The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:
(link to full text of tetralogy)
How I Survived the Presidency of
Douchebag J. Troglodyte:
A Daily Account
January 1, 2021
We begin this epilogue with a quote from an opinion piece penned after the recent presidential election by a conservative columnist.
The apparent inability of many on the left to entertain the thought that decent human beings might have voted for Trump for sensible reasons—to take one example, the unemployment rate reached record lows before the pandemic hit—amounts to an epic failure to see their fellow Americans with understanding, much less with empathy.*
The purpose of including this quote at the beginning is to acknowledge an awareness of carefully articulated arguments against the collecting of the thoughts that shall come to compose the epic failure of this epilogue.
*Stephens, Brett, "Groupthink Has Left the Left Blind", New York Times, November 16, 2020, full text.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (May 17, 2003, Jerry Jeff, Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 2, 2021
As a contrasting lens, we offer a second quote, written fifty-seven years earlier.
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.*
If we take the economic argument at face value, we confront a reality where more than seventy-four million Americans ostensibly put their financial well-being over the sanctity of their fellow citizens and the dignity of their country.
*King Jr. Martin Luther, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", Birmingham, Alabama, April 16, 1963, full text.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-7 (May 17, 2003, Jerry Jeff, Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 3, 2021
Of course, the ability to make a financial sacrifice for others' gain is greatly facilitated by a personal budget, which includes an allotment for discretionary spending. We are reminded of a quote on this general theme by the trombonist, George Lewis, which is reproduced, in part, below.
I'm trying to avoid the glib statement of universal peace. It's easy to say those things when you are sitting in the belly of the beast, the world's largest, and arguably most rapacious imperialist power, and you have this big job as tenured holder of an endowed chair within that institution. You're differentially enabled and disabled, and you are implicated perhaps in some fairly major crimes, to coincide with some of the successes that you might have personally achieved.*
For those who live paycheck to paycheck and who can rely on no safety net other than that provided by the federal government, the barrier to altruism is quantitatively greater. We accept this argument without caveat.
*Lewis, George E., interviewed by Lloyd Peterson, Music and the Creative Spirit: Innovators in Jazz, Improvisation and the Avant Garde, The Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, 2006, pp. 155-156.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (May 3, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 4, 2021
In addition to disparities in economic security, differential enabling and disabling is also exacerbated by relative access to knowledge. This so-called "epistemic capability" forms the foundation of the individual perception of reality. In current times, "epistemic capability" has become a catch phrase to describe the mechanism by which a society evolves groups of citizens who subscribe to distinct sets of facts depending upon their partisan affiliation.
The ability to evaluate two contrasting opinions on the basis of their relative merits requires exposure to both perspectives. As an example, the first two quotes given in this epilogue present contrasting views on the lack of empathy in members of a well-educated liberal class and apathy in middle-class whites. However, access to the first column requires the wherewithal to afford the subscription fee of the New York Times. Even the writings of Martin Luther King Jr., while in the public domain, require internet service to easily retrieve.
If an individual is not exposed to alternative points of view but instead exists, intentionally or otherwise, in an insular environment where facts are presented by like-minded agents on social media platforms or through television channels that effectively serve as a venue for state propaganda, wholesale differences in epistemic capabilities are inevitable, as is evident today.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 2 (May 3, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 5, 2021
The fundamental difference in perception of the world does not appear to be going anywhere. Rather, the Republican party is intent on maintaining a diminished epistemic capability of their base. With what appears to be less conscious effort, Democratic-leaning communities self-aggregate in various fora where prevailing opinions are reinforced. Given the status quo and its apparent stability, one must identify paths to achieve their goals in this fragmented and hyper-polarized environment.
To move directly to the point, what is the goal to which we are driven? In a word, it is amelioration, or making the world a better place for all.
It falls to those who are interested in making the world a better place to accept the reality that their task must be accomplished in the context of "fake news" resulting from a diminished epistemic capability of a non-negligible portion of the nation.
Two questions arise. The first question is one of process. What are effective mechanisms for amelioration?
The second question is one of motivation. Because the goal of amelioration is universal, we cannot exclude a category of people from the intended positive outcome of the process. How does one gather the internal fortitude to work on behalf of those who are implicitly antagonistic if not explicitly hostile to our purpose, our happiness and, in some cases, our very being?
