I’m confronted by two problems, one a problem of what to do with my blogging as a form of publication and the other is a problem of the content that I present on this blog space. I’ve been using blogspot ( my computer insists on changing it to the word to “bloodspot” and I’m tempted to make something out of that, but it would not be about the evidence of a murder -- which is a MAJOR temptation -- but rather about circulation, getting ideas out there to people who care about them. I don't write about sex out of porn-mind, but because it is a fascinating human drive that is being changed swiftly and radically by the invention of things like the Pill for contraception, the pill to turn on male performance, the laws about marriage, children, and thus property ownership, and even the nature of sexual identity. Doctors have always known that some children are born intra-sex -- not quite one and not quite the other. It's not just autism that's a spectrum. Maybe nothing is truly dyadic. We go from taboo to parody to camp to accommodation.
The other problem is that of content. It’s clear to me that my idea-life has been an entwining of economics and empathy (jobs and affinities), going back to my beginnings as a human being and proceeding through my experience, predilections and education ever since. That is, I was very attached to the world of natural history and the world of books from early on. Then I went to dramatics which instilled me with the Antigone principle, which is that it is better to lose your life (like a soldier) in order to risk defending what is good and true (as well as you can know it and even if that puts you in danger) than to conform. This was not the principle of any church I attended. It was the ethic of the theatre people I tried acting with.
Then I went to the Blackfeet Reservation where survival was always in question, partly from self-destruction. As well as teaching, I worked alongside them, learned their physical world -- this high prairie -- and shared much. Then I had to return to Portland, my home town, where as a county deputy specializing in animal problems I went from house to house in all of SE Portland, seeing other lives in situ. That included all the animals and everyone’s “habitat.” I found the Unitarian Universalist Association which purported to represent the Antigone principle, and thought it did, but it did not. I went to the U of Chicago Div School hoping to find out what I was missing, but I didn’t find it there -- just better ways to think about Antigone.
Back to Portland where my family was ending, leaving me with a huge set of records of all this stuff. By now I’m post-family, post-religion, post-institutions of all kinds. But I have the Internet and time, Beautiful Time, to process it all. I don't know how much time.
In a small town I can see that capitalism is deforming to both place and person. What comes after capitalism? My father, with roots in the great prairie revolution on both sides of the American/Canadian border, committed his life to the cooperative movement. That meshed with Rodale’s thinking about how to live: ecology, simplicity and localism driven in by the Great Depression. This in turn leads into one part of the 1970’s idealistic refocusing of living in communes, growing one’s own food, giving the arts high value. There is another branch that resents all authoritarianism, mocks all definitions of sin, and explores boundarylessness. I never got into it and, in fact, those folks won’t have me. I just don’t have the chops for the dark side of the street. But I do have a lot of empathy for it. I do not find them valueless.
So I’ve been thinking these order-making things have been kind of exhausted: churches, rural life, cooperatives, and capitalism. As capitalism becomes less practical (too many people are thrown out of their lives onto the streets), I become more distressed. The liberal movements I know (which are all rooted in economic well-being and high education) become more irrelevant and almost punishing, though their t-shirts proclaim “love.” Their idea of justice is entitlement. “I have a right to . . .” fill in the blank. They are only interested in lesser beings they can patronize and "help."
So this morning, still obsessing about what I’m discovering about Social Media, which is that consumers are only high school writ large, I stumble onto Jeremy Rifkin. Specifically, this vid.
The story begins with empathy, the capacity to feel what others are feeling -- maybe a little more faintly, but truly in the brain cells. (I’ve been riveted by the research on mirror cells, identity, memory, and what Stanislavski -- way back in my late Fifty’s acting training -- called “the Method.”) Says Rifkin, this gives rise to the drive to belong -- which is surely what held me with that theatre cohort -- which then begins to question the nature of one’s self, unless you’re playing by small town high school rules, which means you look around for the richest, prettiest, most successful people and do your best to be just like them. It’s tribal.
And that means solidarity, like joining a church and marching for causes wearing your t-shirt, and always insisting that you and your tribe are the BEST, NUMBER ONE. The person survives the humbling experience of leaving home only to discover that there are thousands and millions of others just as good as you and maybe better. The local kids tend to come home at that point. Or maybe one attaches to a survivor, or one looks around for some way to stun oneself into submission: sex, booze, drugs, television . . .
If you do NOT do that, you may find yourself empathizing with others, maybe through the arts: music, painting, film, books. If education has not espaliered you into robotic usefulness and if you are lucky enough to land in a job where empathy is rewarded instead of suppressed, you will become civilized, a member of Rifkin’s new race: Homo Empaticus.
Where Rifkin goes wrong, which may only be strategic on his part, is in thinking that religion will encourage a shift to a far larger understanding of your short and fragile life as one strand in a fabulous tapestry of existence. In my experience, based on the Antigone Principle, the institution of “church” is the cave where Creon walls up Antigone to die. Church is just another aspect of capitalistic capture, though they vary across a spectrum. Schools, also, pursue the same ends. I receive a constant barrage of pleas for money though I am a penniless, solitary old woman in a house so valueless that I hardly pay taxes, because it is assumed that they opened the door to wealth -- they can't grasp that I might not choose to go through. The local schools teach kids to obey, their school boards constantly de-fund everything that’s artistic, speculative, edgy and put ever more money into sports that literally de-brain them and destroy their knees. Sports is their religion: their icons, self-worth, moral principles. Win. Win. Win. Not for the boys. For the big-bellies in the offices.
Empathically, I understand that this is an expression of fear, isolation, and constricting tribalism (of any color) including allegiance to genetic family. Around here we still believe in race and inheritance. We think we are Roundup Ready and that when the ultimate domination (Winter is coming!) finally catches up with us, we can only be safe in a bunker with all the best people.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcPWU59Luoc Here’s an antidote. Or is it? Isn’t this just another bunker? Rather splendid, though.