Saturday, January 25, 2020

THE BELOVED PEOPLE, THE PIIKUNI

From the beginning of time, before humans or mammals or reptiles or eukaryote one-celled "beings", one differentiated group has overrun another.  Maybe they took the other's "turf" or maybe they just ate them, but that's the fact of it.  But it is not only basic opportunism that affects our thinking about the Euro populations who invaded the Americas and profited so handsomely by capturing their resources.

Since one of the resources was other human beings different enough to either fear or oppress, that's what the invaders did.  Since most of the seafarers were men, themselves a human resource mercilessly used, they "took" the women.  So, let's imagine.  You're a woman who had no idea that there were other continents.  They were as unlikely as other planets.  A whole new people might be a good or bad thing, depending on one's personal situation, but some people, esp. women, are likely to be open to the mystery and adventure enough to get close.

So, in 1492 the first indigenous/Euro babies came 9 months after the landing.  Some people alive now can date and document themselves back to that.  Euro-style thinking gives it high priority, though in the subsequent generations from that first pair probably other proportions of indigenous/Euro people were involved, leaning to the more indigenous people sometimes and more Euro people later.  Eventually Africans and Asians began to mix in.  

If I were a better historian, I would try to write a series of stories to capture each generation -- born in 1492, born in 1515, born in 1535, and so on.  All the while the situation changed, two demographics expanding into a hundred variations.  All the while the story in Europe changed and the story in various parts of the Americas also developed.  It is a time-story and a space-story.  As more Euros were pushed out (the Highland clearances were a rehearsal for the prairie clearances), esp in the British colonies, they crowded into America and though many died in the process, at last figured out how to live here.  They came from parts of Britain packed with poor, suffering, starving, diseased people.  Many died before they ever reached America but their microbes did not.  Before they ever realized what a friend they had in germs, the pandemic was wiping communities off the continent.  

The strength of these communities was in their culture, calibrated to fit their place, shaped to sustain their generations, but the new danger was too abrupt and mysterious to be addressed, much less resisted.  The strength of the invaders came partly from their greed and partly from their desperation, so partly they came to get rich and partly they came because they had no where else to go.  Partly it was a story that unfolded over the next 500 years and partly it was a story of pushing people West, out, away.

So reservations, to some, were cages, wastelands, places where military force could keep the indigenous and the nonconforming in one place.  They would rather have had an island, like Australia or that island where lepers were confined, but in the meantime major spaces and forbidding geography would have to do.  How to do this varied over the years so some treaties were as "between countries" and others were just administrative rules like a company.  One of those was keeping a list and another was tying the provision of food and supplies to those on the list.  

When the Heart Butte kids were given new pencils because they were on the list, they immediately broke them in half and gave part to their friend who was not on the list.  When they grew up, they began to argue with the list.  The whole justification of reservations had to be rethought, not so much in terms of turf and time, but in terms of the people on the list.  The whole idea of self-determination came into it.  The subject was inflamed and expanded because the stories of the culture had made "Indians" into heroes and the last resource to be exploited was their theoretical nobility and embodiment of Nature, which some considered to be God.

So far there are these justifications for being part of a "tribe" which is only unevenly related to the concept of a "reservation."

