. It was then that he first noticed the lyrics of the bar ditty they were singing with such abandon

That old red cat he does growl

At the shimmerin’ Indian Moon

Hungry as a starv-ed wolf

And mean as a preacher’s scowl

He hunts the poor lost soul lost his way

And dines on his tremblin’ bones

            It was here, before the third chorus could be belted out, that Remark Danbury made a terrible mistake. His innate pride and youthful scorn moved him from his seat and forced an ill-starred utterance from his thin lips. “I ain’t afraid of no red cat. I bet you three rounds of ale and a penny that I could bring back his front teeth and his pelt without so much as a scratch on my chin to show for it.” The entire tavern went quiet at this foolhardy declaration. The Innkeeper’s jaw fell open and lay slack against his leather apron. The women by the window whispered to each other and pointed at this strange, stupid young man who had dared to interrupt the elders and their drinking song. The elders themselves seemed the least surprised at this interruption. They had seen a hundred young bucks raise his voice out of place before and they would see a hundred more before they went quietly to their graves. The eldest of the lot, a tanner called John Marks by his peers, and Uncle John by everyone else. He broke the silence with a deep belly laugh, his breath sweet with the dregs of honey mead.

            “Yer gonna bring us the hide and fangs of the red cat? Have you ever even heard of the red cat, boy? You ain’t half grown yet and you speaks of a task that not even Silas Kites over there would undertake, and he’s a full 6 feet tall at the shoulders! Red cat’d rip you up and down like a man would a virgin’s gown on her wedding night. He’d eat you up so fast that all’d be left of you for the constable to find would be yer shoes, and if he were really hungry red cat’d probably go and eat them too. Ain’t no chance you’d be bringing me no part of the red cat tonight or any night. I tell ya what, you’re a stupid fellow, but a brave one. I’ll buy you a round and we’ll all have a laugh over it. Just think of it! Cobbler’s boy gonna bring us the hide and fangs of the red cat! I just wish my grandfather were here to laugh with us. He’d have a good laugh at you and we’d laugh right along with ‘im.”

            The pall of shock having been lifted by the words of Uncle John, the rest of the tavern joined in at laughing at poor Remark Danbury. Men came over and patted him on the back, and to add insult to injury they all offered to buy him a round. Remark Danbury blushed a deep shade of crimson and took his seat back at his table. He struggled to hold back the red hot tears of shame that were welling up in the corners of his eyes. He sat there the rest of the night, tortured by the words of Uncle John and by the ever more boisterous and fulsome singing of those men at the elders’ table. The church bell rang out across the night, telling all who cared to listen that it was well past midnight. The women had long since gone home to their trundle beds and quilts while the singing of the elders had given way to a gentle hum of conversation and shoptalk. Remark Danbury could take no more of it and he stuffed his felt hat onto his prematurely balding head and headed towards to bar so as to settle up with the innkeeper. He slammed two pennies onto the wooden counter and turned to leave. He was stopped by a firm hand on his shoulder. It was the innkeeper.

            “I can see by the look on your face that you are not going to get any sleep unless you at least make an attempt at that ol’ red cat. Now I think it’s a fool’s errand to even consider such a thing, but then again I never was the adventurous type. There’s an old trapper name Blooding who lives out in last house in town, out by the apothecary. He’s the only one I knew whose even seen the red cat, let alone trap him, but I think he can set you right on how to go about it. I suppose you’ve got as much chance at an impossible task as anyone else. He don’t sleep much, if at all, so I don’t think you’d bother him much by knocking on his door. I wish you all good luck and good tidings Remark Danbury.”

            Remark Danbury didn’t say a word, just tipped his hat and headed straight for the apothecary. He’d heard of the trapper Will Blooding before, and he knew that this man was the only one the community ever turned to when a wild beast was making trouble for the flocks or the children of the town. The streets this late at night were deserted, and the only light by which one could make his way were the flickering candles in the window sills of those who choose to while the way the twilight reading or writing letters to loved ones far away in other colonies or townships. It was just enough light to get Remark Danbury where he was going.

            When he saw the wind-battered sign marking the entrance to the apothecary he took a left and headed towards the last ramshackle house he could see. It didn’t take him long to find it as there were few people who chose to live this close to the woods. It could scarcely be called a “house” so much as an old converted smokehouse; three men and a small child could make a ring around the place holding hands. The place was covered from roof to earth in skins and furs. These were mostly raccoon and deer hides but there was a smattering of beaver and even the occasional fox. There were rusted traps and lengths of chain scattered all about the small yard. There was an ancient axe stuck in the stump of a maple tree, and an anvil sunk halfway into the muddy earth by the small pen where the old men kept the half dead old nag he used to pull the cart of skins and furs to market out east.

