* An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Prefatory Remarks

Here we are in the garden of my vanity, and across the lawn we go. The grass is high, has not been cut since I do not know when, and down the hole we go with the whole of human history, anonymous me I can say with impunity . . . .

[ontological self; of soul and mind; gravity & tombs]

I promised an essayr, and I had intended that it be an essay in a form most were familiar with, at least the traditional essay, not the academic ones we had entertained since our matriculation, no. The form of the essay as initiated, we do like to say, by Montaigne, but there have been others I have read frequently and over and again; others who have left their marks on the form, on my ideas of the form, their imprint on my style, if you will, perhaps more or less obvious in this or that essay . . . who may they be? The essays of Orwell, of Camus, and Baldwin, to name only a few––I am a man. There are of course many, many others. How many other? Who has written at least one literary essay of any merit that I have read? The list would be very, very, very long; virtually endless: [ litany of names . . .]

[on montaigne’s preface; the creation of the form . . . the essay and the novel . . . antiquity’s forms; ]

I will have to have this published in parts. It will be too long as it is for any one printing? How many others I have read at least something of, from, by . . . prose non-fiction? I have supported the writing of fictional essays . . . even what could be called fictional essays NOT for the purposes of presenting fiction but  a mask for the essay form to wear? Counting the essayists or prose non-fiction writers I have read is not what I intend to accomplish here in this author’s preface–myself the author of the essays, but then what does that have to do with or say on the facts of exposition because every exposition has an expositor, I guess as everyone has a Self of many selves, each writer is many authors? No, not exactly. Every author is many, what? She has many voices––which voice is contained herein? A series of essays might have each one of them a separate expositor, no? Yes, she. In this, the actualities of gender by birth or by personal assignation––and choice does carry assignation, the assigning of identity from within or from outside the person (itself cognomen with the Latin for “mask”) is either one either way, any way, assigning in itself assignation.

I know I have read or studied Addison and Steele, Hazlitt, Benjamin, Arnold, Swinburne, Johnson, Eliot, Woolf, Traherne . . . a paper on Centuries of Meditation . . . who else, how many else, other forms read, critiqued . . . adjuncts to the essay . . . to essay on the essay form . . . trials, and trials of ideas, of course, who did not include Donne’s Meditations or his Sermons . . . how many philosophical essays have I read? How does a man like myself forget to add Francis Bacon or Thomas Moore or Erasmus or the letters of Keats to his sister and brother, or the letters of Van Gogh or Frncois Truffaut or the journals of Cocteau, or the non-fiction of Marguerite Duras or who else?

[history of history; Ancient Greek anthology . . . one must not avoid the prose fiction forms the many styles . . . intents . . . compare and contrast narrative and expository . . . back to the notion of expository fiction . . . if letters most often find themselves falling within the boundaries of the essay, themselves being as if not more expository than narrative, then what do we make of the epistolary novel . . . a great deal of which must be expository . . . as any novel, of course, could not eschew, avoid, side-step, deny, withhold, stand stalwart against? ?????]

[I have contacted {for each actually or almost a paragraph . . . something critical} Joan Didion, Simone de Beauvoir, Susan Sontag, Francoise Sagan, Gertrude Stein, Mary Wollstencraft, Mary Shelley . . . the letters of Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell . . . Oriana Fallaci . . .  {others . . .) Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan . . .   [ absorption; absorbing men and women, women and men from other times, another politique, other c countries, cultures . . . avoiding the current intellectual bigotry of contempt-cenetrism . . . ]

I loved Donne’s prose as much as his verse, and I knew some English majors who questioned why Donne wrote as he had–I cannot tell you how many impossibly inane questions were posed by supposed lovers of language and literature . . . who would exclude the speeches of Lincoln? The Lectures as well as the essays as well as the criticism of Oscar Wilde. Every person who pretends to love wit and satire and biting irony and eloquence in language . . . I am verbose, am I not? What English major (male, heterosexual, euro-American?) has not read Johnson, Samuel. If you have read Johnson, perhaps you have read Bloom–I adore reading Bloom. Perhaps today we should disregard everyone I have ever revered in forms and the matters of writing? Throwing puppies out with flea bath water is a premium past time in today’s intellectual marketplace––not really a market place, but fully subsumed by marketing; certainly not the same things, the twain never colliding let alone meeting. I have not gotten to the writing of Swinburne, of Carlyle of Nietzsche or Kierkergaard; of Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Engels, Bakunin, Mill . . . who else? Understanding does not mean agreement; having read does not mean convinced or converted.  I can read Quran and remain Catholic

No one, anyone, everyone as of late–we have become quite the iconoclasts. [. . . and this was written before any of the protests ensuing the George Floyd Aftermath . . . ; or the presence of ISIS in our lives . . . ][

I’ve  read Bradley’s lectures on Shakespeare, as well as Blooms great collection of the greatest essays written on Shakespeare . . . The Invention of the Human . . . personal preference is what it is and I do not doubt its veracity, nor its valence for me, because you may have succumbed to the current dogma that Doubt is the Highest Wisdom.

Shakespeare has taught me most of what I do, and need to, know about the human, about being human, about how we are human, about what it means to be human, about what it means to be a dialectical Self, a Self of many selves, a diverse self, a man, a woman . . . what else is there . . . who else is there, was there among my reading, I remember Sir Tomas Browne, of course. What lover of the 17th Century could forget Browne and his Religio Medici or his Urn Burial.

