Wednesday, August 23, 2017

JIMMY JEFFERS SYNDROME

Birthday party in the nabe.
Jimmy Jeffers, top center

Just entering adolescence, just leaving what they call “adrenarche” which is what Freud and others called “latency,” a time of life when one has left babyhood, can read/write/count, but is still “straight-sided” because the adrenals have not yet kicked the sexual aspects into being — the curve of hip, the swell of chest, are still missing — a boy moved in across the street.  

Well, it was a family with a boy in it, of course.  Next door was a family of girls.  The boy’s family came from Iowa and his dad was a lunch-bucket blue-collar worker who sat on the front porch every evening to have a few beers.  My family was teetotallers.  The boy said that in Iowa the snow drifts were as high as telephone poles.  We didn’t believe that, but he had an air of adventure and impossibility about him and a certain amount of swagger, which I’m sure was defensive.  One of the family of girls, my best friend, and I mounted a counter-offence of spying, teasing, and generally being obnoxious.  But I was snake-bit.

l to r:  Janice, Jackie, Jennifer, Judy with Jeanine, Joan with Joyce

It has taken me all this time to understand what was happening: the displacement or sublimation of sexual eroticism into something much safer, like romantic fantasy, horses, religion or books.  Deborah Kerr or Audrey Hepburn providing physical contact and nudity in the name of innocent nursing.  It’s very strong and has served me well, taking me into ministry and writing, even after ten years of the “real thing” in marriage and barely outside it.  The drive comes from molecules programmed before hominins separated from the other mammals.  It makes hot little junior high girls go gaga over Michael Jackson, entirely safe because he’s so weird.  He overlaps with little pink unicorns named “Sparkle.”  Which are most labial.

There is a kind of morality that objects to any displacement or romanticism, that wants only the true raw encounter of de-cultured animalhood.  Scary stuff.  Sometimes they have the idea that drugs or violence are this same kind of directness.  Those are also displacements of the human yearning for each other as expressed in bonding.  That mingles with safety and nurturing.  It’s not simple but it is life-making, intended for the creation of children.

Our big adventure sleeping over in the back yard
We embarrassed the milk man.

But I have heard the testimony of those who were slammed into actual sex by rape, often by family, often repeated for years, even before adrenarche, still children with no capacity to sublimate at that point.  They were also snakebit and carried the intoxication on into adolescence where it did not sublimate but exploded into rainbows of adrenaline and testosterone, then left behind the ashes of a desert until the next explosion, the person hooked on explosions, struggling for explanations in the desert sand.

It is an experienced life that can only be conveyed in image and poetry.  I am not qualified to provide those and would be trespassing if I did.  But those I see affect me powerfully.  They relate to the goth/werewolf/vampire/sci-fi world of adolescence.

I do not enter this world — in part because I stubbornly hang onto adrenarche without obeying any Puritan impulses.  I want to be the “straight” witness — in the sense of vanilla if you wish, if that’s your “take.”  It puts me in a position between extremes where I can sometimes interpret or even mediate.  Not always.  Not without some anguish, which is partly the reason for a protected life.

Our fortune-telling period

But my JJ syndrome gripped me without my understanding.  It was my drug, half way between dissociation and obsession.  The kind of explanation people make up in split-brain research where they try to account for two different perceptions, one rational and one felt.

Finished products

Here’s a scientific use of the word sublimation:

Sublimation is the phase transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase without passing through the intermediate liquid phase. Sublimation is an endothermic process that occurs at temperatures and pressures below a substance's triple point in its phase diagram.”

Here’s the psych version:

Sigmund Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity and civilization, allowing people to function normally in culturally acceptable ways. He defined sublimation as the process of deflecting sexual instincts into acts of higher social valuation, being "an especially conspicuous feature of cultural development; it is what makes it possible for higher psychical activities, scientific, artistic or ideological, to play such an important part in civilised life”.

If you apply the principle of relativity — as in physics — both “higher” and “civilized” become fluid in actual application.  Is being a nun “higher” than coitus?  (Ask Saint Theresa.)  Is painting more civilized or just another version of intimacy, like Lucian Freud’s work?  What is maturity?  Isn’t it always relative along the spectrum, a waystation on the path to death?

