SUPPORT THIS PROJECT--Over 12,000 photos of Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Allentown, Ann Arbor, Ardmore, Ashland (PA), Atlanta, Atlantic City, Austin, Baltimore, Battle Mountain, Bellows Falls, Bensalem Township, Berkeley, Bethlehem, Bolivar, Boston, Bordentown, Boulder, Brooklawn (NJ), Buffalo, Burlington (NJ), Cambridge, Camden, Carbondale, Carlisle, Carmel, Cedar Rapids, Centralia, Charleston (SC), Charlotte, Chelsea (MI), Cherry Hill, Chester, Cheyenne, Chicago, Claymont (DE), Cleveland, Collingswood (NJ), Columbus, Cupertino, Daly City, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Dexter (MI), Dupont, Durham, El Cerrito, El Paso, Emeryville, Ewing Township (NJ), Fort Indiantown Gap, Fremont, Gary, Glassboro, Glenside (PA), Gloucester, Grinnell, Haddonfield (NJ), Hammonton, Harpers Ferry, Harrisburg, Hoboken, Houston, Jackson, Jersey City, Joliet, Kansas City (KS), Kansas City (MO), Kennewick, Knoxville, Lancaster, Langhorne, Laurel Springs (NJ), Levittown (PA), Lindenwold (NJ), Livonia, Los Angeles, Los Gatos, Marcus Hook, McCook, Media (PA), Millville, Milpitas, Minneapolis, Mount Laurel, Mountain View, New Haven, New Orleans, New York, Newark, New Harmony, New Holland, Normal, Norristown, North Charleston, Oakland, Old Forge, Omaha, Orlando, Osceola, Overland Park, Palmyra (NJ), Palo Alto, Pasco, Penndel, Pennsauken, Pine Barrens, Pittsburgh, Pittston, Portland, Providence, Raleigh, Redford (MI), Redwood City, Reno, Richmond, Richmond (CA), Riverside (NJ), Riverton (NJ), Roebling, Rutland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Bruno, San Francisco, San Jose, San Leandro, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, San Xavier del Bac, Sausalito, Savannah, Scranton, Somerdale (NJ), South San Francisco, Springfield (IL), St. Louis, St. Paul, Steelton, Stockton, Stratford (NJ), Sunnyvale, Taylor (PA), Trenton, Tucson, Union City (NJ), Ventnor, Vineland, Washington, West New York, Westmont (NJ), Wichita, Wilkes-Barre, Williston, Wilmington, Wolf Point, Woodbury (NJ) and Youngstown, etc. Outside USA: Akreiy Ksatr, Alforja, Arles, Barcelona, Batam, Ben Cat, Ben Tre, Berlin, Beziers, Bidor, Binh Chanh, Binh Duong, Brighton, Bu Dang, Budapest, Buon Ma Thuot, Burgazada, Cai Be, Cambrils, Can Tho, Castres, Certaldo, Chanthaburi, Chau Ly, Chu Se, Cu Chi, Da Huoai, Da Lat, Dak Mil, Dresden, Ea Kar, Ea Kly, Ea Nuoi, Florensac, Frankfurt, Girona, Gorlitz, Grimma, Hanoi, Halle, Hong Kong, Ipoh, Istanbul, Johor Bahru, Juarez, Kajang, Kawasaki, Kiev, Kinaliada, Krong Buk, Kuala Lumpur, La Gi, Lap Vo, Leipzig, London, Long Xuyen, Luban, Macau, Malacca, Markkleeberg, Marseille, Matsudo, Mexico City, Montreal, Nha Trang, Olargues, Osaka, Penang, Phan Thiet, Phnom Penh, Phuoc An, Prades, Prague, Puigcerda, Quy Hop, Reus, Reykjavik, Ripoll, Rivne, Saigon, Salou, San Juan Teotihuacán, Sete, Singapore, Soc Trang, Taipei, Taiping, Tarascon-sur-Ariege, Tarragona, Tepotzotlán, Thanh Mai, Thep Nimit, Thuan An, Thuan Nam, Tokyo, Toluca, Toronto, Toulouse, Van Loi, Vic, Vinh Chau, Vinh Long, Vung Tau, Wegliniec, Wurzen, Yang Reh, Zgorzelec.
If you have a PayPal account, you can save me the fees by sending money directly to my email address: . Thanks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ali Razeen's "The hell of our present existence"

