Archive | Evil RSS feed for this section


2 Jun


Perception is a weird thing. It’s natural, so the neuroscientists tell us, to divide the world into value-laden binaries: good/bad; good/Evil/black and white. That black and white make shades of grey is some disconsolation. Grey is the colour of an impending storm. Grey is winter and old age. Shades of grey can be complicated and hard to understand. A sharp line twixt darkness and light is preferred.

Black/white. Time was the Moors raided the coasts of Ireland and Scotland (places where the poor lived next to the sea). During the Middle Ages, I’ve read somewhere, they took millions of slaves. Later as Islam receded militarily and scientifically, as Europe rose, the slave trade’s direction reversed itself. This tide between Islam and Christendom, between Africa and Europe (not the same thing) has been coming in and going out for hundreds of years. It’s on a geo-tectonic scale, if you permit the metaphor, human individuals on this scale are like the blades of grass. They pay no attention. It’s too big for them.

Centuries of the human race fucking each other in the arse without permission: rape, murder! Face it.

The colour wing-ding’s a curious thing ladies and gentlemen. In ancient Egypt the aristocrats were light skinned and this gave them prestige. Or rather because of their prestige they were a lighter shade of brown and this became a mark of status. It was an indicator of wealth that one was not tanned by the sun. Also, and with the aid of the cosmetics available to cashed-up Egyptians, your ‘youth’ lasted longer.

The semantic alignment of ‘black’ (dark) and ‘white’ (light) with the spectrum of human complexion is the modern era’s most nefarious invention. It is an unintended consequence of Christianity. Followers of Jesus Christ are not permitted to enslave others. To eliminate slavery was of course very difficult, the economy of Agrarian Civilization depended on it. But, by the second century of the second millennium it had been accomplished.

And then the Spanish court acquired territory in central America.

The story is complex and I’m not intimately familiar with it. But in essence the Catholic Church decided that Africans didn’t have souls, hence it was okay to enslave them. Europeans couldn’t handle the Sun in what is now Cuba. The local inhabitants were dropping dead of the fierce Eurasian diseases which would soon decimate the American continents. And some Portugese captain received a gift of slaves from an African king. Well, when there’s money in it, let’s just bend the rules… um ah.

The love of money is the root of all Evil, and the closer to the bottom line you live, the more liable to sin. Europe was a shithole. Europeans were hungry. But they were also Christians. The Catholics decided yes. But Protestants and Jews (mostly) agreed.

Much has been made of the stark doublethink involved in these half-civilized brutes at once regarding African humans as animals whilst baptizing them by force. Carrying on sexual relationships with them and selling the children: the l’il bucks and bitches. Surveyed like a horse or a hunting dog assigned a role in the machinery of imperial agriculture. A resource for exploitation all the while being subjected to a cultural oppression that centres on adherence to the faith of Jesus Christ?

Women too. Any male slave confronted with a wily enough woman, especially a very attractive, sexually frustrated one, will not be able to refuse. Even tho’ the consequences might be fatal. Crying rape on a lover can be a useful tactic if he’s become inconvenient or you’ve been sprung. The accusation will not be disputed and ruthlessly proceeds to execution, sometimes in the midst of a drunken picnic. White people in the South used to have a grand old time at a lynching – yessir!

And we modern people, those of us on the planet who have entered the 21st century – intellectually and emotionally – we who find theories that hold one race superior and others inferior literally laughable, we…

Because of those morons the Nazis, the heirs to Empire can not speak of it in the very literary circles that require the enunciation. The divided mind, the divided self, the schizophrenia infecting the culture all surfeit of a complete lack of basic courtesy. Each side thinks itself relatively guiltless – they started it. Who started it. When did it start? This hacking each at other on the basis of some difference which does one no harm. When? Oh…. way back when.

That’s not the question, the question is have we stopped?



31 May

Devil Tarot

I’m plagued by the memories of situations tangled in complexities underpinned by unknown factors and awash with a passion that’ll tear the chain outta the wall any minute now. If I cut myself some slack I’d raise a glass for the true pursuit of the cardinal virtues: wisdom, temperance, justice and courage. But I don’t and I know I have failed them, all four. I am a stupid, reckless, selfish coward.