(wiki)  The first thinker to use the word in a psychological sense was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.[3] In the opening section of Human, All Too Human entitled 'Of first and last things', Nietzsche wrote:
"There is, strictly speaking, neither unselfish conduct, nor a wholly disinterested point of view. Both are simply sublimations in which the basic element seems almost evaporated and betrays its presence only to the keenest observation. All that we need and that could possibly be given us in the present state of development of the sciences, is a chemistry of the moral, religious, aesthetic conceptions and feeling, as well as of those emotions which we experience in the affairs, great and small, of society and civilization, and which we are sensible of even in solitude. But what if this chemistry established the fact that, even in its domain, the most magnificent results were attained with the basest and most despised ingredients? Would many feel disposed to continue such investigations?”

I’ll accept “basest” in the sense of primal/basic but not “despised”.  Why would anyone despise orgasms when babies have them in the womb?  And yet a person in society can’t go around having orgasms all the time.  These days people do try.  They would do well to learn sublimation so they don’t have to go out by torchlight, inflamed with hate, hoping for violence.  Stay home and “root,” which is an Aussie euphemism I just learned from watching “Rush.”  “Root” is also a word for an infant’s attempt get his mouth around his mother’s nipple, the First Love.

As a kid, every day I knelt on the front room sofa facing backwards so I could watch through the window whatever Jimmy Jeffers was doing.  I got a rush from it.  Now I understand.  I tried googling the real person, but there are too many of him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

ATAVISM AND AVATARS


Here’s a bit of history provided in video for those who don’t read.  The clip was on twitter, but also is “pinned” at the top of the “mic” website.


What they didn’t say is that these fallen statues were probably not bronze, but just cheap “pot metal,” that is, some mixture of recycled metal, maybe left from war manufacturing, an illusion of bronze, an assumption of quality, taking advantage of the moment that people want statues but don't really know much about how they are made.  The equivalent now might be fiberglas.  Quality bronze (copper, lead and zinc + silicon today) does not crumple.

What these statues stand for is not in the statue, but in the minds of the onlooker.  In fact, the personal character of the people portrayed in the statues is ignored, which is being noted by some writers.  The motives for glorifying them on horseback is achronic — not attached to the Confederacy as much as Jim Crow — and another throwback to Euro conventions (horseback means you’re better) in the first place.

The trouble with the human ability to symbolize parts of “reality” so as to abstract from them as a way of forming thoughts and language is that human beings become game pieces, like chessmen, and “reality” becomes a gameboard, whether checkered or as a parcheesi pathway or as Monopoly properties around the edge of the board.  Right/wrong, black/white, advance with the dice or go to jail.  Hope for a "get out of jail free" card.

So we’re making a great fuss about statues of actual people who were part of the Confederate Army because to some they have become symbols of human domination in the form of slavery and to others they have become proud leaders of white superiority (defined as wealth entitlement).  Which causes them to entirely ignore the human beings in the equivalent of slavery right here, right now.  And to blame white failure to succeed on oppression by . . . somebody or other.  Probably someone from those rarified places in megacity New York.  If we just threw out the immigrants and Latinos, all the jobs would come back so that WHITE people could clean toilets for $10 an hour.  (We'd still need some Asians to run the computer programs.  And shelters for all the workers who can't afford homes.)


Liberals are just as skippy in their thinking as all those clueless masses out there with glowsticks for torches.  I follow “The Weekly Sift” a blog written by Doug Muder, "a 50-something ex-mathematician who lives in Nashua, NH.”   (His description.)    He’s a UU.  I enjoy and respect his thinking.  But he refers to Thomas Jefferson as “abusing” Sally Hemmings by treating her as his wife, when she was the half-sister of his white wife (so it was THEIR mothers who were abused, right?  One by owning and one by bigamy?).  Is slavery that different from the more restrictive forms of marriage, some of them practiced today by immigrants and nutcases?  It appears that part of the reason Jefferson liked lingering in France was not just the wine supply (which he DID like!) but also the way the French treated his family, regardless of race.

