HI

... this is an expanding selection of pics and of some of my shorter pieces of writing ... and other bits and pieces ... in German and mainly English ... and other strange languages ... COME BACK AND CHECK IT OUT ... COMMENTS WELCOME

Friday, September 24, 2010

CHANGES

... written in Munich a long time ago ...

 
Like a decision made by coincidence
A gambling man
Stumbled upon the law of average
He didn’t change the world
But he knew
One in a billion is a lucky one

Like a game played by fate
A starving man
Was given a grain of rice
He ate and asked for more
Soon he died of hope

Like a poem written by a ghost
It wandered through the minds of many
Never won awards
Nobody ever saw the words

Like a change in fortune
One man rose to say what he meant
Next day he met with an accident
Not allowed to change





HEY JOE

... written in Munich a long time ago and now possibly dedicated to you know who ... 

Hey Joe
Sittin’ on a street corner
Drinkin’ a bottle of beer
Thinkin’ of the time
When he was still alive
Well, you know
Hey Joe
He’s handed in his resignation
When he was twenty-five
Hey Joe
‘s getting’ late
Goes over to the bottle store
T'spend his last dirty dollar bill
Walkin’ back to his shack
Puttin’ down his weary head
Hey man, let’s give him a break
All he wants is a good night’s sleep
Dreamin’ of the time
When he was still alive
Well, you know, you know
Hey Joe
He’s handed in his resignation
When he was twenty-five.


 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

EDUCATION

EDUCATION


... an entry from my Ms. THE ABC OF NEO-FEUDALISM



                                    © Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg

The cliché of German stultifying education is the Nürnberger Trichter whereby the student is indoctrinated via a funnel.

As such the Germans are clearly best prepared for neo-feudalism when it comes to education - they have never changed the system they inherited from the feudalism of old. Germany is one of the few countries that separate children, aged between 10 and 12 (depending in which state they live) into educational winners and losers. At year 10 (to 12) all German children are tested and/or are recommended by their teachers for various strands of further schooling, essentially a choice between low vocational (Hauptschule) and academic (Gymnasium). These are not just streams in a school - these are totally separate schools. If you are destined for the Hauptschule you’ve just been made a member of the Prekariat (see entry under class). A German education expert, Inge Kloepfer[1] (2008) wrote that ’the German underclass comprises some 20% of the total population, and that the offspring of this underclass congregate in the Hauptschule, and subsequently live of social welfare and criminal activities all their lives. In other words they make excellent serfs and fiefs for neo-feudalism.

In most other (typically Anglo-Saxon) countries that have a much later separation of education winners and losers, there is at least a token belief that children should have an equal chance in getting an education. Sure, the Germans can argue that in Anglo-Saxon countries there is another way to solve the class problem: simply separate the children even earlier at the beginning of the primary school cycle: send the upper class kids to private, so-called prep schools (i.e. to prepare them for entry into private high class high schools and colleges) while the rest of the school age population goes to ordinary primary/elementary schools and on through ordinary high schools and colleges that invariably fail students at academic subjects - shunting them into the vocational streams or total failure. Same outcome, sure, but slightly less systemic.

Furthermore a study (2008) conducted by the Mainz Gutenberg University[2] showed that when the German 10 year old pupil from the lower classes has grades as good as that for the pupil from the upper classes, the teacher will invariably recommend only the upper class student for the Gymnasium. The only really interesting point here is that universities typically conduct research into what is already well known by society - under the weird pretense that they reveal some sort of shocking social engineering, when in fact such research helps to reassure the ruling classes that all is well.