Greenblat [

The whole of the prose of the seventeenth century I would love to sit down to one summer, if it were possible to do nothing but on the beach before I die . . .

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep in books . . .

I remember Borges saying something about Heaven for him being something like a library, book stores my favorite places to pass time, next to museums,. of course bars and cafes, bistros, wine, poetry, painting–of course? Why of course? Not in this time. Not at this moment in our history.

No, I won’t say what I want to say that alliterates with poetry and painting, that I love above most things in the universe.

I am that I am with my books–I have so many of them on the shelves at home.

Essays and more essays and more essays until the last syllable of the last word of the last line of the last essay. .[writing them since well before the second millennium; how many of the essays written before now, before Trump, before Obama . . . {titles, summary, quotes}. I have over fourteen thousand pages of notebooks in boxes in storage, as well as reams of papers for classes in college undergraduate and graduate, ABD in literature . . . what means this or anything else herein said on anything said, what I do try to say––itself the essaying of essaying. Critical on literature, critical on politics, book reviews and other magazine articles, simple reporting and investigative journalism . . . theater criticism, COVER Arts, New York . . .  I do not condescend to journalism as do some of my classmates . . . I have accumulated another 100,00+ words in on-line reviews . . .

[we, another mask; literacy and politics; state & stage; philosophy is wonder; truth, anti-truth and the dogma of doubt; we are what we read

[grammar, grammarians . . . ;

Part One

Woman’s Rights are Human Rights, a Primer


Facts are fictions in as much as they are things made as are all things we think, made in the mind, characters performing on the pages of our fictions no more so fictitious than the facts we teach our children in a world where The Earth is flat was once a fact. Yes, the earth is the center of the solar system no less a fact that the sun is the center of the solar system, in as much as facts are often social constructions. Yet there is a truth about what is factual, as there is also a fictional truth that stands independent of or apart from verisimilitude, which is another thing altogether, and conforms to one or another of the many, many naturalisms––because there are many of these––that sometimes function in ways that allows me to delude myself about what is natural, or confuse myself about what I am, what I should be––as much as it allows me to gain a better understanding of who We are as a People, or who I am as a person, or whatever the many microcosms that my singular, simple separate personhood stands macrocosmically against or in support of . . . .

Who I am might be important. Being a woman might be important to you. It might not be significant to another and another and another each one of them creeping in her petty paces until the last syllable of recorded human history is rung, spoken, said. My rights are everyone’s rights and everyone’s rights are mine; but be certain that I am macrocosmic in the generalities of race, of gender, of ethnicity, of nationality, of economic status, of job, of religion . . . and there cannot be any acceptance of any infringement of my rights or any woman’s rights under the erroneous pretext of religious freedom–there is no room for Sharia Law in the United States of America, and when I see women wearing hijabs and niqabs in Brooklyn, I cringe. It does not matter that they choose to do so; if a woman says she has chosen to submit to or endure a man’s physical brutality–what are we saying. There are plenty of women who we could say choose to stay with an abusive spouse. Meaning?

There is no going back to the middle ages––and there are metaphysical systems in our contemporaneity that are medieval in all the negative connotations we like to give the term. Now, just because too many people do not want to offend Muslims out of a mistaken conception of what diversity is and means, we cannot Tell it like it is––. As a woman, I find too much associated with Islam offensive––I’m sorry, but to tolerate intolerance is not my idea of freedom.

Now, let it be said that a man or woman has an unalienable right to life, liberty, and sole proprietorship over body. Who disagrees? Can anyone? I am sure we could find a few–in a world of 7.5 billion people, how many would a few be? Should we develop an argument from the position of advocatus diaboli, whereby we assert that a person does not have an unalienable right to life or liberty or proprietorship over body? There are enough variations of culture in the world. I am certain we could find a devil in the cause of curtailing respect for a woman’s unalienable rights.

We cannot, however, loosen our grip–and it is our grip, both men’s and women’s–on the advances we have made in the cause of women’s rights, in the matter of her freedom and the respect and defense of her rights that our laws have accomplished, I have said, and said before in these and other words. Too many of those I count among my friends–too few my intellectual equal irrespective of maleness or femaleness (––I do hate using the terms of gender or of sex to distinguish each of our categorically yet minimally distinct human-ness–what then must I say? I should just say whatI have intended herein to say and get it over with with fewer or no interjections . . .). There is no more to say in the ways our distinct genders mandate we say, but in the way our common humanity allows us to say, clearly and boldly.

Reversing the social advances we have made in the cause of women’s rights––and we have made them irrespective of how many from among the cult of resentment think they see otherwise . . . reversal cannot be tolerated based on a mistaken understanding of religious toleration–it does not matter what anyone thinks the Bible tells him that contradicts any respect for universal human rights, which, of course, any discussion of a woman’s unalienable right to sole proprietorship over her body must include . . .

To be a woman or not to be a woman every woman must decide? Of course she must. Men are not put in the position of choosing their maleness or of whether or not they should be a man or not be a man . . . It certainly cannot matter what Muslims imagine Holy Koran is saying, most specifically when Muslims try to make Holy Koran responsible for their culturally bred misogyny and backwardness.