Why is it that liberals find it abhorrent to take Native Americans into foster families for their own good, and then glorify the adoption of Asian children?  The same practice is morally good or bad depending on the context.  I think of the wealthy and generous UU church who provided a house owned by the church as a shelter for a refugee Asian family.  Pretty soon their domestic arrangements became problematic and they, for their part, began to complain while making preparations to stay permanently.  Do-goodery is a pain in the butt.  But high principles, oh, that’s different.  That’s like chess, clean and orderly, associated with intelligence.


“. . . the police, for the most part, pulled back. The next day, for example, those 20 of us who were standing, many of them clergy, we would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the anti-fascists who approached, over 300, 350 anti-fascists. We just had 20. And we’re singing "This Little light of Mine," you know what I mean? So that the—

“AMY GOODMAN: "Antifa" meaning anti-fascist.

“CORNEL WEST: The anti-fascists, and then, crucial, the anarchists, because they saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely crushed, and I’ll never forget that. Meaning what? Meaning that you had the police holding back, on the one hand, so we couldn’t even get arrested. We were there to get arrested. We couldn’t get arrested, because the police had pulled back, and just allowing fellow citizens to go at each other, you see, and with all of the consequences that would follow therefrom.

“So, in that sense, you know, I think what we’re really seeing, though, Sister Amy, is the American empire in decay, with the rule of big money, with massive militarism, facilitated by the scapegoating of the most vulnerable, of immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, gay, lesbians, trans and bisexuals, and black folk.” 

Whoa.  The obvious question is why the liberals et al didn't put as much energy into getting out the vote and opposing voter suppression as they put into meeting up to oppose other people's demonstrations.

It’s hard-core August.  The light grows a bit dim.  I go out to see what an eclipse looks like in my own yard and the sunsplotches under the cottonwood tree are scalloped.  I take a quick glance at the sun and then there is a pink splash that I see everywhere.  This dimming will not look much like our sunsets because our ends of days are above the mountains, smoke-tinted red.  I hear the jake brakes of the semis on the highway through town and the buzzing of the hornets who are preparing for winter.  The Southern Baptist cyber-carillon next door goes on bonging.  Same tunes as UU's but they sing different words.

A change in light doesn’t affect us as much as our abrupt temperature shifts and impacting wind.  I wonder if the custom cutters in the wheat fields will pause to rehydrate and watch the eclipse.  They’re about through in Montana.  I wonder if the border restrictions keep them out of Alberta now.  I guess an eclipse is a pretty powerful symbol — but of what?  Our times?  Does this mean our political darkness will pass?

Monday, August 21, 2017

MOVING WITH A MOB

Yep. Amazon has it.

I’ve never been in a real mob out to make big trouble.  I’ve been through two strikes, one as a Multnomah County animal control person in the Seventies and one as a City of Portland employee.  When I was at animal control, I had just technically become “management” because of developing an education program that was partly for our self-training and partly for influencing the public.

That’s not what the strike was about.  It was just pay raises, as usual.  My problem in this case was that since I had a camera for PR pics, I was asked to go take photos of the picketers, who were our officers and shelter attendants.  There was no internet in those days, no computers, no real use for photos, but it is intimidating to be identified like that.

The City of Portland strike (also mostly about pay raises) in the Nineties consisting of going around and around the Portlandia Building, every time we passed the front of the building looking up at the statue of a giant woman with a fork about ready to gig giant frogs.  Or us.  I was not management that time, but aging and with a bad back so that I had to struggle to keep walking.  Then the Water Department men and other manual labor groups with deep voices and big muscles showed up and joined us.  A palpable surge of energy and a kind of joy ran through us.  Empowerment.

It was daytime and we didn’t have any Tiki torches, but it was possible to feel the surge and justification that being in an aroused crowd of big guys can provide.  I had seen it many times in dog packs.  In a group they would do what few of them would do as individuals, so much so that their owners had a hard time imagining their pet tearing the throats out of sheep.  Humans have “connectomes” where different patterns of connected neurons support different behaviors in different contexts and so do dogs.

I’m reflecting about this because of Charlottesville. “When Abraham Maslow created his Theory of Human Motivation in 1943, he identified five levels of motivation or five needs that humans strive to satisfy. Those needs are, in order: Survival, Safety, Social, Esteem, and Fulfilment.”  It appeared to me obvious that those Charlottesville belligerents, hard to distinguish from a soccer mob, had not been getting much fulfillment from life.  Particularly in terms of social relationships and feedback of esteem, they were — my guess — short on economic safety and worried about their survival.  They were passing on their distress, since they couldn’t seem to have any other impact.  It's the game called "Uproar."  My guess is that the Nazi and swastika stuff was little more than team markers.  Get those guys off separately and a little drunk, and the reaction is more likely to be crying into beers.  (There are vids.)

