Friday, September 30, 2011

2011.09.26 — A Sleep of Prisoners by Christopher Fry — finished

Christopher Fry.
A Sleep of Prisoners.
Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1952.


I found this to be an extremely difficult play to read. If A Sleep of Prisoners had been straight prose I'd have given it only one star. I think that I like what I think Fry was trying to do, but it just didn't quite work for me. I've been wrestling with pinpointing the source of my antipathy, and it comes down to basically three reasons.

The first is an inherently confusing structure. The four actors in the drama play their 'title' characters which are foot soldiers being held in a church, but while sleep-walking they also portray different figures from the Old Testament at different times and sometimes more than one them. Thus the various soldiers are at various times either awake or asleep but sleep-walk and sleep-talk, and in some cases interact physically.

This is the part I like in theory because the play takes on the confused structure of a dream and creatively turns the play itself into a series of dreams within dreams. Unfortunately that structure is inherently prone to confusion, amusingly very much like when trying to recall a multi-layered dream. Sadly Fry wasn't able to overcome that confusion, with me, and I found myself frequently and repeatedly unsure if the designated speaker was awake or asleep and personifying Abel or God. It was with growing frustration that I found myself frequently flipping back to see who was whom.

Branagh in The Lady's Not for Burning
It is probable that seeing the production would help keep the distinctions. However, and most importantly, the second failure was that Fry forced the language in a way that surprised me after my having read and seen two versions of his brilliant 'The Lady's Not For Burning'.

And he forced it in two ways, both of which added to the confusion. The first was in shrilly striving to be profound and rustic at the same time. Perhaps here he was trying to emulate Shakespeare's Feste from Twelfth Night, but failed.
Ben Kingsley's Feste

The other way that the language failed was in how nearly identical the four soldiers sounded to each other, whether awake or sleep talking a Biblical figure. I suspect that this may well have been a result of Fry trying to have all the characters say accidentally profound and even memorable things.

And here is the final reason: the meaning was heavy-handed and coloured unfavourably by an excessively sentimental existential angst. Let's see if this citation captures what I mean.
DAVID.                                          Oh, go
And discard yourself. G'night, Corporal Joseph Adams.

[ADAMS goes to his bunk.
MEADOWS turns in his sleep.
The church clock strikes a single note.

MEADOWS [asleep]. Who's that, fallen out? How many men?
How many? I said only one.
One was enough.
No, no, no. I didn't ask to be God.
No one else prepared to spell the words.
Spellbound. B-o-u-n-d. Ah-h-h-h …

[He turns in his sleep again.

It's old Adam, old, old, old Adam.
Out of bounds. No one said fall out.
What time did you go to bad?
Sorrow, Adam, stremely sorrow.

[CORPORAL ADAMS comes towards him,
a dream figure.

Adam, Adam, stand easy there.

ADAMS. Reporting for duty, sir.

MEADOWS. As you were, Adam.

ADAMS. No chance of that, sir.

MEADOWS. As you were, as you were.

ADAMS. Lost all track of it now, sir.

MEADOWS. How far back was it, Adam?

ADAMS [with a jerk of the head].
Down the road. Too dark to see.

MEADOWS. Were you alone?

ADAMS.                           A woman with me, sir.

MEADOWS. I said Let there be love,
And there wasn't enough light, you say?

ADAMS. We could see our own shapes, near enough,
But not the road. The road kept on dividing
Every yard or so. Makes it long.
We expected nothing like it, sir.
Ill-equipped, naked as the day,
It was all over and the world was on us
Before we had time to take cover.

MEADOWS. Stand at peace, Adam: do stand at peace.

ADAMS. There's nothing of that now, sir.

MEADOWS. Corporal Adam.

ADAMS.                      Sir?

MEADOWS.                         You have shown spirit.

ADAMS. Thank you, sir.
Excuse me, sir, but there's some talk of a future.
I've had no instructions.

MEADOWS [turning in his sleep]. Ah-h-h-h-h.

ADAMS. Is there any immediate anxiety of that?

[DAVID, as the dream figure of Cam, stands leaning on the lectern, chewing at a beet.

How far can we fall back, sir?

DAVID [smearing his arms with beet juice].
Have you lost something?

ADAMS. Yes, Cain: yes, I have.

DAVID. Have you felt in all your pockets?

ADAMS. Yes, and by searchlight all along the grass
For God knows howling. Not a sign,
Not a sign, boy, not a ghost.

DAVID.                               When do you last
Remember losing it?

ADAMS.                   When I knew it was mine.
As soon as I knew it was mine I felt
I was the only one who didn't know
My host.

DAVID.      Poor overlooked
Old man. Allow me to make the introduction.
God: man. Man: God.

[PETER, the dream figure of Abel, is in the organ-loft fingering out ''Now the day is over'.

ADAMS. I wish it could be so easy.

DAVID. Sigh, sigh, sigh!
The hot sun won't bring you out again
If you don't know how to behave.
Pretty much like mutiny. I'd like to remind you
We're first of all men, and complain afterwards.
[Calling.] Abel! Abel! Hey, flock-headed Peter,
Come down off those mountains.
Those bleating sheep can look after themselves.
Come on down.

PETER.             What for?

DAVID.                            Because I said so!

PETER [coming down]. I overlooked the time. Is it day or night?

DAVID. You don't deserve to inherit the earth.
Am I supposed to carry the place alone?

PETER. Where will you carry it?
Where do you think you're going to take it to,
This prolific indifference?
Show me an ending great enough
To hold the passion of this beginning
And raise me to it.
Day and night, the sun and moon
Spirit us, we wonder where. Meanwhile
Here we are, we lean on our lives
Expecting purpose to keep her date,
Get cold waiting, watch the overworlds
Come and go, question the need to stay
But do, in an obstinate anticipation of love.
Ah, love me, it's a long misuse of breath
For boys like us. When do we start?

DAVID. When you suffering god'sbodies
Come to your senses. What you'll do
Is lose us life altogether.
Amply the animal is Cain, thank God,
As he was meant to be: a huskular strapling
With all his passions about him. Tomorrow
Will know him well. Momentous doings
Over the hill for the earth and us.
What hell else do you want?

PETER.                               The justification.

DAVID. Oh, bulls and bears to that.
The word's too long to be lived.
Just if, just if, is as far as ever you'll see.

PETER. What's man to be?

DAVID.                         Content and full.

PETER. That's modest enough.
What an occupation for eternity.
Sky's hollow filled as far as for ever
With rolling light: place without limit,
Time without pity:
And did you say all for the sake of our good condition,
All for our two-footed prosperity?
Well, we should prosper, considering
The torment squandered on our prospering.
From squid to eagle the ravening is on.
We are all pain-fellows, but nothing you dismay,
Man is to prosper. Other lives, forbear
To blame me, great and small forgive me
If to your various agonies
My light should seem hardly enough
To be the cause of the ponderable shadow.

DAVID. Who do you think you are, so Angel-sick?
Pain warns us to be master: pain prefers us.
Draws us up.

PETER.          Water into the sun:
All the brooding clouds of us!

DAVID.                                  All right.
We'll put it to the High and Mighty.
Play you dice to know who's favoured.

PETER. What's he to do with winning?

DAVID.                                           Play you dice.
Not so sure of yourself, I notice.

