Regarding Natives and Barbarians

Decisive Battle at Nuuanu by Herb Kane
“The decisive downward step…is not the change ‘Unbeliever’ to ‘Barbarian’, but the change from ‘Unbeliever’ to ‘Native’, in the definition of the stigma by means of which the oppressor seeks to rob his victim of an inalienable humanity. In stigmatizing the members of an alien society as ‘Natives’ of their homes, ‘top-dog’ is denying their humanity by asserting their political and economic nullity…. By designating them as ‘Natives’, he is implicitly assimilating them into the non-human fauna and flora of a virgin ‘New World’ that has been waiting for it predatory and acquisitive latest human discoverers to enter and take possession in virtue of a right of ’eminent domain’ over a ‘Promised Land’ deemed to be the gift of some war-goddess of Private Enterprise…” (Arnold Toynbee)
In Eurasia, nomadic peoples who descended from the North were generally known as “barbarians”. The Ta-taerh or Tatars were a clan akin to the Chinese, yet the label was applied to all nomads. The Mongols warned Europeans not to call Mongols Tatars. The Tatar clan vanished about 1200 A.D. after being conquered by the Mongols. Yet long thereafter the term was used to designate both Mongols and Turks. As for the Mongols mong-ku (brave people), they are descended from the ancient Turks and an ancient Siberian tribe (Tungusi). The Chinese called them Hiung-nu, meaning the mass of nomads, and also used pejorative names, such as one meaning “devils.” The Turks became a political football for the experts and politicians for quite awhile.. “Turk” means helmet, supposedly because the Turks wore helmets or came from near a helmet-shaped mound. A related term, the Chinese, ‘Tou-kei‘, meant “insolent dog,” and, more recently, “foreign dog.” All three terms were practically synonymous with “barbarian.”