The hardcore fascists do not risk.  I read about Bannon in the days when he was managing Biosphere 2.
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/qkjn87/the-strange-history-of-steve-bannon-and-the-biosphere-2-experimentBiosphere 2 was meant to lay groundwork for future space colonization missions, as well as act as an environmental and social experiment: Eight scientists were to be locked into a three-acre dome containing five different earthly biomes for two years, from September 1991 to September 1993. The goal was to see if humans could survive and become self-sufficient in a "closed system"—that is, one that was not supposed to have any supplies coming in or out.” 

In short, these people were ants in an ant farm, under glass.  In the end the glass had to be broken in an act of civil violence — over Bannon’s objections — to end the experiment because it was endangering the people.  There is testimony about him watching from outside, calmly regarding distress.  The word “monster” was used.  This is his attitude towards politics.  He never considers that the glass of his own fishbowl might be broken. Or maybe he does: Biosphere was based on the fear of the world ending.  Now Bannon is outside the glass again.

Change feels like an end for people who are deeply embedded in their world.  Many of the fathers of these “nazis” fought in WWII, came home, started jobs and families, only to be bummed out by industrialization: machines that could do on the assembly lines what humans used to do.  A new wave of that phenomenon is being pushed, now called AI.  To be asked to start over again with computer technology that requires good eyesight and nimble fingers they no long have, is just maddening.  So they take it out on sons.  I wonder how many of these stick-waving sons have been abused one way or another by their frustrated fathers.  

But what about my maddening dilemma: an old house that needs constant maintenance in a world where there are no plumbers or electricians or small repair people.  There are not enough people to ride the ambulance as EMT’s or to volunteer to fight fires or to deliver Meals on Wheels.  There are lots of jobs that will never be done by AI.  There is no robot that can crawl under a house in the dirt to make plumbing repairs.

I’ve never forgotten being told that there are high school coaches in Montana who believe they can “win state” if they are “red blood coaches” who tell their players to pretend that their adversaries had killed their mothers and raped their little sisters, just as we see illustrated in foreign countries on the news every night.  To get high school kids into a state of testosterone emergency based on such a vivid fantasy is to damage those boys for life.  Not just psychologically but in ways that show on an MRI of their brains and feed into violent confrontations in public life.

In fact, the coaches must be damaged themselves.  I think they imagine they are running a boot camp for combat and that they see life, including their employment as coaches, as a kind of combat requiring strategy, force, and whatever else might work, regardless of the morality of it.  They are confident enough to not be particularly secret, not even in the sexual dimension.  Maybe they were concussed when they were players and are literally brain-damaged.  Their minds were raped.

I’ve told about the time a mob turned on me in “Dog Catching in America,” which is about my five years as an animal control officer.  I was sent to a surging mass of about a hundred kids on lunch break outside a Portland high school because one of the boys was siccing his dog onto people.  I waded in, grabbed the dog by the collar, and yelled at the boy.  

He started trying to pry my hand open, a big boy held my arms behind my back but I didn’t let go, so another big boy began to strangle me.  The dog’s collar broke and the dog ran away.  A vice-principal was yelling from a second floor window but did not call the cops.  I had only a truck radio, dependent on the engine for power.  Another kid put up the hood and ripped out wiring.

The situation ended by itself.  No cops.  I was the cop.  My neck was bruised and I was hoarse for a week.  In a job like this one one expects a certain amount of wear and tear.  The school officials were very conciliatory.  I can only imagine how the Survival, Safety, Social, Esteem, and Fulfilment of the boy changed because of the incident.  No doubt it was mixed.  Everyone involved was white, about half female.

A few weeks later I saw the dog alone on the street.  In thirty seconds I had it in the back of the truck behind a locked door, my windows rolled up.  Ten seconds later the boy was there, pounding and wrenching and screaming, sprawled over the hood while he tried to break the windshield.  I drove off very slowly, hoping he would not fall under my wheels.  No cops.

