Excuse me for stating the bleeding obvious, this late in the most repugnant election campaign in America’s history… But here it is. The media have spent a lot of time, a lot of ‘ink’ on repeating how Trump is a serial liar, a misogynist, a bankrupt, a racist, etc. (you all know the litany)… But they have, in total, as a group, spent virtually not a minute, discussing Trump’s utter bankruptcy as regards policy, either existing or envisioned. They have not meaningfully, substantively, compared one scrap of his political experience or knowledge, either as regards domestic issues or foreign, with that of Hillary Clinton. Heck, they haven’t even detailed his policies on their own merits, leaving comparisons out of the equation. They have reported his every nasal sniff, his every insult and gaffe, even the rambling, incoherent blather that he presented as ‘debate’ on (inter)national television, and have condemned him, rightly, for all his blatant faults, including his inciting his followers to violence. But not one article laying out and assessing Trump’s ideology and policy. And yes, I can state the obvious: that they have not done so because he has no insight, no policy, and virtually no knowledge of government, or domestic or foreign policy. But what is more surprising to me – even shocking – is that his lack of knowledge, policy, vision and experience never, ever, became what it should have been in this election – the PRIME reason to disqualify him as a credible presidential candidate. In fact, we know that he has run for office, and run his entire campaign, and garnered ENDLESS attention based on his utter bankruptcy, and his blatant compensation for this lack with one vice after another. And NO-ONE has eviscerated him for this. The Emperor who has no clothes has simply waved his willy at the cameras for the entire campaign, and is now probably holed up in the Trump Tower waving his willy at New York. Because it has worked for him. And he has absolutely nothing else to offer. Thank you, America, for this circus of absurd, ugly idiocy, in which you have not asked Trump any of the questions that need answering by a candidate for president. What hitherto unknown drug were you all smoking that put you in this utterly stupid haze? How did you manage, and how can you justify having failed so spectacularly?
On Saturday just past, a group of like-minded people in my city sat down to write letters of support to Wallonia, the district of Belgium holding fast against the signing of the CETA Investor-State ‘trade’ deal. Here is my letter, in thanks for their principled and courageous stand for their rights, culture, economy and democracy.
Dear President-Minister, Paul Magnette:
I write to you in thanks and support for your principled stance against the CETA (AECG) deal. As a Canadian, I, among thousands, have been opposing CETA for many years. Particularly, we oppose the Investor-State, Investor-Court system written into this deal.
Canadians opposed to this deal know that it allows corporations and investors to sue us (in our case, from the federal level right down to the municipal) for perceived threats to their profits. Our government, like yours, has no recourse to sue investors who damage our economy, our public services, our industries and environment – among many other negative impacts of their focus solely on profit. We Canadians resist what is essentially a trade model for corporate/investor protectionism. Such protectionism would be condemned if demanded by a country. And yet, all countries need protection against this narrow focus on the advancement of corporate interests and intrusion of one nation’s power into another sovereign nation.
We know, and Canadian negotiator Chrystia Freeland knows, the dangers of granting such powers to investors, even with a so-called open-court tribunal, as is being written into an addendum to the CETA. Freeland has, prior to taking her position as Trade Minister, written against the dangerous power of plutocracies, in her book “Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-rich, and the Fall of Everyone Else” published in 2012.
Please do not give in to compromise or the coercion pressing you to accept this deeply-flawed CETA agreement. Stand strong, protect yourselves and your economy, and assert your rights. We are behind you and take heart from your courage.
Thanking you in deepest sincerity,
Trump has slotted himself into a common role in American culture, especially for the rabid right, joining lesser maniacs like Bill O’Reilly. He is a Jeremiah, a figure who laments the degeneracy of the present (you know, Mexicans, Blacks not knowing their place, Mexican rapists and drug dealers, Muslim terrorists in every apple-pie neighbourhood) and compares it to some Golden Past. That past never existed, and proof that it did is not necessary. It only has to be summoned up in the minds of fearful, ignorant racists who want to reduce a complex world into something small and black-and-white, preferably controlled and ordered by their violence and guns. Wishful thinking, racism and cowardice are thus transformed into something pretending to be ideology. This is what the Republican Party has done to itself. Populism, in their hands, coupled with a raging desire to grab the reins of power, has turned into toxic rage, fueled by ignorance and lies. The bigger the lie, the better. And there is none bigger than Trump, an imitation of that clown, Mussolini.
