lost ironies

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Month: November, 2016

Batman

it was a democracy
until Batman showed up

who asked him anyway?

standing solitary on a rooftop
at midnight with the moon
as if we bid him play it tragic

you assume too much, Bruce Wayne
you Gucci fascist
you give us men a bad name
maybe our town likes its crime—with a zesty vinaigrette and
served to us on newsprint
and maybe we like our villains just fine
thank you very much

 

 

 

 

 

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The Charity Model, a Weak Reaction to Hunger in Canada

Charity: kindness and pity in one tidy act of giving, inadequately addressing needs that shouldn’t exist in our wealthy nation, and providing the giver with a warm and satisfying feeling.

Sadly, the much coveted charity model, and a sorry system of government welfare, appear to be as close as we’ll allow ourselves to get to an equitable redistribution of wealth. It also provides the charitable license to cast mild, if unconscious, shame upon recipients while preserving expectations of cheerful and unqualified gratitude. The giver gets this, and a tax deduction along with bragging rights. Maybe even a place in Heaven.

The emphasis of this brief article is limited to food insecurity in Canada, the harsh income disparities that cause it, and how we might mitigate their impact on those effected by hunger—people facing barriers to employment, the underemployed, seniors, many people with disabilities and others. And don’t forget child poverty. They live with hunger and malnutrition every day, and our nation’s inadequate reaction is absolutely necessary to the maintenance of a charity model that fails to effectively address this injustice.

If you’re a fan of the charity model, however, no worries. Food insecurity isn’t likely to end in Canada anytime soon. Nor are the profound feelings of isolation, humiliation and physical pain it causes. Indeed, it’s likely that charity will remain one of our most robust reactions to the manufactured social and financial gaps that cause such severe hardship.

Good hearted folks will continue to put change into coin boxes, food into grocery store foodbank boxes and make year-end donations. Meanwhile, the self-congratulatory cult of the corporate executive will continue to create vast charitable facades, costing them nearly nothing, and supported primarily by their customers (think McDonalds[1] and Donald Trump[2]). For big business, charity will continue to be a thrifty form of brand enhancement, and their need for cheap branding remains never ending.

If we wanted to, though, could we eliminate poverty and hunger in Canada by stepping away from our reliance on charity? Perhaps we just need to rethink reacting with sympathy, and instead provide those in need with opportunities, gateways into employment that pays a living wage, safe housing and guaranteed minimum incomes that differ from welfare in that they come in livable amounts, and are made universally available so that pity and shaming, in this regard, are rendered obsolete.

But if all of this happened tomorrow, and charity was no longer necessary, would those who support the model feel cheated? Would they want back that special feeling they get when they deliver packages or write a cheque? If so, one might wonder if this need to commodify poverty is burned into our DNA, and if that is true, couldn’t we consciously endeavour to evolve beyond it? Can we ever advance beyond a charity model in which the net benefit goes to the charitable rather than those living in hunger?

[1]http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/Clowning_Around_Charity_Report_Full.pdf

[2]https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-used-258000-from-his-charity-to-settle-legal-problems/2016/09/20/adc88f9c-7d11-11e6-ac8e-cf8e0dd91dc7_story.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

the moon is a lie

a post from another time, but very relevant since Donny Trump’s apparent election

“The Moon is a lie.”

I say this into the veracigraph. An agent in a crumpled white shirt and lose tie holds a microphone to my mouth. We’re in a large damp concrete garage, lit by a few light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The machine’s internal brainbox hums and clicks, analysing my answer. Then a green light appears on its panel. I’ve passed. I bite my inner cheek, and show no surprise. I’ve practiced endlessly for moments like these. A steady tone of voice; a relaxed diaphragm. The machine has pegged me a true believer. I remain handcuffed to a metal chair, but I live another day.

As an exercise, I run the official narrative through my head: Of course the Moon is a lie. So are its orbit and phases, especially the crescent phases, its dark side and light. The tides are a function of the whirling, shifting planet. The Moon is the enemy’s greatest symbol, a massive manipulation, placed there by the Eastern Faith States. Huge projectors, controlled by vicious Imams, in secret locations beaming it onto the night sky, and sometimes during the day. Watching over the west — over all of us who live in freedom. It is a cruel weapon of mass destruction, the Prime Minister has spoken. All Moon literature, fictional or scientific, recent or historical, are EFS lies. Only the truly radicalised believe otherwise.

So say the newspapers.

I feel dizzy in my chair, and ask for water. A full glass is placed at my feet, but the handcuffs mean I cannot reach it. The agent in the crumpled white shirt smiles.

“Please let me go,” I say to him. “I’ve passed your test, yet again.”

“Not up to me, mate,” the agent says. “There’ll be someone along soon enough.”

I’m eighty years old, in chronic pain. Rationing has made me weak. A decade of self-imposed isolation has nearly erased my memory. I no longer have conventional memories, only flashbacks. Colours mostly. Odd. Flashes of lush blues, pale purples and pinks. Vague recollections of flowers in a window, on a desk. What are they?