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (April 17, 2003, Apia, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 6, 2021
Let us first address the second question, at least in part, because the challenge to find a powerful motivation is real. Moreover, what is the point in developing a plan of action if, ultimately, one cannot convince oneself to act?
The notion that a substantial fraction of the population of the United States of America is hostile to the general principles of tolerance, inclusivity and equality of opportunity is not a myth. While we are tempted to indulge in recording a litany of real, egregious grievances, we will exercise what limited powers of impulse control we possess and provide only a succinct statement, sufficient to make our point. We will not harp on the actions of those who publicly exhort their like-minded citizens to "make liberals cry again", though we have always insisted that to take pleasure in the misery of others is a variety of malevolence.
We write this work from the state of Tennessee where we have lived since the waning years of the twentieth century. Perhaps a signature achievement in notoriety by the state of Tennessee is the insistence on preserving the display of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in a place of honor in the state capitol building. Before the Civil War, Forrest was a cotton plantation owner and a slave trader. During the war, he served as a general in the Confederate Army. Of note, in April, 1864, troops under his command massacred Union troops, who had surrendered, most of them black soldiers. After the war, he became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Persistent attempts to remove the bust as well as dozens of other state monuments honoring Forrest have not only failed but prompted the state legislature to pass laws eliminating the right of local governments to touch such monuments. The argument that honoring Forrest is merely proper historical recognition is so specious as to be disregarded. We write this from a state where the government continues to officially promote a brutal legacy of white supremacy.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (March 8, 2003, Jerry Jeff, Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 7, 2021
A literature of non-idiomatic improvisation is able to respond in real time to external events. While we did not intend to include in this essay comments on the perfunctory counting of electoral college votes, which was performed by the joint houses of Congress yesterday, it seems impossible now to ignore it.
In an attempt to thwart a peaceful transfer of power, the sitting president incited a mob to storm the Capitol building in Washington, DC, disrupting the vote-counting process. Of course, even as a candidate, the president's behavior fell outside norms of civility and decency, which served as an impetus to begin this tetralogy on January 1, 2017. His authoritarian behavior has been constantly on display. According to the Washington Post, as of the time of writing he has told 29,508 lies since taking office.* As such, no one is surprised by his misconduct. Nor is there any shock that hundreds of ordinary citizens were provoked by his inflammatory rhetoric.
Of greater consternation is the fact that, after the rioters had been cleared from the Capitol building and the joint session of Congress resumed, there were more than one hundred elected officials still intent on protesting the result of free and fair elections. While it was commonly accepted that their opposition was merely a show of fealty to the president with no actual chance of success, to be clear the goal of their gambit was to undermine the democratic process upon which our country is founded. Had their coup succeeded, they would certainly have accepted the result. These actions cannot be explained away by arguments of differential enabling and disabling nor of epistemic capabilities. There is clear, premeditated intent to strip retroactively millions of citizens of their right to vote, based on the election results. These elected officials, including the representative of our own district, Tim Burchett, have demonstrated a willful, cynical malice, destructive to the fabric of the nation as a whole and the individuals who compose it.
*Trump Claims Database, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/, accessed January 7, 2021.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 6-7 (March 8, 2003, Jerry Jeff, Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 8, 2021
Inciting a mob to invade the Capitol building is such an outrageous act that even many of the most ardent of the president's enablers denounce it. However, opponents of amelioration are rarely so obvious in their work. Again, using examples from our home state, the Tennessee senator, Marsha Blackburn, was elected in 2018, campaigning on unwavering support of the president's agenda. At every opportunity, she has worked to enable the anti-democratic policies and anti-social behavior of the president. Her denunciation of the mob assault on the Capitol building absolves her of no responsibility.
Blackburn, an opportunist who has exploited deep social tension to ride a populist wave to power, is a manifestation of a political trend observed globally. More disturbing was the behavior of the senior senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, who served in the senate from 2003 to 2021. While exercising greater discretion, he and Blackburn are two peas in a pod regarding their voting record to support economic policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class as well as the vote against conviction in the impeachment trial of the president in the first two months of 2020. Alexander too was an enabler of the president and a silent witness to the president's rhetoric to continuously pit one American against another.
