What Karl R. Popper said in 1945 . . . .

I am currently reading volume II of The Open Society and Its Enemies, a book that I think everyone should read at some point in their lives (vol. I included).

The book is filled with perspicacious passages, but this one I felt compelled to share:

‘Once we have achieved formal freedom, we can control vote-buying in every form. There are laws to limit the expenditure on electioneering, and it rests entirely with us to see that much more stringent laws of this kind are introduced. The legal system can be made a powerful instrument for its own protection. In addition, we can influence public opinion, and insist upon a much more rigid moral code in political matters. All this we can do; but we must first realize that social engineering of this kind is our task, that it is in our power, and that we must not wait for economic earthquakes miraculously to produce a new economic world for us, so that all we shall have to do will be to unveil it, to remove the old political cloak.’ -Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. II (pp. 337)

As many of my readers already know: we had laws in the United States which prohibited the unregulated flow of cash and contributions into our political campaigns. We also experienced an economic earthquake in 2008 which, rather than change the rules of the game to punish the economic, financial and political predators; this earthquake led to an even greater enabling of those predators.

Americans need to recognize that our economic, political and legal systems have been corrupted and that we the people have allowed this corruption. We have tolerated it. We have refused to punish the perpetrators and so we continue to see our elections function as a fire sale to the highest bidders. It need not be this way. There are signs that in local politics the power of small donors is being cultivated by candidates of principle (see the Minneapolis, Minnesota city council campaign occurring right now). But these encouraging developments are still a far cry from a national movement to rollback the corruption of our politics, particularly the push for an amendment to reverse the 2010 judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States in Citizens United.

The most radical aspect of the American republic is the very thing that oligarchs and predators in our politics and political economy exploit in order to cloak their greed: We the people. It is still our government; it is still our country; it is still a government than in both principle and in law remains committed to democratic and republican principles.

But the sleeping giant must awake.


“Dear National Democrats”

Dear National Democrats:

Last night I had tea with Bobby Kennedy’s ghost. He said, tell the kids in the universities to go out and get work on public health research teams interviewing people struggling to find clean water or affordable nutritious food for their children. He said, tell the kids in the universities to report back to their parents what they found and then tell their state senators and representatives, delegates and city councillors that they want paid summer jobs working for their municipalities.

I asked Mr. Kennedy how he felt about the fact that he had been right, the year he died, that a black man could be elected in forty years time. And he said, yes, it was promising to see a non-white face in the Oval Office but that he wondered when the fascination with black skin would translate into extended interest in the plight off all those blacks lining up behind the few handsome public faces. The faces of those who have made it. He said when was the last time we spoke to those whose futures were being made in all of the blighted places; ever growing, ever expanding: the Mississippi deltas, Southside Chicagos, Appalachian holler coal mining towns. Or those places where politicians used to go on their whistle stop tours and do meets and greets and pressed the flesh and stayed to walk along the main streets. Those places where things were made, where unions were created and where entrepreneurial sorts created credit unions and the savings and loan. He wanted to know when was the last time someone was asked what kinds of resources they have at their disposal to get by in the high and dry times. He wanted to know did I know what solidarity was and if I’d known any union men and women personally and whether I had ever seen where and how they pray.

Last night I said to Senator Kennedy did he think that the main aims of liberalism, those things that had been called the basis of the “fighting faith” were out of touch with realities fifty years on? Did he think the fight for liberalism could not be won? Or how about the battle for an enduring space to live and breath cleaner air, drink sweet and potable water? Then he said, not at all. So long as there is fight in anyone; and a need not to fail; and a fear of failing but a love for the trying; then liberalism, like any good faith, any right cause, will live on.

Dear National Democrats, I just want to say that I had to go and find Bobby Kennedy’s ghost because yours is a party of the walking dead.

One who once was your natural constituent


Ventures (a poem in two disjointed parts)


In Grand Rapids, Michigan
craft beer and gourmet food
in Windsor, Ontario now, too

You don’t have to go to London
New York or even Chicago
to try the finest contemporary food

But if your soul seeks more
that is, an authentic slice of Americana
or wholesome Middle American
the Rust Belt ruinenwert is a plus
as you can post your pics
to show your friends
while you hoist a stein.