Trump has managed to plug into the ignorance and bigotry of a percentage of the American people, but he has nothing else with which to maintain power. He has no legions of brownshirts, no coherent, unified vision, no Gestapo infiltrating, intimidating and murdering opponents and dissenters. The petty egotism that drives him is not sufficient to make him a leader – even a sociopathic, perverse one.
But there is one way in which Trump echoes Hitler. At the approaching end of a world war in which Hitler almost conquered the planet, Hitler spent his days madly screaming about the ‘super weapons’ that Germany was building, which would ensure his victory. Terminally damaged in body and mind, Hitler hallucinated a power he no longer had. Likewise, but without any war victories, without any long tests of his endurance and vision, Trump is similarly squawking “I’m gonna build a wall. I’m gonna build a wall” as if that will be his crowning achievement once he becomes president. Hitler ended his reign totally deluded. Trump began his bid for power just as deluded. He is an oaf, an emperor without a stitch of clothing, a serial bankrupt, an utter clown with delusions of grandeur. Even if he were to become president (my intuition tells me) he would self destruct in the effort to carry out his responsibilities as the most powerful leader on the planet. His presidency would echo the string of bankruptcies for which he is famous. Which makes sense. He is ethically, ideologically and intellectually bankrupt already.
I tell everyone who reads – well, anyone over the age of 16 – that this book is a masterpiece and a must-read. It is not, however, “a light beach read,” unless your beach is a desert island and you are comfortable with writing that challenges, surprises, and makes you ponder imponderables.
I might be biased, but I can’t imagine anyone not being impressed by a book that begins this powerfully: “On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time before him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there he wer then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy.”
This is the language of the entire novel – of a barely-literate far-flung future. I know of few novels that can transport you into an alien time and space so completely, bringing alive the main character, a sense of history and of ragged dystopia in less than the first paragraph. This is a novel where every word has been tested, measured, savoured and put in its rightful place. With all the intensity of true poetry, Riddley Walker presents a haunting, addictive tale of the post-nuclear age.
Set in England, (now known as “Inland”) 2,000 years or so after nuclear devastation, the novel follows the protagonist, Riddley Walker as he inherits the status of “connexion man” after the sudden death of his father, also a connexion man. His father has been crushed by a “girt big black thing” of iron, which Riddley and crew have been working to excavate and salvage out of a deep, muddy ditch. Yet, with a kind of medieval stoicism, Riddley carries on, tough as nails at the age of 12, and struggles with his first attempts to make connections – between signs in the world about them, incidents like his father’s death, the coming of the wild boar onto his spear followed by a wild dog running onto the same spear – “The far come close took by the littl come big” (Riddley coming to his naming day). Driven by enigma itself, Riddley then embarks on a ten day journey of discovery in a world rent and riven and grimed.
Leaving his tribal community, he traverses an unknown world, in search of some unknown resolution. Parallel to his physical journey runs the metaphysical, versified journey of his mind – and the communal mind of the post-apocalyptic Inland – told in traveling puppet plays, Punch-and-Judy style, and chanted doggerel. The myths and rhymes tell of Mr. Clever (who harnessed nuclear power) and the Puter Leats (computer elite) who ruled the world, long before. It is easy to understand what is meant by “the Little Shyning Man the Addom” and natural to shudder inwardly at the absurd and tragic nursery-rhyme tale of humanity’s destruction which Riddley ponders on as he journeys, circling, through Inland, after some resolution or meaning he cannot even begin to shape.
Riddley Walker essentially epitomizes and personifies the tracing out of myth and riddles created by a medieval populace as a way to make sense of utter destruction and near bestial survival after cataclysm. Riddley traces out his “Fools Circel,” shadowed by the subliminally menacing figures of Goodparley and Orfing, who travel with their Punch and Judy show, representatives of a newly growing order and government. If they are the manipulative pablum of television, then Riddley himself is the heart of speech and consciousness, the heart after meaning, in a world perhaps beyond redemption.
