Agnotology — The study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.
Fifteen years ago, in The Demon-Haunted World, astronomer Carl Sagan described the “dumbing down of America” —
“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements —transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting—profoundly depend on science and technology.
“We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
Since I am following through on my own promise to keep that illegal war on the balance sheet of Imperialism and Profiteering our elite 1,000 corporations and their 30-plus despotic leaders of resource-sucking and war-waging countries have been ledger-ing “out” as part of our great slide into corporate-consumer Consumopithecus Anthropocene Oblivion, I bring forth a poet who strongly wrote and spoke against the pip-wearing militarists and their rag-tag army of suit-staining billionaires. Again, the question: War And What Are We Going to Do About It? War Against Poverty? War Against Fracking? War Against Death by a Thousand Cuts to the 99 percent?
In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.—George Orwell
Another sad commentary are the realities of agnotology. I had over five dozen pieces published in the weekly Inlander. Mine were/are nice countervailing forces against the crass pop culture and Facebook-engendering navel-view take on weekly (no longer Alternative but more like Acquiescing Weekly Press) events. I had long cover pieces on the Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler’s work around suburbanization and Clusterfuck nation of the Geography of Nowhere. Those have been scrubbed by the ubiquitous internet realm of a newspaper like the Pacific Northwest Weekly Inlander. See the piece here — **
Here’s Kunstler’s blog, and the run on taking down gold prices by that ultra-powerful “liberal,” Soros:
I hate the term The Powers That Be, with its odors of recycled paranoia and lumpen extremism, but signs of collusion abounded last week. First, on Wednesday, Goldman Sachs issued an advisory to short gold as the price flirted with $1600/oz. Then on Thursday, The New York Times planted a front-page story headlined: “GOLD, LONG A SECURE INVESTMENT, LOSES ITS LUSTER.” The story featured a quote by supreme market manipulator and world-class schmikler George Soros: ‘Gold was destroyed as a safe haven, proved to be unsafe,’ Mr. Soros said in an interview last week with The South China Morning Post of Hong Kong. ‘Because of the disappointment, most people are reducing their holdings of gold.’
Well, there you have it. Soros sez: Gold = shit. If you get some on your shoe, scrape it off. All that set the stage for the Friday smack down. Notice how falling gold and silver prices make the US dollar look good — it takes fewer dollars to buy more precious metal. The dollar must therefore be sound! And this is in the interest of whom? Say, perhaps, a Federal Reserve busy systematically melting away the value of dollars through so-called quantitative easing (money “printing” or promiscuous credit creation) plus financial repression (interest rate chicanery), and also a US government so deep underwater on its debt obligations that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew shares office space with the giant squid of the Aleutian Trench.”
All that work, and most of my stuff has been scrubbed from the Internet. Sure, I have fading hard copies of all my work in the basement, and, well, what good would it be to spend countless days scanning them all and then loading them up on some blog or web site? This entire mess of the average person having three blogs and Fuckbook galore, all those grand voices out there clogging the Commercial-Net with their rants and rage, what good would it do to have some kick-ass stories on sustainable agriculture or climate change or small neighborhood groups fighting box store madness of Home Depot? What good, really, since the World Wide Web is just a constant nanosecond of a Zottabyte and Brontobyte (27 zeros following 1 to equal bytes!) dump of mostly worthless and almost-always contextual-less junk . . . or blather . . . or eschew.
I’ve been prompted to write about the war and the National Poetry Month deal based on a nice email from LA playwright John Steppling –
Thanks for the piece today at DV.
Im a playwright (google me, and you get the idea). and in fact a PEN-West winner in theatre a decade or so ago…..and Ive been pondering this very question for a while now……there are two things to discuss.
1. Encouraging bad poetry is reactionary, not revolutionary.
a. yes the debate about what constitutes bad is never ending….BUT……..I think we can also say without much hesitation that Shakespeare and Lorca and James Wright and yeah, Neruda…..and Vallejo or Hart Crane……are real poets. And that 99% of what is scribbed at poetry worshops and MFA programs sucks. And the problem is, there is an audience utterly lacking in discriminatory skills.
2. Political is a loaded word. I remember during Viet Nam (Im 61) that robert bly was truly heroic, in his organizing, his readings (wearing a nixon mask) and mostly in his public presence. His poems were mostly not directly political…..some were….most were not.
a. Bly is a great critic, a very very good poet, and good important translator.
b. Ginsburg was also courageous during those times….as were galway kinnell, and Wright, and eventually even robert lowell.
So, I have also written screenplays and short fiction. I find NOTHING quite so depressing as local groups of bad poets slapping each other on the back. And it is within this act of bad faith, this failure to make judgments about quality, to ask questions, that the reactionary germ lies waiting. IF you call a bad poet a good poet, because he or she is your friend, you do great harm.
