Monday, May 21, 2018

CAN I GREET YOU BY SAYING "OKI"?

This post will be controversial in several different ways.  The first is that I’m not genetically Native American and there is a school-of-thought that only people like the subject can legitimately speak from their point of view.  So be assured that I’m not writing from the point of view of an enrolled Blackfeet/Siksika.  I'm just old and I was there.

Another attempt to control writing about NA’s is the Chamber of Commerce notion that any criticism will hurt the reputation and increase the stigma of the people written about.  This runs headlong into the idea that if a situation is truly dire, meaning people need help, and esp. if the general public has such a low consciousness of their reality, then it’s vital to publish the truth no matter how ugly, to impress the suffering on other people.  The split between these two notions gives rise to the image of NA’s as either saints or sinners, with no portrayal of the earnest and conscientious people who go through their days with honor.  These days honor is often considered boring unless it’s dramatic or even life-threatening.

Attempts to recover and bring life to ancient languages preserved only in writing go back to early Hebrew and have been evidence of the possibility since then.  But not many think this through.  The Plains Indians did not use writing in the sense of ink on paper.  Their language was spoken.  In fact, an alternative in use was “gesture language” which still persists.  We call it “sign language.”  In the Sixties when my students spoke of death they almost unconsciously made the gesture with their arm of something upright falling over.  

Under every written language is an oral language: people spoke Hebrew before it was written down.  But the natural milieu of the Siksika (their name for themselves) parallel to printing is radio and video.  Windspeaker is a radio station in Canada — not a publishing house.  If you explore YouTube, there are many videos.

A spoken language must be learned by speaking with others.  The Piegan Institute Cuts Wood Academy was founded as an immersion school for primary grades in 1987.  Darrell Kipp, Dorothy Still Smoking, Thomas Little Plume and Roslyn LaPier were at the core of the founding.  (I regret that I don’t know the names of the teachers, all Blackfeet speakers.)  They were helped by the earlier indigenous language movements in New Zealand and Hawaii.  One of the first insights was that bodies are as much involved in speaking as any sounds, so the words are taught with movements.

More than that, under the gestures are the images.  When one says “tree” in English, one imagines an English tree, so it is necessary to imagine a Siksika tree.  One cannot do such a thing without being there to see the aspen copse, the cottonwoods along the streams, the alpine twisted but persisting bull pine.  This cannot be learned from a book, no matter how subtle and complex one’s knowledge of the proper grammars and compositions of the people.  When “Dances with Wolves” was screened on the Sioux rez, the old people burst out laughing.  The woman hired to teach the actors had taught them women’s Sioux: in that tribe the people lived in gender-role separation and each developed their own versions.

Such emotional and implicating ideas are held in languages and behaviors.  The first task of the Piegan Institute people was overcoming the instilled fear of speaking their own language because the government punished them for doing it.  This past week in Havre, MT., a border patrolman challenged two women for speaking their own language.  Havre is close to a reservation and there is stigma about that.  But the two women were speaking Spanish.  They were American citizens with a Mexican background.  The patrolman was racist.  The law often is because under it is an unconsidered idea that sameness is good. ________________________________

This is from "Heartbreak Butte", a book I wrote after teaching in Heart Butte, Montana.  You can download it from Google.

THAT AIN'T ENGLISH

To get out of history, get into geography.
--James Hillman

SPEAKING COMES FROM THE HEART

At the end of the Eighties, members of the Piegan Institute did a language inventory of children ready for Head Start.  When they had screened the children for English, half a dozen were left in a category marked "non-English speakers."  Surprised that so many children had Blackfeet as a primary language, they did something no one had thought of before:  they screened the children to see how much Blackfeet they knew.  And the appalling truth was out:  the children didn't speak Blackfeet either.  

They didn't speak any accepted language, but only a kind of family-specific set of indicators for the basics:  water, food, sleep, the bathroom.  True babytalk.  The only people who really understood them were the slightly older children who had the duty of babysitting them.  This is not a circumstance peculiar to the Blackfeet or to native Americans or even to poor people.  It is something that happens whenever adults are too busy, numb, drunk, angry, depressed or otherwise "out-of-it" to pay any attention to their own children.  If the kids are lucky, the household will not be too chaotic for them to watch Sesame   Street.  Then they have a chance.

