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Our Downward Path To Wisdom

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by John Kendall Hawkins

Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom

Remember us--if at all--not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men.

- T S Eliot, "The Hollow Men" (1925)

A slightly abridged version of this article appeared in Counterpunch magazine on October 14, 2020.

I remember about a quarter century ago, I read about some LA nut job who sat down in an anchored lawn chair with weather balloons attached to it, and when the anchor cable snapped Larry was set free and rose, and kept rising, wheeee! and kept rising, until he found himself in a LAX air traffic lane, where he feared he'd fall or get sucked into a jet engine, a homicidal maniac, and began shooting out balloons with a pellet gun, and as he descended he began worrying about being arrested, and had another Miller Lite. Hoax? I wondered and hoped. Nope, another Darwin Award winner from America. Larry said, on landing, 45 minutes later, in answer to Why?: "A man can't just sit around."

What local hero hasn't sat around on a lawn chair after church, Sunday morning coming down, already tanked on Miller and filled with the hot air of American Exceptionalism, looking out at the bonny world of privilege, with like-minded friends, through stained glass shades? Unless you're Black, of course. Then you know all about being an American exception. A dream deferred. A raisin in the sun. And that's when those fat albino cats from Wall Street, lazin' round in lawn chairs, exposin' their jingly jangles for all to see, got their Jim Crow mortgage idea, called Subprime Sublime, all packaged up for swaps and shorts, Black elation their ka-ching balloons rising, rising in the Wall Street sky. Alan Shore confronts the horror show here. Oh-oh, busted balloons time.

This is as good an entry as any into Paul Street's new Obama-bashing, Trump-trashing polemic, Hollow Resistance. It's probably not exactly what Street would prefer to be doing at this late stage of capitalism and democracy. "If someone had told me six months ago that I would soon be writing my third book with Barack Obama's name in the title," writes Street, "I would have laughed." Well, it's looking like we'll all be needing laughing gas soon to deal with the pain ahead. We've been there before -- in 2008, when the titans of finance came crashing down in their own 'put' steps. And, in Hollow Resistance, Street connects the causal dots between Clinton, Bush, Obama and the inevitable rise of "the indecent beast Trump." Is Democracy safe? What's your answer? Sometimes getting answers is like pulling teeth.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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