Monday, August 14, 2017


March is the three volume graphic novel of John Lewis’ account of his experiences in the civil rights movement.  Very powerful and very well done.  The final volume won the National Book Award, the first graphic novel to do so.  (Art Spiegelman’s Maus was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer.)

It was strange to be finishing the final volume at the same time Nazis were marching in Charlottesville VA [August 12, 2017].  Rereading "Violence does beget violence, but the opposite is just as true.  Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it” is useful to me in days like these.

March:  Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Marietta, GA:  Top Shelf Productions, 2013

(page 100-101)  Violence does beget violence, but the opposite is just as true.  Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it.

March, Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Marietta, GA:  Top Shelf Productions, 2015
ISBN 978-1-60309-400-9

(131)  While Dr King was in jail, Jim Bevel, who had left SNCC and joined SCLC, set out to organize and train Birmingham’s children. 

“What kinda movement are y’all trying to run here?  You guys are running a scam movement.”

Bevel went into black schools and churches, using the NBC white paper documentary “The Nashville Sit-In Story” - for which we had been interviewed back in 1960 - to teach hundreds of teenagers the techniques of nonviolence.

“In a movement, you don’t deal with the press - you act like there IS no press.  Otherwise you end up staging it.  A movement is when people actually do it out of _conviction_.”

March, Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Marietta, GA:  Top Shelf Productions, 2016
ISBN 978-1-60309-402-3

(61)  Title 18, section 594 of the United States code makes it a crime to interfere with the right to vote - that law has been on the books since 1948, but nobody has ever been prosecuted under it.  I doubt if there is a policeman of any sort in Mississippi who has not broken that law several times since 1948, but not one of them has been arrested and prosecuted for it.

(91)  In Mississippi that summer (1964) we suffered more than 1000 arrests, 80 beatings, 35 shootings, 35 church burnings, and 30 bombings.

Doctors who evaluated volunteers returning home from Freedom Summer described the symptoms of the emotional and phusical toll as “battle fatigue,” marking “a crisis in the lives of those youths who experience them.”

(136-137)  [John Lewis meets Malcolm X in Nairobi, the last time they talked]  Malcolm talked about the need to shift our focus from race to class, both among one another and between ourselves and the white community.

He said he believed THAT was the root of our problems, not just in America, but all over the world.

Malcolm was saying, in effect, that it is a struggle for the POOR - for those who have been left out and left behind - and that it transcends race.

“I support what you’re doing in the South.  Don’t give up.  This is an ongoing struggle.  Be prepared for the worst, but keep it up - keep fighting.  Peopl are are changing.  There are people all over the world supporting you."

(139)  All the things that made SNCC what it was - decentralized leadership, consensus-driven decision making, respect for individuality - were now tearing it apart.

(159)  [teachers deciding to march in Selma, January 1965]  Besides, how can we teach American civics when we can’t vote?!
NB:  That’s fixed now.  We don’t teach American civics.

(173) Selma police:  “You just doin’ this for the cameras.”

 CT Vivian, long time civil rights campaigner:  “No, it’s a matter of facing your sheriff and facing your judge.  We’re willing to be beaten for democracy.”

Making good trouble, necessary trouble.

(181)  Speech at Jimmie Lee Jackson’s funeral on March 3, 1965 by Martin Luther King Jr:  “He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who practices lawlessness in the name of law.  He was murdered by the irresponsibiity of every politician, from governors on down, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.  He was murdered by the cowardice of every negro who passively accepts the evils of segregation, and who stands on the sidelines in the struggle for justice."

(222-223)  LBJ’s Voting Rights Act Address on Monday, March 15, 1965:  Wherever there is discrimination, this law will strike down all restrictions used to deny people the right to vote - if state officials refuse to cooperate, then citizens will be registered by Federal officials.

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.  At times, history and fate meet at a single time, in a single place, to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.  So it was at Lexington and Concord.  So it was a century ago at Appomattox - so it was last week in Selma, Alabama.  There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans.  Many of them were brutally assaulted.  One good man - a man of god [Rev James Reeb] - was killed.

But there is cause for hope - and for faith in our democracy - in what is happening here tonight.  For the cries of pain, and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government.  In our time, we have come to live with the moments of great crisis.  Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression, but rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself.

