~About Eric Chaet
The Turnaround Artist
What can one person do, versus normal madness, mass psychoses, & periodic brief or longer-lasting tyrannies of incumbent or insurgent individuals or groups?
How can one person break out of & transform this unjust & insane humanity-molecule?
When I don’t know, which is most often, then my religion is “How?”
I am far from satisfied with my efforts so far, but I’m no more satisfied with others’ efforts so far, even those whose efforts I admire.
I study a lot: beliefs & behavior, history, economics, law, biology, anatomy, physiology, physics, chemistry, pharmacology, medical practices, mathematics, crafts & engineering, & the techniques of initiating, establishing, & managing public & private enterprises & political units.
I monitor what my contemporaries, celebrated & obscure, are doing.
I also manage the slight body of articulations I have managed to deploy slightly in the world so far, & organize to deploy whatever I’ll manage yet to deploy, more effectively.
When, occasionally, I understand something I think useful for those also attempting to survive & thrive, while causing humanity to behave more wisely, justly, & kindly—something neither I nor anyone else I’m aware of has articulated before—I try to express it as simply as I can, & get it into as wide a circulation as possible, in order to reach them.
This site is among such efforts.
Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land
book of poems
Coach House Press
Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
OR DON’T DO
Interstate Highway 51,
As far as I know, I’m the most simple-minded person in the world—& I want to keep it that way.
I was born & raised on the South Side of Chicago, a rough place, tho not the roughest. My parents’ parents didn’t speak or understand English, & my parents, in their 30’s when I was born, were still adapting as fast as they could to the customs & expectations of those who dominated American discourse & the American economy, as well as to the customs & expectations of the various ethnic minorities among whom they & I were raised & had to do whatever we’d do.
I didn’t understand my father’s rage or my mother’s passive aggression, toward him, & toward the society in which she couldn’t find a satisfactory place.
I had little sense of who I’d be or what I’d do, & readily followed whatever conflicting guidance they gave me—but I undermined whatever follow-thru & success I might have had, because I had a different character than they understood or than I realized, & I was headed somewhere neither they nor I were conceiving. (This pattern has persisted among others among whom I’ve lived my life.)
I was only fluent in language to express what I was doing & was going to do that was part of my parents’ or baseball-mates’ or teachers’ thinking.
The boys around me didn’t appreciate ideas I was excited about, that I expressed incautiously, or my lack of enthusiasm for their beliefs. Occasionally, they’d punch me. Otherwise, they’d just belittle me.
My teachers weren’t well educated, nor well adapted to succeed in the society, & only a few cared about my development.
School was frequently a dangerous place to be.
While a boy, I was exposed to newsreels of the Holocaust, the half-successful attempt to eliminate Jews, which had ended only weeks before my birth. I’m Jewish. I watched the newsreels, alone, on the television set my father had grudgingly purchased.
As, since, I’ve grudgingly purchased recently-invented & widely-distributed equipment that enabled new activities, tho much of the greatest importance was yet far from satisfactorily resolved. And, since I was a million miles from where I hoped to arrive, I had far from sufficient money to waste any.
Since my parents were paying to shelter, feed, & warm me, I didn’t realize that I was a pauper in a land in which I was expected to assume a role I would never accept, in a society (& species) whose doings were in some ways spectacularly good, but in others so spectacularly unjust & unwise, that I would resist contributing to them, again & again—while I struggled to find a way of my own to survive & achieve results I considered of value.
As a teen, I stumbled on the writings of William H. Prescott on the brutal conquests of the Incas & Aztecs, of Upton Sinclair on the horrible conditions of those working in the Chicago stockyards around 1900, of Mohandas Gandhi on his principles & private struggles & on the non-violent revolution he led in India, of George Orwell on the subtleties of collective mind-control, & of Howard Fast.
My favorite Howard Fast novels were about George Washington & those who didn’t desert him, during their hungry winters at Valley Forge, clinging to survival & preparing to re-emerge to confront imperial British forces; & Citizen Tom Paine, about that incorrigible rebel against all injustice & normal cooperation with it.
I worked my way thru college feeding a giant printer-slotter in a box factory. My fellow-workers were like the boys I’d gone to school with, only more dangerous. I also caught 80 pound sacks of parcel post off a giant slide, downtown Chicago, nights, & threw the sacks into appropriate carts or down appropriate chutes, per their destination.
I was undernourished, malnourished, underweight, short, scrawny, with little to no sense of physical fitness, or confidence in my ability to face my situation. I lived in dread.
