Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Conqueror's Catechism (Part 5 The Ruler's Rules)

Moral flexibility... Part 5 of The Conqueror's Catechism (see previously)

V. The Ruler's Rules


Repression and brutality have their uses, these are the ruler's rules
These daily dealers of dread are known to dispense wanton abuse
The incredulity of mankind is the main target, per Machiavelli
Amoral despotism, in its prime, acquires an aura of inevitability
"I am your dreams", was softly proclaimed by Atatürk, and without irony
Similar gnomic notions are often heard. What, after all, was manifest destiny?
Neck deep and drenched in it, a dribbling of blood thickens the stew of iniquity
A meal best served with a side dish, an amuse-bouche, of unalloyed hypocrisy

There is an organizing principle for the conqueror that is rather radical
That is the notion that absolutely everything is transactional
The sense that in all things, it is all about the deal
Underlies the public relations they pursue with zeal
Summon up some scribes, and give them a mandate to make it all palatable
Some wordsmith can conjure up the right phrase, say, call you mercurial
A painter in times past, later a photographer for the transaction
Extol your charisma with words and image, power is its own persuasion

The rogue capitalist running rampant is a gilded conqueror landmark
That is, he who extracts labour pocketing the surplus per my poor man's Marx
An all too human extractive industry in the pursuit of rent seeking
To the socialist, what we behold is a case of government by racketeering
Oligarchs throughout history are venal, there are only minor distinctions
Per the critique, between the businessman and the oligarch it's only ambition
To separate the working class from the means of production and extract surplus value
The self appointed toll collector enjoys the fruits of the monopoly that accrues

By definition all gangsters heed the outlaw sensibility
For mobsters, this "thing of ours" defies authority
Submitting to square john's rules is not up for debate
The conqueror's endpoint in this mode is the mafia state
For every contract awarded, one must get one's cut
As to fulfillment, that is, at best, an afterthought
Bush's signal policy achievement concerned the importation of mangos
Follow the money and recall: it takes two to do the corruption tango


Omar Bongo meets George W. Bush

Conqueror's Catechism, a playist


A soundtrack for this note bookended by the cool ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs, and heavy on the reggae angle of things. (spotify version)

The Conqueror's Catechism


A few articles of faith
  1. To Loot Without End
  2. Droit de Seigneur
  3. The Dictator Dictates
  4. An Iron Fist
  5. The Ruler's Rules
  6. The Heavy Mantle
This piece went beyond a haiku to become positively Talmudic in scope, hence I'll split it and dispense over the next week. Or you can wait for the book...

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of Fallen Angels.

Next in Part 6: The Heavy Mantle

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Writing log: Concept: May 1, 2006; April 5, 2021

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Conqueror's Catechism (Part 4 An Iron Fist)

Disciplinary matters... Part 4 of The Conqueror's Catechism (see previously)

IV. An Iron Fist


As a matter of course, the ruler's rules always include looting
Backed by the overt threat of disembowelment, or simply shooting
The conqueror is said to govern with an iron fist
The implication is the perpetual cease and desist
A guiding principle and an early lesson learned
If you dare cross the founder, prepare for heartburn
Local funeral parlors have become a growing concern
Constantly busy, to dust you shall surely return

If you serve at their pleasure, conquerors can be quite affable
In person, by all accounts, most dictators are quite unremarkable
But give them an audience, give the man a microphone and he's gone
The same skinny man quietly sitting in the room can be transformed
He may love the performance but a leopard cannot change its spots
This family man will make you pay the price to show you who's boss
He'll be quite unafraid to impose an exacting reign of terror
To overcome with effort is the dictionary definition of conquer

To be governed by gremlins is no fun thing
So unpredictable are these beasts' whims
No matter how pragmatic you are, it's hard to keep up with their latest fashion
Quite understandably, there's no remedy yet invented for their lack of compassion
Nuance is not needed, and not to put a fine point on the situation,
Occasionally, you might face what amounts to functional defenestration
Dangling, face down, from the balcony, it's hard to disagree with their directives
Indeed the heavy hand of the conqueror engenders a forced change of perspective

