Friday, October 12, 2018


My practice of focusing on two romanticized and "Orientalized" (the strategy of making exotic and projecting from presumed superiority) is a discipline of compare and contrast.  That is, Blackfeet and Cinematheque/Smash Street both are defined and motivated by where they are, which pushes them in ways below their consciousness.  Darrell Kipp, a Blackfeet thinker, used to talk about the "hydraulics of the prairie" meaning the reconfiguring of tribes among each other, depending as much on economic forces (like weather and ecology) as war, which wasn't like the Euro version of war anyway.

Recently this has surfaced in a podcast called "Tides of History" which asserts "Everywhere around us are echoes of the past. Those echoes define the boundaries of states and countries, how we pray and how we fight."

Jeff Lavezzo twitters: "As an American listening to @Patrick_Wyman's Tides of History I get a sense of how short a time European borders stay in place.  Makes sense that identity can shift again, especially an identity shift from the narrow to the more universal."

So consider this geographical, geological, hydraulic shift and its effect on thought.  The maps following are of the change in land due to the change in sea level, which in turn is due to the change is the ice burden of the planet which is due to change in atmospheric temperature.  The first one is the idea of the Bering Strait, which has been seen imaginatively as a narrow bridge with people crossing it single-file as refugees or explorers, in similarity to the use of the Americas today. 

When England was a peninsula

When Indonesian islands were connected

When Beringia was a wide lowland

In the past Beringia was simply a lowland, like many countries today --let's say Bangladesh.  Beringia WAS a country for thousands of years with its own culture and occupation.  There was no file of people like the Rohinga searching for a place of safety until the sea began to rise, as it is doing today.  Siberia and Alaska pulled apart, their ecology sundered.  The genomic fundament with its subtly different hominin base (Denisovan?) also existed on both continents.

The chain of islands in SE Asia was created by the sea rising, drowning lowlands.  It happened slowly enough for the people and other lives to use the islands as refugia, continuing as they had, before they needed boats to move from place to place.

For Brits it might be startling to realize that their green island was once a peninsula so that a person could walk across the English channel.  Only now are the genomic scientists are working out what that meant in terms of the population.  "Ancient Britain was a peninsula until a tsunami flooded its land-links to Europe some 8,000 years ago. Did that wave help shape the national character? The coastline and landscape of what would become modern Britain began to emerge at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago."  This is when agriculture was just beginning to develop around the Mediterranean.

"By around 8,500 years ago most of Doggerland was submerged beneath the North Sea and Britain was cut off from the European mainland. Dogger Bank remained as an island before it too was flooded by a tsunami around 8,200 years ago, caused by a submarine landslide off the coast of Norway."

We are who we are because the earth shifts beneath our feet and the tide comes in, sometimes suddenly and sometimes gradually.  Florida and Manhattan are on the way to submerging.

To the Blackfeet there are two "places", one of them assigned by Euro governments and sundered by the straight border between them.  This place is registered on maps made by surveyors and marked numerically according to the Mercator system of dividing the planet like a segmented orange, vertically and horizontally.  The people are defined by descent from a list made by Euros, "provenance" as with objects whose value and nature are determined by their use or appearance.  Blood was not involved except as a result of violence or birth.  Self-identification, mixed with the opinion of outsiders looking at appearance, were the first records.  

There were problems.  Before the surveyors, the rivers were the boundaries and recorded legally.  But rivers are processes and they move all the time.  So are provenances, so these "objects" who were people kept going through their lives which changed as they adapted or aged.  And they gave birth. The boundary was thought by some to keep the people "in" and by others to keep the Euros "out."  The consequences show up in the contrast between the Canadian Blackfoot (where the idea was to preserve their unique culture by shielding them) and the American Blackfeet where by now they are not obviously different and half of them don't live on the rez.

The "at risk" youth of Cinematheque and Smash Street are meant to cluster those who are singularly and in loose definition stigmatized.  In the past they have cloaked in secrecy, been elusive and secretive, but one-by-one have inhabited all parts of the world, arising repeatedly, sometimes stigmatized and sometimes simply accepted or even honored.  That was before HIV/AIDS reinforced the stigma and medicalized the orientation of desire.  Because of this scattering, a developing male would unfold in rather different ways and not even realize his deep compass.

When gays became a defined group and burst all boundaries in order to force a new vocabulary and way of surviving, it was observed via media and impressed us deeply, sometimes with fear of difference.  When they then became the AIDS Zero in the minds of everyone, they were forced to accommodate grief, insanity, outrage, and compassion as they scattered to what seemed like remote safe places.  That is, it was a special place in the geography of the country that was sent in bits to other places.  

The boy groups, one in Paris and one in Appalachia, were quite different because each brought together boys from different cultures.  Paris had historically accommodated gays, sometimes as Poets Maudit, sometimes as philosophers of revolution, sometimes as transgressive users of filth and violence to acccuse the corruption of supposed respectability, and finally as existentialists stripped and burned by war.  

Appalachia was once a refuge that prospered from resource development for a while, but then economically became strip-mined by the times, leaving people to die from starvation and drugs.  Boys here were impelled by their biology, bodies growing as they sickened.  The test was whether technologies of image and transmission, Internet skills, could become a renewal.  

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