Great modern ruins
industrial age relics
in places where there is still life
not just ants or roaches or grey dye-in-the-wing moths
ailanthus and sedge and other weedy species
but honest to goodness humans

People going about their business
scattering towards the light
of any camera that can find them
promoting the next big thing
whether culinary, high tech or architecturally related
so as they might rebuild

(In English-speaking North America you actually must replace;
as Chrissy Hind has said: ‘I stood on the back porch/ there was nobody home’)

In Detroit, urban gardens
in Cleveland, local gourmands
and a Cuyahoga that no longer burns and seldom stinks
middle American destinations where Akron is pleasant
and Youngstown quiet and quaint
both venture investment opportunities.

Take in the local ale
sample deep fried reinvented
bad for the heart but good for the soul
and didn’t it just sustain the greatest generations
dontcha know
this food of the great gone by:
steel lunch pails, stay at home mothers
and by golly, union protections.


Don’t tell me today how it’s more individuals that we need
what I hear and see is an ongoing call for solidarity

If we are bowling alone and staying home
watching movies in our bedroom

If we are denied our right to organize
to sit beside others who don’t look like us
in classrooms and home owner associations

If we are building gates and building walls
and pipelines with ample throughput
but fewer folks to read the dials

If we are -some of us- coming out to dutifully cast
annually, biannually our ballots
but don’t then see our lot improved too much
don’t go and say to us it’s less democracy
that will assuage our rage

I say, it’s solidarity.

I say, it’s not being deceived.

I say, it’s transparency:
show the whole sordid story
of who got the land
and who runs the boards
who sets the membership
and who calls the tune
who drives the prices
and who makes the markets
who got the land
and who then defended it
how the land was won
and what wars were needed

I say, it’s not waiting for
work to come down
passed along by beneficent hands
it’s not philanthropists
and their foundations
helping us acquire
(when they feel inspired)
what there is to have and to hold
essential goods
those items of dignity
those emblems of what was once
and what must always be
the terms of American posterity

You know,
those things without which
we become leaches
welfare recipients
forty-seven percenters
barely worth the price of our human rights

Some mandarins have said they should let us die
to applause
and then there’s the likes of the Mr. Kevin Williamson
who from his high position at an elite online publication
insists that those who can’t adapt
who are mired in dependency
outmoded thought processes
(wards all, really)
that they (we) should be allowed to just drop dead
like President Ford said to NYC in the mid-1970s

But I want to say how it’s not worth listening
to this they,
those who tell you that anxiety
is what you simply must own and overcome
as you are its origin;
that your biological instinct really is to kill
and conquer
that to stand together
is unnatural, atheistic, likely some red error.

And alas, riddle me this?
Where are our poetry journals
willing to tackle
inelegantly perhaps
the great groaning grotesquerie
that needs raw infusions
of solecisms
and ugly, gaping, grasping illusions
to beat against the skin and skein
of craft and polish-

I suspect the answer isn’t that it’s now some sin
to be producing agitprop
as it could only be a farcical rerun
of Soviet formalism;
that in America we have to be more sophisticated
than that
and grasp the nettle with positivity
evasion and elipsis
otherwise we forfeit our chance
to be Dedulus
calmly, cooly and then in epiphany
moved on to other pastures
ever in exile
ranging beyond the dull, drear
rage and despair
of local, native pastures

Forgive me if I believe that a call to arms
is one of the Janus faces of art;
art as Madonna, maybe

So to see choosing sides,
that is barricades, fronts and frontiers
parties, cliques, claques
even caches
rather than simply voicing internal monologues
and coded dialects
as, well, once again, merely lifeless, meretricious agitprop

To me, that’s a lot of MFA
post-graduate slop.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

The Alex Jones Presidency (Shadow Puppetry)

The Alex Jones Presidency (Shadow Puppetry)

The man with the codes
is listening to Alex Jones
while those in the know
watch his nose continue to grow

Who will tell the people what the people are supposed to have seen?

That the man in the robe and with the sceptre believes
that the tools of his presidency are tools whose power could be deposed
provided that the people and their servants stop seeing those devices
as instant, spontaneous killers rather than instruments that charge like batteries.

Who will tell the people that the dimensions of life on the screen
phone, television, tablet or computer
are not the dimensions within the school, the store, the shopping centre
even the home?

Who will tell them that what is seen is not necessarily what is
and that what makes a human human
or a citizen a citizen
is not fealty to symbols
but work, will, initiative
even a sense of commanding destiny
personal and collective?

Provided that reality is actually seen.

But how will it be seen if people look at the man and his codes
only through a screen?

Who will tell them that much of what they are witnessing
is an art: shadow puppetry?

Jeremy Nathan Marks