There is no way to know if there were children in the Sixties who spoke no language at all.  No one tested for Blackfeet speakers.  Some say that the children have come upon hard times because the boarding-school-educated grandmothers are gone-- already frail from old age in the Sixties.  Others say it was allowing alcohol to be sold to Indians on the reservation after the WW II veterans came back.  That was when the women began to drink.  In the Sixties I never saw a fetal alcohol child. (The Sixties was also a time when certain doctors felt entitled to sterilize Indian women with little cause and no consent.  Adopting Indian babies to white families was seen as giving the babies a chance.)  Some would point to the efforts to move Indians to the cities, where they lived in ghettoes and acquired the culture of despair.  They stopped living for the future and therefore stopped valuing children.


Human speech develops between specific ages of the child.  If the window of opportunity passes without language being learned, the brain closes down that option.  Children can be raised by wolves, but they will not speak.  They will not read.  Their culture will be the culture of wolves: eat, sleep, greet the known, fear the unknown.  This is why the early years of the children are the most crucial of all if the Blackfeet Nation-- or any other-- is to survive.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

TAKE DAVID BROOKS FOR INSTANCE

David Brooks is an interesting fellow who seems to be struggling with today’s politics, which is understandable given his background.  In 1961 he was born in Toronto to a marriage of humanities professors.  (That was the year I graduated from Northwestern University.)  Then in 1983 he graduated from the U of Chicago with a history degree, the year after I graduated — just across the quad —with a theology degree.  His thesis was on Robert Ardrey, who is patronized as a pop scientist by the Brooks wiki-bio but saluted as a major figure on Ardrey’s own bio as a playwright and anthropologist.  Brooks himself gets something like the same mixed reception from the anonymous wiki-biographers and, indeed, seems to feel that way about himself.

He’s much preoccupied with what may be the kernel of the anthropocene — that is, what is the nature of human beings?  He was uplifted in college, radicalized by working a crime beat, impacted again by William F. Buckley’s fast rich crowd, and currently called “radical conservative,” which seems pretty oxymoronic, probably due to riding the fence.  I mean, he tries so very hard to be wise and fair, but the world keeps baffling him.  He’s horrified by what happens now, but when he takes the evidence to Republicans, they don’t respond.  They don't even shrug.  Sometimes he just seems naive.

The reason I wanted to begin with him is that he is preoccupied with what he called an “education abyss” in our society.  That is, there are a lot of people who feel patronized by college grads.  The job gap seems to be the obvious cause, but it’s more than just being qualified for prosperity.  I’m not sure Brooks quite realizes that there is a change, a MAJOR CHANGE, in what truly educated people know that makes them different.  He’s still faithful to his original loyalties.

In the past decades there has been a huge jump in raw information made possible by high tech equipment and internet processing of the data that is collected.  Our understanding of the deep past — creation of stars as well as creation of our species — our sense of the universe, so much more vast and complex than just “space” — our awareness of all bodies as cells interacting and as producing “thought” — the degree to which we are unconscious and gripped by our pasts — all these ideas are new, authenticated, and challenging.  They demand a new way of understanding.

In the past a diligent and fairly smart person could get a Ph.D. — a traditional philosophy doctorate — based on precedents in its natural sequence through human history — and be a respected and authoritative person.  It didn’t have much to do with virtue, and only gave events a certain amount of accountability.  Rivalling theology, traditional philosophy searches for the essential meaning of life through reasoning, by using human consciousness in Enlightenment mode.  But the new cutting-edge philosophy challenges everything and uses the literary concept of metaphor, confirmed as the brain’s natural method, to reach whatever understanding of existence we can achieve.  We are not primary or essential. 

At present we are interested in emotion, the dislocation of mind by body, — the sharing of consciousness and bonding among people — some of it awareness that always persisted alongside the conventional assumptions of those who use Greek and Roman based Enlightenment as an index to a binary world with clear human hierarchies.  Our new knowledge about the deepest nature of everything, the co-existing multiplicity of realities, and the tragedy of our bonding with the transient — all these have changed some people.  This change is often attributed to education.  It is an abyss, a felt mystery.

The gap between rich and poor, which is not usually understood very well by either side, is less of the gap between those who know a few hundred people, share the world with them, and get along fine on those terms — and those who have accepted the necessity of a new vision both terrifying and reassuring.  Terrifying because it requires change and the unknown.  Reassuring because it embeds humans in a furor of process that doesn’t demand that individuals be obedient to some theory.  Not even the theory that existence is far too intricate and unsettled to ever really master.  The whole nutty notion that being “good” will make a person eternal goes away — a great relief.

Brooks, like many of us, is just not yet ready to make the leap.  It’s not a leap of faith but a leap of courage.  No guarantees.  I talked to a woman recently who was convinced that her low-prestige job was the result of not having a college degree.  At least she thought that learning computers, a route many take, was boring rote learning.  She was convinced that college was some kind of magic formula that would change her life, show her how to get ahead without becoming a machine or a wage slave.  