PETER. I'll play you. Throw for first throw.
Now creation be true to creatures.

ADAMS. Look, sir, my sons are playing.
How silent the spectators are,
World, air, and water.
Eyes bright, tension, halt.
Still as a bone from here to the sea.

DAVID [playing]. Ah-h-h-h!

ADAMS. Sir, my sons are playing. Cain's your man.
He goes in the mould of passion as you made him,
He can walk this broken world as easily
As I and Eve the ivory light of Eden.
I recommend him. The other boy
Frets for what never came his way,
Will never reconcile us to our exile.
Look, sir, my sons are playing.
Sir, let the future plume itself, not suffer.

PETER [playing]. How's that for a nest of singing birds?

ADAMS. Cain sweats: Cain gleams. Now do you see him?
He gives his body to the game.
Sir, he's your own making, and has no complaints.

DAVID. Ah! What are you doing to me, heaven and earth?

PETER. Friendly morning.

DAVID [shaking the dice]. Numbers, be true to nature.
Deal me high,
Six dark stars
Come into my sky.
[He throws.
Blight! What's blinding me
By twos and threes? I'm strong, aren't I?
Who's holding me down? Who's frozen my fist
So it can't hatch the damn dice out?

PETER [shaking and throwing].
Deal me high, deal me low.
Make my deeds
My nameless needs.
I know I do not know.
... That brings me home!

[DAVID roars with rage and disappointment. (10-15)
This is typical of the entire play. Forced but false earthy wisdom, and dialogue that makes all the characters sound the same, even when they come from The Bible. I was very disappointed.

But curious to see a production, to see how someone approaches the problems of staging this play. And to see how the presence of individuals acting the play helps to distinguish the dialogue and make it less heavy with sentimental angst.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011.09.24 — To Speak of Conversations with Carl Jung and a Sigmund Freud fushigi*.

This morning (Saturday as I'm now writing), I stumbled into a 'multi-month' *fushigi. It originally began on an aqua marine sticky dated 2011.06.20. This morning I found it stuck on page 22 of Conversations with Carl Jung and reactions from Earnest Jones as interviewed and edited by and Richard I. Evans.
Canada: D. Van Nostrand Co. Ltd., 1964.

On that sticky I'd quickly jotted:
@ work talked with BV & TR about [the relative] popularity of Jung versus Freud. At some point I said that Jung was [and is] more unpopular than Freud because Jung demanded from his psychology taking personal responsibility, whereas Freud's psychology allows blame to be put on childhood traumas.
This aqua fushigi sticky was stuck in the book because the night of that conversation with B&T I opened CwCJ to read the following:

In New York City on December 1, 1961, a Jung Memorial meeting was held, sponsored jointly by the New York Association of Analytical Psychology and the Analytical Psychology Club of New York. At this meeting we were particularly taken with the interesting and eloquent comments expressed by Dr. Henry Murray about the late Dr. Carl Jung. We may quote Dr. Murray when he says:

"Jung was humble before the ineffable mystery of each variant self that faced him for the first time, as he sat at his, desk, pipe in hand, with every faculty in tune, brooding on the portent of what was being said to him. And he never hesitated to acknowledge his perplexity in the presence of a strange and inscrutable phenomenon, never hesitated to admit the provisional nature of the comments he had to make or to emphasize the difficulties and limitations of possible achievement in the future.

'Whoever comes to me' he would say, 'takes his life in his hand.' The effect of such a statement, the effect of his manner of delivering his a'vows of uncertainty and suspense is not to diminish but to augment the patient's faith in his positions, invincible integrity, as well as to make plain that the patient must take the burden of responsibility for any decisions he might make" (22-3 - my emphasis).
How this fushigi came full circle today began with my finding a quotation about villains to augment an answer I'd given to a 'Which One' question M posted in Weekly Short Stories Game game. The question was to choose between:
"Someone who is sure about things or someone who is at home with uncertainty?"
Yesterday, when I answered that I thought immediately of the brilliant book The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt. So this morning I went onto the iMAc to find the quotation I wanted to add to my answer, which is:
The hero is the man actively engaged in becoming himself – never a very reassuring sight. The villain, on the other hand, has already become something.
Donald Richie. The Films of Akira Kurosawa. University of California Press, © 1984 by The Regents of the University of California. Cited in The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt, New York: Hyperion Books, 2000; ISBN 0-7868-6668-3, pg.235
And so it came to pass that a fushigi that began in June came around in an odd circle to be completed in late September with a fictional book that cited a book about the films of Akira Kuroswawa
and an 'uncertainty' question in a social networking game.

Oh! One more thing. The gamester, M, who asked the above question is an avid reader of Jung. I know this because we have corresponded on and via Goodreads. However, to the best of my knowledge, he doesn't read my blog — at least he's never commented in, or about, it even though I am reasonably certain that he has seen me refer to it.

Addendum: a completely trivial and insubstantial oddity happened this afternoon, as well. I'm a little hesitant to blog this, but these things happen to me very frequently, so, given that I'm blogging a fushigi today, I figure that I might just as well. This morning, while parking the car in the super market's parking lot, for some reason the movie with Bill Murray about the body's immune
systems came into my mind. Not sure why, given that it is an old movie and only somewhat amusing. I don't have a copy of it, have no desire to purchase it, and I've only seen it once. One of those quick completely nonsensical thoughts. Except that when I got home, and after a couple of hours of gardening with my wife, I put up my feet and flipped through the TV's channel guide to see listed the movie Osmosis Jones. When I saw it, I said to my Self, 'Oh no. That's just too stupid.' But as I've said, these kinds of spurious thoughts with subsequent manifestation happen frequently.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011.09.17 — Conversations with Carl Jung — finished 2011.08.02

Carl Jung and Richard I. Evans.
Conversations with Carl Jung and reactions from Earnest Jones.
Canada: D. Van Nostrand Co. Ltd., 1964.

Previous fushigi blog on this book is @ 2011.07.15.
The psyche is nothing different from the living being. It is the psychical aspect of the living being. It is even the psychical aspect of matter. It is a quality (p83).
As I was reading the first interview I had mixed feelings. At first I was a little disappointed in it because it seemed somewhat insubstantial. But given the amount of Jung I have read — which isn't everything but certainly more than a survey anthology — I realized that that is a rather shallow observation. So I decided to step back and enjoy the book for what is, which for me took the form of observing the psychological nature or bias of the American interviewer, Richard I. Evans.

It struck me that Evans was revealing himself by the type of questions he asked as well as the insistence with which he asked some or avoided others. With that realization the interviews became amusing and very interesting because I could see that Evans was coming at Jung from America's oddly prurient Freudian-sexual fixation while trying not to appear that way. And it was also interesting and amusing to see Jung strive to shake Evans of that bias of understanding. That Evans was indeed this way biased is made evident by his need to include in his book the Freudian rebuttal of Jung with an interview with the Freudian Earnest Jones.