Just as Christians in Europe used the Old Testament to enforce a misogyny the Ancient Romans would have found abhorrent. Have you ever had a look at just what Sharia Law entails, what it codifies–we cannot let this happen anywhere in the United States, even if Muslim women say that it is okay for their men to enforce their culturally narrow misogyny under mandates given to them by Sharia Law. No way; never. Just saying no to medievalism is not going to be enough.

Nonetheless, turning back the steps women have made jurisprudentially in our society must never be endured. I have said this before–and I am likely to say it again, and again (repetition in such a way becomes motif; so, herein, let the motif of a woman’s rights be drawn)–a woman’s unalienable rights are basic human rights, not lesser for being basic, that is fundamental, that is foundational, to all of humanity. Certainly not fundamentalist.


Humanity, as a collection of human beings being humane, acting humanely, cannot persist where human rights are not respected, or where they are actively disrespected. Where human rights are not honored or protected in the course of their being chosen by all persons, we have something less than what is humane, something other than the only way we should define our humanity–there is no humanity in cultures that do not respect the basic human rights of women. “Where is our humanity when we tolerate the infringement of a woman’s basic human rights in the name of variations in cultural norms, mores, attitudes,” Alice said to me one day . . . “and with respect for my Muslim colleagues, Sharia Law, specifically in the matter and manner of women’s rights, has no place in our society, and should gain no foothold in our thinking,” she added..

Alice went on to say, “If perpetually revising our attitudes toward women is necessitated because people of an alien mentality have come to our shores intent on continuing one variation or another of their culturally enforced misogyny, we will be lost. Now, the endemic misogyny of some cultures in the name of Holy Qu’ran cannot be permitted to endure. It is more than too much when the narrow and the ignorant who have never read Holy Qu’ran, or could not in their semi- or il-literacy, tell us that Allah wants women to remain in darkness and ignorance, that He wants them to remain virtual chattel, a being for no other purpose but the breeding of a brood while they are made to cover themselves as would lepers, made to believe that they, by doing so, are best serving God . . . I get sick just saying this in rebuttal,” Alice said..

A woman’s unalienable rights do not depend on my say so or anyone’s say so for their veracity or validity. Believing in the necessity of repeating that women’s rights are basic human rights  is not in accord with the counter assertion that if these rights are not articulated, not repeated, women lose them. it is not even the Law that gives a woman her unalienable rights; it is not even her belief in them that does that.

A woman has unalienable rights irrespective of her belief system or her personal understanding; it does not–again–depend on the law. We do, however, have to repeat that a woman has basic human rights the same as a man if we are to insure we remember that she does, to insure by remembering that a woman has unalienable rights to life, liberty and sole proprietorship over body we will thus disseminate these ideas in our talk, in our discussions, in our debates on policy, in our writing, in our editorials, in our letters to the editor, in our Op-Ed pages, in the passing of our laws, and in the mediations of bureaucracy in the matters where State is expected to manage or administer affairs and/or services for the People.


Let me now reassert that a woman cannot lose her rights in the ideal, but forgetting her unalienable rights can lead to customs and laws that stand as impediments to their protection in an active practical way. Yet again, let me say that a woman’s unalienable rights exist whether the laws that govern her say so or not, but without the Law, protection of unalienable rights might become moot. Her freedom cannot become contingent on what the law says or does–her being at liberty to move about as she chooses can be curtailed; her choices might come at a high price, physically, economically, socially (interactively); but her rights as a woman, thereby, a human being, are universal, absolute and transcendent, and the latter is true with respect to time, place, culture, religion, or social contracts agreed upon by parties, including herself, contracts such as marriage.

A woman has un-ablienable rights even in face of what religious laws might say–once again, Muslim Sharia Law cannot be allowed to violate a woman’s unalienable human rights as an adjunct to what some think is religious freedom. There is no religious freedom that violates human rights. “Unenlightened Muslim men beware–and we must be as willing to understand that there may very well be a great number of Muslim men who are backward and unenlightened as we must also be wary of our prejudices and perhaps our culturally determined propensity to believe more Muslims are backward than might be so,” Alice said. “Any other man bent on violating a woman’s human rights must also beware,” she said. “No Mormon, Fundamentalist Christian––no one, anywhere, any-when, anyhow,” Alice said.

We must be very clear on this issue of a woman’s unalienable rights–there is no cultural norm or religious dogma that can be tolerated in the United States if it violates the simple separate woman’s human rights, even if she does not protest in her defense. Men acting under what they have interpreted as their God given right to intercede in the matters of a woman’s life, supported by Sharia Law, cannot be tolerated, and remains a human rights violation independent of what the Muslim woman/wife suffering under such bondage does or does not say. And this goes for any backwardness here at home from whatever quarter wherever. I do not want now to rail against our own fundamentalists, and the steps backwards they want us to take with respect to or for how we are going to go forward with the human rights issue of Gay Marriage and the Human Rights of Roe versus Wade. But please let us not imagine that “the ghettos of the North are any smarter or wiser than the trailer parks of Texas . . . let us not imagine that Protestant poor white and black are not flip sides of a singularly minted coin anymore than. we should think that the Black and White American Protestant Bourgeoisie are not one coin,” Alice said.

