Issue #46 September 5th - 11th, 2003
Roger's struggle with self-deception
War on terror, war for profits or World War Three? (Part Two)
Them Pesky Cheeky Girls
The lover of cats
Roger's struggle with self-deception
Sister Janice is the Friends Of The Heroes agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career.
These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed. Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...
Roger is a bloke she met in a burger bar. He wants us to tell you he's a serious, sagacious soul and poet, but we don't know if he's just one of those dodgy people Sister Janice picks up from time to time.
I know you prefer Janice. She talks to you about the joys of music. She tells you how it feels to have your soul fly out of your body. She has tales about nights in the bars on the rings of Saturn (actually, I have those too but I'm keeping them to myself for the moment. Let's just say that night was a revelation). She's a cosmic adventurer. I'm just this guy who used to work in a burger bar.
A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have said that. I'd have said I was Roger Of Cheshire - A Serious, Sagacious Poet and Chronicler Of The Cosmos In Verse Form. I thought it sounded good. Now, it sounds like the sort of thing someone would say if they were full of their own self-importance.
Perhaps, dear reader, that is what I was, though it never felt that way. It felt like I was desperately trying to cling to something, anything, so as to avoid facing the fact that, inside me, there wasn't very much at all.
I'll tell you how the last few weeks have been. Janice decided she had 'forgiven' the nuns who treated her so badly. She told me she was going back to make her peace with them. I pointed out that she was still wanted for poisoning several of them (an accident, of course) but she seemed to think that could be overcome.
Perhaps, with time, it can. She went back, and she faced what she had been running from. But what seemed like a marvellous scheme at the time turned out to be rather less advisable.
They arrested her. They locked her up. As of yesterday, she resides in solitary confinement. I attempted to extract some information about the reason for this from the guards, but all they would tell me is that there was an altercation involving several of the woman and a broken Donna Summer record. I have some idea that my friend the ex-nun was not entirely innocent in this unforunate event.
I wish that I could help her, but there is little that I can do. I offer my help via other avenues - rebuilding the Space Shed from where it crashed behind the convent; pleading with the nuns to adopt their prodigal daughter's cause; tending her alternative herb-garden which has suffered badly over recent days, while both of us were in custody.
Yes, both of us. It was not an experience I will recollect with pleasure. I was composing a poem when they came for us - they arrested me for aiding and abetting an absconded criminal, and I think they kept me there longer than they needed to - just because they could.
I was composing a poem. I had a book of my old poetry with me. That old poetry that defined me, that made me what I am. I was pouring over it, seeking illumination or inspiration and finding little.
They took that book when they locked me up. They read it, too. And, while I was in there, they quoted portions of it back to me:
Close the shades, for the sun offends me eyes
Rest by me, my love, and sing me lullabyes
Or leave, as -
I shall leave it there. Merely quoting it to you is an unpleasant experience. I remember reading that back at the time of writing, and deciding it was the most poignant, painful piece of poetry ever concocted.
To me, perhaps, it was. It was a time, and place - a longing for something that was leaving.
To anyone else, it was self-indulgent twaddle.
One day, I found a poem - one of mine - inscribed by hand, photocopied, and posted around the prisoners' living quarters. As those surrounding me gave themselves to the ensuing hilarity, I could only smile along and pretend I too found the whole experience amusing.
Then they let me out, and I went to her for comfort. A weak act, undoubtedly, as it was I who should have been comforting her, but there was nowhere else to go. She smiled, and held my hand and said:
'You know, kid, I thought it was unfair what they did to you. I couldn't believe they thought your poetry was so bad they arrested you for it. I mean, sure, there's a couple of stinkers in there but some of them were sort of okay. I thought that -'
I remember her exact words, they are etched on my consciousness. Criticisms thrown in cruelty were a familiar experience - one I could react to, and shrug off as jealousy or Philistinism - at least on one level. Criticism of this sort, given in a clumsy attempt at kindness, confirmed every doubt I had ever experienced.