Permission granted by Darwin Leon


We should pause in our tracks from time to time, take a look over our shoulders, and praise our fear, for fear, before all, is behind our survival. Fear brings life home to us, makes us feel alive, does it not? Horrified at the prospect of being consumed, some folks are paralyzed in place and become easy prey for whatever eats at them, but most people are willing to take a few calculated risks. Indeed, some gamblers love a good challenge and will go out of their way to find one. Adventurers may have some treasure in mind, yet treasure is often just an excuse for getting out and about and making a run for it. And foolhardy dare-devils make no bones about it: they stake their lives for intense short-term thills. Of course, the run-of-the-mill person would rather have a more secure existence, so he turns to virtual threats for vicarious kicks. The seemingly most secure man, the bug snug in a rug, is the most frightened man; but he is not therefore the liveliest, for he has managed to smother his native fear and his natural livelihood with a safety blanket. Thus, when not preoccupied with his occupation, which is all too often repetitive, redundant and stultifying, he vicariously enjoys the threats of sports, horror shows, violent movies, bloody news films, a home video of someone actually being eaten by a shark or someone being mauled by a bear, and so on. Yes, he may even enjoy sublime, awesome art–“sublime” because the awful truth is experienced at a safe distance. The amusements are part of his electric security blanket. They give him temporary frights, providing him with vicarious fight or flight reactions while diverting his attention from his utter helplessness. His electric blanket gives him a jolt, negatively conditioning him to keep up the status quo, and also provides him with a warm feeling. The Grim Reaper has somehow been set aside in brackets for the time being: the victim is in the safe hands of political leaders, corporate executives, football coaches and film directors. Yet enough anxiety remains for him to maintain his status as a productive consumer; he remains dimly aware that he has delegated his freedom to those who are taking big risks with his life as he obediently conforms to the artificial social system established as a precarious bulwark against the so-called laws of evolution–particularly the survival of the fittest. His feelings struggle against himself but he does not struggle with the head gorillas and their charges who own and operate the Electric Blanket & Fence Company. Well, then, all is well, is it not? Natural selection and the brutal struggle for existence of the Wild have been temporarily held at bay within civilization’s cultivated compound. Peace prevails within the borders of the most highly developed nations. But all is not as well as it might seem. Multiplication, the population explosion, may eventually bring the artificial scheme to ruin; Malthusian stock has been in the dumps for quite awhile, but beware: numbers do not lie; in the long run, pessimism unheeded may work to our long-term disadvantage. Yet there is another threat to our existence as we turn the globe into our gigantic bee hive, a threat as pressing as the population explosion, the threat that conformity will rob us of the individual vitality and flexibility necessary to our survival. This threat is the source of the post-modern, pervasive fear which the obedient man smothers with the mass illusions of security propagated by those authorities whose anachronistic personal interests are served by continued massive obedience. In that context, the vicarious enjoyment of violent struggles presented in the media owned and operated by the power elite, together with massive consumption of drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, along with the constant multiplication of consumer goods and services, dissipates animosity and deflects attention away from the exercise of the natural individual rights hawked as formal palaver in independence declarations. For a really frightening experience, all one has to do is see through the two-dimensional illusions that makes conformity so graphically entertaining. But that effort would involve a third eye or dimension of in-depth thinking, which requires the bogged-down flatlander to revive his holy free spirit, crawl out of the media morass, and, like an aardvark, dig his own homely burrow with enough space at the end to turn around in–aardvarks prefer not to back out of things. Instead, it is more convenient to let the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR dig a mass grave for us with its totally controlled bulldozer while we sleep the sleep of the sleep-walking dead, the sort of sleep we see in zombies lined up at the Red Pop machine for another fix. Yes, oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR. We have good reason for being paranoid providing we have an object to fear. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy to identify members of the power elite; even if they were identified and exiled, others would circulate into their swank chairs as the national anthem plays on. Besides, we should feel sorry for powerful people, for the rich and famous; we should have a Society to Befriend the Rich and Famous; we should do our best to free them from the anti-social alienation making us all so miserable. Forgive them, for those poor souls have been propagating so long they have become victims of their own propaganda. No, ma’am, we do not require a reprehensible campaign of personal destruction. We need an unnatural collective object for our demonstration. We need a “showing” or a “warning,” therefore a monstrosity to “monitor”; ideally, we need an oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR to frighten us and bring us back to life. How shall we recognize an oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR? Hopefully its gruesome features will become obvious in due course. Since we are just awakening from a deep sleep, we can only adumbrate them here. Even now the aspects are hideous enough–let us spare children the horrid details until we gain the gall to address them. In fact, it will behoove us to resort to hygienic abstractions as we approach the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR, lest we get sucked into the horrid swamp where it replicates itself like a virus in its unwitting hosts. Now then: if I remain in Flatland, it is my personal opinion that any number of points less than three destroys the triangle and leaves us either with the invisible line or just a non-dimensional point. We can think abstractly about these, but only after we have experienced the visible surface. Psychological reality requires the knowing Subject as well as the Object of knowledge, together with consciousness or the active Relation between Subject and Object. A thinker who does not include the entire Trinity in his equation for reality has created a monster. He has in fact made a monster out of himself, if he is what he thinks. The oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR, often mistaken for a FeNOMenalist FrEEk, not to be confused with the MANiacal SUBjectivist, is primarily interested in the Object as determined by impersonal systems of objective relations. Therefore the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR has eaten the willing Subject alive in order to be “objective.” Having cannibalized the Subject, the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR has come to believe that objects are actually determined by systems rather than by willing subjects. Therefore, the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR, in its zeal to become the very objects it loves, worships the impersonal systems–impersonal because the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR no longer thinks it is a willing subject but thinks it is an object having a curious reflexive interest, namely its functions, as it fit into the general scheme of things like a cog in a machine. Nonetheless, as the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR devises its systemic schemes to manipulate people as if they were objects instead of subjects, it is dimly aware of its bad faith or hypocrisy. For, as anyone subordinated to its systems can see, the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR is really a willful subject, and a very frightened subject indeed. That is not to say it should go to the opposite pole and become a MANiacal SUBjectivist. The oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR is deathly afraid of the freedom of the Subject. Even chaos must be predictable to it, as if chaos were, oxymoronically, a system. The oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR is a paranoid control-freak who thinks it is being persecuted by the very objects it is manipulating, which is just the inverted aspect of the delusion of grandeur it is completely unaware of because of the unwitting subjection of its subjective identity to the objects in its respective systems. That is to say, the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR is a systematic conformer to its own damned system. Believe it or not, the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR has replicated itself in human society and has taken command over the mental functions of hordes of people; that certainly bodes ill for the human race. Of course, any society is conformist to a certain extent. Ants, termites, and bees thrive on total conformity, on blind obedience to nature, but humans do not. We have basic needs motivating us, but self-conscious freedom is our greatest virtue. We are each, in a sense, a born criminal: good is rooted in evil as it flies heavenward; moreover, our progress depends on the evil preceding its advance. Furthermore, our progress depends on our intentional violation of the so-called laws of evolution as we restrict, within our cultivated garden, the struggle for existence: we intentionally select what is good for us and weed out the rest. Yet we do not cooperate with each other to conform to a hive-like regimen or even an ape-like regime; we do not blindly obey the objective laws of nature. We must keep this mind as the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR strives to turn our society into the latest model of a machine: conformity in itself does not serve our best interests either as individuals or as a human society. Our success has been in learning to voluntarily or willfully cooperate rather than to obediently conform to some monstrous system–and all the systems have been monstrous to date, including the current myths of the social scientists. We cooperate to obtain our selfish ends as individuals. Those selfish ends do coincide and are, by virtue of voluntary cooperation, our highest mutual purpose. That purpose is partially realized on Earth when Earth is treated as our common treasury and natural space ship; but without the transcendental subjective interest, men will destroy each other and their world for its objects. Matter and spirit are poles of a continuum, one the prerequisite of the other, neither having priority without the human perspective. Given that human interest, if we are to bring heaven to Earth or raise Earth to heaven, spirit must have priority. Therefore our supreme ideal is really a spiritual home, not a bee hive or termite mound. If we go inward, we can indeed go onward and upward to where no man had gone before. But the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR has been set loose upon the world. Hence there has been a warrant out for the arrest of each and every one of us. In absentia, we have been tried and convicted during our flight from prosecution. The interlocking cells of conformity are being replicated for our occupancy at this very moment. The global prisons being erected by the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR are filled with zombies, each one under the single-minded eye of his own monitor. How is this possible? Because prison is being presented as freedom: it is a trap. We must beware of the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR. Yet we dare not stab, stake, impale, behead, electrocute, or lethally inject it, for that would kill the patient. Yes, the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR is a model for many. All one has to do to see that oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeRS are legion is to gaze into his own broken mirror–broken by the disunity of perspectives caused by the viral infection. Simply getting rid of the mirror will not help: hypocrites have already tried that to rid themselves of guilt, and with fatal consequences. Nowadays the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR would merge Subject with objects and diffuse the soul into infinite multiplicity. But do not despair: something can be done to avert the monstrous attempt to collapse the Trinity into one of its moments pulverized into atoms, instead of giving due credit to all three in One. Everyone can look into the fractured mirror and ask, Are you all you can be? Not merely as many, but as the One in many? Beware of the oBJeCTiViST MoNSTeR!

