Burden of Proof

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2015 04 14 Madame Bovary, the 1949 movie, has been inching toward delivery on my Netflix queue, title by title: coming soon. Jan and I love watching our movies together: mostly my recommendations, increasing weighted toward things she prefers: nice stories, period pieces … I haven’t read Madame Bovary, Flaubert’s novel, since 1958 or so, could have been 1959: I’m looking forward to it. I have to brace myself: realize: Jan doesn’t know it: I don’t think.

I know a great deal now that I didn’t know in 1958: it may well prove that I don’t know this novel as well as I once thought I did.

Regardless, the Netflix blurb for the movie tells something I hadn’t previously heard a hint of: Flaubert was prosecuted for immorality on the basis of his novel. He argued that his debut novel was moral, he won, he prevailed. Madame Bovary became a best seller … Etc.

Meantime, in contrast, there are novelists, me for example, whose work got sabotaged, didn’t get published, no informed discussion allowed, judgments made by ignorant illiterates …

The subject was dear to my heart before I wrote any of my own novels, before I founded the Free Learning Exchange, before I had a legitimate claim to being the inventor of the internet: another innovator robbed blind by the kleptocracy …

Today I want to pose a question. The question can’t be 100% answered today, or ever. But here I pose it:
What right does the society have to rule what I can and can’t do with an artifact of mine, whether original or not?

Following GBS’s argument, Shaw allows that the society does have a right to regulate art: provided it says what’s legal, clearly and in advance. Warn the artists: you can’t write about a woman who commits adultery, and not lose your liberty. The burden of clarity should be on the law makers; not on the artist.

Madame Bovary was Flaubert’s debut. God knows how many years he devoted to it before copy #1 could be sold, before a royalty check could be drawn by Gustave.

Does France allow citizen Jean to go to South Africa, dig diamonds for twenty years, holdin ghis breath and tightening his belt the whole time, only to arrive at Marseilles, and have his diamonds confiscated? be reimbursed nothing?

Did Napoleon go out and defeat Europe at his own personal expense, or did France chip in a little? maybe let him eat a meal or two, live in a palace or two?

I was writing recently how kleptocracies have a seven-second delay on broadcasts, giving a little bit of time to the censors: assume the content will be OK before stepping in and censoring. But I added that the real purpose to give an illegitimate government a window in which to censor evidence against itself: uh oh, Macbeth’s fingerprints on on Dr. King’s throat: don’t let anyone know.

The artist, me for example, sends a manuscript to the publishers. The publisher can keep the manuscript for months and months, sometimes for years. Meantime, the editor can sell the artists ideas under his own name, be living high on the hog, while the actual author frets and starves. My short story In the Park was being considered by a third publisher when Hollywood was raking in profits on Death Wish II: a bald plagiarism. Oh, not word for word: I wrote of a violinist knife fighter who killed muggers in the park; they cast Charles Bronson with a gun.

By the time Death Wish was playing I didn’t have postage to resend In the Park! I certainly could pay a lawyer to see if he could help scratch up evidence of theft. Once the US stole California from under John Sutter, once the public burned the San Francisco court house to the ground and scattered the twelve judges who’d found that California owed Sutter $300 million, Sutter didn’t have subway far to go to Washington DC to beg for so much as his dinner.

I founded FLEX in 1970. In 1971 I toned the offer down a bit and submitted a proposal to NYS Arts for a grant to display debut art. The state clerk who took my proposal, vowing to help, submitted my idea under her name! She got the grant! She could hire a lawyer to prove that she hadn’t plagiarized; I couldn’t. Any more than the Iroquois can’t hire a lawyer to prove that anything had ever been theirs.

When Jesus is resurrected the Temple will be able to prove, a second time, that they overturned the money tables, that they‘re the god-presence, that Jesus is just a nuts trouble-maker.

Kleptocrats are so stupid that they believe that at Judgment God will not be able to establish any facts: only the kleptocracy’s false recrods can be admitted. So they obviously think.
Or, they don’t think any thing of the kind, but know for sure, for now, for the time being, they’re getting away with it. The bombers administer both the bombs and the peace.

I remember, vividly, my original reading of Madame Bovary: on the last page, second to last paragraph, I threw the paperback across the room, vowed at the top of my voice, “I’ll never read again”. Funny thing was: I’d just done the same thing the day before, reading Ibsen’s Enemy of the People! Of course a minute later I crossed the room, picked up my abused paperback, reread the second to last paragrph, read the last paragraph: and repeated my action: “I’m never going to read again!”

And the next day I was back at it again: reading Nietzsche, or Ibsen, or Dostoyevsky …

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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