Around 6:45PM on Friday, 2/27/15, Ali Razeen, a long time reader and supporter of this blog, arrived in Philadelphia from Durham, NC. From that point until he dropped me off in Arlington, VA at 5:30PM on Monday, 3/2/15, we walked through several Philadelphia neighborhoods, three South Jersey towns and a bit of Washington D.C. Basically, we did what I normally do when I roam the streets to take photos and talk to people for this Postcards from the End of America project. Wondering what Ali would make of our shared encounters, I asked him to write a guest Postcard, so the result is below, exactly as written--Linh Dinh

I fear we're living in a kind of hell. This is a hell that we're thrown into through no real fault of our own. A hell where we first become victims and then we're made to victimize others who, in turn, become victimizers as well. This vicious cycle continues and rarely is it slowed down or even questioned. We live each day bearing the heavy burden of pain. I do not know what to make of this pain but to declare that I suffer intensely when I allow myself to be connected with my emotions. I work in an environment where to be emotional is to be a liability and where a robotic work attitude is prized above all.

Much of this cruelty is pointless. They are not pieces of a puzzle that God will put together to show us some final meaning. Saul Bellow wrote in Herzog: "You think history is the history of loving hearts? You fool! Look at these millions of dead. Can you pity them, feel for them? You can nothing! There were too many. We burned them to ashes, we buried them with bulldozers. History is the history of cruelty, not love as soft men think."

I saw too many lives cruelly reduced to nothingness in my brief four-day travel with Linh. I sensed a disproportionate amount of hopelessness. Consider the first person Linh pointed out to me as we got off the train station in Kensington. This man, perhaps in his 50s, was standing up just after taking a shit on the sidewalk. I saw him as he was pulling his pants up over his white briefs. Why is he reduced to shitting on the sidewalk, in the cold, without any dignity and privacy? Why was I able to see his white briefs? Think about the last time a stranger saw you pulling up your underwear after you took a shit. Consider Angel and Stephanie. Aged 21 and 30 respectively, without jobs or careers, they are reduced to being on the streets. Constantly exposed to the elements, they must somehow survive with what little they have and hope that they get something to eat, a place to sleep, that no one will rape or rob them, and that they'll keep their sanity despite constantly being in a hostile environment. Consider all the homeless and marginalized people that Linh has photographed and put on his blog. Has America not ended for them all already?

We explored Camden, New Jersey. With streets dead of most lively, regular activity and boarded-up houses, Camden is quiet, desolate. Probably feeling responsible for my life, Linh chose not to explore the depths of the city too much. It is repeatedly ranked as one of the most violent and poorest cities in the nation. It is tempting to blame the violence and crime on black people. In fact, a quick google search for "Camden black population" brings up the website "". But as Tio Hardiman, creator and director of Violence Interrupters says in The Interrupters, a documentary on his organization, "the African-American community and the Latino community have been beaten down so long with poor schools, lack of jobs, hopelessness, despair. A lot of people can't stick with peace if they don't have a stick that they can hold on to."

Where is the outrage over these atrocities? Where are the marches? We have become tired and apathetic and what little energy we have is directed into manufactured dissent and protests that are risk-free and chic. Making a social statement is as easy as buying a "Je suis Charlie" sticker for your laptop, made in China under practically slave-labor conditions. Buy it now and get free shipping and handling!

This capitalist-consumerist system will know no bounds. It will expand itself into all areas of our lives and it will never be satisfied. It's taking over schools and training young children to be future mindless consumers. It is treating the incarcerated as profit resources. It's influencing the way we think and the way we work in our relationships with our friends, spouses, and even children. In Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn writes:

"In our society, we are taught that good things must always be earned, never given away. Indeed, many people become infuriated at the possibility that this precept has been violated. Notice, for example, the hostility many people feel toward welfare and those who rely on it. ... Ultimately, conditional parenting reflects a tendency to see almost every human interaction, even among family members, as a kind of economic transaction. The laws of the marketplace --- supply and demand, tit for tat --- have assumed the status of universal and absolute principles, as though everything in our lives, including what we do with our children, is analogous to buying a car or renting an apartment. One parenting author --- a behaviorist, not coincidentally --- put it this way: 'If I wish to take my child for a ride or even if I wish to hug and kiss her, I must first be certain that she earned it.'"

