My guess is that most of you live your families. I love mine. Everyone is off work and school right now (teaching family.) Research has been interrupted. Indonesia–there is an enormous amount to say about your history, politics, religion and social character that my limited time this week has not enabled me to keep up. Definitely Monday 4/22. Thank you and sorry. In the meantime, please check out some older pieces. Might I suggest the numerous on American presidential administrations? Find out just how sinister our past has been–
Hi. So I have been writing Elsewhere Series 3 for a little while now, and have noticed and certainly appreciate a pretty solid regular readership (and I am sorry these pieces are so long–there is a lot to tell about everywhere, however). Recently I stated that Part Six: Indonesia would appear this past Monday, 4/14/2019. I have not been able to complete it to this point.
There are a number of reasons for this, the first being the fact that my children are on Easter/Spring Break this week, meaning they are not in school, and my wife, also a teacher but for a different school district, is working through tomorrow (4/17/2019). I work out of the house (writer and all). This means I am house Dad for now, and any of you who have spent time with sullen and hormonal children of the early teenage years–especially as a caring parent–probably realize why I am not finished yet. For those of you who cannot empathize, I would put it in a far colder way: with all the activity going on around the house, with all the noise, it’s pretty hard thinking clearly. And trying late at night, often for me a clear time, is not tenable as that it when the serious profession work is composed, something which I refuse to modify for the sake of the next place. Which one pays me more?
Anyway, I will try for tomorrow with Indonesia–an absolutely fascinating place with a both glorious and terrifying history, as well as an amazing and frightening present. I do apologize to the handful of people from Indonesia who actually check me out daily (and they might be foreign soldiers for all I know, which of course is very welcome.) Indonesia also seems to be a place with some strict censorship rules in place, which makes my research a bit harder as all I have to choose from are western and long ago historical references and modern analysis–mostly anti-Muslim. Indonesia is the highest population Islamic nation in the world, and the clear bias of many of the articles makes them difficult to trust. But I move on. Tomorrow is my best hope this week for finishing the piece, which is first on my list. But my son has an evening baseball game and on Thursday we are taking a day trip that will be exhausting. If not tomorrow, let’s say next Monday.
Thank you for your continued interest.
Finally, on earth
and they reigned
and life grew harder
until the end finally came
But life, life, it has a way of moving on.
New life rose
Finally, many years later
and we know at least part of the story
So what we knew started thriving
I suppose we learned
Things changed rapidly after this
It got even weirder:
six hundred years later
This transformed the world:
and on and on and on
War continues, yet perhaps even worse
This leads not to
Yet life, as always, moves on
It is not the end of the earth
And so take heart
Because we don’t harm the planet
It is only ourselves
The current series of Elsewhere (3) requires quite a bit of research. I begin these pieces, usually, about two weeks in advance, spending probably more time than I should, considering many of the other priorities of my life (not the least of which is the book I have been writing, filled with nearly daily interviews and research on an entirely different topic, as well as, of course, the endless obligations of being a husband and father), studying and identifying patterns of existence between all of us, everywhere, throughout the history of time, it is inevitable that I would need a day or two to catch up. And so today and tomorrow I will reprint some pieces I wrote somewhat recently on issues that are either still, or even more relevant to the current social and political discussions (mostly in America–hey! I have spent quite some time on ‘elsewhere’ in the world, and will continue to do so but, of course, sometimes we just want to stay home for the night). Elsewhere Series 3 will return on Monday, 4/15/2019, with a piece on Indonesia, and continue through a fragmented week (my children are on Spring Break next week), throughout Africa, before roving through Europe, more of Asia, South America, and more unaffiliated, colonial island nations and places like Greenland and Iceland. This current Elsewhere series (and there will be more and more with different focuses as time moves on and I finally get up off my ass and resume visiting elsewhere in the world) will continue on Monday through Friday (with likely several more days off in between) until early May. As I stated in the prologue to series 3, I was thinking about a larger Recording Editorial History: Elsewhere project (which would be the second book I can cull from this site, with the required massive edits and narrative changes and additions so you motherfuckers can’t get all this shit for free; the other is Recording Presidential History, which has a number of early versions of articles published here as well), and that is now shoved onto my rather dense professional schedule, behind the biography, behind the US history survey, and behind a trilogy of novels, another novel, in addition to short stories and reviews (regardless of how one views a professional writer, I am extremely right now!)