To get the dog back, the boy’s father paid several hundred dollars, buying a dog license and a rabies shot, paying fees, and accepting a ticket for juvenile court.  The dog was innocent: there was no “bail” as is often anthropomorphized.  I suspect the boy took a beating that night.  When I got to court, which was a small panel sitting around a table with the boy and his father and me, the boy’s record was on the table, a foot-tall stack.  I forget what penalty they gave him — it was trivial.  I never saw either the dog or the boy again.

But it’s pretty easy to imagine this boy — though he was a little younger than most of the men with Tiki torches and Trump hats — running through the dark streets shouting threats, but really only knowing that his life was miserable.  Thrashing.  Uproar.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

THE TRUMP PROBLEM

But everybody does it!

Cleanliness is not next to Godliness.  Geology is the same as Theology.  Virtue is not the same as propriety.  Madness is not the same as sin.  We get these concepts all mixed up.  This last in particular is a problem at the moment.

1.  Alzheimer’s victims only dimly know something is wrong.  To hide this, they lie, they fabulize, they rationalize, they mix denial with elaborate tales.  One in ten people in the US right now has Alzheimers.  it’s clear that Trump has this, though doctors are too afraid of lawsuits to say so.  “The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease worsen over time, although the rate at which the disease progresses varies. On average, a person with Alzheimer's lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.”  It’s difficult to tell when onset is marked enough to justify diagnosis, so Trump could have had it for years.  He looks to me — entirely unmedically — like he’s pretty far along.  I would not be surprised if he suddenly died, but I'd be suspicious about the actual cause.  There are substances that might cause what looks like Alzheimer death.

2.  Trump’s basic character had evidently always been aggressive, belligerent and sometimes out of control but rarely physically violent that we know of.  His family seems cowed.  He is verbally abusive.  This kind of personality is only tolerated by society and certainly not admired except by the sort of person who shows up at a demonstration to enjoy the violence.  In addition, he is too clever by far, congratulating himself for achievements that are minor and of little use.  This seems to be a lifelong strategy, not a symptom of anything except a porous conscience and a poor grasp of reality.

3.  There is little question that quite beyond political treachery, Trump has probably been committing criminal financial acts that would justify arrest and incarceration all by themselves, regardless of how congenial he was in other regards.  I’m unclear about which felonies would over-ride any kind of presidential privilege or protection and which could be successfully deflected by an insanity plea.  Alzheimers, like rabies, can’t really be proven until there is an autopsy because it means taking samples of brain tissue.

The use of the presidential pardon would mean he was still in office and, of course, he would want to stay in office as long as possible, until his family in particular were charged, tried and convicted.  One can’t pardon someone who is not convicted yet, right?  But the nation is increasingly pressing to waste no more time since the potential damage he could do in office reaches as high as atomic warfare.  Already there is a LOT of damage that will take decades to rebuild, evidently mostly because Republicans are hoping to hang on somehow until they personally are re-elected.  So we’ve got a multi-dimensional game of chicken going on here.  Few are actually playing out a “long game.”

4.  The mixture of insanity with criminality with politics is very confusing.  For the last few decades we’ve been mixing them and moving their limits so that some urge compassionate limits on criminality and others urge destruction of innocent children who are the wrong color.  Personal motive is mixed with social disadvantage and social advantage is confused with entitlement.  Sexual invasion is portrayed as seduction and the wrong choice of words is considered rape.

People try to reduce their confusion about Trump or Nazis by simply hating without sorting.  It’s so much easier and more clear.  So much fun to mock and blame.  But it doesn’t suggest a pathway out of the mess.  Now that pathway is beginning to be cleared by panels of professional people qualified and — more important — entitled to read a consensus that would hold up in court.  In a country of laws, that’s essential.  In a country among other countries, it may help us seem more trustworthy, which is vital if a war gets started.  (What am I saying?  We’ve been at war on a slow simmer for presidency after presidency.)

We’ve all seen so many vivid depictions of people who are demonized beyond all justification or out of total misunderstanding, blamed though they are victims, that most of us are pretty reluctant to say Trump is plain old garden-variety nuts.  He must have a plan; there must be a committee of handlers; this is all a bad dream.  Maybe, we should hope, he’s a hoax.  That’s a good non-threatening label.  But what if it’s Russia?  (Is Russia a friend or foe right now?  Didn’t we like Gorbachev?  What’s that goofy Putin up to besides riding bears around while wearing no shirt?)