We are, all of us, all of those things, and their opposite all the time. It ain’t easy. What court presides over the fluxus of daily interpersonal conduct? Only our own self-interested and distorted recollection. The fluctuating narratives of the he said/she said fandango. And the memory hole lurking in the dark gap between what is said and what is done amidst a storm of confusion created by the glaring corruption of our spiritual institution. Facing the brunt of a storm I have only the obsolete words of a near-lost ritual, rarified to the point of meaninglessness, yet earnest: Mother in Heaven, I have sinned, hear my confession.

What a battered saga lays twixt me and my last awkward confession to some bloodless, badly-shaven, cold-eyed man in a high black collar with a white tab signifying some s’posed wisdom on the other side of an archaic bit of woodwork designed to allow the clear transfer of whispered, shameful and shaming voices while obfuscating eye contact, making touch impossible.

How many awkward, wild, tender and nightmare-scary moments have passed on mattresses in sundry condition in so many cities and towns. In tents, on a field, near a tree. On a rock in the mountains. Surrounded by four walls that close in a little each night. How many times has it been an immortal choreography? How many times a disappointment? How many a refuge? How many will be sometime, sublime death-bed memories?

And how I long for that again and how it lurks and darts in front of me but always out of reach. Again and again a facsimile of what I seek but false. Or true perhaps, obscured by the fear of impostors. A filibuster straight from Desire with nothing of love in it. It feels like (yet another) test. And the journey has already been so long. It’s all around me, I have eyes. But they see too far, they see around the corner to the myriad of consequences. The knowledge that you can hop on a bus and end up travelling just as far in the wrong direction…

It’s another beautiful day in Melbourne. But it’s the goddamn Anglo-Saxon jive man. Snatching misery from the jaws of euphoria. I’ve got women on my mind. Desire is a knife-edged psychopath. Watch out for it. S/he’s not interested in your happiness one little bit. Enough! let’s have some whinging white-boy crap on the jukebox ‘ey.


11 Apr

I was born with much luck, early sufferings – actually surfeit of said luck – had convinced me otherwise, so much so that I squandered many an opportunity to advance higher in the socio-economic pyramid. You have to start at the bottom of the ladder.

My grandfather’s people came here in the nineteenth century when Australia was, as Eric Hobsbawm put it, a paradise of labour. They prospered and became part of that most Corinthian of columns in the Sydney Establishment: the prosperous Irish, products of the excellence of Catholic education. They were dead set in the middle of that column; modestly well-off.

The family business was a small to medium sized firm attached to the construction industry. An Australian institution: the Blue Collar Enterprise. The son and heir always had to start of at the bottom and work his way up. Of course, promotion was assured. 🙂

But what wisdom in such a monarchy? By the time the Son became the Boss he knew the business from the ground up. He’d see what needed changing and what didn’t. How it all worked. What it was like to work here and there. Trouble was the limited pool from which to draw labour. It was, of course, explicitly sexist (girl had babies, boys had jobs). And the son might be guided by tradition but the chances are, sooner or later, you’d get a right berk or downright nasty bastard. It’s difficult for the rich to not spoil their children. Another rub. Thing is sometimes, fellas (quite often really) it’s the girls who’d make a better boss. The Spartans were miserable old sods, but they had wisdom when is came to their women.

It occurs to me that, in my own weird way, I’ve pretty much done the same thing. For what end I don’t know. I do not own the future, but, it is still open. I have relinquished opportunities yes: for prosperity, for advancement, for sex. But I have not relinquished my capacity to choose the many paths available to me in this Our Year of the Almighty Whatever – two-oh-one-one. I have a wide experience, I know what it’s like night shift in a factory. I know what it’s like 7am right thru to the early hours of the next morning. Paper cup coffee swallowed in gulps on the run while answering the relentless call of an electronic master. It never stops long enough for you to quietly view the beauty of the city skyline from high up behind a glass and steel window.

Ferris Bueller said life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while you might miss it. If you work the skyscraper high-life; if you get all the way to helicopter level where you only ever need touch the ground to switch to the Gulfstream en route to allover; the higher you go… The more you need to remember what Ferris said. I like the view from high up but it ain’t worth the palava.