At college, supervised learning, I took every course I could take without paying extra, & studied far more than was required of me. For instance, I read most of the writings of Tolstoy & Dostoyevsky, unsupervised learning, tho I was taking no course involving either of their writings.
For most of the rest of my life, I avoided supervised learning, but engaged in unsupervised learning approximately to the same unusual degree as I earned unusually few dollars.
There are many tense interludes—months, years—in which little is achieved in the world, while resources, however carefully & slowly, are consumed, & others’ triumphs, actual or faked, are celebrated.
Will the learning & re-organization of thinking, the preparation, the neural re-wiring—be correct & sufficient—not mere fearful hiding & rationalizing—before events or some disease disables, & during my allotted breathing & production of proteins?
Solid and Sound, vinyl LP album of songs, Tick Crick Records, Lee’s Summit, Missouri (U.S.A.), 1977.
I participated in civil rights “demonstrations,” including a sit-in in Missouri & a march in Mississippi, &, in Washington, D.C., in a big demonstration against what the United States government of the time had the army, navy, air force, & CIA doing in Southeast Asia (“the Vietnam War”).
In the months immediately after I graduated from college, with $22 & a degree in English (with honors), I read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which revealed to me the wide open possibilities of the joy of experiencing being alive in the universe, tho from within the bubble of social madness & oppression, without sacrifice of integrity or dedication to truly useful deeds. (Whitman didn’t concern himself with oppression much, or truly useful deeds—but he didn’t require my not being concerned to benefit from his insights.)
I suppose I had gone about as low as I could go, & had either to sicken & die, or find a way to rebound.
I could have found a lot less healthy ways to rebound—but, of course, all my problems weren’t solved, tho sometimes it felt so.
Later, I would discover that William Blake had written a lot of similarly useful poetry, tho with far darker undertones, embedded in a lot that would have been better edited away. (It’s so easy to get drunk on one’s own words.)
Whitman could have used an editor, too, who could have distinguished his great contributions from his programmed rants. (The Bible is like that, too.)
You could do a lot worse than to spend time reading their work—& mine.
But everyone is different, starts from a different place, has a different path to follow, create, follow, etc.
I realized that producing & circulating certain, very unusual kinds of poetry could powerfully influence readers’ lives, for the better.
I now believe that much that Whitman & Blake wrote, tho brilliant & useful, is tinged with their delusions, about who they were. Likewise, for instance, Jesus’s fabulous, wonderful, excellent sayings & deeds. Likewise what most people, including me, have said & done, most of the time.
I look out for who I think I am, when I do what I do, now. And I am always pruning what I have produced so far.
When you read my words, as when you make use of whatever anyone offers you, you must use your judgement—remembering that you, yourself, are subject to delusions, particularly about yourself.
Later I discovered Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, another brilliantly useful book—tho, unlike Lao Tzu, however my situation in life so far may appear, I am unwilling to cede control of what humanity does, to those whose struggles are for power, wealth, or glory at others’ expense—or who strike out at those who haven’t harmed them, programmed to act so, from resentment & prejudice.
I treasure poems that nourish & inspire me, while reading or recollecting them. But most poetry, of all times & places, seems to me either fashionable fluff or pernicious, so I am not flattered or encouraged when people congratulate me on being a poet, not noticing what I’m saying.
There are works of history, philosophy, & economics I value as much as I value the greatest poetry. Likewise well-expressed discoveries of mathematics & science. Also the music of Beethoven & Bach, folk songs & songs of Woody Guthrie & Bob Dylan, & occasionally some others’ songs, some of the performances of Charlie Chaplin, Ravi Shankar, & John Coltrane, & some of Rembrandt’s & Van Gogh’s pictures. There are probably equally great productions, of extraordinary people variously deluded & free or nearly free of delusions, I have never yet stumbled upon.
As I find it difficult to get my work into wide circulation, I imagine that there are works produced as valuable as I believe (careful not to delude myself) mine are, that I have never heard of, & may never hear of, as well as works I’d greatly benefit from, that I’ve heard of, but only via people who didn’t understand them, & were denigrating or praising them, for untrue or only partially true, partially false reasons.
No one yet has said what needs saying, except fragmentarily. Humanity is still crazy, frequently cruel to those who can’t prevent it, & don’t deserve it, & unwilling to do what’s necessary to transform itself. Thinking, then behavior, needs changing.