This is the same view that enables us to dismiss the homeless as lazy freeloaders. As the system collapses, will we change how we interact with each other? This is not a frivolous question! Any system consists of people and the way we treat each other will go on to reflect how the system as a whole treats us, our environment, and the other beings we share this earth with. These injustices are connected.

Speaking of parenting, let’s look some of the people Linh and I met. When we went into Melissa's bar, we met Ryan. In his 40s, wearing a red CCCP t-shirt and an ushanka, he spoke about the political relations between US and Russia. Ryan knew his history and he was extremely furious at the US. With a blood flushed face and passionate fury, he angrily pointed out how the eastward expansion of NATO was a betrayal to Russia. When pointing out other instances like these, he shared with us his plans:

"I am going to go to Russia next year. I'm going to take my father's US Navy uniform, pour Russian vodka over it and burn it!"

"That's disrespectful. Why do you want to do that?" asked Melissa.

"Why?! Because my father fucked me with the inheritance!"

Linh interjected, "Maybe you should burn your father then."

Ryan suddenly paused. He was taken aback and didn't know how to respond. Was he angry at Linh for having the temerity to make such a suggestion? Or did it sound like a good idea to him? Alice Miller wrote in Thou Shalt Not Be Aware about her patient, Inge. Inge had a lot of anger formed as a reaction against the abuse her parents put her through but she could not express this anger towards them. Miller writes:

"Various defense mechanisms can be used to reach a compromise between the necessity of sparing the feelings of one's parents and the need to express one's own feelings. A patient of mine with a strict religious upbringing, for example, was able to spare her parents by directing her newly awakened rage against God. ... After we gradually gained access to the whole spectrum of her parents' child-rearing principles, her strong animosity toward God paled, and her parents, previously lumped together in her mind with God, came to life. Her first reaction toward them was one of anger, followed by grief. Yet the patient still retained her critical ability, even in theological matters."

Maybe Ryan's anger at the US and his anger at the US for betraying Russia is his anger towards his dad and being betrayed by his dad. I observed a second father-son situation when Linh and I went into another bar. Linh and I were silently listening to the jukebox playing old songs about loss and hurt when Johnny, who was just seated nearby, started chatting with us. He told us about how he made seventeen million dollars and lost them all. "I don't believe you man!" exclaimed Linh. Expecting the skepticism, Johnny showed us his old tax return forms which showed he made a three hundred thousand dollar salary some time ago. Linh and I began bombarding him with questions: "How did you make so much? How did you lose it all? Why are you in this bar now? Why are you carrying these old tax forms?"

Johnny used to have a few different companies, including one in construction. He even made money cooking meth for a while before he went to jail for twenty-nine years. He had some legit businesses after coming back out but he still lost all the money. He told us he lost them because of hookers and because of his dad. Once, he gave his dad a hundred thousand dollars a day for nine days because his dad asked for it. "Money is not my problem. My problem is my dad. I need to see a therapist about it but I already have nine doctors." he told us. From his eyes to his testicles, Johnny suffers from a lot of medical issues. His biggest issue, though, might be the lack of love. He was convinced that love "fucks up everything" and told us about his wife and son. His wife divorced him and his son apparently does not want anything to do with him anymore.

"Maybe your son really wanted a father growing up." I pointed out.

"Well, a father didn't have him; a gangster did." replied Johnny, in a matter-of-fact tone.

The vicious cycle shows up again, from Johnny's dad to Johnny to his son. I do not know how to continue this postcard anymore. The more I reflect on this trip and what I saw, the greater my desperation. The multiplicity of meaning behind my observations resist being arranged neatly in a single narrative strand. The problems and the evil appear intractable. Evil upon evil, suffering upon suffering, all ultimately banal and pointless. In the ending of Akira Kurosawa's Ran, Kyoami cries: "Are there no gods ... no Buddha? If you exist, hear me. You're all cruel and fickle pranksters! You ease your boredom in the heavens by crushing us like worms! Damn you! Is it such sport to see us weep and howl?" Tango hears this and yells in return: "Stop it! Do not curse the gods! It is they who weep. In every age they've watched us tread the path of evil, unable to live without killing each other. They can't save us from ourselves. Stop your crying! Such is the way of the world. Men live not for joy but for sorrow, not for peace but for suffering."