There will be blood, that too is an occupational hazard
A periodic ritual cleansing, and the occasional massacre
All bloodthirsty patriarchs are well practiced merchants of tragedy
To remain at the controls, atop the commanding heights of the economy
To seize power, you break a few eggs to get the party started
Conquest is for the brave and not for the fainthearted
"All die be die", strategic killing has its uses, I guess
When cruelty is the point, its spectacle needs to be witnessed


Franco et le T.P. OK Jazz sing for Mobutu

Conqueror's Catechism, a playist


A soundtrack for this note bookended by the cool ruler himself and heavy on the reggae angle of things. (spotify version)

The Conqueror's Catechism


A few articles of faith
  1. To Loot Without End
  2. Droit de Seigneur
  3. The Dictator Dictates
  4. An Iron Fist
  5. The Ruler's Rules
  6. The Heavy Mantle
This piece went beyond a haiku to become positively Talmudic in scope, hence I'll split it and dispense over the next week. Or you can wait for the book...

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of Fallen Angels.

Next in Part 5: The Ruler's Rules

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: Concept: May 1, 2006; April 4, 2021

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Conqueror's Catechism (Part 3 The Dictator Dictates)

The will to power... Part 3 of The Conqueror's Catechism (see previously)

III. The Dictator Dictates


Truth, facts, objective reality are symbolic and mere alternatives
The conqueror reserves all rights, and is the only one who can forgive
Quoth the Sun King, Louis Quatorze, L'état, c'est moi
A self evident statement from the throne of le roi
An absolute monarch is quite obviously beyond scandal
Indeed, absolute absolutely implies a state vandal
It's as if those who have come to behold absolute power
Were granted a passport stamped "Given leave to freely plunder"

The dictator dictates at all hours in his electric circus
Diurnal rhythms are duly forsaken by those in his service
And all must pay careful attention to his dire dictums
Lest one, after a minor mistake, becomes the night's victim
Contra this nocturnal creature to whom obeisance is due
The rest of the country has to make do with nightly curfews
The conqueror's haki is the rare force in the world that allows the bearer,
Even after a panoply of mistakes, to exert their willpower over others

Reach back, if you will, to the East India Company
That rather fine epitome of British gunboat diplomacy
The opium wars: buy our drugs, feed addiction to your society
These dubious demands for free enterprise deserve notoriety
The slight was never forgotten about this assertion of power
The world-historic carry trade of greed and a state of plunder
Ultimatums galore, we'll give you the "or else" treatment
And cover up our trails with a haste that's rather indecent

Who'd have thought that Rhodes Must Fall would one day be the rallying cry
What with colleges, and even multiple countries named after that guy.
His confession of faith was an assertion of cultural superiority
Even as in practice administered by loudmouths full of mediocrity
We saw them in our countries, we heard of Gold, God and Glory
Centuries later, we are still recovering from baleful colonial legacies
To paraphrase Galbraith, human beings come to terms quite readily with authority
But when the statues come down they are treated with all available indignities


Belusconi, Gaddafi and bodyguard


Conqueror's Catechism, a playist


A soundtrack for this note bookended by the cool ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs, and heavy on the reggae angle of things. (spotify version)

The Conqueror's Catechism


A few articles of faith
  1. To Loot Without End
  2. Droit de Seigneur
  3. The Dictator Dictates
  4. An Iron Fist
  5. The Ruler's Rules
  6. The Heavy Mantle
This piece went beyond a haiku to become positively Talmudic in scope, hence I'll split it and dispense over the next week. Or you can wait for the book...

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of Fallen Angels.

Next in Part 4: An Iron Fist

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: Concept: May 1, 2006; April 3, 2021

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Conqueror's Catechism (Part 2 Droit de Seigneur)

Bad tidings... Part 2 of The Conqueror's Catechism

II. Droit de Seigneur


To the conqueror goes the spoils, no matter the time or place
To call them winners quite seriously understates the case
The authority of the people is vested in the person of one man
Or, rather often, in the initially secretive cabal or clan
The ruler's rules are the quintessence of tyranny
Euphemisms abound around their common acts of piracy
The tyrant's temper tantrums are always to be feared
That's the reason many societies know of the droit de seigneur

And so palaces and country estates, in short order, become overstuffed
Pheasants served under glass, wine in fine goblets, even diamond encrusted
Diamonds and pearls, jade, emeralds and other precious jewels
Nightly bedding of the latest beauty, everyday a renewal
Daggers, swords and other trinkets, such were their treasures
Sculptures, paintings, fandangos, and other paraphernalia
Later, of course, will come the customary Swiss bank accounts
Or the more sophisticated transactions in the Cayman Islands