Most distressing and closest to home is the fact that Alexander served from 1988 to 1991 as the President of the University of Tennessee system, which is an institution with a mission of education and the improvement of the quality of life for all Tennesseans. We dwell on this point not just because his betrayal stings but because it clearly illustrates our point: people know the difference between right and wrong. Our elected leaders know this no less than any of the rest of us. They consciously act to maintain institutional policies that disadvantage the poor. They work to preserve and erect new barriers to social progress, to participation by many in the democratic process and to the principle of economic mobility, formerly known as the American Dream. They have known all along the consequences of their actions. It is important to recognize this calculated intent as we propose a robust motivation for amelioration.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (March 28, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)
January 9, 2021
In the early mental incubation of this epilogue, months before any writing was begun, one point that we hoped to clearly convey was the following:
People of all times know the difference between right and wrong.
When we consider injustices committed in the past, we often attempt to explain behavior at odds with the morality of contemporary culture by citing historical mores. Slavery of Africans and African Americans provides an unambiguous example from our not-so-distant history. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson owned more than six hundred slaves. When Jefferson raped his slave, Sally Hemings, sometimes referred to as a concubine by historians, and fathered her children, he knew that his actions were wrong. We can admit this immoral culpability without erasing his significant contributions to the founding of American government.
People of all times inherently know the difference between joy and misery, between liberty and subjugation. No one argues that the biological evolution of the physiological apparatus responsible for that portion of human essence, which we regard as a conscience, has abruptly manifested in modern times.
We want to leave a message for future generations of Americans, who study our own dark era in American history: we knew exactly what we were doing! Many contemporary citizens roundly condemned the actions of the president and his party of enablers, while many others looked on silently and no few accepted the invitation of the president to give voice to their most base vices.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (March 6, 2003, Manda-La 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)
January 10, 2021
Why should we work toward universal amelioration? Ultimately, the best answer we have found is that there is no tractable, superior alternative. Even we recognize that such an answer is resoundingly uninspirational! We explore three potentially more palatable arguments.
First, there is a nobility to maintain virtuous principles in the face of opposition. The more degrading the opposition, the greater the virtue in refusing to lower ourselves to the level of those who fight against our efforts. No one has more aptly captured this sentiment than former first lady, Michelle Obama, when she spoke these words, "When they go low, we go high."* For those who find succor in the exercise of virtue, they will find a limitless reservoir in the pursuit of universal amelioration.
Second, there is the reality that those who oppose universal amelioration shall continue to live in our midst. There is no other moral solution to this problem. This is the milieu in which we have been born and we must operate within it. In ages past, violent campaigns for the wholesale elimination of foes have undeniably been waged. We explicitly reject these extremist measures with the hope that they shall never again appear in the course of human civilization.
Third, universal amelioration faces such intransigent opposition that it could be regarded by some as a hopeless task. Here, we offer an argument for the most pessimistic among us. For those admirers of Don Quixote, who embodied the ethic that the right of the individual can stand against the wrong of society, taking up the work of universal amelioration can provide a meaningful frame for the narrative of one's life. Yes, we may be engaged in a futile task, doomed to failure, but what better way exists to spend the hours, days and years of one's life?
*Obama, Michelle, Speech to the Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016, full text.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (February 22, 2003, Plan B, Nakano-Fujimicho, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)
January 11, 2021
Having established the context for this epilogue and having accepted that those so inclined must devise a motivation, suitable to their individual disposition, to pursue universal amelioration, we now turn to formulating the mechanisms by which the goals of this work can be achieved. As a preliminary disclaimer, we note that like-minded individuals have been attempting since time immemorial to make the world a better place, with some success. (It is wrong-headed to argue that no progress has been made.) Human history is full of well-intentioned recipes. Do not be surprised, Gentle Reader, at the lack of originality in our own humble contribution! We merely restate what has already been long known for the purposes of making the path explicitly clear to ourselves and potentially to those errant readers who stumble upon this epilogue.
The law against which we fight is embedded in the physical reality of this universe and in the physiological structure of its inhabitants. "Survival of the fittest" is the path by which evolution blindly proceeds. The strong persist while the weak perish. It is no small challenge for the animal of man to shrug off his animal heritage. When men in positions of power prey on the vulnerable, who are slow, weak, perhaps poorly educated or with limited resources to counsel, they merely perpetuate the age-old Darwinian law.