I cannot get to a place where I think I have said this enough times, and human history has shown us that constancy is necessary, that vigilance is for-always required. This idea of constancy is a human virtue: constance in faith, constance in trust, constance in knowledge, for and of God, for and of Truth, for and of light, yet mostly for and of humanity. Human Rights need constancy from us. They need our belief and our faith. We have to believe they are metaphysically constant, which they are. Without our belief in them and our faith that they exist, we disconnect from them; although they still have permanent veracity. We must, though, connect with them actively to help them thrive, grow. Yes, they are always present, perpetually viable in spite of what we say, or do think about them here and now; but constant vigilance is required for these ideas to grow and flourish in our practices. Our Founders understood this vigilance for this great experiment in Liberty and Democracy we call the United States, what we have invested in our Constitution. The same was and is true for Human Rights.

I understand that there are many voices and points of view in the Muslim world, but a great deal of it is semi- to il-literate, backward and medieval when it comes to women’s rights. I am sorry if some Muslims do not like the truth. I am sure that there are enough Christians and Jews and Hindus for whom this would be equally true. I do not want to discuss the culturally enforced misogyny in China, or how five-hundred women a day kill themselves in the People’s Republic of China, or how China leads the world in sexual slavery. Imagine that. What has the People’s Republic done to eliminate that?


Now, as I have said above, no law gives us our human rights. The law may or may not uphold them adequately, but it cannot give us what we are endowed with by birth. And do not tell me that you are naive enough to think that there is no universal human nature–or that there are not enough commonalities by which we can determine things that are natural for all people, or at least habits of a commonly observed civilization or civilizing energy . . . Jefferson and Madison understood this expressly, even in spite of the persistence of slavery; but also deeply and broadly enough to have created a system and a context for liberty and democracy to win out over slavery. We must not allow ourselves to use the gross inconsistencies in the matter of slavery to undermine the veracity of their other arguments for and of democratic government. Throwing the puppy out with the flea bath water seems to be what we do most often. We wonder in bewilderment as to how we have come to where we are politically, but it is our liberals as much to blame as our conservatives. 

I may not qualify as a humane human-being, with the kind of humanity inferred herein, simply by having been born–I must act humanely; I must choose humanity. I am certainly deserving of respect by virtue of having been born, certainly worthy of humane treatment by others and by the State and its government agents meant to manage and administer that State; but I must also act humanely conversely. We cannot allow ourselves to imagine we are human-humane just by being born–so much of our nature–or what we might call natural inclinations–is simply and directly attributable to our nature as Homo-sapiens, one of many species of animals in the world, all of them with animal natures.

Human, like civilization, is a choice. Human, like civilization, sometimes stands opposed to Nature, at other times must mediate Nature, modify the animal and the instinctive. My humanity depends on my humane actions and treatment of others; these others and their humanity depends on their humane treatment of others including me. Our animal choices, guided by our purely homo-sapiens nature, is NOT good enough to qualify as human. This sense of humanity is broad and sweeping, universal and transcendent, it is absolute.

Now any ethics that proscribes humane treatment of others because they are not of one’s own is inhumane. To only be guided by ethical treatment of another because they are of your faith is a corruption of the Good; it is inhuman because it is inhumane to say because I am Christian, I must only respect Christians; or because Jewish, only Jews; or, because Muslimset cetera. No amount of cultural relativism in these matters is helpful. Other as well as another must be respected; a careful examination of the rhetoric of other and another should reveal the inference herein.


Humane living, humane choices, humane being are what the human requires; to be human or not to be human, this is the question, this is the choice. We must be then very careful when we want and try to make things more natural–nature and civilization are not equal or equivalent; they are not mutual in the ways we imagine, or assume. Yes, we have imagined by making things more natural we will make things more humane, closer to being truly human, when in fact we often make the things we do, the ways we act and react, more closely aligned with a purely Homo-Sapiens way of responding to the world, which includes all the ways aggression becomes rationalized in our behavior, sets itself within normative behavior for the species, even in matters that have been extended to social interactions. But this connection we have made for nature and civilization whereby one is wholly and in every instance interchangeable for the other, is not by necessity. The validity of such is in question. What we really need is to make things more civilized in our lives–understanding that there is a broadly defined sense of civilized that extends to Lakota teepees and council fires as well as bedouin tents, et cetera, et cetera. This should be helpful.

By civilized, we must understand humane. This is not a scaling adjective. Big, bigger, biggest are scales in size. Something is humane or it is not humane; there is not a less or more humane–circular is an effective analogy–circular is also not scaling. Something is not really more or less circular, no matter how many times you say so or think so–if one thing is less circular, it is not a circle and therefore not circular. Circular is simply the adjectival form of the noun circle. Thus, every circle is circular; in fact, only circles are circular. Ovals are not circular. Humane and inhumane have no monochromatic scale between their black and white.

Now, I am born is not enough to ensure I will develop humanity in the ways I have drawn herein; although anyone having been born is enough to mandate others respect his life and his liberty with this humanity–I will continue to repeat myself. I have herein restricted to the meaning of human, the following: humane treatment, humane actions, humane being. This means that one must have an active respect for and must maintain a vigilant defense of a woman’s life, her liberty,  her proprietorship over body, thus for her choices that concern her and ultimately only concern her. Marriage is not a contractual agreement where a woman gives up her personhood to become a breeder of a man;s brood, thus incurring certain obligations on the man to support this woman in all matters of sustenance, livelihood. She has not become the man’s brood-serf.

Yes, I must respect the right of choice of others–although only insofar as the choices made do not violate another human being’s humanity (his human rights, his integrity as a simple separate person whose irreducible singularity stands macrocosmic to all pluralities and generalities).  