As someone who has taken part in both the German and Anglo-Saxon education systems, I am forever amazed by the hypocrisy displayed by the education elites and education bureaucrats - of any shade in the mainstream political spectrum - in that they commission and conduct endless research into why students from lower socio-economic classes perform so badly in the education system. Resulting education programmes such as Head Start, No Child Left Behind, Bridging the Gap and what-have-you, are all designed to level the playing field, to give everyone an equal chance, to be fair, to be democratic, to be proactive, even to employ positive discrimination - they assuage the minimal guilt felt by wishy-washy high class liberals but thankfully have no educational effect whatsoever. Low class schools have to sign up to these remedial programmes with great enthusiasm, low-class teachers have to work twice as hard - if at all - and school management provides glowing reports for the Ministry of Education and the Media that all is well, unbelievable progress is being made, working class students gaining entry to universities, and “democracy is coming to the USA” - as Leonard Cohen sings. So that the ruling classes do not get worried unduly over such reports there needs to be the occasional reality check such as the one done above - or just consult the education statistics of any country, thanks to UNESCO - and all is well again. I am looking forward to neo-feudalism where at least a spade is called a spade and where low class children expect nothing more and nothing less than becoming low class adults. It will be official policy (indeed under neo-feudalism we will not need a Ministry of Education at all, thank God). Under neo-feudalism you know various degrees of the elite by the school tie they wear. If they don’t wear any tie at all they are either in disguise or else true members of the underclass Prekariat - notice that the Prekariat cannot disguise themselves as wearing such ties because they never could afford one in the first place, and anyway, to wear a school tie under false pretenses is a capital crime.

Notes:
1 The full interview can be accessed on Der Spiegel at http://www.spiegel.de/schulspiegel/wissen/0,1518,584417,00.html

2 The researchers also came up with the idea that teachers engage in ‘unbewusste Diskriminierung’ which in English one might either call sub-conscious discrimination’ or ‘unconscious discrimination’ - either way an oxymoron of the first grade; http://www.spiegel.de/schulspiegel/wissen/0,1518,577485,00.html

Monday, September 20, 2010

TOUGH LOVE IS AN OXYMORON

... occasionally I submit letters and opinion pieces to the editor of my local newspaper ... they never get published ... I wonder why?


TOUGH LOVE IS AN OXYMORON


The claim, by Lindsay Mitchell for the Business Roundtable (Herald, Wednesday, September 30, 2009), that “it is a fact that the more is done for people, the less they will do for themselves”, invites ridicule for inventing fictitious facts. Anyone handy with a learner’s dictionary will find that definitions for words and expressions like ‘help, to do something for someone, aid’ are based on the logical assumption that ‘help’ is an action transferred to those who cannot help themselves. The very idea of ‘helping oneself’ is of course also mired in ambiguity - a negative interpretation being something like ‘Bill English helped himself to a bit of extra income’. The notion that Maori - and Maori women in particular - help themselves to taxpayers’ help - help they do not deserve morally and ethically but are entitled to legally - is an old and worn bogeyman, again and again trotted out by New Zealand’s gentry who should look at their own luxury glasshouses before they throw stones. How much of taxpayers’ funds are diverted into subsidies, tax breaks, incentives, protection, R&D - all to boost corporate profits? Sure, these guys are good at monetary calculations: take a 100,000 or so DPB women at say an average of $500.- a week (wasn’t that a sum Paula Bennett disclosed?) and, bingo, five million dollars a week would be so much better spent on supporting the blue-chip import-export industries. If some 33,000 Maori women on the DPB cannot help themselves, let them eat cake, as Marie Antoinette would say.

For educational purposes let’s have a look at the other facts presented by Lindsay on behalf of the Business Round Table.

• numerous international studies show that numbers of children born outside marriage increase with increasing benefit payment

Citing studies requires references - it’s a fundamental requirement for Year 10 students doing their first research assignment. In the absence of any such references we are left to suspect that any statistical correlations of such sort can only be manufactured by the Business Round Table.

• the DPB has made fathering and fleeing commonplace and accepted

Another fantastic fact that has no basis in fact. Who has done a survey of Maori women who become pregnant so they can get on the DPB? Who has surveyed the 33,000 Maori men who fathered Maori children with the devious plan to flee from the scene? Show me at least 1,500 such men so as to make it a significant statistic.

