At the Risk of Ridiculousness

Here you can find something of interest to you to whom another world is possible, or to you, and to your students who want to facilitate liberatory discussions and action: www.newint.org. The no-nonsense series is especially interesting as is a book about Che Guevara: Che: Image of a Revolutionary. "Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love." -- El Che

In the Year of Catastrophy, Minnegrad, Aug. 15,

Yours Truly




The following text is from the website (www.kirjasto.sci.fi/psaariko.htm) presenting Finnish poets and novelists. An introduction to Pentti Saarikoski - the leading Finnish poet of the 1960s, and later "the Best European Poet Alive" as he used to call himself, right before his death in 1983, - is reproduced here (without a permission) as a slightly edited and corrected version.

"Poet and a brilliant translator, the central figure in Finnish literature in the 1960s and 1970s. Saarikoski emerged into poetry somewhat like an enfant terrible, a combination of Dylan Thomas, Zorba the Greek, and Che Guevara. He wrote in simple, straight-forward language. He often used images from antiquity and contrasted everyday observations with philosophical insights, following free flow of thoughts.

Life is given to man
to make him consider carefully
the position he'd like to be dead in,

grey skies pass over,
the sky's a hanging garden
and earth comes into the mouth like bread.
(from Runot ja Hipponaksin runot, 1959)

Pentti Saarikoski was born in Impilahti into a family composed of civil servants, politicians, and small entrepreneurs. (...) Saarikoski studied literature and Greek at the University of Helsinki in the 1950s without receiving a degree. (...) In the early 1960s Saarikoski was already famous, not only as a poet and translator, but also as a bohemian. He had married about the time Runoja had appeared - it was his first marriage - but unable to settle down, he turned more and more to drink and by the autumn of 1962, he was on the brink of nervous breakdown. Saarikoski worked usually at home, in small apartments, where normal family life and writing intertwined, or conflicted: "These poems are written for her / under her eyes. (from En soisi sen päättyvän, 1968) Saarikoski was married four times, last time to Mia Berner, with whom he published the bilingual JA MEILLE JÄI KIIREETÖN ILTA / KVÄLLEN GÖR SIG INGEN BRÅDSKA (1975).

In the 1960s Saarikoski joined the Finnish Communist Party, as many other writers and artists. Politically Saarikoski was unorthodox, and in the magazine Aikalainen, which he edited and which was supported by the Finnish Communist Party, he published Mao Tse-tung's poems. (...) Saarikoski became one of the most visible intellectuals in the media, who was engaged in the front line of literary debates and political activities.

Partly to find peace for writing and to escape the publicity, Saarikoski made several journeys abroad. LAULU LAULULTA POIS (1966), a collection of poems, was born in Romania, where he was a quest of the local writers' association and participated in literature seminar on the works of Gheorghe Cosbuc. He had also an affair with the poet Sarah Kirsch, who moved in 1977 from German Democratic Republic to West Germany. AIKA PRAHASSA (1967) was written in Prague and in Tallin in Estonia, KIRJE VAIMOLLENI (1968, Swedish translation: Brev till hustrun), a stream-of-consciousness travel book, was mostly written in Dublin. It received poor critics in Finland but in Sweden Saarikoski was compared to such names as Strindberg and Henry Miller.

In Island Saarikoski started to work on KATSELEN STALININ PÄÄN YLI ULOS (1969), a collection of poems, where he took distance from the Communist movement and radicalism, stating that no revolution has overthrown the power. He is also afraid that in the new order there is no place for him: "What would happen to me / if there was a war and they closed the borders? I couldn't go anywhere, disqualified as I am / from soldiering; I suppose / I'd have to sit up nights, composing / orders for the day."

Saarikoski translated works from a number of authors into Finnish, among them J.D. Salinger, Euripides, Italo Calvino, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, James Joyce, Sappho, and Philip Roth. The translation of Homer's Odyssey, based on Victor Bérard's edition, took only two years, which is a kind of world record. A number of translations appeared in the literary magazine Parnasso. James Joyce's Ulysses was one of Saarikoski's major works, which influenced also his other projects. Italo Calvino's humor left traces in his poems.