Monophobia Choreographed by Keiko Fujii

Keiko Fujii in Monophobia



MONOPHOBIA – Modern Dance Presentation

A Japanese dance company tells my life story – or am I paranoid?

How can I begin to tell you about Monophobia? I could consult the myriads of books on creativity, but then I might lose the impetus to speak. So I shall proceed to say whatever comes to mind. An improvisation if you please, since I have no plan.

I must admit that I am afraid to approach Monophobia, to waltz right up to it, take it by the hand and report back to you what steps were taken in 3/4. For it concerns the existence that has us all pinned down. We struggle to unpin ourselves, yet if unpinned we lose the point and cease to exist. That struggle is my starting point. I cannot stand here perfectly still. I have no choice but to be continuously active or to gravitate to nothingness as the ground rushes to meet me. I must keep moving in the interim, one way or another. So, in this case, I must speak to you.

Keiko Fujii and her dancers came to Manhattan and reminded me of my own singular fear of existing, a phobia I attribute to the personal sense of the imminent loss of existence that my own existence implies. Her production of Monophobia, which premiered in the United States at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, was shaken out of her by the Kobe earthquake. There is nothing like having the earth ripped out from under you. Creative Destruction is awfully sublime. The thing in itself that is really no thing is a terrifying mystery beyond description. Nevertheless, we can describe some of the forms it takes. The question is: where to start?

Anywhere might do. Keiko started with the pas de chat, using it to describe the mythological underpinnings of the Japanese economy. It is amazing how she milked the pas de chat for all it is worth. No, the pas de chat is not a chat with father. It is a cat-like step that has become a formal element of the traditional ballet vocabulary. The dancer jumps quickly off one foot then the other, legs turned out at the hips, bringing his knees up in the air in rapid succession, with feet pointed and for a moment almost touching below, so that at the height of the movement his legs form a diamond shape. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that: it is a simple movement in the rough, but it takes the dancer years to polish the diamond.

