Welcome to Issue Ten, "...the number of the Pythagorean TETRAKTYS, the sum of the first four digits (1 + 2 + 3 + 4)," possessing "the sense of totality, of fulfilment and that of a return to oneness after the evolution of the cycle of the first nine digits. The Pythagoreans regarded ten as the holiest of numbers...Ten as the number of which sums up all things, finds its place in the Ten Commandments, symbolising the fulfilment of the Law in a dacalogue which is a single commandment." Thus saith my bible, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. (Not so keen on the Ten Commandments bit, however!)
The good news is that Ol' Chanty seems to be gathering more and more readers. Only a couple of days ago (27th. March), 366 people clicked in to it in just 24 hours, which is twice as many as had done so before and the trend is definitely upwards. (To be honest, 366 refers to the Page-Views, rather than the Unique Visitors, who amounted to about 100. Well, at least that means they were turning the pages!) I guess the Internet is the most efficient way of spreading the word and extending the grapevine of gossip whereby reputations are built. However, I would like to ask all these new readers - if readers they be, and not passing traffic - to send in work of their own if they feel like it - poetry, essays, short stories, novel-excerpts, reviews and so on. It's all grist to Ol' Chanty's mill.
For some reason I don't seem to get very much work from women. Sadly, in this issue there are no women. It's not that Ol' Chanty is "an equal opportunities employer", but I do look for balance. Ever since reading the following passage by George Steiner, the thought has crossed my mind that the name Ol' Chanty and the logo create an aggressive male impression. In an essay called Two Cocks, Steiner writes, "The cock is Chaucer's Chaunticleer. He is herald of dawn. If he fails to crow, legend had it, the sun will not rise. His argent flourish both announces and hails the daily miracle of light. His sexual prowess - in English "cock" designates the male organ - enacts the life-giving potencies of the sun, the burst into heat which procreates life. In Gallic consciousness, the cock's strutting pride is that of a nation in flashing arms, in glory, where, in turn, gloire is kindred to sunlight. Through western practice and iconography, cocks' feathers adorn the head-dress of the warrior and the virile lover. On our weather-vanes, the rooster tells of wind and weather, directing our notice skywards. Spurred, he engages in ferocious combat and sexual mastery." Need I go on? Is it not possible, (I ask myself) that the name Ol' Chanty, like Chanticleer Magazine before it, not to mention the logo, carries unconscious associations which actually discourage women from sending work in? It's a question I cannot answer, but I certainly hope it isn't the case.
Finally, I have contributed an essay in two separate parts for this issue. Had I received more prose, I might not have done so. I hope, Dear Reader, that you do not find this too much of a burden.
Poem David Plumb
Essay (Part One) Richard Livermore
Poem David Cooke
Quote Joseph Sobran
Poems Richie McCaffery
Quote Bishop Desmond Tutu
Poem Ted Jackson
Essay (Part Two) Richard Livermore
Poem/s Joe Mismo
Obituary Paul Murphy
POEM - David Plumb
And That’s the News
Tony Galina can't sleep.
Damp, sweaty, getting ready to triage
a thick eruption explodes in his ears
and he can't find his medical kit.
Blood on his face and hands.
Not his blood, but whose
and he snaps awake on the street
where the long blocks lie flat and cold.
The empty morning air
feels cold and eerie and he
thinks himself inside a plastic
shopping bag. People talk about him.
He’s in the news and the microphone
clicks by his left ear and says,
“Tommy Galina, son of a…”
‘Bitch,’” he cuts in.
By noon he’s sipping Night Train
Between his thumb and forefinger.
the picture of his eight month
old son stares at him
“It isn't the same,” she said.
Her brown eyes sparkled at the wedding
Her black hair, her smile
a little song that never goes away.
A tall woman in a black suit walks by.
A fat man’s brown trench coat flaps at his ankles
Polished shoes, leather briefcases, cell phones.
Cool teenage boys run for the subway.
“What the hell,” Tommy Galina shouts and all
along the avenues he hears the distant hum
the incoming heat, the snap and crack
the tinkle of shrapnel to steel.
He hears voices, he smells old blood
He sees Abelman his best buddy lying
in the blank god damn Iraqi sun with a hole
where his face was and no right shoulder.
The shelter line stretches a hundred feet from yesterday.
He hopes they don't run out of cream-filled donuts
Somebody up the line said no more donuts.
The air smells like old sweat, wine, weed and lima beans.
It seems like the whole god damn world stands in line.
Tommy Galina stands behind a short blond woman
thirty maybe forty-three, he thinks
staring at the back of her neck
where the curls curl and a small mole
grows near her left shoulder.
“Who knows?” he says out loud
and the woman turns, her pale
blue eyes, wary but resigned.
ALGORITHMS OF THE PAST
According to my Microsoft Dictionary, an algorithm is 1) “a problem-solving procedure: a logical step-by-step procedure for solving a mathematical problem in a finite number of steps, often involving repetition of the same basic operation” and 2) “a problem-solving computer program: a logical sequence of steps for solving a problem, often written out as a flow chart, that can be translated into a computer program”. The three things to isolate and stress here are the finite number of steps involved, the element of repetition and the analogy of the computer.
The mathematical physicist, Roger Penrose, in the Emperor’s New Mind, makes a distinction between Consciousness (Non-algorithmic) and Mind (Algorithmic). Perhaps we can refine this distinction by drawing on a similar one made by the Sankhya School of Hindu thought between Consciousness (Purusha) and the Mind/Body Complex (Prakrti), for what Penrose means by Mind are precisely those aspects of it that are in some way related to the body through the formation of habits and reflexes which can be learnt over time or which are automatic. In this sense, the Mind part of the Mind/Body Complex is a kind of Turing-Machine, which can function only in algorithmic ways. Penrose wants to distinguish between Consciousness and all those functions of the mind which can be duplicated (and improved upon) by computers whose functioning is 100% algorithmic. He believes those functions of the mind are directly related to the physical medium of the brain by means of algorithms which the brain can process in much the same way that information gets processed by a computer. A hardware-software analogy is obviously appropriate here. However, according to Penrose, Consciousness itself is not subject to these processes and has an autonomy and freedom which does not depend on them. Of course, the precise connection between these two things is as yet problematic, but it is an interesting line of thought and one I believe worth exploring.