It is the hypothesis of civilization that humanity possesses the wherewithal to rise above their base natures, that a society can be created in which an equality is possible, which stands in opposition to the principle of "might makes right". We now undertake to find a path along which this transformation of the very nature of Homo sapiens can be realized.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (December 13, 2002, Jerry Jeff, Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)
January 12, 2021
The first mechanism by which universal amelioration can be accomplished is universal public education. Democracy relies upon a well-educated citizenry to function properly. While the manifestation of no other government-funded endeavor may be as imperfect as is public education, it remains an essential function for the maintenance and development of civil society. Because, in our country, kindergarten through high school education is the responsibility of municipal governments, with budgets subject to numerous, competing demands, the fight for the necessary funding to accomplish this task must be continually waged. Teachers must be adequately compensated to attract quality applicants and to recognize the value of their labor. Schools must be maintained as facilities conducive to this noble calling. Attempts to siphon taxpayer money from public schools must be opposed. Efforts that seek to address existing social inequality in under-served communities must be supported.
The many earnest attempts to improve educational outcomes must continue to be explored. We offer no particulars, only an emphasis on the critical significance of public education and the admonition to continually seek to better the educational experience of our young people. Each generation must be prepared with the intellectual capacity to evaluate the alternatives offered to them by various political actors.
Let all our children be taught not only language and mathematics but science and history, because all of these disciplines are necessary to instill the repertoire of civic values required to perceive the value of universal amelioration. And let those who choose to fight the progress of universal amelioration do so, not out of ignorance, but from willful intent.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-7 (November 15, 2002, Tonic, New York City, United States, digital files)
January 13, 2021
The second mechanism to achieve universal amelioration is integration. Historically, we may regard desegregation as equivalent to integration. However, desegregation is associated with the dismantling of laws, which enforced racial segregation. Today, Americans exist in a culture not of explicit legal segregation but cultural segregation. Integration is the term to mitigate the degree of cultural segregation.
Perhaps it is also true that today's segregation, at a local level, is primarily driven by economic differences, with racial segregation arising due to correlations that exist between personal finances and race. City zoning ordinances, limiting housing density, become the de facto laws that encode cultural segregation. These codes arise, unsurprisingly, as a way for privileged individuals to maintain their wealth, including property wealth, at the expense of those less well off. We see again the competition between individual financial optimization and the social common good. Efforts to better integrate society culturally at a local level must continue.
However, the most disparate segregation in the country now occurs at the level of states. The liberal/conservative divide is significantly an urban/rural divide. States with large rural populations supported the racist and anti-democratic policies of the president because of the social isolation of their people. Perhaps, we can invent cultural exchange programs for young people, or federal work programs that provide recent graduates of high school or college with the opportunity to move to a different region of the country for a year, which effectively serves as a cultural exchange program. Here we venture well beyond our comfort zone. Such programs may already exist or better programs may have been proposed. The intention should be for cultural exchange across the urban/rural divide.
We don't have the answer, but we know that sharing daily experiences with people, who are regarded as an "other" in some regard, reveals our mutual humanity and breaks down barriers like no other activity can.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (October 17, 2002, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)
January 14, 2021
The third mechanism to achieve universal amelioration is providing security. Here we think not of national security from a military point of view, although such threats to life could certainly diminish the relative importance of efforts to make the world a better place. Instead, we think of social security. As a nation, we must provide everyone in both urban and rural areas a social safety net, sufficient to allow for proper nourishment, to prevent homelessness and to maintain health. We offer a quote that captures the consequences to society when people live in constant anxiety regarding food insecurity, threat of eviction or financial ruin due to a medical emergency.
An individual's cognitive resources are limited. The stress of not having enough money to meet urgent needs may actually impair the ability to take decisions that would help alleviate the situation. The limited stock of cognitive resources is depleted and this can lead people to make irrational decisions.*
In recent decades we have observed a significant statistical shift in private wealth to the most wealthy from all other segments of the population, including the shrinking middle class and the poor. At the same time, access to social programs has become increasingly restricted and limited. The combination of loss of private savings and diminished governmental assistance forces people to live on the edge of viability. They are, of course, conscious of their precipitous standing. This stress is real as are its effects. Many who have managed for years to continue in this condition have little sympathy for others subject to it. Rather than engendering a compassion for those who undergo similar misfortune, a hardened individual thinks, "If I have to struggle daily and live in fear, why should anyone else be spared?" Such thinking becomes an impetus to spread suffering.