Did she honestly think I had been arrested for being a terrible poet? Yes, she did. She may be given to unfortunate outbursts but she is never knowingly destructively cruel. Not knowingly.
She seemed to realise her mistake immediately, but too late, there was nothing she could say. We talked of other things - escape plans; campaigns for freedom; the resumption of her 'Redemption Through Retrospective Dance' classes that would occur upon her emancipation - but we did not mention poems again. Nor will we.
At the end of it, she asked me to go and look in The Shed, in a box under her bed in which she had hidden some money. She told me she planned to bribe her way out. I counselled against this, and did not do as she asked for several days.
Eventually, I decided we had very few alternatives. I went into her private belongings and pulled out the box.
There was no money. Inside was a metal plaque of some sort. Engraved upon it were two lines from a poem. One of my poems.
She didn't want to bribe anybody. She was saving it as a gift but, now, she wanted me to find it. Perhaps she thought it would restore that which had been destroyed.
It might have done, it really could have done, but the night before I found it I had burned everything I had ever written. I decided it was better to be nothing than to be a self-deception.
She knew how important that deception was. She knew I was not ready to let go, and she tried to stop it slipping away.
I will buy more books, although they will remain empty. I will maintain an air of preciousness, clinging them to me and refusing to divulge the fruits of my imaginary endeavours.
I will pretend to her that she had no part in the destruction of my identity. She will not read this, she will spend the week in solitary confinement. The deception will be enacted with all the purpose that the self-deception, the pretence that I could ever have been a poet, was enacted.
She must never know.
Here is a letter from a sad soul:
'Dear Sister Janice,
My life has been turned upside down. I am unable to think, act, or behave normally. This is not a huge change from the way I usually live, but as of now there is a cause - I bought the fifth book this afternoon and I've read 140 pages already. I've had the book in my mind even when I was cooking - I read in between glancing at the frying pan... Please help! Any good ideas on why this is happening?
D. Daisy, Thessaloniki
P.S. I'm talking about Harry Potter, not 'PVC-fancier's weekly. I got over that addiction some time ago.'
I can only advise that, if this offers you some sort of help, you treasure it, and let it become part of your life. Eventually, you will have no need of such escapes, and will be happy with the simplicity of reality.
So I am told. Hell, don't ask me. I'm just this guy, yknow. This guy from a burger-bar.
I know you prefer Sister Janice. She talks to you about the joys of music. She tells you how it feels to have your soul fly out of your body. She has tales about nights in the bars on the rings of Saturn (actually, I have those too but I'm keeping them to myself for the moment. Let's just say that night was a revelation). She's a cosmic adventurer. I'm just a human being, struggling with reality. Like you.
Perhaps, though she'd never admit it, like her.
May you find happiness, friends,Roger
War on Terror, War for Profits or World War Three?
Last week, we had fun linking America’s political ‘elite’ to several multinationals of ill-repute, that American arms was a commodity often utilised by both sides in local disputes (in exchange for viable pipeline routes of course), and learned that war was an unfortunate by-product in the battle for control of the oil fields. And then along came the Taliban...
According to intelligence expert Selig Harrison, the CIA still has close links with the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence unit - kind of their equivalent of the CIA) and the Taliban were "actively encouraged by the ISI and the CIA". In the 1990s the CIA left training the Taliban to the ISI while those clever people in Washington funded and armed them by proxy, therefore minimising congressional oversight. In 1995, Bill Clinton released $450mn worth of arms sales to Pakistan which had been blocked in 1990. In 1996 the State Department approved $734,000 worth of licences for arms exports by US companies to Pakistan - and over $1billion worth to Saudi Arabia. Saudi money also bought Chinese and British arms.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto admitted during a 1996 interview with the BBC that her government was funded by the US to train and supply the Taliban. The US now claims Pakistan went 'rogue' - and Bhutto claims the ISI went 'rogue'. Yet Bhutto's Interior Minister General Babar switched support from Hekmatyar's mujahedin faction to the Taliban before the ISI did. The CIA had favoured Hekmatyar, but turned against him after supposedly finding evidence to link him to Bin Laden and the 1993 World Trade Centre Bombing. Pakistan followed America's lead in backing the Taliban - the CIA and ISI were also following orders.
