Canadian Culture in Lesotho

The new book by Rathwell and Rhenisch, the wake for the precursor to AI, Robin Blaser, a kind of American intervention into the Coast Mountains of the Northeast Pacific shore, Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine…

… is itself a remake of Lindsay Anderson’s sheepish film, O Lucky Man!

… which was less a film than the stage for a soundtrack by Alan Price …

… with Alan playing many of the parts between gigs.

When I saw it in a small mountain town in British Columbia in 1974, the theatre manager was so confused by it that he refunded our tickets. Richard had already left British Columbia. Not long after, he received his education in how little Canadian culture could do at that time, when exported to Africa. The experience is included in his visual novel Ultreye. He went as a Canadian. He finished his NGO experience as a being with two minds.

Ultreye is a post-individual viewpoint that saw the Western self as two selves, from the viewpoint of a non-Western third personality. Neurotypical literature and psychology would eagerly point out that this third personality is self awareness, as indeed it is. As a neurodivergent artist, Richard was discovering how

Neurodivergent literature employs the humour of masks, puppetry, buffoonery, and play. It seeks intrusions of objects bearing projections of selves aware of their fictional nature to turn both selves and fictions into dramatic stages. It then bows and departs. 

As Richard learned from two decades of poking at literature as protest (and the police beatings that followed), this literature can be real action in a material world. It doesn’t have to be penned within the thorn hedge of a book. A Canadian abroad doesn’t have to follow the time-honoured model of embedded English writers, such as Sir Richard Burton…

… who “explored” Kenya like this:

Burton “exploring” Africa.

Richard Rathwell learned just how much literature and imagery can be euphemisms for silence and silencing, even at the same time that they are voice. The colony of Basutoland has been the independent African state of Lesotho since 1966, with the British Crown occasionally making it a protectorate due to the mangling of any ability at administration out of the Cape Colony.

In the end, Queen Elizabeth II became less a symbol of colonialism but of an invitation to modernity and independence:

Queen Elizabeth II inspecting the Territorial Police

With a purse!

This learning experience led to Richard’s fraught return to Canada thirty years later, documented in Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine. As Richard laid it down, colonialism remained very individual in Lesotho, and always contrary to expectations. What looked like good deeds and foreign aid support remained as ridiculous as Capetown’s experience with demilitarization on a model learned from the Highland Clearances in Scotland and foreign aid workers seemed to remain as stuck in inappropriate imagery as these oblate fathers moving a heavy imagery of the Boer exodus into Basutoland a century before:

A colonial initiative that continues to succeed in places like Nepal, the giving of goats as the foundation of an economy, ran right up against another aid initiative that seems obvious to any Canadian’s heart, the planting of trees. What in British Columbia, might have looked like this…

Tree Planting in British Columbia in 1973

Note the US Army Surplus T-Shirt

… but which was really a heavy-handed conflict with Indigenous land use…

… became an environmental and social disaster in Lesotho. To be effective in a global context, a Canadian first has to learn what Canada’s culture is in a global context and integrate it, not the other way around. As Richard documents:

A still from Ultreye


After that, Richard devoted himself exclusively to world literature, arguing that Canadian Literature does have a place there, albeit a neurodivergent one. That is, it could support divergence rather than convergence. Or independence rather than integration. Or literacy in images rather than to the authority of words. Watch how Richard’s intelligence became a field of interest, played from many points, instead of as an individual.

For those of you not from Britain’s old Black and Métis colony on the Northeastern Pacific, British Columbia, here is Horsefly:

Here’s how the American ranching culture that settled in Horsefly in 1864 (just as Blaser’s incursion in 1966) worked out in Lesotho:

Richard was learning that the neurodivergence that made his participation at university in Vancouver more of a protest than a partnership, had strengths in the world. Three lessons he learned are:

Neurodivergent worlds are diverse and alive and have diverse agencies.

Neurodivergent literature moves through them all.

Instead of abstraction and cultural traditions as foundations, it employs multiplicity of views and selves in flux.

These selves in flux led to the stop screen motion of the screen book, Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine. There, the wake, a celebration of academic literary connection goes awry when the city speaks…

It became a feast, but not for Blaser’s descendants. But then…

Life is like that.

Do check out Don’t Expect the Sun to Shine. You can order your copy from your bookstore or from Eighth House Publishing in Montreal.