But it was perhaps most apparent in the chapter 'Jung's Appraisal of Freudian Psychosexual Development.' While reading it I was reminded of one of the most interesting (to me) interviews Oprah did. Kate Winslet was her guest. She was there to talk about and, of course, promote the excellent (but highly underrated) movie Holy Smoke.
In the course of the movie Ruth (Winslet), who was being de-programmed from a religious conversion she'd undergone in India, had a nervous break down when the tenets of her faith did not stand up against the deprogrammer's argument and rhetoric.
Ruth burns the clothes she came with from India, and walks naked in the Australian desert, tears pouring down her face. Pretty obvious metaphorical and psychological expression of being stripped (emotionally and psychologically) before experiencing a rebirth into, hopefully, her true self. It is extremely well acted, and includes Ruth urinating as she walks.

Without my exaggerating too much, Oprah fixated on Winslet's nakedness, not the character's, with question after question about that. Winslet responded to the first and second queries with resigned patience — it was this character's experience — kind of answer. Yes, the issue of cults and brainwashing were eventually discussed, but not before Oprah had revealed an aspect of her American teenage-like fixation on sex and sexuality. It became increasingly evident that Winslet was frustrated by that fixation and, if memory serves me right, says something like it's only breasts for God's sake.

And if it is possible to suggest that Oprah's blatant fascination with a woman who was willing to be publicly naked has a certain American feel about it, Jung refers to the 'psyche' of America many times in these interview as if such a thing is tangibly even obviously evident. For example, Jung is asked about the relationship between psychological disturbances and illness, and of the use of drugs to treat mental illness, and comments on America's medical behaviour.
Dr. Evans: An interesting area which is being discussed a lot in the United States today, and I'm sure is of interest to you as well, is that of psychosomatic medicine, an area dealing with the way in which emotional components of personality can affect bodily functions.

Dr. Jung: As an example of this, I see a lot of astounding cures of tuberculosis—chronic tuberculosis—effected by analysts; people learn to breathe again. The understanding of what their complexes were—that has helped them.

Dr. Evans: When did you first become interested in the psychic factors of tuberculosis? Many years ago?

Dr. Jung: I was an analyst to begin with; I was always interested naturally. Maybe also because I understood so little of it, or more importantly, I noticed that I understood so little.

Dr. Evans: To expand on my earlier question, we are right now becoming more and more interested in the United States in how emotional, unconscious personality factors can actually have an effect on the body. Of course, the classic example in the literature is the peptic ulcer. It is believed that this is a case where emotional factors have actually created pathology.

These ideas have been extended into many other areas. It is felt, for example, that where there already is pathology, these emotional factors can intensify it. Or sometimes there may be actual symptoms or fears concerning pathology when no true pathology exists, such as in cases of hysteria or hypochondriasis. For example, many physicians in America say that 60 to 70 percent of their patients do not have anything really physically wrong with them, but they instead have disorders of psychosomatic origin.

Dr. Jung: Yes, that is well known—since more than fifty years. The question is how to cure them.

Dr. Evans: Speaking of such psychosomatic disturbances, as, for instance, your experiences and studies into tuberculosis, do you have any ideas as to why the patient selects this type of symptom?

Dr. Jung: He doesn't select; they happen to him. You could ask just as well when you are eaten by a crocodile, "How did you happen to select that crocodile?" Nonsense, he has selected you.

Dr. Evans: Of course, "selected" in this sense refers to an unconscious process.

Dr. Jung: No, not even unconsciously. That is an extraordinary exaggeration of the importance of the subject, to say he was choosing such things. They get him.

Dr. Evans: Perhaps one of the most radical suggestions in the area of psychosomatic medicine has been the suggestion that some forms of cancer may have psychosomatic components as causal factors. Would this surprise you?

Dr. Jung: Not at all. We know these since long ago, you know. Fifty years ago we already had these cases; ulcer of the stomach, tuberculosis, chronic arthritis, skin diseases. All are psychogenic under certain conditions.

Dr. Evans: And even cancer?

Dr. Jung: Well you see, I couldn't swear, but I have seen cases where I thought or wondered whether or not there was a psychogenic reason for that particular ailment; it came too conveniently.

Many things can be found out about cancer, I'm sure. You see, with us it has been always a question of how to treat these things, because any disease possible has a psychological accompaniment. It just all depends upon —perhaps life depends upon it—whether you treat such a patient psychologically in the proper way or not. That can help tremendously, even if you cannot prove in the least that the disease in itself is psychogenic.

You can have an infectious disease in a certain moment, that is, a physical ailment or predicament, because you are particularly accessible to an infection—maybe sometimes because of a psychological attitude. Angina is such a typical psychological disease; yet it is not psychological in its physical consequences. It's just an infection. So you ask, "Then why does psychology have anything to do with it?" Because it was the psychological moment maybe that allowed the infection to grow. When the disease has been established and there is a high fever and an abscess, you cannot cure it by psychology. Yet it is quite possible that you can avoid it by a proper psychological attitude.

Dr. Evans: So all this interest in psychosomatic medicine is pretty old stuff to you.

Dr. Jung: It's all known here long ago.

Dr. Evans: And you are not at all surprised at the new developments . . .

Dr. Jung: No. For instance, there is the toxic aspect of schizophrenia. I published it fifty years ago—just fifty years ago—and now everyone discovers it. You are far ahead in America with technological things, but in psychological matters and such things, you are fifty years back. You simply don't understand it; that's a fact. I don't want to figure in a general corrective statement; you simply are not yet aware of what there is. There are plenty more things than people have any idea of. I told you that case of the theologian who didn't even know what the unconscious was; he thought it was an apparition. Everyone who says that I am a mystic is just an idiot. He just doesn't understand the first word of psychology.

Dr. Evans: There is certainly nothing mystical about the statements you have just been making. Now to pursue this further, another development that falls right in line with this whole discussion of psychosomatic medicine has been the use of drugs to deal with psychological problems. Of course, historically drugs have been used a great deal by people to try to forget their troubles, to relieve pain, etc. However, a particular development has been the so-called non-addictive tranquilizing drugs. These, of course, became prominent in France with the drug, chlorpromazine. Then followed such drugs as reserpine-serpentina, and a great variety of milder tranquilizers, known by such trade names as Miltown and Equinal. They are now being administered very freely to patients by general practitioners and internists. In other words, not only are the stronger tranquilizers being administered to mentally ill patients such as schizophrenics, but to a great extent today these drugs are being dispensed almost as freely as aspirins to reduce everyday tensions.

Dr. Jung: This practice is very dangerous.

Dr. Evans: Why do you think this is dangerous? These drugs are supposed to be nonaddictive.

Dr. Jung: It's just like the compulsion that is caused by morphine or heroin. It becomes a habit. You don't know what you do, you see, when you use such drugs. It is like the abuse of narcotics.

Dr. Evans: But the argument is that these are not habit-forming; they are not physiologically addictive.

Dr. Jung: Oh, yes, that's what one says.

Dr. Evans: But you feel that psychologically there is still addiction?

Dr. Jung: Yes. For instance, there are many drugs that don't produce habits, the kind of habits that morphine does; yet it becomes a different kind of habit, a psychical habit, and that is just as bad as anything else.

Dr. Evans: Have you actually seen any patients or had any contact with individuals who have been taking these particular drugs, these tranquilizers?