            He knocked hard on the gnarled wooden door. He knew the old man was half deaf so he wanted to make sure he heard him. No sooner did his knuckles touch the door then it opened up to reveal a wizened and ragged looking man dressed head to tail in skins and furs. He had thin ghost white hair all the way down to his elbows. The hair that wasn’t stuffed under his beaver-pelt hat was knotted and tied into loose braids with twine and bits of string. His eyes were light blue like the sky on a summer afternoon. One was almost completely clouded over with cataracts but he could see quite well out of the other. He was tall and thin and his hands ended in fingers that looked like the roots of a 200 year chestnut tree. He had lost half of his lower lip to a bobcat back when he was barely of age, so he had a strange half grimace that never left his face. He looked Remark Danbury up and down like one would a prize goose at the fair. “You’re the cobbler’s boy.” This wasn’t a question. “Come in I suppose. Mind the step.”

            Remark Danbury walked over the threshold into the little house. The floor was not level with the ground outside so there was indeed a step down of about 4 inches. The floor was patted down dirt covered in fragrant pine needles but even that couldn’t hide the stench of rotting flesh and gun-oil. Remark Danbury breathed threw his mouth so as not to partake of the horrible aroma. Blooding pointed at a three legged stool that looked like it had been carved out of a single piece of wood. He gestured for him to take a seat. Remark Danbury did just that. Blooding took a seat on a work bench just across from the young man.

            “What can I do for you? And before you ask, no I do not sell traps. It’s enough that I have to make ‘em for myself let alone service the whole damn town.”

            Remark Danbury hesitated not for a moment. “I want to hunt and kill the red cat.”

Blooding was equally to the point. “If you’re hunting the red cat you’re gonna want a gun. No trap’ll hold that beast. And you’re also gonna want to leave a last will and testament behind ‘cause sure as the sun will rise in the east we’ll not be seeing you in one piece again. The look in your eyes tells me you are dead serious. If’n you weren’t I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I have an old rifled musket that I think’ll suit you fine as any. I’ll loan it to you if’n you promise to bring me back the pelt of the red cat.”

            Remark Danbury leaned forward on the stool and looked blooding straight in the eye. “I must have the pelt for one night in order to win a bet I made at the tavern. After that the pelt is all yours.”

            Blooding spat into a corner of the hut. “That seems morein’ fair. The gun’s yours for as long as it takes. You been told what to look for? Do you know how to track the red cat?”

            He shook his head. “I’ve heard nothing more than an old song about it and the stories my father and his father told me. I know it is a panther that has fur as red as the setting sun. I know that it’ll kill a man faster than a man can strangle a chicken. I know that it’s never been seen save by a few men who made it out of the woods to tell the story.”

            Blooding nodded slowly. “That’s all true enough. What you probably don’t know is that every one ‘O those men who spied the red cat came out of those woods with one limb less than what he brought in with him.”

            Remark Danbury shuddered. “Have you seen the red cat?”

            Blooding let out a bark of a laugh. “If’n I had I wouldn’t be sittin’ here talking to you. I’d be moldering in that damnable beast’s belly. No, I just know what I been told by other trappers, and by the few men who did see him. None of them amongst the living anymore. I don’t know why you want to take on such a fool’s errand boy. I don’t understand, but I respect your bravery nonetheless. Just remember this: the red cat’ll always let you see him ‘fore he snatches you up. He’s a proud bugger, or so I been told. He wants you to know you’ve made a grave mistake. Wiley that creature is, almost like a man.” Blooding got up from his stool and reached into a dark corner of the hut. He pulled out an ancient match-lock with bayonet still attached. “This blade is from when I fought King Philip and his braves. Killed 13 men I did with this here gun and blade. Ran 10 of them through, and the rest I shot. It’s dead on at 20 paces or less. Not that the red cat’ll ever let you get that close.” He threw the gun at Remark Danbury, who caught it in one hand and inspected it up and down. It was an old gun, but he could see it was a good one.

            Remark Danbury got up and headed for the door of the hut. He paused and turned back. “Do you have any spare ball and powder?”

            Blooding shook his head. “I do but it wouldn’t do you any good. The red cat’ll only give you one good shot at him. If’n you miss he’ll not give you time for a second shit. If’n you hit…Well.” He smiled and revealed a mouth empty of teeth. Remark Danbury smiled back. “Where should I start my hunt?”

            Blooding began polishing an old iron trap. “Just head into the woods anywhere. You’ll not be the one doing the hunting. Good evening to you cobbler’s boy.” Remark Danbury left the hut and walked straight into the dark wood.