The smart people know what’s really going on, right?  Um, make that "correct"?  Maybe not.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/magazine/breitbart-alt-right-steve-bannon.html

Trump has a hate trifecta going: unfitness, criminality, and impolitics.  All three are immoral, though amoral fits better.  But they refuse to line up, partly because the criminality part is still submerged.  In fact, the investigation of that started way before Trump’s presidential aspirations and may have prompted his idea in the first place, given the Trumpian confusion between the presidency and King of the World.  It may have just looked like a safe place to wait out crimes.  Even facilitate them, since he would presumably be less a tool of Putin.  

So those who saw the criminal dimension, maybe the FBI, put off the machinery until after the election.  Maybe they just couldn’t gather the facts quickly enough, but a worldwide network of money crime that leads to Putin and that shows he cheats his own people, may be important enough to let Hilary be ditched.  That doesn’t say much for the rule of law, if it can be gamed by delays.  If this investigation succeeds, it may uproot a world-wide corporate conspiracy network.  But, like antibiotics, if the work is incomplete, it will make evil stronger.

My long-time friend from Portland was here a few days ago.  It gradually became clear that he doesn’t think along these lines.  “Where do you get this stuff?” he asked.  it sounded implausible to him, maybe over-the-top.  He gets his news via the liberal but conventional television channels, which evidently don’t touch "this stuff".  Neither does PBS.  His most radical source of news is NPR One podcasts. He enjoys Malcolm Gladwell.  He refused to believe that PBS now charges a “Passport” to watch dramas.  When I began to pound the table, he asked to change the subject.  So there you have it.  We are a divided people.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

THRASHING




People say they think “blog” is an ugly word and the content from one blogger to another is so various that they get confused about what it’s “supposed” to be.  As a reminder, “blog” originally was a log of what internet posts one is reading and maybe reactions to them.  So here’s a little sequence of posts that I’ve read in the last day or two, only a selection but they group well.

I didn’t watch much about Charlottesville but I did notice a fellow who was there to BE noticed, Chris Cantwell.  VICE.com is one of my fav sources of information because it is fearless.  (They once posted an accurate description of “Ick’s” the source of booze in Browning and so much rumored cocaine that it’s alternate nickname is “the white house.”)  A brave little blonde reporter accompanied Cantwell through the confrontation in Charlottesville.

Here he is in movie-star mode, swaggering, punning, and weeping.  Very forceful.  Very talk show.

Then he discovers that his preparation should have included a good lawyer.

On Wednesday, he addressed his followers after learning that there was a warrant out for his arrest in Virginia following his involvement at the Unite the Right rally. Turns out there are two—both for felony use of gases and injury by caustic agent of explosive. Cantwell told VICE News he plans to turn himself in to authorities and fight his charges in court, each of which carry a minimum sentence of five years in prison.
https://news.vice.com/story/white-nationalist-chris-cantwell-is-reportedly-wanted-for-arrest  He has a peculiar notion that the way to align himself with the cops is to offend them.

In this one he demonstrates his vocabulary.


Here’s the connection with “Game of Thrones” and violent cop shows.  (Looks like “The Cut” is another interesting mix of culture comment and fashion sales.)  Both mens’ rights & alt-right movements "appeal to men with fantasies of violent, sometimes apocalyptic redemption."

And here’s a mom’s story to read next to the story of Bro’s mom, both single moms.

Then the Bannon story hit, which many see as Cantwell writ large, and then Barcelona and the Finns, to show that whatever this is, it’s not just on this continent.


(I should learn how to do "tiny bits," but url's stick together.



There are three modern new things that I think about as involved in all this, none of them with a direct connection.  Of course, the media is quick to see how the social media platforms (I refuse to do Facebook, but I post to Twitter) make it possible to create both silos and horizontal coalitions and get them to physically meet as pop-ups and flash events.  Those don’t play musical instruments or sing cannot participate in the surprise concerts we love at Christmas.  I chose a military version on purpose.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4Ola1i28aI   It is far from bellicose.