Dr. Jung: I can't say. You see, with us there are very few. In America there are all the little powders and the tablets. Happily enough, we are not yet so far. You see, American life is in a subtle way so one-sided and so uprooted that you must have something with which to compensate the real nature of man. You have to pacify your unconscious all along the line because it is in absolute uproar; so at the slightest provocation you have a big moral rebellion in America. Look at the rebellion of modern youth in America, the sexual rebellion, and all that. These rebellions occur because the real, natural man is just in open rebellion against the utterly inhuman form of American life. Americans are absolutely divorced from nature in a way, and that accounts for that drug abuse.

Dr. Evans: But what about the treatment of individuals who are seriously mentally ill? We have the problem of hospitalized, psychotic patients. For instance, certain schizophrenics are so withdrawn that they are virtually impossible to interact with in psychotherapy;

so in many hospitals in the United States, drugs such as chlorpromazine have been used in order to render many such patients more amenable to psychotherapy. I don't think most of our practitioners believe the drugs cure the patients in themselves, but they at least make the patient more amenable to therapy.

Dr. Jung: Yes, the only question is whether that amenability is a real thing or drug-induced. I am sure that any kind of suggestive treatment will have effect, because these people simply become suggestible. You see, any drug or shock in the mind will lower stamina, making these people accessible to suggestion. Then, of course, they can be led, can be made into something, but it is not a very happy result.

Dr. Evans: To change the topic for a moment, Professor Jung, I know our students would be interested in your opinion concerning the kind of training and background a psychologist, a person who wants to study the individual, should have. For example, there is one view that says maybe he should be trained primarily as a rigorous scientist, a master of such tools as statistics and experimental design. Others feel, however, that a study of the humanities is also important for the student who wants to study the individual.

Dr. Jung: Well of course, when you study human psychology, you can't help noticing that man's psychology doesn't only consist of the ramifications of instinct in his behaviour. There are other determinants, many others, and the study of man from his biological aspect only is by far insufficient. To understand human psychology, it is absolutely necessary that you study man also in his social and general environments. You have to consider, for instance, the fact that there are different kinds of societies, different kinds of nations, different traditions; and in the interest of that purpose, it is absolutely necessary that one treat the problem of the human psyche from many standpoints. Each is naturally a considerable task.

Thus, after my association experiments at which time I realized that there was obviously an unconscious, the question became, "Now what is this unconscious? Does it consist merely of remnants of conscious activities, or are there things that are practically forever unconscious? In other words, is the unconscious a factor in itself?" And I soon came to the conclusion that the unconscious must be a factor in itself. You see, I observe time and again, for instance, when delving into people's dreams or schizophrenic patients' delusions and fantasies, that therein is contained motives which they couldn't possibly have acquired in our surroundings. This, of course, depends upon the belief that the child is not born tabula rasa, but instead is a definite mixture or combination of genes; and although the genes seem to contain chiefly dynamic factors and predispositions to certain types of behaviour, they have a tremendous importance also for the arrangement of the psyche, inasmuch as it appears, that is. Before you can see into the psyche, you cannot study it, but once it appears, you see that it has certain qualities and a certain character. Now the explanation for this must needs depend upon the elements born in the child, so factors determining human behaviour are born within the child, and determine further development. Now that is one side of the picture.

The other side of the picture is that the individual lives in connection with others in certain definite surroundings that will influence the given combination of qualities. And that now is also a very complicated factor, because the environmental influences are not merely personal. There are any number of objective factors. The general social conditions, laws, convictions, ways of looking at things, of dealing with things; these things are not of an arbitrary character. They are historical. There are historical reasons why things are as they are. There are historical reasons for the qualities of the psyche and there is such a thing as the history of man's evolution in past eons, which as a combination show that real understanding of the psyche must consist in the elucidation of the history of the human race—history of the mind, for instance, as in the biological data. When I wrote my first book concerning the psychology of the unconscious, I already had formed a certain idea of the nature of the unconscious. To me it was then a living remnant of the original history of man, man living in his surroundings. It is a very complicated picture.

So you see, man is not complete when he lives in a world of statistical truth. He must live in a world where the "whole" of man, his entire history, is the concern; and that is not merely statistics. It is the expression of what man really is, and what he feels himself to be.

The scientist is always looking for an average. Our natural science makes everything an average, reduces everything to an average; yet the truth is that the carriers of life are individuals, not average numbers. When everything is statistical, all individual qualities are wiped out, and that, of course, is quite unbecoming. In fact, it is unhygienic, because if you wipe out the mythology of a man, his entire historical sequence, he becomes a statistical average, a number; that is, he becomes nothing. He is deprived of his specific value, of experiencing his own unique value[my emphasis].

You see, the trouble is that nobody understands these things apparently. It seems quite strange to me that one doesn't see what an education without the humanities is doing to man. He loses his connection with his family, his connection with his whole past—the whole stem, the tribe—that past in which man has always lived. We think that we are born today tabula rasa without a history, but man has always lived in the myth. To think that man is born without a history within himself— that is a disease. It is absolutely abnormal, because man is not born every day. He is born into a specific historical setting with specific historical qualities, and therefore, he is only complete when he has a relation to these things. If you are growing up with no connection from the past, it is like being born without eyes and ears and trying to perceive the external world with accuracy. Natural science may say, "You need no connection with the past; you can wipe it out," but that is a mutilation of the human being. Now I saw from a practical experience that this kind of proceeding has a most extraordinary therapeutic effect. I can tell you such a case (105-112).
In my being a non-American, but one whose proximity to America means I am bombarded by images of America's zeitgeist and ideology twenty-four hours a day, I found his comments to align with my own less informed impressions.

But in the end, beyond my being bemused by American sexual repression pretending otherwise, the chastisement that Jung gives to America's psychiatric practice of using drugs (which is later echoed by Jones from the Freudian perspective), this book gave me a interesting 'aha' moment. When talking about his idea of psychological types, he elaborates on the intuitive. At one point (I wasn't able to find it tonight) he comments that the intuitive type are often, perhaps even normally, found in business men. He argues that for business to be successful the people running it need to know what is going to happen in the future, to know what isn't already known or deducible. For some reason this surprised me, because it is so obvious, but today, forty years since the interview, is so obviously not generally the case. I looked at my surprise, and after some thought came to the realization that the current practice of MBA-ing every important job means that education is weeding out the intuitive and replacing them with hacks who can regurgitate text books and lectures on exam day. And that explains a lot about today's business practices: the elite are unable to see beyond spreadsheets and flowcharts because the intuitives have been largely weeded out of the big corporate due to current education practices. The exceptions largely being those like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, who went their own way.

Addendum: Previous fushigi blog on this book is @ 2011.07.15.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011.09.08 — Luck Finished & a Fushigi*

Finished today. Began 2011.08.20.


Joan Barfoot.
Toronto: Vintage Canada. ISBN: 978-0-676-97701-1 (0-676-97701-4).

Barfoot likes to play with how the obvious in people can be so wrong. And she does this very well, again, in Luck, where she adds the ambivalence of luck, especially that of perceived luck, both good and bad.

The stage upon which Barfoot's characters explore luck is in the extended quasi-family dynamics of three disparate women living together who find their relatively impersonal work-based relationship instantly and confusingly personalized by the sudden death of Nora's middle-aged husband.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Barfoot introduces Nora with an early morning scream at her discovery that the husband she had laid down with the night before has become in their sleep a corpse. She is a successful mixed media graphic artist and Barfoot's nuance and detail make her very interesting. But as day one of the post-mortem evolves Barfoot quietly and slowly expands the depths and complexity of the other two characters to the point that Nora eventually becomes the least interesting of the three characters.