I must for always respect the space necessary for others to cultivate their choices; I must stand in defense of humanity when another’s choice violates or infringes on the rights of another human-being. And here is the rub: all human-beings are another to me; no one is ever other.

I can choose to corrupt my humanity by being inhumane. This is what the traditional religions of The Book have insisted is Free-will. Our lives are not determined by God. We must be careful in delineating just what is human and just what is Homo Sapiens, as much as we must be cautious in delineating what comes from God in the matter or manner of how we punish or abuse others because they do not follow our path, our ways, our choices.


Human Rights need our help to manifest their forms in the world and function as more than ideals we hope for or strive to achieve in practice. Ideal rights and the practical application of ideals are not one in the same thing. Our biggest mistake has come from abandoning all notions of ideal rights for what we thought was more practical, only to suffer the constrictions and limitations of topicality and situation. We need to be able to handle both the ideal and the practical, the noumenal and phenomenal aspects of our rights in order best to manage them in the world. Instead we love playing hop-scotch with our values, our half formed ideals (a malfunction derived from our inability to think or speak metaphysically because we have abandoned metaphysics).

Humans rights in as much as they are universal rights are always everywhere the same; they are never contingent on culture or history or experience. A woman’s unalienable rights are the same for her in the United States as they are for her in Saudi Arabia, the same in France as they are for her in China. The difference is in how these unalienable and universal human rights are handled by her society, by the men in her culture, by the practices of her religion or the toleration of infringement by the State or supported by the State or social traditions.


As alluded to above, a woman’s unalienable rights are absolute and true even in face of whether the woman in question understands her rights or not, understands this argument herein expressed or not. No one can abdicate his human rights. A person does not have an unalienable right to say: I want to be a slave.

Human Rights are always, socially and linguistically, upper case: yes, we write, Human Rights. They must remain capital in our hearts and minds too–not simply in our ledger books, where we keep them today. Support for human rights is offered only where it can garner monetary support from enough people to pay other people to sponsor a call for a change in our attitudes, principally because yet others see that stabilizing respect for and protection of human rights just might mean more money for investors, who inevitably do not seed these regions with enough economic stability to match what they themselves get out of the region.

We are corrupt–so much so that it arises in everything we think, say and do. The tree by the root? A question? How now this question? I must follow the Baptist. Raskolnikov’s axe is the Baptist’s axe? The pawn broker must be cut out by the root? What am I talking about here?

VIII Before the Law, by Alice B. {A Woman Gives a Speech Before a Group from a Woman’s Studies Program Gathering at . . .}

Part Two

Doubt is Our Highest Wisdom


Facts, facts and more facts–give me nothing but facts, or so we could say Mr Gradgrind would say . . . did say in similar words, I remember Hard Times by Dickens. I read it in college for an urban sociology class, not a literature class. Ours is another call for needful things. The one truly needful thing in our world, our culture, our country, this civilization of ours–whose civilization is it? How long has this civilization been on-going? I have not disbanded with older notions of what our civilization has been, has meant, could have meant in face of what it has never meant, even if it tried to mean it for itself. Now, we can say that the highest wisdom is Doubt. Nothing but doubt will do. It is our first philosophy.

Yes, give us doubt and nothing else but doubt. Doubt, doubt and more doubt. Didn’t Socrates say, “I know nothing?” Didn’t Montaigne also begin with an inquiry rooted in doubt? Moreover, the only wisdom ever needed, or so we assume, is an overriding doubt at the end of the day. We do not begin with the rhetorical posture of doubt, but conclude it after all, ending with an oppressive doubting of knowledge and the possibility of knowing anything.


The new dogma complete–you find it at the heart of everything we do and think–thinking itself having come under assault even in the academies of higher learning. You could say that doubt has been instilled, imposed–no, that it has been planted to bear the fruit of a greater nihilism. But we wouldn’t like to hear that.

It must be facts for me; doubt is an end and not a means to understanding the limits of knowledge, of what knowledge is or could be, not what I know, but the end of all knowing. As a result, I have only things, facts as things, disconnected, more like confetti to throw into the air, the only effect being how pretty it looks as it falls in array. Facts, facts and more facts, of course only facts and the first and last fact of them all is that even facts can lie, even facts are uncertain. The one overarching and singularly guiding fact is doubt. I must doubt Truth, even all truths, any truth, minuscule ‘t’ truths accumulating in reserve. I only have to look at our contemporary civilization’s guiding metaphysics, look to my participation in my culture’s assault on reason, on truth, on, yes, dare I say beauty–or should I say in deference to a lost initiative.


Reason, Truth and Beauty?

Capital letters bear a specific morphology; yes, they carry with them a particular meaning. I reveal certain prejudices when I say Beauty–a neo-Romanticism we might conclude, but then the Romantics had more heart while yet keeping their heads.

I don’t have to look long to see how in love with doubt as a form of wisdom I have come to be in this culture–just reveal that you actually know something in a group of anyone you understand to have been fully formed by our systematic under-education over the last quarter of a century. Doubt, doubt and more doubt is all I ever need to know–Truth as Beauty or Beauty Truth has long been lost in the mists of Post-post Structuralist mystifications. Even in politics this is the only guidance we allow. It is the one overriding reason such trash gets accepted in our political campaigning, the levels of demagoguery and semi-literacy–alphabetics, all of us, yes, able to spell our names correctly. This of the possibilities–infinite possibilities–the true profit margin.