The second is the study of the genome, which reveals that there’s really no such thing as “race” and maybe not anything very permanent about “species.”  Dominance does not mean preventing change.  Even efforts to eliminate variation from a kind of biological category, which is how we get domestic breeds of everything from cows to dogs, will not prevent the entwining of existence and survival to create new creatures, new terms of survival.  In fact, as terrierman.com tries and tries to teach us, forcing a breed of dog to comply with our little notions of superiority can only create malformed suffering monsters like English bulldogs, which we celebrate and love as mascots.  (There’s a link to competitive combative sports to explore.)

I could argue a case that our efforts to control humans in a "breed" kind of way, has created monsters.

"Dog blogging" is a category related to extreme right wing radio.

The genome, which is really one part of a complex including the epigenome, the connectome built by experience and so on.  “The English-language neologism omics informally refers to a field of study in biology ending in -omics, such as genomics, proteomics or metabolomics. The related suffix -ome is used to address the objects of study of such fields, such as the genome, proteome or metabolome respectively.”  To be vulgar about it, a person is a whole lot more than fucking.  And so is a nation or a planet.

The third force and the most crucial one is simply economics.  Maybe you remember the rat experiment where a colony was given enough food for all the rats, but all the rats were allowed to increase.  When population density got to a certain point, what the scientists had on their hands was riots, crime, and perversion — cultural efforts to respond to limits.  “Thrashing”

.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrashing_(computer_science)   “In computer science, thrashing occurs when a computer's virtual memory subsystem is in a constant state of paging, rapidly exchanging data in memory for data on disk, to the exclusion of most application-level processing. This causes the performance of the computer to degrade or collapse.”

To celebrate this one might do the dance with that namewww.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Thrashing   “Like head banging only better and more fun.. You get your arms T-rexin' and move them rapidly and head bang while whipping your hair around “

www.dictionary.com/browse/thrashing  The term was originally agricultural.1580s, "to separate grains from wheat, etc., by beating," dialectal variant of threshen (see thresh). Sense of "beat (someone) with (or as if with) a flail" is first recorded c.1600. Meaning 'to make wild movements like those of a flail or whip" is attested from 1846.'” 

It’s also a phenomenon of a trapped or dying creature, trying to escape.  Randomly and forcefully moving in hopes something might work, and sometimes it does.  Of course, if you’re in a hospital they will tie you down and give you meds.  In "nature" it is a signal to predators that there is an opportunity for feeding.


I take Trump to be thrashing now, which is part of the reason he’s so incoherent.  But thrashing is hard to watch and can take much too long.

Friday, August 18, 2017

BUYING EDUCATION -- I DON'T BUY IT

The actual "Lighthouse" was built during WWII as a beacon for pontoon airplanes 
landing on Lake Francis.  None do that now.

A former student of mine from as long ago as the Sixties (?) and his wife are taking me out to dinner tonight at the Lighthouse, which is an excellent venue, as good as anything in Portland where my student lives.  You could buy it.  http://eastsloperealty.com/commercial_descriptions/lighthouse.html

This student is retired after decades of working with Native American education within the conventional framework of schools governed by states and counties, including the high school in Browning where we first met.  This does not mean he’s conventional.  He’s spent most of his life in Portland where they raised their son.  He led me astray once by clueing me in to Native American “bulletin boards,” online discussions on the Internet at a time when I could barely operate a computer.  It was one of the most valuable sources of knowledge I've had.

This added a layer to my understanding of Native Americans who taught me, whom I taught, whom I read about, who set coffee in front of me, whom I helped drag dead grizzly bears across the shop floor — okay, enough.  I never married a Native American and the closest Bob Scriver ever came to doing that was a French-Canadian.  My major contribution at the moment is helping Paul Seesequasis (a Willow Cree in Saskatoon where I walked off from the ministry in 1988) figure out where old photos were taken by Magee and McClintock.  They're for a book to be published this fall in Canada. 

Oddly, I’ve developed opinions about professional Native American education specialists who are white.  Many of them strike me as charlatans, a few as nut-cases, and some as saints.  (Name three — this is an old test of generalizations)  Coburn, Ward, Jamruska.  At least one was evil: the one who found a passed-out old drunk in the grass and superglued his fingers together into fists, so that when he woke up — badly needing to piss — he would not be able to work his fly zipper and drench himself.  I know this because he described it with glee in a book he wrote about his experience.  (Bob used to say, "Indians think all white people are crazy and they're right.")

