On intelligence is intuitive

1:

what happens to a society
when mystery is labeled
as evil?

it yields an ever-connected chain
of false labels and misinterpretations

the indigenous are labeled
as savage terorists
and plotted against

the open-hearted
are manipulated into slavery

the vulnerable are penetrated
by force of law

citizens
where is your allegiance?

why do you pledge
with a covered heart
when it needs to be opened?

why do you bear arms
with balled fists
and closed palms?

why do you call yourself
a patriot (pater: fr. Latin.meaning father)
when your greatest love has always been
for your mother?

this loaded phallus
has becum
the prevailing metaphor
of the day

you’ve spent your chi
on cheap versions
of the virgin

you’ve worshipped
loopholes in a story
and war shipped
mythic men to glory

if in god’s image
then your god’s
a plastic surgeon

a tyrannic dictator

a coward behind a curtain
with a megaphone

an aging oil tycoon
on viagra
ramming his plow
into the earth
turning up disease
and disaster
out of an ever-drying womb

you will become her cyclical sacrament

menstrual minstrels
footing your own bill
of right left right
marching blindly
into a moonless night
another dimension
where children use chalk
on the sidewalk
tracing their bodies
for the precriminal investigation:
of their paternal inheritance:

murder!

men in uniform
take note

love refuses
to take cover

[excerpt from , said the shotgun to the head by saul williams]

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On creative focus

From a really excellent AMA by Werner Herzog, in response to the question “Is there any method or practice you use to help get focused on one idea to pursue for a picture?” —

[–]Werner-Herzog[S] 1012 points 2 months ago

That’s hard to answer, because I do not follow ideas; I stumble into stories, or I stumble into people who all of the sudden, the situation makes it clear that this is so big, I have to make a film. Very often, films come with uninvited guests, I keep saying like burglars in the middle of the night. They’re in your kitchen, something is stirring, you wake up at 3 AM and all of the sudden they come wildly swinging at you.

So, I try to–it’s not focusing on ideas, but I know exactly what the problem this is. Once you have an idea, it wouldn’t help to sit down and keep brooding, brooding, brooding…just live on but keep it in the back of your mind all the time. Keep connecting little bits and pieces that belong to it. Sometimes it’s only a word, sometimes half a line of dialogue, sometimes an image that you squiggle down. And when it kind of in this way materializes, then press yourself with urgency.

When I write a screenplay, I write it when I have a whole film in front of my eyes, and it’s very easy for me, and I can write very, very fast. It’s almost like copying. But of course sometimes I push myself; I read myself into a frenzy of poetry, reading Chinese poets of the 8th and 9th century, reading old Icelandic poetry, reading some of the finest German poets like Hölderlin. All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of my film, but I work myself up into this kind of frenzy of high-caliber language and concepts and beauty.

And then sometimes I push myself by playing music; in my place it would be, for example, a piano concerto, and I play it and I type on my laptop furiously. But all of it is not a real answer, how do you focus on single idea; I think you have to depart sometimes, and keep it all the time alive somehow.

On the patron saint of libraries

Came across this today while reading Paul Lendvai’s The Hungarians (2003)

“Three chronicles report different versions, written between 970 and 1075, of an attack on the monistary of St Gallen and its surroundings (today in Switzerland). “The heathen barbarians” advanced like lightening through Bavaria and Swabia along Lake Constance, and inflicted heavy damage on the monastery, killing in the process Wiborada, an Aleman noblewoman, who had herself immured in a cell there ten years earlier. The anchoress was axed to death, and in 1047 Pope Clement II canonized her. Already that spring, she had warned the abbot of the exact time of her hostile hoards’’ incursion from the East, urging him to move the monks, the treasury and the priceless library to safety in time. Rumors recounts the Vita Sanctae Wiboradae; “nonetheless, they were taken seriously only when the barbarians with drawn swords pushed the neighborhood of Lake Constance to the brink of disaster, killing countless people and burning all the villagers and houses.” Only then was the seer heeded. Many people and irreplaceable books could still be saved, but Wiborada was unwilling to escape.

The life and death of St Wiborada (also honored as the patron saint of libraries), as well as the chronicles of the monks Ekkehart I, Ekkehart IV and Herimannus, continually fascinated later generations, inspiring writers, including poets, until the very recent past” (p.7-8; emphasis added).

On attention and activism

I came across a recent interview of Rachel Maddow over at Lenny and her comment about what makes for successful activism caught my attention —

RM: Yes. I did my doctoral dissertation on social movements around prison reform, AIDS, and health reform. One of the things that I wrote about is that there are some political issues where mainstream press attention only hurts. We think about activism as being this generic model of consciousness-raising, then hopefully media attention, attraction of new people to your cause, building public support for your cause, then decision-makers reacting to that change in public opinion. That’s true for some types of activism, but it is not true for all of them.