Saarikoski's favorite tool with English texts was Webster's Third New International Dictionary. Usually he did not follow slavishly the original writing. In The Odyssey by Homer he abandoned hexameter, which Otto Manninen had used in his unsurpassed translation from 1924, and developed a rhythmical prose style. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye Saarikoski moulded into his own visionary Helsinki slang, not very faithfully to the world of Holden Caulfied. With J.P. Donleavy's famous novel The Ginger Man Saarikoski failed and another translator finished it. However, the work was credited to Saarikoski.

Because of heavy drinking, Saarikoski was hospitalized several times. Following disappointments in politics, Saarikoski become again interested in early Christianity, and started to translate Matthew's Gospel. Not very originally, he identified Jesus and his chosen followers with revolutionaries. Especially the character of Ernersto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967) fascinated him. After a catastrophic journey to London, Saarikoski was rushed to hospital. He weighted 57 kilos and was diagnosed with Alcoholismus chronicus, Epilepsia symtomatica, Chirrosis hepatis, and Encopresis. (...) Saarikoski's translation of the Gospel of St. Matthews, came out in 1969. The work was perhaps partly inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini's film The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), a stark and sober retelling of the Gospel, which earned Pasolini the label of Catholic-Marxist.

Characteristic for Saarikoski's personal life was his nonconformist attitude to social conventions. At the same time his works showed influence from classical literature from Greece and Rome - this side in Saarikoski was not a sign of conservatism. He had a good nose for picking up dissident poets and philosophers of the classical world, such as Hipponax and Heraclitus, or drunkards, troublemakers, and sex maniacs, whose verses he presented in JALKAPOLKU (1977), a selection from The Greek Anthology.

In the 1970s Saarikoski retired from publicity. He moved with his wife to Kerava, where he become interested in Eino Leino (1878-1926), a poet, with whom he identified himself in the biography EINO LEINO (1974). His works showed resurgence of the Greek influence, and he became deeply preoccupied with contemporary science and the hazards of the nuclear age. In the essay 'Minun runoni ja minun aatteeni' (1978, my poems and my thoughts) he expressed hope that knowledge will win out over brute power.

Saarikoski moved to Sweden, where he lived from 1975 to 1983 with Mia Berner, a critic and university teacher, on the island of Tjörn near Valsäng. In 1975 they made a journey to Greece. Saarikoski, who did not drink as much as usually, fell asleep at the Acropolis.

In Sweden Saarikoski produced in his "second classical period" trilogy of verse, TANSSILATTIA VUORELLA, TANSSIINKUTSU and HÄMÄRÄN TANSSIT. The melancholy and ironic series, known as Tiarnia trilogy, shows Saarikoski's extensive knowledge of gnosticism, and viewed such mythological figures as Sisyphus, Ulysses, and Hercules in present-day political situations. The poet tells he can hear "the voice of the world", and he realizes that "Only when the minotaur has been destroyed / and the labyrinth transformed into dance / polity, politics / will be possible again". Saarikoski invitates the reader to dance, he has signed the invitation but he is also a dancer, a kind of pagan shaman, who has "eaten of the knowledge of good and evil".

EUROOPAN REUNA (1982), Saarikoski's last travel book, began on his stay in Brittany, France, where he studied Breton with Le breton sans peine. With Mia Berner he spent some days in Dublin. The city was celebrating the 100th anniversary of James Joyce. Saarikoski called Mia his 'Molly Bloom'. He had no regrets about moving to Sweden, but before his death he planned to return to Finland.

Pentti Saarikoski died of hepatic cirrhosis on August 24, in 1983, during his visit in Finland. His grave at the Orthodox monastery of Valamo in Heinävesi is a popular visiting place for his readers.

