Monday, March 28, 2005

Paulo José Miranda's Hijinks (Lead to My Web Mention!)

Until a few days ago, Paulo José Miranda, a Portuguese author (poet, playwright, and novelist, and winner of the 1999 José Saramago Prize [?]), didn't register on my radar. To tell the truth, I know quase nada about contemporary Portuguese literature beyond the big names: José Saramago, the Nobel Laureate novelist; Antonio Lobo Antunes, the acclaimed fiction writer and frequent Nobel candidate who'd served in and written about the Angolan War of liberation and whom my only Portuguese teacher, an Azorean woman, peremptorily dismissed as a hack ("the great writers don't need to have a war to write about"); Fernando Namora, the country doctor whose simple prose remains among the most difficult I've ever tried to translate; and a few others, like the gay poet Joaquim Manuel Magalhães, or writers I struggled through in my lessons, like the surrealist Agustina Bessa Luis, the poet Sophia de Mello Breyner, and the deceased earlier writers Vergílio Ferreira, Jorge de Sena and José Cardoso Pires. (Pessoa, Castelo Branco and Camões aren't of recent vintage.) Most of the literature in Portuguese that I know a little about comes from Brazil; I've said I'm going to familiarize myself with contemporary African Lusophone literature, which a colleague extolled, but I haven't gotten beyond a few authors (Luandino Vieira, etc.).

In fact, I'd never even heard of Miranda until I read Jan Herman's arts and politics blog on Arts Journal. (Greg Sandow's infrequently updated music blog is the other one I always scan on that site.) Herman was calling attention to a bombastic flash site set up by Miranda and several friends, called "America Is," which Herman described as "very weird, well-designed, right-wing propaganda." On first glance, it appears to be so. The site asks you to click on a box that will give you Miranda's "ontological proof of America in 99 points." You only get 17 (the rest you have to pay for! ha ha), which read as if one of the "sleepwalkers" (cf. Musil, Broch or Mabuse) had snapped them off, between claps and Bible glances, at this past summer's Republican National Convention. For example, No. 4: "America keeps growing. America keeps welcoming the world." Or No. 18, which begins, "Iraq is not invaded. Iraq is being updated...." Or No. 19: "The product Coca Cola is more widely known than the Eiffel Tower, the tower of Pisa or the Vatican. America makes things the world understands. America makes things for its people." Or most simplistically, No. 41, "America is it."

Now, my first response was, I think these Portuguese folks are having a bit of fun at our expense. And why not? Hell, 51% (or so we've been conned into believing, or accepting, or both) of the voting electorate put W back in office just last fall. His main order of business has been to destroy (under the Orwellian description "reform") Social Security, the best US government program created in the 20th century, and one of the few remaining corners of a nation-wide safety net. He's got his Republibots to ram through an awful "tort-reform" (cf. above) bill (a gift to insurance companies and megacorporations), and an even worse "bankruptcy" reform bill (a gift to the credit card companies), and he's further weakened laws that prevent environmental degradation. As a sop to his anti-gay base, he wasted precious minutes of his State of the Union Address to again call for the hateful anti-gay FMA. The self-admitted doper (finally!), who supposedly found "Christ" at the age of 40, burns news paths of anti-Christian behavior by pushing for making his tax cuts permanent while calling for draconian cuts to a range of programs geared to help the poor and working-classes. He elevated an inept, incompetent, serial dissembler, and a bad one at that, to be Secretary of State. He made the legalistic enabler of torture our Attorney General. He nominated anti-UN ranter John Bolton to be...Secretary to the UN. He has nominated neoconservative liar and adulterer Paul head the World Bank. He named John Negroponte, who still has blood on his hands from his years in Central America, to be...first Ambassador to Iraq and then head of the National Intelligence Office. And let's not even get started on Iraq, or the rest of the Middle East, which remains in turmoil though he's taking (and being given) credit for unleashing "freedom" (cf. ibid, Orwell, etc.).
Then there's the steadily increasing theocratic cast of his party, which has even got some GOPers up in arms--he actually flew back from his ranch to grandstand on the Terri Schiavo tragedy, even though he and the rest of his racket claim to stand up for the "sanctity of marriage" and he signed a law in Texas allowing the ending of life support, and a black baby just last...oh, why even go on? I'm sure the Taliban are feeling pretty envious right about now....

At any rate, I didn't need to consider even ONE of the W Unltd. administration's actions to realize what Miranda and company are up to. Why? Because although I can be obtuse at times (pronouncing "gimlet" like "gym-lit" and forgetting the Pythagorean Theorem), I do get paid to read critically, and I could see through this bit of jollity--irony-steeped jollity at that--as if I were peering through the Grand Canyon. So I wrote Senhor Herman a little e-mail, and...he published it in his blog, mentioning me by name. As you see, I give him his props, because I was raised that way and I really like his blog, especially when he quotes his white friend, Bill Osborne, who loves to go off about "honky myopia" (no, he's actually making sharp critiques, not being a self-hating racist). But I was very surprised that he didn't see through Miranda's funning. I mean, Europe does have authentic right-wing fanatics and nutjobs. Lots of them. They actually are running Italy, were (are?) running Austria, and are quite strong in Germany, the Netherlands, France (remember Chirac's LePen scare, and he's a corrupt rightist himself), Spain, etc. Portugal, by the way, was ruled by a right-wing dictator for much of the 20th century. Europe also has lots of left-leaning folks who are also quite racist and anti-Semitic. And lots of casual racism (cf. Spanish soccer fans).

But Miranda e seus amigos (or os amigos dele, as some Brazilians might say), I think, is sticking a poniard (that's what did in Marlowe, right?) into America's eye. In the case of João Felino, a lots of them (cf. my post on Ellen Gallagher!). Look at the "More America" links he lists on the blog: Anal Philosopher, Andrew Sullivan.... Let's see how long it takes for others to figure this out. Or maybe not. [WARNING: Clicking on Nuno Miguel Alves's or Rui Parada's links caused my Mozilla browser to freeze!] I really want to read one of his novels.


  1. Because though I can be grossly obtuse at times (pronouncing "gimlet" like "gym-lit" and forgetting the Pythagorean Theorem), I get paid to read critically, and I could see through this bit of jollity--irony-steeped jollity at that--as if I were peering through the Grand Canyon

    You poor sad creature. Your prose is pathetic - a real hackfest of narcissistic crap. Besides a litany of shallow bumpersticker politcal utterings, what else does your shallow mind offer?

  2. Well, you did read it and took the time to comment, didn't you? Next time you leave your comments, at least leave a real name as well! Have a great day!