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Shapes Whose Time Have Come ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III). Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Monday, Jan 2, 2012

Reinvent America and the world.

-Lawrence Ferlingehtti, from
Poetry As Insurgent Art 

About the only inventions that the guardians of the corporate-state covet and have recently employed are high and low tech gadgets. While the high tech is mostly unleashed by the military for wars, the low tech, being used by paramilitary police, includes: clubs, pepper spray, tasers, Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) sound cannons, tear gas, and surveillance towers.
That a good percentage of the global protesters are in their 20s and decidedly peaceful in itself exposes the militant stance for what it is: a defensive, fear-based, control-mechanism machismo. Or as retired Philadelphia (and NYPD arrested) Police Captain Ray Lewis said:  “Corporate America is using our police departments as hired thugs.”1 Daniel Ellsberg called the recent pepper spray assaults “police torture.”2 
Language often serves as warning shots. Two-and-a-half months ago, while the NYPD may well have been protecting the populace, the language used by one official was of a belligerent nature. An article reported: “The NYPD flexed its anti-terrorist muscle from the Bronx to the Battery Friday, emphatically answering an Al Qaeda car bombing plot planned for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. ‘This is our version of Bush’s shock and awe,’ said one NYPD official. ‘The idea is to scare off a sophisticated network - let alone three men.’”3 
Considering that “shock and awe” initiated the invasion of Iraq which led to the deaths of an estimated 1-million Iraqi-human-beings and over four thousand American-human-beings, plus many others,4 the choice of terminology seemed like psychological hyperbole.
More recently, Mayor Bloomberg exposed a related pre-emptive strike mentality as part of his justification for the post-midnight raid and dismantling of the Occupy Wall St. Zuccotti Park encampment. “Inaction was not an option,” Bloomberg said. “We could not wait for someone in the park to get killed.”5
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s desire to evict Occupy LA echoed a similar, oddly protective outlook: “the chaos out there could produce something awful.”6 Villaraigosa, like Bloomberg, also mentioned public safety and health concerns.

Tom Engelhardt’s description of what Zuccotti Park has become has this writer dubbing it the “neon-green zone” a la the Green Zone in Iraq:

"Just about 30 leftover protesters and perhaps 100 of New York’s finest as well as private-security types in neon-green vests in or around a dead space enclosed by more movable police fencing than you can imagine.”7

Of course, that’s nothing compared with the Goliath of embassies in the Green Zone: “The Embassy of the United States in Baghdad is the largest and most expensive of any embassy in the world. At 0.44 square kilometers it is nearly as large as the Vatican City. It also employs 15,000 people and cost $750 million to build.”8

With regard to current protests and gatherings across the globe, in Egypt, Bahrain, and other countries, people have been killed, beaten, abused, and ‘locked out’ for standing up for their freedoms and equal rights. Both the language and the hardware used to bring this about reflect a militant stance.
So-Called Progress
The greedy, capitalist Empire, that the above mentioned guardians protect, moves predominantly in a straight line. Witness the obsessive desire of the NYPD and other city police forces to use  barricades in order to keep the protesters literally in line or business-as-usual lanes.
Interestingly, the USE (United States Empire, with its 700-plus military bases worldwide) highway system also essentially embodies a shortest distance between two points mentality; well and good if you need to get somewhere in a timely fashion, but the point here is about what dominates and how to become balanced or un-dominated. Being that highways (dependent on oil) dominate much of the national psyche, even a straight-line railway system would be an improvement.
Along with these horizontal directions are vertical ones. To dominate is to “rule over.” One nation UNDER God with The Man RULING OVER Earth and the People (be they two-legged, four-legged, one-legged aka tree, and so on) BELOW. Financial charts go up or down in jagged lines. Such domination reflects a predatorily hierarchical view of the world, a Darwinian kick-ass survival of the fittest, as opposed to an egalitarian and respectful hierarchical world view in which deserved levels of command have their place, for example, a ship’s captain giving orders to a first mate or deckhand.
Progress, continual progress at all costs, is one of Empire’s main addictions. Perpetual boom with no bust. Shop till you drop in a stand in line edgy society, that is, a society that avoids softness and curves — except for its worship of the female as physical object.
Yet recent economic hardships and the subsequent emergence of a Global People’s Movement have proven, en masse, the ultimate delusion of boom-mentality, even though the condition of our Oceans, Rivers, Mountains, Air, and other life-sustaining elements and habitats had already proven this. What can one do but forgive humankind for being slow to learn until the lesson hits his or her wallet. So let’s get on with the work of repair and healing.
Reinventing the Wheel
What say we reinvent the wheel. And who better to look to than those who have lived with its shape for thousands of years. For starters, the Native American Peoples have endured, for over 500 years, the after-effects of boom progress. But now the time is ripe for more integration of their circular role models. This is already happening organically, as witness the various Occupy drum circles, dome tents, and talking-stick style assemblies. Being that Natives call the homeland Turtle Island, it is perhaps symbolic to note that students at UC Davis, while being pepper sprayed, rounded themselves into protective ball-shapes and retracted their heads and necks, as turtles are wont to do.
In his book Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, the Lakota medicine man John (Fire) Lame Deer wrote: “Our circle is timeless, flowing... The white man’s symbol is the square. Square is his house, his office buildings with walls that separate people from one another. Square is the door which keeps strangers out, the dollar bill, the jail. Square are the white man’s gadgets ― boxes, boxes, boxes, and more boxes ― TV sets, radios, washing machines, computers, cars. These all have corners and sharp edges ― points in time, white man’s time with appointments, time clocks and rush hours ― that’s what the corners mean to me. You become a prisoner inside all these boxes. More and more young white people want to stop being “straight” and “square” and try to become round, join our circle.”9
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung learned, by noticing the repeated pattern among his patients, that when a person sees a significant circle or mandala (in dream or waking), that it is a sign of healing or the beginning of being made whole.

