Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There's more to it than this, but I think mostly I'm just tired of people shitting all over excitement and happiness. Naive? Simple-minded? Whatever. I'm taking a break from this blog, for at least a little while. If anyone cares, which I don't see why they should, I'll still be around online, mostly to follow the news of revolution.

Solidarity always to the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Morocco, and anyone else who rises up. May I one day be brave enough to give you more than the word.

Monday, February 14, 2011


The repressed cultural critic in me loves Aaron Bady's essay on "The Twitter Can't Topple Dictators article" as a genre. One of many money quotes:
the Western generalist (Gladwell) gets to retain Serious Authority. The man who knows nothing about Egypt still gets to Seriously Know, precisely because it‘s only a dialogue between two Western speakers. And this, I think, is the real key. It isn’t just that really “hard” questions get skirted; it’s the fact that Egyptians are driving this narrative — and that if we want to understand it, we have to know something about Egypt in its particularity – that makes these people nervous.

What do you think a revolution is?

Look. I love IOZ, but these two posts on Egypt are just awful. I know he's going dangerously off-brand by treating concrete efforts by anyone to improve their situations with anything other than withering contempt, so, you know, I guess I should be happy that he's not writing posts about what unenlightened fools the revolutionaries are and why don't they just stay inside and post recipes on Fridays, but...

Who, exactly, thinks that now that Mubarak is gone the revolution is over? The revolutionaries sure don't. At about the same time as IOZ was prepping his second startling revelation, the people I follow in Egypt were tweeting (whatever) about striking workers, mass protests, and clashes with military police (and meanwhile others in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iran--and I think Algeria but my news out of there is hazy--were engaging in their own, frequently violent, struggles). Yes, when Mubarak left Egypt turned into a huge party. That was because Mubarak left, not because anyone thought the fight was over. Even in the midst of the celebration, every person Al Jazeera spoke with and every person online was saying "Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we get to work. If we don't get what we want, we're not going anywhere."

When I, at least, as IOZ would have it, "rush to lionize the Egyptian revolution," it's this I'm lionizing.

And, Christ:
Well, anyway, now the question remains, will there be revolution in Egypt?
I'm sorry, but this has to be the single stupidest thing the otherwise very smart IOZ has written since that time he thought he was cleverly debunking climate change science by pointing out, much to everyone's surprise I'm sure he thought, that climates change all the time.

"Will there be revolution in Egypt?" Come on now. There already has been, and there is now. Revolution isn't an end point. Even if the military stays in control and the revolution fails, there still will have been revolution during this time. I've said it before, but the revolutionaries in Midan Tahrir made their own revolutionary culture, their own revolutionary society, their own revolutionary world in less than three weeks. That is revolution.

And, once more: they're not stopping. "As to what will become of those people and their country, it's a question whose answer will be measured in years at least," IOZ comes down from the mountain to tell us, and I say no shit. But what's happening right now, that is revolution and nothing else.

IN OTHER WORDS: No, I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen in a minute when I go pour the water for my coffee. And for all I know, it's all going to end horribly. Maybe the US and Israel are as we speak collaborating on a plan to wipe Egypt off the map. Who knows? But right now what is going on is beautiful, and smarty-pantsing about "will there be revolution" is just being a douchebag to the bravest people on Earth right now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Clifford D. Simak, A Choice of Gods

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

The ability seems to be inherent. Man probably had it for a long time before he began to use it. For it to develop time was needed and the longer life gave us time. Perhaps it would have developed even without the longer life if we'd not been so concerned, so fouled up, with our technology. Somewhere we may have taken the wrong turning, accepted the wrong values and permitted our concern with technology to mask our real and valid purpose. The concern with technology may have kept us from knowing what we had. These abilities of ours could not struggle up into our consciousness through the thick layers of machines and cost estimates and all the rest of it. And when we talk about abilities, it's not simply going to the stars.
page 20

"I don't know why," said Jason, "but when you talk about the People I have the feeling that you are describing a monstrous alien race rather than humanity. Without knowing any of the details, they sound frightening."