The first question to deal with in respect to the above and its relation to what follows is to what extent the term “algorithm” is being used metaphorically in the following essay and to what extent literally. This, I believe, depends on whether we are talking about the way the brain processes information or whether we are actually discussing the content of an idea or thought or feeling or sensation, et cetera. In the first case, if Penrose is right, we are talking about literal algorithms, but in the second metaphorical ones, which, nonetheless, like literal algorithms, have strictly demarcated and limited boundaries. Things as remote from each other as syllogisms - i.e. “Socrates is a man, all men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal. ” - Descartes’ “clear and distinct ideas”, the desirable body you have managed to bed for the night, someone’s taste for MacDonald’s hamburgers, your tendency wince at pain or liking for a particular kind of music, are metaphorical algorithms. On the other hand, an experience which would beggar all efforts to understand or express it would be an experience of something which, metaphorically speaking, was non-algorithmic. It is necessary to make this distinction before we really get going.
The question of which came first - the algorithmic Mind-Body Complex or non-algorithmic Consciousness seems on the face of it quite easy to answer - if you fall for the received ‘wisdom’ of ‘science’ that is. Such ‘wisdom’ would undoubtedly be that the Mind-Body Complex is the foundation of Consciousness and that Consciousness is an emergent quality of the Mind-Body Complex. However, if Penrose is right, that begs the question of how algorithms can spontaneously generate non-algorithms out of themselves. Can the algorithmic procedures of the Mind-Body Complex produce the non-algorithmic processes of Consciousness? Of course, we’re not talking here about the conscious use of algorithmic or logical procedures to arrive at conclusions which require a finite number of steps to arrive at, but the more spontaneous behaviour of Consciousness that one might find in creative inspiration or sudden insight - to take just two examples. The question which interests me here is this: if one cannot derive non-algorithmic Consciousness directly from the algorithms of the Mind-Body Complex, where does Consciousness come from? And how does it emerge? That question in my opinion points to the real mystery of Consciousness.
For Penrose, everything that might be said to belong to the Mind-Body Complex is algorithmic. That might include genetic predispositions, instincts, automatic reflexes - such as those which make us recoil from pain - hunger and thirst, sexual proclivities, habits and skills that have become ‘second nature’, Freudian complexes and fixations, Jungian archetypes, class-attitudes, different kinds of irrational prejudices, phobias, addictions, ritual forms of behaviour, customs, taboos, morals and so on. (The difference between morality and ethics has, I believe, something to do with the fact that first is closed [algorithmic], while the second is open-ended [non-algorithmic].) Many of these things - perhaps all of them - originated consciously, and therefore non-algorithmically, but they were able to become unconscious expressions of the Mind-Body Complex by becoming algorithmic. The mystery is how an original non-algorithmic form of Consciousness can become algorithmic, and therefore unconscious, in the first place. Somewhere, there seems to have been some arbitrary cut-off point, a simplification converting the non-algorithmic and open-ended aspects of a conscious response to phenomena into the closed and repetitive algorithmic patterns of the unconscious Mind-Body Complex which the binary open and closed gate-system of the neurones, synapses, dendrites, axons and so on can handle. The best analogy I can think of is that of writing a poem. When you start the poem, the possibilities for that poem include everything which appears on the threshold of Consciousness, but in the actual writing of the poem some things are included and some things are excluded, so that you never really end up with the poem you intended to write when you started. Choices are made in the process of writing the poem which are dictated by the poem itself rather than the poet. In other words you are engaged in a process of reduction dictated by what would make a good poem and what wouldn’t. So the poem itself becomes an algorithmic expression of something which is non-algorithmic. There are always tensions within a good poem between what is there (algorithmic) and what is not there (non-algorithmic), yet remains in the form of traces or unspoken lacunae.
The question of repetition is also important to the idea of the algorithmic, as the Microsoft Dictionary definition implies. Whereas conscious thought never repeats itself, but is always exploring new avenues and domains, the unconscious Mind-Body Complex seems to be rooted in repetition. What is learned and memorised - not just mentally, but physically as well - can thereafter only ever repeat itself, although, of course, with endless variations depending on contexts apprehended by one’s conscious appraisal of external circumstances and situations. Our very survival probably depends on the development of fixed and established patterns which belong to the Mind-Body Complex, although it also undoubtedly depends on the development of an enlarged sphere of Consciousness through which we are able to free ourselves of these established patterns of thought and behaviour. Neuroscience has shown how memory and learning is established by the laying down of new neural pathways that weren’t there before, although, of course, the input of actual Consciousness in this process and the connections between non-algorithmic Consciousness and the algorithmic patterns that came to be inscribed in these neural pathways is a much more difficult thing to unravel. However, if we look at the way we learn foreign languages, we can perhaps see the process more clearly. We don't simply learn via a process of unconscious osmosis. We start the learning process by laying ourselves open and paying close conscious attention to what we are learning until it ‘sinks in’ and eventually becomes automatic. At that point, it has become unconscious - and algorithmic. The dance between non-algorithmic Consciousness and the algorithms of the unconscious Mind-Body Complex goes on as long as we do not become ‘vegetables’, and suggests that non-algorithmic Consciousness is the condition for the existence of the unconscious and algorithmic Mind-Body Complex in the first place. This is probably true at all levels of physical organisation - perhaps even in the case of the wave collapsing into the particle in Quantum Mechanics. The wave is non-algorithmic, while the particle is algorithmic. The wave, being open-ended and non-algorithmic, has, like Consciousness, many initial possibilities which are only ever realised in one actual outcome - ie the algorithmic particle which emerges from its collapse.