I found it very hard to describe to her what I learned at Divinity School, just across the quad where Brooks addressed history.  We were both drawing on an accumulation of writing that was full of wisdom and experience.  Maybe on my side we valued humility a little more.

Looking at video of committee hearings, it’s easy to imagine we’re seeing the reptilian dwellers in their swamp.  Reading their twitter quips, it’s easy to imagine that accurate lawyer-level grammar is one way to identify a mammal.  But these are metaphor and a bit cartoonish, not that those are bad qualities.  But there’s more.  Assuming that a college education is the entrance to a better job and a nicer lifestyle is not wrong, but it’s only an entrance, an access.  There are other ways and there is a danger of becoming preoccupied with sports and fraternities.  


The real key to full human-hood can be found in books, vids, conversation, all the humanities and sciences — even math.  But Brooks knows — indeed it’s the path to his level of understanding (which is high) that true human knowledge is based on empathy.  Even for serpents.  Because the real human knowledge is based on the interconnection of everything.  If an emaciated baby in Yemen is dying of starvation, so are we.  If a fuzzy ginger-man in England is marrying a starlet with dusky genetics, so are we.  If Hawaii is splitting open with molten rock, so are we.  Incredible!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

PRECARITY IN SPRING

It’s mid-May, close enough to Spring to have provided a few warm bright days we could call Spring.  The lawn mowers of Valier have been out doing their stuff and the trees finally have leaves, revealing which branches died when it was so cold last winter.  But we expect this.  It was hardest in 1971 when I had returned to teaching and had moved into a big two-story house in East Glacier that had been empty for years and had no heat.  I spent cold days up at the Big Hotel, sitting at the little desks set up with a supply of stationary for guests to write home.  That was before smart phones.  I'm just now realizing that was when Nixon was doing what Trump is doing now.

And that was before there were so many grizzlies who woke up early and went prowling for winter kill all along the rivers and irrigation canals.  It was certainly before Washington, D.C., was revealed as a bear pit where people ate each other, the prey being the ones slow to realize and run for it.  We’ve all learned a new word, “precarity,” for people who have struggled to qualify for professional academic degrees and now discover that their degrees don’t give them safety.  

Precarity (also precariousness) is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.”  (Wikipedia)

Struggling to give their children safe futures, parents sent their progeny to the “best” schools possible, only to see them easily fired when the rules of the nation changed.  They should have learned to code or do plumbing, which hasn’t changed as much as electricity and — if neglected — can have very immediate and drastic results.  The best and brightest of the Native Americans got to college and some succeeded but others — impossible to fire — were put out of their sinecures by universities that simply dropped whole departments.

But we sort of expected all that.  We expected nuclear war — we began to “duck and cover” in the Fifties.  Then we thought the cities would be reduced to rubble.  It never occurred to us that streets would extend until they occupied miles and miles and miles of coast land, more than there was potable water for.  It would be impossible for even a nuclear bomb to eliminate those people.  Famine would work.  Or the trace toxicity persisting in food that would end fertility.

Precarity is an emerging abandonment that pushes us away from a livable life. In a growing body of scholarship centered on social marginalization, the concept of precarity has come to name “the politically induced condition in which certain populations suffer from failing social and economic networks.”  (Culanth)   

We did not know that a major cause of failing social and economic networks would be our government officials.  They talked idealism so convincingly that we never suspected they would turn criminal.  Many of us blame Trump because he is so personally repulsive and stupid. But he and his slack-mouthed, shifty-eyed children and personal fixers break the laws meant to keep them out — perform outrageous war-starting maneuvers — and our government representatives mostly stand staring.  Or quickly find a reason to gettoutathere.  They look drugged, stunned, non-comprehending — all except the mavericks and the women of color.  A few are so old that they pitch over asleep with their faces on the notes they didn’t read.

What sticks in my head is the first hearing with Comey when the committee asked again and again questions that he would answer by saying,  “I know the answer to that, but I can’t tell you because it would interfere with an issue that’s even bigger.”  At least that’s what I heard.  I thought it might be about Clinton — you know, that thing when Bill and an official met on the tarmac of an airport they thought no one knew about.  Comey kept hinting that to tell officials what the FBI and CIA were really up to would blow something more important.

Now we know what that was and it appears to me that Comey did the right thing.  It even turned out well personally by setting him free.  It hasn’t been connected to 9/11 yet but I will not be surprised when it is, because what is developing is what the reporters described immediately after the catastrophe: that the planet had been infiltrated by a criminal biofilm with webs of communication and subversion that extended everywhere.  They had no care for idealists.