The story is told primarily through Nora, but the other two get to tell their tales too until they are all fully fleshed out. Sophie, the personal assistant who was traumatized by the failure of her good intentions to change or even ameliorate evil in the world and is in hiding inside Nora's household from that and her own do-gooder hypocrisy. There is Beth, the beautiful and pliable model who appears to the other two as an oddly vain and empty-minded ex-beauty queen with nothing of interest to offer them except to be the butt of their condescension and feigned tolerance for her compulsive need to push on them her complex health teas and other infusions.

The exploration of luck begins with how each of them have felt lucky: Nora for having found Phil and Beth and Sophie; Sophie for having found Phil and Nora; and Beth for having been found by Nora. But it is an ambivalent sort of luck because it has trapped them all in a pattern of relative unchanging — I was going to write, "comfort" but that's not quite right. Undemanding familiarity, perhaps, because their interpersonal demands are not of family, not of work mates, not of school mates. Oddly, they relate to each other from the strict requirements of their own self-interests which have been unthreatened by the others' own sell pre-occupations.

And with the ostensible bad luck of Phil dying young all that changes. The barriers of self-interest are breached in ways that are unexpected to all women and disorienting, The exploration is at times delightful and sad. Barfoot is unafraid to present characters who are seriously flawed and undoubtedly unlikable, but with such sympathy that I cared to see how each of them survived. The characters are complex enough that their interpersonal and psychological devolutions are not predictable. And the ending is a very pleasant surprise of character development.

So, with all that, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed the book I am still hesitant to give this five stars because it didn't quite blow me away, hence my having given it …


But, as luck would have it, Luck participated in two small fushigis. The first was so small and odd that I wasn't going to blog it, but after the second one popped up blogging them both became worthwhile.

Earlier this week I flipped through my cable company's free video on demand movie listings with the hope of finding a diverting comedy. Nothing stood out. But out of desperation I looked at the synopsis of the unknown to me Prada to Nada, which by its title was likely to be at least an attempt at comedy. I became a bit more interested when I saw that it was based on Jane Austen's great novel Sense and Sensibility. Sometimes, if the writing is good, such transformations can be very entertaining, like 10 Things I Hate About You which was a remake of The Taming of the Shrew.

It turns out that the IMDb reviewers have given Prada a cumulative 4.8 rating. Yup, that's about what I'd give it, too. However, the following day there occurred a curious overlapping between the movie and Luck. In Prada the flower The Bird of Paradise had a role in helping bridge the gap between the once rich Orange County girl and her circumstance of poverty in East LA. The Bird of Paradise is just seeable in the picture above. Below is another, picture:

So, the next day after having learned something about a flower about which I know nothing and have barely heard of, I read the following:

Then when storytelling time was over, she watched as her mysterious uncle, that flamboyant, raving bird of paradise, stepped up to the front (156).
When was the last time you read a book
character described as a 'raving bird of paradise'? So, as you can see this is an odd fushigi because I didn't know until the movie about a flower named after a bird, and within 48 hours I get two references to it.

But what did give me the impetus this fushigi began when I read:

The music Nora and Sophie finally chose yesterday is no Tom after all, but a Leonard — a Cohen song they agreed would suit all of them. Nora and Sophie and Philip. "It's very long," Sophie said, "but beautiful."


"it's not exactly funeral music."


Now, after a service in which music must constitute only the most minor shock and surprise, the opening bars of Dance Me to the End of Love commence their grim lilt (232-3).
Those were amongst the last words I read before leaving for work on the morning of September 7, 2011. When I started my car to go to work, I hear the last three or four words of Tom Power, the CBC-R2 morning host, before he spun up … yup, you guessed it, 'Dance me to the End of Love.'
Yup, I find that puzzling too. And I always love music fushigis.

Friday, September 2, 2011

2011.09.01 — Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media: Finished 2011.06.18

Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky.
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.
New York. Pantheon Books, 2002.
Pages: 480. ISBN: 978-0-375-71449-8.

Note: The cover shown is to the 1988 edition, 412 pages: ISBN 0-679-72034-0.

Begun 2011.04; finished 2011.06.17.


It's been many weeks, now, since I finished Manufacturing and started this review. In that time I have been wrestling with how to verbalize the feelings that this book has evoked. Sadly, the best description I can give is that it is easily and by far the most disturbing book I have ever read. Writing and re-writing that sentence, with its rather flaccid sentiment took me three days. My brain seems to have been hit hard with the breadth and depth of my state sanctioned and media promulgated ignorance and disinformation. But it has been stunned into gibber-jabber at economic actions that can only be called evil but have been either ignored or sanitized by our media.

I am disappointed and surprised that my having read eight of Chomsky's 150+ books a total of 13 times before tackling Manufacturing did not prepare me against being overwhelmed by the calm, incisive, and persuasive descriptions of both the immeasurable brutality of American foreign policy and the vile complicity of the press. Yes, I knew it was bad — I had come to that conclusion on my own long before I discovered NC.

When I began reading Manufacturing I proceeded with the naïve thought that I'd flag those bits that resonated with me in order to blog at least some of them. And at first that is exactly what did: many of the early pages are purpled with stickies, and it was at that time that it was with excitement, perhaps even zeal, that I blogged those two oh so perfect citations.

But I flagged fewer and fewer pages because I began to realize that what I was reading could not be effectively snipped into even longish quotations. The book is only properly read as a wholeness because every piece of writing supports Herman's and Chomsky's arguments: removing words here and there weakened them because isolated they seem too unbelievable. Before this book I actually thought I understood Chomsky when he's commented that the modern media's need for concision is an extremely effective tool to delimit argument and promote ignorance within the acceptable and the delimited known. And I now understand why he has such vehemence whenever he refutes anyone trying in anyway to mollify in even the tiniest degree the evil that is America's actions in South Vietnam.

Reading Manufacturing created an epiphany. I feel I have been ripped from the flawed world that I thought I had some understanding of and dropped into the fetid mire of an alternative universe.

In response to a comment I made about Manufacturing a co-worker stated the trope about the important role the media played in shortening the Vietnam War. His particular point was of the brutal war photography of a famous photographer (whose name I've now forgotten) who achieved much acclaim for the brutal photographs he took. I found myself unable to even open my mouth to contradict him his belief about the media's role in ending that war. How could I begin to re-articulate the entire text of Manufacturing, which would be the minimum required to exorcise that mystification? It would require both an acceptance of the scale of America's Machiavellian brutality that is all but unimaginable and that that brutality was not only knowingly condoned but significantly abetted by just about all of the news journals and their expert commentators and propagandizing editing and editorializing.

Actually, reading just Manufacturing would likely not be enough, because without additional awareness outside of it and Chomsky Consent is probably unbelievable despite the hundreds of references and extended citations from everyone from Kissenger to President Carter. The scale of the deliberate and utter ruthless annihilation of democracy in Vietnam and Cambodia for the direct and clearly delineated and articulated, but unreported, purposes of American world hegemony is incredulous and sickening. And Vietnam cannot be dismissed as a reporting gaff because the improper reporting of American hegemony continued in South and Latin America. Perhaps most tellingly with how the media reported the rape, murder and mutilation of nine American church women who had left America to provide aide to those being killed by American backed, trained and financed henchmen.