The unconscious algorithms of the Mind-Body Complex are inherited from the past. One could compare them to Karl Marx’s idea that capital is dead labour. Capital, according to Marx, embodies the accumulation of labour in the past. (Capitalism is a system, of course, which allows the owners of [algorithmic] dead labour to rule the owners of [non-algorithmic] living labour in what is, in effect, a form of economic and political dictatorship - which doesn’t mean, of course, that a state-run economy would be any different.) The unconscious algorithms inherited from the past were once expressed as forms of non-algorithmic Consciousness. In their algorithmic form they ‘died’, and entered the past, or more strictly speaking the present-perfect because, of course, they still impact on the present. (In reality, of course, you cannot separate these algorithmic aspects of Mind from the non-algorithmic aspects of Consciousness.) The majority of people are dominated by these algorithms from the past without in any way being conscious of the fact. They believe their racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia or superior attitudes to the working-class or unemployed ‘scroungers’ are freely chosen expressions of their non-algorithmic Consciousness. A minority, however, are able to access some of these algorithms and trace their origins back to a form of non-algorithmic Consciousness. Once that happens the algorithms explode. I am hopeless at mathematics, so I will use an analogy here simple enough for me to get my brain-cells around. According to my calculator, pi can be decimalised as 3.1415926538979... The thing about pi, of course, is that you can carry the process of decimalisation to infinity and still not arrive at a precise value. It is what is known as an irrational (ie. non-algorithmic) number. However, because of “Time's winged chariot” and all that, some arbitrary cut-off point - let us say 3.1416 - is conveniently chosen so that we can fit pi into our algorithmic calculations and equations. Consciousness is ‘irrational’ in the same way that pi is because it thinks in terms of potentially infinite sequences. Thus, once Consciousness starts poking around inside an algorithm of the unconscious Mind-Body Complex and applying its non-algorithmic logic, the algorithms start to come apart at the seams. This is what is supposed to happen in psycho-analysis. The more conscious we become of our unconscious complexes and their origins in past conscious states the easier it is to overcome them. Of course, in reality, psycho-analysis has evolved its own reductive algorithms and in the process become highly dogmatic.
We cannot escape the need for algorithmic ‘short-cuts’ in our lives. They are necessary to the economy of life itself and we’d be paralysed without them. However, some algorithms become what I would call developmental dead-ends, inhibiting growth and a creative response to the world around us. Such algorithms really do need to be surpassed and non-algorithmic Consciousness is essential for breaking out of their grip. Perhaps we can understand this better by looking at the case of desire. If what you desire can be considered an algorithm, desire itself is not, and always eventually exhausts the algorithm it invests in - such as this or that body, MacDonald's Hamburger or piece of music. It moves on in other words because the algorithm is no more than a finite expression of the potentially infinite essence of desire. However, it often creates a fetish around those algorithms and gets stuck there, though it doesn’t really gratify itself by doing so. It feels the inadequacy of these algorithmic objects of desire to itself as desire but it clings to them because it doesn’t perceive more adequate or available alternatives. It becomes hung up on them, in other words Yet, underneath, it remains restless and continues to search because, after a while, it becomes stale in the old algorithms. Perhaps, only an infinite ‘being’ like ‘God’ could hypothetically satisfy desire completely. Some people obviously believe that it is necessary to posit such a being because, if they did not, they would be denied the dream of desire’s complete satisfaction. But in the process, once it has been posited, the idea of “God” becomes itself algorithmic - which puts us back to square one. ‘God’ is therefore no kind of answer and, in the last analysis, can no more gratify desire on a permanent basis than anything else. Which is probably why ‘He/She/It’ has always needed some kind of institutional religion as back-up. In the pagan Celtic religion, ‘Paradise’ was a place you went to after you died, a place indeed where you could sate your desires to your heart’s content and do so until you had glutted yourself completely. Then all you wanted was to return back to Earth, because, by that time, you’d had enough of what you’d desired and yearned for something refreshing and different. Desire is non-algorithmic and, like Consciousness, always moves on from algorithmic objects of desire, in order to generate new algorithms more adequate to its present state than the old ones.
The implications of this for poetry are, I think, obvious. Poetry too must always move on - and I don’t mean just in response to the times; I mean it also in terms of from one poet to the next and one poem to the next and also one word in the poem to the next. There is no standing still; it is in an endless state of flux and becoming. I have often seen a poem as a kind of equation, an equation with pi-like elements which suggest a non-algorithmic potential while at the same time reining it in on behalf of an algorithmic form which ‘cuts off’ that potential, while continuing to allude to it. The ‘spirit’ in a poem, in other words, is non-algorithmic, even if the ‘letter’ is not, and it is that non-algorithmic ‘spirit’ which lends a poem its underlying vital dynamic.
Finally, established societies also depend on unconscious algorithms to keep them intact and stop them falling apart. Non-algorithmic consciousness is always subversive to established societies. Were its light to be shone into those dark corners where algorithms hold sway, those algorithms would come apart at the seams. However, people resist this because exposing these unconscious algorithms means exposing themselves and that is a terrifying prospect. There comes a time, however, when new algorithms are needed to supplant old ones which have served their evolutionary or historic purpose. These new algorithms derive from non-algorithmic states of consciousness confronting the bankruptcy of the old algorithms and striving to overcome them. In the meantime, one is in that intermediate stage of finding one’s path where none was before, out on a limb and exposed to the ire of those who don’t like to see what they live by confronted or challenged. But it’s the only way in the end, the only ultimate path to salvation.
POEM - David Cooke
FOR HOWLIN’ WOLF IN HEAVEN
I surf and click, then raise his complex shade,
the presence and the poundage of a man
who took care of business, transcending his name
along the road between White Station,
Mississippi, and the juke joints of the Windy City.
A diminutive screen contains him,
as he expounds the meaning of the blues –
a patriarch and mason, who had grasped his letters
like thorns, before his labours found a way
through the entanglement of clauses.
And see him as he takes the stage
in his ample suit, his ululation rising
from its buried source, a landscape
of estrangement where his mother
sets her face against his devil’s music.
QUOTE - Joseph Sobran
"So when the wolf pounces on your lamb, just ignore the pitiful bleating and remind yourself that this is a democracy, where every sheep can freely express its preference for which kind of wolf it wants to be eaten by. Many sheep, perhaps understandably, prefer a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which is after all the basic idea of democracy. So far it has worked pretty well. The wolves all agree on that, and they want to spread democracy everywhere."
POEMS - Richie McCaffery
You can tell God is on a bender,
the moon a cream-head on his pint
Sometimes he cannot bear
the hangovers, so follows the night
to the other cheek of the world.
For years he can go on like this.
He leaves a gold coin out of reach
but everyday we spend it
and trust he is not too drunk
to plant another for the day after.
On a frosty night
I walk back
from the pub.
The moon keeks
through an oillet
in the castle wall.
It assays me
I have decided
to take aim
on the year ahead.
Swiss Army Knife
All of those functions and esoteric edges
for situations that never arose, no matter
how much I tried to contrive them.
I knew I was buying the promise of a better
life with it, but all that was ever needed
was the knife for cutting free from things.
The knife, the bottle-opener and corkscrew
and I have survived the city this long.
The other tools are a dictionary of hapaxes.