In the canvas of my desperation, there are a few blots of hope. One of them is Concepcion Picciotto, the lone protestor in front of the White House who refuses to be silenced about nuclear weapons. Will we just ignore her, though? When Linh and I spoke to her, I noticed some awfully calm and curious squirrels around her tent. I saw a person trying to take pictures of the squirrels and Ms. Picciotto noticed that as well. Angrily, she commented on how people are stupid and how they would ignore her signs and instead, take pictures of squirrels. Is this not a indictment of society, in general? Are we not ignoring what’s right in front of us? Don't we, in a misguided attempt to ignore evil, focus a lot of time on distractions?

I see too much suffering and sadness and lust for the power to inflict a great amount of damage. I am convinced that a far greater emphasis on compassion and empathy will save us. People's emotions need to be woken up. Once we realize how all these injustices are connected, maybe we will stop. It is why I am vegan and it is why I think everyone should be a vegan too, including Linh. But perhaps, I am mistaken. Perhaps all our proclaimed desires for peace and for happiness is something that we say to convince ourselves we are good and to sleep without our conscience nagging at us. In the present system, we're already turning on each other, albeit indirectly. Perhaps when it collapses, we will forego the facade and just turn on the people around us. Perhaps we will never know joy and are doomed to continue poisoning each other. If the latter ends up being true, then my life is meaningless and I am as good as dead.


[Ali Razeen in Point Breeze, about a 12-minute walk from my front door.]



Anonymous said...

Ali--your thoughts and observations brought a little bit of meaning to my life. Therefore, your life can not be meaningless. Thank you for being. -Gordon in Nebraska.

x larry said...

thanks ali. i truly relate. you mentioned, and i sensed, the great despair you carry with you. i too carry this. i feel it every day, especially when i venture out, take the bus, as i just did. it's all very sickening. i do agree about much needing massive empathy injections, but also just common sense, just the ability to see clearly, not through the great fog of our minds, so conditioned to hate, be petty, be tit for tat, be small, be violent. we would then see the absurdity of private property, and en masse stop paying rents and mortgages, stop pretending to own anything, lock up some of our worst tormentors, who knows what. it's too much, too much to fathom, what changes would have to occur in such a vast number of people. the quote from ran i liked, and i agree with it, but there's no god, just the diabolical--our owners and masters, forever unseen, unknown and unknowable, not that we'd want to know them. but surely such nice guys as david rockefeller and kissinger and the clintons.

Chuck Olroski said...

Ali: Am thrilled Linh Dinh commissioned you to write this terrific Postcard. The very first paragraph on "hell of existence," & your describing the repetitive process of "...first we become victims then victimizers," stood me straight on my tired & burned Hell Heels. (NOTE: If possible, listen to John Lennon's song, "Working Class Hero")

I empathize strongly with your mature observation, "I suffer immensely when I allow myself to be cornered by emotions." Sometimes forgetful, I let raw emotions take control -- I bite like an animal into my HEART, family, and those I (I!) feel deserve it. On a grand scale, since 9/11, the U.S. government took advantage of this national pathos, and went to war against an "Axis of Evil."

Having worked in the shady environmental "cleanup" business for 22-years, I took comfort in your insight, "I work in an environment where... a robot work attitude is prized above all." The 1%-Corporate System has CONQUERED, and dupes like me welcomed them as "Liberators."

As one on the road with Linh Dinh, & due to his vision, I too saw some incredible things in my hometown. Your image of "white undies" belonging to a broken MAN who shit on sidewalk sidewalk is biblical. The shitty undies cry out, the man's pants raised, zipper-up, continues to next block. He PASSES BY the comprehension of so-called thinking & Exceptional-religious people. You, Ali, see, suffer... that is exceptional.

Thank you for mentioning all the "homeless and marginalized. For over a year since losing my job, I try and draw close to this segment of Scranton's population. You ask, "has America already ended?" For me, answer is yea, and the beginning of the end was November 22,1 1963. Each freaking Winter, I find it harder & harder to believe that Spring can return to America, EXCEPT, that is, for when I speak to someone toughening it out in a Scranton shelter, eating at St. Francis Kitchen. No doubt, many of them have escaped the "Brave New World" interior totalitarian better than me. My only advantage (to date) is not having to shoot-up while struggling to escape the debris of America's crash.

Like Reinhold Niebuhr, you are so prophetic, asserting, "capitalist conscience knows NO BOUNDS." Very sadly, having no conscience might very well result in intensified enslavement, World War III.

