Shallow Graves [a polemic]

A disclaimer written and presented to detract your criticism of my views; or, are they my views? Are they simply not the views of every American? Is this not true? Is this then an expression of something darker, perhaps not, but lighter; something more or less trenchant than other things that have been said, argued, presented, with or without acumen, inside the context [not the contextualization] that the article, the report, the essay (literary or editorial or both or neither), or the film script is contained? Whatever else have we in how we write about Russia and Russians? Most of us, though, do not have a clue what we mean when we say Russians—Uzbek might speak Russian, or some half-baked version of Russian, but they are not Russians, just as Ashkenazi are not Russkie Pravoslavnie, ever. Never confuse Russia or even the former Soviet Union for the United States. Please. 

Does any of this have anything to do with what you think, imagine, conjure, abjure, reflect or refract when you hear the word Russian, see a Russian or who you may imagine is a Russian, to be a Russian or not to be Russian, that is the question for many from the former Republics of the Soviet Union.

Herein please find a minor collection of notes that have been found by a friend among the papers of a man who just recently and suddenly, that is, quite unexpectedly died. Gone to sleep, you might say; passed on, we espress, quite inanely.

Everything he has said herein about the Soviet Union and Soviet citizens—mostly, he likes to point out, directly pertaining to the pseudo-Russians among the citizens from the former Republics of the Soviet Union— is fast becoming true here in these United States of America, both in its Statist platforms and programs for order and its citizens and residents, and the way we manage correct political posture from individuals. His wife used to tell him that the U.S. is becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, with increasing incidents as the years unfolded for them together. He generally likes Russians, Russian Russians more than others he used to say . . . don’t confuse people, he used to think . . . he’ll include people from Belarus and Ukraine.

These papers were on the man’s desk, the papers herein mentioned. There were many still in the printer off to the side of his desk, the man whose papers his friend had been going through when he found these here entitled as they have been here titled, the story now presented . . . who is anyone cannot be determined because there is always more in the heaven and earth of any man’s life, living, speaking, thinking, dreaming, wanting, doing, resting, watching, hearing, listening, seeing, loving than could be dreamed in any other man’s philosophy. What you get is only what you have gotten; what you take is your own:

He wrote, “The President of the United States takes an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  The People of the United States are domestic, better domesticated as the public.  Domestic animals we love, we put in place of family, have instead of children; wild ones we hunt.  In the political science of state, the people are a wild species of the public,” I imagine he paused.

He continued, “The State manages only slogans or platitudes in  reference to the fundamentals of our humanity; this remains true in the marketing of government by its administrators, equal in every way to the marketing of big business in America.  Madison Avenue was a bourgeois capitalist parallel of Soviet Propaganda; state propaganda in America, the runt of this litter. I wonder how many people who worked for the Nazis Ministry of Propaganda went to work for German Advertising after the war,” he stopped.

He paused, again, I imagine.

He then said (to say or not to say by writing), “Intelligent assessments about anything are contrary to speaking about things in platitudes; the mind that forms or receives platitudes and the mind that thinks intelligently are mutually exclusive. But then platitudes are the mark of the political sophist, another phrase for politician, or lawyer, which is what almost all politicians have been  before becoming holders of public office; that is, until our notion that businessmen might make better politicians than politicians themselves.  But one does not have to listen to politicians to assess intelligently how someone speaks in platitudes; you only have to listen to most people from the Soviet Union, or from anywhere else, actually; but from the Soviet Union will herein serve us well,” he looked around at those who were listening.

He smiled, of course he would. I would have at the completion of this. The pen is put on the table. The pages found with the notes were in long hand, pen to paper.

He went on, “This Soviet citizen, this former Soviet citizen, is a particular example I like to hold up for scrutiny. It is here a unique mirror is held up to that peculiar species of political animal we like to refer to in hubris, American.”  Yes, scratch the Russian and find the American, he could have said. “In these ‘Russians,’ we have a people who were supposedly educated above the rest of us here in America, as most native detractors from the United States like to agree with, but then we also have a people who will swear, en masse, that they were and are still savvy to how much propaganda they were fed in the Soviet Union, an amount only the rarest of former Soviets is ever aware of. Moreover, if their diction were ever analyzed closely, it would reveal the most grotesque patterns of totalitarian received ideas of anyone in the world,” he paused, of course. Who would not?

