Cry, the Benighted Country: Essays on America (1)

“Cry” is to be a series of essays and ruminations on the state of America. At present they are still in embryonic form. The whole idea behind these sketches is to articulate certain problems pertaining to America and American culture that very few people wish to face up to.

The Emasculation of the American language (2014)

In some instances you are probably better off being a stranger in a strange land. For people can’t read you in those disgustingly familiar ways that they do in your home country; of course, this can very well be a danger in itself, since the hosts of this strange land can read all kinds of things into you that have nothing to do with who and what you really are. And many of these hosts can and will take their cues from clueless and bigoted American tourists, as well as internet trolls and American mass-media. Or perhaps the cues they take will leave them in doubt once they interact with you.

Well, at least they–the foreigners–are more willing to interact with you than your countrymen. Your countrymen already have you pegged, so to speak; they “know” you before they even sense your presence; their minds are made up in advance about who and what you are as a marginalized person within their own society. In this instance, of course, I am referring to myself as an “African-American.”

As a “black American” in the world, particularly in America, you are already “known.” This supposed “knowledge” of who you are (on their part) naturally precludes any hope of genuine communication with your countrymen. Most of them, before you even open your mouth, before you move a finger, have decided that you are an enemy or, at best, an interloper with dubious intentions. No amount of deep-hearted communication with these other people can really strike at the core of their deep-seated and deep-rooted doubts and suspicions about what YOU are, as a person.

In fact, you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince these Others that you are even a person at all. Because of these false and deep-rooted preconceptions about your person, you find yourself endlessly reminding people–sometimes, those people closest to you–of who and what you really are. Naturally, these other people are disinclined to believe a single word you say. The best you can get out of these people is a half-hearted nod and an empty “yes, I understand.” And if you find it difficult to believe them when they say they “understand,” it’s only natural: their reassuring voices are belied by the hysterical anger they show you whenever you fuck up, however lightly. You know in your gut that in spite of what you tell them and how reassuringly you do so; in spite of any “gifts” you may offer to remind them of your humanity, or that you are indeed “one of them,” in “their camp,” waving “their flag” and marching to the beat of “their” own drums, you will never be one of them.

Of course. It is human to make mistakes. But the outlandish way in which your so-called peers, your so-called family, your so-called wife or husband or best friend–your countrymen–react when you, out of simple human failing, cross the line: well, it’s simply their way of telling you that you are something of a child, somehow–how else can one say it?–less than they.

Your peers will tell you it’s not what you think; they would not dare judge you as inferior to them. After all, they know you and you know them. You work with them, bleed with them, laugh with them, sleep with them, die with them. They lash out at you because (if one were to believe them) you keep on crossing the line. However, you have also observed your peers crossing that very same line time and time again. How do your peers react, then? Not so harshly, one observes, to great dismay. A lot more forgiving and understanding. More winks and pats on the back. It’s okay, Justin. No problem, Dave. We all make mistakes. To err is human.

Better yet, observe how those same peers react when the question comes down to color, class, race, nationality or sexual preference. The very first thing you see is what your peers refuse to see, what they refuse to even mention: the question of color. It trumps every other consideration, up to and including that big bugaboo class and the slightly smaller bugaboo of sexual preference. Very often, they refuse to mention it not because they won’t, but, surprisingly enough, they can’t; they lack the vocabulary to deal with your reality. In fact, they, your so-called countrymen, lack the vocabulary to deal with you–which is tantamount to saying they lack the vocabulary to deal with themselves.

One need only to look on YouTube and see the horrendous videoclips; see what is happening to American society; see what is happening to Europe, to Africa, the Arab World, to Asia and Latin America. Taken collectively it looks like a prelude to a global war. In fact this prelude often makes the opening salvos of World War Two look extremely tame. Historians have often referred to 1939 and 1940 as the “Phony War,” or sit-down war. How on earth will historians refer to our time period when, or if, we survive it? Not a second goes by in which another insufferable ethnic conflict erupts in some benighted part of this monstrous so-called “civilization,” and not only in America: now, the Algerians are pummeling the Malians and Burkinians in Ouargla; now there is a bloodbath between Turks and Kurds in Hamburg; now the Senegalese and the Nigerians chop each other to pieces in Omonia Square; now there is a brawl between Tajiks and Russians somewhere in Moscow and St. Petersburg; now “hard-working” Albanians brawl with “lazy” African-Americans, who raid grocery stores and quicky-marts and shopping malls and fight or get fought by Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Palestinians, Chinese, Cambodians, poor whites, Italians, Jews, and so on and so forth.

Apparently, this is not even the tip of the iceberg’s tip. It is happening right now, as you read this, in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit (itself a code-word for “niggers”, as if “niggers” shut down the auto industries in Michigan and not the Fords), Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans. The entire planet is springing leaks on every known shore.

My reaction to all this–especially the unceasing ethnic conflicts in the U.S.–was and is one of resigned disgust. They’re better off simply blowing up New York, I find myself thinking too often. Hell: nuke Chicago. Or at least run a few more airplanes into the city center, loaded with atomic bombs. It’s 2016,* and yet the same poisons that contaminated this country in 1916, or 1816 or 1716 or even 1616, still exist. Even the presence of a so-called “black” president has not only not changed the sociopolitical and socioeconomic game in America–it has merely reinforced this sickening game. My gut reaction, then? Go fuck yourselves. If you assholes can’t get it together by now–if you are still falling for all that old “divide and conquer,” British colonial honky bullshit, you might as well hang it up. Forget it, you all failed. This so-called “Great Experiment,” this thing you call the “United States of America,” needs to be scrapped; it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

So what, then? If one has to start over, how do you start? With the language, with the American vocabulary.

You can’t change anything if you are unable to articulate your reality. Of course, this also means being able to psychologically face your reality. Facing, as opposed to accepting American reality, because there is nothing in the current American reality that should be accepted. The reality is that America is, simply put, a zoo, and we are the animals, shitting all over ourselves while those outside the gates–those with the money and power–feed us some fucking bananas every now and then. Meanwhile they come and go, laughing at us and pointing to us, and then they go back to their fine homes while we stew in our own shit and claw our eyes out for scraps of rotten meat.

The zoo-keepers don’t like it, of course. We all stink, so they imagine; think they are doing us a favor by cleaning up our shit; they think we need to stop yapping at them. They should have never locked us up in cages to begin with. But there’s one problem with this “zoo” analogy is that the zookeepers are generally white men, or, like Eric Holder or Barack Obama, colored men appointed to the highest levels of zoo-maintenance. Maybe Obama really is the Head Zoo-Keeper, and I’m all wrong. But who ever keeps the zoo–black or white–does not own it. The owners, whoever and wherever they are, are white men.

So what does all this have to do with the impoverishment of the American language? Simply this: our intellectuals (if you can call them that) speak and write as if our collective misery does not really exist.

America, by and large, is a horrible place to live in. There are exceptions, and distractions. But take them away, rip the scales from your eyes, and you will find a country which is simply quite unendurable. If our “intellectuals” have the gumption to to acknowledge that human suffering actually exists in the “Greatest Nation on Earth,” they–with precious few exceptions–place the blame of that suffering on those who are suffering, of course. You should get a job and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Man up. Stop being sexist and check your privilege. Stop having children out of wedlock; respect your body; stop selling drugs; respect other people; learn to read, etc., etc., etc. This language, aimed not just at the “Urban Community” (read: niggers and spics), but basically at anybody black  in the US (and in slightly rarer cases, poor whites, browns, reds or even yellows) is not designed to enlighten or encourage them to lift themselves out of the American social mire: it is designed specifically to chastise them as a parent would scold a naughty child. It is designed to maintain the centuries-old chasm between speaker and listener–the speaker being the colonizer and/or his mouthpiece and the listener being the colonized/native. For the language these mainstream intellectuals speak to us is the language of Colonialism: EUROPEAN Colonialism.

It is the language of a paternalistic oppressor so smug in his or her attitudes towards his or her “inferiors” (and so clueless and alienated from the reality of the oppressed) that he or she really has no clue at all that he/she is an oppressor. He/she thinks this is perfectly normal. This means that the speaker may not even harbor any ill intentions towards the person she is speaking to, for she does not know of any other way to talk to him. In fact the intellectual bankruptcy of US culture was carefully wrought; the bankruptcy of the American language was carefully wrought over a number of decades, if not centuries. The American language, in its intellectual manifestations, has a curious way of being overly analytical while simultaneously saying little of substance. It is a curious achievement. America is not the only nation which has managed to pull off this strange feat, yet it strikes one as rather odd why in a land that prizes itself on “freedom of speech” do the inhabitants insist upon not speaking.

Or maybe not, when one gets to know Americans well. Until very recently Americans have said what they wanted to say–which means they really didn’t wish to say anything pertinent to their miserable lives. Anything that would have shattered the little bubbles they lived in (their American “dreams”) might have completely thrown them off balance. Until very recently the American who found a place to stand in his/her country would patronize those beneath him as “losers,” knowing full well how difficult it really is to obtain wealth in America but refusing to admit it, even to himself. (Art Blakey, jazz drummer extraordinaire, had gone on record years ago as saying America was the greatest country in the world because, in his words, “you can be anything you want.”) In recent years, however, there has been a substantial change in attitude on the part of Americans towards their country. There is substantially more anger and outrage at American incompetence in politics, economics, culture and at American society in general. The rank-and-file American has come to identify a common enemy that holds him in check, that takes the bread from his mouth, that poisons his water and threatens to push him out into the street: the One Percent. That One Percent, by and large, is white and male. And yet in spite of this sudden sociopolitical epiphany among the rank-and-file, the level of good old fashioned American prejudice–towards blacks, especially, and now towards Muslims, transgendered persons and so-called “illegals” (Latinos)–has remained consistent.

But not only that. The racial animosity has found a new lightning rod in the rise of Donald Trump and the alternative-right–primarily made up of lonely, disaffected and broke young white men who, according to Republican strategist Rick Wilson, “masturbate to anime” and “are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.” The same could have been said, of course, about Hitler’s Brown Shirts in Weimar Germany: Berlin considered them a laughingstock. Yet it only took a few years and some careful political maneuvering (and a lot of street brawls) for them to get inside the Reichstag–and burn it to the ground. Rick Wilson is sadly mistaken if he thinks these cockroaches will simply stick to whacking off over Chun Li.

The well-off white American (or even non-white American) won’t admit that he/she is essentially a settler, a colonizer or, at best, simply doing the settler’s dirty work. Like every other settler who has ever existed, these American “settlers” are filled with obscene myths about the people whom they either keep in check or help to keep in check. They use the exact same language. The stinking “native quarters” or “casbahs” of French Algeria, of British India, Burma, Dutch Indonesia or French Indochina, Tangier, Belgian Congo, the “townships” of Apartheid South Africa, etc., etc. are more or less the same as the “banlieues” of contemporary Paris or the “ghettos,” “projects,” “barrios,” “Chinatowns,” “trailer parks” and “reservations” of the USA. The “American” uses precisely the same language to refer to the “ghetto” and the “urban community” as did the pied-noir of Algeria used to refer to the Casbah or “native quarter”. It is a “jungle,” a “zoo,” a “no-go zone.” (The latter is used very commonly here in Berlin to refer to the Turkish/Arab/African “jungles” of Wedding, Neukolln and above all, “Kotti” or “Kottbusser Tor.”)

And in these no-go zones, these jungles and human zoos, we see the obvious. The niggers, to paraphrase Frantz Fanon, beat each other up. They have a need to see blood. And when they kill, they don’t just do it half-heartedly; they do it with panache. They get angry when you look at them funny or pull a knife or a gun when you step on their shoe, even if by accident. The towelhead reaches for his gun whenever he sees his daughter dating outside the community. The fucking bodies pile up, and everyone is left shaking their heads in disgust and disbelief. Those people, say those on top. There’s simply no understanding why they do these things. Perhaps violence, as Ta-Nehisi Coates once insinuated (albeit with tongue in cheek), is encoded in the very DNA of these “black males” or “Turkish males” or “African males” or “Hispanic males.”

Yeah, sure. We get that; we’ve been getting that all of our lives. The question of violence is one that’s continually turning over and over in our skulls like the hamburgers we always eat. But why?

Colonialism, writes Frantz Fanon, “tends to turn every colony into a jungle, where the only law is that of the knife.” The contemporary European, as well as the American–smugly dogmatic and ignorant of history and even language, would undoubtedly wax indignant at such a comparison. Today’s European would have you believe that colonialism was indeed horrible but it is a thing of the past, and the failures of Africa and the Middle East are due to the moral, psychological and perhaps even ingrown failings of Africans and Arabs themselves. America, on the other hand, is not even a colony. We have a black president, a healthy black elite, and black entertainers are among the most influential trend-setters in the world; in fact not an hour passes on this planet where no one is talking about the fandangos of Jay Z and Beyonce, or discussing Bill Cosby’s sex/drug scandal, or Chris Brown and Rhianna, or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West–or, needless to say, The Most Powerful Man in the World Himself, President Obama. The Americans are very slick con-artists; they have devised an ingenious (or, perhaps not so ingenious and more than a little obvious) mass-media smokescreen–a very gaudy and flashy one–with which they present themselves to the world.

They are so slick that they fool many people into thinking Kanye West is a rank-and-file African American, when he is not. They also fool many people into thinking that the Trinitarios, the Crips, Bloods and La Eme are rank-and-file black and brown Americans. They are not. Most of us are simply trying to put food on the table, send our kids to school or even keep from starving. But the individual stories of black and brown people trying to stay afloat in a hostile American sea aren’t very exciting, not to mention very sexy. They also aren’t very funny. Ergo, these stories can’t be packaged and sold to a jaded American public, which insists upon being amused and titillated by the dysfunctional lives of certain blacks and browns. The Great American Smokescreen of lies, distortions and stereotypes is there for a reason, of course. “No true account of black life can be held, can be contained, within the American vocabulary,” James Baldwin said in his last interview.

But there is hope. Thanks to the internet, it is much easier to look behind that smokescreen than ever before. The year after Obama was elected President, the writer encountered an Arab in Berlin who had already decided that the President was, in his words, “scheisse.” Naturally I still imagined that Obama was still one of the good guys and I took offense, seeing this outburst as yet another manifestation of Arab racism. But I was wrong. “Obama,” said the man, who was working in a schwarma shop in Mitte, “is just a puppet of the war machine.”

And this man had no interest whatever in immigrating to America. Unlike the 1980s–when MTV, and Reagan’s glib smile, greasy hair and cheap rhetoric fooled much of the world into thinking America was some special, magical sort of super-Oz–outsiders can see the reality of America from YouTube clips and decide for themselves whether or not New York is really worth it.

And not only outsiders. For the first time ever the American has allowed a few scales to fall from his eyes. It took 9/11 and the combined disasters of the Bush and Obama regimes for them to see that no, they will not become millionaires if they work hard enough and save their bread. No, they will never land the girl of their dreams and live in the house of their dreams in the cleanest neighborhood in town, because the neighborhood is now a gated community, the house is unaffordable and shoddily constructed, and the girl you dreamed of really wants a sugar daddy or a bad boy, or has herpes or HIV, or is a lesbian or, better yet, imagines herself to be one. Now you find yourself jumping through all sorts of hoops to get a fat, sloppy bar girl to even smile at you, or find yourself sending out resumes by the tens of thousands and getting no offers save for a temp job at Career Blazers or, worse, at McDonalds. You are stuck in your parent’s basement or a homeless shelter or at the Y. Worse yet, the niggers, or the Ay-rabs, or the honkies, or the spics, or the kikes are out for your ass. ISIS wants to eat your children. Or just perhaps, it’s the One Percent, The Matrix playing every fucking body in the world like a chess piece, keeping everyone divided so they can continue to grab everything–your money, your job, your property, your possessions, your woman, your man, your car and eventually, if you are not careful, your mind: that, before they take your corpse.

Now, everybody knows it; everybody can see massive fraud taking place in this country on every conceivable level, right down to our very bedrooms. Unfortunately the knowledge of such fraud has led to a kind of outrage that, all too frequently, can not be tempered with reason. I am not suggesting that one be so stupid enough to be “reasonable” in the face of rising fascism, cultural decadence and hyper-militarism. Very often “reason,” when it pertains to blacks, is simply a phony appeal on the part of white liberals for blacks to shut the fuck up and keep grinning. (That is what they mean when they talk about “dignity” and “perseverance” in the face of racism.) What I am suggesting is that this new anger towards a failing West is–as usual–striking old targets. And that the solutions for this failing West are, once again, just the same old shit in new diapers.

And naturally, in such a chaotic political situation, any hope of you communicating your own reality to your fellow countrymen would be dashed from the start. It would be darkly humorous to imagine a Jewish academic writing Dear Gentile Germany from the depths of Buchenwald. But one can easily imagine Germany’s reaction. It wouldn’t have been funny. In fact, it wasn’t.

 *I finished this essay today but the bulk of this was taken from a notebook I kept in 2014.

 

 

Breaking News: Rap Coons Supporting Donald Trump (and Hillary)

So it looks like The Snoopster and Good Ole Fiddy Spent are sniffing around Hillary’s moldy old tail.

And Kid Rock(head) and P. Diddle (of all people) are stumping for Trump.

Imagine my surprise about this.

I knew all along that the bulk of these thugged-out, coonified rappers had deep reactionary tendencies. I wrote an essay about it of course (and which is presumably well-known, since it pops up on Google searches quite a bit), and even wrote one twenty years ago for VIBE, which turned it down. An upper-echelon editor for that magazine (whose name I won’t mention) turned it down on grounds that I was essentially saying “fuck rap.” He was right, though I was not consciously aware of it at the time.

A lot of rap fans think that the rot in Rap began in the 2000’s. I have asserted that the rot began around 1987-8, with the emergence of lumpen-thug rap of NWA, Schooly-D, Ice-T and other misguided artists. But with the recent revelations of Afrika Bambaataa’s pedophilia and KRS-One’s unwavering (and utterly indefensible) support of Bambaataa, it has become clear that the moral rot is at the very heart of Hip Hop itself. Afrika Bambaataa is one of the fucking founders of Hip Hop, period. KRS-One, in his own words–and many will agree with him–virtually IS Hip Hop.

And 50 Cent–who isn’t worth much more than his name–has childishly revealed his own gross insensitivity to those who aren’t disgustingly rich, smug and self-satisfied like he thinks he is. Curtis, a $100,000 donation to the handicapped is not going to make this one blow over so quickly. Sorry, dude. I have no reason to believe that you are not simply going into damage control by throwing a fat wad of cash towards a group of people you essentially don’t give a shit about.

Snoop Dogg comes off as a flaky, flippant and clownish man who has never had a deep, profound thought about anything his entire life. He probably digs Hillary’s fat piano legs. Azealia Banks’ rationale behind supporting Trump is that she feels Trump will bring the country down. That sounds like a good idea on the surface. The only problem is that if (or when) Trump brings America down the roof will fall on the heads of people who won’t deserve it. Meanwhile the rich bastards who run the country will be safely ensconced on some Caribbean island, sipping a rum cola and getting head from a 13-year old native girl or boy–while the rest of us will wallow in the shit these bastards have left behind.

Don’t think for one moment that these rap coons and their friends won’t be on the island with them. Azealia probably hopes she’ll be the fluff girl. Jenna Jameson (America’s favorite blow-up doll) wasn’t wrong when she said to the Guardian that “when you’re rich, you want a Republican in office.” But she wasn’t right, either.

Stevie Wonder, Barbara Streisand, Jenny Lopez, Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg, John Bon Jovi, Tony Bennett, Ice-T, Quincy Jones, Kanye West and Burt Bacharach combined are worth billions of dollars. Allegedly they all want Hillary to take the Oval Office. All Hillary can promise at this point is simply more of the same tired military-industrial bullshit we are going through, right now. Which would suit the above-mentioned folk just fine. The last thing that a well-off celebrity would want is for the social-political boat to be rocked; he’s afraid he might lose his toys.

However, there are always exceptions. I don’t know if YG and Nipsey Hussle are pro-Sanders or pro-Hillary, but neither of them like Trump very much. YG has even claimed that the Secret Service are following him because of his stand on Trump. Both of them are hard-core rap coons. Maybe all this spells the end of Rap Coonery, once and for all. I hope so. There have been too many false deaths these past twenty years.

Ancient Egypt and Africans: Enough Already!!

“the whites are the implacable foe, the traditional and everlasting enemy of the Blacks’. . . The necessary re-education of Blacks and a possible solution of racial crises can begin, strangely enough, only when Blacks fully realize this central fact in their lives: The white man is their Bitter Enemy. For this is not the ranting of wild-eyed militancy, but the calm and unmistakable verdict of several thousand years of documented history.”

Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization, p.310

After fuming over some racist nonsense that an Egyptian (!!) shat on YouTube, I had to put this out–if only in lieu of putting my foot up this dumb motherfucker’s ass.

It seems that everybody and his brother is still pulling their hair out from the roots about the ethnic origins of the Ancient Egyptians. I had hoped this matter had been settled in the 1970s, but you can’t keep a good bunch of honky assholes down. Not for too long. They always need to have the last word on everything.

Why all the words, sweat, bile and tears wasted on bodies that haven’t breathed a breath of life in over 4,000 years? Because these bodies laid the fundamentals of our current civilization. That civilization is also currently rotting, for various reasons, but this is beside the point.

Or maybe it isn’t. The white, right-leaning intellectual would have us believe (usually inadvertently) that the rot in our current civilization is due to the unwanted presence of blacks in the halls of power, when (according to them) they should be in the fields, picking cotton or watermelons, or in the kitchen, frying chicken, or otherwise back in the jungle—where we supposedly belong. The liberation of the “blacks” resulted in the decay of learning, the decay of morals, the decay of music, of the cities, of the economy, of the environment, of the weather, of everything.

“Multiculturalism” is code-talk for niggers, or spics, or—in Europe—towelheads; specifically, “multiculturalism” is (to the neocons and neo-liberals) a heavy-handed attempt to force primitive peoples and their primitive, superficial cultures into the halls of a sophisticated and venerable Western civilization. The only thing they can do is piss all over the walls and shit on the floors of this great, white Parthenon. Schiller? What the hell do niggers know about him, anyway? Or Voltaire? Kant? Schopenhauer? Etc., etc.

But the presence of barbarians in the halls of western civilization could be better tolerated if these same barbarians did not try and rewrite the history of Western Civilization to suit “their” purposes. Of course, on close scrutiny, these black “barbarians” are merely attempting—often awkwardly—to set the historical record straight. Westerners are actually attempting to maintain an historical fantasy which deems them, with incredible arrogance and presumptuousness, the only Civilized.

From the Afrocentrists

Much of Afro-centrism is indeed silly. Chancellor Williams, the virtual Dean of Afrocentrists, has done a good deal of damage in regards to excavating and reassessing African history. His book, The Destruction of Black Civilization, is essentially a Nationalist polemic against Whitey. Nothing wrong with that, of course, if taken strictly at face value: the white man brought the bulk of his miseries upon himself–not least of all because he refuses to look at himself in the mirror; he refuses to ask himself whether or not there is anything about him that is worth liking. But that is beside the point. The point is that those among us who are responsible for writing our history as Africans are fundamentally incapable of objectivity of any sort. Hence, Professor Williams and his Destruction.

Williams’s anger at the white and Asiatic world was perfectly understandable. He was well-versed in virtually all aspects of African history and knew, like the open-minded among us, that Ancient Egypt was in fact an African civilization that originated in Africa, and that the people who made up that civilization were, of course, black Africans. But Egypt was also the first empire the world had ever seen, and like all empires it subjugated and attracted people from all over the known world at the time. This is what empires always do. And like all imperialists, the Egyptians naturally came to see themselves as being somehow “greater” than the people they subjugated, who subsequently began to be perceived as “lesser” folk.

In world history there have been utterly no exceptions, and this includes both so-called “Black Africa” (an invention of Arabs and Europeans) and “pre-Columbian America” (an invention of Euro-Americans).  The great Mali Empire was built upon the ruins of Ghana and the Soso Kingdom. The grander Songhai was carved from the weakening Mali State (which, ironically, outlasted Songhai by roughly a half-century). Songhai, like Mali, depended at the very least upon the semi-subjugation of numerous vassal states which, not long after this empire’s establishment, chafed under Songhai rulership. The Fall of Songhai in March 1591 had been, in reality, a long time in building. A handful of military miscalculations–such as the use of elephants to quash the invading Moroccan army–sealed the empires’ fate. But Afrocentrists such as Professor Williams would have us believe otherwise.

In The Destruction of African Civilization, Williams constructed his own fantasy of “black history,” the history of the African people, as being an eternal conflict between Africans and white outsiders. He has stated that the Africans were trusting and naïve saps who allowed Europeans, Arabs, Romans, etc., into their continent and were enslaved and exploited in return. This does not explain why Africa was the very last continent to resist European or Arab domination. It also does not explain why Arab domination of Africa was impossible without the Arab’s enlistment of African help. The Arab colonization of “Sub-Saharan Africa,” so-called, was extremely short-lived in the West and largely backed by the power of Europeans (namely, the Portuguese) in the East. Although well-written, Williams’s writings are simply slightly more sophisticated “ghetto scholarship,” seeing ancient Africa as a mere extension of mid-twentieth century Harlem.

Afrocentrism gets sillier when it attempts to claim certain Europeans, such as Beethoven, as Africans. Although Beethoven has been described as “swarthy” and having rather broad features this does not necessarily mean he was a mulatto. He may, in fact, have been a Romany/Gypsy, and his musical innovations rooted in Romany heritage.

Some Afrocentrists such as Runoko Rashidi have gone so far as to claim the Shang dynasty as “black.” How can we know they were indeed “Africans”? They may have been darker-complected than the Mongolian Han peoples, but not necessarily “black.” The Montagnards and Cambodians of the south (some of whom are visibly black) may be the descendants of the Shang people. “Shang,” according to some unverified sources, means dark-skinned. (But not necessarily “black” as in African black.) India, on the other hand, is clearly another case altogether: several unrelated anthropological studies clearly reveal that the Buddha was depicted as a “negro.”

Unquestionably the most obvious bit of foolishness from Afrocentrism comes from the notion that there was a “black empire” in the U.S. South thousands of years ago. There has been—unlike the obviously Negroid Pushkin or Alessandro De Medici, the blatantly Negroid Olmec heads, or blatantly Negroid pharaohs of Egypt or Buddha statues of Southeast Asia—absolutely no evidence to back up these wild claims, and appear to be lame attempts to link black Americans to the U.S. Southern soil.

From the Eurocentrists

But Afro-centrism is an attempt, as I said, to set the record straight. According to the “official” record, the Ancient Egyptians were in fact Caucasians who bore little or no relationship to the people of Sub Saharan Africa simply because, of course, they were not “negroes” or so-called “true Negroes.” Although the theory of the “true Negro” has been officially debunked, many historians and anthropologists write and speak as if it hasn’t. Many of these historians are in fact themselves Egyptians or even other Africans who are either incapable of drawing their own independent conclusions about the history of Africans or—as is usually the case of the Egyptians—so violently prejudiced against darker Africans, so ashamed of their own ethnic heritage, that they take great pains to disassociate themselves with anything “African”—African in their minds being Inky, Rastus, Al Jolson, and all the spearchuckers who tried to kill Tarzan.

However, there has never been a consideration for who or what exactly is the “true Mongolian” or who is the “true Caucasian”; apparently there have been several varieties of “Caucasians,” the most notable being those in India who founded the great civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro, and those in the Middle-East, so-called, who gave us Sumeria, Babylonia, Elam, and so on; and those in North Africa who gave us Phonecia, Carthage, and naturally, Ancient Egypt. It is tacitly assumed that the Caucasian is some sort of superior man who can in fact do anything (except, maybe, dance, fuck or eat watermelons), who has started everything, who has created “Our World.” According to a piece of Neo-Nazi drivel circulating around the web, “the white man has sailed the seven seas,” etc. These notions were called into question 40 and 50 years ago during that dreadful moment in history called The Sixties (when everything began to fall apart), but thanks to brilliant scholarship by enlightened minds such as Mary Lefkowitz and Dr. Zahi Hawss, things are once again being set right, in ways that reinforce our sense of superiority as white people.

The African “true negro,” on the other hand, is a pepper-corn haired, long-armed, narrow-hipped, flat-footed, thick-lipped creature—a little monkey who has really done nothing but hang from the trees until the European had the hindsight to remove him from these wretched conditions and put him into slavery, in the New World (so-called). Sure, the slavery was nasty, it was degrading and dehumanizing, and maybe a few hundred thousand “blacks” perished in the long, arduous trip across the Atlantic (the true number is closer to 85-150 million; for each of the 11-15 million Africans who are known to have arrived in America, 8-10 more did not). But there were benefits as well. The African learned to speak a civilized tongue—English, French, or Spanish—instead of babbling like a gorilla. He learned to wear clothes instead of a grass skirt. He learned to wipe his ass with toilet paper rather than using a banana leaf or his left hand. Moreover, he became a Christian. It was out of his exposure to the Christian faith that his heart-rending “spirituals” arose. From this, arose other forms of music that revealed to the white West (and subsequently to the world) his “natural” sense of rhythm, his innate “sensuality,” unequaled and unparalleled by any group of people in the world. It had come from Africa, of course; it had come from his gene pool.

Although this doesn’t exactly explain Timi Yuro, Dusty Springfield, Christian Rannenberg, Muggsy Spanier, Paul Butterfield, Jamie Lidell, Amy Winehouse, Bix Beiderbecke, or Benny Goodman—all of whom sing or play with obvious soul, and neither of whom were or are Africans.

So goes the official explanation of Africans or their place in history—as the servant, the buffoon, the hip cat, or the spear-chucking, oversexed jungle-bunny. These are the inventions of a fear-stricken, panicking white mind which may not actually conceive of itself as being “racist” in the classic sense, yet nevertheless feels its universe threatened on all sides. The threat comes from the “loony” Afrocentrics who dare to tamper with “The Truth” as this white Western mind sees it. This mind can be as liberal and broad as it wants, so long as its basic preconceptions are not threatened. The more “liberal” Western mind will dispense (publicly, anyway) with the spearchuckers stereotype, or at least grant it a degree of dignity which it does not need: a stereotype, after all, is a stereotype, a lie is a lie. The “noble savage” is a lie; Africa as a land of “soul” and “rhythm” and “dance,” bereft of human knowledge, is a lie. No matter how hard one clings to the obsequious rubbish of Africa’s alleged “friends” (such as Ryzyard Kapuczinski), they will never be made right.

There are attempts to patronize black students by offering them the examples of Mali and Songhay, or Benin, and usually in ways which separate their histories from the rest of humanity, the better to reduce their relevance. Images of rickety mud mosques and half-decayed buildings held up as examples of the “brilliance” of African architecture—assuming, of course, that these buildings were as half-decayed, crooked and rickety in 1411 as they are in 2011. Mali and Niger are extremely poor nations; they barely have the funds to maintain their manuscripts and buildings, which are in a sorry state. Today’s Mali mosques and today’s Timbuktu is no more reflective of their medieval state than today’s Roman forum, a collection of bits and pieces, reflects the way it used to look 1500 years ago.

To offer up the Great Wall of Zimbabwe as a prime example of “African” architecture is an insult. Naturally, it does not begin to compare to anything in the West, let alone the East, in terms of architectural design. This is just as stupid as offering up Stonehenge as a prime example of Western architecture, which no historian anywhere in the world would be so foolish to do. It is just as stupid as saying that Italian architecture is the same as Russian or German architecture because, after all, it is “European.” With African civilization or “culture” one can afford to be slapdash and casual, because, after all, it’s “African,” nothing important.

The notion of the non-existence of African history was a carefully constructed lie, already in full throttle by the time of the Berlin Conference of 1885. Note that the British conquerors did not bother taking any photographs (any known ones; the British Government may be keeping them under wraps) of the old Benin City they soon destroyed. There is one sketch, of a small section of the city, only.

The true flowering of African civilization was in the East rather than the West, just as the true flowering of European civilization lay in the west, rather than the East of Europe. And all anthropological evidence suggests that the flow of civilizing spirit was Northward from Africa—namely, from the Sudan and present-day Somalia—than the other way around. All this phrenology babble about the shape of ancient Egyptian skulls being akin to Nordics; all these absurd speculations about the shape of the pharaoh’s noses, or the color of their skins (were they light or dark?), or the texture of their hair, is belied by evidence that can be gleamed by recent (and relatively unbiased) research:

  1. “Recent work on skeletons and DNA suggests that the people who settled in the Nile valley, like all of humankind, came from somewhere south of the Sahara; they were not (as some nineteenth-century scholars had supposed) invaders from the North. See Bruce G. Trigger, “The Rise of Civilization in Egypt,” Cambridge History of Africa (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982), vol I, pp 489-90; S. O. Y. Keita, “Studies and Comments on Ancient Egyptian Biological Relationships,” History in Africa 20 (1993) 129-54. (Mary Lefkowitz (1997). Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. Basic Books. pg 242) [/QB][/QUOTE]
  2.  “not surprisingly, the Egyptian skulls were not very distance from the Jebel Moya [a Neolithic site in the southern Sudan] skulls, but were much more distance from all others, including those from West Africa. Such a study suggests a closer genetic affinity between peoples in Egypt and the northern Sudan, which were close geographically and are known to have had considerable cultural contact throughout prehistory and pharaonic history… Clearly more analyses of the physical remains of ancient Egyptians need to be done using current techniques, such as those of Nancy Lovell at the University of Alberta is using in her work..” (Mary Lefkowitz)
  3. “There is now a sufficient body of evidence from modern studies of skeletal remains to indicate that the ancient Egyptians, especially southern Egyptians, exhibited physical characteristics that are within the range of variation for ancient and modern indigenous peoples of the Sahara and tropical Africa.. In general, the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia had the greatest biological affinity to people of the Sahara and more southerly areas.” (Nancy C. Lovell, ” Egyptians, physical anthropology of,” in Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, ed. Kathryn A. Bard and Steven Blake Shubert, ( London and New York: Routledge, 1999) pp. 328-332)
  4. “The Nubian tribute-bearers are painted in two skin tones, black and dark brown. These tones do not necessarily represent actual skin tones in real life but may serve to distinguish each tribute-bearer from the next in a row in which the figures overlap. Alternatively, the brown-skinned people may be of Nubian origin, and the black-skinned ones may be farther south (Trigger 1978, 33). The shading of skin tones in Egyptian tomb paintings, which varies considerably, may not be a certain criterion for distinguishing race. Specific symbols of ethnic identity can also vary. Identifying race in Egyptian representational art, again, is difficult to do- probably because race (as opposed to ethnic affiliation, that is, Egyptians versus all non-Egyptians) was not a criterion for differentiation used by the ancient Egyptians… (Lefkowitz)
  5. “Overall, when the Egyptian crania are evaluated in a Near Eastern (Lachish) versus African (Kerma, Kebel Moya, Ashanti) context) the affinity is with the Africans. The Sudan and Palestine are the most appropriate comparative regions which would have ‘donated’ people, along with the Sahara and Maghreb. Archaeology validates looking to these regions for population flow (see Hassan 1988)… Egyptian groups showed less overall affinity to Palestinian and Byzantine remains than to other African series, especially Sudanese.” (Keita 1993)
  6. “When the unlikely relationships [Indian matches] and eliminated, the Egyptian series are more similar overall to other African series than to European or Near Eastern (Byzantine or Palestinian) series.” (Keita 1993)
  7. “Populations and cultures now found south of the desert roamed far to the north. The culture of Upper Egypt, which became dynastic Egyptian civilization, could fairly be called a Sudanese transplant.”(Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa: Their Interaction. Encyclopedia of Precolonial Africa, by Joseph O. Vogel, AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California (1997), pp. 465-472 )
  8. “Analysis of crania is the traditional approach to assessing ancient population origins, relationships, and diversity. In studies based on anatomical traits and measurements of crania, similarities have been found between Nile Valley crania from 30,000, 20,000 and 12,000 years ago and various African remains from more recent times (see Thoma 1984; Brauer and Rimbach 1990; Angel and Kelley 1986; Keita 1993). Studies of crania from southern predynastic Egypt, from the formative period (4000-3100 B.C.), show them usually to be more similar to the crania of ancient Nubians, Kushites, Saharans, or modern groups from the Horn of Africa than to those of dynastic northern Egyptians or ancient or modern southern Europeans.”
  9. (S. O. Y and A.J. Boyce, “The Geographical Origins and Population Relationships of Early Ancient Egyptians”, in Egypt in Africa, Theodore Celenko (ed), Indiana University Press, 1996, pp. 20-33)
  10. “There is no archaeological, linguistic, or historical data which indicate a European or Asiatic invasion of, or migration to, the Nile Valley during First Dynasty times. Previous concepts about the origin of the First Dynasty Egyptians as being somehow external to the Nile Valley or less native are not supported by archaeology… In summary, the Abydos First Dynasty royal tomb contents reveal a notable craniometric heterogeneity. Southerners predominate. (Kieta, S. (1992) Further Studies of Crania From Ancient Northern Africa: An Analysis of Crania From First Dynasty Egyptian Tombs, Using Multiple Discriminant Functions. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 87:245-254)”
  11. “The predominant craniometric pattern in the Abydos royal tombs is ‘southern’ (tropical African variant), and this is consistent with what would be expected based on the literature and other results (Keita, 1990). This pattern is seen in both group and unknown analyses… Archaeology and history seem to provide the most parsimonious explanation for the variation in the royal tombs at Abydos.. Tomb design suggests the presence of northerners in the south in late Nakada times (Hoffman, 1988) when the unification probably took place. Delta names are attached to some of the tombs at Abydos (Gardiner, 1961; Yurco, 1990, personal communication), thus perhaps supporting Petrie’s (1939) and Gardiner’s contention that north-south marriages were undertaken to legitimize the hegemony of the south. The courtiers of northern elites would have accompanied them.
  12. Given all of the above, it is probably not possible to view the Abydos royal tomb sample as representative of the general southern Upper Egyptian population of the time. Southern elites and/or their descendants eventually came to be buried in the north (Hoffman, 1988). Hence early Second Dynasty kings and Djoser (Dynasty 111) (Hayes, 1953) and his descendants are not buried in Abydos. Petrie (1939) states that the Third Dynasty, buried in the north, was of Sudanese origin, but southern Egypt is equally likely. This perhaps explains Harris and Weeks’ (1973) suggested findings of southern morphologies in some Old Kingdom Giza remains, also verified in portraiture (Drake, 1987). Further study would be required to ascertain trends in the general population of both regions. The strong Sudanese affinity noted in the unknown analyses may reflect the Nubian interactions with upper Egypt in predynastic times prior to Egyptian unification (Williams, 1980,1986)…” (S. Keita (1992) Further Studies of Crania From Ancient Northern Africa: An Analysis of Crania From First Dynasty Egyptian Tombs, Using Multiple Discriminant Functions. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 87:245-254)
  13. “When the Elephantine results were added to a broader pooling of the physical characteristics drawn from a wide geographic region which includes Africa, the Mediterranean and the Near East quite strong affinities emerge between Elephantine and populations from Nubia, supporting a strong south-north cline. (Barry Kemp. (2006) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. p. 54)
  14. “Distance analysis and factor analysis, based on Q-mode correlation coefficients, were applied to 23 craniofacial measurements in 1,802 recent and prehistoric crania from major geographical areas of the Old World. The major findings are as follows: 1) Australians show closer similarities to African populations than to Melanesians. 2) Recent Europeans align with East Asians, and early West Asians resemble Africans. 3) The Asian population complex with regional difference between northern and southern members is manifest. 4) Clinal variations of craniofacial features can be detected in the Afro-European region on the one hand, and Australasian and East Asian region on the other hand. 5) The craniofacial variations of major geographical groups are not necessarily consistent with their geographical distribution pattern. This may be a sign that the evolutionary divergence in craniofacial shape among recent populations of different geographical areas is of a highly limited degree. Taking all of these into account, a single origin for anatomically modern humans is the most parsimonious interpretation of the craniofacial variations presented in this study. (Hanihara T. Comparison of craniofacial features of major human groups. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1996 Mar;99(3):389-412.)
  15. “.. all their features can be found in several living populations of East Africa, like the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi, who are very dark skinned and differ greatly from Europeans in a number of body proportions.. There is every reason to believe that they are ancestral to the living ‘Elongated East Africans’. Neither of these populations, fossil and modern, should be considered to be closely related to the populations of Europe and western Asia.. In skin colour, the Tutsi are darker than the Hutu, in the reverse direction to that leading to the caucasoids. Lip thickness provides a similar case: on an average the lips of the Tutsi are thicker than those of the Hutu.” [Jean Hiernaux, The People of Africa (1975), pgs 42-43, 62-63)
  16. “In sub-Saharan Africa, many anthropological characters show a wide range of population means or frequencies. In some of them, the whole world range is covered in the sub-continent. Here live the shortest and the tallest human populations, the one with the highest and the one with the lowest nose, the one with the thickest and the one with the thinnest lips in the world. In this area, the range of the average nose widths covers 92 per cent of the world range: only a narrow range of extremely low means are absent from the African record. Means for head diameters cover about 80 per cent of the world range; 60 per cent is the corresponding value for a variable once cherished by physical anthropologists, the cephalic index, or ratio of the head width to head length expressed as a percentage…..”- Jean Hiernaux, “The People of Africa” 1975 p.53, 54
  17. “We also compare Egyptian body proportions to those of modern American Blacks and Whites… Long bone stature regression equations were then derived for each sex. Our results confirm that, although ancient Egyptians are closer in body proportion to modern American Blacks than they are to American Whites, proportions in Blacks and Egyptians are not identical… Intralimb indices are not significantly different between Egyptians and American Blacks. ..brachial indices are definitely more ‘African’… There is no evidence for significant variation in proportions among temporal or social groupings; thus, the new formulae may be broadly applicable to ancient Egyptian remains.” (“Stature estimation in ancient Egyptians: A new technique based on anatomical reconstruction of stature.” Michelle H. Raxter, Christopher B. Ruff, Ayman Azab, Moushira Erfan, Muhammad Soliman, Aly El-Sawaf, (Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008, Jun;136(2):147-55
  18. “However, Brace et al. (1993) find that a series of upper Egyptian/Nubian epipalaeolithic crania affiliate by cluster analysis with groups they designate “sub-Saharan African” or just simply “African” (from which they incorrectly exclude the Maghreb, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa), whereas post-Badarian southern predynastic and a late dynastic northern series (called “E” or Gizeh) cluster together, and secondarily with Europeans. In the primary cluster with the Egyptian groups are also remains representing populations from the ancient Sudan and recent Somalia. Brace et al. (1993) seemingly interpret these results as indicating a population relationship from Scandinavia to the Horn of Africa, although the mechanism for this is not clearly stated; they also state that the Egyptians had no relationship with sub-Saharan Africans, a group that they nearly treat (incorrectly) as monolithic, although sometimes seemingly including Somalia, which directly undermines aspects of their claims. Sub-Saharan Africa does not define/delimit authentic Africanity.” (S.O.Y. Keita. “Early Nile Valley Farmers from El-Badari: Aboriginals or “European” Agro-Nostratic Immigrants? Craniometric Affinities Considered With Other Data”. Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 191-208 (2005)
  19. “The Mahalanobis D2 analysis uncovered close affinities between Nubians and Egyptians. Table 3 lists the Mahalanobis D2 distance matrix… In some cases, the statistics reveal that the Egyptian samples were more similar to Nubian samples than to other Egyptian samples (e.g. Gizeh and Hesa/Biga) and vice versa (e.g. Badari and Kerma, Naqada and Christian). These relationships are further depicted in the PCO plot (Fig. 2).
  20. The clustering of the Nubian and Egyptian samples together supports this paper’s hypothesis and demonstrates that there may be a close relationship between the two populations. This relationship is consistent with Berry and Berry (1972), among others, who noted a similarity between Nubians and Egyptians.
  21. Both mtDNA (Krings et al., 1999) and Y-Chromosome data (Hassan et al., 2008; Keita, 2005; Lucotte and Mercier, 2003) indicate that migrations, usually bidirectional, occurred along the Nile. Thus, the osteological material used in this analysis also supports the DNA evidence.
  22. On this basis, many have postulated that the Badarians are relatives to South African populations (Morant, 1935 G. Morant, A study of predynastic Egyptian skulls from Badari based on measurements taken by Miss BN Stoessiger and Professor DE Derry, Biometrika 27 (1935), pp. 293–309. Morant, 1935; Mukherjee et al., 1955; Irish and Konigsberg, 2007). The archaeological evidence points to this relationship as well. (Hassan, 1986) and (Hassan, 1988) noted similarities between Badarian pottery and the Neolithic Khartoum type, indicating an archaeological affinity among Badarians and Africans from more southern regions. Furthermore, like the Badarians, Naqada has also been classified with other African groups, namely the Teita (Crichton, 1996; Keita, 1990).
  23. Nutter (1958) noted affinities between the Badarian and Naqada samples, a feature that Strouhal (1971) attributed to their skulls possessing “Negroid” traits. Keita (1992), using craniometrics, discovered that the Badarian series is distinctly different from the later Egyptian series, a conclusion that is mostly confirmed here. In the current analysis, the Badari sample more closely clusters with the Naqada sample and the Kerma sample. However, it also groups with the later pooled sample from Dynasties XVIII–XXV.
  24. The reoccurring notation of Kerma affinities with Egyptian groups is not entirely surprising. Kerma was an integral part of the trade between Egypt and Nubia.
  25. However, the archaeological evidence actually showed slow change in form over time (Adams, 1977) and the biological evidence demonstrated a similar trend in the skeletal data (e.g. Godde, in press; Van Gerven et al., 1977). These conclusions negate the possibility of invasion or migration causing the shifts in time periods. The results in this study are consistent with prior work; the Meroites and X-Group cluster with the remaining Nubian population and are not differentiated.
  26. Gene flow may account for the homogeneity across these Nubian and Egyptian groups and is consistent with the biological diffusion precept. Small geographic distances between groups allow for the exchange of genes.
  27. The similarities uncovered by this study may be explained by another force, adaptation.. resemblance may be indicative of a common adaptation to a similar geographic location, rather than gene flow
  28. Egypt and Nubia have similar terrain and climate. Because of the similarity between and the overlapping of the two territories that would require similar adaptations to the environment, common adaptation cannot be discounted.
  29. Gene flow appears likely between the Egyptians and Nubians, although common adaptations to a similar environment may have also been a factor in their cranial similarities. This study does not rule out the possibility that in situ biological evolution occurred at other times not represented by the samples in this analysis. “– Godde K. (2009) An Examination of Nubian and Egyptian biological distances: Support for biological diffusion or in situ development? Homo. 2009;60(5):389-404.
  30. The analysis (also) found Rameses’ hair to be cymotrich or wavy, again a characteristic quite within the range of overall African or Nile valley physical and genetic diversity. A “pure” Nordic type of straight hair was thus not established for Rameses. Hence the notion of white Europeans or red-headed Caucasoids from other areas flowing into ancient Egypt to add hair variation is dubious. Inflows occurred during the Greek and Roman eras but reddish or brown hair is within the range of African variation. Genetic studies (Tishkoff 2009, 2000) show Africans have the highest diversity in the world. Skeletal/cranial studies confirm the pattern. Relethford (2001) shows that “.. methods for estimating regional diversity show sub-Saharan Africa to have the highest levels of phenotypic variation, consistent with many genetic studies.” (Relethford, John “Global Analysis of Regional Differences in Craniometric Diversity and Population Substructure”. Human Biology – Volume 73, Number 5, October 2001, pp. 629-636) Hanihara 2003 notes that [significant] “..intraregional diversity are present in Subsaharan Africans..” While ancient Egypt had gene flow in various eras, hair variations easily fall under this pattern of built-in, indigenous diversity, as well as the above noted cultural practice of using wigs with hair from different places obtained through trade.

Okay, iam(NOT!)egyptian. Okay, alt-righters. Okay, Dr. Haw-ass. Choke on that you fat motherfucker.

From the Archives: Reflections on James Brown’s Death over Christmas

 

It’s already half-over, and I’m glad. This Christmas has already sucked massive donkey balls. I am only thankful that my father’s relatives have not shown up to toss more black magic spells against us (while simultaneously grinning in our face), that there is none of the spiked egg-nog and insufferable family intrigue that my pal Darius spoke about on his blog entry yesterday; just us, me, my three brothers, my mother and grandmother, coexisting uneasily for a few days with our asshole, racist, dope-pushing neighbors across the street from us. In a few minutes, the food will be ready, there will be more scenes when one of my brothers (who is handicapped) will attempt to choke an entire plate of food down his throat at one bite, or maybe throw a fit and hurl a plate at one of us. One only hopes it doesn’t go down like that–we’re still being jinxed.

And even on Christmas, I promised myself to maintain my porno site (i.e., my only real means of income, seeing that NATE–or anything else I write–has yet to become a moneymaker), uploading more titillating but ultimately tiresome pics of fat girls to satisfy my member’s increasingly jaded appetites. I promised I would get to page 100 on the second/third draft of my Berlin novel–I combined the two drafts when I found the structure I wanted in talking about the city. The concept I’m using fits the title, and the subject matter: Every tub on its own bottom. Meaning, every character/musician doing/saying his own thing; each chapter spoken by a different character with a different outlook, often conflicting with the other but still in harmony with the overall structure. (Yes, the book is about jazz musicians in Berlin.)

*********************************************

Last night, just before going to bed, I saw a Monty Python skit in which four pallbearers are struggling to lift a coffin through the streets; as the skit winds and twists into other skits(as the thing goes on), all four pallbearers eventually land in the coffin and it moves by itself. The following morning, I was awakened by unusually loud, drunken insulting neighbors before going back to sleep–only to be woken up again around seven in the morning. My mother and brother were talking about James Brown as they were laying the presents down around the plastic Christmas tree. They talked of James Brown in the past tense, that he could have done better than a mere 73 years–which could only mean one thing.

Immediately I started playing “Dead Man Blues” in my mental jukebox.

How can one imagine a world without James Brown–especially when you grew up on him?? I know, he was completely, utterly past his prime by the time he died. It doesn’t matter. The fact is that his loss is incalculable. And given that we live in an era where an asshole like Snoop Dogg is considered to be a genuine cultural icon, we are not going to get an adequate replacement for him any time soon. (John Legend? I don’t think so.)

The very first recording of my own voice was made (around 1970) between me and my father, with James Brown playing in the background. (I think this tape is lost.) Anyhow, the Godfather had become so huge to people like myself, hearing his funk in the seventies and hearing him sampled ad infinitum throughout the eighties and nineties that it seemed as if he’d become something indelible, as if he’d always be around. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t true.

Even before I became a hard-core jazz fanatic (and part-time mouldy-fig of the Robert Crumb/Harvey Pekar/Joe Bussard school), I listened to JB. In fact, my main reason for turning to jazz in the late seventies/early eighties was that the disco crap that cropped up after JB fell off the radar in 1977 was so bad, I couldn’t bear to listen to anymore contemporary black music. (Let alone enjoy it!!) In 1976, you still had “Get Up Offa That Thing” (which I remember my mother buying, and bringing it home with high hopes, only to be disappointed in what she’d heard: it wasn’t the James Brown she remembered from 15-20 years before), “Get the Funk Outta My Face” from the Brothers Johnson, and some other goodies(not many), but the writing was on the wall for contemporary black music. The following year came “Saturday Night Fever” which acted like a kind of toilet flushing the entire music scene down the sewer, black sounds included(except for “Bustin’ Loose” by Chuck Brown’s Soul Searchers, a local band; a record that didn’t get much airplay, or else I would have remembered).

Anyhow, the James Brown I remembered, from the early to mid-seventies, was not quite the James Brown my mother remembered from the mid- to late-fifties, growing up in Short Pump, Virginia. My mother told me that when my great-grandfather, Philip T. Smith, heard one of James Brown’s early Federal singles being played over the airwaves fifty years ago, he simply said, “he ain’t goin’ nowhere, doin’ all that screaming!”

Well, the King is Dead. Long live….Jay Z????!?!?!?!

(late December 2006)