Back in the Sixties Bob and I used to shake our heads and gnash our teeth over the art “wheeler-dealers” in the top of the Flathead Valley like the Outlaw Inn in Kalispell who enjoyed mocking people opposing the real trade in drugs and bribes around them.  They went from shady little galleries trying to force up the value of Ace Powell sketches to Gianforte, Daines, and Zinke, selling out whole landscapes.  Even Zuckerberg gave the place a fly-by last summer.  

Our once heroic journalists devote themselves to celebrating holidays by getting drunk in Butte.  We’ve learned that our little kids can be shot at school and that our co-eds are not safe in their dorm beds.  We are so poorly able to think through the dangers that every isolated case seems to us like an epidemic, and maybe each one is for those shot.

So will we be saved only by a porn star and her handsome bold lawyer?  Stranger things have happened.  Supposedly taboo communities — beyond the “pale” which was once a real fence of palings that separated respectable saloon keepings and churches from those who were liable to do anything — often see what others cannot.  Pillow talk becomes diary records.  They go beyond “Lordy” and “I hope there are tapes.”  Comey is a bit of an anachronism and we should be grateful.  

At the moment the temp is just above forty and it's raining.  I’ve unblocked the cat flap and they’re bringing the rain indoors.  Tomorrow will be better and then the next day will be even better and soon it will be the 4th of July.  Over summer we’ll try not to think about the precarity of our schools, our climate, our populations on the edge of survival, our mega-cities . . . who are the fools who visit cities in the summer?  Here, just after seeding and fertilizing, we keep an eye on the Rainbirds throwing huge arcs of ground water across the hot and ticking land while the emerald spears of what will be wheat thrust up through the land.  They are genomically altered.  Precarious.  Roundup Ready.

Friday, May 18, 2018

WHY ARE WE SO IMPRESSED BY DATA AND QUESTIONNAIRES?

The Facebook Cambridge Analytica personality test is about culturally defined qualities which are reduced to five dimensions: see “THE FIVE NODE PERSONALITY GIZMO”, posted on 4-2-18, on this blog.  The claim is that these are not only basic but also universal, rooted in the genome which is the buzz claim of the moment.  There are more than one of these little lists with different sources but they’re pretty much what your mother told you — if you were a sort of “middle American.”  Their version of success is often in a corporation context, our peak of success.

What they fail to point out is that cultures differ over place and time.  What might make you fit right in at one place can get you beat up in another.  Some cultures will punish non-conformity with death.  Ours only puts you in prison for the rest of your life for something trivial like marijuana use — unless you’re white.

The same devolution into some simple quiz suitable for magazines applies to all the professions but perhaps none more than any other to the mental health field, poorly understood and monitored because it is new, developing, informed by new technical research, and vulnerable to globalization — that is, a Chinese person in China will have a kind of mental health different from that of an American, and in fact, Americans themselves can differ from each other in radical ways.  Some have suggested that our ecologies are so different that we should be administered separately by regions.  States already do that to some degree.

The categories that are “diagnostic” are mostly based on “ways these people are not what we authorities want them to be.”  An astute article is at this website:  http://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/40036/1/bpd-borderline-personality-disorder-diagnosis-label  The subject is getting rid of the diagnostic category called “borderline personality” which — since I had it applied to me — I’ve done a good bit of reading about.  I conclude it really means “neither here nor there” which I consider a good thing.

Quotes:  “It’s all about where we locate the problem: within the individual or within society.  . . . we believe that it is largely caused by trauma, and by the dysfunctional society we live in.  It’s another way of saying we see capitalism as a powerful contributing factor as the cause of mental distress.”

“One prominent group, Recovery in the Bin, say they are “fed up with the way co-opted ‘recovery’ is being used to discipline and control those who are trying to deal with their mental distress.

Those who fight this constant pressure to conform might be defined as harboring ODD — Obstructive Defiance Disorder.  This cannot be easily separated from someone with something organic keeping them from making good decisions, like a pre-frontal-lobe executive disorder of the brain, or someone trapped in a situation they can’t escape, like a person whose nature doesn’t fit the culture where the individual is stranded.  Maybe a gay person in a hetero monogamous marriage but can’t bear to hurt their partner or maybe a thoughtful person in a job that won’t let them have time or space to think.  Or in solitary confinement.

“Borderline personality” is often called a junk category, meaning that it can’t be defined, but authorities don’t like vagueness.  “The decontexualization of any form of mental illness is always a political act” say some experts, but if they say you’re crazy, it doesn’t simply mean that if you were in the right culture, you’d be sane.  You might need a tighter grip on reality.  Some say mental states should never be diagnosed, but that overlooks the need to have some way to code in order to qualify for insurance or disability.