Other people I’ve known are heading for that apex of the democratic monoliths that mark the architectural symbol of early Technological Civilization. And, if they’re well-grounded in a spiritual tradition, it doesn’t drive them crazy. If not, well I’ve seen these people – drink.

Dry-cleaning everything is a bitch, forget about it. But I could’ve chosen that life. If I had, I wouldn’t be me tho’, I’d be someone else. And, if it was me personally, I don’t think that someone else would be very nice. It’s moot now because that life is a path closed to me. That sort’ve thing you have to commit when you’re at what Americans call Junior High. I have options but also many burnt bridges.

I am privileged and fortunate. Others are not, they have been chosen for a difficult path. Hard, hard, hard! From the time they’re born. Last night I made another friend (weird: Sunday nights!) and he’s Jewish and Muslim and Christian. We met and spent hours talking, so different and yet connected. He’s struggling, he has a kid, chancy employment opportuities. The migrant experience. The refugee experience. I saw a fragment of his world. Interesting, this city’s third-world underground.

Born on the roof of a Saudi jail, this guy. Truly. Brought up an ultra-orthodox Muslim and now converted to Christianity. Still he’s a son of Beta Israel, believed by many to be famed lost tribe of the ancient Hebrews. He believes Jesus was black. My friend has changed his name to that of a very popular saint (not Francesco d’Assisi). We ate dinner in a restaurant run by Hindus. Lots of Ohm signs about. But also a painting of the Buddha and a newsclipping of Mary MacKillop’s canonization.

Amongst the Faithful, these days, there are those that crave war and there are those instinctively moving toward other creeds – including Atheism – in a spirit of catallaxy. My friend is a mystic and it’s hard to follow him sometimes but he is amongst the latter, he moves toward convergence in a spirit of peace. All the while knowing that outside in the cold distance, a wild cat growls. He knows a lot more about religion then I ever will. I am lucky, I have have been born lucky consequence of war-torn centuries and persistent wilfulness. Of conquest, plunder, slavery, lies: and glory too. What a piece of work is Man:


My friend has it tough because his ancestors were on the other side of all that business. I am lucky to meet him. He thinks I am his guide perhaps, but he is mine. I am lost, I think I’m found, I realize I’m still lost and then I find one also lost. But he has read the map. He will show me the way on the other side of the wall erected ‘twixt Reason and Dream in the Western World. What will I show him? How should I know, I don’t own the future. No-one does.


19 Mar

Men who become rules by prowess similar to [Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus and others like them] acquire their principalities with difficulty but hold them with ease. The difficulties they encounter in acquiring their principalities arise partly because of the new institutions and laws they are forced to introduce in founding the state and making themselves secure.

It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state’s constitution.

The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience. In consequence, whenever those who oppose the changes can do so, they attack vigorously, and the defense made by others is only lukewarm. So the innovator and his friends come to grief.

VI. ‘New principalities acquired by one’s own arms’.
The Prince, 1532 (first printed)
Niccolò Machiavelli (1468-1527)


(The death mask of Lorenzo de Medici to whom The Prince was dedicated)


2 Mar


He’s a political prisoner, thoroughly broken. He accepts that reality is dictated by government decree, that the trust he’s had in the evidence of his own senses and memories has been a form of insanity. He knows he is still insane but prefers to be so. He has been kicked in the balls with heavy boots, truncheons to the elbows, starvation, sleep-deprivation. He’s been on a metal slab some weeks, skeletal from the want of food. They’ve been giving him electricity therapy, almost unbearable. But effective. He now understands that 2 plus 2 equals 5 if the government says so.

That’s in the past. Now he’s fed and fixed up and sort’ve in love with his master torturer. Finally, a man who understands him. With whom there is honesty. He’s not some kind of terrorist. He’s thrown no bombs, supplied no poison. He’s committed no real crime because there aren’t any laws just the constant obligation to be guided by herd instinct which is guided by fear, television and surveillance. The activities that led to the arrest are: keeping a diary, having some occasional lovely fucks with a girl from work. Reading a book. Um-ah.

