4.0346 Hypersatire (1/226)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 2 Aug 90 10:15:24 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0346. Thursday, 2 Aug 1990.

Date: Wed, 1 Aug 90 18:35:43-020
From: onomata@bengus (nissan ephraim)
Subject: hypersatire

I would like to thank Sheizaf Rafaeli for her (?) message. It makes
some interesting points. I don't think I have tried to describe all
aspects of my book, in my note on Humanist, but there are at least two
that I omitted, and that may be of interest from Rafaeli's viewpoint:

1) Readers are not expected to visit all layers. They can choose,
even hough the author can make such a visit necessary (e.g.,
by including an obscure point in the immediately upper layer).
2) There is much room for experimenting with ambivalence.
For example, there is a passage that a note abstracts in
one Arabic sentence (actually, with not even one verb:
hazl al-`uyun al-bandaqiyya wa-ddumu` al-`uyun al-`anjSiyya),
which substantially consists of a parallel between fruity
metaphors of eyes. Together with the other notes and
the upper-layer passage, you obtain a multifaceted exposition,
which allows for other viewpoints. Another passage
includes a Hebrew translation from a short nationalistic poem
found in an Arabic newspaper used for packing at the greengrocer's.
One paths tells about the context of going to the greengrocer's on
that day (actually, my mother fainted there for a certain reason,
but later, at home, she provided a rough but exact translation
which I later put into poetry). Other paths lead to several
topics, and viewpoints.

Sometimes, I impose a sequence. For example, the second part of the
book is the one which is more militant (as much as to make the first
part a pretext). Beside the pretextual parts, there are "obstacles":
one short section, in the middle between the two parts, translates
passages from a book on the theory of complexity (defining "honest
functions"), and from a book in algebra (with the theorem on the purity
of ideals). At the very end, the reader is told that actually, this was
not the sense I wanted to discuss, of the purity of ideals and honesty.
Follows a section in verses, which relates our family tradition about
the funeral of a great-uncle, a successful businessman in the Near East,
who had access to several authorities in countries of the region (but
actually, a leader of the Revisionists in Baghdad), who met with death
during the holiday of Hanukkah in 1944, during the "Saison", that is,
the campaign of denonciation or hunt of non-Marxist militiamen on the
part of the two leftist militias (actually, subdivisions were to some
extent ethnic: the plight of Afro-Asiatic, down to their slumification,
is a constant point of reference in the book). The poem has a note
which is a poem itself. Having put this chapter as a mandatory stage in
reading, notwithstanding hypertextuality, justifies, at certtain points,
from the literary viewpoint at least, some passages of myth dissacration
or poetic abuse. There is one passage that focuses on an old picture of
Ben Gurion near his prote'ge' Prof. Israel Ber (afterwards sentenced to
life, in the early 1960s, as a Soviet spy). There was an aspect
depending on pride, on the part of Ben-Gurion, in promoting a would-be
convert from Leninism to Ben-Gurionism, along with Ben-Gurion's strife
to promote some professionals not only according to the rights of
camaradery in (leftist) militias (this was important in shaping the army:
veterans of the British Army during WW2 were promoted by Ben-Gurion,
against a course advocated by the former Palmach militia). Ber, as a
professor in military studies, visited NATO headquarters and then
consigned documents to a Soviet diplomat, by night, in a dark alley,
spy-wise. One may figure out that Ber figured out he would become an
Israeli Ulbricht, or the like. Well, the PICTURE was taken at the
inauguration of a chair in strategic studies at the University of Tel
Aviv, set up for Ber. In the picture, Ber, very high and storky (even
in his front and eyes), is on the left, whereas Ben-Gurion sits, with a
broad smile, on the right: somewhat very oldish but also very childish,
as was typical of the man. With afterwit, we know Ber "knew better".
One note to a verbal description of the picture addresses the
photographer, complaining because the "fruit of the camera" was not
printed on a leaf of nenuphar. This completes an image from the swamp,
but it is still hypertextuality which allows animosity towards B-G at
that point (on the Sephardic account, and on the Saison account, which
have nothing to do with Ber). It is still hypertextuality which allows
me to write something atrocious about Peres, yet defend him against
Rabin (the latter, especially because he is being made the object of a
Strong Man quest in upmarket quarters, who demonstrated in the streets
also against the Orthodox sector of the population. As I am a
practising Jew myself, this provides further fuel for writing. For
example, there are hypertextual passages on the recent controversy on a
speech by Rabbi Eliezer Shakh, of the Lithuanian Orthodox branch: an
ultra-pacifist speech, substantially, as it denied value to
territoriality in general -- and, under that respect, I think,
interestingly close to some European pacifists -- but which denied Peres
the votes of two members of Parliament and seemingly of five others, and
that also offended those Israelis who consider Judaism a nation and not
a religion: Rabbi Shakh would rather abhor the concept of "nation").