Neurodiverse Writing with Rathwell & Rhenisch

We have a new book of writing that steps away from literary narratives to talk straight about narratives told from within neurodiversity. It is also a wake for the city of Vancouver and its totemic poet Robin Blaser.

It is on the presses as we speak.

This is important stuff. In a world that is growing to embrace diversity, one great unifying diversity is often overlooked, even as humans display a wide range of abilities at finding narrative in the world.

Here’s a sample of our approach, using a book as a series of video screens and reading itself as a projector.

Does that sound odd? It’s everyday stuff to us. And it’s rather easy to follow, don’t worry. Here is a sample from the book to demonstrate. Just let your eye follow where it will. It knows:

You’ve been watching Richard describe how his neurodiversity creates reality as a series of alternatives, which leap from one to the next. It is a kind of unfolding, not a sequence of plot points. One of the salient characteristics of neurodiverse literature is that

instead of metaphor, neurodiverse literature changes perspective. This can include change of self or personality.

What happens when this type of personality is measure by neurotypical long-term personalities that change plots instead of selves is the subject of this example from the book. Richard describes a study he once had to endure:

What I am displaying with my choreography for Richard’s memoir is another principle that guides the book in its opening:

Neurodivergent literature is a tapestry.

Unlike linear narrative, such as the novels of, say, Salman Rushdie or Margaret Atwood, to name just two, which are tied from strings of interconnected action and consequence driven by projection and recollection of emotional memories, it is woven from the multiple dimensions of bodies in space, which it bends to set them moving. Touch is important here. Richard continues. As you read on, notice how images and words are diverging. The narrative is being given over to imagery. The words become used more in the manner of images than texts.

Did you see how several realities are starting to be held up at the same time? That transformation includes reading as an act that is entering the world of the study itself. This kind of multi-layered approach is common in neurodivergent literature and thought.

Instead of plot and character, neurodivergent literature employs tricks, riddles, jests, correspondences, transformations, pattern, sudden detail, irony, sarcasm, quoting, changes of scale and increasing intensity in place. It creates magnetic fields and auroras, freeways and subway grids. It rides them.

Richard and I continue this dance, as the thought unfolds, and then break it as the self it has created starts to morph into a new one. It is important to return narratives (and books) to a human scale. The machines are watching. We need to be able to step aside now and then and breathe.

This notion that writing would make one feel real is common for neurodivergent thinkers, who struggle as much to understand the exotic thinking patterns of neurotypical people as they are of neurotypical ones. What we are trying to do in this book is to place us all into a common language. After all…

Neurodivergent literature is an intervention, an interjection, an exclamation, and even an insubordination, but never a kidnapping. It does not rely on the social authority of an author.  It turns the social authority of books into playgrounds and landscapes of strangeness and wonder and it doesn’t tell stories. It walks through them to initiate conversations and create collaborations.

That’s what we’ve done here. We love to laugh. We hope you do, too. This is, after all, a wake. Sláinte!

We have a lot to share. Please join us in this book as we set to rest Robin Blaser and the world of writing entombed in books.

Where to Now?

We have some actual something left, at this particular juncture: transcultural cubism. We are now back to writing. For example, in Canadian literature, generations have missed the apocalypse. The horror and beauty they were an extension of. You can’t hear the screams. It’s not there at all.

If you got this far upriver, you knew that. You know there are only memories of nations. That memoir and biography just will not do. They are as inadequate as history.

The self they serve is dissolving.

One point of view doesn’t get it.

In the meantime,

readers are less beings of mind than conditioned responses. The government finances the training by funding acculturalization, while denying it to the acculturated.

The struggle is other.

The failure of globalization and its historical forms of coherence induces a social psychosis, manifested in a social art, an art of obligatory interaction and aesthetic, a controlled madness,

as though there were laws for atomized emotion.

Instead of feeling trapped, we can be up front about what we want from others. We can accept separate meanings. We can disconnect from lingering assumptions. We can let everything fail.

We can try the premise that there is one humanity and we go through each other.

My experiment today is to:

  • take seriously the minute and local and find the meaning of the things that live in it,
  • the places where there are not large facts, only small myths to sustain belief in life,
  • where each character, as I suspect each person I really know, prefers it that way,
  • where sentences are long,
  • conclusions short and
  • moments of connection frequent and
  • wide open.