As I mentioned, I was originally going to site lots of things. But after many weeks of struggle, I've decided to focus on why I've used the words 'evil' and 'sickening' to describe the government of America's behaviour in Vietnam and the media's complicity. To set that up, here's an excerpt that perhaps gives a hint of the scale of America's destruction of South Vietnam while they were reportedly 'saving' it:
… [T]here was little [media] reaction when B-52 raids in "the populous [Mekong] delta" were reported in 1965, with unknown numbers of civilian casualties and hordes of refugees fleeing to government-controlled areas "because they could no longer bear the continuous bombings."72 The victims fell under the category of "the unfortunate accidental loss of life incurred by the efforts of American military forces to help the South Vietnamese repel the incursion of North Vietnam and its partisans," as explained by Sidney Hook while condemning Bertrand Russell because
he "plays up" these meritorious actions "as deliberate American atrocities."73

Not only was there no reaction to these and subsequent atrocities, but there was also no attempt to place them in the context of what had immediately preceded — that is, to make them intelligible. Indeed, there was little awareness of the background, because the media were so closely wedded to U.S. government goals and perceptions that they never sought to learn the facts. As the war progressed, ample evidence became available from U.S. government sources to explain why the United States had been forced to resort to violence in "the populous delta," as elsewhere, as we described in the preceding section. But such materials, inconsistent with the preferred image of the United States defending South Vietnam from Communist terror and aggression, had little impact on news reporting or commentary, except for occasional illustration of the difficulties faced by the United States in pursuing its noble cause.

The reason for the U.S. resort to violence was overwhelmingly clear by the time of the outright U.S. invasion in 1965, and would have been no less clear before had any serious effort been made to determine the facts. As noted above, the United States was compelled by the political and social successes of the southern Viet Minh (NLF, "Viet Cong") to shift the struggle away from the political arena, where it was weak, to the arena of violence, where it was strong, a typical response to a classic dilemma.

It is in this context that we can understand the resort to B-52 raids in "the populous delta" and elsewhere to destroy the civilian base of the indigenous enemy, expanding the failed efforts of the strategic-hamlet program and earlier terror. The U.S. media continued to report the subsequent atrocities, but from the standpoint of the aggressors. One had to turn to the foreign press to find reports from zones held by the South Vietnamese enemy — for example, those of the pro-Western correspondent Katsuichi Honda, who reported in the Japanese press in the fall of 1967 from the Mekong Delta, describing attacks against undefended villages by gunboats in the Mekong River and helicopter gunships "firing away at random at farmhouses," "using the farmers for targets as if in a hunting mood": "They are hunting Asians. . . . This whimsical firing would explain the reason why the surgical wards in every hospital in the towns of the Mekong delta were full of wounded." His reports were available only to readers of antiwar literature, not the "objective" media, which had no interest in how the war might appear from the standpoint of the Vietnamese victims of the attack by the United States and the local forces it established.74

The media continued to observe and discuss atrocities blandly, not considering them as controversial or as raising any moral issue — in fact, not regarding them as atrocities at all, although we detect no such reserve with regard to the violence of official enemies. The respected columnist Joseph Harsch describes the frustrations of an American pilot dropping bombs "into a leafy jungle" with "no visible result" and without "the satisfaction of knowing what he achieved":
A hit on a big hydroelectric dam is another matter. There is a huge explosion visible from anywhere above. The dam can be seen to fall. The water can be seen to pour through the breach and drown out huge areas of farm land, and villages, in its path. The pilot who takes out a hydroelectric dam gets back home with a feeling of accomplishment. Novels are written and films are made of such exploits. . . . The bombing which takes out the dam will flood villages, drown people, destroy crops, and knock out some electric power. . . . Bombing the dam would hurt people.75
Nevertheless, it is better to bomb trucks, he concludes, although there would plainly be no moral barrier to the much more satisfying alternative rejected on tactical grounds.

In the South, bombing of dikes and virtually limitless destruction was an uncontroversial tactic, as in the Batangan Peninsula, where 12,000 peasants (including, it appears, the remnants of the My Lai massacre) were forced from their homes in an American ground sweep in January 1969 and shipped off to a waterless camp near Quang Ngai over which floated a banner saying: "We thank you for liberating us from Communist terror." The Times reported that the refugees had lived "in caves and bunkers for many months" because "heavy American bombing and artillery and naval shelling" had destroyed their homes, as well as a dike that was "blasted by American jets to deprive the North Vietnamese [sic] of a food supply." It was left unrepaired, so that two years later "the salt water of the South China Sea continues to submerge the fields where rice once grew." The reason, according to an American official, is that the people "were written off as communists," and for the same reason the region was left in ruins: "the hills that overlook the flooded paddies, once scattered with huts, are ... filled with bomb fragments, mines and unexploded artillery shells," and "B-52 craters nearly 20 feet deep pock the hills."76

Bombing of dikes in the North, occasionally reported,77 was controversial, as was the bombing of North Vietnam generally. The reason is that the cost to the United States might be high because of a potential Chinese or Soviet response, regarded as a serious and dangerous possibility, or because of the impact on international opinion.78 But these questions did not arise in the case of U.S. terror against the South Vietnamese, which therefore proceeded without notable concern or, it seems, much in the way of planning. In the Pentagon Papers, we find extensive discussion and debate over the escalation of the bombing against the North, while there is virtually nothing about the far more destructive bombing, defoliation, destruction of vast areas by Rome plows, etc., in South Vietnam, where we were "saving" the population from "aggression." With regard to South Vietnam, the planning record is limited to the question of deployment of U.S. troops, which again raised potential costs to the United States.79 (194-6)
As this chapter continues, the destruction of the South Vietnam, which myth has it was being saved by the US from the evils of communism, was just about as destroyed as a land can possibly be destroyed without life there actually being fully exterminated. (I won't elaborate on the US's destruction of Cambodia, which is almost completely unknown and unreported and as extensive.)

This history I can take. I can handle this, it is a political-economic choice of enforced hegemony with weaponry and mass death. But what did throw me for a loop was what the USA did following South Vietnam's near annihilation at their hands. So two more clips from Manufacturing:
…The gradual withdrawal of the increasingly demoralized U.S. military forces led to a diminution of visible protest by the early 1970s, but the "Vietnam syndrome" was never cured. As late as 1982, 72 percent of the public (but far fewer "opinion makers" and, to judge by other evidence cited earlier, virtually none of the "American intellectual elite") regarded the Vietnam War as "more than a mistake; it was fundamentally wrong and immoral," a disparity between the public and its "leaders" that persists as of i986.157

The primary task facing the ideological institutions in the postwar period was to convince the errant public that the war was "less a moral crime than the thunderously stupid military blunder of throwing half a million ground troops into an unwinnable war," as the respected New York Times war correspondent Homer Bigart explained, while chastising Gloria Emerson for her unwillingness to adopt this properly moderate view.158 The "purpose of the war" must be perceived as "preventing North Vietnam from subjugating South Vietnam" (John Midgley), "the real enemy, of course, [being] North Vietnam, supplied and sustained by the Soviet Union and China" (Drew Middleton)159 — all in defiance of the plain facts. The primary issue was the cost to the United States in its noble endeavour; thus Robert Nisbet describes the "intellectual pleasure" he derived from "a truly distinguished work of history" with a chapter covering the i96os, "with emphasis on the Vietnam War and its devastating impact upon Americans," obviously the only victims worthy of concern.160 To persuade elite opinion was never much of a problem, since these were the reigning conceptions throughout, and clearly privilege, along with media access, accrues to those who follow this path. But the public has nevertheless remained corrupted.