Recording Editorial History, which I guess I don’t really need to promote if you are already reading this, has proven to be a Rosetta stone for my literary ambitions, as well as a great learning experience about the nature of belief, ideas and differences in the world. If I were to calculate the number of pages this site has to this point produced, based upon word count, as well as the space taken up through pictures and quotes, this is pretty close to 2,000 pages. I did not realize this until yesterday–never even thought about it. I could additionally go back to 1993 when I began this idea, scribbling comments on what people were saying in marble notebooks that also have notes from college on intermittent pages, and provide a body of work that should make me more proud than it actually does. Ultimately, I realize, no matter whatever else I do in this brutal, competitive, violently petty and subjective world of literary gamesmanship, this specific thing, this ‘blog’ that I finally undertook so many years and after so many pages worth of dense and often humiliating personal study, Recording Editorial History is the one thing that keeps me sane. This is not like a diary bemoaning my flaws and faults and anxieties (and do not point out my hypocrisy in this introduction to a reprint, please), but a very real concept of understanding not just myself, but the much larger world in which you and I live, and hoping I can offer something you may never have heard before, evading political sensitivity, avoiding sentiment and even bias. All this was ever meant to be was a record of different versions of the truth, no matter how questionable that very statement might be. It is belief, it is what we believe. What I think, finally, as well as what any of you as individuals believe, is finally meaningless on the larger stage. And I am here to record it, a fly on the wall (this also makes me a pretty good biographer, as I hope you will see upon publication of my main project right now, which has a title I am not presently willing to submit publicly based upon legal matters and NDAs and publication negotiations and all sorts of other business-related bullshit.) Being a historian, or a truth teller, ultimately requires one to sublimate themselves into a larger meaning. We abandon ourselves in order to understand just what it is that other people obsess over. What I think (even though I get to guide the narrative), is not the central focus of what is said. And so . . . so . . . here is a recent piece I wrote in horror and outrage, avoiding those emotions I felt in the construction of the narrative in order to point out, with extreme bias, just how horrible a single person is. Please enjoy this review, now, considering a handful of political changes in these United States, perhaps more relevant than ever:
“Stephen Miller: A Very American Disease”
Check this out:
Stephen Miller was in high-school in the above clip and, lest we forgive him for being young and obnoxious, here he is recently, in his current role as one of President Donald Trump’s senior policy advisers:
Listening to any of President Trump’s speeches to the nation, one cannot help but recognize the ghastly cynicism of this spoiled, 33-year ghoul. Or at least most people recognize it. The President either didn’t, or simply does not care, which seems to be in line with his own character. In fact, Donald Trump and Stephen Miller seems to have quite a bit in common.
Coming from a wealthy Santa Monica, California Jewish family, Miller grew up a spoiled brat, told he could do no wrong; that, in fact, everyone who did not agree with him was not only wrong, but incredibly stupid. One of the first revisions to his personal history involves him claiming his had some sort of epiphany, that the light of God came into his head and transformed him into the cynically far-right wing creep he presents himself as today. He claims that the gospel that impacted him so deeply was Guns. Crime, and Freedom, by current National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780895264770&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used). The reason this story is a lie is not because the book didn’t influence him–I am sure that it did. But it is simply because he claims that this vision made him somehow born again. He was already a professional provocateur (he hosted a controversial right-wing radio talk show in high school, often whining and complaining that he was being censored because he could not have famous guests on his show based upon what he was told were ‘budgetary concerns.) He organized protests, like the one against cleaning up after yourself in the opening video, and was constantly roaming around smugly to inspire anger, seemingly the only thing in life that brought him any joy.
When he was sixteen years old Miller wrote a letter to the local Santa Monica newspaper declaring that his elite high school, after September 11, was in favor of the attacks and that “Osama bin Laden would feel very welcome at Santa Monica High School.” He showed enormous talent at dividing people over ideological issues even before he arrived at Duke University, where he got very close with conservative activist David Horowitz.