Several volumes of Saarikoski's diaries have appeared posthumously, the first from the years 1953-57. It reveals his sexual fantasies, and his religious and ideological struggle. Saarikoski did not hesitate to record intimate details of his life for posterity - on August 2, 1954 he has masturbated on the page. Saarikoski became a legend already during his life time, and was referred in works of such Finnish authors as Väinö Kirstinä, Tuomas Anhava, Kari Aronpuro, Matti Paavilainen, Pekka Kejonen, Hannu Salama, Jorma Ojaharju. In Sweden Werner Aspenström, Willy Granqvist, Bernt Rosengren, Tobias Berggren and Göran Sonnevi have written in their poems about Saarikoski. The Hungarian writer Sándor Csoóri mentions also Saarikoski in one poem. In Finland Väinö Kirstinä stated ironically in 1963: "jos lukee saarikoskea 10 minuuttia / alkaa henki haista viinalta (...)" (if you read Saarikoski for ten minutes / your breath starts to smell of liquor)."


Sowing Seeds of Peace

As this picture "Sowing Seeds of Peace" by Eric Drooker nicely captures the essence and the power of education, it is also my loving response to "Brother". Visit www.Drooker.com


Now, and in the Days to Come

As capitalism is gaining its new victories, we small people wake up, and once again are heading only God knows where. One thing is sure though. Anna Sofia starts her school with other kids today. She is a bit nervous, and so are we, as her mother and father. Erja follows her to the school, and will be there for few days in order to see how everything goes. In our 40-minutes city bus drive to the school, I whispered to Anna Sofia’s ear, that I am always with her: now and during the school day, in good and bad times.

I hope it goes well, and I do know one thing: Anna Sofia is a brave angel. Even if small in size, but strong in spirit, and in addition, she has got strong wings to carry her in the stormy weathers of the world..

In the beginning of the school year I am again and again relieved by the words of Paulo Freire. Now with his posthumously published book Pedagogy of Indignation (Paradigm, 2004). Sometimes I am about to lose my faith in education, especially when faced with the huge dilemmas of capitalist regime. Is there power in education? How about in educators themselves? Or is there power in us, small people? In these private, almost imperceptible and closed moments of desperation, Freire comes to help me. That is why I want to share some of his words with you, for, as he writes, “the possibility of dialogue with the author is to be found in the words themselves, in the curious manner the author writes them, being open to doubt and criticism.” And here are two excerpts:

“Education makes sense because the world is not necessary this or that, because human beings are as much projects themselves as they may have projects, or a vision, for the world. Education makes sense because women and men learn that through learning they can make and remake themselves, because women and men are able to take responsibility for themselves as beings capable of knowing – of knowing that they know and of knowing that they don’t. They are able to know what they already know better and to come to know what they do not yet know. Education makes sense because in order to be, women and men must keep on being. If women and men simply were, there would be no reason to speak of education.” (p. 15)

“The matrix of hope is the same as that of education – becoming conscious of themselves as unfinished beings. It would be a flagrant contradiction if human beings, while unfinished beings and ones conscious of their unfinished nature, did not insert themselves into a permanent process of hope-filled search. Education is that process.” (p. 100)


In the Army Now, Wins and Loses

Inside the Hiawatha light rail cabin, riding from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America, there is an U.S Army Special Forces advertisement on the wall asking: “Are you tough enough for Special Forces?”

What would be my answer if I were a young student leaving high school, or an undergraduate, or even worse, a drop out, and wondering about my future? If I came from the southern low-income family with little cultural capital, it would be highly possible, according to Defense Department population stats that I would end up enlisting. But if I lived in the northeast with parents, or supporters who had a solid professional background, I would be directed to think other options in my life.

Toughness sells among the low income kids, especially those on the edge. With other good Americans they want to reach for the “American dream,” by any means necessary. Besides the dream (not coming true), “there is no higher calling than service in the US armed forces,” proclaims president Bush. And that is about all there is.