***

            The whip-poor-will cried and cried against the drowning dark. The call echoed against the trees, huddled together like old women knitting and gossiping about the going’s on. There was scarcely a space between their trunks to let the moon shine through. Remark Danbury wore the darkness like a cloak, and he marched forth through the trees and brush like a man consumed by a holy calling. He had brought with him the matchlock, his coat, and the satchel he took with him everywhere which contained a skin of water (enough for two days at the most) a small pouch of salt and a flint with which to make fire. He had no plan other than to search until he found the red cat, or, if Will Blooding were to be believed, the red cat found him.

            All around him he heard the voices of the wilderness: utter silence interrupted by the snap of a twig as a deer ran by or by the accusatory hoot of an owl out looking for his supper. The ground was alive with forest mice, voles and other such critters. He was careful to make as little noise as possible. He tried to walk as the Indians always did in the tales his father used to tell him as a boy. He knew he was nowhere near quiet enough.

            The night seemed to not want to end, and that was fine by Remark Danbury. If he were to hunt the red cat he wished to do it with all the prejudices at play against a wild predator: the blackness of night, hunger in his heart, and thirsting for the kill. Such thoughts stirred his blood and raised his darker humors. In this wood he was no more or less a man than any of the men at the elder’s table. Here the crows didn’t discriminate in favor of wealthy corpses. The worms would gladly feast upon an egalitarian supper. No one’s bones were brighter than the rest, and no red cat would care a lick whose blood was bluer. The woods made him an equal. The hunt made him a man.

            For hours he tramped through the woods, and those hours turned to a half day, and then when the morning sun rose in the east he paused for a while and made camp. He was hungry and since he had the sneaking suspicion the red cat had the same attitude about hunting as he did he decided he would look about for something to eat. He could not spare the bullet so that would mean a trap. Luckily he remembered a simple noose-snare trap his uncle had taught him. He quickly gathered some twigs and tied a tiny sapling to a stake he put in the earth. To the end of this sapling he tied a bit of the wire that was helping hold the old bayonet onto the gun. He twisted one end into a little noose and tied the other end to the tip of the sapling closest to the ground. He put a notch in the side of the stake pointing towards the noose. He stuck a bit of flat birch bark in the notch at an angle and loosened the stake from the ground just a smidge. The noose he laid flat on the bark in a circle. The bark would act as the “trapdoor” releasing the stake as the critter stepped upon it. He would be pulled into the air by the springy sapling and strung up right and safe for the hunter to dispatch him. He walked 25 paces back into the wood and lay down flat on his stomach in the soft but scratchy leaves. Now it was time to wait.

            The sun rose in the sky for another four hours and early noon gave way to evening. Still there was nothing. Still the hunter was patient. The evening grew darker and darker as the sun sank towards the horizon. The hunter was hungry. He felt his innards burn with feral appetites. He did not know—And then it was moving. It was darting to a fro between the trees; its ears just barely peaking about the tallest blades of grass. It dodged and weaved over shrub and thatch and thorn until it was a bare yard away from the trap. There, as though it had planned it this way, the creature, a stark white rabbit, froze in mid-step and sat down in the grass. His nose twitched. It caught a whiff of the air. It recognized the smell but could not quite remember. The hunter panicked, thinking for an excruciating moment that the prey was lost when suddenly before he could even blink twice the rabbit had stepped foot onto the bark and into the noose. The sapling was released with a terrible snap and the rabbit was hung by his left foreleg. The creature twitched in midair as it slowly began to realize that it had been caught.

            The hunter came over the creature and cut the wire with the razor sharp bayonet. He held the rabbit by the scruff of the neck. He stood there for a moment, unwilling to move an inch. His mind wandered to dark thoughts of an even darker night. He felt his blood run cold as the mud beneath his feet. He turned the rabbit around an brought it up level to his face. He looked into its coal black eyes and imagined there was something within them staring back. He then took the rabbit by the neck and head and twisted his hands in opposite directions. The rabbit was dead. The run barely peaked about the horizon. It was as red as smiths’ furnace. He built a pile out of twigs and birch bark. He lit it with the flint after half a dozen whacks against the side of the bayonet, which he briefly detached the end of the gun barrel. The birch bark caught and the twigs provided fuel for the small but lively fire. Remark Danbury fashioned a spit out of pine branches and skewered the rabbit onto it after skinning and cleaning thoroughly. He sprinkles some of his salt onto the meat as a way of seasoning it and he placed the whole thing over the fire. It was dark by the time it was cooked through. He took the rabbit out of the fire and took a bite from the haunches. It was tender and wonderfully gamey in flavor. The salt added a nice touch flavor to the already savory skin. All in all it was a fine supper and he had soon eaten his full. He wiped his greasy hands on his coat and stretched out lengthwise in front of the fire. He soon nodded off to sleep.