• The taxpayer provides computers for the homes of poor children (many of which probably have SKY installed)

Where is the sample survey to support the ‘probability’ that ‘many’ homes of poor children have SKY installed? What does SKY have to do with computers other than to suggest that poor people waste all their money on SKY when they could buy a computer for their children instead?

• … (in the USA welfare rolls of female headed households) dropped from 35.6 per cent in 1991 to 25.4 percent in 2000 … but at 28.7 percent in 2008 …

With selectively and falsely applied statistics you can prove anything, including above attempt to show that the US welfare reforms of 1996 succeeded in alleviating poverty. Historical population statistics only make sense if the population number stays the same. A 10% poverty rate for one million people equates to 100,000. A poverty rate of 10% for ten million people equates to one million. Which one is worse? In any case, the much heralded welfare reforms so lauded by Mitchell have other statistics as well:

• Many people entered poverty wage work

– In 1997 median hourly wage of women leaving welfare was $6.61/hr

• 1/3 back on welfare by1997

• 1/4 were not working or with a partner working by 1997

• 1/4 former recipients reported in 1997 that they were too ill, disabled or unable to find work

http://faculty.washington.edu/jarosz/geog271spr07/America.ppt#13

No wonder President Obama is having a hard time to convince the American equivalents of the NZ Business Round Table that twenty million Americans without health insurance don’t just have themselves to blame. After all, to be poor is to be stupid - in NZ as much as in the USA. Now who was it that said that women of colour always end up at the bottom of the heap?

Friday, September 10, 2010

BERTOLT BRECHT

... from my Ms The ABC of Neo-feudalism

BRECHT, Bertolt


Only few writers/playwrights have used feudalist backgrounds for their stories/plays but none more strikingly than Brecht. His depiction of characters - be it the Good Woman of Setzuan or Mother Courage - span the transition of feudalism to capitalism as defined by Karl Marx (The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847, chapter 2):

    The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist.

The peasant character as eulogized in the Russian and Chinese communist revolutions has never been understood in the Western contexts until Brecht brought them to life. Prior to Brecht even sympathetic depictions of peasants were far from simple heroics: the German writer and playwright Heinrich von Kleist (1777 - 1811) established a most ambiguous scenario with his Michael Kohlhaas as a character who leads a peasant revolt only to be defeated by his uncompromising quest for a minor piece of justice. As compulsory reading for generations of German schoolboys (and girls) it gave rise to the belief that peasants - German peasants at least - deserved a measure of social justice but that they should not be too ambitious in their quest and go as afar as wanting to overthrow the feudal system that sustained them. Brecht’s hero, Georg Büchner (1813 -1837) was perhaps the first to make a working class peasant, Woyzeck, the true hero of a play but there were still some suggestions that the protagonist had some shortcomings. As with Kohlhaas there was the uneasy question whether or not it is right to kill your oppressors (a theme that remains popular till today). Brecht’s peasants are good and intelligent people who never harm anyone even if their quest is opposed by murderous lords and ladies. The peasant as the true salt of this earth finds his voice only in Brecht’s plays.

It may not be a coincidence that Brecht selected far-eastern locales for his transitional peasant characters - e.g. Shen Te’s China for the Good Woman of Setzuan - for it happened only in China that anything approaching a real peasant revolution happened. While in previous revolutions elsewhere there was always much rhetoric about peasants, serfs and slaves being freed, it was basically the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie with more than a little help from disaffected upper classes - often in the shape of intellectuals - who usurped power.

Mao Tsetung in his 1927 Investigation of Peasant Movement in Hunan says that ‘a rural revolution is a revolution by which the peasantry overthrows the power of the feudal landlord class’ and he predicts:

   In a very short time, in China’s central, southern and northern provinces, several hundred million peasants will rise like a mighty storm, like a hurricane … they will smash all the trammels that bind them and rush forward along the road to liberation.