  • Provable descent from the original list made by the cavalry at early contact and conquest.  Proof is by provenance, which is continuous chain of documentation like baptism, mixing religion with government.  This is at most a couple of hundred years ago, unrelated to "blood" which is a metaphor for provenance, but so vivid that it overspills every attempt to clarify it.
  • In the earliest days people looked different and composed their lives according to their ecosystem, whether salmon, buffalo, wild rice, or desert.  If today's youngsters wanted to look like the early prairie people, they would need to live mostly outdoors and on the move.  It's not a matter of clothing or even food, though that counts.
  • Many people have assumed that DNA can prove a person belongs to a tribe.  This is a merchandizing gimmick for several reasons.  Tribes were defined and named as the groups came to consciousness but they never had rigid boundaries as Euros did.  As tribes were pushed West, they died out, merged, accepted stray people even if they were white, and lost much of their original culture and "fittingness" to the land because they were no longer on the land that formed them.
  • As soon as today's located and confined tribes realized that "scientists" wanted their blood, they began refusing access.  This has greatly hampered transplant technology since there are no records for finding people whose parts "fit."  There is not enough data about the aboriginal people to indicate who was in a particular tribe.
  • At the same time, the participation of "Indians" in World Wars drew them into the mystique of heroism and group allegiance with vivid justification, all tied to battlefield wounds and transfusions according to the four blood protein groups.  NOT DNA, which had not been known.
  • Writers and artists have capitalized on the general population's hunger for identity and nostalgia to form genres and since we have come to value the creators more than the actual creations, the focus has been entitlement which the goal of narrowing those who are provably on the descendants of those cavalry lists.
  • Women in particular have become entangled in the 1492 sailor's access to a new kind of woman that he can impose sex on, regardless of consequences.  One force has been the defining of women of color as undefended, fair game like slaves but better because slaves are "owned" and the owner is likely to object.  
  • Also, poor have always been victimized by rich men or violent men. Many of those women and men have been resourceful enough to organize sexwork. Morality makes it easier to victimize them but also adds value because they are valuable in the way that the black market always is.
  • Because of those to whom sex and death are interchangeable concepts, the toll of murdered women rises.  But another force has been that without the cultural shaping of protecting of indigenous women, being sexy and hot is a form of power, and because of today's convention of advertising such an identity, indigenous women take advantage of social media to show how desirable they are, attracting men.  But now that has become so outrageous that a backlash has formed and is becoming powerful.  The sexual revolution has muddled everything and, as usual, freedom without guidelines is deadly.
I'll come back to DNA later, but the idea that it is "beads on a string" has been traced to a scientist early in the 20th century.  It is not a fact.  The true nature of the swirl of mixed and barely distinguishable organic chemistry is still being discovered.  But as David Quammen explained, it is a sheet of instructions passed on by atoms, molecules, parasites, chromosome organization -- continuously shared among all living beings and mostly organized within "skins" of one kind or another.  "Skins" is a synonym for indigenous people in America, not as the people who watched the Euros come ashore from their huge white-winged ships, carrying microbes and war, but as the People who have persisted across the continent, however was necessary and barely possible.



The people in this video are building the future, one poem at a time.  They will make "Indians" out of any white people who read their poems.  They are powerful.  I've known these names for generations and the faces are familiar.  They cannot be murdered.  They cannot be driven out.  They persist through both turf and time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

NO POST

I DON'T EXPECT TO POST UNTIL AFTER THE IMPEACHMENT.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

TRIBAL WOMEN WHO LIVED LONG LIVES

Selena Not Afraid, a young Crow woman, has been found dead.  Her death must be marked, attended, mourned, and remembered.  But it is not the whole story.  I do not want Ō’m”kaistaaw”kaa•kii,@mariahgladstone to have that as her only mind picture.  I put against it two other deaths, those of  two Blackfeet, both named Beverly Kittson.  

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Beverly Kittson "Sopiiakii"

Browning — Beverly Kittson "Sopiiakii, 90, began her journey home on October 8, 2016, at Blackfeet Community Hospital. Born in a tipi south of Browning on Aug 17, 1926 to James Reevis Sr. & Fannie Middle Calf, she was raised by John & Insima YellowKidney. She attended schools at Cold Feet & Mission Schools, the Cut Bank Boarding School, Browning and Flandreau Indian School where she graduated before studying Business Admin for two years at Haskell Indian School in Kansas.

In 1948 she married Jim Kittson and they made their home at Old Agency where she helped ranch, rodeo, started the Busy Badger 4H group that she was also a leader of. She also worked for the County Extension Office as a liason for the Commodity Program before going to work for the Home Development Program and CHP Program as an Outreach Worker and Director, retiring after receiving many awards in her 31 year career. She received the Appreciation award for outstanding and dedicated services, another for 20 years of service from 1968 - 1988 and was awarded the National outstanding CHR award in Las Vegas. She retired in 1998. However, retirement she found boring and she went to work for Headstart as a Cultural Teacher teaching them to speak the Blackfeet, and then on to Blackfeet Comm. College where she was an advisor to the students in the Indian Cultural Program.

Beverly was a well known and well loved woman, who always had an open door and heart for those who came to visit. She loved to bead, sewing and knitting, bingo, playing the machines and traveling as well as being with family (5 generations) and friends for any and all occasions. She was one of the last members of the Green Wood Burners Society and the War Mothers Society.