I’m a danger to no one. In spite of the pain, I am amused.

It occurs to me that it’s my age that makes me dangerous, if I am at all. I know truths about the Moon that come from before the dismantling of the internet, before mass communication was banned, books incinerated. I’m from a time when radicalisation was merely a basic adolescent awakening of empathy and endeavour, not a mass doctrinal psychopathy.

“You want a cigarette?” says the agent. He pulls one from a deck for himself, and lights it.

“No,” I say.

“Don’t smoke? Is that it?”

“Yes, that’s it.”

“You fucking oldsters…,” he says, shaking his head. “I don’t get all your no smoking bullshit. The Gov says it’s safe.”

The Gov, short for Government. A word shortened to encourage trust and familiarity, intimacy even. The Gov is family, a warm and welcome friend. A lover.

The agent inhales extra deeply, proudly to make a point. The smoke he exhales is as blue as moonlight on wet pavement.

“I’m truly in trouble this time, aren’t I?” I say.

He half shrugs, and picks up and opens a tattered file. He reads. His lips move.

“You were a university prof?” he says.

“Yes.”

“How’d you fucking live this long? The Gov don’t like your kind.”

It is a mystery.

“Prof of what?” says the agent. “It doesn’t say here. It’s been blacked out.”

“Mathematics,” I lie. Or perhaps it’s not a lie. I no longer know for sure.

“Mathematics is obsolete,” the agent says. “No more long division for you, my friend.”

“That’s arithmetic, long division.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

A door opens to my left and a woman in a business suit walks in, carrying a black leather attaché case. As she approaches me, I see that she has a young but motherly face. Her lipstick is the red of jingoism, however. Not a colour from my flashbacks. It’s a deep shade of blood, derived from propaganda posters. She nods to the agent. He disappears into the dark.

“Hello, Professor,” she says to me, pulling off black kidskin gloves.

I haven’t been called that in over a decade.

“Hello,” I say.

“You’ve lately come to our attention.”

“Have I?”

“Yes you have,” she says. “It might have happened sooner, but information doesn’t flow the way it once did.”

“How does it flow now?” I ask.

“Downhill. Over stone and through culverts. Sometimes it gets stuck in whirlpools and back waters. People like me have to search it out. You lied many years ago, when you first said that you were a mathematics Professor. But it was an intelligent lie.”

She might be correct, I think.

“It seems you actually professed philosophy,” she says.

True, that’s it!

“Which is disturbing enough, but it is the area of philosophy you engaged in that’s troubling to us.”

“Us?”

“We.”

She stares at me for a moment.

I leave it at that.

“Social philosophy,” she reads from her document. “Do you deny it?”

“Is it a crime?”

“You know it’s not,” she says. “And yet it is. You know that, too.”

It’s the perfect answer.

“You wrote prolifically,” she continues. “And there was one paper you wrote, in particular, before the militant Imams began projecting the Moon onto the sky. It troubles us. The Philosophy of Denial.”

“It was well received,” I say.

“Then you don’t deny writing it?”

“The question is too ironic to answer,” I say.

She retrieves another document from her case.

“In the abstract of your paper, it is stated: Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in State sponsored denial of essential realities. A means by which to control these methods of denial and their methods of dissemination exist as a matter of clandestine fact. The purpose of this article is to examine and discuss the cognitive processes through which a population of intelligent individuals living in a progressive, affluent milieu may be convinced by the State that opposites of reality exist.”

“Yes,” I say. “That’s rather good.”

“It’s treasonous. It’s sedition.”

“It wasn’t then.”

“But it is now.” A satisfied grin. “That’s the point, and it will be as long as the article remains in existence. Somewhere, even as we speak, it is being read and rewritten. The problem is, however, that with every rewrite, it loses a little something. That’s why we’re here today.”

“Burn it,” I say, “and your problems are over.”

“Even if we could track down every copy — and let me assure you that there are many, and more are found each day — that would still leave us with the problem of you.”

“There’s nothing left of me,” I say. “A small thing would end my life. An injection. A well swung iron bar.”

“But enemies are difficult to cultivate, in any meaningful way,” she says, changing track. “You say so, yourself, in your paper. And you’re correct, of course. Genuine, functional enemies are difficult and expensive. But having a serviceable enemy on your side can pay very high dividends.”

Enemies on your side. She gets it. Clever woman.

“So you’ve read it,” I say.

“Allies are much easier,” she carries on. “The human world naturally divides itself down the centre. Despite the reality that cooperation leads to better outcomes.”

She’s paraphrasing chapter two.

“Interesting,” I say.

“When did you last have an egg, Professor?”

This is unexpected, a bit bewildering.

“At least fifteen years ago,” I say. “If I recall correctly, which I’m not sure I do. Just after the supply chain was redirected into the wars. Around the time the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was suspended.”

“A cup of coffee?”

“About the same time.”