To continue: Keiko’s dancers, decked out in business suits, formed teams and executed several series of pas de chats across the stage. The simulated enthusiasm as well as the unison of the team members and the precise coordination of the teams vigorously shuttling about their business illustrated the virtues of the well-oiled Japanese business machine. To serve its purpose, the parts of a machine must move in opposition, as did the phalanxes of dancers as they moved in opposite directions to weave their illusion of happy workers laboring in their divisions for a common cause. However, as the workers continued with their rituals apace, the entire affair became rather monotonous. I began to notice that the whole industry was based on perfunctory pas de chats, alien components expensive to maintain. Technique is better left unnoticed. The workers were not dancing; they were doing technique. Even the smiles of the happy workers seemed contrived. The dream machine was running down. A couple of the machined parts began to squeak and broke off, annoyed by paperwork and laptop duties; information anxiety began to set in. Alas, the worker was overloaded. But, finally, the relief of the evening commute! The ranks were broken into their constituents. The dancers, however, did not bother to communicate with each other at the station or on the train; rather, each one got out his cell phone and proceeded to call home, finally displaying his most genuine smile, not for his traveling companions but for the invisible family on the other end of virtuality. But what if you don’t have a family, what if you are single; for whom do you smile, your personal God?

Except for the sole male dancer Keiko traditionally utilizes, all of the males roles were played by lovely women decked out in the business suits that frightened me because, though I look terrific in one, when I see someone in a power suit, I feel that someone is going to be crushed.

Never mind. Thou shalt not shout or lose thy cool. A well-oiled machine must not squeak. A happy worker does not need a future because she has nothing to cry about. Employees must not display genuine feelings, especially negative ones; although positive emotions are highly recommended for everyone, they are resented because they cause hard feelings in those who don’t have them. Business is not the place for emotions. The romantic claim that all values are based on emotion is scoffed at by the rational businessman.

Thou shalt not get naked! Thou shalt not take off thy suit! Thou shalt not streak! Above all, thou shalt not whistle or sing on the job!

In a moment of disobedience, however, Keiko’s dancers did shed their suits. It is not easy to shed the conventional mythologies, especially the mythology of the Japanese economy or any other economy where if it cannot be counted it doesn’t really count. We want to strip, but our clothes are a security blanket.

Shed obligations. File bankruptcy. File for divorce. Quit your job. Disown your family and friends. Forsake your nation. Move offshore. Be cynical and be saved, you selfish traitor to your own social security! Ironic, isn’t it, that almost any virtue defrocked makes all virtue look like vice?

Good grief! Just what is the healing answer to all this highly touted Creative Destruction?

Well, Keiko went back in time and donned the traditional kimono, a green kimono under which she executed ever so small movements with enormous implications. A mere lift of her foot gave one the impression that she had just traversed the entire universe. Moving upstage on the diagonal, the kimono unfurled behind her in a train that extended from one corner of the stage to the other, all to the rushing, rumbling and gurgling sounds of a waterfall. Then she ever so slowly turned and turned, reeling in the train, winding it about her feet into a pedestal. Disappearing under the green shroud of the remaining material, she finally emerged, an exquisitely painted “nude” in colorful tights, as if clothed by Nature, leaving her traditional chrysalis behind. She did a series of grande changement Italiens, jumping straight up from both feet, bringing her legs up rapidly into a diamond shape, hovering in the air for a moment. Yet again, as it should be, the classical ballet technique was invisible to the untrained eye. Keiko simply looked like a wild hummingbird cavorting about in accordance with her natural proclivities. The other dancers then appeared in the same native costumes so wonderfully designed by Keiko herself, and they likewise displayed instinctive tendencies.

Is this the healing answer: Back to Nature? Maybe so, but not as long as we have to think about it, so I’ll leave it alone in the trance I briefly enjoyed. It was a retreat into solitude, an epoch, a momentous pause, an interlude eventually rudely shattered by Monophobia.

Enter doom and gloom with a room therein all pervaded by that familiar fetid fog oft mentioned clauses cluttered with malicious malcontent. I see my life passing by on the stage. That must be my dismal uptown studio with one window facing the rank exhaust of the Chinese noodle shop. Ah, and nearly the same discordant, unsynchronized, rhythmic racket of the air conditioners and exhaust fans outside that window, music here for the modern ears, as accompaniment for the monstrous ogres now entering. There is an ocherous devil dragging an enormous white bundle on a rope behind him with all his might. It must be Saturday morning laundry! I am shocked: this is about me! Several dancers are huddled together in a corner each shrouded in white. They must be the sycophants of yet another diabolical character, played so well by the sole male, creeping about with that two-pronged pitchfork. He must be the infamous binary system. Damn! I think he uses that fork to devour his sycophants! What great technology! The food cooperates with the fork. When Keiko comes out of her room she eventually embraces the ghastly instrument.