QUOTE - Bishop Desmond Tutu
"When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land."
POEM - Ted Jackson
My face is composed
Still curious ,
Walking past the bus stop
In swim suit and flip-flops
Sunglasses at the ready
The beach is full
Of bronze and buxom ,
I walk and walk
the chatter in my thinking subsides
I don't feel sexy or unsexy
Nether here nor there
I'm pale white , straight out of winter
Junkie glow , moon tan
An extra kilo on my belly
It's hot ,
the way it's supposed to be over here ,
I don't speak the lingo
Of the samba girls
And have nothing to say anyway ,
Had mangoes with Mozart sonatas this morning
Yesterday , bananas with Bach .
There's old men fishing from shore
And surfers and footballers ,
The water cools my burning skin
I start to jog ,
Slow steady pace ,
Still got game .
I'm an old man now
So don't try to flirt with girls
Fresh from carnival ,
My heart is just about mended
From the last fiasco
Getting laid is fun , but love !?
What a game ,
The desperation living behind a joke ,
The yearning for blameless intimacy ,
So I don't need the threshing
To refine my primitive motives .
The score of the football
or the score of the heart
Offense ..,.. Defense
Score a goal
Scream for joy or sorrow
May it be that simple
Win some ... Lose some
Sweat it out
Rinse it off
On the tides .....
Memories ebb and flow
Mangoes with Miles Pick up the tempo
ALGORITHMS OF THE PAST
Part Two - Dreaming The Myth Onwards
I know it is pure escapist entertainment and not meant to be anything else, but in a very curious way the BBC TV series, Merlin, intrigues me. After all, even escapist entertainment can sometimes tell us things about ourselves - if we are prepared to delve below the surface, that is, and indulge in some ‘cultural criticism’. Of course, Merlin is not going to satisfy Arthurian purists, as it so freely departs from the ‘original script’. But does that really matter? Most of these ‘original scripts’ are, after all, medieval adaptations of older mythic material to start with. Myths change their surface attributes from one age to the next, according to the needs of those who adapt them. And Merlin is a ‘democratic’ version of the Arthurian cycle, which some might say is ‘dragging it down to our level’. But, so what if a medieval Arthur would never have considered upsetting the feudal applecart by knighting commoners or marrying the blacksmith’s daughter? Is that of any importance?
Apart from the general background of magic and myth, which, because of what it owes to tradition, makes it much more resonant than other productions in the same fantasy-genre - such as the more portentous Lord of the Rings (How I hated those hobbits!) and the much more puerile Chronicles of Narnia - and apart also from the relationship between Merlin and Arthur, which some have called a “bromance”, what intrigues me most about Merlin is the ‘Jungian’ quarternity expressed in the relationship between Uther and Arthur, Arthur and Merlin, Merlin and the Dragon and the Dragon and Uther; for that I think is what lies at the poetic heart of the series. In the medieval legends, Uther is far from averse to Merlin’s practice of magic, which he uses to disguise himself as Gorlois in order to seduce Gorlois’ wife, Igraine, and in the process spawn Arthur, who was then taken away by Merlin to be brought up by Sir Ector, so that in effect he never knew either his father or mother . However, let’s face it, this is Auntie (The BBC) we’re talking about and Merlin is ‘family entertainment’ in which mums and dads go with the territory; therefore such scandalous sexual shenanigans and their consequences were never going to get much of a mention. Nor will we get any details of how Arthur’s son, Mordred, was begotten as a result of Arthur’s rape of his half-sister, Morgause, for Mordred is an unrelated Druid-boy here. Rape, incest, adultery and, in Sir Gawain and the Green Night, even a touch of homoeroticism, are all grist to the mill in the Arthurian legends. In other mythologies, this kind of behaviour is usually reserved for the gods; which makes me think that Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table were originally gods, whom Christian writers and poets turned into ‘real people’, because, of course, ‘the One God’ just hated the idea of having to share his domain with other gods. Whatever the truth about that, hanky-panky of the colourful medieval variety is definitely absent in Merlin. What we have instead is a ‘PC’ treatment of magicians as a persecuted group in Camelot, reflecting very contemporary pre-occupations. There is also rather a lot of “For the love of Camelot!” stuff, but that goes with the territory I suppose. Despite this, and for all its faults, Merlin raises some very interesting questions.
One of these is why Arthur’s father, Uther, is so opposed to the use of magic that, as we have seen, he will even execute young children who are suspected of possessing it. For me, his hatred of magic seems to be rooted in an unconscious algorithm. Magic represents all that is bad about the Old Religion, which Uther thinks he has conquered. It is not said what the New Religion is, but the Old Religion is obviously connected with Druidism and the pagan worship of the earth and the spirits of nature. It won’t, of course, be the first time that one set of gods or beliefs has been overthrown by another set of gods or beliefs. Think of the Olympians and the Titans in mythological ‘times’ - or Christianity and Paganism in historical times. New social orders clearly require new religious algorithms to help sustain them. Another difference between the legends and Merlin is that here Merlin is the same age as Arthur, which he could not have been had he used his magic to help Arthur into the world. In Merlin, it is hinted that Uther’s hatred of magic has been somehow influenced by the death of his beloved wife, Igraine, as a result of the magic he got the sorceress, Nimueh, to use in order for Arthur to be born. However, that seems to be a memory which, out of guilt, Uther is keen to repress. Anyway, whatever the motivation, Uther’s opposition to magic is completely fanatical and it is here that I see an unconscious algorithm at work.
Arthur is much more ambiguous and complex than Uther - although I suspect Uther is the much more tragic figure, precisely because he’s so algorithmic. Arthur is attempting to reconcile his duty towards his father, the King, and his desire to follow in his footsteps with his basic sense of fairness, which does not sit well with his father’s fanaticism. At the beginning of the series, he is his father’s son, activated by the same algorithms related to magic. He is willing to act as his father’s faithful lieutenant in his pursuit of magicians and sorcerers. He also thinks that he’s something special because he’s the King’s son and heir-apparent, and also a great warrior. His relationship with Merlin is frequently underpinned by his sense of superiority and the deference he expects from others, although Merlin thinks he’s more of an arrogant and pompous “prat” than anything else. However, there is another Arthur struggling to get out and transcend the algorithms inherited from his father.