"They are to me," said John. "Not perhaps because of any single facet of their culture, for some of these facets can be very pleasant, but because of a sense of the irresistible arrogance implicit in it. Not the power so much, although the power is there, but the naked arrogance of a species that sees everything as property to be manipulated and used."
page 77

And what had she done, she wondered. What had happened to her? Trying to recall it, she could discover only fragments of it and she was sure that when it had happened there had been no fragmentation and that the fragments she could recall were no more than broken pieces of the whole. The world had opened out and so had the universe, or what she since had thought must have been the universe, lying all spread out before her, with every nook revealed, with all the knowledge, all the reasons there--a universe in which time and space had been ruled out because time and space were only put there, in the first place, to make it impossible for anyone to grasp the universe.
page 138


Posting will probably be light for the next few days with the likely exception of more quote-filled posts, because I've been too sick to do much more than read. And there's so much I want to write about! Hopefully I'll get some writing in soon, but in the meantime, I just wanted to get some complaining in.

In other news, Clifford D. Simak's A Choice of Gods is fantastic. It's like if Derrick Jensen and Stanislaw Lem had a deeply gentle baby.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Oedipa, perverse, had stood in front of the painting and cried. No one had noticed; she wore dark green bubble shades. For a moment she'd wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry.
page 10

She looked down a slope, needing to squint for the sunlight, onto a vast sprawl of houses which had grown up all together, like a well-tended crop, from the dull brown earth; and she thought of the first time she'd opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. There'd seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she had tried to find out); so in her first minute of San Narciso, a revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding.
page 13

She could, at this stage of things, recognize signals like that, as the epileptic is said to--an odor, color, pure piercing grace note announcing his seizure. Afterward it is only this signal, really dross, this secular announcement, and never what is revealed during the attack, that he remembers. Oedipa wondered whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold; which must always blaze out, destroying its own message irreversibly, leaving an overexposed blank when the ordinary world came back. In the space of a sip of dandelion wine it came to her that she would never know how many times such a seizure may already have visited, or how to grasp it should it visit again. Perhaps even in this last second--but there was no way to tell.
page 69

"I came," she said, "hoping you could talk me out of a fantasy."

"Cherish it!" cried Hilarius, fiercely. "What else do any of you have? Hold it tightly by its little tentacle, don't let the Freudians coax it away or the pharmacists poison it out of you. Whatever it is, hold it dear, for when you lose it you go over by that much to the others. You begin to cease to be."
page 103

Friday, February 11, 2011

A perfect symbol of how hard the fight is

I've got Al Jazeera English on. In general, their coverage is fantastic. The reporters are ecstatic. At one point, the anchor asked correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin to drop his journalistic remove for a moment and talk about his personal feelings at the moment as an Egyptian himself, and it was all he could do to keep himself from crying. Another correspondent, whose name I haven't caught, just said as I type that she keeps feeling like she's missing the party being a few floors up from Midan Tahrir, and all but said that she can't wait until she's off duty and can go down and join it.

And about half an hour ago, the anchor was on the phone interviewing a revolutionary who was down in Tahrir (I think it was Hossam el-Hamalawy ). He had just said "We got rid of Mubarak; now we have to get rid of the Mubarak dictatorship," and, emotionally, was halfway through another sentence when the anchor interrupted him because Catherine Margaret Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, PC, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, was available to be interviewed.


When the very, very, very best, most sympathetic media coverage that there is thinks that it needs to make the actual people who did this wait so that some fucking poobah can equivocate, instead of the other way around, that right there is a perfect symbol of how goddamn hard the fight is.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


If you're not watching Al Jazeera right now, fucking do it. English stream here.

Mubarak and Suleiman have just spoken, and shit is going down. I have a feeling things are about to get really really good, really really bad, or both.

UPDATE, Friday around 11:00 AM my time, I think around 6:00 PM in Egypt: In case you haven't heard, Suleiman has announced that Mubarak is "resigning" and handing leadership over to the military leadership.