Mao Tsetung had sufficient foresight to align his Chinese Communist Party with these peasant movements and thus be swept to power ahead of them. When subsequently the drive to extract the peasantry from poverty and ignorance came to a standstill, Mao Tsetung’s leadership made the dreadful mistake to try to reduce the rest of the population to the status of the peasantry - via the ill-fated cultural revolution - thus violating the basic tenet of all revolutionary movements, namely to bring about a society that does not tolerate poverty and social injustice and where all citizens can enjoy a reasonable standard of living. To punish the upper classes by making them join the peasantry - as tried with disastrous consequences by the Pol Pot leadership in Cambodia - is a retrograde step that in no way helps the peasantry to escape the cruel bonds of a feudal system. If by analogy we would suggest that in order to eradicate disease we first make everyone sick, we would be clearly labeled insane.

China’s answer was of course - post-Mao Tsetung - to restore the old order and march towards pseudo-capitalist industrialization in the hope that the peasantry will transform into industrious and industrial working class heroes. As such China has caught up with the capitalist West but left to wonder if the change from being a peasant to being an industrial worker has brought any real social and economic advancement for the protagonists in question.

When Brecht - as many other writers/playwrights - tackles the capitalist and/or the communist working classes, he shifts his locales increasingly to the English-speaking bastions, the USA and England - and more specifically to Chicago and London - where the culture of gangsters best illustrates the booms and busts of modern capitalism. Brecht’s Three Penny Opera with its immortal lyrics of

                                       Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne

                                       Und die trägt er im Gesicht

                                       Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer

                                       Doch das Messer sieht man nicht.

epitomizes the capitalist system, its predatory base, its dog eats dog mentality and its hyper-competitive struggle to succeed at every level. We are all caught up, like it or not, beggar, tinker, candlestick maker, rich and poor, movers and shakers, pimps and prostitutes, prime ministers, queens and kings, presidents and circus acrobats - a Shakespearean theatre of the absurd, all idiot players on a global stage. Brecht who is embroiled in a triad of communism (Soviet-style), capitalism (American-style) and fascism (German-style) ultimately takes the most surprising step of all when fascism is defeated: he returns to communist-ruled East Berlin and stages his plays in the Berliner Ensemble.

In 1968, as a senior Gymnasialschüler in Bavarian Hohenschwangau, I took part in a school trip to West-Berlin, including a visit to East-Berlin to see a Brecht play at the Berliner Ensemble, namely Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui. The play is terribly famous in itself - at least for anti-fascist literati - but the personal experience of seeing it during the cold war was totally unique. In the first instance there was something very odd - if not schizophrenic - about the proposition that we, freedom loving Westerners, set foot in the evil empire to witness a great piece of art. As we were ushered through a maze of corridors penetrating the Wall, looked upon by East German border control with guns at ready, we entered a grim looking cityscape on the way to the Berliner Ensemble. No wonder, we thought silently, they all want to escape to the bright lights of the glorious West. Maybe Brecht - when still alive - and his entourage were held hostage, ever ready to set up shop in the West, on Broadway perhaps or on the East End - Munich even - where they could stun the free world with their anti-feudal plays, and make vast amounts of money in due course. Else you’d have to be pretty stupid not wanting to make heaps of money the easy way - or so we thought.

When the play opened - Arturo Ui - a dressed up Adolf Hitler delivered the prologue. We as West German students had never learnt anything about Hitler, the Nazis and WWII. Our teachers, especially the older ones, had lived through these times and yet they all acted as if these events had taken place on a different planet - and certainly without their knowledge. Our school’s director had been interred in India where he met Heinrich Harrer, the Austrian mountaineer who had escaped internment and fled to Tibet (his subsequent book Seven Years in Tibet was infamously made into a film with Brad Pitt). Harrer - as a celebrity - came to our school a few times and delivered speeches about how great it is to believe in high mountains and feudal lords in the shape of the Dalai Lama. Only in our last year at school did some of us find out that Harrer was an avid Nazi - and we suspected that our director and most of our teachers were too (the exception being the teachers that took us to the Berliner Ensemble). In our senior history class we had asked our teacher to let us do a project on the Holocaust - he refused. We clandestinely sent a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and in return they sent us documentation that included the most horrific photographs from the concentration camps. We showed them to our history teacher who looked the other way and reported us to the director of the school who in turn warned us against ‘unlawful’ actions and threatened us with suspension.