Enter Merlin - the dorky wimp besides the much more macho Arthur. He enters Arthur’s service almost by accident, much to the annoyance of Arthur himself, who, after a couple of previous encounters with Merlin, obviously doesn’t think much of him. However, after Merlin has saved his life and been made his servant by Uther in gratitude, he doesn’t have much of a choice. Merlin also responds to the call of the Dragon down in the depths of the caves under the castle, who tells him that Arthur is the Once and Future King and it is his destiny to protect him whenever he can and so ensure the coming of Albion. Merlin is sceptical about this, saying to the Dragon, “There must be another Arthur, because this one’s an idiot.” So, to begin with, there is no love lost between them. However, though Merlin at first sees Arthur as an arrogant bully and Arthur thinks Merlin is a “girl’s blouse”, there is an underlying chemistry between them which both seem unable to resist. Right from their first encounter, Merlin is cheeky and insolent with Arthur, constantly telling him the truth about himself, and later bantering with Arthur in the most inappropriate way for an underling, and complaining of his lot as his servant and squire. And he gets away with it because Arthur obviously finds Merlin’s constant moaning amusing. In one episode, he is given a much more ‘appropriate’ servant - who takes his job as Arthur’s efficient lackey a lot more seriously - and is so bored with him that he’s glad when Merlin returns. As for his magical talents, he must stay ‘in the closet’, if he wants to survive, even when he uses magic surreptitiously to save Arthur’s life. Gradually, bit by bit, a bond of bickering affection develops between them. Yet, no matter how ‘democratic’ their relationship becomes, power always remains on Arthur’s side - though Merlin, of course, does everything he can to subvert that power. The macho warrior and prince/king in Arthur has difficulty in acknowledging his soft spot for Merlin, but we are beginning to see how, through his relationship with Merlin, he begins to undo the algorithms he has inherited from his father, especially those related to class and precedence. Furthermore, Merlin is much more aware of what’s going on around Arthur than Arthur himself is, and this enables him to see through the traitors in Arthur’s circle long before Arthur does, who is blind to their treason because they are ‘family’.
Merlin is also a dragon-lord. That is to say, he can command the Dragon to come to his aid whenever he needs to. The odd thing about the Dragon is that in certain ways he is very like Uther. The Dragon is under the sway of his own unconscious algorithms to the extent that he sees Merlin’s destiny very clearly, but not the fact that Merlin can only fulfil his destiny by being true to his feelings and allowing his non-algorithmic consciousness to determine what's right and what wrong. Like Oedipus, there are times when Merlin tries to avoid his destiny and in trying to avoid it, only brings it about. The Dragon - like the crystals in the Crystal Cave, which are really an aspect of the Dragon - is like the Delphic Oracle in Oedipus Rex. (In fact, Python, who is connected to the Delphic Oracle and is slain by Apollo, is also a dragon.) He - or the crystals in the Crystal Cave - can only see the future through the incomplete prism of prophecy, not in the way it might concretely work itself out. I am reminded here of abstract Marxist notions of history, and what must be sacrificed in the present to bring ‘the future’ about. The Dragon seems to believe that, to fulfil the abstract prophecy, the end justifies the means. Merlin is simply too human for that. He will not, for instance, stand by to see his mother sacrificed for the sake of his ‘destiny’. Nor will he allow the Druid-boy, Mordred, to be executed even though the Dragon tells him that Mordred will be the means of Arthur’s eventual downfall, and that therefore Merlin should leave him to suffer his fate. In this sense, the Dragon is more like Uther than Merlin, just as Uther is more like the Dragon than Arthur. In fact, Uther and the Dragon, although on opposite sides of the fence, are the mirror-images of each other. They are both equally implacable. Perhaps, the real difference is that Uther is activated by a male sky-god algorithm, while the Dragon is activated by a chthonic Mother Goddess algorithm, rooted in the earth, but no less algorithmic. Arthur and Merlin, as the two conscious (non-algorithmic) poles of the quarternity, have to channel the energies of these antagonistic algorithms and find a way to balance and live with them.
There is another aspect of the Uther-Dragon relationship which bears on all this, and that is the fact that during the Great Purge of Camelot, when Uther attempted to stamp magic out, the Dragon, whose kin were exterminated, was thrown into the caves and chained to a rock deep underneath Camelot. The confinement of the Dragon and the brutal suppression of magic, does not mean that the Dragon or magic have been conquered, but only that they have been driven underground. Camelot is still visited by many scourges that are the result of enchantment and magic. Not only that, but in suppressing magic completely, Uther also suppresses the power of magic to combat magic. To Uther, all magic is evil and he does not distinguish between those who it does and those who it doesn’t corrupt. They should all be cast into the flames. In other words, he is completely under the sway of a closed-minded algorithm, the logic of which he cannot escape. The non-algorithmic Consciousness needed to realise that intentions really do matter in this world is completely absent in Uther. This puts him in the same category as all the fanatical tyrants of history, whose single-minded pursuit of imaginary ‘enemies’ have brought misery to millions. On the other hand, Merlin’s freeing of the Dragon chained beneath the city symbolises the only possible response to the madness produced by these algorithms. Even though the Dragon’s first response to being freed by Merlin is to wreak a terrible revenge on Camelot, once Merlin’s father dies and Merlin inherits the mantle of the Last Dragon-Lord which passes from father to son, the Dragon, becomes Merlin’s helper and ally in the fight against Camelot’s enemies. In Uther, we see how he holds his state together through whipping up fear of magic and the Dragon. Merlin’s relationship with the Dragon, on the other hand, is one of kinship rather than enmity; he can speak the language of dragons, and is therefore able to make the Dragon bend to his will. He has a much more positive connection to the unconscious algorithm the Dragon symbolises, whereas Uther’s connection is entirely negative. In The Gift, Lewis Hyde said something similar in connection with Ezra Pound’s anti-Semitism: “An aspect of the self forced to remain in the shadow invariably takes on a negative cast not at all inherent in it... To integrate the shadow with the ego involves holding a sort of dialogue with it in which these negative aspects fall away.” This integration is what Merlin seems to achieve with the Dragon and Uther does not. Arthur and Merlin represent two aspects of non-algorithmic Consciousness struggling with these unconscious algorithms, and that struggle will enable Arthur - with Merlin at his side, of course - to become a ‘good king’ in time. In reality, of course, however well intentioned he is, with his Round Table and belief in equality, Arthur is still the one with the power - and that’s an algorithm he is extremely unlikely to get round to undoing.