If you’re working on better conditions for prisoners, if you make that a popular issue and you invite mainstream media to weigh in on that subject, you’re going to end up with a much more regressive public-policy environment than if you approach it in a quieter way. It’s not because the public is stupid, it’s just that people with only a cursory interest in something are going to have a knee-jerk reaction to it. That’s impossible to explain in a cable-news media … it doesn’t make sense.

[emphasis added]

Parallels to migration issues? Perhaps. See also: her fascinating conversation with Ezra Klein

On past as prologue [5]

Leon Gordenker, Refugees in International Politics (1987) —

The misery of refugees thus dulls the glitter of unilateral, short-term campaigning by governments. The homeless, persecuted, hungry, confused people who turn up at border posts and distant airports signify the costs of conflict within and among societies and states. They are living monuments to war, disorder, long-term social collapse, government failure, prejudice and sheer malice. They pay directly for the militaristic swaggering of their leaders, for the intolerance of political and religious orthodoxy and for the short-term successes of mindless power-seekers (p. 6).

Even more fundamental limitations were inherent in the new regime as a result of both national policies and the nature of international politics. No government has ever shown itself eager to surrender authority over immigration. Some governments, such as those of the United States and the United Kingdom, have had to deal with immigration policies as leading issues in national political life. The experience with refugees and displaced persons after the Second World War demonstrated the expediency of resettlement as a means of coping with accumulations of refugees. But resettlement means that refugees become immigrants. Granting general rights to refugees or allowing a large number of people to formally become refugees could thus diminish national control over immigration policies. Therefore, governments approached refugee matters with some tentativeness and showed a clear resistance to handing over even minor decisions to an international agency [UNHCR]. As s a result the [Refugee] Convention enables a person outside his own country to enter a claim to a government for asylum but gives him no right to it. The rights of refugees are based in the first instance on protection from being sent into danger or persecution, either in their original homes or in a third country. Thus, the doctrine of non-refoulement to protect refugees may promote the granting of long-term asylum but does not ensure it. Governments acceding to the Convention maintain their authority over immigration and nationality (p. 30; emphasis added).

On interview techniques

After being found guilty and sentenced to 40 years by the ICTY today, David A. Graham over at The Atlantic’s Notes highlights a 1993 interview conducted with Radovan Karadzic —

In January 1993, still relatively early in the Bosnian war, [CBC’s] As It Happens scored an interview with Karadzic. In a retrospective segment years ago, former host Michael Enright reminisced about preparing for the interview and his plan to ask standard questions. But he decided that wasn’t going to cut it, so he took a more direct approach when the tape started rolling:

“Mr. Karadzic, generally how—in your view, how is the ethnic cleansing going?” Enright deadpanned.

Karadzic was unsurprisingly annoyed.

“Ethnic cleansing was not part of our policy any time,” he fumed. “Ethnic cleansing was on all sides, and it was sort of ethnic shifting of the people, because Serbs have escaped from Muslim surroundings and the Bosnians have escaped from Serbian surroundings.”

Enright kept rolling, maintaining a studiously detached tone.

[…] It’s a remarkable interview: A reporter asking extremely tough questions of a leader, with great authority and command of facts, about a faraway conflict. You don’t hear this sort of exchange often. For one, few war criminals will talk to the media. For another, few reporters have the chops to pull it off live like this. They might worry about losing access, too—although when the interview ended, Karadzic signed off with a cheery, “Welcome, any time!”

[links in original; click through for further transcript and audio]

On past as prologue [4]

Jean-Pierre Hocke, “Beyond Humanitarianism: The Need for Political Will to Resolve Today’s Refugee Problem,” p. 40-1, in G. Loescher and L. Monahan (eds.), Refugees in International Relations (1989).

I am particularly concerned about the growing negative public opinion in the west vis-a-vis refugees and asylum-seekers from the Third World. Many governments in the West have responded to the recent influxes of refugees by adopting restrictive practices, a reaction that has tended to prove contagious. Humanitarian principles, so carefully nurtured in the West over the past few decades, are under threat. Basic standards of refugee protection are being lowered. Refugees are being used as political tools in domestic party politics. In this process the basic human values which served as the reference point for all humanitarian activities are being devalued. This erosion of values must be checked, and I am sure it can be done, provided states exercise their political judgement and will to do so, bearing in mind the immeasurably serious consequences of acting otherwise.

Given both the size and the complexity of the world refugee problem, it is time that the international community took a fresh look at the legal instruments available, and identified a political means to address the problem more effectively.