As to hypertext as a liberating technology, much has been written about
computer-assisted and class in education science forums; to the extent
there is strong class (or, like here, ethnoclass) stratification, and
little encouragement for schools in poor neighborhoods, computing in
the classroom (or, like here, for paying pupils after hours)
may easily become a further element of dis/advantage. Technologies
are neutral, what they become depends on how you use them.

> Humanists may appreciate (?) Saffire's comment in this Sunday's NYT
> magazine:

> "One word, one meaning, is my motto; when you use an
> alternative form to mean the same thing, you have wasted
> valuable space on the hard disk of your memory, and you have
> blocked the development of a different meaning."

> *Saffire is writing about eschewing "denouncement" in favor of
> "denunciation".*

[ I find it dangerous to restrain human creativity because of a
fetishistic conception of technology. Besides, blocking the
development of a new meaning, M2, to be associated with term T2
which, instead, has been "wasted" on M1, as a synonym of T1,
assumes that the potential of word-formation is very narrow,
which is not the case. E.N. ]

> It seems to me Nissan (onomata) would disagree. Nissan's
> delightful dissertation on double meaning and neologizing seems to
> indicate he favors a democratic, living language.

[ Well, in Midde' Muddi', I use several registers and strata of language;
when it is rhetorical, it is also autoironically aloof, archaistic or
utopistic; when it is abusive, it resorts to a quasi-Biblical
style and stratum, or to a cool technicalese from Tannaitic Hebrew.
But in general, yes, I do favor a democratic, living language,
which allows me, as a particular case, also to experiment with
kinds of language that are unlikely to be used in common speech. E.N. ]

> His (projected) disagreement with Saffire is twice curious.
> (1) Nissan is obviously close to Saffire's politics.
[I dunno. E.N.]
> (2) His understanding of
> hypertext is decidedly autocratic (as in here is a tool that will
> let me impose endless layers on my readers).

[ True and untrue. Readers can choose while accessing layers,
but as an author, I can be very manipulative of their choice.
As an author, I may be autocratic -- which is human and Freudian --
but I can try to dissacrate the very medium, to the extent that
I find it too conducive to manipulation. Besides, as this piece of
hypersatire, if it get published, is likely to end up in the hands
of intellectuals of the New Class, not of slum people, there is also
a kind of game, sometimes fierce, between readers' expectations and
the author's expectations of readers' expectations. Here is a simple
example: at some point, some linguistic commonplaces of national
rhetorics are followed by a "captatio benevolentiae" on the
part of the readers, who then are led to discover that actually
I was glorifying Kenya's independence, including shouts of enthusiasm
I remember it from radio broadcasts in my chidhood (I figure out
I remember also in relation with making friends, shortly afterwards
at the airport of Athens, with Kenyan athlets attending the Rome Olympic
Games...) E.N. ]

> Which brings me to my main point. The additional dimension(s) made
> possible by hypertext are viewed rather flatly if the social
> possibilities, *multiple authorship rather than multiple levels*,
> are ignored. True, hypertext allows text to become "Holographic"
> (multi dimensional). So do parentheses, notes. But the most
> interesting added dimension is that of authorship.