However, by 1997 things began to change. The Taliban had failed to end the civil war in Afghanistan, and the region was therefore deemed not yet stable enough to begin construction of any pipeline. Unocal, who were relying on the Taliban (with a little help from their ‘friends’ of course) to bring stability to the region, pulled it’s investment in the area, stating that 'construction of the pipeline cannot begin until a recognised government is in place in Kabul that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company'. The Taliban had failed to win decisively enough to provide the 'stability' required to attract investment.
U.S policy paralleled Unocal's. Until 1997 the Taliban were described as a force for eventual unity and peace in Afghanistan. Now, get this; In 1996, when a certain Osama Bin Laden was in Sudan, the Sudanese government offered to agree to FBI demands for his extradition. According to a high-ranking Sudanses official "[U.S. officials] said, 'Just ask him to leave the country' We said he will go to Afghanistan, and they said, 'Let him...' " The same happened with suspects arrested in Sudan for the bombings of US embassies in Africa in August 1998. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright blocked extradition. Taliban offers to hand over Bin Laden in June 1998 ended after US missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan following the embassy bombings. Yet Bin Laden's links to the Taliban preceded 1998. He was linked to attacks on US targets from 1993 and wanted by the FBI since 1995. Why did US hostility to the Taliban only begin in 1998? Why have the FBI been warned by the Clinton and Bush administrations not to investigate other members of the Bin Laden family or their dealings with US corporations and government?
One possible answer is CIA and State Department fears that Bin Laden and other 'Arab Afghans' could expose prior dealings. The second concerns business dealings between the Bin Ladens , the Bushes and US companies and government. The Bin Laden family continued to get federal construction contracts for US military installations in Saudi Arabia even after Osama was accused of involvement in terrorist attacks on these same buildings. Even more central is the Carlyle Group - a US based investment company which had dealings with the Bin Ladens and invests heavily in the defence sector. The Carlyle Group employs former President George H W Bush who receives an undisclosed sum as 'ambassador' for the company in the middle east. Other employees include former British Prime Minister John Major, former US Defence Secretary Frank Carlucci, former US secretary of State James Baker, and Arthur Levitt - formerly chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Clinton. Both the Bushes and the Bin Laden's invested with the Carlyle Group. Get the picture? Both the Bushes and the Bin Ladens stood to gain from conflict and increased defence spending. Even the FBI’s investigation into the Bin Laden family business's bank records, and their links to WAMY(World Assembly of Muslim Youth) were blocked by the Clinton and Bush administrations.
In July 2001, two months before September 11th, Bush threatened the Taliban with air strikes. In October 2001 the Taliban again offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial - this time in Pakistan. The offer was refused. It seems the US war against Afghanistan was planned long before September 11th. It also seems that the CIA and the Bush administration aren't that keen on a thorough investigation of their links with the Bin Laden family or Osama himself, but then, considering the plethora of associations that may crop up, you can hardly blame them, eh...
Meanwhile there is no end in sight for the 'war on terrorism'. Chillingly too, although it may have died down recently, there is still the potential for conflict between those not-too-friendly neighbours, India and Pakistan. Both of these countries have nuclear arsenals, and both have dirty friends in high places. Take a bow, China and America...
However, a more immediate threat than the risk of nuclear conflict is the globalisation of an Israeli-Palestinian type conflict pitting occupying forces against resistance movements and terrorists. Suicide bombings and guerrilla tactics by Iraqis - like that of UN headquarters in Iraq - are met with patrols, checkpoints, attacks on whole neighbourhoods and 'terrorist training camps' by US forces. Bush declared the war in Iraq over on May 1st 2003, but by late August 2003 there had been 140 American casualties in Iraq - more than during the war itself. Hundreds of Iraqi civilian casualties have also been added to those killed in the war - currently estimated at anything between 6,113 and 7,830.