To do so, I intend to underestimate the power of the afterlife in determining the measure of my own life.

I will give up the comfort of belief in any socialized paradise that I will share with my too ordinary friends and dissatisfied lovers and where my attributes will not be redeemed only tolerated.

I will go for honorary martyrdom in my own lifetime.

I will submit to thought experiments each specimen of fragile humanity imprisoned in my mind.

For the love of marble countertops, even you are in there!

Where there were once gods.

Face it. I have.

Tragedy thrills me. Past and present together on the road. Now and then on the street. The dying flame to the already exhausted reader moth. The next to last word. The thought of you fluttering away into darkness. Children with flashlights and little nets.

Before, I donned disguises.

I still have them all in mind.

  • There is the eternal Marxist of the international class,
  • the cosmopolitan archetypical exile,
  • the writer exposing the rhetoric and joys of realities that do not exist,
  • the critical academic of national literature of faux new and improper countries,
  • against all the earnestness and nonsense of dying modernity rendered incoherent by globalization,
  • first losing short-term memory,
  • then long-term,
  • then kept alive on tanks of oxygen behind locked doors
  • for the protection of society.
  • There is a literature, not all literature but some, of trauma and mourning.

It is in this region I had once contrived, and managed, a water pipeline project slashed down a snowy mountain, which had used thirty of our engineers and employed seven thousand of their donkeys. That project spun the money in, despite the locals’ tendency in the beginning, especially the guerrillas, to dynamite it. This was a problem I solved with some payments for their scrappy land, which I put down in the accounts as ‘maintenance’. And when I resold it to developers, I put that down as ‘donations and legacies.’

The new opportunity delighted headquarters. There were one hundred thousand refugees from the war trudging the mountains, there were destroyed orphanages with disabled kids chained in earthen pits, which a venal government which ours had put in power. It was a dream come true. There was no need to make anything up as we had done in the Sudan.

Oh, to be young again in Africa and with a gallon of cooking oil to my beautiful name!

As for raising the required matching funds to the government ones, those raised by us through donations from the weepers at home, we would use photos of the kids in the pits. My minder, a director, an aging academic, fully modern and recreating himself with every breath, drove his stuttering car to them through the bald mountains. The trees had been cut for firewood. The rest houses, like the clinics, had been angrily destroyed during the overthrow. I sat beside him, answering his questions about what the words to old country and western songs meant.

His assistant sat in the back, translating as necessary. She was the country’s only child psychiatrist and pediatrician, who had been deployed exclusively for the children of the elite. Mental disorders were impossible for the masses in the socialist paradise. Proper children were the healthy soldiers of the state. She wept sometimes in the rural orphanages we visited while I photographed.

“I didn’t know,”

she said.

We found one place where the kids, a mélange of whom had been disabled or suffering from protein deficiency, or were the children of dissidents, all called ‘orphans,’ were being sold to farmers. The director assured us that this was good social enterprise and permitted, now that they had a modern economy.

‘We will rebuild this all ourselves’ said the psychologist from the back seat. ‘Our doctors, our people. We will overcome this corruption.’

‘Bullshit’ I thought. Our trade ministry knew about the rare minerals in the mountains necessary for the production of British-built mobile phones.

But I was the one who knew nothing. She had bought a bag of cherries to eat as we drove the narrow prisoner-built roads. She passed a cherry over from time to time as I discussed the possible projects and local needs with crusty. I slowly worked out that I was getting a cherry only when what I said met with her approval. Me liking Mozart got a cherry. Me thinking Levi Straus was nonsense got a cherry.

Me praising British know-how got nothing.

For the project, I built an icon museum in her home town, to exhibit the eleventh and twelfth century gold-leafed portraits of the Madonna and Child that the old regime had hidden. The local people loved them, even the Moslems.

I put this down in the reports as a clinic.

I had to be found out, their foreign ministry complained to ours, and I was jailed for embezzlement on returning home on a leave. I was the third aid worker jailed that year. One was a pedophile and one had ‘gone bush’ and burned down a market and killed a pig in Nigeria. Since then, I have decided to flourish. What the hell. The old will never understand the young. The problem is the reverse.

When I get out, I am going back for more cherries.

Origin Stories

I did not create the transculture.

The upheaval of cultures under the stress of war did that.
The Cuban sociologist Fernando Ortiz (1889-1969) coined a term for it in 1940, when there was a lot of culture being wipe off the map and a lot of hybrid culture springing up, but Ortiz did not create the transculture.