An organization called the Mental Health Resistance Network offered many quotes, including this one:  “More and more, we are seeing conformity and compliance to a particular way of life, one that furthers the political agenda of free market, as being the goal of mental health treatment.  This must be challenged.  We don’t exist to serve an ideologically driven economy.  Our politics and economy should exist to serve us.

A computer driven economy tempts people to confide many things to the glass screen than are indiscreet.  Sometimes this is necessary, like sending online for meds for something stigmatized or pointing to vulnerability.  Other times details betray personality traits or culture confinements that are no one’s business, but that same push to share is a valuable way of understanding and relieving the pressure.

Decades ago I was defined as having a “borderline personality,” so I’ve been alert to thought about the category.  (In one counselling circle for ministers, both of the two professional PhD level leaders had been defined as “border personalities.)  Cambridge Analytica (Bannon thought up the name which he thought sounded impressive) has a category in their quiz called “neuroticism.”  Educated people who have their scores explained to them always object to this word.  They want to be “well-adjusted,” attuned to the culture of their education which endorses stability, predictability — as though that indicated sanity.  What makes me fall into the borderline category is simply that I have a mix of characteristics that comes from a wide range of experiences, some working class and others professional.  I AM on the border, but it’s between alternatives, not between in and out.  Luckily, since I have a fairly solid history of success and praise, I can ignore the judgment. 

I’ve become a fan of Christopher Wylie, the guy with pink hair and a nose ring, who explained how Cambridge Analytics spoofed Steve Bannon, knowing that he’s an affronted white man with a self-image asserting that he’s educated.  CA had a fake office and if Bannon were around they brought in university types to endorse the illusion.  Nx, the owner/inventor of CA, also fancied himself an intellectual.

This vid is Wylie testifying.

One of Bannon’s ideas was that politics is essentially war and should be pursued in that way.  He proposed that to get hold of politics, one must change the people and the culture, which is done by breaking it, killing what exists by fragmenting it, which is easy in a big various country.

I have another advantage that also qualifies me as having a “borderline personality.”  My core method is theatre, the analysis of a portrayed specific culture, by acting out a certain type of person who is shaped by that culture and also helps to make the culture what it is.  I take religious “performance” on Sunday mornings to be the same thing as opera on Saturday night, a category of theatre.  “Borderline” means being able to look at both sides now.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

WHAT WAS CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA'S SECRET?

This what you read to get yourself centered and started.


There two big components to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, neither of which is really very well understood.  One is the personality test that Facebook promoted and that is the source of one part, the idea that a personality test is a magic route to reality ad control. 

The other part is the idea of scraping data, extracting from a mass of scores some kind of insight to be used for manipulation.  This common strategy is the source of my doctor’s judgement of how much metformin I should take for my diabetes.  it’s not about my particular and unique body, but rather comes from studies that add up the scores from a lot of people (probably white male college students) and then looking to see who among them had the best outcomes.  It’s currently estimated that there are four different causes of “diabetes two”, not all of which are properly treated the same way.  But the idea that there is a “typical” treatment, derived from averaging, means I’m getting generic advice.  It turns out that what works for one, doesn't work for another.


Consider the enormous data base that is recorded by grocery cashiers and sent to some mysterious entity which compiles it all “for inventory” which is how the store knows to give you coupons and other encouragement to buy things.  Also, consider a store that accepts checks which are instantly investigated online so that if you have enough money to cover the the purchases, the money is quickly removed before anyone else can claim it.  That database now has all your banking information.  Same with ATM’s.  It is not limited by privacy considerations.

It might not seem that food tells anyone anything, but suppose you’re buying Mexican food, or what our culture considers Mexican food (beans and tortillas).  Political preferences can be derived from what you eat.  (Although I’ve never understood why educated white people have a preference for Thai food.  Also, I've never understood why a taste for fish eggs is a sign of elitism (caviar).)

Food, like politics, is part of how we live.  In a mercantile culture how we dress, arrange our housing, and so on are all both merchandizing opportunities and what we call politics, our ideas about what government should do so we can buy more.  Our “material culture” — our buying habits — become stand-ins for our “personalities,” so that someone who sees that you eat a lot of frybread can assume that you’re “Native American” and attribute to you a lot of whatever they think are NA traits, and how you are likely to vote, what you value, what flash-points you might have.

Now let’s spend time on personality tests.  Of course, you already know about Myers-Briggs, a little four-letter system derived from Jung that turns out to be a great pickup gimmick, better than horoscopes.  (I’m an INTP but as a result I avoid singles bars.)  