A long pause.

He spoke with confidence in what he was saying, “Was their access to information comparable to what we have here in the west, or more specifically the United States.  I recall having told my wife once that it is not true that bad things cannot happen to people here because they do, the government, its administrators, its bureaucrats, other institutions of power, of money, of authority, all of them have at one time or another participated in some form of repression of some group somewhere in our country,” he took a short pause. He continued, “Like elsewhere in the world, the United States government is not the friend of its people; its particular genius of governing, though, has been to be less the enemy of the people than governments elsewhere have been. With our government’s alignment with power, with money, that just might be waning. And with the President being, in all politeness, Blankfein’s bitch . . . do we imagine Obama has not sold the People down river–and yes, I do know from where I get my words,” he said/wrote. You can discern the confidence in the words on the page.

He paused, I imagined, as much of what I say and think is what I imagine, me. (I could publish facsimiles of his pages, but what then would that do for your confidence about what he has said, has allegedly said, as I imagine you must ask? Asking questions is what you are supposed to do, but this too not reflexively, not for the sake of itself completed as act, asking; to ask or not to ask might be the question for a fool as well. Is Hamlet not also the fool—recall that Yorick as well as the King is dead. Who then functions as the fool in Hamlet—Hamlet himself.)

He said, “What is also true about America is that here there are more stops, more impediments between the people and their harm; or so we used to assume. Once great harm has been done, there is more availability for the deed, not to be undone, but remedied.  Now if Sartre’s maxim for the French in his “The Republic of Silence” has any validity, whereby the French were never freer than when living under the Nazis occupation, then an inverse of this freer Frenchman under the Nazis might also have some validity. A like analogy could be held for Soviet Russians, as I have met many from the former Republics of the Soviet Union who have a particularly existential sense of freedom.”

A long pause. (As if he were speaking to us; which you know he is not, this being a presentation of what has been written, or so I say another has said.)

“Likewise, an inverse analogy might be drawn where we could say that the kind of society we have in America just might breed the democratic slave, especially when other institutions of society are analyzed, particularly the role of media in our political and social life.  Nonetheless, was there ever a story line other than the official one of state?  Pravda did not report auto accidents for decades.  But then watching the media in the role of the Obama presidency has left wondering just how managed by power elites and moneyed elites our alleged free press is,” he said.

The rain continued outside. (It is actually raining here where I am presenting this to you in the way and form I have chosen.)

He thinks he should say that Soviet education was an especially subscribed education, filled with redundancy, especially in the apolitical areas of math and the sciences, except biology, of course, which always gets appropriated, much as psychology seems always to be appropriated by states in their own interest.  He goes on to say, “The inquiries into biology and psychology were detoured repeatedly by a state that used both sciences in its revolutionary programmatic, or in lip service of revolutionary programmatics that were in turn all and only about hegemony and power for those fortunate enough to be part of the ruling oligarchy.  No one ever killed more scientists, especially biologists than did the Soviet Union, that is, in the entire history of the world,” he pauses.

I cannot balance the scales of justice between the Soviet Union and the United States; and the persistence of Soviet life as status quo only goes to securing in my appraisal of Soviet mentality a more propagandized set of publicans in service of the Soviet state.  Perhaps Sartre’s famous maxim in “The Republic of Silence” is valid for short time periods of occupation . . .

He will say that this educated Russian is a perfect example “of state molded man” in service of that state, “a man as one of the people transformed in the image of the public,” he will have said.

I listen to the dogmas and the received ideas that pass for education from many of our American college educated today, and I see the same reflexes . . . do I really? Yes, I do. We are fast becoming like the Soviet Union . . .

He said, as I remember him having said, another time, as sometimes I recall from out of the oblique of memory . . . remembering is a prismatic effect on the images of the past . . . there is no videotape in the head, and if there were, no video tape is the actuality of the event as it happened, where it happened, et cetera, et cetera. The past is the past, memory is memory, video tape is video tape, point-of-view is point-of-view, cropping is cropping, lenses are lenses, filters, filters and prisms, prisms. Truth is tautological and no more?

“In this Soviet citizen,” he would say, in these and in other words, over and again,  “we see the Publican man at his most transformative, least a member of a People because in all People’s Republics the People disappear,” he said.