Of course, it is correct to assess that political campaigns have always been comprised of that which expresses the lesser of ourselves, the lower of our impulses, the baser of our instincts, an oversimplification at best, or at worst, the grossest in the simplistic that is possible without all campaigning falling down in an avalanche of fragments.

What is different, though, is the lessening of the critique; moreover, the remove from which anyone tries to levy an alternative to how we elect, how we campaign, or what the media does with our politics and politicking, how they package our politicians.

The media rarely critiques itself; that would be too much to ask, I know. The inarticulateness on our part has left us in a position where the potential for opposing politics as it gets played on the American stage is approaching impossible.

I, who do oppose contemporary politics as it has been played in the arenas of states across the globe, have also helped create a cultural weakness in itself a strength only in its power to debilitate. Weakness is weakness, though, just as strength remains strength. The latter can only cleave to the latter, never the former. This is immutable. I should look closely at our most recent historical precedence over the last one hundred or more years, particularly the last fifty or sixty here in America, but most assuredly in France as well as here in the United States–there is a pervading nihilism at the heart of our common Western culture, worse, at the core of our civilization, yes, Western Civilization.


Again, doubt, doubt and more doubt is what we teach, what we expect, what we receive from our ideas that there is no Truth, there is nothing transcendent, there are no absolutes, there is no Absolute, and, of course, that everything is relative, itself an error a lot less than human. We have become grossly irresponsible–I have my excuses.

The assault on Truth, the idea of Truth, and subsequently our persistent attack on the validity of truth after truth until the possibility of determining any truth has become so undermined that there is no truth and anyone can say anything because what I feel is the most important thing to express–and you do not even have to believe this to do this. It is preferably in the most spontaneous speech because what is spontaneously expressed will be the most honest, I assume, has left me unable to mount any defense of democracy and the assaults on democratic living here at home, while power gets more powerful and money more monied. But the trickle down theory (really Hypothesis) is something like cum out of cunt when a woman stands after having been fucked–or should I say, after she fucks . . . to fuck or not to fuck, all us fucked by the state–why do we insist in the word fuck for rape or even when getting screwed is the meaning. We’re always debasing sex by our more violent or criminal tendencies.

Here is another way of expressing either what some call natural and others call organic–either conception has become our nightmare, the ascension of a virtual adolescent world view where there are no hierarchies of value anywhere for anything and no experts in anything, all in an attempt to more widely disseminate opinions democratically, or, for everyone to be equal in his opinions. And I do endure the inane, the hopelessly foolish, because I want people to listen to my opinions, no matter how ignorant or poorly framed they are. Without truth there are no foundations for facts, so we–so I–persist in expressing opinions based on what we feel–I feel–and I am as in love with emotion and emotionalism as everyone else seems to be in this America perpetually seeking instant fame–fifteen seconds, not minutes, Mr. Warhol.

Emotion is not passion. Both passion and knowledge actually scare us.

Who’s to say became no one can say, and we all agreed with no one could say because everyone wanted to say something, and wanted even an immediate, yet temporary, validity assigned to his or her opinion. The only way we could get anyone to listen to our unqualified opinions was to undermine truth, the nature of evaluation, the notion of hierarchies and the fact that opinions do have quality.

Without authority everyone became an expert for fifteen minutes. No one but an elite are really famous, so we took having expertise for fifteen minutes, that is, until someone else disagreed and then we had to listen to him, no matter how inane the opinion might be. Without quality for opinions there remains quantity, and that’s not quantification, but a sum totaling addition of opinions.


Popularity and plurality have taken over our ethics, which is why we always defer to star actors and actresses as spokesmen or spokeswomen. Truth is numerical, arithmetic, additional. This is the prelude to the will to power. This is what we suffer socially and economically today. We have no other reasons for why anyone accumulates the wealth that is accumulated by the rich and powerful; the monied elite are far too monied, but we no longer have access to the reasons why this should offend us. We do not, in our semi-literacy, have the ability to express our position. In fact, we no longer are able to discern a position as a People to stand in counterweight to the State or as a corrective for power.

The agents who are supposed to manage this in our media are so corrupted by having become so semi-literate that they do stand opposed to power but grateful to it the way those who served the Czar used to be grateful. We do not have freedom for all, democracy for everyone, but only for the oligarchic elite, the powerful and the insanely monied. We do not have freedom and equality for African-Americans, we have the privilege system of affirmative action, and like all systems of privilege, they either exist in systems of inequality, or they create inequalities to perpetuate themselves as privilege systems. Privileges cannot exist where there is equality. The use of privileges for some groups is also used as a means toward a Machiavellian end; power divides us and conquers us.

But I do not have to be concerned for this–after having been systematically undereducated, allowed to become so lowly semi-literate, I cannot see that as stupid as I have become is not smart enough to know what I should know

Part Three

The ABCs of Literacy

To be literate or to be alphabetic is a question that should be posed by any person in any society when the question of reading is discussed seriously toward what end it can serve, what end it should serve, or what end it does or does not serve. Now whether or not reading serves any end other than the one it does in itself serve needs to be addressed if not answered. Reading in itself reading serves no social nor economic nor political end–unless that end is the freedom of the individual, politically and psychologically. Now whether or not it does serve these mutually contingent ends, political and psychological freedom is another question for another essay. How the challenges of what I will herein define as reading will be articulated we will see; the challenges posed by reading do try men’s minds as well as their souls.

