Friday, May 30, 2014


Kevin Spacey, "Ordinary Decent Criminal"

“Dance-away Transgressors” are people who might be simply pests and might be terrorists but are always tricksters.  I just watched “Ordinary Decent Criminal” in which Kevin Spacey is an Irish example -- not NRA, not Garda, but just a clever guy who gets away with  theft .  A fellow needs to feed his family, after all.  The roots of this role go back into the primates, who mostly trick each other for food or sex.  Robin Hood is an English version. Brer Rabbit comes from Africa.  Napi and other prairie tricksters closely related to Coyote come from around here -- Napi is a Blackfeet word.  There’s been one in every seventh grade class I’ve ever taught.  Usually, but not always, a boy.  Some of them are grandparents now and have turned out fine: high energy, good sense of humor, ability to connect with others like themselves, creative thinkers.

Brer Rabbit, dance-away trickster

Transgressors who dance-away are the little guys, not the 500 pound gorillas who sleep where they want to.  Transgressors use their wits rather than their muscles.  Think Judo.  Think a million-zillion movies.  Think frontier bandits. Think the underdog-always-wins if he or she is tricky enough.  Think abused runaway kids.  At first they get the label “transgressor” which is the same as “bad boy.”  Because they were beaten or humiliated they learned how to land a counter-punch, dancing away just in time.  Because their abusers were often not so much malicious as out-of-control (drunk, high, fubar brain wiring), they’re easy to evade and even control -- up to a point.  They pass out, don't they?

People who wish to do needy and hurt kids some good -- to help them -- are often frustrated because they are employed people who are controlled by their salaries and who cope with kids by controlling them any way they can. That sets off alarm bells in a dance-away transgressor. You have to go to their terms, to empower them.  It’s not a matter of money.  It’s not a matter of explaining to them that  they are being bad and hurting themselves.  They already know that.  

Most do-gooders are operating with the backing of some institution, which means a hierarchy, which means that the front-line do-gooders are also being controlled -- by people who want results because their jobs depend upon them.  Dance-away transgressive kids then become liable to force, confinement, misguided operant conditioning, secret threats, and other abusive practices.  The supervisors of the frontline people may allow serious violence: drugs, restraint chairs, tasers, stock prods, sexual favors -- all the things we hear about at Guantanamo -- all the while hiding those practices.  The people who raise money for the institution would not like publicity about such practices, but they aren't there, so it's easy to pretend they don't know.

When I was a toddler, the cynical old lady next door advised my mother to “break that one early or you’ll never be able to do it.”  Where are the toddler-whisperers?  Aren’t toddlers mammals, too?   We break horses and children.  That approach sometimes creates a killer horse.  Or a zombie horse.

Do-gooders always think its about money because it is.  Christopher Hitchen’s criticism of Mother Theresa was that all the time she was lovingly carrying babies and saying kind things to dying people, she had enough money stashed away to pay for food and medicines but never used it.  She was NOT a dance-away transgressor.  She was a stubborn do-gooder who didn’t want to lose her role, her image of herself, or her absolute control.  The obsession with control is what leads to sexual abuse of children by institutional religious workers.  And others.  Esp. the ones who are “broken” in both senses.

Being a dance-away transgressor is a culture, a role in a complex of cultures, a way for the little guy to survive when the larger culture is greedhead hoarding and ostentatious displays of power.  It’s not always a conscious choice.  Sometimes it’s just a revulsion against the way things stack up, a necessity for emotional survival.  Transgressors can be as stubborn as do-gooders.  If a dance-away is caught and punished -- as they usually are when the enforcers of the status quo are lucky and circumstances create a trap (say, a disease that makes them dependent on help) -- they just learn from it and go right on.  For every set of bars there is a set of spaces between them.  Even if that space is a death dance, feet moving in the air beneath a suspended body.

James Bond is a dance-away transgressor, but he acts in the interest of the government.  A case can be made that the American Indian tribes taught the Revolutionaries how to win the war against the British Empire because they fought as dance-away transgressors (guerrillas).  The case is also made that the Ulster Scots have been the element of success in most American military conflicts, to argue that their history -- thrown off their land, forced to emigrate, living on margins and borders, surviving famine and disease -- has taught them to be dance-away transgressors, living in remote places, hideouts.  But James Bond has no dependents, no ties but his employer, no intimacies -- just sex.  That’s one price for being a dance-away.   The pretense is that he is a "good" transgressor and necessary because the really bad transgressors keep dancing away.  They are always one bad guy -- break him and the problem is solved.  Fantasy.

James Bond, alcoholic

Contemporary boys get thrown out of their homes, escape from schools, work their way north across international borders, live in the interstices of the cities any way they can.  They teach us not to see them.  What James Bond knows that even the Kevin Spacey character didn’t quite grasp, is that if a dance-away transgressor has intimates, those people can be punished.  So the trafficker doesn’t threaten to kill the kid -- he threatens to kill his best friend or maybe his family back in Ecuador.  Then it is very hard to dance away.  Pimps learn not to hurt offending girls, but to hurt her best friend and make her watch.  Script writers picked up on that idea so quickly that it implies they already knew the pattern in their own lives.

At the heart of the dance-away lover paradigm is fear of capture or fear that intimacy (falling in love, believing in a family) will only break your heart in the end.  Or that people will find out what you’re really like.  Or that they will demand that you change in some unbearable way -- maybe get rid of your dog.  Proving to such a boy that such a thing will not happen will take time -- maybe years.  Might never happen.  Might not be true anyway.

Tom and Huck in an unreleased movie

Huck Finn was a dance-away transgressor but so was Tom Sawyer.  The problem for a do-gooder is that they see the kids are suffering -- and it’s possible that they are.  But maybe to the kid it’s worth it to have the freedom, at least that’s what a lot of street kids say.  Do-gooders working for institutions don’t understand freedom.  Danceaway transgressors don’t understand healthy dependence (no experience). The other problem for do-gooder institutions is that street kids are vectors as surely as fleas on dogs.  They are contagious for everything from crabs to HIV.  And the consequences are expensive to society.

But the most contagious thing of all is attitude.  When humans lived in a small bands, the biggest, fiercest, best hunter guy made danceaway transgressors behave by forcing young males out, so that they formed their own bands and helped each other survive.  (I’m not just talking humans. Elk.  Horses.)  This was good for the survival of the group because the alpha male dominated the gene pool and presumably he had the survival genes.  So the group went along with it.

But surviving in modern society might best favor the dance-away transgressor, not the ones who avoid every intimacy or are afraid of being known, but the ones with attitude, the hunter-gatherers who find insight, beauty, meaning, alternatives.  The ones who are brave enough to run, but then can find ways to start new groups that don’t depend on money, hierarchy, control, violence.  No primate can dream of this -- only humans.

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