“I have them every day,” she says. “And more.”

“How nice for you.”

“You could, too.”

I’m silent.

“You’re old, Professor,” she says. “How long do you have left, hmm? Come over to us. Join our small army of primary Villains. The world awaits you.”

“Are you serious?”

“You’ll write more of this sort of thing.” She holds up my paper. “We’ll distribute it, and punish your readers. Just imagine all of the lovely unrest, and the outrage you’ll cause. The very fuel necessary to run a formless government, indefinitely. You’ll have value again. Your photograph will deface every lamppost in every city of the country, the world.”

“Lunacy.”

“You can live in comfort. Receive medical treatment. Sleep on a proper bed, without pain. In a home with heat and hot water. You’ll live longer for all of that. Think of it.”

“So, you’re bribing me,” I say. Strangely, I suddenly see orchids. The colours. I raised them once, my God. Now I remember. The joy!

“Of course we’re bribing you.”

“Then we agree?” I say. “The moon is not a lie. I don’t believe it, and neither do you.”

“Naturally, it’s an absurd idea. How we ever convinced the people it was, remains a wonderful enigma.”

“And the endless war, it’s only an empty room.”

“Yes, it is.”

My belly tightens. There’s a wicked hope in my gut.

“May I have orchids?” I say.

“Absolutely.”

origami haiku

origami folds
& a paper star is born
orbits paper cut

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nurse Victory

the building coming down at the docks
was a thing in the war or some other romance
now hooded men stole its copper

but my body once slept inside
(it was derelict then too
but sheltered many)
that’s the point of this, the
angels in my pockets
winged pennies nickels & dimes
singing the Holy Holy Hosannas
& Torch Songs—

one is locked in tiny rooms
it turned out
for hearing such joy &
watched through tiny panes of glass

that’s how we met

hello Nurse Victory, I breathed
seeing her peek at me through the glass
me in my corner near the drain
(everything in a Psychiatric Quiet Room is near the drain)

from there I saw her once hopeful &
later at her Station so angry for marriage
never quite chill enough
for all the trend-setting psychotics &
never nearly as wise

pity?
I might have saved her
if not for the side-effects

& so the building comes down with the ball
Nurse Victory
where are you now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

remember

remember tonight
that the moon has said yes to the sea
& that we command neither
that one will whisper when you wake
sharing its purpose & you must decide
you there dim & floating like fog
upon rumours of wind you must decide
& be where you stand
in the morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

an exalted thing

The dim city reflects off the moon. The moon reflects off of the blood. The blood is still and silent. He reached out and touched it. Pulled His finger away and saw the black viscous string snap, and become liquid again.

He came home when it was done, without delay, fearing fascination, then pulled the gray camo sheet of the city over Himself. He’d wait for the papers, too late to make the morning edition. He’d read about it in the afternoon.

The Killer is an exalted thing. The atoms of murder are in His sinews, the same way that the divine pulses in the veins of God. He is without form, in the crucial moment. Only He knows how this is done. The moon disappeared.

Afghanistan was different, though. Roads into shadows of death. Killing at home was tinted peculiar. Civilians die harder. They struggle strangely, fiercely. They want to know why. The Taliban threw their bodies at bullets. They died piously. He survived and came home to free will. People who were never there would write about it. They’d Google it, and construct fictions. They’d write about what He’d done tonight, and get that wrong too.

In His room, He has nothing to read. No radio. No cigarettes. No distraction. He sits and counts his breaths. The sun rises and the traffic thickens on the street below. He stands at his window, eating from a can, watching.

He hears the NSA breaking code. Data translating round Him, into intelligence, poetry. He could write it down. But it’s better not to. Nothing is written down. No proclamations. There is no telephone. No bank account. No Keystrokes. No digital history. Pay cash. Full beard, sunglasses and hat. The ego is surveilled; the man is incidental.

The State, what He’d fought for, is attacking each of its suspicions at once, never in sequence. Changing what it sees, simply by seeing it. All of it collapsing into a single answer. The Dark. Endlessly scrolling code. Seven billion suspects. Corporate profit expectations dependent upon multiplying war zones by powers, and meeting death quotas.

The day passes. It’s 5:00 pm. He leaves to get a newspaper.

He’s made the front page again. A photo of a police team at the scene. Latex gloved and grim. Killer Strikes Again, Fifth Victim. Another body. He shudders, reading on. The killer is known only by a chosen technique, and there appears to be no motive.

Of course there’s motive. A terrible one that cannot be spoken. Not even by Him. But it’s there. Crouching in a corner. Nearly latent. Whispering to itself. Gloating over every act.

They trained Him for this. They destroyed Him. Rebuilt Him. Filled Him full of sharp and angled edges, piercing His skin from the inside out. He cannot sleep; sleep is deadly. It’s sloppy. He continues without it. He remains a good soldier.

Tonight He’ll be still. The next victim will wait. Walk, laugh and love.

But the Killer will remain shadow, cast against a wall.