THE INFORMATION #1155
JUNE 25, 2021
Copyright 2021 FRANCIS DIMENNO
To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.–W. E. B. Du Bois
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK FOUR: AND IF THE DEVIL COME SHOOT HIM WITH A GUN
272. EYES ON THE BROZE
When Professor Otremo made that crack about black children killing each other for their sneakers, I decided to say nothing, just to see how far he would take this. What he said next was surprising.
“Listen, Purson–I was at a conference with some newly-minted educators–people with doctorates and the like–this was a few years ago. And I spoke to a very famous celebrity–a man whose name you would recognize in a heartbeat–who, incidentally, was a man of your race. He was dressed in a rather humdrum wardrobe–black dress pants, black jacket, yellow sweater vest, purple silk necktie–but his clothes were well-tailored and probably cost him a bundle. They didn’t just come off the rack at Kresge’s. And he wore a pair of custom-fitted tan leather shoes, with argyle calf socks. I have an eye for these things–in my profession, you know, you have to be able to read people at a glance. And this man was no ordinary academic. He reeked of money. And good taste. There was nothing garish about him. This was a man who was confident and self-assured, and comfortable in his own skin. I’ll go so far as to admit that he was the first black man I had ever met and spoken to at length, and I was very impressed at the way he carried himself.
“Anyhow, we took a shine to each other, and so after dinner we retired to the library for cigars and brandy and Baba au Rhum. I had quite a long talk with him about various matters. He was a very intelligent man–witty, articulate, well-spoken, and with a keen interest in the world around him. He also had quite an eye for the ladies, but that was neither here nor there. After we circled around each other for a while, conversationally sniffing each other out, as it were, he apparently decided that I was a man of good will–an ‘abolitionist,’ was his verdict. He then proceeded to prod away at me regarding what I sincerely thought about the race problem. Of course, we almost had a quarrel–on my part, there was a lot of plain talk about the underclass, and on his part, there was the usual face-saving guff about it also being a problem that white people had with blacks. ‘Why is it,’ he said, ‘that whenever a group of black people get together and are talking and laughing, the white people all have to stare at them?’ I said I couldn’t answer that. ‘It’s racism, is what it is,’ he said, and you should have seen the sad look on his face as he mugged at me and turned down the corners of his mouth and rolled his eyes just like a snotty teenager. I suggested that there was probably blame to be laid for this sorry state of affairs on both sides of the racial divide, and he vehemently disagreed, and we got into another little argument, but he gradually allowed that I was right, in a way, and then he started to tell me what he really thought, and proceeded to unload it all on me. He swore me to confidentiality–but there are no secrets between us, are there, Purson?”
“I hope not.”
“So do I. Anyway, he let it sort of just casually slip that he was pretty high up in The Broze. He said it was a problem he discussed with all his fellow fraternity members–that there was a lot of sad-assed ideology behind white supremacy, and a good deal of it is aesthetic preference as well as a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense, all topped off with a great big dollop of wishful thinking. ‘White people,’ he said, ‘like to imagine a world in which there are no black people at all. But there’s a big problem, because we aren’t going anywhere. This is our country too. We helped build it, we’ve been pulling our weight in spite of all the obstacles that were put in our way, and we’re going to reap the benefits just like everybody else.’ But, he said, there were admittedly certain black people who weren’t doing the race any favors, ‘and they’re dragging the rest of us down.’ Just like scorpions in a bottle.’ Those were his exact words. ‘Scorpions in a bottle. Dropping out of school, playing the fool, committing a crime, doing the time, and always out there running wild in the streets because the parents, well, the parents just don’t seem to give a damn about anything.’ His facial gestures were remarkably suggestive, I must say. “I am disgusted by those fools,” he said, and he made a hilarious gesture in which he held his nose. Back when he was ‘coming up,’ he said, everybody in the neighborhood knew everybody else, and what they were up to. ‘Back in those days, you couldn’t get away with nothing,’ he said. ‘If you was into something you shouldn’t of been, you’d get your ass whooped.’ I think he also threw in something about ‘anomie’.”
“I’m glad you asked, Purson. Anomie, that’s a fancy term that sociologists use. (Don’t get me started on high much I dislike sociologists.) It basically means a breakdown in values. You can’t blame it all on the fact that people live in highrises, he said. No, he told me, I believe that where there’s a will, there’s always a way. And that there’s two sides to every story, and sometimes more. Look at me, he said. I came up from nothing–and now I’m living the dream. Why can’t these kids today do the same? And you can’t blame it all on white people, he said.”
“Well…I suppose I would agree…you can’t blame it ALL on white people. Still….”
“No, wait. Let me finish. He seemed entirely sincere in what he was saying. Not like he was trying to tell me only what I WANTED to hear. This is a man who was so rich that I’m sure he could buy and sell me a dozen times over. But he had the common touch. Just as friendly as he could be. Sure, he said, there were centuries of discrimination. But all that should be in the past by now. But, he said, the parents of these kids aren’t doing their jobs. There’s no respect for the damn father, because he’s not there. There’s no respect for the damn mother, because she’s off doing whatever, drugging, partying, and poor granny and even the great-grandmother have to be there to take up the slack. They give their kids ghetto names like Makayla and Imani and Ladonna and Jomo and Hakeem and Jamal and Treyvon–how are they going to find a job with a name like that? Would you hire a person with a name like that? he said. I wouldn’t. They probably already have a chip on their shoulder–just waiting for you to say something to them. Like the word ‘No’. When it comes right down to it, he said, Mike and Jim and Bob and Mary and Jennifer and Amy are good enough names for me.