There are other aspects of Merlin which are worth mentioning before winding up. As I have said, this is a production in which the values of Aunty are in the ascendancy. This means, as I’ve suggested already, No Sex Please, We’re The British Broadcasting Corporation. It also means that “We’re all democrats now.” so Arthur must marry a commoner (Guinevere - aka “Gwen”), and make her his Queen. Not only that, but we’re multi-cultural to boot, as the ethnic mix of the cast makes clear. These aspects of contemporary Britain are reflected in Merlin, just as aspects of feudal Britain - or France or Germany - were reflected in the medieval Arthurian cycles, so the objection that in the ‘historical times’ of Arthur, everyone would have been white, is not all that relevant. Myth recycles unconscious algorithms which are not drawn from history, but from the Collective Unconscious; therefore, the demand for historical verisimilitude should not be an issue. A more serious objection perhaps is a ‘feminist’ one - namely that the three bad magicians, Nimueh, Morgana and Morgause, are all female, while the good magician, Merlin, and the (good) Dragon are male. There is something amiss in this because the Dragon symbolises the earth and the connecting threads which hold life together, which in turn point us in the direction of the Mother Goddess religion, which would have given its priestesses - or shamanesses - much more positive roles to play than they take in this series. Indeed, Nimueh, Morgana and Morgause probably represent The Triple Goddess - of whom, in Series 4, Morgana is said to be a high priestess. But we must also not forget how the ancient primordial myths have been filtered through millennia of patriarchy and so the tradition we have inherited is one based on compromise. For that reason, we can’t really blame The BBC, who have only entertainment in mind, for not presenting us with a more radical interpretation than the one offered here.
Although Colin Morgan is often extremely engaging as Merlin, bringing both a deft comic touch and a real ability to act when acting is called for - though, to be honest, he does take a while to get into his stride and make the role his own - the series itself has a great many faults. The biggest fault is the Manichean universe it creates of good against evil and light against dark - a black and white world with no real moral complexities, or shades of grey in the middle. That’s a very toxic algorithm in my humble opinion. There is also a lot of lowest common denominator stuff. (Once you’ve seen one jousting match, you’ve seen them all!) However, it is one of those productions about which one can say that the whole is a lot better than the sum of its parts - or, at least, some of its parts. So far, there have been 4 series and each series has had thirteen 45 minute episodes and that in itself must beggar the powers of human invention in the creation of plot-lines. Some of the episodes, however, are a lot better than others and there is also a basic narrative structure or ur-plot, (to be pretentious) to help it along and provide a sense of development from one series to the next, the last being that in which Arthur extracts Excalibur from the rock, liberates Camelot - yet again - and marries Guinevere - although, let’s face it, his relationship with Merlin is much more interesting and less algorithmic than his relationship “Gwen”. What can we expect from Series 5? Difficult to say. After all, they’ve already killed off Sir Lancelot twice. So how many more chances will he have to commit adultery with Guinevere and help sow the seeds of dissension in Camelot? Perhaps they’ll even present us with an episode in which Sir Gwaine kisses the Green Night, but I doubt it - not in front of the children anyway. Not that it matters. Its interest for me lies elsewhere and has something to do with what it has to say about unconscious algorithms - like those underpinning fanatical beliefs - and what it might take to transcend them.
POEMS - Joe Mismo
I Refute Them Thus
What if the earth went round the sun
as some people say, I mean, really went round,
doing its tour of duty each day.
Where would you find it
when you went out of your house in the morning?
There at your feet? Or up in the sky?
Galileo, I’m told, had no time for poetry;
neither did Darwin. They were too wrapped up
in their own little worlds, where the earth
revolved round the sun and we evolved
from the apes. Don’t get me wrong;
we probably did evolve from the apes,
but that’s not the point. Of course,
if Bishop Berkeley was right
- and who’s to say that he wasn’t -
the sun not only goes round the earth,
it doesn’t even exist.
It pleases me to think the sun
flies East to West and when it’s done
does battel with the Dragon-Blak.
Cut poetry a bit of slack...
because, you know;
it’s much more
what we are
than we are;
it’s what we are
before we are
when we are
I had no intention
of hanging around,
once Harlequin's body
was safe in the ground;
but almost before
the parson was done,
the ground took off
and flew round the sun.
The earth revolves round the sun, does it not?
That’s what they say; that’s what they’ve tried
to sell us for hundreds of years
- while turning the world into cogs
driving cogs, downgrading us all
to links in their great chain of doing.
To confirm that the earth revolved round the sun,
instead of the other way round,
I’d have to travel outside of myself
- where people come and go as they please
and sometimes even make me their home -
to icy regions remote from myself,
and if I did that, I would die.
So, now that the earth goes round the sun
- which it did not do in the past-
what can we do to restart the sun
and make it go back round the earth?
The first high gods
- by which I mean
the first to get
to the status
of an orbiter -
were gods of war
and the sun was
“Simon Jenner, who died today aged 8 and a half, had become a professional author of obituaries, noted for the brevity and stylishness of the officious ponderings he played upon the public orifice. Over the last few Monads his authoring of short notices lit up an electric lightbulb in everyone’s soul, even those hardened criminals who surrounded Simon up to the very end.
On the evening of the 8th of Marzipan a masked intruder hurled Simon out of the window of his latest obituary, ‘On the death of my wee doggie Suet’. In fact Suet hadn’t died but experienced a miraculous resurrection as Simon’s self-pitying corpse crashed to the ground near his palatial residence in Hove. Simon will be missed, that’s for sure. Until Simon became the star of salacious grave circles the only person halfway near to him was Yorick, an anagram that got nearer to the truth than trusted persons ever knew.
Alas poor Simon we knew him well. We will all put flowers on his gravy!”
NEWS AND VIEWS
The essay below was originally intended for elsewhere, but I got impatient and decided to publish it here. Anyone can republish this essay without the permission of the author; however, it would be polite to inform the author via the contact-page. Anyone can also submit comments via the contact-page, and they will be faithfully reproduced at the foot of the essay.