The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue.  And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue - then we will have failed as a people, and as a nation.  For, with a country as with a person, “what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

There is no Negro problem.  There is no Southern problem.  There is no Northern problem.  There is only an American problem.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

In Search of the Warrior Spirit

In Search of the Warrior Spirit by Richard Strozzi-Heckler 
Berkeley, CA:  North Atlantic Books, 1990, 1992, 2003

(16-17)  The sentry at the gate today is a woman.  First, the obvious question, "Does 'warrior' include both men and women?"  Jack and I both agree yes.  For the warrior power arises from a source that does not rely on a sexual hierarchy or, for that matter, any hierarchy.  It's a power of self-knowing, self-educating, and self-accepting free from trends or tyrannies, including gender.  The warrior is connected with him- or herself.  And only from that connection does he or she connect to others and the environment.

(19)  During conversations with both active duty and retired career officers, I often hear their concern about the loss of warrior virtues in an increasingly technology-oriented military.  While millions of dollars are spent developing robots to fight wars, the role of the soldier is quickly being reduced to that of technocrat and computer operator.  It gradually became clear that the officers and men who supported our program with the Special Forces were the ones hoping to reconnect the military with the traditional warrior virtues of service, courage, selflessness, loyalty, and commitment.

(28)  This sounds like my message:  Relax, breathe properly, work with one's energy.  They know this, yet how can I deepen it?  I need to discover their point of weakness, bring it to awareness, and then let it become their strength.

(90)  "Joel makes the grade in our book because he's genuine.  He doesn't try to be something he's not.  He is who he is."

(151)  I also realize that I'm envious of the closeness and bonding these men have with one another.  They have a genuineness in their closeness which shows a deep love and care.  It's also true - terribly true - that even though they are in a peacetime Army - their degree of intimacy and self-mastery could mean the difference between life and death, for them, their teammates, or even a good-sized part of an entire population.  This perspective of life and death, of having everything count, is the view of the warrior, and, as narrow-minded as these men may be, it adds an element of responsibility and impeccability to their lives that seems sadly missing for most people.

(183)  William Faulkner:  "You don't love because:  you love despite;  not for the virtues, but despite the faults."

(202)  Nietzsche, _The Wanderer and His Shadow_:  "Rather perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared."

Tuchman, _The March of Folly_:  "Why do we invest all our skills and resources in a contest for armed superiority, which can never be attained for long enough to make it worth having, rather than in an effort  to find a modus vivendi with our antagonist - that is to say, a way of living, not dying?"

(216)  ...Thomas White's tale about entering his first dojo in Okinawa while serving in the Army in 1963:

"For what reason do you come?" the Master asked him.
"I have come to learn the art of self-defense," he replied.
"And which self do you wish to defend?" he responded.

(245)  Brainwave training, getting to alpha:

Others, significantly, Vietnam veterans, have a much more difficult time.  Combat veterans seem not only to have anesthetized their capacity for Alpha in order to cope with the stress of battle, but to continue to defend against openness and relaxation as unmanageable, and perhaps too vulnerable a state.  It occurs to me that this training would be an excellent way to work with post-traumatic stress syndrome so common among veterans.  They would be able to relearn their Alpha capabilities in a safe, supportive environment.

(337)  An alumni writes about his experiences in the First Gulf War:

"About Trojan Warrior [Strozzi-Heckler's training program]... during the last several months I have encountered, time and again, the unwillingness of the majority of my co-workers, and about all of my superiors, to know themselves and to live in reality.  'Pretending not to know,' I think, may well be a crucial factor in military sociology.  [During the Trojan Warrior Project we had a sign in the classroom that said, "What are you pretending not to know?" which we pointed to when we felt there was denial or irresponsibility present.]  The greatest vulnerability is to deny one's own shortcomings to the degree that one is entirely blind to them.  This denial is almost universal in Special Forces.  At this stage in my life, especially having experienced four and half years of real growth in recovery, I am nearly exasperated by the immaturity and dysfunction that hits me in the face like a bucket of gravel, every day."

(371)  ....courage is a morally neutral virtue.  We are called upon, individually and as a people, to re-examine our lives and priorities.  We must close ranks, watch each other's backs, and in doing so not back down from building a mature democracy.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Rereading my notes on this book after a recent contretemps that Nassim Nicholas Taleb involved himself in, his twitter battle with historian Mary Beard, I realized that Taleb cultivates enemies as a self-development tactic or, possibly, strategy.  Interesting way to go through life;  however, having met Taleb at one of his readings, he is probably the most arrogant man I've ever met and perhaps that is  the only real use he has for other people.

