gall and gumption

Friday, January 18, 2008

Other Worlds

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…” These are some that I've been meaning, for way too long, to call to your attention.

I’m still getting a Nigerian scam letter about once a week. This would be nothing to remark except I read this article about Lagos by George Packer in the New Yorker and if you didn’t catch it when it first came out you should take a look. Have you ever asked yourself these two questions, marveling at their strange poetry?

The first question is “How does anyone fall for this?” Except I knew someone who did fall for it, for about 24 hours. Not a stupid person by any means, though at the time, a person less schooled in the ways of the world would have been hard to find. And no, it wasn’t me, though the same observation might have been made. So I feel like I have something of an answer to that question.

The second question is “What sort of person sends these things out?” And there relying only on my imagination has been less than helpful. Because I just imagine a person of bestial greed and stupidity to match, and in making this judgment I was really situating this person as I supposed they would be if they were here. But you know it is one of my constant themes that the world is more complicated and interesting than we imagine it to be at any moment – even when that imagining underlies our deepest and most cherished opinions about its component parts. We almost always come up short.

The Packer article reminded me of that, and also introduced me to a world I could never have imagined on my own. Not because my imagination is so weak but because There Are More Wonders, Horatio, etc.

I’ve just been listening to some discussion of Aristotle’s Ethics, particularly the idea that the good is what is done for its own sake. Here is where the world is very strange for me. When I finished reading that Lagos article I had the insight that there were probably people writing 419 scam letters who were doing even that, as far as they possibly could, as a good to be done for its own sake.

The next item from another world is this NYRB piece on The Deep.

These two letters at Dave Neiwert’s blog Orcinus may be the funniest thing you will ever read about the people who make up the anti-immigration groups known as the Minutemen. I had trouble picking a favorite among all these characters myself. They all seem to have tumbled out of the pages of a Nathanael West novel and, finding themselves in the early 21st century, become possessed with a rabid desire for fame. Also do note the writing style. It is so perfectly suited to the subject. I don’t think this writer/disgruntled Minuteman realized that he was writing literature.

Read this out loud to yourself: it sings!

Although Marvin Stewart likes to represent himself as a Minister, Politician and an official in the Veterans Administration, he is in fact a fraud on all three counts. His Church, “Our Lords Salvation Ministries” has no members, offers no services and ministers to no one. It does, however net Mr. Stewart a few “tax free dollars” and a means to solicit support from the gullible. Marvin Stewart is not a member of the California Republican Party, nor even a member of the Los Angeles County Republican Party Executive Committee; he is a local volunteer central committee member in a powerless district. Marvin makes his living filing frivolous lawsuits and as an accounts receivable clerk (bill collector) at the VA hospital in Long Beach.


Did you ever read Edward Lear’s poem “The New Vestments”?

Just so is poor Marvin’s finery stripped away.

This last one is nearly as murky as the abyss.

5 Comments:

At 11:58 AM, Blogger buckner said...

Concerning who falls for these internet scams, do you remember the New Yorker article, The Perfect Mark by Mitchell Zuckoff?

 
At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Norman said...

What sort of person sends these things out? The same sort, in spirit, who do these sorts of things:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-01/ohs-sro011108.php

http://clinpsyc.blogspot.com/2007/12/zetia-but-why-would-we-show-you-scary.html

 
At 12:47 PM, OpenID kmcleod56 said...

When I was in Africa, other tourists would say if you come to Africa, don't go to Nigeria, and if you must go to Nigeria, don't go to Lagos. While I understand the survival-based industriousness of Lagos' destitute, it still comes across not so much as a boomtown but as a metastisizing urban eruption. I don't think it will explode, but sprawl instead.

 
At 7:11 AM, Blogger Kia said...

buckner,

I read it from the link, for which thanks. And while I find it interesting, I wish there was something about that guy that would reveal more. It was kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde piece. And I kept thinking there must have been something that would tell you how this man who thought he was so smart got taken in.

Norman,
Cannibals.

Kmcleod56
That's a good distinction. For me what's shocking about it (in that piece) is the sense that all these infinitely self-creating little systems of order keep being revealed, hierarchies of the lowest. Just like strings of molecules becoming chromosomes back in the day.

 
At 7:11 AM, Blogger Kia said...

buckner,

I read it from the link, for which thanks. And while I find it interesting, I wish there was something about that guy that would reveal more. It was kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde piece. And I kept thinking there must have been something that would tell you how this man who thought he was so smart got taken in.

Norman,
Cannibals.

Kmcleod56
That's a good distinction. For me what's shocking about it (in that piece) is the sense that all these infinitely self-creating little systems of order keep being revealed, hierarchies of the lowest. Just like strings of molecules becoming chromosomes back in the day.

 

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