Miller even raced to the top in order to become the President of Duke’s Student’s For Academic Freedom, a wannabe national organization founded by Horowitz, whose main goals seem to be dishonest attacks and hysterical exaggerations not so much on the far left, but any opposition to their radical right-wing theocracy, as well as painting all Muslims as terrorists. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled this college organization as a “far-right anti-Muslim hate group.” They denounce political correctness with their own form of moral demands (let’s call it ‘patriotic correctness), condemn all minorities for not having the same opportunities as rich white people, calling it their own fault, and even going so far as to state that anyone who agrees that the organization is a hate group has “joined the Muslim Brotherhood.”
This group even co-sponsored the notorious Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest of 2015 in Garland, Texas, an intentionally and cruelly blasphemous display that, much to the founder’s joy, provoked the sort of psychopathic violence it was hoping for, the killing of two offended Muslims. This was deemed to prove the point that all Muslims are terrorists, because those two guys had intended to be. I have no idea why Horowitz was not charged as complicate to an act of terrorism.
Anyway, Stephen Miller got famous when the case of several wrongly accused of rape Duke lacrosse players were being attacked throughout the nation by people entirely ignorant of the facts. Miller became a public spokesperson for the students, and managed to land of television denouncing everyone and everything, wrongly blaming the media, attacking Muslims for some reason and, more than anything, condemning women whom he claimed “Lie ninety-nine percent of the time about sexual assault.” He declared that sexual discrimination was not, and never had been a problem. It has even been claimed that in private Miller told people that “women need to learn their place in America,” while denouncing Sharia Law.
This divisive issue, and the justness of the cause (regardless of the choice of promotion), garnered Miller the sort of attention he had always sought, this time on a national stage. One of his major successes, prior to being hired by far right wing Congressman Michelle Bachmann and Congressman John Shadegg as press secretary, was the co-organization with Richard Spencer
the well-known neo-Nazi and founder of the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia white-nationalist march the promotion of a fundraising debate supporting new anti-immigration policies, particularly targeting Mexico and Central America.
Stephen Miller, a man still in his early thirties (did you earn the responsibility he has been granted simply for being a hard-line asshole at such a young age?) has garnered enormous power. His influence on American policy is unquestionable. I just wonder . . . I am forced to wonder, how can someone achieve such heights while not actually believing in anything? This might be argued, sure, seeing the passionate rage spittling out of his slash of a mouth, but the fact remains that he is only against things, not in favor of anything at all.
(the first picture is earlier than the second, just for clarity of the off-colored spray on his scalp)
Stephen Miller is a text book example of the sort of person I have been talking about for a while: the right-wing radical who mirrors the tactics of shrill 1960s and 70s left-wing protesters, using every call to emotional blackmail they can exploit. Miller, sarcastically, has brought this same sort of language, which was properly laughed off regarding the howling bunch of pussies once called ‘liberals,’ and he is somehow using this to justify crass, crude, bigoted, and benighted policies with ‘a call to the heart.’ The laughing tone of this is perhaps what is most offensive.
Think about the times you may have seen someone taunt another, mocking their interests, calling boys ‘girlish’ and girls ‘boys,’ making individual taste into a limited, gender-based ideology. You can just hear the soulless cruelty–‘ohhh. Playin’ wiv a widdle dollie?’ or ‘girls can’t play football!’ This is the depth of Stephen Miller’s childish character. Because, at one time or another, people he has disagreed with have successfully taken advantage of a social atmosphere surrounding him by crying into the wind about whatever momentarily offended them. Miller has decided that this tactic can work for anything–even being offended by people offended by your prejudices.
Stephen Miller is a very American disease, the spoiled, selfish, ground zero representation of everything everyone everywhere hates about America. He is, in his own right, our worst generalization come true.
The youngest a person can be to get elected President of the United States is 35. Miller will never be elected president, being too much of an immoral, hyper-emotional snowflake to generate confidence in anyone other than members of his mutually lost and cynical fraternity (besides being such a hyper-sensitive target of the unscrupulous professionals even in what this anarchist refers to nominally as his party) But he has been outrageously successful being an asshole throughout his rather brief life. I am sure that he is already very wealthy, and has only greater good fortune to look forward to. But it does not change the fact that Stephen Miller is the definition of a very American disease. Stephen Miller is the result of being spoiled rotten.
six million years ago . . .