More seriously, there is the MMPI — the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.  The mysterious person who anonymously makes entries in Wikipedia says,  “The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a standardized psychometric test of adult personality and psychopathology. Psychologists and other mental health professionals use various versions of the MMPI to help develop treatment plans; assist with differential diagnosis; help answer legal questions (forensic psychology); screen job candidates during the personnel selection process; or as part of a therapeutic assessment procedure.”

The Unitarian Universalist Association, a "religious" denomination, used this instrument to decide whether persons should aspire to be future ministers.  The director of aspiring ministers at the time I aspired, David Pohl, told me it was faulty but the best thing they had at the time. (1978)  Also, a candidate was supposed to be interviewed by a psychologist, but two of them told me they were NOT religious and had no concept of  what made a good clergyperson.  Their ideas came from pop culture and  were carried into the denominations that are supposed to use intelligence, experience and meaning to figure out what works.

We resort to polls.  All the UU’s were asked to decide whether they are theist, atheist, pantheistic, and so on.  Of course, it’s clear that the person who is asking the questions finds “theism” to be central, which leaves out all the members who do not, finding public service or mystic experience or simply friendship as the center of their self-identification.

Politically, we also use polls to determine how people consider themselves to be affiliated, though since so many fail to vote, it doesn’t work universally to interview people as they come out of the voting location.  And our political parties are much split now, far more than halved by party or in thirds, if you include the independents.  I would like to see a personality test that somehow sorted people according to what makes them vote.  I think we assume they are poor and dark.

Some people say it is not the content of the test, but rather the ability of computers to sort categories “granularly” — into small subtypes according to whatever evidence is in the base.  We’re in favor of granularity.  If you put one kind of toothpaste on the store shelf, you will sell a certain number of tubes.  If you present five kinds of toothpaste (separated by reputation for mintyness, brightness, tartar removal, what pretty girls buy, and cheapest) you will not sell five times as many tubes, but will sell more than if there is only one kind.  We like choosing.

Some political strategists settle for simply suppressing all votes from categories of people who are not likely to vote for their candidate.  The test that will count will be the one that identifies people who hate your candidate and easily lose faith in voting anyway.  This last election favored populism and fearfulness.  That probably means poor, dark people.  But you can’t ask, “are you poor and dark?”  So you ask, “what do you drive?”  If they don’t own a car or drive an old cheap model, they might be poor and dark.

The whole idea of a personality test/culture test/personality test/material-culture test is that we are what we own, what we do when we choose.  It’s not magic — in fact, it’s simply stereotyping, very effective except when what is sorted is people who don’t think or don’t vote, no matter how granular they are.

This is the test used by Cambridge Analytica.  
You will see that a high score is supposed to mean you are happy and will live a long time, based on five qualities.  Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  These are the qualities that make Michigan State University researchers get along well.  It's their culture.  I'm guessing they're prosperous and white.  There's much more to say.


(I took the online Facebook personality test -- it said I was an INTP.  We were not in a bar.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

NEITHER JACK NOR JESUS

Ivanka Trump

What does the Illegitimate President’s daughter wear to massacre?  The same thing she wore to the unnecessary but family-serving move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, connected to and triggering the spectacle of double amputees in wheelchairs throwing stones in slings at Israeli soldiers who were shooting military guns at legs and gassing babies.  I remember when Israel was invented out of compassion after WWII, an event that consisted of such confrontations of the poor and desperate manipulated by the sleek, plump and privileged.  The President’s daughter evidently has botoxed her face into that impassive doll’s mask and implanted her chest in imitation of overbred meat chickens with so much white meat that they are in danger of falling on their faces.

Meanwhile Trump was more than hinting that he intended to order the bombing of any country that disagreed with him, so far sparing only Antarctica.  At 3AM the cats and I startled awake because I dreamt that we’d all been microchipped, an idea triggered by a socially conscious but fictional TV series tale that I had not quite watched to resolution which is why it stuck in my head.  The image of the bloody chip in the gloved hand of the mortician stayed with me.

Meanwhile, according to Ozy Presidential brief, the Trump administration admitted it had "lost track of 1,500 undocumented children, about 20 percent, during a three-month period in 2017.”  They had been removed from their illegal immigrant parents.  Now they will be put into warehouses where I suppose they could be microchipped.  Also, the Pentagon’s budget cannot account for the whereabouts of millions of dollars, but unfortunately money cannot be microchipped.