“He went on to say that black parents don’t know how to manage their money. If they took all the money they spent on cigarettes and liquor drinks and buying their kids overpriced expensive shoes, and instead they invested that same money in tobacco and liquor and sneaker stock portfolios, they’d probably earn a lot more money to pay for the more important things, like an education for their children so that when they graduate, they can find a decent job. But no–these economically ignorant ghetto people can’t be bothered to think about the future. They’d rather watch television than go to church, and they’d rather buy lottery tickets than go back to school and study and learn something and get a degree and try to make something of themselves. Sure, the cops come down hard on my people, he said. And that’s deplorable. But why do they have to run from the police? Why do they have to steal in the first place? Nobody ever has to go hungry in the United States, so where’s the logic in all this?
“Now remember, Purson–this isn’t me talking. This is a highly-regarded entertainer who put himself on the front lines during the Civil Rights movement, An educated man with a Doctorate degree. Very bright. He was basically saying that black parents don’t parent and black kids don’t know how to behave like decent kids, because of peer pressure. That the parents would rather sit in the projects and collect welfare money instead of making an effort to better themselves and move on up and out of there. He called it ‘a self-destructive pandemic’ of black parents and black children stretching back for three or four generations or more. And he said that it made him sick and tired. He said that black people have got to stop making all these sad excuses and learn how to play the white man’s game, or else they are always going to have these problems. He told me that he was in the highest tax bracket, 70 percent, and that he was tired. Tired of working hard for everything he had and always paying his taxes on time only to see all his money going to reward a person who dresses funny and doesn’t know how to speak proper English and who won’t amount to anything and who will grow up to be a pimp or an armed robber and end up in prison, ‘where MY tax dollars will STILL be supporting him’. He said he was sick of seeing more black men in prison than in college.
“He also told me that he’d been thinking about these things for a long time and that, at first he blamed the white man, because it was white people who were the ones who promoted all the demeaning stereotypes in movies like Birth of a Nation, and characters like Stepin Fetchit, and Aunt Jemima, and Amos and Andy. ‘Back in the 1960s I was pretty sick of that shit, people making fun of Negroes, treating them like clowns, and I was angry, but then I realized that things were changing in the society, but that certain people weren’t changing along with them, and then I started to get even more angry, not at whites, but at my own people, and their attitudes, all their anti-whatever, and where they were going with it, which was nowhere at all. So I went back to school myself, where I met some very smart people, people who were smarter than me, and I started listening to what they had to say. They hipped me to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of. They made me more aware of myself, and where I had come from, and what I had endured, and what all it was ultimately for.'”
“Well…that was a very interesting conversation you had with the man, Professor. Who was it exactly that you were, ah, chatting with?”
“Oh…well…he asked me not to say. But he was high up in the Broze, and he was in a position to know what he was talking about. I’m rather surprised, Purson, that you weren’t recruited into the Broze yourself, before now. Working class? Sure–but they always have room for a go-getter. We’ve been watching you, Purson, for quite some time, as I already mentioned. Don’t worry about your file–there’s nothing in it, until recently, that would reflect poorly on you, and, like I said before, you’re with us now, and the people who got in your way were just collateral damage. “
“Can I see my file?”
Otremo laughed long and loud. “Oh ho ho ho, no–there’d be nothing of particular interest to you in there.”
“Well, anyway, I’d like to see it?”
“It simply can’t be allowed. Policy. My hands are tied.”
“Well…can we discuss it?”
“Surely we can. Levon…would you be kind enough to go and wait in the outer room until I call for you? It shouldn’t be long.”
Levon Martin gave me a long and soulful look, as if to say “watch out,” but the rest of his face was a glacial and almost spastic grin as he got up and slowly shambled his way out of the room.
“The Thorazine shuffle,” I thought, with rising horror.
But I tried hard to make my face into an expressionless mask.
THE LEMON DROPS
IN THE SPRINGTIME
CAPTAINS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
THE MECHANICAL BRIDE
No longer is it possible for modern man, individually or collectively, to live in any exclusive segment of human experience or achieved social pattern. The modern mind, whether in its subconscious collective dream or in its intellectual citadel of vivid awareness, is a stage on which is contained and re-enacted the entire experience of the human race. There are no more remote and easy perspectives, either artistic or national. Everything is present in the foreground. That fact is stressed equally in current physics, jazz, newspapers, and psychoanalysis. And it is not a question of preference or taste. This flood has already immersed us. And whether it is to be a benign flood, cleansing the Augean stables of speech and experience, as envisaged in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, or a merely destructive element, may to some extent depend on the degree of exertion and direction which we elicit in ourselves.–Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (New York: Vanguard, 1951), 87.
TOP TEN REJECTED JAMES BOND GADGETS
Alonzo Tuske Hates the Beatles
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
THE LEMON PIPERS
RICE IS NICE
6* DAILY UTILITY
25 BEST MOVIES SET IN BOSTON
9* RUMOR PATROL
FREEING AMERICA ONE ENSLAVED MIND AT A TIME
ALSO SEE:MINISTRY ALBUMS, RANKED
11*DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
THE CANTANKEROUS BEETHOVEN
“Prince, what you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.–Ludwig van Beethoven
12* CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE (UN)POPULAR OPINIONS
Music is good.
Coffee helps get you going in the morning.
Children often say amusing things.