Jul 11

Fredy Perlman’s The Strait

Freddy Perlman

The Strait. Book of Obenabi. His Songs.
Fredy Perlman
Black & Red
Detroit, Michigan 1988

The last book written by Fredy Perlman (in fact, unfinished at his death: this is the first volume of a two volume work he planned), “The Strait” is the story of Indians and whites in and around present day Detroit, starting in the 17th century (or the beginning of time) and ending in the 19th. It is narrated by a series of characters whose lives are progressively more uprooted by the European invaders, their diseases, technology, and eventually ways and means. The book chronicles the different ways people of the community deal with the invasion and the destruction of their world.

I fell progressively more in love with this book as I read on; by the end I didn’t want it to end and spent hours looking up any extra information on the characters and events that i could find. The portrait of a human community in slow free-fall is moving and instructive. Having only briefly seen what a human community looks and acts like in my 36 years, I couldn’t get enough of the ones depicted here. Fredy Perlman is acutely aware of what it is that makes people living among each other more than a mere collection of individuals, and the ways in which this unity is inherently fragile. I think Fredy is on the same page with Wendell Berry and others who have suggested that joy is not real unless it is shared. Said otherwise, our lives are meaningless without joy, and joy is impossible without a shared human context. The “constraints” of old-fashioned cultures are revealed to be the opposite of what we’ve always been told they are (namely, fetters): the framework which makes joy and self-realization possible.

“The Strait” is initially hard to get into, in part because Fredy Perlman refuses to give his narrative conventional time markers or common place names, and in part because of the nature of the writing, which is verb-heavy and song-like, definitely no popular fiction here (Detroit is Tiosa Rondion, its Iroquois name; the lack of time references was circumvented in this Black & Red edition by putting corresponding dates at the top of every page). After a while, this seems perfectly natural, and pretty soon you are immersed in the story. Perhaps this is what the accounts of people who inhabit cyclical time would sound like. Once acclimated, the book is more than rewarding of the effort.

Like “Against His-Story, Against Leviathan,” “The Strait” is deceptive in that it reads like poetry, but is thoroughly researched and accurate with regard to what goes on. I read an academic history of the Indian-European relations in the great lakes region earlier this year (“The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815″ by Richard White), and as a result noticed early on that the events described here are historically accurate. Reading this book with the internet browser handy has been fun as well, since the characters are largely historical, and easily researched on the web.

“The Strait” and “Against His-Story, Against Leviathan” are both amazing books which will unfortunately go unread by the vast majority of people because they are unconventional and uncompromising with regard to the expectations of the average reader in our culture. The low expectations and short attention spans will not go unappeased as long as there are NYT best-seller lists, while books that require the kind of work from the reader that this one does are few. Once that “work” has been put in, the reader is amply rewarded; knowledge of the entire world and one’s place in it can be this book’s gift to those willing to try.

Jul 11

Jihad! or, The vilest little book this side of Mein Kampf

I dream of Fatima: the immaculate draw of orientalism

Radical Islam vs. America

Benjamin Hart

Green Hill Publishers, inc., copyright owned by Traditional Values Coalition

Ottawa, Illinois, 2003
It is, I suppose, a testament to the freedom of speech we so cherish in America, that trash like this exists. It is also a testament to the stupidity of the American intellectual establishment, because, make no mistake, this guy’s career is thriving after a lifetime of devoted work on behalf of the most rabid racists and plutocrats in the American right (Traditional Values Coalition? Sounds very… traditional… and valuable), work which this booklet is a typical example of.

This little tract can be summed up in a sentence. Islam is a religion which has its roots in violence, intolerance, and warfare, therefore, Muslims today are violent, intolerant, and committed to erasing the West from the map, you know, jihad!!

Yeah, I saw the “disclaimer” about how “this book is not about the moderate elements of Islam.” It was followed by 91 pages of “argument” about the fact that Islam is a religion of fanatics, established by a fanatic. The booklet is 92 pages.

More recently, Benjamin Hart said that Bush made a mistake to take out Saddam Hussein because Saddam was a bullwark against radical Muslim extremists, but Obama made a yet much bigger mistake by pulling out of Iraq and leaving it to said extremists. Who pays this guy for his idiotic thoughts? Who is Benjamin Hart?

From a italkyoubored piece on Ralph Reed, a born-again co-conspirator of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who appears to have been deeply involved in the scheme to launder millions of dollars of tribal money through non-profits associated with the group, though never indicted:

Benjamin Hart, a co-founder of the conservative campus paper Dartmouth Review and a former executive of Oliver North’s lobbying group, Freedom Alliance, had joined the coalition (the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson’s group created to mobilize Christians for conservative purposes- see below-ED.) in 1992. Hart’s work put him in good stead with Reed, and though technically an outside contractor, he became a trusted confidante and his de facto lieutenant. “Any conflict that came up with Hart was going to go Hart’s way,” said one former associate. Hart’s ascension was due to the fact that, even in god’s work, you need to bring in the dollars, and Hart brought in the dollars: through his efforts, donations went from five million in 1991, to four times that in 1994. The key to the coalition’s expansion, and its influx of donations, was direct mail, and Hart was given full sway over this: he handled direct mail, telemarketing, the voter guides, and the bidding on the million-piece direct mail packages. This last item was where the problem started.

Benjamin Hart “had bagged the coalition for a million dollars or more” by handling the direct-mail solicitations through his own companies, companies which received the contracts on a no-bid basis since Hart himself was responsible for dispensing the contracts. Robertson and Reed both quit the Christian Coalition shortly thereafter, but all three men would go on to continue working to make America and the world safe for a return to feudalism.

The Christian Coalition would quickly become little more than a shadow of itself during its glory days. Among other problems, “at the turn of the new century, it was sued by a group of African American employees who charged that they had to enter their offices by a back door and eat in a segregated area. The suit was settled for about $300,000, according to several published reports.”

So, I know I used the words “intellectual establishment” above to refer to a millieu that neither Benjamin Hart nor anyone else mentioned in this post belongs to, if it can be said to exist at all anymore. These guys are better described as being, on the one hand, active members in the ongoing project (I’d say struggle, but the fight has become so one sided- see below) to defraud the American people of the last shreds of democratic control over their government and their lives; and on the other, as propagandists for this project, voicing their schlock through conservative publications like the National Review, the above mentioned Dartmouth Review, etc., and lately FOX news and various AM radio programs. To belong to this rarefied club carries obvious pecuniary and professional benefits. There’s no shortage of money earmarked for free-market propaganda and coded, thinly-veiled race-baiting that these guys excel at crafting for the multitudes of disgruntled laid-off middle Americans, who eat up the notion that their degraded conditions are the fault of brown folks coming to take their jobs or living large off their hard-earned taxes- no matter how plain the truth of our nation’s current malaise is made. In the words of Warren Buffet, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Who’s waging jihad now, bitches?

And you know what? They’re frauds and cheats, hypocrites of the first order, scum whose words and actions lead to impoverishment and worse for good, honest people, here in America and hundred-fold abroad. Yet Benjamin Hart and his ilk are just following the unwritten rules of our rotten society in doing the bidding of their masters: grab yours while you can, everybody else be damned. May we live to see the day love and justice rule our lives instead.