Recycling my words on Egypt

I hope no one minds if I copy and paste the bulk of a comment I left over at Richard's place and call it a post. Here goes:

As I see the word coming out of Tahrir Square, particularly from Mona Seif (@monasosh), I've been reminded more and more of what people say about life in the Paris Commune. They're making their own world there, and it's amazing. But then of course the more I'm reminded of the Commune, the more I'm reminded of how that ended.

I'm still more optimistic than pessimistic, though. Last night some friends came over for dinner, and of course all we could talk about was Egypt. At one point I brought up that there's at least one couple honeymooning in Tahrir, and at least one other that was married there, and we all kind of paused for a moment and thought about that, and how if you get married in a revolution, there's no way that you don't pass that down to your kids.

There's just so much beauty going on there--the Copts protecting the Muslims during prayers and vice versa, the guy giving free haircuts at the "revolution salon," the singing welcoming committees at the entrances to the square, the increasing strikes across the country....even if, God or whoever forbid, it is crushed, they can't kill everyone, and they can't make them--or us--forget.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Philip K. Dick, "Man, Android, and Machine" in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (Lawrence Sutin, ed.), several excerpts

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Within the universe there exists fierce cold things, which I have given the name "machines" to. Their behavior frightens me, especially when it imitates human behavior so well that I get the uncomfortable sense that these things are trying to pass themselves off as humans but are not. I call them "androids," which is my own way of using that word. By "android" I do not mean a sincere attempt to create in the laboratory a human being... I mean a thing somehow generated to deceive us in a cruel way, to cause us to think it to be one of ourselves. Made in a laboratory--that aspect is not meaningful to me; the entire universe is one vast laboratory, and out of it come sly and cruel entities that smile as they reach out to shake hands. But their handshake is the grip of death, and their smile has the coldness of the grave.
page 211

"Man" or "human being" are terms that we must understand correctly and apply, but they apply not to origin or to any ontology but to a way of being in the world; if a mechanical construct halts in its customary operation to lend you assistance, then you will posit to it, gratefully, a humanity that no analysis of its transistors and relay systems can elucidate. A scientist, tracing the wiring circuits of that machine to locate its humanness, would be like our own earnest scientists who tried in vain to locate the soul in man, and, not being able to find a specific organ located at a specific spot, opted to decline to admit that we have souls. As soul is to man, man is to machine: It is the added dimension in terms of functional hierarchy. As one of us acts godlike (gives his cloak to a stranger), a machine acts human when it pauses in its programmed cycle to defer to it by reason of a decision.
page 212

My theme for years in my writing has been, "The devil has a metal face." Perhaps this should be amended now. What I glimpsed and then wrote about was in fact not a face; it was a mask over a face. And the true face is the reverse of the mask. Of course it would be. You do not place fierce, cold metal over fierce, cold metal. You place it over soft flesh, as the harmless moth adorns itself artfully to terrorize others with ocelli.
page 213

Probably everything in the universe serves a good end--I mean, serves the universe's goals. But intrinsic portions or subsystems can be takers of life. We must deal with them as such, without reference to their role in the total structure.
page 214

Taxes: an anecdote, with digressions into potholes and libraries

If Rhode Island is famous, it's famous not for you but for potholes. Last night the Baronette and I were driving down a street in one of the Less Desirable neighborhoods of Providence and encountered such potholes as I, a native, have never seen. The weather this winter has been hell on the pavement. We're talking covering-entire-lanes-of-traffic-or-more, literally over a foot deep, people having to take turns going different ways because if you go into this one you're not coming out potholes. Then, later on, we were driving down a street in one of the More Desirable neighborhoods and, lo and behold, there were no potholes.

The Baronette turned to me (while keeping one eye on the road) and said something like this: "I wonder how people who are apologetic for the power, for the current order, justify this kind of thing?"

I happen to know how they justify this kind of thing. Once upon a time, I worked briefly at a small business owned by a professional, educated, Subaru-driving, lesbian, NPR-listening,* capital-L Liberal of the first order, who also just happened to live on literally the wealthiest street in the city.

*I once mentioned that I didn't like NPR partly because they were too conservative (misleading word I know) for me, and she was shocked. "But it's the most liberal news source out there!" she exclaimed.

