Tuesday, December 06, 2016



In the end (which might come rather soon) I may have a list of various histories of the world, the planet and the galaxy — each labeled with its entirely coherent bias, even though they flatly contradict each other and accumulate “facts” and “evidence” in quite different ways from different points of view.  This persistent difference is why the University of Chicago teaches students to announce their “method” at the beginning of an essay.  

Richard B. Spencer, whom I described as a white supremacist who defends the Nazi salute, is described in Wikipedia thus:

Wikipedia:  “Richard Bertrand Spencer (born May 11, 1978) is an American white nationalist, known for promoting white supremacist views.  He is president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think-tank, and Washington Summit Publishers, an independent publishing firm. Spencer has stated that he rejects the description of white supremacist, and describes himself as an identitarian.  Spencer and others have said that he created the term "alt-right", a term he considers a movement about white identity.”  He lives in Whitefish, which is on the west side of the Rockies.  I don’t go over there.

(Although Montana is looking white at the moment -- a cold front coming through -- the only truly white continent is Antarctica.  Unfortunately it has no country or indigenous people.  The Americas are normally earth-colored, as are its true people.)

Spencer holds an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago while my MA from the University of Chicago is in Religious Studies.  It’s important for each of us to claim our “method” because we come out in very different places.  For instance, the Identitarian movement is in Europe.  Spencer has enormous attachment to Europe, though he doesn’t live there.

Wikipedia:  “The Identitarian movement is a pan-European socio-political movement that started in France in 2002 as a far-right youth movement deriving from the French Nouvelle Droite Génération Identitaire. Initially the youth wing of the anti-immigrant, far-right Bloc Identitaire, it has taken on its own identity and is largely classified as a separate entity altogether with the intent of spreading across Europe. The Identitarian movement advocates rights for members of specific European ethnocultural groups.”

Now I’ll stop picking on Spencer, whose problems are self-evident, and turn to Oliver Stone, whose newsreel version of history during my lifetime (1939 to the present) is streaming on Netflix.  There are ten episodes and I’m up to #4.  There was no warning about the presence of dead bodies.  

For those who are easily disturbed, Stone offers this alternative:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9lNWM7lIOo  The cats in my household enjoyed it, but cats are natural triumphalists.  They’re also naturally suspicious.  There’s a lot of banter about “facts” and truth, but seeing is believing and that’s the principle of this photoshopped video.

I’m also watching Year Six of “Game of Thrones” which is sometimes a little hard to distinguish from Stone’s series, especially since they both happen in Europe except for parts in Asia.  (Eurasia is one landmass, but Japan is separated.)  I’m comforted by this essay on Aeon  (“Why Schools Should Not Teach General Critical-Thinking Skills” by Carl Hendrick) which argues that critical thinking/analysis is always dependent for success on its point of view, its context.  His example is that air traffic controllers are not exceptionally good at other tasks requiring intelligence.  

Isn't it true that the point of view for fiction has got to be different than the point of view of historical fact?  (Don’t ask Wikipedia, since they get all confused about it.  No one author per entry means no single point of view.)

Steve Pressfield, on his blog, stevenpressfield.org, which is meant to explain how to be a famous writer so you don’t have to write blogs, advises today Don’t Be Afraid to Make Sh*t Up.  Trump already knew that.  (I don’t know why Steve can’t spell shit.  The rest of us can.)

What does that mean for you and me as we begin the novel that’s based on our real life?  It means  Don’t hesitate to go beyond the truth.  Identify its essence, in your character-in-the-story and in the story itself.  Then heighten that truth.  Make it pop, so that we the readers feel it and get it.  Make the internal external.”  (Formatting changed.)

I don’t know how well that works out for Pressfield, but it works great for Trump and probably works for the Clintons as well.  My problem is that in spite of piles and piles of facts, I can't settle on one way they they add up.  The problem might be in my method.

My file cabinets are full of archived letters, photos, media clippings, and other evidence, which I try to use to explain my life — even life in general.  Nothing has had as much impact on me as the newsreel clips that Oliver Stone has assembled into what he admits is a revisionist history.  I’m sympathetic.  When my grade school (Vernon in Portland, OR) turned out en masse to cheer when MacArthur made a victory parade out of being fired by Truman, I was there and I was on MacArthur’s side.

But I have to admit that I blinked when it turned out Eisenhower was as fond of his jeep driver as he was of Mamie.  It helped to know that when he was home, he and Mamie slept in a double bed.  The Trumans had twin beds, not that I blame Bess. (The contemporary point of view is that sex explains everything.)

Don’t blame me if I get confused about all this stuff.  The next episode in Stone’s history includes JFK and most people seem to agree that his life and death are unresolvable, even when you know about all the sex.  (How does a person with a notoriously bad back have so much sex?)

When neurology research suggests that identity is an assembled and varying phenomenon, much affected by context, sometimes needing to be reconciled between one side of the brain and the other, often chimerical if not kaleidoscopic, I know what they mean and I agree.  Why else would people insist that I change my attitude if it were not possible?  And yet, my abiding attempt is to “stay put,” to remain anchored as close to reality as I can get, unless the evidence persuades me otherwise.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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