February 27th, 2011 / 7:33 pm

The Ben Greenmans

Ben Greenman’s book What He’s Poised to Do is worth your time. I’m not sure which Ben Greenman wrote it, since there seem to be around 43 Ben Greenmans sharing similar biographical notes. One of them wrote Celebrity Chekhov, in which Chekhov characters are replaced by the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Alec Baldwin, Kim Kardashian, Oprah, and so on. That Ben Greenman also runs the Celebrities with Character blog, where you can write letters to actual celebrities. Both of these Ben Greenmans are published by Harper Perennial. Then there are the indie Ben Greenmans, one of whom published Please Step Back, the “swirling Sixties saga of the rise and fall of a true American icon,” with Melville House, and another of whom published the Superbad-Superworse series (from McSweeney’s and Soft Skull), and another of whom offered the story collection A Circle is a Balloon and a Compass Both (MacAdam/Cage), and another of whom teamed up with Hotel St. George to make the limited edition letterpress book Correspondences. I wonder if any of these relatively obscure Ben Greenmans know the even more obscure Ben Greenman who publishes stories on tiny websites such as Wonderfort.com, or if any of these Ben Greenmans (we’ve met seven so far) would get the time of day from Ben Greenman #8, who edits the Goings on About Town section for the New Yorker, or Ben Greenman #9, who ghostwrote the autobiography of Gene Simmons, or, Ben Greenman #10, also a ghostwriter, whose most famous client was Simon Cowell. Perhaps, if the literary world is as relatively insignificant as some people believe it to be, none of these Ben Greenmans would get five seconds of attention from Ben Greenman #11, who teaches in the Open Programme at the University of Glasgow, or Ben Greenman #12, whose sociology paper “Explaining the Effectiveness of Official Development Assistance” was a finalist in the 2009 Taylor University Student Poster Session. (Other honorees wrote treatises on subjects such as “Christians and Sexual Satisfaction,” “Passing Proposition 8,” and “Assessing the Effects of Intercultural Experiences on the Core Value Development of Taylor University Students.”) Ben Greenman #13 was a Private in Turner’s Company, 4th Regiment, Albany County Militia, in whose service he lost an arm in the Revolutionary War. His grave marker proclaims: “Here lies the body of him who was fill’d with pain and trouble too. He lived his Jesus & his God who chastised with his rod.” Ben Greenman #17 is no longer useful to the owner-managers of the Xpert Eleven Fantasy Soccer League, who have left him unclaimed on the waiver wire since 2007. Ben Greenman #24 is a Division II exempt player in the Traverse City Junior Golf Association College Tournaments. Ben Greenman #37 recommends labeling salt and pepper shakers by what they aren’t rather than by what they are. Ben Greenman #43 is rallying in Solidarity with union workers at the Wisconsin statehouse. (picture below, eighteenth from left, back of head):

Of all of these Ben Greenmans, my favorite Ben Greenman, Ben Greenman #36, was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha. This is defined as resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa, or total nonviolence. This concept helped India gain independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. This Greenman is often referred to as Mahatma Greenman ([məɦaːt̪maː]Sanskrit: महात्मा mahātmā or “Great Soul”, an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore). In India he is also called Bapu (Gujarati: બાપુ, bāpu or “Father”) and officially honored in India as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Greenman Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence. Greenman was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu Nationalist.

Greenman first employed civil disobedience while an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, during the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he organized protests by peasants, farmers, and urban laborers concerning excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Greenman led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women’s rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above all, he aimed to achieve Swaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination. Greenman famously led his followers in theNon-cooperation movement that protested the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (240 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930. He launched the Quit India civil disobedience movement in 1942, demanding immediate independence for India. Greenman spent a number of years in jail in both South Africa and India.

As a practitioner of ahimsa, Greenman swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven from yarn that he had spun by hand himself. He ate simple vegetarian food, experimented for a time with a fruitarian diet, and undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and social protest.

Upon Greenman’s death, his successor, Jawaharlal Nehru, addressed the nation through radio:

“Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.”

Greenman’s ashes were poured into urns which were sent across India for memorial services. Most were immersed at the Sangam at Allahabad on 12 February 1948 but some were secretly taken away. In 1997, Tushan Greenman immersed the contents of one urn, found in a bank vault and reclaimed through the courts, at the Sangam at Allahabad. Some of the Mahatma’s ashes were scattered at the source of the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, and a memorial plaque marks the event. On 30 January 2008 the contents of another urn were immersed at Girgaum Chowpatty by the family after a Dubai-based businessman had sent it to a Mumbai museum. Another urn has ended up in a palace of the Aga Khan in Pune (where he had been imprisoned from 1942 to 1944) and another in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles. The family is aware that these enshrined ashes could be misused for political purposes but does not want to have them removed because it would entail breaking the shrines.

Some believe that all Ben Greenmans are manifestations of the one true Ben Greenman. Some believe that one day the sun will turn blood red, and Greenman will return on a white horse, amidst a throng of soldier angels, to rapture unto himself the living and the dead in Greenman. I write this post as a witness to what Greenman has done for me. First he saved India, then he saved my soul, and one day I will rise to be with him in the sky. I do not mean to lead you astray by saying that a commercial transaction will do the same for you, but it is a first step toward the enlightenment Greenman can bring, and it is, yes, an American step. Greenman meets us where we are, out of his great compassion and mercy. He is the Quadragintatriune, the great 43-in-1. Won’t you buy his book, for $11.89, at Amazon.com?


  1. Anonymous

      vipstores.net )

  2. Janey Smith

      Kyle? I am Ben Greenman.



  4. shaun gannon

      maybe the dude spamming this site is another ben greenman

  5. Bites: Ben Greenman(s), David Foster Wallace Story, Glasses and More | Vol. 1 Brooklyn

      […] Kyle Minor likes Ben Greenman(s). […]

  6. Catherine Lacey

      Why plug amazon at the end of this perfectly good post?

  7. Sean

      A flood! I loved it.

  8. Anonymous