Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The Mayor mentioned, with concern, that many children are transferring out of the Valier schools to surrounding communities.  This means a loss of funding to the school, a major inconvenience to families who leave the school bus system, additional cost for gas aside from winter hazards, and general confusion in new classrooms.  Valier schools have always been considered a safe haven, a place to get a decent, middle-class, college-prep education.  What could “drive” such a thing?  The word is that it’s the prevalence of bullying.

Someone who is able to observe the kids away from the school notes that the kids are responding to media stories without really knowing what “bullying” is.  They mostly see it as being mean, saying resentful or critical things to each other.  Their model is stories about “online bullying” in which someone identified as a “loser” is mocked and accused until they become so intimidated and depressed that they commit suicide.

But observant people also note that the teachers themselves use bullying to control the kids.  It seems to be an attempt to break the conviction on the part of the kids that they know better than any adult, particularly any adult in authority.  They automatically resist any authority from cops to babysitters.  I’m hearing from clinics that nurses bully teens to make them comply with things they don’t like.  The answer on the part of institutions is to raise the level of control and force, like call in the cops.  

This can lead to a runaway — demonstrations, people in jail, and the voter defiance and extremism we’re suffering from now.  Over the decades and even over centuries, these forces can develop the deep-seated inequities and their resulting distrust that is left — for example — from the Civil War, internal citizen migrations (esp. from the south to the north for WWII wartime jobs and the Dust Bowl emptying into the Pacific Coast), and education differences.  All those sons (mostly) intended by their parents to be professionals for the sake of the prestige and security of a better life, left for university and never came back.  The urban/rural split is ever widening as technology responds to population thickness.

Valier is part of true and deep paradigm shift that will change the world in the next decades.  It splits apart the generations, far more now that the young are connected with each other online and media that pander to them.  The evidence they see, the values they have, are often very different from those only a few years older.  

Today’s “Sightings,” which monitors news about religion, is noting that the conservative seminaries are arbitrarily pitching out students and faculty that show the youngster markers of different attitudes: toleration of homosexuality, indifference to racial differences, acceptance of abortion and sex outside of the marriage, and the like.  The kids don’t see these things as issues; the adults in charge see them as deadly sins. Emptying of the pews is also emptying of the seminaries. 

The last time I saw a cultural paradigm shift that so drastically separated the horizontal layers of generations was when the Baby Boomers themselves began to come of age.  Somehow, the major breakthroughs of their teens and twenties (the Sixties and Seventies) have been pushed back — or maybe never really got to the corners of the world anyway.  It seems as though the zillions of workshops and seminars we’ve all sat through have been forgotten.

But since that last culture shift everything has changed even more deeply.  Trump defenders are asking why women are objecting to the man’s behavior now instead of then.  I remember why — it was the norm.  Even in 1991 a principal in the school where I was teaching felt entitled to insist that the lower level employees, young women, go on noontime “drives” with him.  We women faculty talked about it but didn’t understand what to do.  They weren't teachers.  Fate intervened with a killer heart attack.  

In the Seventies at Multnomah County Animal Control a pretty blonde shelter worker was “invited” to accompany the then director to spend a weekend at the beach with him.  He could NOT understand why this was not a welcome suggestion.  He was handsome, wealthy, her boss — where was the problem?  For him, it was Civil Service, but she always got the worst jobs and shifts until he left.

Those who wanted a new world — like that pill that erased worry about unwanted pregnancy — didn’t understand that it would change everything, like allowing women to own their own bodies, and then genetic testing would change everything again. (We know who you are, Pop, and the state wants maintenance money!)  And then the stigma that had restrained some men for fear of pregnancy caused a shift to using unconsciousness drugs and rear entry with condoms so they still could be anonymous, just like their grandfathers had been when they claimed it wasn’t them.  Girls who had considered themselves Vampire Slayers did not understand that if you take a boy into your room, into your bed, and sleep next to him, the result will be sex no matter the protest. We’re not talking short skirts.

So it is that often we’ll get to the point of realizing we need a new system — not warehousing the mentally ill, not throwing everyone in jail, and not maintaining a Procrustian education system (esp. the part that educates teachers to be entry level low-skill people).  Sometimes we even got far enough to dismantle and disperse the old system.  But we NEVER get far enough to compose the new system, even though everyone had great ideas about what we need.

Strangely, the top would mandate the new way, the bottom would clamour for the new way, but it is the middle management — people whose security is wedded to the old ways — who prevent change.  Change scares them.  To them, their authority rests on order and order is just another word for habit.  Change meant the evaporation of authority, because how do they even know what to aim for?

This has affected churches, universities, businesses, small town management, the entire human institutional infrastructure of culture.  The last time around ended the Vietnam War, prompted the War on Poverty, and gave us hard core rock n’ roll plus the realization that the old white God of privilege was dead.  It formed the Gay community into one of the most spectacular and then, necessarily and tragically, one of the most compassionate alliances we’ve ever seen.  My dearest friend (at least he’s dear to me) comes from that last paradigm shift.  Today he works to protect abused boys caught in this one.

Now young people have the Internet, transportation, pair-bonding with the protection of the pill, access to far more friendly information about the Other, and a media that goes for sensation and accusation — which they believe more than they believe their parents.  Assuming that they have parents.  Even the stigmatized and the oppressed are getting little glimpses of what they are excluded from.  It lights their fuses, if they live long enough to explode — not necessarily in good ways.  These times of turnover and opposition are always both peril and renewal.  But they are not a new phenomenon.

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