The novel offers no comfort in resolution, no triumph over the odds. This book is not the stuff of Hollywood “save the world” movies. Our comfort is only the figure of Riddley, an undaunted infant, walking his circle, and writing out the riddle of life as he understands it. Ultimately, too, the reader has the strange comfort of having been enriched by some of the most odd and powerful language ever captured between the covers of a book. Its beauty and originality will haunt you as much as the lone, lovable, primitive figure of Riddley Walker, who has walked into cult status.
You Are Invited
What: The London Writers Society Inaugural Authors Day. Six featured local authors will speak about their writing and be available for book signings.
When: Civic Holiday Monday (Aug. 1) from noon to 3:00 p.m.
Where: The Chapters Book Store, 1037 Wellington Road, London, Ontario (519) 685-1008.
Who: Six local authors whose storytelling stands among best-selling authors.
Featured authors are:
· Pat Brown, prolific author of gritty detective mysteries and historical fiction.
· Elaine Cougler, award-winning author of a historical fiction trilogy based on the Loyalists.
· Colin Forbes, writer of a thought-provoking autobiography about his work as a physician on four continents.
· Rita Hartley, author of a compelling memoir about trekking back from loss to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
· John Matsui, award-winning writer who’s won critical acclaim for his urban fantasies and thrillers.
· Aldous Richards, author of acclaimed sci-fi literature.
Why: Fans around the world know these talented writers.
The London Writers Society wants to introduce their works to a wider local audience.
What Reviewers are saying about:
KRONOS DUET by Aldous Richards – “It will leave you breathless.”
LATE BITE by John Matsui – “Kept me up all night.”
LONG CLIMB BACK by Rita Hartley – “Clever and witty and inspiring throughout.”
FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART by Dr. Colin Forbes – “(Forbes is) deserving of the word – humanitarian”
THE LOYALIST’S WIFE by Elaine Cougler – “Her storytelling ability is awesome.”
L.A. HEAT by Pat Brown – “Brutal, Thrilling, Romantic and HOT.”
People, including scientists, use metaphor or analogy to explain the unknown, or the thing being researched. Scientists use metaphors based on things they understand and can explain, to help them get at the apparent reality of phenomena they can’t understand. Interestingly, one of the biggest failures of language, thus of metaphor, created a mudhole in which scientists flopped around for a long time. That metaphor was the description of light as a wave. Scientists had a grasp of how liquid waves worked; how larger waves carried more power than smaller waves, and so on. This understanding was applied to help them get at the nature of light.
The accepted ‘truth’, that light traveled in waves, was nothing more than a language construct extrapolated from something reasonably well understood and applied to something not very well understood. This became ‘reality,’ the concept within which all study of light was conducted. Mathematics, another language, proved that this concept was right. And yet, there was a problem. Experiments with the power of light, its colour and the size of the wave, showed that, contrary to the water wave metaphor, ultra-violet waves, which were small, had more power to displace electrons than red or yellow light waves, which were larger. Theoretical and applied science could not explain this. Language and mathematics failed at this juncture.
It took one man, Albert Einstein, thinking in different language, to give birth to modern physics. He found the wave metaphor insufficient and replaced it with another; that light consisted of, or behaved like, particles. From this new use of language and metaphor, quantum physics was born. Just as mathematics proved that scientists before Einstein were ‘right’ about light behaving like a wave, it took new mathematics to prove that Einstein was not a lunatic. Mathematics upheld Einstein’s new metaphor. Now, scientists use both metaphors; in essence, showing us through language that light is both wave and particle.
It is a long and complicated journey from there to the explorations of quantum physics and sub-atomic particles articulated by Neils Bohr and Shrödinger. That’s where I start to falter, and grope in a forest dimly lit. But I don’t feel too bad. I don’t have the metaphors down yet. And even Einstein had his troubles here.