Keiko’s tiny room in hell reminds me of the facades on those Holiday Inns that mushroomed all over the country years ago, facades made of glass and aluminum extrusions. Although her cubicle is transparent and my uptown hovel is opaque with merely a window, I think the song is still about me. The room is the mind; I am aware of a vast universe by virtue of cells in my brain living a warm and watery life in total darkness. And because my consciousness of it all seems to expand, the possibility of what I might know seems unlimited – it is really my stupidity that gives me the sense of infinite expanse. My room is so tiny, my perspective so small. I live in a skull supported by flesh and bones. I am so small in comparison with infinity that I might as well be a point without dimensions. I am pinned down here! Someone please tear me loose, please get me out of here! Oh my god, if only there were a god!

Keiko struggled with an enormous variety of movements in her cell. Perhaps that is how the human animal differs from her caged relatives; she dances her miserable danse macabre intentionally, hoping to somehow overcome the isolation of her limitations, to get out of here and become one with the all, to synchronize with the cosmos. Is this love of unity a fear of identity? Is our dance a game of camouflage, a nihilistic playing of hide and seek with the universe?

As modern dancer in original, iconoclastic sense, Keiko attempts to display the fullest range of movement; history is the progress of freedom, but what paltry limitations has this pinhead existence! Eventually one succumbs on bed or couch. Not for long, however. Never Stop Moving is life’s imperative. Depressed by ponderous gravity, feeling monotheism is Monophobia and that the one sure thing, the monotonous reality, is death, that God is not dead because God is death, the devotee prostrates herself prone before her master; but then she twists and turns and now she is supine; now she tries to rest and shuts her eyes and voids her mind all to no avail. She shudders with hunger and ennui. She must have bread and the circus. She leaves the security of her room. She goes out to embrace her fear. Entranced by the not- voidable, she will willingly dance her dance with death.

Embrace fear. Is that the healing answer? Misery is inevitable, the argument goes, so console oneself with the knowledge that chance does not really matter because your misery would just take another form if not the present one.

So, you say you enjoy being alone, and while alone you do not give much thought to death. I too love being alone but after awhile I must admit my thoughts turn morbid. Acute awareness of my own existence prompts me to think of its opposite and I, in my solitude, cling precariously to the roots of depression lest I plunge into the abyss. For what I love I fear as well. The formation of my personality is the response to the fear that my life will be wiped out. I am a product of death. I think death makes the man and then takes him away. I love and fear my maker and although I love being alone I am driven by my fear of the same to desperately cling to others of my ilk on the chance that I may forget myself. Fat chance, for the relation further defines me and sets me apart from my relations.

I think of all this when I consider Keiko’s Monophobia. It seems, however, that I seldom have much company. It was not a full house. The audience enjoyed the performance but grew very weary during Keiko’s prolonged, anxious movements within the confines of her own limitations. That is just how an anxious life can feel after a long while: extremely boring and sleep-inducing. Although the audience was enchanted by the early stages of the performance and was appropriately enthralled by the hellish scene, many people thought its life had come to an end and left, forgetting there was a third act to come as indicated by the programme.

I was so exhausted by Keiko’s extenuated monophobic symbolics that I paid bare attention to her third act. I do recall a pleasant dance by the chorus all decked out in white space suits. Is that the final solution? To go where no man has gone before? To catch a ride on the tail of a comet?

I met with Keiko the next day. She seemed amused by some of my interpretations of her work, but was mostly silent. At one point, while struggling desperately for the meaning of life, I said: “I see people smoking, drinking, using drugs, chasing men and women and money, seeking information, so on and so forth. They look like they are trying to escape. I keep saying maybe there is no way out. Maybe there is no escape. Maybe there is nothing but misery ending in nothing.”

Keiko seemed surprised, and responded: “That is Buddhism.”

“If that is an answer, why don’t you show it to us in your next concert.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Call it Zero, or just 0.”

“We’ll see.”


Manhattan, June 1997