An ancillary task has been to keep the devastation that the United States left as its legacy in Indochina hidden from public view. Indeed, one finds only scattered reference to this not entirely trivial matter in the U.S. media—a remarkable achievement, given the agency of destruction and its scale. Keeping just to Vietnam, the death toll may have passed three million. In an article entitled "Studies Show Vietnam Raids Failed," Charles Mohr observes that the CIA estimated deaths from bombing of the North at well over 30,000 a year by 1967, "heavily weighted with civilians."161 Crop-destruction programs from 1961 had a devastating impact, including aerial destruction by chemicals, ground operations to destroy orchards and dikes, and land clearing by giant tractors (Rome plows) that "obliterated agricultural lands, often including extensive systems of paddy dikes, and entire rural residential areas and farming hamlets," leaving the soil "bare, gray and lifeless," in the words of an official report cited by Arthur Westing, who compares the operations to the "less efficient" destruction of Carthage during the Punic Wars. "The combined ecological, economic, and social consequences of the wartime defoliation operations have been vast and will take several generations to reverse"; in the "empty landscapes" of South Vietnam, recovery will be long delayed, if possible at all, and there is no way to estimate the human effects of the chemical poison dioxin at levels "300 to 400% greater than the average levels obtaining among exposed groups in North America."162

In the South, 9,000 out of 15,000 hamlets were damaged or destroyed, along with some twenty-five million acres of farmland and twelve million acres of forest. One-and-a-half million cattle were killed, and the war left a million widows and some 800,000 orphans. In the North, all six industrial cities were damaged (three razed to the ground) along with twenty-eight of thirty provincial towns (twelve completely destroyed), ninety-six of 116 district towns, and 4,000 of some 5,800 communes. Four hundred thousand cattle were killed and over a million acres of farmland were damaged. Much of the land is a moonscape, where people live on the edge of famine, with rice rations lower than those in Bangladesh. Reviewing the environmental effects, the Swedish peace-research institute SIPRI concludes that "the ecological debilitation from such attack is likely to be of long duration." The respected Swiss-based environmental group IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) concluded that the ecology is not only refusing to heal but is worsening, so that a "catastrophe" may result unless billions of dollars are spent to "reconstruct" the land that has been destroyed, a "monumental" task that could be addressed only if the United States were to offer substantial reparations, a possibility that cannot be considered in a cultural climate of abysmal ignorance, chauvinism, and the self-righteous pursuit of self-interest. Destruction of forests has increased the frequency of floods and droughts and aggravated the impact of typhoons, and war damage to dikes (some of which, in the South, were completely destroyed by U.S. bombardment) and other agricultural systems has yet to be repaired. The report notes that "humanitarian and conservationist groups, particularly in the United States, have encountered official resistance and red tape when requesting their governments' authorization to send assistance to Vietnam"—naturally enough, since the United States remains committed to ensure that its achievements are not threatened by recovery of the countries it destroyed (my emphasis).163

There is little hint of any of this, or of the similar Carthaginian devastation in Laos and Cambodia, in mainstream U.S. media coverage. Rather, with remarkable uniformity and self-righteousness, the problems of reconstruction, hampered further by the natural catastrophes and continuing war to which the United States has made what contribution it can, are attributed solely to Communist brutality and ineptitude. The sole remaining interest in postwar Vietnam in the U.S. media has been the recovery of remains of U.S. personnel presumed to be killed in action; the Vietnamese preoccupation with other matters serving as further proof of their moral insensitivity.

In one of his sermons on human rights, President Carter explained that we owe Vietnam no debt and have no responsibility to render it any assistance because "the destruction was mutual,"164 a statement that elicited no comment, to our knowledge, apart from our own— a fact that speaks volumes about the prevailing cultural climate. Some feel that there may once have been a debt but that it has been amply repaid. Under the headline "The Debt to the Indochinese Is Becoming a Fiscal Drain," Bernard Gwertzman quotes a State Department official who "said he believed the United States has now paid its moral debt for its involvement on the losing side in Indochina." The remark, which also passed without comment, is illuminating: we owe no debt for mass slaughter and for leaving three countries in ruins, no debt to the millions of maimed and orphaned, to the peasants who still die today from exploding ordnance left from the U.S. assault. Rather, our moral debt results only from the fact that we did not win. By this logic, if the Russians win in Afghanistan, they will have no moral debt at all. Proceeding further, how have we paid our moral debt for failing to win? By resettling Vietnamese refugees fleeing the lands we ravaged, "one of the largest, most dramatic humanitarian efforts in history" according to Roger Winter, director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees. But "despite the pride," Gwertzman continues, "some voices in the Reagan Administration and in Congress are once again asking whether the war debt has now been paid. . . ."165

The media are not satisfied with "mutual destruction" that effaces all responsibility for some of the major war crimes of the modern era. Rather, the perpetrator of the crimes must be seen as the injured party. We find headlines reading: "Vietnam, Trying to Be Nicer, Still Has a Long Way to Go." "It's about time the Vietnamese demonstrated some good will," said Charles Printz, of Human Rights Advocates International, referring to negotiations about the Amerasian children who constitute a tiny fraction of the victims of U.S. aggression in Indochina. Barbara Crossette adds that the Vietnamese have also not been sufficiently forthcoming on the matter of remains of American soldiers, although their behavior may be improving: "There has been progress, albeit slow, on the missing Americans." The unresolved problem of the war is what they did to us. Since we were simply defending ourselves from "internal aggression" in Vietnam, it surely makes sense to consider ourselves the victims of the Vietnamese.

In a derisive account of Vietnamese "laments" over the failure of the United States to improve relations with them, Barbara Crossette reports their "continuing exaggeration of Vietnam's importance to Americans" under the headline: "For Vietnamese, Realism Is in Short Supply." The Vietnamese do not comprehend their "irrelevance," she explains with proper imperial contempt. U.S. interest in Vietnam, she continues, is limited to the natural American outrage over Hanoi's invasion of Cambodia (to overthrow our current ally Pol Pot), and its failure to be sufficiently forthcoming "on the issue of American servicemen missing since the end of the war." She cites a Pentagon statement noting that Vietnam "has agreed to return the remains of 20 more servicemen" and expressing the hope that the Communists will proceed "to resolve this long-standing humanitarian issue." She quotes an "Asian official" as saying that "We all know they have the bones somewhere. ... If Hanoi's leaders are serious about building their country, the Vietnamese will have to deal fairly with the United States." When a Vietnamese official suggested that the U.S. send food aid to regions where starving villagers are being asked to spend their time and energy searching for the remains of American pilots killed while destroying their country. State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley reacted with great anger: "We are outraged at any suggestion of linking food assistance with the return of remains," she declaimed. So profound is the U.S. commitment to humanitarian imperatives and moral values that it cannot permit these lofty ideals to be tainted by associating them with such trivial concerns and indecent requests.166 It is difficult to know how to react to a cultural climate in which such words can be spoken, evoking no reaction.