Actually, on the social versant, there is an ambition to provide with a
(benign or dissacratory) mouth (which obviously is mine own) with public
sectors which the Labor-fostered New Class which rules (disregarding its
present political leanings) would, in the extreme, rather prefer to
continue to consider as mouthless as if illiterate: thus, you find there
the slum, the ultra-Orthodox street, the Ethiopian immigrant (or
would-be immigrant), a young woman slain during a bus kidnapping but
"guilty" -- for certain ears -- of bearing an ultimate Hispanic name
(Portugue's), or the boy from the village near Hebron working at the
greengrocer's and unable to go home as his mother, to protect him and
the family from activists imposing to stop commuting to Israel, tells
neighbors her children emigrated to Kuwait, and then there is his
account to my own mother, about of his own mother telling him about the
Jews of old -- those slain in Hebron in 1929 -- that were a different of
Jews different from the new one, as well as his candid question to my
mother: "But are you Jewish? Aren't you? As Jews, Jews are crazy."
And, on the other hand, the amazement of a leftist friend: "What? You
let an Arab in your apartment???" (and then, there are Near Eastern
supposed reactions, either Arab or Jewish, to overpatronizing New Class
pacifists: as I believe clash between different cultures of interaction
pragmatics plays an ominous role in eternizing our regional conflict).

> For example: I completely disagree with Nissan's politics, and
> most of his interpretations. (I really do). But I'd love to get my
> hands on his book. If only because it would give me pleasure to
> add my own neologisms and interpretations. I may retitle the
> work, by dropping a few letters: Midei Muddi --> Dai Dai.
[= Whenever [= Enough,
I measure ] Enough! ]

Thanks. Sincerely. It is a pleasure to see that today there is
readiness to read, and then shout "Enough, Enough!" I reckon that
during the 1950s: (1) "Enough!" would have preceded the book ever
appearing (albeit this would have still been possible), and (2) that by
then, I would have better not to be a civil or otherwise public
servant... (But anyway, as I have already written, I have taken a
position abroad.) If today we are able to bring skeletons out of the
cupboard (or, as I did, from the Saison), it is for the very reason that
at least from the early 1970 there has been a trend to admit diversity
of opinions. Which has been accompanied by slow social progress, and
even political change, albeit basically the effects of the errors of old
are still there, and do not seem to be going to disappear.

> Think about hypertext mostly as a tool that overthrows the tyranny
> of the author over reader! Hypertext is about DIFFUSING control.

OK. Then, let us diffuse computing. Also, there are several
interrogation marks about the effects of hypertext: when I open an
encyclopedia, voices are signed. If we allow text to be modified, then
this only strengthen the potential for manipulation. This possibility
exists, of course, also with hardcopy books, but to a lesser extent.
For example, today I looked, at the university's medical library nearby,
for the medical dictionary by Masie and Tschernichowsky that I
mentioned, from the 1930s (I had always consulted it there), but today
it is no longer in the library, as seemingly sombody thought that the
"New Medical Dictionary" by Even-Odem and Rotem (Rubin Mass Publ.,
Jerusalem, 1967), is enough. Even-Odem was an interesting wild
neologizer (and the book, like Masie's, was pooublished after his death,
thanks to the co-author/editor). Yet, today, with the limited amount of
efforts that I am ready to devote the task, I am unable to check, in
Masie & Tschernichowsky, certain things I thought of only because
before, I had access to this book. With hypertext, such losses would
be, perhaps, the rule.

I thing the editors would agree about the opportunity not to deal,
on Humanist, with politics, if not to the extent this is made necessary
by the discussion of technical issues that are specifically of interest
for this forum. Of course, Rafaeli and other have the right of reply,
but I hope that on my versant, there will be no more need for me
to tackle the political side of hypersatire, in the framework of
this discussion.

Thank you for your kind attention.
Ephraim Nissan onomata@bengus