She was preceded in death by her parents, siblings Sharon LaPlant, John "Buster" YellowKidney, Russell "Gordon" CalfRobe, Wilbur, Freddy, Herman, Herbert, & Jimmy Reevis; daughter Zelda Kittson and grandson Clint NotAfraid.

Survivors include children Donna Guardipee, Cookie Gonzales, Kathy "Kat" (Darrell) Momberg, Mary Kittson, James (Bunny) Kittson Jr., Donald Kittson, Ronald "Smiley" (Charlene) Kittson, Jerry (Carol) Kittson; numerous grandchildren, nieces, nephews, her sister Lorraine WhiteGrass, and extended family.

A wake will be held at NAID Stickgame Arbor in Browning with Rosary on Tuesday at 7 pm. Mass will be held Wednesday at 2 pm in Little Flower Catholic Church in Browning with burial following at the Old Agency Cemetery.

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In 1961 the Browning Elementary School grades were "tracked." For the 8th grade there were four tracks.  The highest was for those with the highest grades but also -- without admitting it -- for whites and tribal families who were prospering.  The bottom was for those who didn't care, who were semi-delinquent, and so on.  In the middle two tracks were classes that were mixed in terms of grades and we sometimes moved them back and forth, but it was just bookkeeping with no regard for relationships. There was no counselling. None of it touched who the person essentially and potentially might be.  One of the least responsive in the 4th group was the father of one of the most responsive and intelligent boys I ever taught.

In those days "boarding school" was not the Catholic Holy Family Mission with its religious focus and determination to impose a culture, nor was it the shameful public school north of Browning where conditions were horrible.  The kids I knew were boarding because their families were too far from Browning to get to school reliably and they bused to the Elementary School daily.  They had formed a family of their own among themselves.

Then there was the Speech and Drama class which was all girls, about a dozen.  Donna Kittson was one of them.  Dolores Butterfly Bird was also in that class and she "went on ahead" a couple of years ago.  Dorothy Still Smoking earned a D.Ed. and went to London, England, to read her thesis.  Beverly Bullshoe was devoted to the church but I don't know whether she ever became a nun.  None was murdered.
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Donna Marie Kittson Guardipee, 71, passed away at Browning Indian Health Service, in Browning, Mont., on Dec. 14, 2019. A wake was held at College Homes with Rosary on Thursday, Jan. 9; Mass was celebrated on Friday, Jan. 10 at Little Flower Parish, followed by burial in Kittson Cemetery at Old Agency.

Donna was born Jan. 31, 1948, in Browning, to Beverly Reevis-Kittson and James Kittson Sr..  She was raised and educated at the Blackfeet Boarding School in Browning until high school, and then went to Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma.  She graduated from Browning High School.  

Donna married David “Chug” Guardipee in 1968 and later divorced. She worked for the Blackfeet Tribe for 50 years as a secretary and office manager.  She was currently working for the Blackfeet Environmental as an office manager.  Her hobbies included going to the local casino, camping, taking rides, picnicking, and especially spending quality time with family and friends.  

She was preceded in death by her father James Kittson Sr., mother Beverly Reevis-Kittson, son David Guardipee, and sister Zelda Ann Kittson.  

She is survived by her son Clifford (Tammy) Guardipee; granddaughters Donnell Williams and Kaylee Cassidy; two grandchildren and three great grandchildren whom she loved dearly; siblings Jim Kittson Jr., Donald Kittson, Ronald “Smiley” Kittson, Kathy “Kat” Kittson-Momberg, Myrna “Cookie” Kittson, Jerry Kittson, Mary Kittson and all of her nieces and nephews.
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When people ask me what "Indians" are like, I can't tell them all the stories or trace out all the families, who are so much a part of the indiividuals they are but once I knew them very well, shared my days with them, ate lunch sitting at the same table eating the same chili with commodity cheese.  They were all funny, full of stories -- many of them about narrow escapes or peak experiences.  This is about time for the celebration of the so-called Baker Massacre and some of them were descendants of youngsters who barely escaped and still lived as their grandmothers.

The man who triggered that revenge killing was Malcolm Clarke who lived on what became the Baucus ranch.  He married a Blackfeet woman.  His daughter, Helen Clarke, was educated in the Midwest, acted on the stage and went to Europe in the troupe of Sarah Berhardt, and became the one who assigned the Indian land allotments.  She gave herself East Glacier and lived in a modest house behind the Big Hotel with her brother.  She's buried up the road to the EG water source.  Her nephew was John Clarke, the famous woodcarver who could not speak.