The book C.G. Jung and the Sioux Traditions: Dreams, Visions, Nature and the Primitive by Vine Deloria, Jr. explores the similarities and differences of Jung’s research and discoveries with Sioux (Lakota) traditions. This makes for a fine example of the importance of cross-cultural learnings, as well as a reminder that shapes, along with dreams, visions, and nature cannot be confined to nations or cultures, rather they are universals like numbers, music, laughter, love . . .
Occupy Wall St. adopted the “spokes council” which is “a directly democratic structure that was inspired by the Quakers and numerous indigenous cultures and used widely in the Women’s Movement, the Anti-Nuclear Movement, and the Global Justice Movement.”10

“A spokescouncil is a collection of affinity groups and clusters … who meet together for a common purpose, often civil disobedience. ‘Spokes’ is short for ‘spokesperson’…”11  

Lest we get too attached to the wheel itself, we have this reminder from the East by Lao-Tzu, “Thirty spokes converge on the single hub of a wheel, but it is the empty hole in the middle which makes a cart possible.”12 Master Lao also happens to be one of the planet’s wisest spokespersons for how to live a non-violent lifestyle.
Continuing this mini-world tour: from India (the ancient land of yogas, yogis, and Gandhi) comes awareness of energy centers or “chakras,” a Sanskrit word translating as “wheels” or “turning.” These "wheels," seven of them, are said to literally be within us, and when spinning optimally help to maintain health and well-being. As the seasons move in circles and the planets elliptically, we too can learn to move in harmony with them, which also helps for staying out of Empire’s harm’s way.
And circling ’round to Africa, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The Osani Circle Game*

 Smoothing the Edges

As the straight legs suggest, not all lines, edges, and squares are to be avoided. Tahrir Square is one of the birthplaces of the Arab Spring, and thus the Global People’s Movement, and inside that square is a circle! 
Other such examples of “squaring the circle,” as it is called, come from the high arts and various spiritual and religious traditions. As examples: Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man;” the mandalas and/or sand paintings of the Tibetan, Navaho, Buddhist, and Hindu peoples; and the artwork and glyphs of the alchemical tradition.
Embedded in this multi-shape (akin to the sun-cross or circled cross) is an honoring of the four directions and seasons, and thus, the integration of a squared four-ness progressing in a cyclical, circular fashion. While the deeper meanings of such diagrams may be complex, some of it is simple. “Four things make the universe: earth, air, water, fire. We Sioux do everything in fours: We take four puffs when we smoke the peace pipe… We pour water four times over the hot rocks in the sweat lodge… Seven is a holy number too, representing the seven campfire circles of the Sioux Nation, the seven sacred rites, the seven bands of the Teton Sioux, but four is more wakan (sacred).”13

As example of smoothing the edges, on December 29, 2011, the 121st anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, there was the first gathering of OWStreeters with Indigenous Peoples, “Un-Settling Occupation” in Brooklyn, “to initiate an open dialogue with indigenous . . . , to raise local and national awareness of ongoing Native struggles . . . .”