SHAKESPEARE AND THE QUESTION OF 'LEGITIMATE' POWER
Shakespeare's more successful tragedies all seem to revolve round the question of power. Hamlet, both the play and the prince, revolves round the question of a conflicted relationship with the principle of power and legitimacy embodied first in Hamlet's father and then Claudius, his uncle. Looking at what I think is the work's political subtext- it seems to me that the author of the play is not yet sure of the position he should adopt towards the principle of power and legitimacy and this is reflected in Hamlet's own indecisiveness in dispatching his uncle and taking over the mantle of rule as the 'legitimate heir' to the throne, which he thinks his uncle has usurped at his own expense. (Let's not forget that Hamlet's grievance against Claudius was conceived some time before his father's ghost told him that he had been murdered by Claudius. So the ghost found a Hamlet who was already seething with resentment against an uncle who had usurped his own 'rightful' claim to the throne. Indeed, elsewhere in the play, one of his complaints is precisely that Claudius had "Popped in between th' election and my hopes...") Hamlet represents in my opinion Shakespeare's own confusion and ambivalence towards the idea of legitimate power. Claudius may have killed Hamlet's father, but he is now King; therefore to kill him would be to 'kill' the principle he represents, the principle of rule itself, and that fact would render his own claim to kingship suspect. Shakespeare must have been fully aware by this time that, from any historical point of view, no rule was legitimate since all rule was originally founded on violence, theft, murder, conquest and other forms of skulduggery. However, he did not have enough confidence in his own insight by the time he came to write Hamlet and he prevaricated over the question in precisely the way Hamlet prevaricates over the question of whether or not to kill Claudius.
By the time he came to write Macbeth, however, he was much clearer in his mind. Macbeth represents the very essence of political power in all its nakedness. Macbeth IS power, that is to say, Macbeth is the means by which power establishes itself. It has been described as a play about the usurpation of legitimate power, but this, I think, is an evasion. Macbeth more or less tells us that these are the means by which political power always originally establishes itself. King Lear is even more pointedly about power. On the surface, of course, Lear is just a foolish old King who gives his power away and, once he divests himself of it, finds himself up Shit's Creek without a paddle. It makes for a good plot and it could have been explored as such without the trenchant critique of power which Lear produces once he's without it. "A dog's obeyed in office." indeed. Shakespeare's point of view is much more explicit here than it is in Macbeth.
Why Timon of Athens does not resonate in the way Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear do has, I believe, something to do with its being about money rather than power. This was Karl Marx's favourite Shakespeare play and no wonder. "Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold? / No, Gods, I am no idle votarist / ...Why this / Will lug your priests and servants from your sides, / Pluck stout men's pillows from below their heads, / This yellow slave / Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed; / Make the hoar leprosy adored, / Place thieves / And give them title, knee and approbation / With senators on the bench; this is it / That makes the wappened widow wed again; / She whom the spittal house and ulcerous sores / Will cast a gorge at, this embalms and spices / To the April day again." It is not surprising that Marx thought so highly of it, since it re-enforces his view that economics is primary and such things as political power only secondary. From a Marxist point of view, therefore, Timon of Athens should be the greatest of Shakespeare's tragedies, which, of course, is way off the mark. Money reduces us to private people, while political power makes those who wield it much more public; and this is one of the reasons why it resonates so much more with us.
Money has no connection with the question of the legitimacy of the principle of rule and doesn't bear in any way on the origin of rule, power, sovereignty or the state. According to Engels, the state emerged as a result of the accumulation of wealth and the division of the spoils of wealth according to rank and class. In other words, economic classes came first and necessitated the creation of states, even though the evidence suggests that political power - achieved through military conquest - was the precondition for the emergence of economic classes in the first place. Timon of Athens doesn't resonate the way the other tragedies do because, by taking money as its subject matter, it remains in the private rather than the public realm, the particular rather than the universal. Shakespeare may well have been describing tendencies as they had begun to emerge at the start of the capitalist era, but the question of who holds political power will always trump it when it comes to providing material for drama and holding our interest as this drama unfolds, as indeed it does outside the theatre. In the end, Timon's vision is a deeply misanthropic one. It cannot be anything else because his predicament is a private one. It does not share in larger public concerns. He is simply one private individual against other private individuals who have let him down badly and, because he confuses them with humanity at large, this turns him into a misanthrope. Not only that, but our own interest in Timon's situation is no more than that of private individuals; it is the kind of interest we might take in the fate of a bankrupt, which, of course, has nothing on the interest we might take in the terrible fate of Gaddafi - just to take one example.
So what is at stake is nothing less than the nature of power and legitimate sovereignty - and, of course, also the state. But what is the state? It is not simply an expression of the domination of one group of people over others. The original nomadic herders who eventually conquered the agricultural populations on their borders and founded states, were hierarchical, patriarchal, given to warfare and a military lifestyle, misogynistic and slave-owning. But they did not have states. Why? Because they were nomadic and did not confine their economic activities to circumscribed territories. This only came about after they had conquered settled agricultural communities whose economic activities did confine them to circumscribed territories. The state emerged as an instrument for regulating the relations between the conquering and subjugated peoples, the first of whom had become a warrior-aristocracy and the second an exploited peasantry. The state, in other words, is rooted in violence and, as Franz Oppenheimer said, has no other origin. The economic exploitation of one class by another was only the cause of the state's emergence in as far as the exploited had already been conquered and made to submit to the domination of their conquerors. Domination came first, exploitation after, and the emergence of the state represented a synthesis of those two phenomena.
Shakespeare is not concerned to provide a foundational mythology that would sanctify sovereignty. He might sometimes invoke the Divine Right of Kings, as in Richard II, but his abiding concern seems to be more related to what happens when all the arbitrary arrangements of which it consists break down. He seems to be instinctively aware of its fragility and impermanence, but he also clearly fears the consequences of its susceptibility to breakdown. His feelings are purely reactive in other words. “Take but degree away, untune that string / and hark what discord follows.” However, there is no Hobbesian justification of the Sovereign based on some foundational myth such as the Social Compact in which each agrees to give up their freedom in exchange for the security they find in the Commonwealth. There is only an abiding fear of possible breakdown along with the recognition of its systemic vulnerability to breakdown. Yet despite all this, he cannot fool himself about the origin of political power in the way Hobbes does. He knows it's all based on a fraud, but a fraud he supports because he fears its being called into question. This is part of the ambiguity and irony contained in Shakespeare's justification of monarchical rule in his tragedies, despite their trenchant critiques. When people describe Shakespeare as a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of monarchical rule, they miss the irony at the heart of his plays. What Shakespeare couldn't do was fool himself about the nature of political power, despite his obvious fear of its breakdown.