*Stiglitz, Joseph, The Price of Inequality, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2012, p. 103.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 6-10 (October 17, 2002, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)
January 15, 2021
The fourth (and penultimate) mechanism to achieve universal amelioration is universal suffrage. We live in an era of extreme partisan gerrymandering of voting districts and the erection of administrative barriers to full participation of the adult citizenry in the democratic process. It seems self-evident to state that legislative actions by democratically elected representatives intended to bias the outcome of elections or reduce participation in elections is unproductive if not hypocritical. Attempts to disenfranchise eligible voters by requiring forms of identification disproportionately absent among certain categories of citizens is antithetical to American democracy.
The Republican party is the primary agent driving extreme gerrymandering and erecting voting barriers. They have argued that such efforts are necessary in the name of preventing voter fraud. If the attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election have shown us anything it is that Republicans, despite great efforts, are unable to produce evidence of any voter fraud in significant numbers to affect the outcome of our elections. This is because widespread voter fraud does not exist in contemporary American elections.
Automatic universal voter registration upon the age of eighteen should be adopted. All barriers to voting should be removed. Policies, such as that of our own state of Tennessee, which continue to prohibit mail-in ballots for the general population, should be abolished.
Because this country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, several times that of European countries, restoration of voting rights continues to be an issue. Policies are determined by state and vary from no loss of voting rights to effectively permanent loss of rights. The principle of universal suffrage suggests that, after the debt to society is paid, convicted felons should be able to participate in the democratic process again along with everyone else.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 11-16 (October 17, 2002, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)
January 16, 2021
The fifth and final item in our admittedly non-exhaustive recipe for universal amelioration is adherence to the "golden rule", a central tenet of the ethics of reciprocity. It is present in slightly varying formulations in many religious traditions and belief systems. In the New Testament, it is rendered
Therefore whatever you would have others do unto you, so do unto them. This is the law and the prophets. 1
while in The Analects it is expressed as the inverse "silver rule",
Tsze-kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." 2
That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind. 3
Or from the teaching of Jainism
In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self. 4
There is no need to either recoil or embrace religion. The golden rule appeals to and applies to all, believers and atheists alike. As the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre noted,
[N]othing can be better for us unless it is better for all. 5
1The Holy Bible, Matthew 7:12
2Confucius, The Analects, Book II, Ch. 7, translated by James Legge.
3Rost, H.T.D., The Golden Rule: A Universal Ethic, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1986, p. 100.
4Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara.
5Sartre, Jean-Paul, Existentialism is a Humanism, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007, pp. 291-292.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (March 31, 2002, Star Pines Cafe, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)
January 17, 2021
We have put forward our recipe for universal amelioration. As promised, it draws entirely from the reservoir of human experience. To be sure, there are those who may read the recipe and respond with scorn, dismissing it as a naïve childish fantasy or the dreams of an impossible utopia. To be clear, the recipe was not constructed by one ignorant of the willful calculations of the manifold foes of social progress. We accept that there exists among us a terrible willingness to surrender to the base, grotesque, natural tendencies of man to exploit the vulnerable for individual gain.
We live in this nation together, the more than eighty-one million citizens who voted for an alternative to the forty-fifth president and the seventy-four million who voted for a second term. When a significant fraction of the population has embraced a leader who unabashedly spews hate and foments division, continual wariness is warranted. Whatever victory was achieved in the denial of a second term to this president is tenuous. There is but a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. We cannot relax our guard.