So, Mariah, that's just on the US side!  Plenty of stories among the Canadian Blackfoot.  Someday they will be celebrating that Gladstone girl who taught indigenous sustainable foods and who could fly on a trapeze, way up high.  There's already been time enough for that.  But we won't forget Selena Not Afraid, a Crow girl.

Monday, January 20, 2020

GRANNON AND VAKNIN TAKE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

It's hard to imagine a more contrasting pair of psych experts than Sam Vaknin and Richard Grannon.  But you don't have to -- they exist and they collaborate.  Last night I watched a shared YouTube essay called "The  Toxicity of Social Media," which was filmed at least partly in some quite grand and historic city I could not identify  The point was to figure out the impact of social media (the "platforms" called Facebook, Twitter, and so on) where it came from, the damage it does, why and how, and what to do next.  The two men agree until the end when personality intervenes.  Vaknin wants authoritarian regulation from within the platforms, like shutting a viewer off after a certain amount of time or at least charging a fee for viewing.  Grannon takes the independent and self-reliance point of view one would expect from an Aussie.

But there's the basic agreement, which comes out of the idea of psych as literature, mirroring and making metaphors out of the culture.  The diagnosis is that we have lost our sense of history and place -- we have a loss of direction.  Social media is not a cause, but a symptom, yet it exacerbates the condition.  These two men are experts focused on narcissism.  Vaknin is describing it as a result of a culture that demands each of us stand out, but because identity emerges from interaction with other people and social media cuts us off from this interaction, we are terrified of being dispersed, annihilated.  So we claim a "part for the whole," such as sexism, racism, and other alliances with groups that supply an identity.

Vaknin refers to the formation of identity as a child and how our identity from that time both protects and reassures us.  But we forget how to handle human interactions if all we do is post quips and arguments. In fact, our self-regulation as bodies comes from being with others, but shuts down in front of a glass screen.  For a while about 2007, he argues, there were studies about this, but they ceased when the biggest donors to Academia were social media.

Grannon, with his base in the martial arts, sees this idea of presentation and belligerance as the old fashioned Darwinian idea of survival of the fittest.  He doesn't mention gladiator competitions in the Coliseum but he means  something similar.  He notes that there are so many people, all demanding to hold the gaze of the crowd, that it's almost a form of cannibalism, because it is a zero sum game and based on the lowest values of the watchers, brutal, abandoning, lonely, never in this moment but always in the past or future.  He says he is frightened.  (His kind of martial arts are Asian, based on restraint and elegance.  Their goal is peace.)

Narcisssism to these guys is therefore a metaphor for our whole society, as all the Identified and defined APA theories of psych disfuncation are, which is why they change all the time.  Vakinin is quite eloquent about narcissism failing and then failed narcissism becoming borderline disorder which is worse.  Grannon feels fascism is another response to an emergency, a state of war, and provable with "human fucking history."

Vaknin recommends narrative and feels the usage method of social media is the problem --not so much the content.  He talks about the "stickiness" of the "like" button and how it is a kind of conditioning that makes you think you're actually communicating.  He notes that the human mind wants stories and makes them even from bits and glimpses, so this is a sign of hope.

Here is a cutting point:  social media was invented by teenagers, who didn't really understand what they were doing bit accidentally stumbled  onto something that made them so much money that they are terrified of reform or any change at all, because the whole thing might collapse.  They have no experience, no broad education.  Their users are also loners, misfits, people lurking alone programming repetitive games.  If challenged, they are fierce, have no restraint.  High school teachers know the type very well.

Grannon identifies them with Cluster B characteristics.  "Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder."  ( Mayo Clinic)  He speaks of it as releasing the monsters of the unconscious human mind.

I have two responses to that. One is today's phenomenon of the gun owners demonstration in Virginia in which late middle-aged men with big bellies, red faces, and evidently enough discretionary income to afford a hundred pounds of military equipment including assault rifles, are filling the streets.  The police are nowhere to be seen.  If these bozos really understood, they would realize that if they don't shoot each other by mistake, there are police armored tanks waiting until their water hoses, unbearable sounds, and tear gas are justified.  I saw no gas masks dangling from belts. For every bug there is a bigger bug, until we get to predator drones.