Power, is a very ambiguous word, of course. In Latin languages like Spanish, the noun for "power" is the same as the verb for "to be able" - "poder", in the case of Spanish. Power thus has a connection with ability in these languages, while in English the connection has been severed. Power in English largely means the power some people have over others, rather than the power of people to do things themselves. (It perhaps partly explains why Spain has had such a strong anarchist movement in the past.) For Shakespeare too, power means political power, the power to rule and not the power to do things for ourselves. It is the flaw in Shakespeare's vision of power that makes his attitude towards it so negative, while at the same time he is so fearful of its dissolution and therefore is also its staunchest supporter.
Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan exhibits none of Shakespeare's schizoid attitude towards the question of power. (Drama is perhaps the perfect medium for writers who are schizoid.) Hobbes had lived through The English Civil War, after all. For Hobbes, there was no question about it; it was always unjust to challenge the Sovereign. (Sovereign might mean the King or Parliament, a military junta, the Nazi Party in power or Plato's philosopher-rulers! [Bradley Manning would stand condemned by Hobbes's criterion, while Heinrich Himmler would not.] For Hobbes, it was whoever held the reins of power at the time.) It would be unjust to attempt to overthrow the existing sovereign, but once you had succeeded in overthrowing that sovereign, it would be equally unjust for anyone else to attempt to overthrow you. For that reason, although Claudius was unjust to kill Hamlet's father, once Claudius was established as King, it was no less unjust for Hamlet to try to kill him. Hobbes's life overlapped with Shakespeare's to a certain extent and I assume that many of these questions regarding the legitimacy of power and sovereignty were in circulation during both of their lives, although Hobbes’s experience of the Civil War somewhat changed their complexion, making him much less ambivalent towards them. Shakespeare's attitude towards them involved him in a tragic impasse. Not so Hobbes, because he had much more certainty regarding the question of 'right' and 'wrong' in political matters, and furthermore marshalled the foundational myth of the Social Compact in support of his views. His Leviathan, after all, contains some of the most systematic arguments in favour of established rule that you will find anywhere, whether that rule was tyrannical or not. A tyrant may be immoral, but not unjust. On the other hand, to overthrow a tyrant would be extremely unjust.
Shakespeare was a bourgeois, the son of a glover whose business went down the tubes. Nevertheless, he must have passed on to his son his commercial outlook on life, which seems to have served Shakespeare well when it came to building up a theatrical business and, later in life, as a dealer in grain and land. In the basically feudal set-up of Elizabethan and Jacobean times, the bourgeois class to which Shakespeare belonged must have had considerable ambivalence towards feudal rule, not to mention the royal monopolies that existed at the time. On the one hand, the feudal order provided a certain amount of stability for businesses like Shakespeare's to flourish, but it still restricted opportunities to really expand. Questions of its legitimacy were eventually to boil over during the Civil War, and there is no reason to think that people did not discuss them before - during Shakespeare's time, for example.
My purpose in bringing up these questions is not to debunk Shakespeare, but to situate him in his time and his place, as a bourgeois in an age in which the bourgeoisie had not yet come to political power and thus felt considerable ambivalence towards those who did hold power. Nowadays, we don't feel the same sense of conflicted deference towards our 'betters' as Shakespeare felt; like Shakespeare, we know they're a bunch of bastards, but we have much less reticence about overthrowing the bastards. The only question is how it can be done without repeating the mistakes of the past. In other words, what methods we adopt to empower ourselves without relinquishing that power to some usurping authority or self-appointed vanguard, which will then constitute a power over and above us. Nevertheless, we know that it is ultimately up to us and, for that reason, we do not confront the same tragic impasse that Shakespeare confronted.
Comment 1 - Marc Connelly: I thoroughly enjoyed your Shakespeare and Power post. Thank you for that.
But I must let you know that it is very hard to read large type, set on black, justified across the full width of the screen. Picking up lines becomes very difficult, especially in justified type, at over 14 picas in length. Just for ease of use, you may wish to reconsider your format.
Reply: As I have had 2 complaints about the white type on black background. I have decided to change it. Hopefully, people will find the present arrangement easier on the eye than the previous one.
Comment 2 - Donald O'Donovan: Right on, Richard. Your article resonates with me. Liked the part about social classes coming before the origin of the state. It's the nobles, the one-percenters, who set up the states. My people, the serfs, don't have time for that because we're too busy scrambling to survive. The class system is so deeply ingrained it's almost like breathing. I grew up in a tiny American town that was more or less owned by a very rich family, and we, the townies, were for all intents and purposes their peasants. We often referred, my friends and I, as well as my family, to rich folks as our "betters," and this without rancor or any sense of irony.
Reply: I think domination came before exploitation and that states represented a synthesis of the two, a means of controlling and regulating the relationship that had been set up between the dominators/exploiters and the dominated/exploited. In an email to me John Bennett writes. "The only place I differ with you to some extent concerns the role of "money" in the exercise of power. I think you are right when applying this to the past, but somewhere in the past 75 years or so I see a shift taking place in which money (wealth) became so concentrated that the institutions of power are now by-and-large mere instruments of wealth. Where this is heading at an escalating rate, the way I see it, is the dominion of Moloch, which nullifies all our past dualistic concepts, good and evil, power and domination included." I agree. The two things now are so interfused that they are impossible to separate. But that also creates the opportunity of people seeing the relationship between class and power for what it is. At least, I hope it does.
Comment 3 - Eric Chaet: An excellent essay, for which, thanks. I have often thought & written on these matters. I note that William the Conqueror (Wm. the Bastard, previously) conquered England militarily, then divvied the place up among his supporters, per feudal loyalty linkages. Feudility.
I note also that the SECOND English revolution, of 1688-9, was of the bourgeoisie, hiring a king to represent its interests, versus the old aristocracy, as much as against the old peasantry---which peasantry was in the process of being cleared off the land by the old aristocracy, for more efficient sheep grazing.
In the USA, currently, there are two basic concepts of "freedom" in conflict---freedom of speech, assembly, etc.; versus those freedoms plus & especially freedom to get rich by financial aggregation, at the expense of others, who are free to defend themselves capably or fall prey.
As I say, I've often thought & written on these things, as in my "100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems" & "How To Change the World Forever For Better." But, long ago, I also read most of Shakespeare's plays---long before I had much understanding of power, or knowledge of history, & it boggled the mind, & has remained so, lo, these decades. You have helped me transform that boggling, the maintenance of which steals energy, into an intellectual asset, which provides energy.
For that, I say, You the man!