The Bed of Procrustes:  Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
NY:  Random House, 2010
ISBN 978-1-4000-6997-2

(6)  A generous act is precisely what should aim at no reward, neither financial nor social nor emotional;  deontic (unconditional observance of duties), not utilitarian (aiming at some collective - or even individual - gains in welfare).  There is nothing wrong with “generous” acts that elicit a “warm glow” or promise salvation to the giver;  these are not to be linguistically conflated with deontic action, those emanating from pure sense of duty.

(11)  You never win an argument until they attack your person.

(12)  I wonder whether a bitter enemy would be jealous if he discovered that I hated someone else.

(21)  To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.

(23)  You don’t become completely free by just avoiding to be a slave;  you also need to avoid becoming a master.

(26)  The differences between slaves in Roman and Ottoman days and today’s employees is that slaves did not need to flatter their boss.

(27)  You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.

(31)  The twentieth century was the bankruptcy of the social utopia;  the twenty-first will be that of the technological one.

(39)  sprezzatura

(40)  We are hunters;  we are only truly alive in those moments when we improvise;  no schedule, just small surprises and stimuli from the environment.

For everything, use boredom in place of a clock, as a biological wristwatch, though under constraints of politeness.

(45)  A good maxim allows you to have the last word without even starting a conversation.

(50)  We are better at (involuntarily) doing out of the box than (voluntarily) thinking out of the box.

(53)  Many are so unoriginal they study history to find mistakes to repeat.

(56)  The sucker’s trap is when you focus on what you know and what others don’t know, rather than the reverse.

(58)  Randomness is indistinguishable from complicated, undetected, and undetectable order;  but order itself is indistinguishable from artful randomness.

(62)  My biggest problem with modernity may lie in the growing separation of the ethical and the legal.*
*Former US Treasury secretary “bankster” Robert Rubin, perhaps the biggest thief in history, broke no law.  The difference between legal and ethical increases in a complex system… then blows it up.

(64)  You can only convince people who think they can benefit from being convinced.

Trust people who make a living lying down or standing up more than those who do so sitting down.

(65)  If you lie to me, keep lying;  don’t hurt me by suddenly telling the truth.

(68)  Just as dyed hair makes older men less attractive, it is what you do to hide your weaknesses that makes them repugnant.

(71)  When conflicted between two choices, take neither.

(73)  Passionate hate (by nations and individuals) ends by rotation to another subject of hate;  mediocrity cannot handle more than one enemy.  This makes warring stateliness with shifting alliances and enmities a robust system.

(75)  Games were created to give nonheroes the illusion of winning.  In  real life, you don’t know who really won or lost (except too late), but you can tell who is heroic and who is not.

(76)  Fragility:  we have been progressively separating human courage from warfare, allowing wimps with computer skills to kill people without the slightest risk to their lives.

(78)  It takes extraordinary wisdom and self-control to accept that many things have a logic we do not understand that is smarter than our own.

They think that intelligence is about noticing things that are relevant (detecting patterns);  in a complex world, intelligence consists in ignoring things that are irrelevant (avoiding false patterns).

The best way to spot a charlatan:  someone (like a consultant or a stockbroker) who tells you what to do instead of what _not_ to do.

(80)  The ancients knew very well that the only way to understand events was to cause them.

(88)  You can be certain that the head of a corporation has a lot to worry about when he announces publicly that “there is nothing to worry about."

(96)  A verbal threat is the most authentic certificate of impotence.

(99)  Bad-mouthing is the only genuine, never faked expression of admiration.

(102)  You will get the most attention from those who hate you.  No friend, no admirer, and no partner will flatter with as much curiosity.

(103)  A good foe is far more loyal, far more predictable, and, to the clever, far more useful than the most valuable admirer.

(106)  Counter to the common discourse, _more information means more delusions_…

(109)  Outside of what we now call religion, take the aphorisms of Heraclitus and Hippocrates;  the works of Publilius Syrus (a Syrian slave who owed his freedom to his eloquence, expressed in his _Sententiae_, potent one-line poems that echo in the maxims of La Rochefoucauld), and the poetry of the poet who is broadly considered the greatest of all Arab poets, Almutanabbi.

(111)  As a teenager, I was mentored by the poet Georges Schéhadé (his poetry reads like proverbs)…