And now he finds himself in a room. A room he’s heard about. Something’s in it, he understands. Something bad. He asked his master torturer about it and the guy tells him he already knows. Everyone knows what in Room 101, he says. And now here he is. Room 101. The master torturer enters.

“You asked me once,” he says, “what was in Room 101. I told you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”

Enter a stormtrooper carrying a box, the master torturer continues:

“The worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are some cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.”

In a world without God, so the 20th century teaches us, we make our own god of whatever king is available. And he creates Hell and brings it to Earth. Understand, this political prisoner has been watched all his life. His face has been rigorously scrutinized by a hidden apparatus of technocrats who can utilize all manner of new gadgetry to get inside everyone. They know you’re not one of them, they see it in your face. And they watch you until the right moment. And then they take you and break you. All the way down.

During the European Middle Ages there was very little room to move intellectually. Learning was controlled by the Catholic church and often the political realities of the Church and the scriptural proclamations of Jesus of Nazareth were mutually exclusive. That wasn’t so much a problem because the only people that could read were inside the circle of power. The secular political structure tended to demand what we’d think an unreasonable amount of loyalty. A criticism of the reigning monarch was treasonous most places. But they were concerned more with alliances in battle then the intellectual contemplations (if any) of their fellow patricians.

The Churches, the Kings and the occasional Queen tortured and executed their subjects at will. The Church declared certain arguments heretical and the penalty could mean expulsion from the spiritual community and possibly excrutiating death. They set you on fire. Ordinary banal justice wasn’t much better. In the 14th century a peasant, pissed off that a friend insisted on drinking his money instead of repaying a loan, went to the guy’s house and pinched some tools worth the value of the loan. His punishment: castration and blinding. And after all that he’s reported to have thought it a fair cop!

Still they could not, and would not, enforce the kind of mind control inflicted upon our political prisoner in his reality decreed entirely by the government. Why? They didn’t have the technology but they had God. And they had Hell. The prisoner does not fear Hell after death. He looks forward to death as release from his tragically dismal life. AT the moment, he’s been broken as thoroughly as the medieval ancestors of our master torturer could do.

But our master torturer is superior to his forbears. Before his arrest, our prisoner had told his lady that he would never betray her. He didn’t mean he’d out against torture. They both knew they would be caught and broken, that they’d confess all. But they wouldn’t stop loving each other. They can break your body and they can break your mind but they can’t get to your heart and soul. That is their conviction. The master torturer understands, he knows that the prisoner has not betrayed his love.


The worst thing in the world for this guy is rats. A cage is strapped to his face with two of them; big, yellow, snaggletoothed gnarly and hungry. They’re a few centimetres from the skin on his face. The master torturer tells him calmly that he’ll do what he’s supposed to. But he doesn’t tell him what that is. So our prisoner convulses with blind animal panic. What!? What do want me to say, what do you want me to do? Anything you ask, just ask. Tell me. Please!

They don’t of course. And in this prolonged moment of unbearable horror he sees his lover’s face in the eye of his mind and screams. Do it to her. Don’t do it to me. Her, not me. Not me. And he means it. The master torturer has perfected the arts of Hell on Earth in the way that the priests could not, would not ever do. Your body could be burned, your mind must be controlled. They’d agree, but they respected the soul. There is no respect for the soul in a world where it officially does not exist. In that event, and with these expertise, these techniques they can and will reach your soul.

And burn it while you’re still alive.


22 Feb

Mr. Crown Prosecutor
No matter what I say or do
You take money, to put whatever
May be the opposite view


What you see, is what I am
I will always be, an honest man
Mr Crown Prosecutor, raise my hand
I can’t say the same about you


Mr. Crown Prosecutor, go down now
I’ll show you where your children play
The deep shit they get to play with
And the people that they’ve got to pay


I got caught, in a traffic jam
A girl on the street, with a chain of command
Goin’ up through the city
To the government of the day


Mr. Crown Prosecutor, raise my hand
The hands of a fish so small
You know, if it wasn’t so
I wouldn’t be here at all


What you see, is what I am
I will always be, an honest man
Lost in the blind stupidity of it all


But Mr. Crown Prosecutor, if you look
You’ll find where it tells it to ya in this book
How the vine by the well
Gotta branch out over the wall


Lyrics: Don Watson


18 Feb

In the East End of London and whatever pubs in Collingwood remain unchanged; in the hard streets of Dublin and Glasgow, in places closer to a whiskey bottle than a spire John Gray is what they call a miserable old cunt. Well maybe not to his face. And perhaps in person he’s quite affable and jolly but in print, no.