One day over lunch I brought up some work I was doing with a group fighting to keep the then-endangered branches of the Providence Public Library from being closed by the greedy assholes on its governing board who wanted to sell off the properties to developers. (The situation, by the way, is much better now; the branches are operated by a community organization whose interest is actually in keeping the branches running, and while there are still problems--like for instance the fact that the old board still owns the physical buildings and is putting up a stink about turning them over as they agreed to which means that urgently needed renovations have been delayed--they are slowly but surely being resolved.) I mentioned in passing, naïvely expecting a quick nod of agreement and recognition, that of course the branches that weren't threatened with closure were primarily the branches serving the richer parts of the city.

At this point, though, the Boss had something she needed to say. Like many, she was under the impression that the Providence Public Library system was operated by the local government,* and so she said, "Well, if there's a money problem, we** should get priority, because we pay so much more taxes."

You don't get more liberal than that.

*As most public libraries are. However, the PPL and the current PCL are both considered, with differing degrees of accuracy, private non-profits).
**The first person plural, which encompassed no one in the room but herself, was conjured up by her, unbidden.

When I wrote up my model recently, one of several inspirations for it was my having one of those weird realizations where it's not like you suddenly understand anything you didn't already, but you just suddenly put words in an order that clarifies things to you in a way new to yourself. In this case, my realization was that modern taxation grew naturally out of tribute; in other words, the system of requiring lots of people to pay (whether in money, concrete resources, or services) directly to the ruling forces has never fundamentally changed. Only the stated justification has: now, we're told that we pay taxes in exchange for government services.

So with that (obvious, but new-in-form) clarifying thought in my head, I responded to the Baronette's question (remember that?) with my story about my former boss. And I think it can be instructive to keep all of this stuff in mind when liberals talk about taxes, because liberals love taxes, and I think one reason why is that it's a way to quantify how much they feel like they deserve. Yes, they do a lot of talking about social safety nets or whatever, but if there's a money problem,* they should get priority because they pay so much more taxes.

*By the way, I feel honor-bound to mention that there was no money problem, demonstrably, inarguably, factually, in the case of the PPL, despite its board's claims.

Which amounts to saying that they've done more prostrating before power, that they have served power better. Meanwhile, they will go on and on about teapartiers who are "too stupid" to realize that under Obama their taxes have gone down rather than up, because they don't understand that there's more to taxes than what shows up on your pay stub.

Because your tribute will be extracted one way or another. What you get in exchange for that tribute depends entirely on your social standing and, more importantly, the whims of the people you're paying it to.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

RIP Tura Satana

Awesome (nuddy) pictures here (via io9).

Philip K. Dick, "The Android and the Human" in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (Lawrence Sutin, ed.), several excerpts

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Speaking in science fiction terms, I now foresee an anarchistic, totalitarian state ahead. Ten years from now a TV street reporter will ask some kid who is president of the United States, and the kid will admit that he doesn't know. "But the president can have you executed," the reporter will protest. "Or beaten or thrown into prison or all your rights taken away, all your property--everything." And the boy will reply, "Yeah, so could my father up to last month when he had his fatal coronary. He used to say the same thing." End of interview. And when the reporter goes to gather up his equipment he will find that one of his color 3-D stereo microphone-vidlens systems is missing; the kid has swiped it from him while the reporter was babbling on.