But I have another paradigm to explore.  in the UU congregations there were people who loved to demonstrate to activate their identity and therefore identification with various people.  But there were also alot of people who explored the issue of identity through reading: both fiction (esp among the women) and history.  The two men agreed that there are two potent kinds of identity, one being narcissism or first person stories, and the other -- often demonstrated in social media -- which is the narcissist's victim.  This SM, big/little, oppressive white man/oppressed black man, abusive husband/abused wife, overwhelming patriarch/crippled children is a dependable identity dyad through time.  It prevents reconciliation or even conversation.


Book after book is based on this pattern.  It is a strong precursor for social media and a pattern followed in the stories told there.  What Vaknin and Grannon are beginning to explore is how to get beyond that formula to a new vision. But it's early days.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

WHERE IS HATHAWAY NOW?

The mismatched pair of detectives stand looking at the crime scene, which they had been sent to because of concerns about something like the death of a child.  One is a tall thin man who once thought of being a priest.  He didn't exactly lose faith, just sort of misplaced it.

"It's hard to take," says Hathaway.  "Where are the guides for a culture like this one? How are we to cope with infanticide?"

Marigold snorts.  She never loses anything.  "Can you fry a small fish?"  She is belligerent, uses anger as her fuel.  What she loses most often is her temper but not to the point of being blind.

"Yes, I know the Tao and Verse Number 60 about doing things very carefully in a nourishing way."  Hathaway was used to the academic practise of identifying sources.  He couldn't quite stop.

"Your problem is that you can't focus.  You think about the vast universe instead of the small specifics of a particular case."

"Ah, yes."  Hathaway was always wryly aware of his troublesome and troubled nature.  "But my mind with its go-with-the-flow way of thinking is capable of catching fish.  I can think like a fish and predict where it will swim."

"Depends on the kind of fish.  Bottom feeder?  Top-of-the-food-chain?  Maybe not a fish?  We gotta keep our options open here."

"What I like is a case like those invading Asian carp, big fat fish that jump right in your boat!"

"Not always safe."

A gunshot rang out.  Both hit the ground.  Reality is always intervening.  This time the reality was that they were out in a wooded area with a very nervous policeman who came from the city.  He had thought he saw a bear.  "I just fired into the air to scare it off!" he said in a shaky voice.  The two detective scowled at him as they knocked the dirt and leaves off their fronts, pretending to be composed though they weren't.  They both carried notepads and scribbled in the man's badge number.

"There are no bears in this whole state," Hathaway said evenly, always relying on research though it's never possible to know for sure where bears are.  Then their minds went back to the case at hand.

"Just where is this dead child," demanded Marigold.  The officer pointed behind a bush.  The form was very small and had a bit of tarp thrown over it.

Hathaway had no children because he was not able to guarantee them a reliable future.  Marigold had no children because if anything happened to them she would not be able to stand the loss.  But life outwitted her, because to her mind all the children were hers and she could not bear the loss of any of them, not even the worst and most aggravating.  Gingerly, she turned back the tarp.  

It took a moment for them to focus on what they were looking at.  ("Stages" refer to the Carnegie stages of development. ... Week 1 to Week 8 (GA 10)are considered the embryonic period of development. Week 9 to week 37 (GA 11-39) or birth are considered the fetal period of development. First month (4 weeks) after birth is the neonatal period of development.")


"Is this a baby or a fetus?" asked Hathaway. "Has it passed week 37?"  He didn't know everything after all.

Marigold was enraged.  "Of course it's a baby.  The stage it's in is totally irrelevant."  She paused.  "Is this a human fetus?" she demanded.

"Looks like it to me, but is this a deliberate abortion or a natural miscarriage?  Did it happen here or was it brought from somewhere else?"

"Don't you dare call this little mite 'it' when he or she was certainly a child, a baby, a human being even though incomplete."  Marigold was indignant and Hathaway was contrite.  He recognized the justice of that.  But was this far enough developed to be either he or she yet?

Going to what was obvious, he said, "There's quite a lot of blood.  Who would do an abortion all alone in the woods? Or was there someone else involved?"

"Someone who knew it was a crime, you idiot!"  Luckily, Hathaway made it a practice to ignore all name-calling.

"You're full of love, Marigold," he said mildly.  "I expect the mother was desperate one way or another.  We'll have to know the motive."  He thrust his hands into his pockets, a little harder than necessary.  "Well, anyway, if this is a fetus rather than a baby, it's not a case for murder detectives."  