For some time now books by old men have been pouring out of the United Kingdom determined somehow to influence those of us at the beginning of the 21st century who can still make a difference in action. Those of us who will make the policies and fight the wars that will the render the globe in whatever state we will find it on the first of January, 2101: the dawn of the twenty-second century. John Gray is one such. In his 90s, Eric Hobsbawm is another.

They are different creatures on the surface but below they’re of a type. British men of letters who’ve seen the wars of the 20th century and lived to tell the tale. Hobsbawm, much older, can remember when Britannia ruled the waves and spent his life striving for a world in which common people ruled themselves. John Gray, a bit younger than Mick Jagger, never knew that era and, after the Holocaust, after the massacre plagued catastrophes of the Soviet Union, after the New Left and the New Right; New Labour and the Neoconservatives – after all that – well, he can no longer dream the dreams that so many of Hobsbawm’s generation mistook for the clarity that reason finally brings.
Gray, I’d suppose one would classify as a Nietzschean conservative, one who acknowledges the death of God, the hopeless relativism of morality and the Hobbesian nastiness at the heart of human nature. His book Straw Dogs is a series of soundbyte aphorisms designed to wake us up to one of Nietzsche’s theses: that one of the most perfidious illusions of humanity is our supposed superiority to other animals. The paragon of animals, Hamlet calls us. What a piece of work is a man, he asks. Gray tells us. And it ain’t pretty.

He tells us true stories that illustrate. That of a man in Auschwitz who is raped by a guard. The guard steals his cap knowing that anyone without a cap is shot at morning parade. Knowing this, the victim steals someone else’s cap and feels relief that it’s not him that gets shot next day. He relates the commonplace gory details of southern lynchings, of a black woman, pregnant, who has her baby cut from her belly whilst she is alive in the full view of families with children who think the whole thing a grand day out. He tells us of the Tasmanian genocide and he concludes:

Morality tells us that conscience may not be heard – but that it speaks always against cruelty and injustice. In fact conscience blesses cruelty and injustice – so long as their victims can be quietly buried.

Miserable right? Nietzsche’s combination of radical distance from conventional morality with his political caution is put to use in an attack on George Bernard Shaw, one of those most progressive and enlightened of English writers that crossed over from the Victorian certainties of the 19th century to the anarchies loosed in the 20th. Shaw, he reminds us, was a supporter of the Soviet Union. He endorsed the cruelty, the inhumanity, the cavalier indifference to the lives and interests of individuals all in the name of progress. Understand, he was not someone who enjoyed the base violence of the human animal but sought to push all humanity past it. And in the name of this progress he supported the unprecedented horrors manifest by modern technology put to the task of making people suffer. “Morality is a sickness peculiar to humans” concludes Gray sounding less like a conservative and more like Arthur Rimbaud who spun this exact same hostile sentiment in experimental verse. A sickness?

Nietzsche claims that morality is herd instinct. And this is undeniably an aspect of it. There is a natural tendency of human groups to get the rules straight. The rules will vary from group to group. A pack of soccer fans on their way to an after-match pub-stripjoint-brothel soirée will have a set of rules, a code of ethics even if that does surprise some. A post-graduate poetry club will likewise have an ethos. These codes will be different but both will depend on largely unwritten assumptions about acceptable attitudes, speech and behaviour accepted as normal whatever the private reservations of the membership. And such reservations as exist will not be debated. To instigate such is to risk losing membership. That is the way of it.

