Saturday, May 20, 2017


My friend, whom I consider competent, thoughtful, and insightful, will not accept that I won’t accept her explanation of why she voted for and still defends Trump.  She says it’s because all the others do all the same bad stuff.  To me, this is a child’s reasoning, but I don’t tell her that.

At the same time my main contempt for Trump is that he is such a clown, a grimacing despot fit only for Saturday Night Live skits, a man who can’t construct an intelligible sentence and who actively rejects any new information and loves Russia more than the US; that he is worse than anyone else I can think of.  I find I can hardly bear to watch his over-dramatic puppet speeches.

Is my reaction any better than my friend's?  In the Fifties when I was in high school, we spent a LOT of time on the identification of propaganda, esp. that from Russia, partly because so many highly trained thinkers had fallen in love with the possibilities of communism.  Their disillusionment, which could be compared to disappointment at one’s previous approval of Trump or even at the possibilities of the Republican party, converted to skepticism.  In some cases, despair.

Macho smart-alec writers (even me) speak of bullshit detection.  This little poster is more polite, converting bullshit to baloney, and therefore appropriate for a classroom.

You might have to go to the link to read this.

In parallel, the recent controversy at ALECC, the Canadian version of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment) has split into two streams.  One is from the poets, a cry for freedom to include all alternatives in language whether experimental, pidgin, different alphabets, invented (Vulcan), or pictographs.  The other one is from scientists and the practice of peer review of papers to hopefully eliminate bullshit.  Experimentation (submitting invented and rather outrageous papers and reviews) shows that the whole idea of “peer review” is often bullshit.  There’s a journal for that.

In an era when we have spent a generation encouraging tolerance and supporting differences, have we lost our ability to distinguish between nonsense and reality?  Or has the argument that there IS no reality come to be our one last truth?  How do we achieve reconciliation in a time when major “religio/political” systems directly clash, though their origins are the very same?  (Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim are all the children of Abraham.)

Or is the answer that we DO know what is right, what works, what protects the world as a whole, but we choose to ignore all that because it works against our own state of privilege?  In the great sea change away from privileging white male rich people, to people of color, gender fluidity and modest means, creating merely a kind of meritocracy that can lead to the same kind of old oligarchy?  Or is the biological fact of every generation being unlike its parents, yet the kind of person produced by the parents in an effort to make them the same, simply inescapable?  

The principle of evolution is not just based on fitness for the eco-system in which the creature abides, but also based on wobble in the system, so that if there is change the creatures differ enough for some to be easily eliminated, and others even in challenging circumstances to be survivors.

What follows is that a change in the eco-niche will eliminate some who have previously been survivors, no matter how much they twist and turn.  Only by concerted effort on the part of many humans can some things -- like global weather change and the ensuing impact on disease, agriculture, energy, housing, and even language -- be survived.

Wait a minute.  Language?   Sure, because to understand something new, one often needs neologisms, which means “new words” for new concepts.  Think of all the words we use now that were invented or adapted in order to talk about computer phenomena.  IMHO.

And think of all the politicians who don’t understand computer terms because they refuse to learn anything new.  They sit there flourishing their fibertips ready to sign proclamations, while their young and often female assistants have to explain what the proclamation says, much less what it will do to the shared landscape of the nation.

But the young have a different problem, which is also caused by the internet — the folding back on itself of communication into the pre-literacy realm of human experience, when humans looked each other in the face and made deductions based on perceived sincerity.  The trouble with that is two-fold: the main one being the ease of persuading people when they are vulnerable.  Remember that poster of the hugely pregnant girl with the caption:  “Trust me, he said.”  Now that girl (or boy) may be seduced but also trafficked.

The disintegration of family, and the rigid social proprieties that confined their ancestors, has also removed safeguards and continuities.  The kind of person who can survive in such a context will not have the kind of skills and opinions as their grandparents.  But one could argue that the children of the hegemony, those who were carefully taught and groomed to be leaders, are no more suited for the future.  Think of Jared Kushner.

We’re all suddenly struggling with ethics, even the anthropologists who partly threw us into the soup by convincing us that different cultures have different taboos — some honor polyamorousness or stealing.  Therefore, persons in our culture who adopt the practices of other cultures are merely different, not evil.  is not a journal, but a blog.  Therefore, it is relatively free to speak directly, though some use it for destructive and deceptive ends, so some have an administrator charged with oversight.  Consider this post by Berhanu Gurach:  “We are deeply depressed in the speach of Trump that stoping refugees to enter into USA.  Especially who living difficult life in the refugee camaps & eagerly waiting to be resettled.”
Berhanu Gurach is Ethiopian.

The ethical standards (seven of them, some practical — "keep records" —and other ideal — "do no harm"— are posted in the margin of the blog.  Obviously the standards of high school English that I spent years pounding into students do not apply in this context.  But when among people who value “correctness” as a criterion for respect, it would be wise to be correct, even if one must pay an adept to help.  In a culture where everyone is dressed “properly”, it would be a mistake to show up nude.  But surely there must be a tribe somewhere that wouldn’t trust anyone who showed up fully clothed.  What are they concealing?

I’m haunted by the statue of a nude Trump.  Would I be impressed, if it were a nude Obama?  Surely there would be criminal action over a nude Hilary Clinton.  But nudity of statues is conventional in our art history.  Anyway, in this case it is the strategy of iconoclasm vital to free speech.  I'm no more repelled than I am by his flapping open suit jackets and flying hair.

1 comment:

Bret Rothwell said...

Thanks for being you. For the now years I've dropped in to catch up on your thoughts....when I really need relief from "eroded force of reason" found in political leadership these days.... I offer my thanks.

I've come to rest on a my conclusion that Mr.Trump suffers from a genetic error which no longer links his mouth to his brain. What I cannot excuse is the elected leadership in Washington, as well as career fed.govt. officials, who have not ended his term.

Unfortunately I only had one vote to cast against him, and a limited audience to convince that Mr. Trump was not suitable for office, any elected office.

May you be n good health and spirit.