In the meantime, a spy was arrested for child pornography (evidently considered worse) and in other news put into the same story -- as though it were equivalent -- a WWII child, Anne Frank, was revealed to have put dirty jokes in her diary.  I assume the jokes are neither GLBTX nor S/M in the sexual sense, though aspects of her life could be fitted into the categories — hiding in a warehouse, dying in a concentration camp.  Nevermind — in other news sports betting is now nationally legal and someone is bound to get rich.

There’s more news, but it’s about excrement (the American Gut Project) and is liable to get me banned from social media.  So far the main insight of this study is about antibiotics acquired from eating livestock.  (Not a good thing.)  Ramadan (a festival) does not address the issue of this kind of meat when halal (permitted) foods are defined, because when the festival was developed, antibiotics were not.

Recreational ancestor DNA genome testing may reveal surprising and maybe inconvenient things, like the serial killer just tracked down through the computer analysis of all his relatives.  Myself so far, without lab testing, I hear only evidence in old files about sea captains, alcoholics, and women who died in childbirth.  There are a madman and a poet, but neither is an ancestor — just married in.

Twitter is upset because people are mean and Twitter might ban my friend who writes poems and illustrates them, all about the same things that vid makers portray, but in real life where boys routinely get hurt over drugs and cars.  Twitter doesn’t want me to say “sex.”  Twitter wants to be like high school clubs, featuring things like collecting stamps and raising rabbits but not for food.  

We are supposed to send in our smiling faces but we can’t have the copyright.  (Faces are like signatures — you can be traced.)  There is a program for “following” which is not quite the same as “stalking,” though I don’t understand the difference.

Meanwhile, following multiple allegations of millions paid for nothing though many promises of inside information were made, dozens of old white male lawyers decided to spend more time with their families who were not in Washington, D.C., but can such people ever go home again?  Maybe they should go with their money to a pretty island.  The ocean is rising but maybe not fast enough to drown their paradise before they die.

Everything since the last presidential election has been paradoxically too fast and too slow.  The misbehavior that was so obvious at first has become a spreading business-as-usual and nation-destroying rot that is worldwide.  The secret high classes of major countries — Russia, China — and “sand” countries that happen to be located over oil have set out to distort the planet in their favor.  They are succeeding.

So now what?  We’re scrabbling around to find out.  Some are accumulating a data bank of documented affronts because this is how our Rule of Law idea was supposed to work.  It has to be secret to be successful but the whole premise is that everything should be known.  After the spectacle of watching authorities in their boasting plain sight pull off deals that are clearly illegal, we stand staring and disapproving but do nothing.  (The bigshots own the newspapers.)  These people are off their heads, plainly insane.  So?

It can’t always be that they were bribed or even that they benefit from the violation of laws, but that does seem to be the case.  They are convinced of fantasies, but so what?  Earlier they had the idea that joining a megachurch would make them rich.  They can’t handle the truth.  On the other hand, maybe the truth is unknowable.

A few basic paper tricks need to be reversed.  The crazy idea that a business can be a “person” is not just wrong-headed — it is psychosis.  The conviction that share-holders will be more compassionate and responsible than are captains of industry is ridiculous.  The belief that military officers are more valuing of democracy than ordinary citizens is also ridiculous — their lives are hierarchy, obedience without question, though they are often sane in spite of this notion.

We’ve been in love with sin, wanting satin sheets and champagne though that will not get the kitchen floor mopped.  We want fast black cars with blacked-out windows but never think about how to survive a car crash in flames.  We might just as well fantasize about giants and bean stalks.  There is neither Jack nor Jesus.  We either create a better world ourselves or we suffer the consequences.  The world has given parameters.  If we exceed them, borrow from what doesn’t exist, we’re gone, over.


The President’s daughter wears a cream-colored suit with a flowing skirt.  If in the future she can’t afford botox, her face will collapse; if she can't get to a beautician her hair will be dark and probably short.   If things go wrong with her breast implants she risks poisoning, twisted shapes, infection, pain/loss of feeling, and the pressing need for their surgical removal.  Just sayin’.  Then there’s the teeth . . . and the husband who is a tool of sheiks.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

GOD WAS DOING OPERA SOMEWHERE ELSE

Though I wrote a book about another person (“Bronze Inside and Out”) and though I write bits here and there about other persons, I do much more thinking about the dilemmas of actually producing something more than doing it.  Some subjects are alive and likely to not agree with my ideas, much less what the content might be.  Yet, in our world, one’s reputation as presented in a book is a route to being at least “known” in one sense and they want that.  Except right now our standards are journalistic — maybe “yellow” journalism — rather than literary, which strives for something a little more “true” or at least useful rather than sensational.