            He was soon awoken by a growl. He sprung to his feet, but not before he lit the long burning match on his gun. He turned from side to side, his weapon shouldered, his pulse snapping away in both of his wrists. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the light of the moon. He turned in that direction only to find that it had disappeared and in its place was an enormous and fiery red cat with equally blazing eyes. Its face was transfixed in a terribly fanged rictus grin. It extended its claws and gripped the thick branch it was standing upon. It flexed its powerful muscles and jumped right at Remark Danbury. He brought the match to the pan and the gun went off. The red cat screamed and beat Remark Danbury about the head with its massive paws. He fell to the ground, groping for the rifle as the red cat placed its entire bulk upon his prone body. The cat’s eyes grew wide with glee as it bent its head and brought its jaws down to Remark Danbury’s neck. He finally grabbed ahold of the rifle. He swung it, bayonet first, at the red cat. The beast howled in rage and pain. Remark Danbury echoed his quarries screams.

            ***

Three days after Remark Danbury entered the forest at well past the witching hour, Will Blooding opened the door of his shack to find his old rifled gun with a penny and a note tied to the bayonet. Blooding opened the note and read its badly spelled contents

Wil Bluding

Shot ryefull

Hit target

No pellt

Butt A half- peny for the bullit

Remark Danbury

Will Blooding held the half-penny in his hand and laughed for ten minutes straight.

            ***

            It was dead of night in the King’s Commonwealth of Massachusetts, November the 16th going on the 17th in the year of our Lord 1699. The women were once more over by the solitary window, knitting or trying to nurse a child to sleep. The men at the elder’s table laughed and knocked steins and chugged brew. The innkeeper was filling a mug with mulled wine. The elders began to sing…And then the door burst open and in came Remark Danbury. He stomped proudly up to the table. He threw a bloody red paw down on the table. The men gasped and not a few dropped their steins to the floor. Remark Danbury spoke. “He was wily and got away before I could get at his pelt, but I do hope this will do as proof enough of my hunt?”

            The old men gaped, slack jawed at the paw and then at the young man who had produced it for them to see. One by one they reached into their pockets, and one by one they pulled out a penny. One by one they placed theirs onto the elders’ table. Remark Dansbury laughed and called for a round for the entire tavern, on him! After that round Remark Dansbury never had to buy his own drinks ever again.

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history, Hypocrisy, poetry

Confession of A Pyromaniac

Firebombing_of_Tokyo

I see your eyes and they reflect

The end of a myth we ain’t done with yet

See little friend, you have no say

In what I am doing

Anyway

The land is a scourge

That needs purification

20 million bombs should prove a demonstration

Of the power I wield and the anger I feel

Towards the damn human race

That fecund burden

Well call me Kipling

‘Cause with poetic symmetry

I’ll lay waste to this space and call it an evening

Burning skies can never be extinguished

But we all need the warmth so who cares if it burns?

Pile those children like cords of wood

And I’ll light a pyre that the whole world will see

My eye’s are red, my skins white and my blood is blue

Propane, kerosene, gasoline, human flesh

All burns like the bonds of an atom being split

Nagasaki burns like the tip of my cigarette

Burn away your enmity and release your

Craven sensations into the evening mirk

The sun will lapse into eclipse

From all the ash in your eyes

I don’t want to be here

No one does

But I do not want to go home

For they will burn me there

Without thought

Without thought

So I will burn you

And leave a bit of myself in the fire

So there is less of me

For them to consume

Forgive me

Forgive me

I see your eyes and they are wet with tears

That I put there

And I am an American

And I am an American

And shame does not stem the rage I feel

In my heart

 

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Africa, Egypt

Egypt In Midst of A Revolution

egypt-military-ultimatum-stoffel-070113_lead_media_image_1

As an outsider I am not going to even try and analyze all of the issues facing the Egyptian people today in Tahrir Square…but I will report what I have heard so far on this truly monumental day in human history

The 48 hour deadline set by the Egyptian Military has passed and there are reports of Tanks deployed in the streets

Morsi is defiant and has said he will not step down. The Muslim Brotherhood has claimed they will “shed blood” to protect the president.

The crowd in Tahrir is chanting “we have deposed two presidents!”

A large pro-Morsi protest is happening outside of Cairo University

Morsi is said to be de facto deposed and is a prisoner in the Presidential palace but others are reporting that no one knows where Morsi is at the moment

Morsi has said he is willing to form a “coalition transition” government but the Military leader Al-Sisi has yet to respond

Military may suspend constitution and appoint temporary head of state

More to come…

watch the live feed on Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/watch_now/

UPDATE: General Al-Sisi has spoken, and has suspended the constitution and overthrown the President “In the name of the people” and has called for new elections and a temporary government will be led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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