Of course, most people who try to change others’ behavior either misunderstand the world & humanity, or are secretly or not so secretly striving for domination—or both. And, of course, it’s necessary to change oneself, primarily—& as long as one lives.
In 2006, Barb Gagnon, of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA, took it upon herself—asking my permission—to purchase a copy of my LP album of songs, Solid and Sound, on-line, then get & master equipment enabling her to make CD copies of it, which she sells one at a time, when people order them.
When she asked about sharing revenues. I told her that if she makes $1,000 profit in a year—unlikely—she should send me 25%.
If you want to purchase a CD, please email her: wolves_baby56 (at) hotmail (dot) com. Be nice!
During a period of about 10 years, & interspersed with other activities, I taught rhetoric, Western & non-Western philosophy, & American & world literature, for a few months to a couple of years, at 5 colleges, from Pennsylvania to Nebraska; & mathematics at the middle school of the first Navajo-run school on the Navajo reservation, in Arizona.
And in the early 1980s, I quickly studied bookkeeping, in order to teach the subject at a business college in Los Angeles.
I also supervised a 20-person research team providing attorneys in a big, swanky L.A. law firm with information regarding methods of litigating computer companies—intellectual property & anti-trust issues.
Someone, intelligent & kindly, with whom I interacted for a few minutes a couple of times, imagining I’d found my niche, asked me, “How do you like the law?”
I said, “I prefer justice.”
1984 to 1994, silkscreened posters on rectangular scraps of cloth, & hitchhiked back & forth across the U.S.A., stapling 1500 to utility poles. Others posted some in public places in South America, Europe, Asia, & Australia, too.
Sayings on “the signs” included: “You’re like me in this respect, what you do has its effect,” “Seek truth, develop capacities,” “Help one another succeed,” & “Anxious to serve.”
Michigan Talk Radio: “What were you trying to do?”
Chaet: “Change the United States.”
MTR: “The people? The government?”
1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief book of philosophy—what an individual can do—self-published; 2nd edition 1994. If you send me $25 (U.S.) or the approximate equivalent in foreign currency, I will send you a copy via U.S. mail. (Outside North America, please add $10.)
Price includes shipping & handling, inventory management, tax, bookkeeping, accounting. A zillion dollar bargain! Don’t wait til I’m dead, or you are, or both! Order before you are required to focus your attention on something more stupid, less advantageous—swiftly!
If you want a copy, but can’t afford it, write me a careful request, describing your current situation, your hopes, & your preparations—plus the address to which the book would be sent. Or send me an old fashioned letter, to the address toward the bottom of this page.
From 1991 til now, I have been lucky enough to get occasional assignments doing research identifying technologies, methods, suppliers of industrial, agricultural, biological, & chemical equipment, processes, & services.
Someone more ignorant of such things than I was, would have been difficult to find. But I did my best to fulfill assignments, while making myself generally more competent, then good at the work.
What I earned, & a habit of spending very little, helped keep me from having to compete for the privilege of writing & publishing what there was a ready market for. (I hope I am creating a new market.)
There are fewer assignments than I wish I’d get, tho they disrupt the schedule of my on-going study. Sometimes I can’t find what the client hoped for. Sometimes, tho, I find exactly what’s hoped for, or, I’m told, even better.
When I accept an assignment, I do it conscientiously.
I was retired until I was 14 years old, but I didn’t like it.
We don’t just want to be clever among ourselves, do we?
Unable to provide better for myself & what I’m doing, I try to learn how & to maintain a house & the equipment within it faster than they disintegrate, & to get along better, rather than worse, with my wife & neighbors, who are, in many ways, wonderful people (& other species, too), but in many other ways, obstructive & refractory. They find me refractory, too, often.
I’m competing with political partisans, violent insurgents, sectarian clergy, “experts” of all sorts who understand less than they imagine, heroin, beer & wine, obsessive compulsions, & anti-depressants—to change people’s thinking & behavior, &, therefore, outcomes. I must also compete with artists of every genre, idealists & cynics & all in between, whose comprehension, intents, technical skills, finances, & status all vary—& anyone with an ego, mouth, or internet connection—for attention, cooperation, & allocation of resources.
People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways: a few so-called poems, but mostly prose narrative, 2001, Turnaround Artist Productions, De Pere, Wisconsin, U.S.A. If you send me $25 (U.S.) or the approximate equivalent in foreign currency, I will send you a copy via U.S. mail. (Outside North America, please add $10.)