It was thus quite a revelation to learn that an anti-fascist play like Arturo Ui was common fare in East Germany - and indeed was a hit around the same time in London with Leonard Rossiter - while in our Bavarian hinterland we were left blissfully ignorant of our German past. Those few of us who had vaguely participated in the political and cultural awakening of 1968 - we wore our hair long and began to experiment with drugs and read about anti-Vietnam War demonstrations - were just about ready to side with Brecht and refuse to return to the West. Still, there were a few aspects of the play we hadn’t figured out. If Arturo Ui as a Chicago gangster represented both Hitler and Al Capone, how come American and English audiences didn’t see such a connection as being highly alarming? Was fascism well and alive in the USA, England and most certainly in Bavaria and only opposed by Brechtian enthusiasts? If US gangsters represent an unadulterated but unlicensed mix of capitalism and fascism, can we deduce that the licensed system still reeks of fascism? Isn’t that what Brecht is warning us against?

Some 40 years later - and having read and seen a few more Brecht plays - I still haven’t found all the answers to these questions, except to say, were Brecht alive today, wouldn’t he be amazed by the slide back - or forwards - into neo-feudalism? Perhaps in the absence of any meaningful revolutions there is only this one pendulum of history that swings back and forth between the extremes of feudalism and capitalism?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

LOS DESPERADOS SING THIS SONG


LOS DESPERADOS SING THIS SONG

1978

Just one more black night
Before the dawn of the red morning
Just one more fight
Before we see the light

Compañeros
We’re only dreaming
With a clenched fist
Holding on to some secret list

Meaning everything
That was left undone
For ages and ages
Waiting for that pause
And then
The slightly delayed rhythm
Of the blues


ZEN ROCK


ZEN ROCK

© 1975

Looking for the magician
And the ring
To make me invisible at will

Then I’d walk in
Take out the bill
Didn’t have to play
Nobody seen the musician
Oh no

Then I’d walk in
And scare the man
Only had to whisper
Nobody seen the politician
Oh no

Then I’d walk in
And corrupt a ghost
Been jailed too long
Nobody seen the revolution
Oh no

Then I’d walk in
And make love to you
Piccadilly Circus five p.m.
Nobody seen the sensation
Oh no

Then I’d walk in
And take your troubles away
Only robbed the bank of blood
Nobody seen the physician
Oh no

Then I’d walk in
And give you the ring
See what you can do
You being the magician
Me being the musician
Oh yes
You being the magician




Thursday, September 2, 2010

Good investment

EDITED POEM NO. THREE

EDITED POEM NO. THREE

Wolfgang B. Sperlich


MIGRANT SINGS THE SONG OF MANUHIRI
I'M SITTIN’ IN THE RAIN
I'M TALKING TO TANE AND THE TREES
I’M GROWING ROOTS
I’M TURNIN' GREEN
I’M THE BIRD WITHOUT WINGS
SNOW IS FALLING
HEAVY CLOUDS BURST INTO TEARS
I'VE LOST MY HORIZON

I'M SINKING IN THE MUD
I'M LEANING AGAINST THE WIND
I'M BLOWIN' KISSES
I’M TURNIN’ BLUE
I'M THE MAN WHO FORGOT THE PLACE HE’S COMING FROM
I'M THE MARXIST MESSAGE IN THE BOTTLE
S.O.S.
FLOATING DOWN THE RIVER
INTO THE SEA
TALKING TO TANGAROA
ONE DAY YOU WLL FIND ME
WASHED UP ON A DISTANT SHORE CLOSE TO PAPATUANUKU

ONLY THEN IT SEEMS
WILL YOU UNDERSTAND
THE SONG

… this poem first appeared in the Huntly College Mag ‘89