Any society that sees itself in conflict over just what the society is or should be or where it is going or where it has been or has come from has something to consider in the matter of how its individual members act, react, and interact with one another, this necessitating that each of them–each of us–has more than a night light on in the mind, that thinking is other than randomly passing images in one montage after another, that thinking is not playing hop-scotch with words. Reading, in the ways that will herein be discussed is not superficially skimming pages, allowing their flatness and virtual two-dimensional existence to impose itself on what exactly reading does, informing what we imagine reading is. The fact that words appear in lines on pages also imposes an unnecessarily linear dimension to how reading is accomplished. This superficial skimming of pages is the dominant result from our broad acceptance, or confusion, of alphabetics for literacy.

Literacy or alphabetics–what is it that we mean when we say someone is literate? To be literate or not to be literate–much of what we call literacy in America falls short of what should be named literacy.

Being alphabetic–what is sometimes referred to by me as having dexterity with the alphabet, able to handle words the way some handle dice, their speech or writing no different than tossing the dice. Alphabetic is not in itself literacy. It cannot be. This was, of course, inferred above–to read or not to read, to be able to or not, a foundation of civil liberty, a corner stone of all advances in civilization–and this is not hyperbole.

As I have said this before in other essays, and as I am saying this again in this one, I am convinced that repetition is not in itself redundancy when handled appropriately–it can be motif. The latter is also something I have said before and will repeat, how repetition becomes motif.

Literacy has to be more than merely being able to spell one’s name correctly, being able to negotiate a supermarket circular, being able to read road signs, address a letter, read the tabloid newspapers to gain the daily dose of state, media or capitalist propaganda–and that is what the media has become today in our Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalist America. Tabloid presses often written on the third or fourth grade reading level–three in four criminals serving more than three years in prison read somewhere between the second and fourth grade–how is that we see no correlation between our debased standards of reading, of what literacy is or what it could be and crime?

A newspaper like the Nw York Times has traditionally be written on the 8th grade level–this is the level that the United States considers functional literacy and a level that too many graduates leave their high schools with as an accomplishment to applaud in caps and gowns at family parties–the poor deluded bastards.

Literacy must be something bigger than it is at present. It must be deepened, become more penetrating than what is allowed by our current deferment to the standards of universal alphabetics. How many High School graduates can actually read on grade, at least twelfth–and by the time one graduates, one should be reading higher than twelfth grade if one is to read on grade. But is it necessary for an auto mechanic, in order to be a good auto mechanic, to have to read above high school? Probably not. However, the mandates of American democracy and freedom –that which is organically truly democratic and free, and not the result of manipulated images managed by the protocols of American propaganda concerning freedom and democracy–do demand that he achieve higher and higher election in literacy.

What I am herein referring to as our tradition of and for democracy (our sense and sensibility for civil liberty, for democratic living, what we might imagine could be living free, that is, if we were allowed to be free in a way that organically respected individual freedom in a healthy way), is, what we would like to support, allegedly (and allegedly only because a good deal of what we think we should support concerning freedom and democracy amounts to adhering to state disseminated ideas about democracy and freedom, received through our many forms of media, which in turn are never fully supportive of the People as a People being free, but instead are in line with transforming the People into a state serving Public, the latter allowed to masquerade as a people being free, again, through one or another organs of our media, themselves directly receptive to suggestions from power and money, when they themselves are not the power and the money as many publishers or corporate publishing conglomerates are). All the manipulation of images and all the received ideas about democracy are aimed at one overriding result: that power becomes more powerful and monied and that money becomes more monied and powerful.

But a two-tiered society such as the one we are garnering today cannot persist long in masquerading as a free and democratic society, which is why, in part, this culture goes to great lengths to propagate bourgeois values and ideals through its media, making bourgeois capitalist drones out all workers and the poor. Union membership has dramatically declined–the right to work has been transformed by American Bourgeois Capitalist propaganda, thus then dogma, into the right to any job at any salary is better than no job, and that crumbs from the table of the rich and powerful are for what we should be grateful.

Those ideals inherited from the tradition of American civil liberty again do demand that that auto mechanic above, to be a rationally and intelligently functioning and participating member of what we purport is a free and democratic America–must read at a level higher than he has been allowed to achieve in our public schools., that literacy must not be debased and confused for what we do perpetuate in our schools, and that is an intellectually and socially enfeebling alphabetics instead of literacy. But then with teachers not having to gain a Master’s Degree in the disciplines they teach–that is, a high school math teacher can get his or her master’s in teaching, with a concentration not in math but in math pedagogy; with a teacher allowed to have a C average, which includes a c-, overall in all subjects; with teachers allowed to get a B- in their major–how do we expect pedagogy not to fail at achieving what it seems we can no longer imagine our students should have, although it does remain what they do need.

What has been sponsored in our public education over the last thirty to thirty-five years–and do not hold me hostage to the hypotheses of time counted; time on the clock or calendar and time in the mind are aspects of time imagined passing–has only managed to systematically under educate. Power has taken to heart Madison’s proclamation that education is the foundation of civil liberty; it has transformed education in direct proportion to how it must present the veil of freedom over the mask of democracy, a masquerade or a charade? Liberty is only a facade, a Hollywood studio set. It is no irony that education in my estimation has declined since the days of Regan–is it the fault of Regan and the Republicans? I would like to side-step the ping pong the parties play–although I do wind up rooting for one side or the other in any match I watch, even cricket matches I stumble on when switching channels on cable–I do root for Hilary Clinton over any Republican Candidate because any one of the Republicans would be tantamount to one of Satan’s following of angels ascending to the Oval Office. This is not hyperbole.