Naturally almost no-one acknowledges this or thinks about it, much less does anything about it. But the behaviour will be the same. If Jack the Lad starts telling the other lads that their vulgar ape antics and the stupid things they’re saying are disrespectful to women and/or degrading to themselves he isn’t likely to get invited again. Likewise if Miss Jane’s new boyfriend brings uncomfortable silence down on a late winter night’s mulled wine and Keats session by regaling all with an anecdote about his experience with a hooker it will probably be a brief affair. In both cases there will be silence, a change of subject and a freezing out of the transgressor. The herd rejects the heretic.

Gray basically sums up the history of ideas as an eternal wheel of competing delusions spinning on the energy of various eternal worldviews. Philosophy, moral theory in particular, is an illusion, a means of self-deception that allow us to “thrive in the ignorance of our natures.” This assertion is at the heart of nihilism. There is no God dispensing justice, justice is a matter of custom and can be discarded as soon as the situation makes it inconvenient. There are many anecdotes that provide evidence for this argument. The most commonplace theological disposition associated with this attitude is that if there is a God than why allow such evil to fall on the innocent. Why allow the evil to prey on the innocent; why is their so much trouble in this world?!

I must confess I find the question a little trite. The answer seems obvious to me. What would we be without trouble? Happy? But anyone who has known joy has known sorrow as well. Those whose lives are endless cycles of enjoyment are trite and shallow and bored! Some song popular in the decade before last declared the belief that true love cannot be experienced “’til you’ve been burned.” True? Many would nod their heads and agree without the slightest inclination to test the hypothesis. There are religious codes that declare the exact opposite of course with equal conviction. That is a paradox which does not trouble me. At the heart of existence is a paradox that has many faces. Only those prepared for war can know peace. But if you are prepared for war you will probably end up fighting one anyway – it ain’t simple. It’s not supposed to be.

Gray’s critique boils down to an attack on the Enlightenment notion of progress which appears to be his current mission. Progress is envisaged differently by everyone who envisages it but certain metaphors resonate. There is the concept of the March: the slow march, the grinding march, the grand march, the great leap forward. And there is Nietzsche’s, for me, more realistic image of a tenuous walk on a tightrope strung over an abyss. Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God but I’d ask where did the tightrope come from?

The early era of complex society, what Victorians like Shaw called ‘civilization’, regarded the forces and consequences behind the Holocaust as normal. Cities were sacked in the quest for Empire as a matter of course. The Assyrians would attack a city, surround it, starve its inhabitants, break in finally, precipitate an orgy of killing and then nail the city’s leaders to what remained of its walls and flay them leaving their apocalyptic corpses as visual testimony to the price paid for defiance. Men were slaughtered, women too or sold into slavery. The horror which we moderns keep at an Apollonian distance was a real and ever present possibility until only a few centuries ago. Everywhere. So why did it change? It did change.

The American invasion of Iraq occurred pretty much as a consequence of the same motivation that inspired the Assyrians to build an empire. They wanted resources. And many Iraqis were killed. The difference was that the Americans had to invent a reason, three reasons actually, why the war was morally justifiable. None of them included oil. The figure is submerged but it’s thought that well over a hundred-thousand Iraqis are dead because of the US-led invasion. Gray appears right. We bless cruelty and injustice if the victims can be buried and forgotten. The policies of the American government and its allies, the collusion of the vast majority of those in the media has served to put the ‘colatoral damages’ of the Iraq War out of the minds of most of us and yet, still, there is a difference. And in this difference lies the clue to the measure and the nature of human progress. This is not because the protagonists of the Iraq War are in actuality virtuous visionaries bent on changing the world for the better but in actual fact because they are not.

However posterity judges the Iraq War, and I personally feel that it’s yet another step backwards toward the barbarity of the pre-modern era, the fact remains that American soldiers, when caught, were executed for rape and murder. In times past this behaviour was not only unpunished or ignored it was often mandated by command! The US government that kicked off the war was a venal beast. Dominated by interests associated with the oil business, populated almost entirely by men and women who owed their prestige and fortune to same, who lied and manipulated nations to war without the slightest compunction, but…

They did not cry havoc.

They did not, could not, cry havoc. They would not annihilate the Iraq people, could not sell them into slavery, could not flay Saddam Hussein alive and nail him to anything. In fact despite their hard-hearted wills and cold, dispassionate rationalism, it probably never entered their heads.

That is progress.