Hope you're still with me, Ali? Your dialogue with Ryan at Melissa's Bar indicates Linh's Postcard series is mutating, took on a new skin! Very cool picture of you on the curb, street art... beware lots of ladies will be in pursuit!

Loved the vivid image of Ryan's CCCP T-shirt, his tale of losing out on father's inheritance, and a desire to go to Russia. Your take exhibits complex UNDERSTANDING, the words seem to have evolved from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov!" Uh... once I tried to give Linh Dinh a black & red Peoples Republic of China T-shirt, he passed, returned south to the Red Phillies! Thank you very much, congratulations, and peace be upon you, Ali.

Yo Linh: I see in Ali's work that Concepcion is mentioned. As I mailed you a picture from June 1999 protest, I trust you will look at it and see if there's a resemblance to the elderly lady I saw protesting against NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Naz drowie.


x larry said...

i would like to share a long set of quotes from the book i'm now reading, as they're great, and show how little things have changed since ww1 when they were written. it's from celine's 'journey to the end of the night'. thank you.

'...but this war, undoubtedly, has been going on too long... So long that cannon fodder disgusting enough to disgust the Nation is no longer conceivable... She has begun to accept every offering, regardless of where it comes from, every variety of meat... The Nation has become infinitely indulgent in its choice of martyrs! Today there's no such thing as a soldier unworthy to bear arms and, above all, to die under arms and by arms... They're going, latest news, to make a hero out of me!... How imperious the homicidal madness must have become if they're willing to pardon –no, to forget!-- the theft of a tin of meat!

x larry said...

True, we have got into the habit of admiring colossal bandits, whose opulence is revered by the entire world, yet whose existence, once we stop to examine it, proves to be one long crime repeated ad infinitum, but those same bandits are heaped with glory, honours and power, their crimes are hallowed by the law of the land, whereas, as far back in history as the eye can see... conspires to show that a venial theft, especially of inglorious foodstuffs, such as bread crusts, ham or cheese, unfailingly subjects its perpetrator to irreparable opprobrium, the categorical condemnation of the community, major punishment, automatic dishonour and inexpiable shame, and this for two reasons, first because the perpetrator of such an offence is usually poor, which in itself connotes basic unworthiness, and secondly because his act implies, as it were, a tacit reproach to the community. A poor man's theft is seen as a malicious attempt at individual redress, you understand?
Where would we be? Note accordingly that in all countries the penalties for petty theft are extremely severe, not only as a means of defending society, but also as a stern admonition to the unfortunate to know their place, stick to their caste, and behave themselves, joyfully resigned to go on dying of hunger and misery down through the centuries for ever and ever... Until today, however, petty thieves enjoyed one advantage in the Republic: they were denied the honour of bearing patriotic arms. But that's all over now... It has been decided in high places to forgive and forget what they call my 'momentary madness'...'

x larry said...

'You are young. Let these minutes of wisdom be as years to you! Listen well... to the telltale sign, which glares from all the murderous hypocrisies of our society: 'Compassion with the fate, the condition of the poor...' I tell you, little men, life's mugs, beaten, fleeced to the bone, sweated from time immemorial, I warn you that when the princes of this world start loving you, it means they're going to grind you up into battle sausage... That's the sign... It's infallible. It starts with affection. Louis XIV at least, and don't forget it, didn't give a hoot in hell about his beloved people. Louis XV ditto. He wiped his arsehole with them... There's no rest, I tell you, for the little man, except in the contempt of the great, whose only motive for thinking of the common people is self-interest, when it isn't sadism...'
p. 58
'...The religion of the flag promptly replaced the cult of heaven, an old cloud which had already been deflated by the Reformation and reduced to a network of episcopal money boxes. In olden times the fanatical fashion was: 'Long live Jesus! Burn the heretics!' But heretics, after all, were few and voluntary... Whereas today vast hordes of men are fired with aim and purpose by cries of: 'Hang the limp turnips! The juiceless lemons! The innocent readers! By the millions, eyes right!' If anybody doesn't want to fight or murder, stinking pacifists, grab 'em, tear 'em to pieces!... For a starter, to teach them how to live, rip their guts out of their bodies, their eyes out of their sockets, and the years out of their filthy slobbering lives! Let whole legions of them perish, turn into smidgens, bleed, smoulder in acid—and all that to make the Nation more beloved, more fair, and more joyful!'

x larry said...