The push to extend the war to Iran threatens to expand this type of conflict globally - Rumsfeld has made noises about Iran's nuclear programme and 'weapons of mass destruction'. And Bush's involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is hardly motivated by altruism and public-spiritedness; the US firm Bechtel, which has close links to many Bush administration members, has a Federal government contract to build an oil export pipeline from Iraq to the Israeli port of Haifa. Now Bush wants to deploy US 'peace keepers' in the West Bank and Gaza.
Some say Iraqis aren't ready to govern themselves. The Shiite Muslim majority favour Islamic government. However democracy isn't just a system - it's an ideology. If people don't believe in it they'll overthrow it or vote it out of existence. Occupation and repression only strengthen nationalist and fundamentalist movements. The real motive for occupation is not 'reconstruction' or 'democracy' but profit for firms like Bechtel and Halliburton. If we want to build democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan we should withdraw and provide foreign aid directly - not occupy and hand it to western multinationals.
While war without end brings the freedom to make massive profits to the Bushes, the Bin Ladens and the oil and arms companies its benefits to the rest of the world, many of whom seem likely to die through indiscriminate bombing and disruption of aid supplies, are far less clear.
Them Pesky Cheeky Girls.
I was sitting minding my own business when suddenly it popped up. The Cheeky Girls had an album out which was described as "twelve of the most toe-tappingly catchy tunes you'll hear this season". I knew I had to do something. So I invaded their website.
I got my faithful band of merry men together and we set off to http://www.cheekygirls girls. Here we come armed with good taste and some rock music for the trip. I was setting out a plan when young Smith asked
We stopped off for some beers and some munchies but other than that we had an uneventful trip. When we got to the edge of the cheeky web camp all was quiet so we sat on the hill and watched for a while. Still, nothing, no sign of them. We moved in, slowly advancing down the bank towards the camp. As we neared the outskirts I noticed that there was some movement off to my right. It was on us before we could do anything, A giant shoosies monster with made-up word powers that left us lost and disorganized. Five men dropped in the first couple of seconds screaming utter nonsense and imploded with cries of "touch my bum". Young Smith took a shot straight on. He never stood a chance; "cheeky cheeky" he sang as he went down. I swear I'll take the sight of it to my grave. I knew if we didn't come up with something we would all suffer the same fate so I switched on the C D player and held it out. " GOD GAVE ROCK'N'ROLL TO US " blasted out at full power and hit it square on. With a flash of light and a loud bang as the pyros went off it exploded but the cost to us was massive- we were now down to THREE men from eight. We moved back from the camp and gathered our thoughts.
We set up base and sat down by the fire. Jones was well shaken so I offered him a drink and a cigarette.
Jones looked more shocked now but never argued. Patel stood up as if he was going too. A stern look from me and he sat back down.
Later that night I got myself ready and started out for the camp. I told Jones to man the radio and Patel to monitor my progress. I set off with stealth and a fully charged CD player and some ammo, Kiss, Alice Cooper and, if they don't work, the old faithful Metallica for extreme measures. The first few miles were ok- downhill and rocking all the way- but as I neared the camp again the cheeky girls were performing to their hordes of brain-dead fans. I decided to go undercover, so I put on one of their trite t-shits and a stupid look on my face and walked straight into the middle of them. Well I must have made a mistake and stood out like a sore thumb because one of the evil twins shouted that an outsider was among them. I knew that now was the time to make my move. I ripped the filthy, stinking propaganda from my back, primed the CD player and let rip "SCHOOLS OUT FOR SUMMER". Brain-dead's went flying all ways, screaming like babies, but the cheeky girls started to laugh and said "is that all you have brought to defeat us?" I knew then that I had no choice. I took a deep breath, then I hit the radio transmitter and told the boys "I will have to step up to Metallica, boys. If I don't make it just tell my mum that I love her." There was and eerie silence. Silence before the storm. I punched the switch.
I always wake up before the end of nice dreams. Don't you hate that when it happens?
