Waiting Room, Cancer Centre, Queen Mary Hospital 19 September 2012

The Shaft, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, 19 September 2019


Waiting Room

The doctor confirms that the cancer’s response to the hormone treatment is strengthening which would explain the return of the pain. But it’s still a puzzle as to where the cancer originates which is why I go under the knife today.

More precisely, under the needle, in a prostate biopsy. I had to self-administer local anesthetic and am now waiting with a row of Chinese men,

Like sacrifices before their watchful fires – Shakespeare, Henry V

waiting for the surgeon,

Some swearing, some crying for a surgeon… – Ibid.

…actually the only one to make any audible noise is me, and I only moan a little, for “’tis bootless to exclaim” (sorry, we’re off again: that’s Richard III).

And then the author goes under the needle…

…and the procedure went fine, for the surgeon had me narrate the deep and intimate pain numerically on a scale of one to ten, which is something I do anyway. Furthermore, they were playing Colonel Bogey’s March which I think these Chinese nurses play special for us Gweilo men to call upon the better angels of our nature when we’re buggered, as are the POWs in the film “Bridge over the River Kwai”. And I was buggered, if in a good cause.

It’s vulgar to say that I am up to my ass in Asians, but I don’t think it’s racist: prior to the procedure, I felt spaced out and nauseous, and also felt, perhaps, like Edward Joseph Nilges, “the Captain of the Month of May” (Captain, United States Army, 442nd Regimental Combat Team Nisei, KIA 6 April 1945), since one’s reconciliation to your particular version of Man’s Fate, the particular cropper to which you have come, is *amor fati* as you wait for the tannoy to say, instead of the Cantonese names, “Edward George”: to love your fate.

Like Robert Gould Shaw buried in a common grave with African Americans in the Civil War, you accept this. Like Clint Eastwood back a few months ago when he had a little dignity, before he started raving at empty chairs, you have “more in common with these Asians [improper expletive replaced] than your own ungrateful family”.

‘Course, much more of this, I might start talking to chairs, or playing Russian Roulette like De Niro in The Deer Hunter after his character goes permanently East, Asian. I need to write about this and maintain an even strain.

Written Off by Mitt Romney

To understand how evil Romney’s unscripted contempt is, for those of us in the 47% who don’t pay taxes and need things like Medicare, it helps to understand the distinction between “enumerating a set by extension” and “describing a set by intension”.

You can list your constituents by name (by extension) which in principle means you could add a constituent who isn’t rich (and who doesn’t suck up to the rich), but Romney in the sound clip made it clear that if you meet a certain “intensional” test (“failure to earn, inherit or steal a lot of money or not trying real hard to earn, inherit or steal a lot of money, or not at all times groveling before people who have earned, inherited or stolen a lot of money”) you’re a worthless dependent person who thinks she’s “entitled”, where words with a good or neutral connotation such as “progressive” or “entitlement” become perversely in a Republican hipster way, words used with a sneering smirk.

Note that as soon as we describe people intensionally it becomes impossible (well, almost impossible) to deny them a compensatory entitlement in John Rawls’ sense. That is…Rawls never intended his “liberalism” to be recreational, optional or possibly false. All serious philosophers want (contra that “skepticism” which is the label of the ignorant mob for its own ignorance) to produce synthetic a priori truths in reflective equilibrium with what we believe and each other, which means that once you recognize (for example) that a person who’s paid into Social Security from shit jobs for forty years has an entitlement, by law, you cannot evade your responsibility to him by labeling his right an entitlement. Why? Because it sounds like you not only have no notion of an entitlement, you also don’t have a clue about human rights.

Romney finds, like my father found sad to say at certain times in his life, low-income people to be unworthy of his attention.

At his worst my father was positively offended by loserdom, whether failure to make a lot of money, or any pretentious pretense to want to walk away from the game.

No real Republican after Theodore Roosevelt really did like the poor, even the poor who suck up to and directly serve the wealthy.

Our President Taft had not a little contempt, as my father had, for the breezy democracy of Teddy Roosevelt, forged in forests and hunting lodges in which Taft and my Pop never felt at home.

Thomas E Dewey, the infamous “little man on the wedding cake”, the groom-homunculus with the elegant mustache and little else, rather appealed to my father rather than Harry Truman, with his loose, sloppy and deconstructed tropical suits and Hawaiian shirts.

Comes now Mitt Romney, whose infelicity with the English language is of the same species as George Bush’s infelicity: both infelicities indicate a lack of compassion and empathy. Mitt Romney hates me because I went to Princeton to work and study in my thirties and didn’t take that rocket scientist job on Wall Street, or that law office automation job at Sullivan and Cromwell. And now I’m teaching Kindergarten. Shoot me now, Mitt.

Plants at the Bottom of the Shaft, Queen Mary Hospital, 19 September 2012


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