"Maybe we'll have to get a higher authority to decide that."  The two of them stepped back to make way for the coroner's crew with their snapping cameras and evidence collecting bags.  The body bag they had brought was so much too large as to be useless.  The naked little curled bit of flesh fit into a small zip-lock evidence bag.  But they were trained respectful people who didn't make jokes.

The cop who was worried about bears had been abashed and to keep out of sight had been poking around in the underbrush.  Pretty soon he found something he wasn't really looking for.  "Detectives??" he called.  He was pretty sure this discovery might redeem him.

They came slowly, watching where they stepped as was their habit.  The cop had found the mother, quite dead and quite young.  She was sprawled in plain sight with no evidence of struggle or footprints, not even those of her own tennie runners.  Her jeans were pulled up but darkly stained with blood.  Her nail polish was black and her hair was pink.  Her long sleeved shirt might hide both tattoos and needle marks.  The cop went to call the coroner's crew to come back.  They would need their body bag after all.

This was not morally debatable or even unusual.  The detectives made their notes according to their usual pattern of description, estimates, possible theories.  The main question was what caused the death, but as they say in all the best cop shows, that would depend on what the autopsy showed.

Back in the car, returning to the station, the two detectives didn't say much.  The predictability of the girl's death almost overwhelmed the earlier surprise of a baby that wasn't quite a baby yet.

Finally Marigold asked, "How old is a fetus before it becomes ensouled?" She didn't quite expect an answer but Hathaway had thought about it years earlier.

"Some equate it with 'quickening' which is when the mother first feels the fetus move.  Pope Benedict wanted it to be the moment of insemination."

"Oh, God," said Marigold.  "My cat is pregnant.  Last night it was on my lap and I felt the kittens myself.  Do kittens have  souls?"

"Where would Benedict say the girl is now?  Francis would take her into Heaven."

"But where does a fetus go?

"Limbo.  Maybe that's where we are ourselves."


Saturday, January 18, 2020

CAPITALISM IS MORE THAN A DIRTY WORD

Capitalism, based on the idea of accumulating wealth that is measured in dollars, suggests several different strategies for individuals and nations.  There are multiple ways of doing this with various sub-goals.  One is venture capitalism, which concentrates on advancing credit for new ideas and developments, like grubstaking a prospector.  But there are more.

One system "classifies capitalist economies into four categories: oligarchic capitalism, state-guided capitalism, big-firm capitalism, and entrepreneurial capitalism."

Another system lists:  Private Ownership, Capital Accumulation. Capital Concentration. Voluntary Participation. Free Markets. Wage Labor. Competition. Welfare Capitalism.

More kinds of capitalism (creating and managing profit) might include biocentric capitalism, which puts energy and attention into the good of all living things; status capitalism which varies according to what a specific culture thinks indicates virtue, like wealth for evangelicals or poverty for mendicants; or arts capitalism where making money is an indicator of achievement, like the book best seller list.  Money sources and awards can close out whole demographic categories, like people of color, or renegade boys.  This is a way of eliminating people, using stigma to deny them prosperity.  But it also drives innovation as determined people look for ways of making money that no one is using, like payday money-lending or street barbers.  There are always betting, gambling, social addictions like drugs, sexwork.

So capitalism, the accumulation of wealth through a variety of means and purposes, doesn't have to be in terms of "money" which is the inventions of nations who work out relativity among them.  It can be in the hoarding of valuable commodities or access to gated events and activities.  It can be based on food or family sharing.  In democracy the idea is to consider justice and the achievement of commons, universal infrastructure.

As time and place change throughout the world, the way to accumulate capital also changes, although cheating, stealing and force generally remain.  But at one point there is a gold rush when people realize they can just dig it up.  At another point substances like the exotic minerals for smart phones can become suddenly valuable.  Fossil fuel in the form of coal and oil have become so crucial that it controls the dynamics of whole nations but the limits have become clear enough that the capital goes into wind and sun energy, throwing the whole pattern of profit into question.

Basing wealth on profiteering food, shelter, water, while letting their built sources deteriorate means diminishing the wealth of the whole and justifies governmental regulation and inspection.