As Luke Mastin writes, in his physics website http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_quantum_probability.html
Einstein‘s position was not so much that quantum theory was wrong as that it must be incomplete. He insisted to his dying day that the idea that a particle’s position before observation was inherently unknowable (and, particularly, the existence of quantum effects such as entanglement as a result of this) was nonsense and made a mockery of the whole of physics. He was convinced that the positions and quantum states of particles (even supposedly entangled particles) must already have been established before observation. However, the practical impossiblity of experimentally proving this argument one way or another made it essentially a matter of philosophy rather than physics.
Philosophy, language, metaphor, mathematics… the spiral continues, never repeating or returning to the same place, yet cycling those elements, the major foundations of consciousness and modern science.
So true. But a secretary with a profound love and respect for words. That’s key. The writer, following characters and seeing the narrative, still must make the perfect choices as to words, style, voice, metaphor, foreshadowing, suspense, dialogue, story arc, characterization and more. Without all those choices as the novelist’s responsibility, he or she would just be a secretary without a clue.
The only direction in the universe, if theoretical physics is right, is ‘expanding.’ Outside of that theory, there is absolutely no direction, no up or down, left or right in our universe, or any universe. It is all relative, to the most infinite degree, rendering direction meaningless, except in direct relation to the observer used to habits of thinking.
Imagine floating in space. You look left. Is it left? You look up. Is it up? By what measure, by what compass points? A friend posited to me this ‘solution’: that ‘down’ is the direction of strongest gravitational pull in whatever part of space you happen to be. In other words, the baddest gravitational pull equals down, and away from that equals up. But look at this notion as it plays out throughout the universe. A simple example will do. One astronaut, on one planet, looks ‘upward’ from the planet surface. Another astronaut on another planet, looks upward also, but her up is in the opposite direction to the first astronaut’s because of where she stands on the planet, and where that planet is in relation to the other. Repeat this placement of these two astronauts, ad infinitum, at all possible points on the spherical planetary surfaces. It is obvious, from this example, that up and down are utterly, inescapably relativistic and thus meaningless. Move those two astronauts thousands of light years away, in any ‘direction’ and place them, again, on separate planets. The same conundrum is evidenced. There are infinite possibilities to call up or down. Ultimately, there is no up, down, north, east, west or south in the universe. We care about compass points. The universe doesn’t.
Recently, an article discussed a possible, apparent alignment of nebulae, like so: “Most planetary nebulae are roughly spherical; they’re not visibly “aligned” with anything. One especially spectacular subclass, however, is more hourglass-shaped, and when Rees and his colleague Albert Zijlstra examined this particular kind, the long dimensions of the clouds pointed more or less in the same direction. “They’re not exactly aligned,” he says, “but they’re not random.”
“Rees and Zijlstra have an idea. The interstellar cloud of gas and dust out of which stars form in the first place spreads out into a disk shape and then condenses, with the newly formed star toward the center of a platter of leftover dust swirling around it. That dust often forms planets. If the collapse happens in the presence of a strong magnetic field, the collapsing disk could be forced to align with that field.
Since the nebulae Rees and Zijlstra looked at in this study are located toward the dense core of the Milky Way, there might well have been strong magnetic fields present when the original stars formed. Double stars and single stars with belts of dust might thus have been lined up with the plane of the Milky Way right from birth—an effect that wouldn’t happen further out from the core of the galaxy, where Earth is located.”
So, if the possibility that some nebulae seem to have somewhat aligned with a strong magnetic force at the core, with the plane of the Milky Way, suggests direction, is that direction down, up, in, out, north, south, east west, south-south east…? you get my drift. Even the apparent core of the universe is not an indicator of place/direction in the way we see things from our planetary perspective.
Even if we could absolutely, unequivocally pinpoint the exact core of our universe, where would we say it is, in our own expanding universe, let alone relative to all the galaxies and universes seen and possible? It is neither up, down, left , right, or any compass point you could name, because there is no context within which to decide direction. Our universe may be expanding from its core, but the only directional/spatial point we could possibly use to indicate the place of that core is ‘here’ or ‘there’ with an arrow on a photograph. Strange, how infinite space does that. It destroys even human vocabulary. The mind, appropriately, boggles.
Some people wonder why I make such an issue out of language use. I can give two answers. One, I’m a writer, so it really matters to me. Two, can you imagine A Tale of Two Cities opening with, “It was dope, and it also really sucked.” ?