The West, by which I observe Trump defines himself (white, male, adult, “rich,” dominant, BUT poorly informed, unable to focus, narcissistic, uncultured, etc.) is definable only by self-identifying ( like gender identity) or by comparison with whomever differs or is critical of oneself. Namely, China, Africa, South America, and the American-but-internal categories of class, gender, and "race". Also, anyone with a disability or undisciplined. (Roaming around in a bathrobe cursing television talk shows doesn’t count to him as undisciplined — nor does refraining from drinking or smoking count to me as discipline.) The idea is to be Christian, but the definition doesn’t include church attendance and deifies clueless sex. The part most liked is the evangelical part, esp the idea of forced conversion -- which predates Jesus -- as well as the automatic assumption of virtue.
All of this stuff turns my stomach and stands my hair on end, which doesn’t help reasonable reflection. I have a running conversation with an intelligent person in town who sees none of the above — maybe bits — but feels that it is all forgivable if it will get us out of this stuck/sold out excuse for civilization we live in. She is particularly bitter about freeloaders, which she believes is the essential signature of Democrats, and the social safety net, though her family has used it many times. She dependably does a tough, rather unpleasant job, because it is the main income of her family and because there are no better jobs available to her.
I’m a free-loader. I went through twelve years of public education paid for by taxes and then eight years of university mostly paid for by scholarships. At 78 I’m living in large part on SSI and benefitting from Medicare. There are a lot of other small reductions and subsidies that help me. One might call this the mercy economy.
But since I’m stiff-necked about mercy, compassion, “help” (which is often just dominance), and being patronized, I see this blog as a way of paying back the governmental and institutional machinery that has helped me. We need more public “intellectuals”. The problem is that with all my education and time to think, I’m often stumped or blocked when it comes to what’s happening.
For instance, I think education has rammed its head into a corner and sold out to a lot of ineffective teachers and little tyrant administrators, all of it overgrown with the kudzu of marketing: pretty bulletin boards, surefire discipline techniques, glossy outdated textbooks. The rich are breaking out of this, the poor are despairing. What happened to “free schools”? What’s wrong with ethnically-based schools? Why are universities dominated by corporate research? Why is French/Algerian philosophy so hard to understand?
For instance, I think we know so much about sex (or think we do) that we let it be abused, passed around, treated like a joke, without any care for the art form is can be. Yesterday I bought some chocolate milk (undisciplined) and the pretty young clerk joked that I would drink it with Schnapps in it while sitting around a campfire having fun. She said that’s what she did. She had no consciousness that chocolate milk and Schnapps is hardly a sophisticated cocktail or that guys around here use it sort of like “roofies” as a sexual access drug. But then, the BBC dramas I watch always feature a “drinks tray” with Scotch. That’s considered sophisticated. It’s actually a script-writer’s default.
This conversation I have with my friend seems to boil down to Repubs as adults and Dems as irresponsible children, which is one way to interpret liberals — people who will tolerate and excuse anything, even murderers. Libs are patronizing because they are privileged, entitled. All of this is emotional, not rational. Obama and Clinton provoke in her the same kind of offended contempt as Trump or McConnell give me. And yet there is a covert admiration for education, wealth and status on her part.
My decade-long expedition among the upper middle classes of the UUA taught me a lot about culture and class. First of all, they were fish happily thriving in water most of the time, never suspecting that others were different and never quarrelling with the idea that everyone wants to be them. When confronted with the kind of evidence the media gives us now — videos of people out on the edge and suffering, they either turn off the vid or form a committee. Yet they say they want interaction with other kinds of people. I think they envision the jolly travel commercials on Masterpiece Theatre. And they beatify people of color.
When I get to grumbling impatience with all this stuff, I’m aware of being unjust and incompletely informed. This accusation, even by and against myself, is one of the ways thinking gets stifled and avoided. To really dig in is to expose one’s own ugliness and emptiness. I suppose it’s good old Presbyterian Original Sin and even to some degree Predestination. But that’s where my stiff neck came from. Might as well use it.
But then why stay in a Christian context? I try to escape. Two of my strategies — conversions maybe — is relationships with two overlapping social categories: Blackfeet rez dwellers and some kinds of gays, actually two extremes. Maybe I like the rez dwellers because they can also be extremes, socially, politically, economically and in terms of their “being.” A person is a tribal member “negotiably,” based on provenance, and is a dweller simply on sufferance even if an “entitled” white.
The people defined as “homosexual” because they biologically desire their own sex (a single aspect of identity), are then sorted by the same forces that sort the indigenous. The kinds I have been reading about and talking to are the ones called “Urban Aboriginals” by Geoff Main and those who might be called “Lost Boys” — identified, marked, and targeted for destruction, which they defy. They would say they were “found.”
Both of these categories of males are a challenge to the Trumpian idea of the West as ideal business-oriented white men who accept no alternative. Some psychoanalysts would be interested in whether such a person were a “latent homosexual” overcompensating for his inner fears of the "artistic" by violently attacking anyone who is a challenge. They might say that throwing down another man, kneeling on him and socking him is simply an imitation of intercourse. My friend finds these ideas totally repulsive.
But I’m off thinking in the wilds of both psychoanalysis and anthropology, the named categories of studying human beings — not hominins in general but specifically contemporary people. (Who seem to have preserved much of hominin behavior.) Both disciplines are now mega-challenged by our growing, detailed, and interacting body of data and theories, esp. in terms of neurology and the way the brain sorts, composes, and activates what information it pulls in through the whole body. We learn that someone who thinks with his balls or is drunk on testosterone is a real, physical, and measurable person with impact on society — indeed, the world. My missile is bigger than your missile.
In the day when Main was writing in SF from a community of men re-inventing a way of life, maybe one taught by war, he was reflecting on serotonin in SM relationships. That was 1984. By now we’re running people’s heads into an fMRI to record their connectome during sexual thoughts and offering Viagra to old men who would not live long enough to raise children. We have run aground on the social matrix of knowledge.
When I try to think of an alternative to our Repub/Dem locked dynamic, based on demonizing each other, the best alternative I can see might be described as “progressive” but the formal political organization with that name is led by an old man. White, educated, etc. Time-limited. But at least progressives would support health care, decent education, energy self-sufficiency, resource protection, and other sensible universal goods, even if they cost money. This is the true source of dignity and stability. It's the only authentic venture capital.