pp. 59-61
'While the war was still on, the seeds of our hateful peace were being sown...A hysterical bitch... stamping her feet in the dust and despair to the music of a Negro-Judaeo-Saxon band... Old men and young men thought, and so did I, that love was easily and cheaply available in the back rooms of certain lingerie-bookshops. That was still true some twenty years ago, but today a lot of things aren't done any more, especially some of the most agreeable. Every month Anglo-Saxon puritanism is drying us up a little more, it has already reduced those impromptu backroom carousals to practically nothing. Now marriage and respectability are the thing.'

x larry said...

i, xlarry, will add:
o anglo saxons! you must change completely, scourges of the earth. and the rest of us, we must stop admiring them and their so called culture, the culture of death. their black clothes covered in skulls. their death music (see especially, but by no means solely, the '80s onward). here is who they are, and what they admire: big boned, big fucking bullies. and for that, and that alone, imperious. they walk the streets, they fill the pubs, either being just naked flat out bullies, or looking coldly down their noses at all but the aristocracy. the epitome of mean-spirited, the only people on earth that hates, yes hates, kids (and anyone who is happy), a people that knows the price of everything down to the penny, that never gives an inch, hard nosed, fearless stare-you-down types. one walks the streets, one hears only talk of money, of business. the foulest word in the language! business. oh yes, you're very busy, fighting every miserable inch of the way to the bitter death! remorse, even sadness, are virtually unheard of. meanness is a way of life for them, it is life, death is life.

Ali said...

Thank you Gordon, Larry, and Chuck, for the touching and thoughtful comments.

Chuck: yes, they are turning us against each other. There is little understanding that most of us have, really, the same problem: having to pay our bills, hoping that our next paycheck arrives at the right time, that we do not have to truly end up homeless. I joked with Linh, and told him how I wanted to start my own newspaper, with headlines such as: "Muslim man goes back home after praying at the mosque, thinks about credit card bills!" or "Muslim couple worried about child's future!" Maybe we can distribute similar leaflets to the ISIS folks who like burning people in cages: "White american man worried about losing his job!" There's too much madness, and most regular folk end up suffering. Is there any reason for it? I listened to John Lennon's song, too. Thank you for sharing your recommendation.

Larry: Thank you for the quotes. The bit about punishing petty theft severely is very disconcerting, since that same shit is going on now. Play with people's lives, you get a bailout. Steal a loaf of bread because the hunger won't leave you alone, get thrown into jail.

Ali said...

Larry: your quotes reminded me of this bit from John Steinbeck. Apparently, it's from his book, Cannery Row. I haven't read it myself but I've seen the following quoted in different places:

"It has always seemed strange to me... the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second."

x larry said...

hey ali,
thanks for writing back, and the steinbeck quote. must say working class hero is about my favorite song. also 'how', 'woman is the nigger of the world', 'the luck of the irish', all by john lennon.
you mention the harsh punishments now current for petty theft. i would add the lack of pity or empathy. i won't bore you with the whole story, but about 10 years ago i moved back to the u.s. i had been living in barcelona for a year and a half. there, there were mass protests against the war every night, the riot police were always around, especially in a sort of homeless/anarchist square called plaza trippy. also, people pissed anywhere, on the sides of buildings, and a big crew literally hosed down the whole center of town every night. anyway, i was taking a piss outside my apt. in denver late at night when i was hit with a spotlight. i was drunk and had a very slight attitude, something like 'can i help you?' anyway, these trigger happy cops jumped out of the car, threw me on the trunk, cuffed me and threw me in the backseat, then called in two more cars backup. i sat there for half an hour but my friend talked them out of jailing me. this for really nothing at all. and this to a white guy, too, i know very well how much worse any other color would have fared. still, i got an $80 ticket for urinating in public--which later cost me a job, as i was hired in a place but they ran a police check and saw that, which no doubt looked to them like 'exposing oneself in public', which i tried without success to explain.
also, i am reminded of my time in korea, now twenty years ago. i was broken into three times, all by young kids. the final time they caught them, took them to the station, and basically tortured them for hours before me (making them raise their hands over their heads, a terrible thing to do--try it for even a couple of minutes). on top of that, they asked me if i wanted them to be taken from school and put in reform school. i said no, i almost begged no--i was very, very adamant, i said in effect, please show mercy! i found out later that against this wish they put them away anyway. that's the pettiest of criminals in korea and how they're treated. it's small wonder there are no homeless on the streets. for any sort of drug possession you could get life. this is south korea, seoul.