It is a natural outgrowth of humans.

Like war.

Soon, it was applied to the post-World War world, although that was no longer a world.

Berlin, 1945. Our forever place.

The new cultures of this non-world displayed fundamental differences in language, class structure and material culture from pre-war cultures. The new culture was now dominant over them.

Ortiz tries out for the World Series.

No longer love but vengeance: a proof one must never say ‘doubt God but do not doubt my love.’ It may be futile to wish every sojourner a safe journey and every dream of love immunity from illusion, but there is justice and the angry spirit will come and you will be hers.

Like that.

The culture Ortiz observed was popular and spontaneous, a product of the life of a new sort of people.

Liz Taylor Edged Audrey Hepburn out of the Part. Even the Scriptwriter got cut.

It was not the product of official politics, national institutions or any other parts of the superstructure.

That bridge went down off the coast of Newfoundland in 1913.

Now it is nursing and psychology, as only the women and children were saved.

It describes practices that join cultures by constructing new bridges of understanding.

All improvised.

Він описує практики, які об’єднують культури, будуючи нові мости розуміння.

Your Bots at Google
Kiev, 2022

The culture itself is a way of critiquing and explicating literature an the visual and performing arts during the global diaspora. It reads language as a function of myths, metaphors, preconceptions, moral imperatives and stereotypes…

Kiev, 1942

…leading towards and empathic and utilitarian encounter. A transcultural architect, on the other hand, recognizes stereotypes and formulaic language as living fossils of situations, past and frozen, by which the status quo arrived. Grass is always green.

Everyone knows this.

These stereotypes are used, in phrase and structure, as they were in ancient chants:

to fill out the cadence of a socially acceptable performance, a thing where now and here there is no relationship between words and language, but which can be stuffed with feta cheese and pimentos, preserved in oil, and carried across the mountains on the back of a donkey.

That lack-of-relationship (that is still a relationship) and the frustrated search for its authenticity has existed since written language replace oral tradition. It is why the first texts were illuminated as a chimera cinema.

And this, the last.

Because in the new stereotype (now the old), image became abstracted to thought, separated, just as image an sound were, from the senses, all progressive culture requires visual exegesis.

Even in the mind.
Well, if you were a Russian sniper in Stalingrad today, what would you aim at?

Consequently, the authentic self contains shades of the self seen through glass that we did not think we knew.

Even if that self has a soul, it can still belong to a fetishism of the present detail of existence.

That fetishism which is the basis for popular culture and popular repression should not be made golden.

The false complete identity they assume for participation in society is bad enough, but worse is the range of prescribe and pre-scripted cartoons they speak through. All those dizzyingly thin attributes.

All that oozing irony which is literally true.

As with the lurid covers, the purpose of stereotype is to create fear, to find and then organize the death of real opposition to systems…

…to freeze the cultural mirror from any window by consolidating the confusion of scenes and mind that reality engenders as it contradicts the social narrative and the official history.

Rommel Whets his Whistle With His Aide de Camp in Afrika

I demonstrate how one can get lost.

Once this process has created great men from nothing, these creations write their memoirs as a search for the originating stereotype. They become memorials to their ephemeral life, declaring life itself ephemeral. In the transcultural action novel, the purpose of such stock phrases is to create a sense of an apocalypse, that everything familliar is being overthrown.

Only the masters of stereotype can save us.

By their climaxes, the prevailing Law, belief and hierarchy become the meta text for a person’s life, although the origins of law were to relate stereotype to position in society. A falling action, a sudden escape to the Maldives, is not enough to transmit the original intent of the law, that morality is a social construct, not an absolute.

The trouble with passionate unreason and division from stereotype, especially if it is intellectual: once you get out you actually learn to not only approve of being other, but also like it.

I advocate such immunity. I advocate that one does a rigorous translation of the different styles in which the same life is expressed.

There is no divine hierarchy,. There is no natural talent. There is no skill built with experience.

The reverse is true.

That’s the Law, Folks.

In transculture, understanding embraces a contradiction between the knowable and the true, the accessible and the necessary. No good art goes without its erasure. No good thought without its burning.

Most middle-of-the-road cultural oppressions and deceptions create situations meant to prompt interrogations of their own banality in order to arrange destruction of potentialities.