Military’s recruiting strategies are copious. Earlier recruiters had an open access to college campuses, and high school corridors. Now they are knocking on the doors of public schools, wanting to get student’s names, and addresses straight from the school office, setting their after school military programs to 10-12 year old “cadets” drilling with they wooden riffles and chanting time-honored marching cadences. “New Junior ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs are being introduced in high schools across the country, and lately kids as young as 11 are being invited to join pre-ROTC at their elementary and middle schools.” See more from Karen Houppert’s article Who's Next? Military Recruiters Are Now Targeting Sixth Graders (The Nation, September 12th, pp. 15-20).

Thus it is young, poor and low-income people who are fighting each other for the good cause greater than one human being (whether it is a nation, democracy, loyalty, pure hatred, religious beliefs, or the dream). The youth of the world who supposed to be the future and promise of humanity – apples of our eyes’ – are foot soldiers of raging state terror, “the prolific father of all terrorisms” (Galeano 2005). State terror, says Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano in his article (the Progressive # 9, pp. 22-23), “finds the perfect alibi in the terrorisms that it generates. It sheds crocodile tears each time the shit hits the fan, then feigns innocence of the consequences of its actions.” And it pays to cry and lie for the good cause like democracy. “The world spends $2.2 billion per day – yes, per day – on the military industry of death” (...) There is no more lucrative business on the face of the earth than this practice of industrial-scale assassination.” (Ibid.)

It must be the devil providing the weapons, writes Galeano, and the “bombardment of lies from the factories of public opinion.”

“The chemical weapons of consumer society that are maddening the climate and polluting the air.
The poison gas from the factories of fear that make us accept the unacceptable and turn indignity into a feature of destiny.
The deadly impunity of the serial killers who are heads of the state.
The endless multiplication of armaments versus the dwindling attention to poverty.
The sowing of anti-personnel mines and then selling of prostheses.
The raining of bombs and then the doling out of contracts for the reconstruction of the countries they annihilate.” (Galeano 2005, 23.)

And so it goes, the poor are assassinated, and suffer most whether in uniforms, or rags. For them a war on terror, or any other war, is almost definitely a lose-lose situation as for the owners of the world it is all profit.

Galeano: progressive.org/?q=mag_galeano0905
Houppert: www.thenation.com/doc/20050912/houppert


New Orleans Havoc, yet another collateral damage in the capitalist arena?

I would strongly recommend the following comment on New Orleans havoc:


And in addition, I would recommend Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin's interview from here:


See more:



Nurture your Experiences, my Fellow Student

Just a few days ago I met a group of bright young students in sociology starting off their doctoral program, and individual research projects. I felt that there was a lot of enthusiasm, and progressive ideas in the air. It remains to be seen, how can an institution meet these hopes, goals, and “the wisdom of youth.” Many of these fellow students had experiences from the grassroots, who did community work, who participated in co-ops, or both. -- Which brings me back to Giroux again who writes (Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life, p. 244) as follows:

"Attempts to link classroom instruction to community contexts are nowhere more important than during teachers' clinical experiences. On these occasions, prospective teachers should be assisted in making connections with progressive community organizations, especially those affiliated with local governmental council meetings, and in interviewing community leaders and workers in various community agencies linked to the school. This enhances the possibility that progressive teachers will make critically reflective links between classroom practices and the ethos of and needs of the surrounding social and cultural milieu."

I would maintain that parallel to teacher education it is imperative – in one way or another – for sociologists (as well as students and researchers in social policy, medicine, law, and related areas) to link their field experiences to their studies, and research projects. There are a lot of legitimate and exciting methodological possibilities for doing that. The project could be carried out ethnographically in the manner of participant observation, or it can be done more in the action research model with an emancipatory intent. There is plethora of choices. At least one should not try to unlearn her or his experiences during the academic studies but keep them as precious resources in doing sociology (or social policy, law, or medicine).