Price includes shipping & handling, inventory management, tax, bookkeeping, accounting.
For $1,000 or the equivalent, I will send you a signed copy of either How To Change or People I Met. But don’t worry—the work itself, at $25, is the signature it took me almost all my life to learn to sign.
I’m the janitor, millwright, & IT trainee at Turnaround Artist Productions. Also accountant, scheduler, purchasing officer, file clerk, & vice president of fitness, operations, & marketing. I’m also the nutrition officer, dish-washer, & in charge of compliance—that is, staying legal, & paying what I’ve contracted for. I’m a regular slave-driver. I’m also in charge of research, training, strategy, execution. When you contact us (me, so far), I’m the customer service representative. What can we do for you?
I’m anxious to (truly) serve.
The so-called poems have appeared in periodicals & on web sites from the USA, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, France, Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Brazil, & Cuba—often in translation. Some appeared in the 1974 print collection, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, by Eric Chaet—Toronto, Canada, The Coach House Press; & a few in People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways (2001), which is, otherwise, a book of narrative prose.
In 2013, The World Academy of Arts and Culture (Seoul, Korea) “conferred upon” me the “Prize of Corea Literature.”
When doing what approximately everyone considers impossible, & which, more likely than not, will be impossible for you to do (but not certainly!), it’s necessary, also, to do, from among what is possible, at least what’s necessary.
Among the small number who don’t consider what you’re doing impossible, most will note its superficial resemblance to what they’re competing with, or hate, or fear—& place obstacles in your path. It won’t be a level playing field.
You were born behind enemy lines. But your neighbors have adjusted to being ruled by the conquerors. They want to “help” you adjust, likewise. If you don’t show gratitude, & resist adjusting as they have, they get cranky. Who the hell do you think you are?
Their eyes may bulge, their faces turn purple, steam may shoot out of their ears. They may paw the ground like bulls, & charge, too—while angrily expressing ideologies long buried in pre-history & in the wickedest passages of the Bible & Quran (each of which, also, has wonderful passages of wisdom, righteousness, compassion). Occasionally, you will need to defend yourself successfully, instantaneously camouflage yourself like a chameleon or squid, or be where they ain’t.
At a well-worn diner at the intersection of a county highway & a state highway, across from a gas station & feed mill, I’ve been eating oatmeal, raisins, & honey, plus 2 cups of half decaf, half high octane coffee, approximately every 6 a.m., for 26 years, so far, I think it’s been.
Sometimes, I get 2 eggs with so-called whole wheat toast, which I think is mainly the ersatz white flour with a little whole wheat thrown in so they can call it “whole wheat,” plus lots of air.
But I also get people. Mainly dairy farmers, truck drivers, & mechanics & machine operators—& waitresses & cooks—of various sorts. It’s group therapy, without a therapist or theory.
The people are extremely unlike me—tho they, too, need oxygen, clean water, protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, trace minerals, more money than they spend, & at least an occasional bit of love of some sort—& many were mainly hostile for a long time, especially the hardest blowing bigots & anti-intellectuals.
But all have excellent qualities I didn’t have, & still, to a lesser extent, don’t have, & require, if I am to sustain myself in the community of non-potentates—financial, performance, IT, academic, bureaucratic, political, ecclesiastic, or military.
They are fiercely hard-working, & expect very little from others. They have mechanical understanding & skills & know where to get tools & supplies. They know the prices of what they need to get, & hope to get, or must sell, which makes them operational in their environment.
I have gradually incorporated these good parts of their ways. I’m still working on doing so, & taking it beyond what any one of them does, learning as many of the skills each of them has as possible, along with the science underneath those skills, & the way of thinking precisely & sequentially & for absolute keeps, regardless of who thinks what, of what I do, or don’t do.
Please use, &—with others likely to use them, & without changing them—share the 100 so-called poems.
And, if you let me know about it, that will help me, more than zero.
Please email encouragement or constructive suggestions to:
echaet (at) gmail (dot) com.
If you can, will, & please, send $1 cash, once, or occasionally to the address below.
Or, if you are willing & able, send $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, or multiples thereof, once, or occasionally.
Personal checks for dollars would also be welcome.
If you send non-U.S.A. currency, please add extra, as I’ll have to pay a fee to exchange it.
This plea is for a limited time only—that is, while I’m still functional.
Turnaround Artist Productions
1803 County Road ZZ
De Pere, Wisconsin 54115-9629