According to standard state and media doctrine, South Vietnam (i.e., the client regime that we established) lost the war to North Vietnam — the official enemy, since the U.S. attack against the South cannot be conceded. "North Vietnam, not the Vietcong, was always the enemy," John Corry proclaims in reporting the basic message of an NBC white paper on the war,167 a stance that is conventional in the mainstream. Corry is indignant that anyone should question this higher truth … (238-41)

That the United States suffered a "defeat" in Indochina is a natural perception on the part of those of limitless ambition, who understand "defeat" to mean the achievement only of major goals, while certain minor ones remain beyond our grasp. The perception of an unqualified U.S. "defeat" in the media retrospectives and similar commentary is understandable in part in these terms, in part in terms of the alleged goal of "defending freedom" developed in official propaganda and relayed by the ideological institutions.

Postwar U.S. policy has been designed to ensure that the victory is maintained by maximizing suffering and oppression in Indochina, which then evokes further gloating here. Since "the destruction is mutual," as is readily demonstrated by a stroll through New York, Boston, Vinh, Quang Ngai Province, and the Plain of Jars, we are entitled to deny reparations, aid, and trade, and to block development funds. The extent of U.S. sadism is noteworthy, as is the (null) reaction to it. In 1977, when India tried to send a hundred buffalo to Vietnam to replenish the herds destroyed by U.S. violence, the United States threatened to cancel "food-for-peace" aid, while the press featured photographs of peasants in Cambodia pulling plows as proof of Communist barbarity, the photographs in this case were probable fabrications of Thai intelligence, but authentic ones could, no doubt, have been obtained throughout Indochina. The Carter administration even denied rice to Laos (despite a cynical pretense to the contrary), where the agricultural system was destroyed by U.S. terror bombing. Oxfam America was not permitted to send ten solar pumps to Cambodia for irrigation in 1983; in 1981, the U.S. government sought to block a shipment of school supplies and educational kits to Cambodia by the Mennonite Church [my emphasis].184

A tiny report in the Christian Science Monitor observes that the United States is blocking international shipments of food to Vietnam during a postwar famine, using the food weapon "to punish Vietnam for its occupation of Cambodia," according to diplomatic sources. Two days later. Times correspondent Henry Kamm concluded his tour of duty as chief Asian diplomatic correspondent with a long article in which he comments "sadly" on the "considerably reduced quality of life" in Indochina, where in Vietnam "even working animals are rare," for unexplained reasons, in contrast to "the continuing rise, however uneven in many aspects, of the standard of living" elsewhere in the region. In thirty-five paragraphs, he manages to produce not one word on the effects of the U.S. war or the postwar policy of "bleeding Vietnam," as the Far Eastern Economic Review accurately terms it.185 (247-8)
I don't know why, but the deliberate kicking of the Vietnamese by America's political elite, after their country had been utterly destroyed by American armaments, struck me as far more evil than the decision to destroy them was in the first place. The emotional turmoil that this has evoked in me is still rumbling around my system. I am not sure how, but something changed in me, and I'm at a kind of loss about how to bring that change into my official and proper and comfortable life.


72. Takashi Oka, Christian Science Monitor, December 4,1965; Bernard Fall, "Vietnam Blitz," New Republic, October 9, 1965.

73. Sidney Hook, "Lord Russell and the War Crimes 'Trial,'" New Leader, October 24, 1966.

74. See Noam Chomsky. At War With Asia. Pantheon Books, 1971, ISBN 9780006326540, pp. 98f.

75. "Truck versus Dam," Christian Science Monitor, September 5, 1967.

76. Henry Kamm, New York Times, November 15,1969; New York Times, April 6, i97i. See Chomsky, For Reasons of State, pp. 225f., for more details.

77. E.g., Amando Doronila, "Hanoi Food Output Held Target of U.S. Bombers," AP, Christian Science Monitor, September 8,1967, three days after Joseph Harsch's philosophical reflections just cited.

78. See George Kahin, Intervention, pp. 338f., 384, 400, on these perceived risks.

79. See Chomsky For Reasons of State, pp. 4f., 70ff., for documentation from the official record (373-4).

157. John E. Rielly, Foreign Policy (Spring 1983, Spring 1987). Rielly, ed., American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy 1987, Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, p. 33. In the 1986 poll, the percentage of the public that regarded the Vietnam War as "fundamentally wrong and immoral" was 66 percent, as compared with 72 percent in 1978 and 1982. Among "leaders" (including representatives of churches, voluntary organizations, and ethnic organizations), the percentage was 44 percent, as compared with 45 percent in 1982 and 50 percent in 1978. The editor takes this to indicate "some waning of the impact of the Vietnam experience with the passage of time"; and, perhaps, some impact of the propaganda system, as memories fade and people are polled who lack direct experience.

158. New Republic, January 22,1977, see Marilyn Young, "Critical Amnesia," The Nation,, April 2,1977, on this and similar reviews of Emerson's Winners and Losers. '

159. John Midgley, New York Times Book Review, June 30,1985; Drew Middleton, New York Times, July 6, 1985.

160. Review of Paul Johnson, Modem Times, in New York Times Book Review, June 26, 1983, p. 15.

161. New York Times, May 28,1984. A CIA analysis of April 1968 estimated that "80,000 enemy troops," overwhelmingly South Vietnamese, were killed during the Tet offensive. See note 44, above.

162. Arthur Westing, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (February 1981); Colin Norman, Science, March 11, 1983, citing the conclusion of an international conference in Ho Chi Minh City; Jim Rogers, Indochina Issues, Center for International Policy (September 1985). On the effects of U.S. chemical and environmental warfare in Vietnam, unprecedented in scale and character, see SIPRI, Ecological Consequences of the Second Indochina War (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1976).

163. Ton That Thien, Pacific Affairs (Winter 1983-84); Chitra Subramaniam, Pacific News Service, November 15, 1985; both writing from Geneva.

164. News conference, March 24, 1977; New York Times, March 25, 1977.

165. Bernard Gwertzman, New York Times, March 3, 1985.

166. Barbara Crossette, New York Times, November 10, 1985, February 28, 1988; AP, April 7, 1988.

167. John Corry, New York Times, April 27, 1985. (p378)

184. See our Political Economy of Human Rights: the Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, II, 84, i66ff., 342; Daniel Southerland, "No Pens and Pencils for Cambodia," Christian Science Monitor, December 4, 1981; AP, "U.S. Bars Mennonite School Aid to Cambodia," New York Times, December 8,1981; Joel Charny and John Spragens, Obstacles to Recovery in Vietnam and Kampuchea: U.S. Embargo of Humanitarian Aid (Boston: Oxfam America, 1984), citing many examples of "explicit U.S. policy" under the Reagan administration "to prevent even private humanitarian assistance from reaching the people of Kampuchea and Vietnam."

185. Louis Wiznitzer, Christian Science Monitor, November 6,1981; Kamm, "In Mosaic of Southeast Asia, Capitalist Lands Are Thriving," New York Times, November 8, 1981. (p379)