Friday, January 24, 2014


Living a solitary writing life is not a matter of being rolled up like a pillbug ignoring what goes on.  Rather, at least the way I do it, this is an arduous and tricky process of trying to reconcile a long and very mixed life into some kind of coherent understanding of what it all means.  What I’m getting at present is concentric circles, a swallowing black hole in the middle and then shadows (umbras) and shadows of shadows (penumbras) around them until there is finally light farthest out of all.  But also, I see pentimentos, images that come and go from underneath.

Partly it’s a matter of trying to process all this paper I’ve toted around for decades, believing it was worth something as a record.  Partly it’s because the world is now full of people trying to figure things out: war, sex, money, sex, disease, sex. . .  Partly because of the influence of people like Darrell Kipp, whose ideas goes on after his death on a scale he never really expected; like my eighth grade grammar teacher; like my undergrad acting professor; and of a lot of little kids, some whom are still little kids.  There are other charismatic influences, like Tim Barrus, whom I hate to mention because it makes him a target over and over, and Bob Scriver who needs no explanation.  (If you want one, buy the book:  “Bronze Inside and Out.”)

Another dynamic, fueled by the need to survive as individuals and species (which don’t always support each other) and shaped by the Big Picture of Everything Unfolding which is often too big and too subtle to comprehend (cosmic rays, climate change), constantly changes the terms of engagement.  It is these terms that can be changed by writing/images.  We call it “Raising Consciousness.”  It motivates the constant struggle to reform government, to find cures and energy sources, and to maintain intimate ties with beloved others.

One strand of this thinking about pecking orders and the issue of power gelled in Saskatoon.  The right wing clergy had been sending abused wives back to their husbands on grounds of Biblical authority.  The women were ending up in hospitals and morgues.  The social workers of the community organized a workshop for clergy to get them to see differently.  The irony was that the person who probably saw it most clearly was me, a liberal -- probably the most liberal clergy in town.  To the point where it scared my congregation, which mostly handled painful emotion with avoidance.

My realization was simply how much the congregation tried to control me -- somewhat innocently.  And the other side of that was how much I resented and was blinded by that effort to control.  And the black hole reached out in secrecy so that some of the issues couldn’t be addressed even with my confidential ministerial committee.  (The mistress of a major minister had been banished to Saskatoon.  The previous minister’s wife had had an affair with a local professor.  The single female ministers -- Christian -- in town lamented that no one would sleep with them.)  

So here’s another factor in this cats’ cradle:  behavior norming, which is set by the social circles that one knows best.  My cousin, who was raised by Depression homesteader standards (same as me), was challenged by re-calibrating to a group that dressed expensively, cooked gourmet meals, and lived in fine houses -- which was the circle her husband’s business served.  At retirement she reverted to her family baseline with relief.

But, interestingly, we three female cousins on that side live quite modest lives and yet love to read about the “upstairs” life: haut couture (which we translate to home sewing), reading and BBC series, family relationships, and so on.  I’m the most daring, partly because I was “re-normed” by the theatre department of the School of Speech -- not that I went on the stage, but that I saw life as worth risking and went to Browning, MT, where I was re-normed again on the boundary between the circle-the-wagons white community and the nothing-to-lose indigenous people.  Animal control, which means going from one house to another in bad neighborhoods, and ministry (don't ask -- I've already said more than is wise) both made me push out farther and farther from any norm.

James Flynn has become my hero in this enterprise because he so clearly describes the difference between simple social norming according to the people in the immediate environment  and complex analytical thinking that tries to bring up the pentimento from underneath.

I just watched a disturbing interview on YouTube -- it’s worse than sex between bedbugs though it is only talk.  It is faces of boys coming up from the bottom of quicksand, faces of systematically abused boys.  This video is coming from England, so everyone in Valier will feel safe, but it happens here as well.  Probably not so systematically and dramatically, but always a little dark tentacle wiggling along.  Denial of it simply makes space for it.  

Rooted in the need for power over someone weaker, such abuse starts in families where it is generally kept secret, though kids usually know.  Most abused children are exploited by family members and everyone knows that but would rather imagine shadows. 

Bill Mahoney

Let’s stick to talking about boys.  Suppose a boy is gay in a non-gay family.  Unless his family preserves his inclusion and protection, he re-norms himself to the others like him.  Their defense is often defiance but not always.  Famous artists are often driven by the re-norming to a new set of standards.  (Late breaking news about Lucian Freud.)  Being gay, even now that so many honorable and respectable people are out of the closet, is still a crime in backward countries.

But being gay is not the same thing as being a pedophile and even pedophilia is a various set of categories.  Adolescents, both male and female, will claim they have a right to their sexuality.  Both not to be forced into it and not to be prevented from it.  Toddlers will be sensual but not sexual, and normally the same will be true of primary school kids.  The law recognizes this but it’s very hard to line out legal norms with proper consequences.  

Another circle -- inside that one -- is the pedophilic organizations, child trafficking.  People as property.  And another one inside that is trafficking of images -- which the internet has exploded around the planet.  Everywhere is the inexhaustible supply of vulnerable kids.  We think of them as being off the street -- the ejecta of broken families -- but also efficient sources are any places kids are rounded up and detained, the notorious institutional caregivers that Bill Mahoney talks about.  Kids incarcerated.  By the time the practice has evolved that far, the big-time powermongers of corporations and governments begin to get involved, unable to resist such a potent marker of exemption from legal control.  

This is not pentimento but penitence.

And now we’re talking blackmail, a pinnacle of power, a pyramidal peak of control.  The individual is entirely ground under by a group with a deviant norm derived from what was originally society’s over-eager wish for success -- privilege as access to law-breaking sex.  Mahoney is dramatic, impassioned, and telling the truth IMHO, but the real roots of the problem are -- as Hannah Arendt put it -- in the banal.  The wish of ordinary people to be spared the necessity of even thinking about it, though it could be happening next door.

The lip of the black hole is condemnation and accusations such as those aimed at Mahoney for making this video.  (You’d better watch it quickly before it gets removed.)  The spinning vortex is the death of the youngsters, either due to disease and trauma, or because of snuff films -- the ultimate excitement.  You didn’t hear it here first.  

But the youngsters who do not die might grow up to be Bill Mahoney, and what are you going to do about it?  If your norm is safe prosperity, you might deny all this stuff, avoid it, eliminate the source.  The comments attacking him are stunning.  They will rebound. 

The Black Hole Wolf by t0xiceye

My norm is seeing, admitting, analyzing, dealing with it, taking risks.  A Valier citizen used to claim that black helicopters rose out of Lake Frances and stole kids.  He's dead now, but . . .

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