Where possible collaboration can be attempted, though the predilection for behavior that is both self-destructive and damaging to the community as a whole, may limit what can be achieved in partnership. Even when a joint, bipartisan goal is identified, one cannot ignore the underlying calculus, motivating both parties. We cannot forget that seventy-four million of our fellow citizens preferred a leader offering deception and stoking rage and grievance. A maniacal, willful blindness remains a fundamental threat, waiting to rear its head when the next opportunity arises. As we work toward universal amelioration, vigilance cannot be abandoned at the expense of optimism.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (December 29, 2001, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 18, 2021
Today we celebrate a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. In the United States, there are currently only two federal holidays honoring individuals. That one of them commemorates a champion of social equality provides a reason for hope that our country as a whole moves in the right direction. The time scale associated with this change occurs on the span of generations. For young people who are impatient, we have great sympathy. In regard to all who act on their impatience, protesting and demanding change in more vociferous terms than we are inclined to do ourselves, we should remember that King identified the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom as the white moderate, who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom. Let us admire all those possessed of the drive to protest for freedom and for change. Let their protests be both peaceful and fruitful. Let those who damage the movement by exploiting demonstrations to loot and sow to chaos reconsider their actions. Let us remember that the whole value of living in flawed times is the opportunity to express and to make manifest one's convictions.
To those who doubt the strength of their own voice or who think that they lack authenticity to protest, let us also learn a lesson from the words of the German theologian, Martin Niemöller.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.*
Let all voices inclined to speak for justice, speak!
*Niemöller, Martin, "First they came for the socialists...", Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, c. 1950, link.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 2 (December 29, 2001, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 19, 2021
Each of us must find our own way to respond. For those, like me, who lack courage, we reflect on the words of a poet, Philip Levine, in this regard.
I know that the government in Washington is full of terrible people with terrible plans. They will murder people here and abroad to gain more power. Those who have dominated our country most of my adult life are interested in maintaining an empire, subjugating other people, enslaving them if need be, and finally killing those who protest so that wealthy and powerful Americans can go on enjoying their advantages over others. I'm not doing a thing about it. I'm not a man of action; It finally comes down to that. I'm not so profoundly moral that I can often overcome my fears of prison or torture or exile or poverty. I'm a contemplative person who goes in the corner and writes. What can we do? I guess we can hang on and encourage each other, dig in, protest in every peaceful way possible, and hope that people are better than they seem. *
Each of us must find our own way to respond. With a collection of disparate actions of like-minded but differently tempered individuals, one hopes that an environment, in which universal amelioration can flourish, is encouraged.
*Levine, Philip, interviewed by Mona Simpson, "The Art of Poetry No. 39" in The Paris Review, No. 107, Summer, 1988.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 3 (December 29, 2001, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
January 20, 2021
We began writing one page of this tetralogy on a daily basis on January 1, 2017. Today, on January 20, 2021, we write page 1,481, so please forgive us if we conclude this epilogue on a self-indulgent note. For those who question, as the author has more than once, whether the four books of the tetralogy serve any purpose relevant to the endeavor of universal amelioration, we offer the following thoughts.
The first book of the tetralogy, 2017: The Year of the Every-Day Magician, or A Second-Hand Account of the Rise and Fall of the Renegades of the American Muslim Registry (2017), is intended as an effort to speak out for the vulnerable. The second book, Piecemeal: Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living (2018), is an exercise in rising above the bad in an environment to cherish the good in one's own life. The third book, A Practicum on Divination via Cleromancy (2019), offers the opportunity to engage in a joint act of apophenia and introspection, as a way to construct a meaningful narrative in one's life, despite random processes and other external events beyond one's control. The final book, Shaharazad & the Ten-Thousand and One Diluvian Knights (2020), is an apocalyptic horror, which allows us to imagine alternatives to universal amelioration and to explore the ways that they fail.
Even as the Republican governor of our state, Bill Lee, in a show of fealty to the president, disregarded the pleas of medical leaders in Tennessee and refused to embrace public health common sense by issuing a state-wide mask mandate, the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing made these books and several others available for free, anonymous access during the pandemic so that quarantining readers could pass the days in a safe and (potentially) enjoyable manner.
Finally, we perceive the writing of these books, without regard for critical acclaim or financial renumeration, as a demonstration of pure, unfettered creativity. We imagine that what value we possess lies in the example we set to people, especially young people, who have been trained to see this sort of unrecognized activity as a waste of time. It remains a possibility that the world can be made a better place by individuals, working in the margins of culture, pursuing solitary endeavors, such as this one.
written while listening to: Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (July 26, 2001, The Doors, Hatsudai, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)
This work is made available to the public, free of charge and on an anonymous basis. However, copyright remains with the author. Reproduction and distribution without the publisher's consent is prohibited. Links to the work should be made to the main page of the tetralogy.