Sunday, July 29, 2012
WHEN CONAN ISN'T ENOUGH
This past week’s postings had me bumping into some crucial issues. Mostly they were about the nature of authority and their efficacy in protecting the vulnerable. Our authority has been based on wealth and the wealth has come from victimizing the vulnerable. When there are enough vulnerable individuals to create a critical mass, the correction for this is often violence.
I’ve been kidding around about Conan. Dmitry Orlov’s takedown of the figure (see above url) was posted by someone anonymous as a comment. It is strong enough to deserve a separate post. Orlov is a known and respected survivalist, born the first year I taught in Browning (1962) which was both a time and a place that believed deeply in this pattern and has not really left it until recently when women were elected to the Tribal Council, one of them in a wheelchair. This pattern is threefold.
Below are quotes which I have edited to remove the pejorative, even contemptuous tone of Orlov’s comments. (He seems to think vulnerables are simply weak.) I agree with the concepts but not the contempt. If we don’t honor our animal origins, we will tear ourselves apart.
1. “. . . the spontaneous development of a warrior mentality—a cultural universal marked by a desire to prove oneself in battle, contempt for death, and a tendency toward what Emile Durkheim called “altruistic suicide.”
“The pattern is the same among Homeric heroes, Mongol conquerers, Japanese samurai, European knights of the age of chivalry or Moscow's bandits and racketeers during the violent 1990s. Meaning is created out of meaninglessness through heroic acts of violence performed in keeping with a code of honor.”
2. “ . . . those who feel themselves to be weak and vulnerable.. . . find and cling to a strong . . . father figure. . . . [This] helps to reduce the anxiety that is born of helplessness and alienation.
3.”. . .[an idea] that predominantly affects women: the impulse to ingratiate oneself into an imaginary group of superior individuals as a beta-female . . . in order to gain a sense of belonging. It manifests itself in the expectation of the emergence of something wonderful yet unborn.”
Compare and contrast this with the story in the New Testament (use the Jefferson version so you won’t be distracted by miracles) or with Joe Campbell’s version of the hero cycle, in which the excluded person leaves, achieves, grows, and returns to benefit his community. What’s missing from this 3 part account is compassion for the vulnerable, particularly those on the growing edge: children, artists, outliers, and the “Other.” These are sources of renewal which over time will inevitably dismantle the status quo.
Another part of the story that’s missing here, that Orlov would know if he were a hunter or rancher, is that young male animals go apart into their own society to strive against each other for worthiness. THEN they can claim the right to reproduce and start a new order. And for horses, at least, there is always a double leadership: the wise old mare who knows where the water is, who knows where to lead the herd while the stud horse is busy fighting. But we are more than animals and our protection of the vulnerable is more than instinct.
This morning I was vulnerable. I went out, half-asleep, to water the tomatoes and while the sprinkler was working, I took shears to the invasive alfalfa, big tangling invasive stuff. People use poison on it, but I find that ill-advised, so I cut the plants back by hand. This time the tough stems tangled in my clumsy rubber shoes and pitched me on my face in the alley. Now I look like a Cinematheque kid who’s taken a face-plant in a skateboard wipeout, except dirtier -- they tend to fall on cement but I went down in the dust. Eat dirt, bitch! Right. Revenge of the Alfalfa.
Should we ban alfalfa? Should we force me to spend my grub money on someone to get this yard in proper shape? Should we make me leave this house and go back to living in an apartment where it’s “safe?” Should I just ignore the alfalfa and let it do its thing? Authority generally responds to vulnerability with restrictions or exclusion.
It was hardly a mass shooting. It didn’t even break my glasses, thank -- um -- Fate. I was already quite aware of my vulnerability. I accept it. I do all the mitigation I can, and then just take the lumps, as do the boy skateboarders.
Now media attention is shifting from James Holmes, the dangerous shooter, and moving to the authority that was supposed to protect the community: Dr. Lynne Fenton, Holmes’ psychiatrist. Her resumé is already under fire. She was not just a therapist, but also the medical director of the Student Mental Health Services. According to an AP report, in 2004 she was disciplined for prescribing Xanax for herself when her mother was dying, and again for prescribing Ambien and Claritin for her husband and pain killers for an employee with headaches. She was an acupuncturist with the U.S. Air Force in Texas before changing jobs to Colorado.
More damning, if true, is that an acupuncturist in Colorado in 1998 named Lynne Fenton in a Denver Post discussed how acupuncture could be used to “enhance women’s busts.” She’s quite a pretty woman, which may or may not be relevant.
Given the reputation of the Air Force and the University of Colorado (ask Ward Churchill), the behind-the-scenes scenario I suspect is that the authorities were not too particular about the qualifications for running the Student Mental Health Services (serving vulnerable kids) and that she is one of those touchie-feelies who never sees catastrophe until a burning piano falls on their head. Now who’s vulnerable? Who’s going to pay the price when the University is sued? Orlov might say this silly Beta cow should never have tried to be an Alpha shrink, which is a job for a man who can carry authority and make decisions. Others will say Student Health Services are for people with bad colds and nutcases should automatically be thrown out.
Is it James Holmes who has schizophrenia, or is it US? Was Fenton really seeing James as he was, or was she indulging in the fantasy of the Great Healer? Is that a Catwoman mask under the desk?