At the time that you swiped those totems off the table
Their importance was ill-understood but plainly valuable
But over time, these mansions belie the insatiable appetites
And to be frank, the lure of black gold only inspires delight
Pardon the misquote of the Bard at this stage
To the conqueror, 'tis a minor outrage
The belief that any law was written in sand
Or rather: all the world's a treasure island

Cast yourself back to the self coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor
A vivid tableau reenacted by the Central African cannibal named Bokassa
True, there would be Waterloo, and exile on St Helena forced him to quit
And, for the latter, a bloodless coup courtesy of Giscard and Françafrique
There is the occasional peril of the mutiny, call it an occupational disease
For it was long understood by all that there is no honor among thieves
The conqueror's blade is not an easy game for the novice to play
There are no cheat codes, a few wrong moves and you find yourself slayed

il etait une fois eyadema et mobutu

Conqueror's Catechism, a playist


A soundtrack for this note bookended by the cool ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs, and heavy on the reggae angle of things. (spotify version)

The Conqueror's Catechism


A few articles of faith
  1. To Loot Without End
  2. Droit de Seigneur
  3. The Dictator Dictates
  4. An Iron Fist
  5. The Ruler's Rules
This piece went beyond a haiku to become positively Talmudic in scope, hence I'll split it and dispense over the next week. Or you can wait for the book...

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of Fallen Angels.

Next in Part 3: The Dictator Dictates

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: Concept: May 1, 2006; April 2, 2021

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Conqueror's Catechism

I. To Loot Without End


A few articles of faith of the conqueror's catechism,
Today's reading is taken from the dictator's handbook
The opening verses of that first chapter eschewed euphemism
Unvarnished, they presented the entire dubious outlook
However, let me not be accused of jaundiced elitism
Or be branded by an undoubted notion of activism
The skeptic's credo is a philosophy I strive to inhabit
The conqueror's catechism bears careful study, to wit:

The conqueror's first instinct is to demonstrate dominance
In this respect, it matters not if there is blood on his hands
The second, looting, is closely related to the foregoing sense of impunity,
It stands to reason: to the victors go the spoils, such is their authority
The rest can contemplate their losses, having nothing to spend but miseries
Later one can add fine words, ideological grounding, and revise the histories
Appeals to higher ideals to justify the slaughter, and age old theft
Obscene, and indeed, oft seen, in the immediate aftermath of conquest

Barrels of ink handily supplied to the printing press
Waves of propaganda are then duly launched in earnest
There is no need to even pay naysayers lip service
For media factotums will be there to clean up your mess
Benin bronzes and Elgin marbles are just deserts
Not to mention copping a pound of nubile flesh
As to the harems that are yours to keep
To quote Saki, beauty is only sin deep

The idea is to to buckle down and loot without end
To ravage at will until you are finally spent
Then start again the next day, if things are not to your liking
For examples, one need not hearken to Conquistadors or Vikings
The swagger of foraging buccaneers is quite familiar
Some say modern day corporate raiders are akin to coup makers
The more brazen the outrage the better, it's all yours for the taking
Norms, being man made, are perfectly designed for shattering


bison by C. Buck Reynolds

Conqueror's Catechism, a playist


A soundtrack for this note bookended by the cool ruler himself, Gregory Isaacs, and heavy on the reggae angle of things. (spotify version)

The Conqueror's Catechism


A few articles of faith
  1. To Loot Without End
  2. Droit de Seigneur
  3. The Dictator Dictates
  4. An Iron Fist
  5. The Ruler's Rules
  6. The Heavy Mantle
This piece went beyond a haiku to become positively Talmudic in scope, hence I'll split it and dispense over the next week. Or you can wait for the book...

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of Fallen Angels.