Over fifty years of experience, a lot of it apart from education or academia, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s time to throw out "formal" education as we know it.  In the first place too much of it is really missionizing.  In the second it is based on Prussian ideas about preparing soldiers for obedience unto death.  In the third place it doesn’t address citizenship in a world of many nations, nor technical skill at the needed level (not even for sex), nor the managing of one’s identity, nor justice, nor what to do when things grow abysmally and dangerously wrong.  As an operational manual for life, American education is crap.  (I hardly ever use that word but I never say shit, so it will have to serve.)

The problem at core, in some ways, is that we assume that people as they are born and grow up must be guided, urged, and graded.  The truth is -- and there is much scientific proof for this -- people even at the stage of gestation (pre-birth) are irrepressible learners.  To be alive is to learn.  Only drugs can stop it.  Even punishment teaches something.

My laundromat friend who is ninety still thinks teaching is a noble profession and should be respected.  He probably thinks the same about ministry, though we haven’t discussed it.  He asked me what I thought was the most valuable thing I’d done, what I was proudest of.  I said “writing.”  He didn’t know how to respond.  He reads quite a lot but not the kind of thing I write now — and in conventional ways, not on a “blog.”  I don’t think he’s read my published books:  “Bronze Inside and Out” or “Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke.”  

He is not educated to get a “big picture” of professions, the specialized roles for which one must buy extra years of training (grad school) in order to acquire vocabulary and concepts.  But he IS educated about citizenship because he was a military guard at the Nuremberg Trials.  What he knows first-hand is primary, basic and character-building.  None of it is less valuable because he and his wife run a laundromat.  He is a man of great honor and wisdom.  I love visiting about the news with him, though the news dismays him so.


The major things white people seem to have taught themselves is denial and avoidance, like the people downwind of Nazi crematoriums who ignored the smell of burning flesh.  To point out the Confederate flag with a skull in the middle that flies next door is to cause uproar.  Yet this village is obsessed with “lookin’ good” so people will move here.  Some of the most intelligent and progressive local people I know are defending Trump (STILL!) on grounds that he’s no worse than all the other politicians.  Levelling.

When I taught in the Sixties, my “English” textbook had a whole chapter on fallacies and propaganda.  Contemporary texts have no such thing.  High schools no longer provide civics classes.  Students at my seminary raised a ruckus about having to learn French (a foreign language is a traditional requirement for a liberal arts MA, from which the MDiv is derived) so the requirement was dropped. Regardless of what other strategies and values are taught in an institutional context, the overriding imperative is to avoid controversy because it will lose money, and the result is the LOWEST and most COMMON denominator.  One must often go outside academia to find what one needs to learn.  The saving graces are the used book industry and the internet, if you can name your question.

Mothers and aunties in both Heart Butte and Valier, which are linked at the heart by the Pondera Canal Company irrigation system derived from Swift Dam, tell their children — esp. the boys — get an education and get out of here.  Do not become trapped in this circumscribed place because the results will not be good.  It used be that the draft would at least let boys see the world.  Now it is the girls who can qualify to join, because they paid attention in class.  One doesn’t need bayonet drill now — one needs to know coding.

I’m hoping that we’re just at an awkward stage, somehow having gotten enough “Free School” challenge for Betsy DeVos to see the commercial possibilities, and having watched madrasa students rocking and memorizing the Koran in the way we barely remember our students memorizing Great White English-Speaking Men poetry and speeches.  There is so much and so various a body of things crucial to learn that no curriculum is adequate.  


So it seems clear that the thing to do is self-teaching, sort of like cars that drive themselves, except freeform, meta-level use of the brain which is only the dashboard of the body, which must move to learn.  (Autodidacts have always been with us.)  The success in teaching Blackfeet language at Cuts Wood School is due to acting out the words — living the concepts.  We make fun of “monkey-see/monkey-do” because that’s only an evolutionary step.  But the teacher who does is effective.  The joke about “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” is an ironic challenge.  Those who cannot do, cannot teach.  They’ve never been out of town.