If, at it seems we are, [sic] in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, human individual would be: Cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that'll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities. If the television screen is going to watch you, rewire it late at night when you're permitted to turn it off--rewire it in such a way that the police flunky monitoring the transmission from your living room mirrors back his house. When you sign a confession under duress, forge the name of one of the political spies who's infiltrated your model-airplane club. Pay your fines in counterfeit money or rubber checks or stolen credit cards. Give a false address. Arrive at the courthouse in a stolen car. Tell the judge that if he sentences you, you will substitute aspirin tablets for his daughter's birth control pills. Or put His Honor on a mailing list for pornographic magazines. Or, if all else fails, threaten him with your using his telephone-credit-card number to make unnecessary long-distance calls to cities on another planet. It will not be necessary to blow up the courthouse anymore. Simply find some way to defame the judge--you saw him driving home one night on the wrong side of the road with his headlights off and a fifth of Seagram's VO propped up against his steering wheel. And his bumper sticker that night read: Grant Full Rights to Us Homosexuals. He has, of course, torn off the sticker by now, but both you and ten of your friends witnessed it. And they are all at pay phones right now, ready to phone the news to the local papers. And, if he is so foolish as to sentence you, at least ask him to give back the little tape recorder you inadvertently left in his bedroom. Since the off-switch on it is broken, it has probably recorded its entire ten-day reel of tape by now. Results should be interesting. And if he tries to destroy the tape, you will have him arrested for vandalism, which in the totalitarian state of tomorrow will be the supreme crime. What is your life worth in his eyes compared with a $3 reel of Mylar tape? The tape is probably government property, like everything else, so to destroy it would be a crime against the state. The first step in a calculated, sinister insurrection.
pages 194-5

Sudden surprises, by the way--and this thought may be in itself a sudden surprise to you--are a sort of antidote to the paranoid . . . or, to be accurate about it, to live in such a way as to encounter sudden surprises quite often or even now and then as an indication that you are not paranoid, because to the paranoid, nothing is a surprise; everything happens exactly as he expected, and sometimes even more so. It all fits into his system. For us, though, there can be no system; maybe all systems--that is, any theoretical, verbal, symbolic, semantic, etc., formulation that attempts to act as an all-encompassing, all-explaining hypothesis of what the universe is about--are manifestations of paranoia. We should be content with the mysterious, the meaningless, the contradictory, the hostile, and most of all the unexplainably warm and giving--total so-called inanimate environment, in other words very much like a person, like the behavior of one intricate, subtle, half-veiled, deep, perplexing, and much-to-be-loved human being to another. To be feared a little, too, sometimes. And perpetually misunderstood. About which we can neither know nor be sure; and we must only trust and make guesses toward.
page 208

[N]o android would think to do what a bright-eyed little girl I know did, something a little bizarre, certainly ethically questionable in several ways, at least in any traditional sense, but to me fully human in that it shows, to me, a spirit of merry defiance, of spirited, although not spiritual, bravery and uniqueness:

One day while driving along in her car she found herself following a truck carrying cases of Coca-Cola bottles, case after case, stacks of them. And when the truck parked, she parked behind it and loaded the back of her own car with cases, as many cases, of bottles of Coca-Cola as she could get in. So, for weeks afterward, she and her friends had all the Coca-Cola they could drink, free--and then, when the bottles were empty, she carried them to the store and turned them in for the deposit refund.

To that, I say this: God bless her. May she live forever. And the Coca-Cola company and the phone company and all the rest of it, with their passive infrared scanners and sniperscopes and suchlike--may they be gone long ago. Metal and stone and wire and thread never did live. But she and her friends--they, our human future, are our little song.
pages 209-10

Welcome to our liberated zone.

The one week with closed factories and minimal tratfc has given us clean air and a blue sky.

Everyone who isn't in #tahrir is thinking about post-Mubarak Egypt, everyone in #tahrir is living post-Mubarak Egypt.

At Tahrir sq. you can find pop corn, couscous, sweet potatoes, sandwiches, tea & drinks! Egyptians know how to revolt!

one couple spending honey moon in tahrir, another couple signing marriage contract today. THIS IS REVOLUTION

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quick question

I'm planning on making my first attempt at Pynchon soon, one or two books from now. When given a body of work I'm largely unfamiliar with and faced with a question of "where to start," I usually either approach randomly or chronologically. For those of you with familiarity, is starting chronologically, with V., advisable? Or should I begin elsewhere?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Egypt

I know it's a completely meaningless gesture but I still feel the need to make here a statement of solidarity with the revolutionaries under attack in Tahrir Square. Beyond that, I have no words.

Sometimes one clause is enough to know you don't need to read any more

In this case, it's "Israel’s wars have evolved from existential to territorial over the last sixty years."

WARNING: Above link leads to Obsidian Wings. Brace yourself.

