coromandal


the inveterate, avowed rabble
November 24, 2008, 12:32 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Here is a description of how Europe colonized the world between the Middle Ages and modern times, as described by Ryszard Kapuscinski.  His book The Other is short and sweet and so good for understanding our perennial tendency to look lovingly inward.

In their violent desire to expand into and profit from the outside world, European powers used men from low strata of society to do the dirty work.  The violence of those excursions was caused by both greed and by the xenophobia of the men sent.  Call them what you like, they were outcast:  beginning at home, and then cast out into worlds of mercenary violence.  They were nothing – because of their class – and everything – because of their mission.  And centuries later we recognize them as a medium that has channeled into our world fear and intolerance of the other.

“The image of the Other that Europeans had when they set out to conquer the planet is of a naked savage, a cannibal and pagan, whose humiliation and oppression is the sacred right and duty of the European – who is white and Christian.  The cause of the exceptional brutality and cruelty that typified whites was not only the lust for gold and slaves that consumed their minds and blinded the ruling elites of Europe, but also the incredibly low standard of culture and morals among those sent out as the vanguard for contact with Others.  In those days ships’ crews consisted largely of villains, criminals and bandits, the inveterate, avowed rabble; at best they were tramps, homeless people and failures, the reason being that it was hard to persuade a normal person to choose to go on a voyage of adventure that often ended in death.”

~Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Other

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call yourself colonel
October 14, 2008, 10:37 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , ,


In the following excerpt from an interview with author Luc Sante is a wonderful view of the relationship between being free and being a criminal.  Very topical, don’t you think, with all the free criminals running around? — and also running things, come to think of it.

It describes a lonely American journey to – I’m not quite sure, fulfillment perhaps.  The journey begins with an act of radical emancipation from the world and identity.  The new blank slate allows the sojourner to establish a completely new and infinitely more desirable identity.  In theory and lore it ends there with the traveler having left behind his ignominious past and realizing his dream of fantastic wealth and honor and bad taste.

But the journey rarely ends as the theory describes it – the dream of riches and happiness.  Rather the journey that began in delusion ends in despair.

We all want a good life and some of us more than others.  In all of us is a need to hide the ugly qualities and remake ourselves so we present well to the people we want to love us.  For some of us the tendency to remake ourselves unnaturally is evident in small insignificant transparent correctable doses.  For others the tendency is a cancer that grows large and overtakes the soul.

Here is the excerpt from the Believer interview with Luc Sante, the Belgian American author of Low Life and Kill All Your Darlings.

BLVR: Are you saying that going on the lam is consistent with an American ideal that we can constantly move, escape, get a fresh start, begin a new life somewhere else? Is there a romanticization of criminals that the culture embraces? That criminals may be the last truly free men?

LS: Well, think about it: the founding myth of this country involves pushing farther and farther out into terra incognita, cutting ties to family and background, maybe adopting a new name and a completely concocted new identity, and somehow making lots of money, the existence of which in sufficient quantity is enough to stifle any questions about its provenance. The land that formerly belonged to the Sioux, the copper that formerly belonged to the Navaho, the skins that formerly belonged to the beavers, the stake that formerly belonged to the miner who caught diphtheria—they’re yours now, pal. Call yourself “Colonel” and declare that your fortune was left to you by Dutch burghers from the seventeenth century. Now you’re a solid citizen, the embodiment of hard work and rugged individualism. You’re no criminal. The criminal is the guy who comes up short, who gets caught, who fails to adopt a respectable cover. But after a while the solid citizen gets to missing those wild years, even as he is ensconced in his forty-room Carrera-marble Beaux-Arts palace on upper Fifth Avenue. He thinks wistfully of how he used to hop freights, sleep in culverts, drink white lightning in hobo jungles, take a sash-weight to his competitors, go through the pockets of the recently dead. He envies those who live that life now denied him forevermore. It seems to him that he’s a prisoner of his own success and that those yeggs out there are truly free.

~Believer interview with Luc Sante