We are in a state of shock at the huge gap between the persona we thought we elected and the degenerate who is in the office.  Why weren’t the incredibly corrupt and self-serving acts of this man presented by the journalists BEFORE the election?  And why do Trump admirers persist?  Why do they attribute heinous crimes to Obama and Clinton, the most impossibly deviant things they can think of?  I’m talking about intelligent responsible local people.  But then, they elected a faintly Trumpish person to be our sheriff, a role in charge of our bodies and properties.  I don’t get it.

There are precedents and explanations, things like the belief that voting doesn’t matter, that it’s all pre-ordained, that politics will eat your life, that everyone is rotten to the core — except oneself, of course.  It has convinced me that the only way to write honestly about people I once thought I could truly “explain” and thus wipe away false accusations is to do it as fiction.  That is, tell the truth slantwise, disguised.  Publishers won’t mind so long as it sells, which is where the false accusations came from in the first place.

I’ll talk rather openly about my own experience with a man now dead to whom I was married.  Born in 1914, produced by a white Quebecquois family on the reservation of a once powerful tribe, he was confused about his identity.  His focus was music, locally admired by everyone in the form of “band” music, the “Music Man” kind, a bourgeois frontier focus with lots of brass, a strong beat, suitable for marching, close to military but also the circus, the rodeo, stirring stuff that brought people together.

Strangely, he also appreciated and could sing Blackfeet songs, falsetto with a heartbeat rhythm sustaining a strict form of repetition and pattern.  He knew animals, the main focus, and he knew the People because he grew up with them as his caretakers, his familiar neighborhood characters, and his classmates.

When he went away to a fine music school, Vandercook School of Music in Chicago, he discovered the “North Side” where the big name jazz bands, mostly black, created a world of freeform music.  When he came back, he ran a little dance ensemble in clubs along the HighLine.  Late at night, unwinding at the piano, he used a “cheat book” that illicitly contained the theme and chording of pop music.

The difference in our ages meant that I couldn’t appreciate his music.  It was a language I couldn’t speak.  But also I didn’t see the local people the way he did — I didn’t assume, I was always analyzing and reflecting, willing to look at new ideas.  I had come directly from the humanities at that big university in Chicago.  Our overlap was in the Field Museum where we both loved Malvina Hoffman, the sculptor, and all the animals.

I joined him just as he was pulling away from taxidermy he had come to through the fabulous dioramas of the museum, the ones with real but re-created animals.  I made him my center and measurement, which forced me to do major physical exploits like hunting horseback in the Rockies, building a bronze casting foundry, and entertaining fancy people who might be customers.  All the time I was meaning to eventually leave, reflecting on what happened, counting on him to save me.

This was the Sixties.  We acquired a commission from a rich lady near San Francisco and drove through the hippie community, which Bob mocked and I wanted to join.  We came back up the coast to please me and were nearly killed by logging trucks on the foggy narrow roads through wilderness.  The rich lady asked him to come back to do something new, but instructed him to leave me behind.  She was married but enjoyed controlling artists.

How can I write about such intricate and foreign situations, which I didn’t share or quite understand, in a way that is worthwhile and that people want to read?  I collected stories, funny ones and scary ones.  So did the locals and some of theirs were lies.  Others were true and terrifying but they didn’t tell me until after the book came out and they wanted to make me see that they knew better.  “Why is so much of your books about YOU?” they asked.  Some wanted the story to be more damning and others wanted to make him into a big hero so it would impress their friends when they bragged about knowing him.  A novelist made him into a character, fantasized from memories as a small boy.

I left.  I read literary theory which was fascinating but didn’t teach me much about writing.  I attended carefully to the Portland, Oregon, community of writers based on in-person bookstore readings and gradually realized they were the same people as the Montana "book" community in Missoula with the same circular ideas.  But members of the Native American writing Renaissance came to read.  I talked to some of them — they were all quite different from each other.  I told them that my former partner grew up with James Welch’s father (also named James Welch) as a playmate but they were not impressed.  I didn’t write anything.

Then there was seminary and the University of Chicago at a time when the big French post-modern thinkers were just beginning to be understood in the US, though some worthy people thought they could NOT be understood.  The practical ministry stuff turned out to be quite different than what I thought I understood.  Once the curtain was drawn aside, the stage was almost empty — to my eyes.  God was doing opera somewhere else.


So I sat in the orchestra pit, side-by-side with tribal people, distinguished professors, wacky former students, maybe a grizzly bear, and . . .  how did my mother get in here?  How can I make them into beautiful and terrifying writing?  It will have to be fantasy in order to be real.  And I have a feeling they’ll all fight me to make them look better.