Here is my blog……..by the by………but it was a great article and im posting it around…..onward. JS
Bly’s Call to Duty
March, 2006, Pacific Northwest Weekly Inlander
Each of his poems puts a chink in the armor of the war makers. Robert Bly’s Friday night appearance at SFCC will be part touchstone for peace and part riling-up of the audience to bear witness and take action.
Bly, a preeminent American poet whose 80-year-old voice and intellect have helped to sculpt an important vision of literary art and cultural reclamation, will speak as part of Spokane Falls Community College’s “Lit Live!”
While Bly is a sought-after voice of reason and lyrical charm, his poetic pulse has been stimulated by a life alone, working far from the rarified atmosphere of college or university settings. His roots are in Mansfield, Minn., and in the furrows of hard-working immigrants where his reverence for land and people germinated.
Translator of such great poets as South America’s Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo and Antonio Machado, India’s Ghalib, Spain’s Lorca and Jim & eacute;nez, and Norway’s Rolf Jacobsen and Olav H. Hauge, Bly’s output of articles, essays and criticism is matched by his more than 40 books of poetry.
Enwrapped in solitude, Bly spins ruminations shaped by other cultures, other poets — as in “Meeting the Man Who Warns Me”:
I dream that I cannot see half of my life. “I look back, it is like the blind spot in a car./ So much just beyond the reach of our eyes, what tramples the grasses while the horses are asleep, the hoof marks all around the cave mouth…/ what slips in under the door at night, and lies exhausted on the floor in the morning.
Also slated for the Music Auditorium stage on Friday night are four male drummers, pounding animal skins as a tribute to “the wild man” in Bly’s Iron John. His 1991 book examines the dichotomy between Savage Man, who is both wounded and inflicts wounds on earth and humankind, and Wild Man, the shaman-healer, Zen priest or woodsman. In Iron John, we have a book about men and the lost energy of visions, fairy tales and the male drumbeat of power and depth. It’s a book of healing and reaffirmation of soul.
Bly also helped redirect the creative surge of Modernism’s influence on poetry by unraveling his words and lines into what Victoria Frenkel Harris has called “incorporative consciousness.” Bly believes that the poet or creative thinker must go “much deeper than the ego … at the same time [becoming] aware of many other beings.” In a sense, he believes that “leaping out” of the intellectual world and into what we intuitively hold as our own realities best explores the paradoxes of two worlds: the world of our psychic pain, and the world in which we must adjust to observing the rules.
Bly came to prominence during the Vietnam War era — a time that tore at the psychic integration of American culture. He recalls how controversial his work was then: “Most of the English teachers in the universities hated our doing ‘political poems,’ as they were called. That still happens,” he recently said about those heady days of the ’60s. “When I’m at a reception at a university these days, an English professor may come up to me and ask: ‘How do you feel now about those poems you wrote during the war?’ They want me to disown the poems. I say, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t write more of them.'”
Bly, along with David Ray, created the group American Writers Against the Vietnam War. The first important protest volume was A Poetry Reading Against the Vietnam War (1966), edited by Bly and Ray.
In one of his poetry collections, The Light Around the Body, Bly cast a beacon of hazy light upon the symbiotic relationship of poverty and racism and the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
But now, in 2006, with the stink of Abu Ghraib and Falluja still enveloping Mr. Bush’s war, Bly speaks with singular impetus in his recent work, The Insanity of Empire: A Book of Poems Against the Iraq War. “The invasion of Iraq is the biggest mistake any American administration has ever made,” he says. “The most dangerous and greatest confrontation is between twentieth-century capitalist fundamentalism and eleventh-century Muslim fundamentalism,” he writes.
For aficionados of the poetic form, The Insanity of Empire embodies both Bly’s disdain for immoral governments and Bly as an the artful practitioner of the ghazal, an Arab poetic form:
I don’t want to frighten you, but not a stitch can be taken/ On your quilt unless you study. The geese will tell you/ A lot of crying goes on before the dawn comes.
SFCC’s literary publication, Wire Harp, and the endowment for Lit Live! will not be the only beneficiaries of Bly’s incantations on Friday night (50 percent of the gate goes to the endowment). Conscious Living — a local business that creates events including the annual Celebrating Body, Mind and Spirit Expo and A Psychic Affair — is partnering with SFCC.
As a reminder of Bly’s continuing relevance, consider that he’s an anti-war activist of long standing. In the Dec. 9, 2002 issue of The Nation, Bly was one of the first to beat the earth drum against the impending war, in his poem, “Call and Answer”:
Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days/ And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed & r & The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?/ I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense/ Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out! See who will answer!”
Poet Robert Bly reads from The Insanity of Empire on Friday, March 10, 2006, from 7-10 pm, including Q & amp;A and book-signing. Tickets: $20; $30, at the door; free, SFCC students. SFCC, Music Auditorium, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr. Call 624-1873.