08 April 2011

Ignorance and Arrogance: a quasi-repost

[The following was written 3 December 1990 under the title “Three short notes” and belongs to the prehistory of this weblog. The George Bush mentioned is of course the father; I doubt that I’d ever heard of the son at that time.]

Two instances of surprising ignorance in my weekend’s reading: Bruce Michelson in an essay on The Mysterious Stranger mentions that Mark Twain already had the idea for the book before The Innocents Abroad; he goes on to say “In the Alta California letters from which Twain’s first real book developed, there is a sketch for an ‘Apocryphal New Testament,’ in which Jesus returns to earth as a playful boy:”—and the passage that follows is Twain’s description of two incidents (the clay birds and the dyer’s shop) from the Infancy Gospels. It sure looks as if Michelson thought Twain was inventing a plot, instead of repeating a well-known story, and even if Michelson somehow was unfamiliar with the Infancy Gospels, he must have read The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts, and this matter is dealt with in the introduction. (Another oddity is the fact that Michelson speaks of the second manuscript (Young Satan) as if it were the first, and overlooks the first (“Mr. Black” etc.) altogether.)

In Tell Me Why Tim Riley seems to think that George Harrison wrote the words of “The Inner Light” (from the Tao Te Ching), instead of merely setting them to music. “George’s philosophical musings are less condescending than those of ‘Within You Without You,’…” And yet, even if we grant Riley’s ignorance of one of the greatest religious works of all time, he has read I, Me, Mine, and that should have straightened him out. Worse yet, in his description of The Beatles Forever he quote Schaffner as saying, “The lyrics to Harrison’s ‘The Inner Light’ were ‘pinched almost verbatim from a Japanese poem by Roshi, translated by R. H. Bluth’”.

George Bush, it is reported, has appointed Robert Martinez of Florida to the post of drug czar here in the land of the free—another illustration of how phony this “war” on drugs really is. During Martinez’s reign in Florida drug use has increased. What is the secret of his success? He emphasizes punishment over education, jail over treatment. How does Bush justify his choice? He points out that 61 (or some such number) men have been executed in Florida during Martinez’s rule—a revealing admission. It’s blatant now—he doesn’t even bother to hide the fact that the “war on drugs” is a phony war to conceal the real war on the Bill of Rights. One thing’s for sure—whether we have Conservatives or Moderates in office, the government gets more and more power over the citizen.

[Note and Update: The Bruce Michelson essay referred to above was “Deus Ludens: The Shaping of Mark Twain’s ‘Mysterious Stranger’” in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 44-56.]

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