Next in Part 2: Droit de Seigneur

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: Concept: May 1, 2006; April 1, 2021

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Liminal

Liminal - subsurface unseen
Mythical - the great longing
Society - a garden in eternal need of tending
Tacit - the ellipses will be filled in
Understated - a strategy for quiet revolutions
Knowledge - I have heard and kept it
Retention - safekeeping in the depths of experience
Wisdom - the distillation of lived experience
Concealment - masks of civility
Revelation - truth telling to friendly eyes
Evasion - favored survival tactic
Deception - affinity bias for misdirection
Liberation - a confident awakening
Tolerance - elevating the least of us
Respect - between tradition and modernity

Liminal - in plain sight, but underneath
Pride - the temptations of inequality
Nationalism - favored refuge of rogues
Darkness - normalcy in the torrid zone
Anarchy - the indiscretions of gremlins
Parasites - nature's tax collectors on complexity
Grief - the eclipse of the soul
Comfort - the music of a smile
Greed - a combination missionary-hunting expedition
Rage - a flirtation with an unwieldy and fatal attraction
Nostalgia - an irresistible, high-functioning affliction
Love - even unrequited, a welcome seduction
Courage - an instinct that disdains denial
Freedom - journey on the road less traveled
Wist - the hope for paradise past
Shame - memories of the voiceless past

Liminal - the quiet revolution before it's seen
House - the comfort suite of material shelter
Home - return of the internally displaced
Sensual - the taste of tomorrow's promise
Emotion - the trials of feelings in upheaval
Ecstasy - inhibitions temporarily discarded
Kiss - to dissolve in another
Desire - a present of no restrictions
Lust - the body's ache for a touch
Solace - finding home in an embrace
Resolution - restraint from a shadow's burden
Clarity - the soul's agenda unraveled
Dignity - the soul's liberation
Absurdity - the theater of modernity
Joy - to eat a pineapple in the gardens of Aburi
Interplay - the cement of society

Liminal - the undercurrents of a dream
Absence - a temporary inconvenience
Presence - a permanent imposition
Opacity - a belief in the weakness of exposure
Transparency - a belief in the strength in sharing
Restraint - unrecognized prescience
Impulse - preempted prescience
Displacement - a season of migration
Exile - the fraught journey to the land of concern
Comprehension - beholding the contours of daily mysteries
Education - the impulse for discovery and sharing
Remembering - summoning, as if from a dream
Forgetting - misplacing in a dreamscape
Alienation - the spirit's rhythm of loss
Whimsy - the joy of small things
Mystical - the pieces of a dream

Liminal - underlying condition
Mandate - the determination to bear witness
Principle - social living is the best
Constraint - the necessity of permanent outrage
Perception - the gaze of the modern traveler
Observation - the compulsion for storytelling

Liminal - subsurface unseen

kbaka-water-huts-night

...

Mate Masie, the Adinkra symbol from the Akan saying about knowledge, wisdom and prudence, "Nyansa bon mu ne mate masie", literally rendered in English as "I have heard and kept it". The saying emphasizes the Akan love of learning and understanding of the world. There are many different variations of this symbol. Conventional readings focus on the comprehension, acquisition and retention aspects, but there are other takes that focus on disclosure, opacity and revelation. The tension that exists between concealment and evasion on the one hand and revelation and transparency on the other. As a child of the web, I favor sharing but wear my own mask, and am happy to navigate the torrid zone in a liminal mode, subsurface unseen. Such is my asylum.

Soundtrack for this note


A liminal playlist as befits pieces of a dream. Subsurface unseen is how this toli monger moves. See also Hypertext Dreams

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of Social Living.

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: March 28, 2021

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Internal Exile

The ellipses in our family narratives always get filled in eventually
It is this unhurried and meandering discourse that frustrates outsiders
Yet to us, who seemingly navigate these blind spots with unerring accuracy,
The discursive vagaries of the oral tradition lie at the heart of the matter

Nay, we have the certainty that the story will indeed be told
Will be shared in its own time and place, before we grow old
Truth and reconciliation will overcome secrets and lies
So it was that I learned about the matter of internal exile

You see, it is a matter of fact that the man known as The Founder
Sometimes called Osagyefo, His Messsiahship, Ghana's first leader
Issued an executive instrument ordering that my grandfather
And four of his friends, then at Mawuli - they were school teachers
Be sent into internal exile, abruptly and without giving a reason
They were no longer authorized to live and work in the Volta region

Sixty odd years later, I'm still rather inclined to take it personal
I've been told to let bygones be bygones, that it's not my battle
I hear the rejoinders, the man was fighting imperialism
The liberation struggle and other exigencies, colonialism

It's ancient history; those were heady days. Perhaps it was random
We know all too well what he said: Seek ye first the political kingdom
And it was internal exile, they'll say, as if to restore the balance
At least it wasn't preventive detention or, worse, a disappearance

I pieced it together, that's the reason why my Aunt was born in Kyebi
And why my Uncle will squint and snort heartily
And then will bring up rogues and Young Pioneers
And why Mum always pauses when you start going on about the man and that age
And tells you that she had already started at boarding school during those years
And how she was determined to not go to ideological college
And those training camps, and declare allegiance to the CPP party
And the deafening silence in my grandfather and grandmother, it still rings
They would shrug and move the conversation on, they made the best of things

Our view on The Founder is thus born of an intimacy with his failings
We have no patience for apologists who deflect, and mention his weakness
Pointing to machinations among his entourage and political stress
They have no leg to stand on, he was right there in the middle of things
Personally applying his stamp on policies, he gave his endorsement
For better or worse, to the conflation of state, party, and person

Whether it is being advised daily about Danquah's prison routine,
Involvement in university appointments or meddling in nutrition
The historical record shows him as the decision maker who signed the decrees
The starvation diets that were designed for those he refused to free
I've seen the squalid scrawls in the margins of bureaucratic memos of his pen
So it was unsurprising that there was rejoicing when his reign came to an end

Heck, I hear you say, with a rather knowing smile,
Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn famously bore internal exile,
And many others too, it couldn't have been that hard
The world got Crime and Punishment and even Cancer Ward

After all, those years in Kyebi were a life removed from Siberia,
Papa, Da, and your aunts and uncles didn't get burnt by the sun
Well, Lenin too got in on the act, I'll have you remember
And generations learned bitter lessons about what is to be done

And so we come to the former prisoner's dilemma
Whether to forgive and forget, move on and write new chapters
Or whether to bear the grudge, as not everyone can be like Nelson Mandela
My grandparents decided that it was best to deflect with silence and laughter

...

Some time ago, I had a discussion, it was late one night
With two men, acquaintances, about Bloodbath, South Carolina
I probed and questioned them at length, seeking their insight
About all manner of blind spots and the weight of trauma
We honed in on the discomfort of the skin that they were living in
Now that I think of it, I was being holier-than-thou about matters of sin
I had quite forgotten about my own family's misgivings and traditions
That I wasn't too far removed from similar deflections and misdirection

I won't flinch from the rough beast, as if in denial
I'm quite prepared to bear the costs of internal exile
Rather than turn my back on the conflicted legacies of men
For soul insurance, there's no limit to what I am prepared to spend

baobab by kagyah

Internal Exile, a playlist


Sade and Cameo provide the soundtrack to alternately haunt and invest our skins and memories to equip us for life in the torrid zone.
I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series. Do let me know what banner might be appropriate.

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Writing log: March 14, 2021

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Gee

Under the frangipani tree
Next to indestructible yellow Fiat
We sat akimbo on the white chairs
The plants and flowers resplendent
My childhood garden of Eden
And every day we talked properly

After the earlier hours of yard work
Under her close supervision
And the carefree play and homework
On our return from Auntie Becky's
Fortified with kelewele and ground nuts
The ginger drinks, her secret recipe
Go get me a beer, then we can talk properly

And so we talked, we talked properly
We traded stories, we talked constantly
We laughed, oh how we laughed, she teased mercilessly
Loud, no one could ignore her, we argued frantically
Yet no grudges could be borne, we fought messily
There was only her warmth, she loved easily
The plants, the warmth, the talk, we talked properly

I was the one who named her plain old Gee
In response, she would call out my name repeatedly
Savor it as she brought out the family history
The lore that we celebrated, and the mysteries
Those fragments and markers that made up our identity
The bitter roots were never shirked, they were part of the lessons
In Gee's house we probed, for there were no unanswered questions
This is what lingers apart from the faded photos and the memories
Her warmth, the plants, the talk, we talked properly


In memoriam: Goody Okyne

goody-garden-2

gee flowers

goody-garden

gee garden flower

Songs for Gee


Four stanzas is the least I could do. Let's place this under the banner of Social Living

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Writing log: March 13, 2021