“The Soviet citizen,” he continued as he had, as he will have, as he will continue and continue and continue . . . he does . . . what? Yes, this Soviet citizen, as I too am sure, as he also says in essays he has written on the end of the Cold War, “has a lot in common with the figure of the Golem, out yiddish folk-lore.  But a figure who lacked the courage of Victor Frankenstein’s monster . . . I can’t tell you how many Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union insist that they had to be Communists to keep their job, a choice they made but insist they could not have not made,” he said. “Mother Fuckers,” he would add; or, “Cocksuckers,” he has said, without any intention of disparaging homosexual love because as he has said, “What these mother-fucking Ashkenazi from the Russias did with Comitern cocks in their mouths has nothing at all to do with what another man is doing when he has a man’s cock in his mouth out of love,” he would say in these and other words. I too am of the mind that the desire to in this latter context is in itself love, and that if it does not result in a relationship, it is nonetheless still love and not what those former cocksuckers were doing by becoming members of the Communist Party for a few more crumbs off the party table. Other people were Communists too, but do not let opportunistic fuckers lead you to believe that the Soviet Union was endemically Anti-Semitic and that Jews had no hand in disseminating abuse from the Party. That would be like saying that no African-American ever stood as an impediment to the advance of Civil Rights . . . King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” attests to the contrary of this former supposition.

I’ve never met more completely formed members of the status quo than I have from among the Soviets I have met, not even here in the United States, although here you will find a more nearly identical replication of this state-formed being, especially in those who pride themselves at being the most individualized, many among the college educated as well as almost all among the lumpen proletariat or the dregs of the poor–only the latter two representing a policy flip side to the supposedly more sensitive, better read, intelligent, members of our liberally educated university students . . . hyperbole here should be taken as it has been intended, satirically.

“Moreover,” he said, “Americans are fast becoming like their Soviet comrades in the decline of liberty,–no one more so than the most politically correct academics in our colleges.  There were and probably still are no two states who existed in this categorical flip of the coin as did the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.  This is neither new nor unique, but a truth we seem willing to turn away from,” he added.

He then went on, “So in this adherence to the dogmas of state, one’s humanity is reduced.  In being a member of the state institution of the Public, and this Public is an institution of the state, one relinquishes one’s role as a member of the People, something I’ve gone on about in more than one essay herein.  In this abdication, there is a denouncement of one’s fundamental and natural humanity, for a more highly circumscribed participation as state automaton, a humanoid in its performance as one of the Public, a hybrid of human, you could say, one whose politicized action is as sterile as he is, as sterile as many a hybrid,” he said.

The political is the greatest effort at dominating the People no matter what cloak or banner is worn or flown.  “Publicans are the mules of the state,” he said, “and like mules in nature, Publicans are sterile. But this sterility does not keep the Mule from trying to mate. Mules have a sex drive; they simply are sterile not impotent. Their gratification is like our Publican need for gratification now, now, now,” he said as he has before said the same and the like, as Ido, as I have, will, perhaps herein as again.

So now take what you want? Is it a matter of wanting what you take, what I take, what we, anyone takes from anything read? What is in a text? What is it about the text that is independent of the author–what now about authority over a text? What is it about reading in a reader, by a reader, independent of the author and the demands or clues of a text that are not valid outside the solipsism of the reader?

To disclaim is in essence to proclaim. What do I claim here, by these remarks, what marks on the page, and how so not unlike that mark on the wall I read about and discussed so much with a teacher, a professor I liked more than she realized–as a teacher–what is it that I am trying to say herein, the words that never say at what they mean or is it that they never mean at what they try to say, or do they say independently of whether meaning is made or not–where is meaning made . . . I recall something about trees and woods and no one present to hear the tree fall and the question that always accompanies that scenario, and how the answer to that question is no, the tree does not make a sound. If there is no one, then there are no ears, and off there are no ears, then there is no sound made. Sound is created in the ear, by the ear, the acoustic apparatus, if you will, it makes a compression wave, not a sound. So if so this for sound, does a text make meaning if there is no one there to read it . . . and reading hear is multifarious, not just what we associate with reading when new say it, as we do so many times in association with that process we customarily call reading.

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