Without alcohol I would be dead. Or insane. And perhaps a little wealthier, perhaps not because there's always something, under the good God of capital, in this great free market economy, there's always something to spend your money on. And then, when that's gone, they give you some more which doesn't belong to anyone it seems, because, well, they give you it, and then you give it back, plus a little more, plus a lot more until what you're giving back isn't anything like what they gave you in the first place - its perhaps 2, 3, 4 times as much, and you are thankful, thankful for the choices this affords you. We used to call this robbery. These are just some random thoughts on a shiftless Sunday afternoon. Hank once said something about drinking, that when you drank the world, for a minute at least, didn't have you by the throat. My whole life has been one great big diversionary tactic. This is an escape like any other. And later on I will walk from this room to another with yet another sour gait, and inbetween I'll masturbate, one great big pontificating fucking meanderance, a collusion of nothing until its time for me to scrub the weekend out of me and wipe the weekend shit off toilet walls.
This is my life. It is not, is not, a big deal. Love or pity- what's the difference? Why do you pity someone? Because you care about them, and any line betwixt caring and love is distinctly blurred, all the time. All the time. All the time none of this makes sense and that is the way it should be. What is it that makes a man manoeuvre a part of his anatomy so that it is inside the anatomy of another? It is not the shibboleth of procreation, nor the fundamentally sensory pleasure of the act, it is that which it is not, that otherness and mental desire not to be an other but to be a one oh Jesus, Jesus what the fuck am I going on about here, the cacophonous pretentious vomiting of drivel, drivel, is it not enough to sit here and not think for once that I have to think and if I don't think then I am wasted as a human being animal type thing. I miss my girl, that's what it is. That's all that it is, that is all. One time she fell off her bike on her way to work and Christ the things she's done for me you'd never believe, too much, too fucking much, and I can never ever repay her and if anything were ever to happen to her I'd go fucking I'd go... because I can't imagine an existence without her. To exist would not be possible. That is the fact. There it is. The only one I can give.
It is 4 months later. It is not Sunday, and it is not that shiftless. When I left her I wasn't sure why and, sitting here in my new home, I'm still not sure. Tonight it will be what? That ordinary gait, that pitiful longing for what I threw away, and that smile. There's her again, and somewhere in the her there is the us that tumbled in silly capitulation. Fuck it. There is a way of undoing. There is always a way of undoing all of the calamity in the same way that the fool has undone all of the good in life, all of the life, all of his life. It's just a question of the revealing, and if this tale ends abruptly then what then what then what?
All I want is someone to take me home.
The Lover of Cats
Nobody pays any attention to me. Nobody knows that I am a lover of cats. They see me flitting through the shadows, black-on-black, and they forget so soon.
I am a lover of cats, but cats don't love me. They don't love me because they understand me all too well. I always find myself giving in to them; I can't help it; I don't do it on purpose - it just happens. I don't know why. Honestly, put me up against a wall with the blindfold all unfurled and the rifles cocked, I still wouldn't have a clue. As you can probably see, I'm not joking here.
I love cats because I don't understand anything about them at all. The way they look at you, purr sometimes then get up straightaway and leave, how they always know they look so good... not a thing. Really, not one single thing. Cats, to me, are like closed books in a foreign language in a library far away to a blind man. It is exactly that bad. Except that they aren't far away and I'm not blind. And so I watch them closely, all the time, my eyes failing immaculately in the gloom.
Because it is a terrible affliction, this being completely in love with cats, and one day I honestly hope to be released from it. One day I hope to understand. I really do.
That is why, you must see, I cannot tell you anything at all about cats, really - because I don't understand them one little bit; I can only tell you about how I love them, and so of course I hate myself for loving them so much. I understand it all too well! This is the way the puzzle goes - you will see the solution is also in there somewhere:
I love cats, because I do not understand them. Hence I understand why I love cats, and therefore I hate myself for this. But one day I will understand cats, and hence I will not love them anymore; and since I don't understand that I don't love cats anymore because I understand them now, I will no longer be able to understand how could have loved them in the first place then. And then - you see? - it must follow that I will love myself for having loved cats, because I do not understand it, and... and yes! What a day that will be.
It really is something very strange to be a lover of cats.