So this thing was deep in the jungle, crawling around picking insects out of the dirt. It’s back was sore and its neck was hurting too. It looked high up into the massive trees, which for all it knew was the color of the sky. It leaped onto a vine, and scaled out onto a thick branch, looking down. It felt the pain in it’s back again, and rubbed it neck with its newly abductable hands. It stretched, heard some joints crack, and then lifted itself off its belly, standing upright for the first time . . .
This is, more or less, a true story. The first known ancestor of humanity, Australopithecus (translated as ‘Southern Ape’) roamed the jungles of Tanzania all the way back then, less a tribe than a shrewdness of animals, roaming around and sometimes devouring each other. And yet they were smarter than the rest. There was a germ of something we call ‘reason.’ They could figure out how to get things they believed that they needed. They had no religion or politics to get in the way of their goals. Some might call this paradise if there were not larger and more powerful monsters also in the jungle who could claim them in the battle to control the world.
It was here in Tanzania (as well as other African countries, although back then there was also no such thing as national borders) that the slow process of human evolution unfolded. More than four million years later the genus homo-erectus rose with a deeper understanding of what it took to survive in a dangerous world.
The first tools were rocks, the clever homo erectus using them to build, sharpening them to cut, rubbing them together to make fire, or simply using one as a weapon to bash another one’s skull in, grunting a song of triumph over the mutilated corpse.
But is this Tanzania? Is there even such a thing as a nation, going so far back in time, reflecting on the walls we have placed between us in the modern world? It is something worth considering, listening to the nervous politics of fear that have consumed all of us over the past hundred or more years.
This is Tanzania today:
Considered the greatest country to experience a safari, with the possibility of sighting several of the dwindling, prehistoric animals remaining on earth, such as our last dinosaur, the rhinoceros.
But what is the human history of this ancient land, of this place that may very well have housed the Garden of Eden (if such a place existed)? Who are the people who populate this land, and what defines their culture?
There are well over fifty million people who live in this very modern nation in eastern Africa. It is bordered by Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It also has beaches to the extreme east along the Indian Ocean.
Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in all of Africa, and one of the great locations for adventurous climbers, (as well as an obsession of Ernest Hemingway’s), peers down at the world.
But the people, the people of Tanzania are an extremely diverse group. This is a list of the different ethnic groups that make up the population:
- Holoholo people
- issenye -serengeti
(Pant, pant . . .) If you are still with me I do not blame you for racing through the list, ultimately scrolling down before you absorb every name. I just listed 163 distinct ethnic groups all living together in one nation. I want you to consider this for a moment–seriously consider the consequences of such instinctive differences between 50,000,000 plus people. How would your nation fare?
You might notice that many of these groups have very similar names. Considering the deeply ancient nature of humanity in this land, we can consider each one of these different people as members of tribes, the near exact spelling of the names likely representing a split hundreds of thousands of years ago. Two of the ethnicities, the Hutu and the Tutsi, you may recognize from the fearful genocide in Rwanda of 1994:
But with so many different groups of people, tensions are bound to flair, and even in Tanzania scapegoats have been found to butcher, rape and murder.
There is a rather large tribe of albinos in Tanzania, and innate racial prejudice and a deep-rooted (and somewhat justifiable) hatred of the white man has caused hatred to explode.
Of course these are not white people, only those with a different genetic code of what some would call ‘abnormality,’ which causes them to stand out in a crowd of people. And those who are recognized for their differences are often targeted by people seeking anything to blame for their frustrations. Additionally, for some a solution to all their problems, it is believed by some that Albinos exist as a result of black magic, and that their limbs have magical properties that allow wishes to come true. There is a subtle strain of self-hatred in this, reflecting on the darkness of their own skin and, for those seeking to pillage the albino community, perhaps a desire to renounce their own racial identity.
