". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Crawling Back Up The Stairs

I posted this originally as a comment in response to another comment to an entry down below, but it seems worth an entry itself.

Have you ever read great Polish journalist, Rhyzard Kapuscinski's Shah of Shahs (1982), available in this country from Vintage - Random House, his account of how the Iranian shah came to power, and the unspeakably evil police state of surveillance, informants, arrest, disappearance and torture, corruption and extortion and terror instituted by his father, first, and elaborated on by himself -- with all the propping and assistance of the U.S. and the CIA that you can imagine? While, what Iran was, under these two men's control, and who were only there because the U.S. kept them there, has been conveniently relegated to media amnesia, whereas the Cuba political and economic New World ragamuffin island, gets dragged up over and over and over as a great state of evil. This is extremely ironic, as Fidel is the only despot in modern history, at least, who has managed to wield his despot power so wisely as to keep the majority of his people satisfied with him enough that they've never reaching an angry tipping point to change that. (Kapuscinski includes a most wise analysis and blow-by-blow description of just how these points can be reached and what will happen; he must have learned a lot, by living in a soviet block state.)

In the chapter titled, "The Dead Flame," our narrator / observer / reporter write thusly about rulers and politicans:

[ The most difficult thing to do while living in a palace is to imagine a different life -- for instance, you own life but outside of and minus the palace. Toward the end the rule finds people willing to help him out. Many lives regrettably, can be lost at such moments. The problem of honor in politics. Take de Gaulle -- a man of honor. He lost a referendum, tidied up his desk, and left the palace, never to return. He wanted to govern only under the condition that the majority accept him. The moment the majority refused him their trust, he left. But how many are like him? The others will cry, but they won't move; they'll torment the nation, but they won't budge, Thrown out one door, they sneak in through another; kicked down the stairs, they begin to crawl back up. They will excuse themselves, bow and scrape, lie and simper, provided they can stay -- or provided they can return. They will hold out their hands -- Look, no blood on them. But the very fact of having to show those hands covers them with the deepest shame. They will turn their pockets inside out -- Look, there's not much there. But the very fact of exposing their pockets -- how humiliating! The Shah, when he left the Palace, was crying. At the airport he was crying again. Later he explained in interviews how much money he had, and the it was less than people thought. (pp.119-20) ]

This is why people are able these days admire Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, while despising both Clintons -- though they may not quite realize it as clearly as Kapuscinski explained it in Shah of Shahs. The Clintons are expending every bit of their own energies and those of everyone else they can draw in, to crawl back up those stairs, to get back inside the palace. The shrubbery has never been OUTSIDE the palace in his life, nor has any of his family for several generations. Which is why so many of just can't bear to have a Clinton back in the OO -- so many years of the palace belonging to only 2 families. We need someone else, desperately. Additionally, Nixon's Watergate break-in was about clinging with bloody nail to his palace, and it did him in, vs. old Joe Kennedy's committing a criminal act to insert his family into the White House (vote fraud in Chicago), and of course, the Florida and Ohio voter fraud of more recent times. Think of ol' 'Wide Stance,' the Minneapolis airport john -- who was going to resign and then just could not get himself to do so. Plus, recall -- their helpers, as Kapuscinski so carefully includes in his description of these palace folk.

Have there been more true words written about rulers and politicians ever?

No comments: