Regis Bonvicino & Charles Bernstein -- Exchange bo
 | Authors | E-poetry || Links Subj ||UB Poetics EPC

Charles Bernstein

EPC Author Page

Palin/McCain and the Cult of Irresponsibilty
an exchange between Régis Bonvicino & Charles Bernstein

Sâo Paulo, September 4, 2008

Dear Charles,

Obama is the "beyond" for U.S. He will give a "public dimension" to the U.S. government, away from Bush’s treating  the government as a private state. If Obama is elected, it will be welcomed in Latin America, Africa, and the Islamic World. W. Bush is maybe the worst president the U.S. has ever had. The state in the hands of the companies. The war. The  torture. He is just like our Brazilian dictators or Pinochet or Idi Amim Dada. Obama means JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King.

The U.S. election in November is the most important election of the last decades for the world. An Obama victory will be crucial for Latin America in recovering the dialogue with the U.S. and so bye, bye Chávez, Ortega, Álvaro Uribe, Cristina Fernández (a thief just like Menen was). I can't see future without true democracy in the U.S. and Obama.

Tell me please what do you think about Palin?



New York, September 6, 2008

Dear Régis,

During the Vietnam war (which for the Vietnamese was an act of American terrorism), John McCain was shot down as an enemy combatant. He was not given a fair trail and was subjected to torture. When Sarah Palin, in endorsing McCain, expressed her contempt for the rule of law, in a line that will live in  infamy  -- "Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... [Obama's] worried that someone won't read them their rights?"-- she forever tainted any honor that McCain's war experiences might reflect on her or her party.

Palin-McCain show the Republicans to be the  party of irresponsibility, refusing to acknowledge the consequences of their policies: unjustified wars; torture; global warming; abrogation of civil liberties; unemployment; erosion of even modest economic and medical safety nets; big business control of government regulation of their industries; environmental degradation; bloated prisons filled with those whose principal crime is being born poor, black, and male; erosion of the urban infrastructure; decline of public education (every child left behind); putsch-like transformation of the Justice department and courts into anti-democratic and extra-constitutional hit squads coked up by their contempt for the rule of law; increased number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions (both U.S. and worldwide); compromised worker safety and worker wages; unprecedented mortgage defaults; and catastrophic shift of wealth from working class and middle class to a tiny plutocracy.

The culture of irresponsibility and contempt for the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. constitution extends out from Republican politicians to those who have voted for the Republican Party in the last two presidential elections. I blame the voters -- for falling prey to their own resentments and racisms, their homophobia, and intolerance. In 2000, to vote for Cheney-Bush was to cast your lot with dark side of human history.

You ask what I think about Palin: She is a sinister figure for the U.S. -- a right wing pit bull (her own description for herself) who is at core against America's most democratic and socially optimistic values. We hear too many commentaries in the mediocracy praise the "style" of her speech, but my teenage son Felix got it just right when he said, simply, that "she's mean."  The core of that meanness is related to the Republican party's deification of intolerance and worship of resentiment. You could hear it in Rudolph Guiliani's smarmy put down of "cosmopolitans," normally a code word for rootless Jews and girly men but here used to sneer at all who reject fear mongering -- as if Christian fundamentalist intolerance is the answer to Islamic fundamentalist intolerance.

Palin is the case book example of Republican party's bait & switch, the party's most typical modus operandi: a woman candidate who is anti-feminist and opposed the most basic issues of civil rights for women, on the order of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as an anti-civil-rights black man. Palin represents a continuation of the totalitarian aspects of Bush-Cheney by a party determined to sustain those calamitous policies for four more years and by any means necessary (including rigged elections and disinformation).

Palin is a jingoist nationalist, a proud "no nothing" on foreign affairs. She'd insist that the State force teenagers to study her religious beliefs on the creation of the world, and, at the same time, that the State prevent teenagers from learning about human procreation so that they will have the knowledge to act responsibly in the world. Palin would undercut science classes by imposing a state religion of her choice, in this case a rabid fundamentalism (not to be equated with Christianity), but she would deny freedom of choice to those who don't swing her way. In the guise of Big Brother abstinence-only "no sex" (mis)eduction for teens, Palin is responsible for the abortions and teen pregnancies that result. But she refuses to accept the blame. In a similar vein, McCain, who voted for an unjustifiable war, and even now has not renounced his vote, refuses to accept the fact that he is personally responsible for the horrific consequences of that war.



“I wanna die in the beat of ‘bamba’"

Sâo Paulo, September 7, 2008

Dear Charles,

Your letter is very strong and crucial. But tell me what you think of Barack Obama's plans. What does change mean? Who is he? Does he have content? How do you refute the Republican line that he is a celebrity and not a politician with ideas? It’s not that I think this, but I have listened in São Paulo to upper middle class people say that he is a fool! You know, Brazilians are more racist than Americans. But the black people from Rio's favelas love Obama, their new hero. They call him "O bamba" -- homophonic translations of Obama, that means in slang tough guy, bully, hood -- the best, the one. This word came from samba, from Nigeria Bantu I think. There is a classic song by Ataulfo Alves called "Na cadência do samba": "Quero morrer numa batucada de bamba / na cadência bonita do samba": “I wanna die in the beat of ‘bamba’ / in the beautiful rhythm of the samba."

Here is my essay on the election from yesterday’s Último Segundo (the São Paulo daily newspaper):
[a translation of this essay will be posted here early next week]


Em defesa da poesia

Antonio Caño, correspondente do jornal espanhol “El País” em Washington, resgatando um conceito do cineasta e escritor italiano Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), propôs recentemente Barack Obama como poesia e John McCain como prosa – realista.

Pouco depois, John Ludenberg do portal norte-americano “Huffington Post” ecoa, sem sabê-lo, Caño, ao analisar o discurso de aceitação de Obama na Convenção Democrata como “a poesia de um discurso político”.

E explica: embora a poesia não esteja ela mesma de corpo presente na maioria dos trechos, emerge no ritmo. Ludenberg ressalva que não fala em versos métricos, mas nas cadências bíblicas, como em Martin Luther King (1929-1968), ou nos versos longos de Walt Whitman (1929-1892).
O norte-americano Whitman foi o inventor do verso livre e o primeiro poeta a tematizar abertamente seu homossexualismo em “Leaves of Grass”, de 1855, livro de 95 páginas e 12 poemas, editado pelo próprio autor. Ludenberg afirma que a repetição de palavras, para abrir as frases, aproxima o discurso de Obama da poesia.

Obama e McCain: prosa

Tanto os discursos de Obama não são poesia quanto os de McCain prosa ou Obama não representa a poesia e McCain determinada prosa – a prosa de um Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954).
As comparações revelam a ignorância do mundo contemporâneo e da mídia em relação à poesia. Ser chamado de poeta é ser chamado de sonhador, de delirante – aquele que propõe idéias inexeqüíveis, que está fora da realidade. Embora em escala bastante menor, há preconceito no que se refere à prosa. Prosa significa muita lábia – aquele que se configura como estelionatário ou que não diz nada. No entanto, a prosa é mais adequada para caracterizar os dois candidatos ou quaisquer políticos.
Pasolini, autor do genial “Mamma Roma” (1963), “inventou”, num ensaio de 1975, que há, no futebol, uma linguagem prosaica e outra poética. Afirmava que o drible e o individualismo eram essencialmente poéticos, enquanto a retranca (jogar na defesa) e a triangulação, prosaicos. O futebol-prosa baseava-se, para ele, na sintaxe, no jogo coletivo e organizado, sintetizado num sistema, enquanto o futebol-poesia, que identificava com a seleção brasileira de 1970, de Pelé, Tostão, seria o inusitado, o estranho e o imprevisto.


A definição é razoavelmente correta (quanto ao imprevisto), tanto para a poesia quanto para o futebol. Parcialmente certa porque não há inspiração sem trabalho e principalmente sem ordem. E muitas vezes, como em 1970, a vitória é da poesia.

Há algumas funções da linguagem e a função poética é uma delas, bem como a função referencial, utilizada pela mídia, que visa a transmitir informações, valorizando-se o objeto noticiado e não – como na poesia ou na prosa de arte – a própria linguagem: seus sons, seus ritmos, seus significados inauditos.

O futebol-prosa seria eficaz e o futebol-poesia seria individualista e “inspirado”, segundo Pasolini. Então, para Caño, Obama seria um “inspirado”, ao propor mudanças, e McCain representaria um sistema eficaz, sem “magia”, ao repetir o programa republicano.

Os dois representam, creio, única e exclusivamente a prosa, porque objetivam estar em janeiro de 2009 em “War-shington”. Transcrevo trecho do poema “A Bomba” (1961), de Carlos Drummond de Andrade, para que o leitor tenha idéia clara do que é ótima poesia:

A bomba
dobra todas as línguas à sua turva sintaxe
A bomba
arrota impostura e prosopopéia política
A bomba
cria leopardos no quintal, eventualmente no living
A bomba
é podre
          [see translation of the whole poem at the PEPC library]

Prosopopéia – como todos sabem – quer dizer discurso empolado ou veemente e é uma figura de linguagem por meio da qual o locutor confere sentimentos humanos a seres inanimados, a animais ou a mortos, por exemplo.

Drummond usou, no poema, a palavra no sentido de empolação e também empulhação. Exemplos: George Walker Bush, McCain e Sarah Palin ao defender as guerras. Palin acusou Obama de não utilizar a palavra “vitória” quando se referia à Guerra contra o Iraque.

É o populismo guerreiro e irracional dos republicanos: Obama votou, no Congresso americano, em 2003, contra a invasão do Iraque. Neste caso, caracterizou-se como prosa ensaística, analítica, reflexiva.

As propostas de Obama são prosa racional: reduzir 95% dos impostos dos trabalhadores, reduzir os impostos para os pequenos empresários e aumentá-los para os grandes, investir em educação, em energia renovável, em pesquisa contra o aquecimento global, restabelecer direitos civis rasurados por Bush e restaurar o diálogo com os outros países etc.

Palin, a provável presidente

Algumas vezes Obama é, no entanto, prosa vulgar: quando admite intervenções unilaterais em países que abriguem terroristas, como escreveu em seu livro “A Audácia da esperança” (Larousse, 2006).

McCain é – agora – imitação de Obama ao pregar “mudanças”, para ganhar as eleições, e deixar para Sarah Palin a prosa hitleriana: contra o aborto quando a gestação provém de estupro (a lei brasileira, por exemplo, o permite), contra qualquer iniciativa a favor do desaquecimento global, que não foi produto do homem, segundo ela, mas da vontade de Deus, a favor da matança dos ursos polares, a favor de vencer – a qualquer preço – as guerras no Iraque e no Afeganistão etc.
McCain é prosa estelionatária quando promete reduzir ainda mais os impostos dos ricos e “preparar o trabalhador americano para competir na economia global”. McCain é prosa hollywoodiana quando repete, sobre os terroristas, “Wanted, dead or alive”.

Ele mesmo, aliás, sofre de câncer de pele e pode se transformar em “prosopopéia” num discurso da presidente Palin. É provável que McCain/Palin vençam as eleições norte-americanas. O Partido Republicano, de 1945 para cá, esteve 36 anos no poder contra 23 anos dos Democratas e, entre os Democratas, apenas Jimmy Carter (1974-1977) foi, de verdade, um social-democrata.
Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) foi um Democrata à direita. John Kennedy (1961-1963) é, até hoje, mais um mito do que um progressista. Harry Truman (1945-1963) era um democrata mais à direita do que Johnson.

Não há políticos comparáveis à poesia, embora os sonhos de Obama, como definiu o excelente Caño, sejam mais do que necessários. Ao cabo, os políticos passam, apesar de seu danos permanecerem por décadas, e a poesia fica.

Quem se lembra do presidente português ao tempo de Fernando Pessoa? Há que se criticar, veementemente, a queda de nível da civilização, que provinha da Europa, e a erosão dos direitos civis e trabalhistas que ocorreu em países do “mundo livre”, a partir dos anos 1990.

Há que se denunciar os Estados-máfia, como a Rússia e seu apêndice Ossétia do Sul e outros, que surgiram depois da extinção, em 1991, da deplorável União Soviética e denunciar o trabalho escravo na China, de Hu Jintao. Os Estados Unidos teriam um papel civilizador decisivo a representar nesse início de século, mas lá, sobremaneira, os políticos merecem — espero que Barack Obama seja exceção como Carter o foi – o desprezo que Platão nutria por eles.

McCain-Bush: Change for the Worse

New York, September 9, 2008

Dear Régis,

You’re right that both McCain and Obama are “prose,” which is as it should be. But it’s interesting, in this light, to consider what it means that Obama is attacked as if he were poetry, where poetry means fluffy rhetoric that sounds good but … don’t amount to nothing! Just more elitist crap! –You don’t need Wallace Stevens to tell you that the imagination is the most democratic thing of all. George Lakoff has been saying that the Republicans understand the election is won by metaphors not facts, that voters respond to the world view they idealize (discipline and punish for the Republicans, contextualize and ameliorate for  the Democrats). Unlike the Republicans, though, the Democrats are uncomfortable with running just on metaphor, which is all to the good, but not if it becomes a trap of the “When will you stop beating your wife?” sort, which can’t be answered by facts without making you look like you did something wrong. “I love my wife, I never laid my hands on her, I abhor violence against women, I contributed to the local battered wives shelter, check the police record and  you will not see complaints, ask my neighbors.” On all the policy questions – from the economy, to taxes, to the war, to the environment, to healthcare -- the Democratic party platform is better than the Republican party platform. Obama is a moderate, centrist figure and he will continually disappointed anyone committed to a more left agenda. I don’t believe he is tacking to the  center because of the election, I think he was nominated because he’s a centrist. His whole “post-partisan” rhetoric strikes me as a neoliberal evasion of ideology and  history. But on the policy questions, he is on the right side of history. And on the crucial, and probably determining, questions of metaphor and values, there’s no contest.

The irony is that Obama is all content while the other side is all bait and switch. (You vote to protect yourself against WMDs and you get a tax holiday for big business.) The idea that Obama has no “substance” or “content” (too many ideas not enough action, fancy words no deeds, girly man that he is) is the Republican imaginary of discipline and punish. The problem with the Republicans is not that they don’t have content, of course, but that their content is hidden in endless waves of Big Lies and small lies, disinformation and bile. The Republicans are the party of audacious change and after eight years of Cheney-Bush the question is how much more change of that kind will the American people be willing to take before turning against the devil inside themselves that keeps taking the bait and then feeling betrayed. No, they won’t respect you in the morning. And the love child of this sado-masochistic Republican seduction makes the pods in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers seem kindler and gentler.

But the sins against the world are just one  part of the  problem. The sins against the earth cannot be forgiven.


link    |  09-10-08

Send a Comment | Search | ©2006 | EPC Home
Electronic Poetry Center (