Obama, it must be said, in the seventies, would have been a moderate republican, with no change in his attitudes, his opinions, his thoughts, his rhetoric. This is what I find so scary about our politics and who manages our pedagogy–our pedagogy increasingly taking its cues from, while responding to the protocols of, bureaucrats in Washington, and here in New York City, from Albany and City Hall.

The fact that someone can spell his name, as I have mentioned above, cannot be the way we judge a person as literate or not literate. We have virtually come to this if we have not yet actually arrived there. It can be a measure of just how alphabetic he is, which is also the assessment of how well someone fills out bureaucratic forms or reads the tabloid press, never meant to do anything but inform in the crassest way possible–this informing, if you examine the words you use closely, is just that: to inform by the tabloid press is putting people unable to think In Form. But then, let me not lead you astray, in addition to the tabloid press, The NY Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe to name a few of the non-tabloid press, have come to place of semi-literacy and belligerent politicking no better than the traditions of the tabloids . . . The Great Yellow Press, all. Journalists never broker in the Truth, only some of the truths, today, the more the sensational, the better––yet, when was that ever really not the first ad the last of what was fit to print. Sensationalism fits the editorial policies better than anything else. Perhaps there was a time when the non-tabloids shied away from the amount or the extent of the sensationalism that tabloids indulged . . . greedily, lustfully, gluttonously?

Never the twain shall introduce one another to each other–alphabetics and literacy, how shall they meet? They have met in the manipulated images of one another confused and confusing many for a long time. They must be kept apart, though, in our appraisal, something that a healthy sense of and dexterity with or for categories could help. What I can do with the alphabet is always set against what a monkey cannot do with the alphabet, unless we give a group of them typewriters and infinite time, then, presumably, the monkeys will by accident type out the script of Hamlet. I am still puzzled as to what kind of critique this is, having heard back in grad school this argument on the periphery of critiques of Shakespeare as the center of what had come under attack for being too overtly political and politicized in favor of ruling elites, the traditional Canon of literary achievement. I understand the necessity for Canon revision, or broader inclusion, but never have understood the iconoclastic response, or worse, the same response the mob in Alexandria had with torches at the Library of Alexandria. Not so very different, I had understood; I still understand.

The study of literature is sometimes called the study of Letters, but spelling one’s name correctly is not what I had in mind when I would say someone is literate. Yes, you have to be alphabetic in this culture to become literate, but to be literate or to be literary or to read and write literature (the order is happenstance)–these are other than reading tabloid newspapers, other than filling out correctly a deposit slip at the bank. But then we do all know this, do we not?

I am safe in assuming that my to-do list is not what I would call literature, although the aesthetics of this to-do list could be employed in the service of the literary. No? Of course it could. I am not saying that what we understand to be literary forms could only have been fixed by writing. There are a number of what have come to know as literary forms, forms of literature, that were fixed, that lost their plasticity, if they ever had any, in antiquity, in a time before writing, or at the dawn of it when societies like Ancient Greece were residually oral and moving toward literacy, what Plato actually champions in Book Ten of The Republic. Rather than understand Plato’s stand against poetry as one against poetry as we think we understand it, read it as an opposition to a former Orality that opposed the early advances in Literacy, most dramatically in psychology, thus mentality [the former of an individual, the latter of a society].

A great deal of re-reading is necessary for any kind of advancement in stages of higher and higher literacy; and yes, this analysis does run along a vertical axis as does literacy and greater achievements in literacy run along a vertical axis. Also, we must understand that engaging in writing is a complement of reading in literacy. No one actually reads at a level considerably higher than the one at which he writes or could write if he engaged in the practice. The same is true and reciprocally so for reading on writing.

We are though mistaken about orality, what it is, where it is, how it functions, when it functioned, and how it stands in contrast to literacy, and how ours is not an oral culture no matter how many songs you listen to or how many Youtube videos you watch to learn something rather than read. We can only become illiterate not non-literate. The possibility of becoming a non-literate culture is virtually impossible. And this is the horror–the only result from not reading, from a decline in literacy is illiteracy, something always illicit, illegitimate in the matters of civilization, something born into the world half made-up, something of a grotesque nature more offensive to the manners of literate civil society than can be imagined, that is seen, by the dying of the light inside a person suffering this decline.


To summarize on point: It is necessary to disseminate the ideas of a universal humanity in order for many to act accordingly in relation to these rights which, again, are metaphysically unconditional, categorical, certain, positive and beyond any effort to eradicate them; as they can never be revoked. 

They can lose the vigilance of a People to respect them and maintain them, protect them and nourish them; they can receive active efforts against their protection, the ways they are disrespected can become paramount in a society; the laws of a society and its customs can also work against a woman’s free exercise of her unalienable basic human rights; but these rights are hers in face of the violations she suffers.  

What then must we do in face of so much arrogance on the part of Muslims in our midst who are bent on turning back the clock on Western Liberty and Democracy, using democratic means to set us backwards? Our clock is being wound back. 

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