(See Facebook.... Occupy Wall Street)

To become un-dominated by those who wish to keep the People in line, we need to both think outside the box as well as connect with the ‘shapely’ cultures and peoples known for their peaceful and harmonious lifestyles. By doing so, each of us can help to bring about cultural tipping points, the endgame of which is: to make the abusive mainstream of Empire into a harmless tributary. Given that Empire is quite efficient, although ruthless, at business as usual, if that efficiency could be applied to purely functional skills, for example, paperwork and traffic flow, then Empire’s minions may well find some useful work to do in the emerging New-Old Round World.

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. You can contact him via his literary website.


* The Osani Circle Game

When people see this image, it draws their attention. When they read what it’s about, they fall in love.” 



- a buyer’s perspective

Efé children of the Ituri Forest in Zaire (Rep. of Congo, central Africa) begin the Osani game by sitting in a circle, feet touching, all connected. Each child in turn names a round object like the sun (oi), the moon (tiba), a star (bibi) an eye (ue) and then goes on to name a figurative expression of “round” like the circle of the family, togetherness, a baby in the womb, or the cycle of the moon. As players fail to come up with a term that is “circular” they are eliminated from the game. Eventually, only one remains. Tradition has it that this player will live a long and prosperous life.

This description is printed on the Osani Poster and the back of the Osani Greeting Cards.

The Story

Belgian adventurer, naturalist, humanitarian and art collector Jean-Pierre Hallet was born in 1927, son of the Belgian painter Andre Hallet who lived in the Congo. At six years of age, Jean-Pierre left his Efé friends to attend school in Europe. (By that time, he was already the height of an average adult native). He returned at age 21, 6’5”, with a degree from the Sorbonne in Agronomy and Sociology. 

Jean-Pierre  became a blood brother of the Lega, Tutsi and Nande tribes, and was initiated as a Massai warrior.  When I met him in 1984 (after seeing Osani in a magazine and calling the publication to track him down)  I was immediately struck by his passion for the Efé.  He told me he spoke 17 African dialects and had traveled in Africa extensively. But it was the Efé people, the so-called “Pygmies”, that captured his heart, and he spent most of his life in their service.  In 1974 he began The Pygmy Fund with the mission of saving the Efé from extinction and preserving their way of life, with self-reliance and dignity. His persistence and dedication led to a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

As he stood before me, one-armed (having blown off the other arm while dynamite fishing in 1955 at Lake Tanganyika) he was a most impressive presence.  When he told me of his mission to provide seeds, tools, medicine and farming methods I knew I had to help, and agreed to write a grant proposal.  It brought in twenty-five thousand dollars he used to bring winged bean farming to the Efé. 

Jean-Pierre explained that this image, his one and only of this traditional game, was taken during the 60’s.  I sort of fell in love with the Osani circle; it drew me in, and reminded me of my fundamental connection to the earth, to the natural changes that occur in life, to a desire for community and a deep respect for traditions that carry such sensibility and wisdom.  I felt the photo spoke, instantly, to everything I cared about. And I could see it moved others the same way.   So…  I hung it on my wall.

Decades passed.  When in L.A. I  would visit Jean-Pierre’s shop which carried African art and artifacts.  I would buy a few beads, and we’d talk. And then one day I acted on impulse:  after 25 years of friendship I called Jean-Pierre to acquire the Osani exclusive rights, with the hope of making this wonderful image more accessible. My call came on the very day he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia.

It is with great sadness I must report that Jean-Pierre Hallet passed away only 90 days later (January 2004). He was truly larger than life in every respect – a remarkable man.

To read more about Jean-Pierre Hallet’s adventurous life, please see or read here.


  1. Will Ret. Philly Police Captain’s Occupy Arrest Influence Law Enforcement?

  2. Occupy Wall Street: Activist Daniel Ellsberg on How Pepper Spray Has Impacted the Movement

  3. City's beefed-up safety ahead of 9/11 threat meant to foil plot

  4. Casualties of the Iraq War

  5. Judge Upholds Eviction of New York 'Occupy' Camp

  6. LA Mayor Says He Evicted Protesters Out Of Concern For Children, But City Has 13,000 Homeless Kids

  7. How Zuccotti Park Became Zuccotti Prison

  8. Embassy of the United States, Baghdad

  9. Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009, p. 111.

  10. Liberty Square Adopts a Spokes Council

  11. Spokes Council

  12. Thou Dei Jinn - #11 

  13. Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, p. 115.
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