But despite this (and every nation has its darkness and horror, as this series has been teaching me), Tanzania also has a positive and heroic history. During World War II, for example, more than 100,000 people from this nation volunteered to fight with the Allies against Fascist Italy, Vichy France, and the Empire of Japan. Tanzania was also among the most important sources of food during the war, growing crops in the way that America was building weapons, making the nation very rich for a time (until international bankers imposed taxes and tariffs so extreme that Tanzania sank into poverty.) Even during the Great Depression, when Tanzania was one of the few nations left without too many problems, they generously provided food around the world to the starving people suffering through summer droughts.
The British, of course, as with nearly every nation in the world, had some claim to Tanzania. Their colonial rule came to an end in 1961. Meanwhile in nearby Zanzibar the British left in 1963, ceding the country to Arab rule. Shortly thereafter a revolution erupted, insurgents armed with spears and machetes attacking numerous police stations filled with unprepared new recruits that replaced the experienced officers who were part of the attack. Here is the result:
It was a mass killing of Arabs by an increasingly radicalized and nationalistic faction demanding entry and reconciliation with Tanzania. As a matter of fact, Tanzania wasn’t known by that name until 1964 when the merger with Zanzibar was completed. They used to be called Tanganyika. This new name was a compound of the first three letters of each nation, followed by the ‘i’ and ‘a,’ which repeated the only vowels in either. In native Swahili Tanzania is translated as “sail in the wilderness,” both an appropriate and, upon further consideration, a deeply troubling name.
As with so many other nations within this sphere, socialism came and conquered the burgeoning, newly independent government, nationalizing the factories and imposing mandatory work requirements on the people. Tanzania’s alliance was with Communist China more so than the Soviet Union, which made business a far more important thing to the future and destiny.
In the 1980s Tanzania abandoned most of it’s socialist policies, their economy declining. They blamed the Chinese, perhaps not entirely fairly. The new social reforms repaired the broken system, greatly helped by loans from the International Monetary Fund.
Today Tanzania suffers once more from economic struggles and increasing cultural rage. And while the nation remains socially stable, there are some burning issues that threaten to overtake the peace. The current president, John “The Bulldozer” Magufuli,
is a stubborn man with some pretty radical views. And while he has vastly reduced government spending (even cutting his own salary by nearly seventy-five percent), as well as focused much of the nation’s resources on developing and improving infrastructure, Magufuli has some extremely harsh prejudices.
John Mugufuli has a penchant for banning things in Tanzania. He banned hookah smoking, claiming that this practice was harmful to children. Violating the law could land you in prison. But the harshest bias Mugufuli has imposed upon his nation resembles, with only slightly less cruelty, the recent policy changes in nearby Burundi, outlawing male/male homosexuality. This is punishable by thirty years to life in prison (it is being stoned to death in Burundi, like something out of 17th century witch trials). World AIDS day conferences were canceled in the nation, which is ravaged with the disease, and he outlawed AIDS medication. He has also cut off the supply of condoms to the gay community, stating “Let them kill themselves by their sins.”
Mugufuli has threatened to imprison and deport anyone campaigning for gay rights, and refusing prosecution for victims of anti-homosexual violence, making such crimes legal. And here is another dictate, stated in a speech by the commissioner of the capital city Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda:
“If there’s a homosexual who has a Facebook account, or with an Instagram account, all those who ‘follow’ him — it is very clear that they are just as guilty as the homosexual.”
This is the culture that is raising the children of Tanzania. A network has been set up to uncover closeted homosexuals, suggesting to the increasingly biased public that they should name names and turn the criminals into the government. There they will be given ‘anal exams’ to prove if they are or are not having gay sex. This practice is approved by a majority of the people.
Religion in Tanzania is slightly less important to the overall social structure of the country than in many other nearby places, although it still plays an important role in people’s lives. Those that came from Zanzibar are almost exclusively Muslim, while the overall majority of the nation is Catholic (Mugufuli, claiming to be a devout Catholic, was condemned by the Roman church and excommunicated.) There are still several who practice indigenous religions from the distant past, including voodoo and varying forms of witchcraft. These people are also condemned, sometimes arrested without explanation.
If there is terrorism within Tanzania it hardly has a religious face, and is more committed by domestic radicals and militias, robbing banks and blowing up police stations. This is rare, and crime is relatively low. It is, today, a rare nation of anxious peace, committed to family and the future, but with a dark cloud forming over the divisions of society and the lost unity of the modern world.