Oh, what the hell, I'll turn this into a liberal roundup.

Yglesias says "if WalMart manages to 'drive mom and pop stores out of business' by selling affordable groceries to under-served urban neighborhoods, that’s what I would call a triumph for human progress." Yeah, it's great, because then mom and pop can join the ranks of the "under-served," too. And, hey, maybe one day every single person in the country can be underpaid by the same company that's the only one they can afford to buy necessities from. Honestly, do people like him really think that some people are "under-served" and others aren't for just no reason at all?

Suzie posts on Echidne defending Clinton, the person, against those wikileaks revelations that her office spied on UN officials. And I like that blog in a lot of ways (the series on the so-called science of gender difference that Echidne herself wrote recently was great), but this, like an unfortunately high proportion of posts there, is liberal insanity of the first order.

Shakesville poster PortlyDyke follows up on McEwan's coding post (which we discussed here) with a post that's kinda-sorta interesting and kinda-sorta not-entirely misguided, but she also just casually throws off one of the howlingly inaccurate applications of the gender coding model that some of the commenters on my earlier post were concerned about: "Imperialism/Masculine Nationalism/Feminine."

Not too long ago in comments I promised bonobo an agonizingly sincere self-examination essay on why I'm so obsessed with the stupid things liberals say, and I promise it's coming. Those selfish Egyptians went and had themselves a revolution and distracted me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Automatic Writing

New Fabrik song, "Automatic Writing," is up on our Bandcamp page, for free streaming and/or downloading.

James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State several excerpts

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Updated with one I forgot to include originally: To this point, I have been making a rather straightforward, even banal point about the simplification, abstraction, and standardization that are necessary for state officials' observations of the circumstances of some or all of the population. But I want to make a further claim, one analogous to that made for scientific forestry: the modern state, through its officials, attempts with varying success to create a terrain and a population with precisely those standardized characteristics that will be easiest to monitor, count, assess, and manage. The utopian, immanent, and continually frustrated goal of the modern state is to reduce the chaotic, disorderly, constantly changing social reality beneath it to something more closely resembling the administrative grid of observations.
pages 81-82

The image of coordination and authority aspired to here recalls that of mass exercises--thousands of bodies moving in perfect unison according to a meticulously rehearsed script. When such coordination is achieved, the spectacle may have several effects. The demonstration of mass coordination, its designers hope, will awe spectators and participants with its display of powerful cohesion. The awe is enhanced by the fact that, as in the Taylorist factory, only someone outside and above the display can fully appreciate it as a totality; the individual participants at ground level are small molecules within an organism whose brain is elsewhere. The image of a nation that might operate along these lines is enormously flattering to elites at the apex--and, of course, demeaning to a population whose role they thus reduce to that of ciphers. Beyond impressing observers, such displays may, in the short run at least, constitute a reassuring self-hypnosis which serves to reinforce the moral purpose and self-confidence of the elites.
page 254

A great many nations, some of them former colonies, have built entirely new capitals rather than compromise with an urban past that their leaders were determined to transcend; one thinks of Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey, Belize, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Malawi, and Tanzania.120
120. One political advantage of a new capital is precisely that it does not belong to any existing community. Founding a new capital avoids certain delicate, if not explosive, choices that would otherwise have to be made. By the same logic, English became the national language of India because it was the only widely spoken language that did not belong exclusively to any particular traditional community. It did belong, however, to India's English-speaking intelligentsia, which was enormously privileged when its "dialect" became the national language. The United States and Australia, with no urban past to transcend, created planned capitals that represented a vision of progress and order and that were, not incidentally, in stark contrast to indigenous settlement practices.
page 259, note on page 413

It is worth emphasizing the degree to which oral cultures, as opposed to written cultures, may avoid the rigidity of orthodoxy. Because an oral culture has no textual reference point for marking deviations, traditions currently in circulation vary with the speaker, the audience, and local needs. Having no yardstick like a sacred text to measure the degree of drift from its Ur-tradition, such a culture can change greatly over time and simultaneously think of itself as remaining faithful to tradition.
page 332