x larry said...

sorry, i should explain my denver piss story a bit better. i had been in a much more human place for a year and a half--barcelona. i assumed these cops would see another man, just like them. i had something like this in my head: it's a natural body function, to hell with all these inhuman artificialities of 'society', surely you too, man (officer), take pisses out of doors? i probably conveyed, if not these thoughts, then the contempt that came with them, which is why i got the reaction i did.
sorry, just to clarify! i could write volumes of instances like these if i had time. maybe someday. cheers again,

x larry said...

one more thing re my korea story. i said 'criminals' when referring to a couple of probably 10 year olds. my son of four has unfortunately learned the word 'prison'. this morning he asked me what they did in prisons. i said i didn't know. he said he's going to put 'baddies' in prison--he got this shitty word from his friend who watches every sort of shite tv show and movie and behaves accordingly, that is, aggressively, separating the world into good guys and bad guys, always being the 'heroic' type (see celine for some juicy thoughts on 'heroism'). i thought for a moment. i said, there are no baddies. he said nothing. then, why? i said people might do some things others don't like, but they usually don't mean to. that's that one for now. very difficult, raising a child nowadays. you're up against it, and the REAL baddies are sticking it to you, and even though you for example don't let your kid watch tv, don't talk about the police or prison or money or buying things, keep him as much as you can away from brands and 'brand recognition'--you're still totally up against it, as the enemy is everywhere, in that he has trained all your kids' friends well, and they will do the poisoning of your child ever so effectively. 'the emotional plague of mankind', as the great wilhelm reich calls it, perpetuates itself this way, as you alluded to, ali, in your bar conversation with the 'gangster'.
to get back to my main point, NO child is a criminal, or a baddie. i would like to highly recommend jean genet's 'the thief's journal' and 'our lady of the flowers'. he was raised in harsh reform schools--prisons--and led a life of crime. but the most beautiful, stirring reading!

Dennis Leary said...

I read Linh's article at ICH, and then came here. Ali and the comments are raw truth. The vegan reference hit me, because it hits on the core problem which is structural. There is a solution which depends on clear understanding; vegan is a part of that reality diagnosis. Raw truth is too but meaning brings hope, even in the most dire straits. More at Thanks for revealing what is real, a necessity in order to heal. -Dennis Leary

Ali said...

Thanks, Dennis. I agree. The amount of suffering we inflict on living, feeling, sentient beings is unfathomable. I've seen and read about animal abuse. Aside from the sheer cruelty we inflict on our victims, whose screams we never have to hear because we're removed them from our immediate vicinity, what is amazing is the similarity between cruelty to humans and cruelty to animals. The worst part of it all is how we do not, as a matter of necessity, need to eat any animal products to survive or to have good health.

In our desire for dairy, when we forcibly rape a cow, and remove her calf away from her shortly after birth, and when we ignore both the mother's and the child's cries for each other, how different is it from removing the baby of an incarcerated mother, maybe aside from the mode of pregnancy?

In our desire for eggs, when we have hens laying eggs so large that their uteruses protrude from their vaginas, how different is that from any kind of other cruelty we inflict on people?

The injustices are connected. We inflict a lot of pain on animals, we inflict a lot of psychological harm on farm workers, we massively fuck up the environment with all the animal waste, cause health issues to people who live near factory farms, this list goes on.

Dennis, if you are so inclined, click on my name to go to my own webpage where you'll see my attempt to try to convince people of the suffering. It's hard sometimes and the elitist coopting of veganism, with expensive vegan "meat alternatives" in places like Whole Foods hasn't helped.

x larry said...

thanks dennis and ali for reminding me of what i try not to think about. i remember the movie 'earthlings' alone would make anyone immediately stop eating meat. everything to do with trade, but yes, especially with animal products, is very cruel.
what a horrific species we are! at least most? but try convincing my wife not to eat meat. she's obsessed with the weston price cult, so i've been back on the meat for over three years. no excuses, obviously, just lazy esp. in food prep. i would and almost do live solely on dr pepper and bags of chips. anyway, thank you again. you've woken me up a bit, made me think once more about this very important subject. how on earth to get the whole human world to change?


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, but have returned to Vietnam, where I live in remote Ea Kly. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), and six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems apparently cancelled by Chax Press from external pressure. I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.