No one realized how radically everything would be changed by the internet and video.  We can barely cope with the change.  McKenzie Wark introduces the term "vectorism" in a book, "Capital Is Dead: Is This Something Worse?"  The new wealth is information, both its transmission and its acquiring in technical ways like data scraping, web-crawling, and automation that can be hacked.  Secrecy is immensely powerful but generally time-limited.  Populations who had nothing to sell can suddenly learn something that is not just valuable but also personal in an intimate way.  Programming is something that can be done by a teenager with one gizmo in a basement.  Now we're talking intellectual capital.  

This shift is beyond the awareness of our leaders, who tend to be old -- still thinking in terms of oil and force, Trump's confidence that if our soldiers guard oil we claim, we are the top dogs, even if he is incapable of the simplest devices and most basic confidences.  This half-shift in which the youngest have made a jump of understanding has not taken us away from capitalism, but simply made a drastic change in the terms.  Wealth is now virtual, not the land ownership or commodities market, but the ways of mapping them.

This also means that we are tremendously vulnerable.  We are dependent on a satellite network that must be maintained to work, occasionally replaced by rockets, and also an energy network based on distribution.  Sooner or later devices must be plugged in.  it can all go dark in an instant.

And our technology, though it is only a map, has revealed new forces like the detection of climate change that is redrawing boundaries, sending blizzard bombs and hellish infernos, altering the chemistry of the oceans, infiltrating everything with debris plastic, and terrifying populations into renewing old superstitions.  All of this has impact on capitalism, not just its accumulation but also its definition.  What's the use of owning a fabulous downtown if no one in it can breathe?  What's the use of one-citizen/one-vote if someone on the other side of the planet can alter the totals?  Maybe without even being detected.

What's the use of cruelty in the treatment of the vulnerable if it creates a nation of bitterness and hatred of authorities, willingness to die rather than be pushed around?  What's the use of smashing families if there is no replacement source for attachment and empathy?  What's the use of advertising everything with sex when sex becomes so debased that one can simply buy a doll with a hole?  I mean, what if you know everything, both good and bad, but can't do it because no one cares about you?  Many have discovered that if they have money, someone will at least pretend to care.  But what if it turns out that true intimacy cannot be bought?

I'm way out in the weeds here, but if there is a way to see the old-fashioned virtues as a kind of capital managed by religious and cultural life-maps, our world-stories, then the terms of life are different.  Wark offers a new French (naturally) term:  "détournement" a technique popularized by the Situationists of hijacking media for new means — as radical intellectual and artistic tools for inventing new meaning across various disciplines, and our everyday lives."  

Her favorite Russian example is Marx.  Mine is Tolstoi.  Among my Twitter feeds are examples of a constant thread that has never given up on the natural world, pre-industrial in origin but capable of accommodating both the industrial and the technological, so long as they can hold onto the wealth of the land.  People like James Rebanks as @herdyshepherd1 or Great Alone Cattle as @GACattleCompany or Stuart Somerville @Stuthefarmer


Friday, January 17, 2020

WHEN POLITICS ARE OPERATIC

The phrase "bursting your bubble" is about illusions that come from suddenly revealing to someone that their world view is based on something too small, too boundaried, too limited, and therefore wrong.  Even though at the time it was part of one's pride, one's ego, one's identity.  

The first time I heard the phrase I was a new member of a UU church that claimed to include everyone until it was time to print the annual report.  Only copies enough for three-fourths of the congregation were provided.  I was surprised since it looked to me like a form of censorship.  The church secretary sighed and said, "Mary, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I'll be surprised if even half the congregation want or will read the report."  She was not surprised.  My bubble burst.  I blew new ones.  They also burst. Bubbles come from rigid boundaries that one hardly realizes are there.  Outside every bubble is a bigger bubble.  I keep trying to find the biggest one.

So I've watched Lev Parnas be interviewed by both Maddow and Cooper, which was interesting because his story held up but the emphasis was different.  In the Maddow version he talked about being afraid of Epstein's fate and believing that ratting out everyone would help to save him.  In Cooper's version he was a little more vulnerable and touchingly talked about how much he had loved Trump, felt so much pride in what he thought was a close relationship that proved what a good person he was.  His bubble was what he called "the Loop."  I suspect that when he found out the loop burst and he was thrown to the wolves, he wept.

We're told Parnas was mafia, that he had known Trump for decades, that he lived in that world -- at one point hardly leaving the Trump Tower for years because it was enough.  But he is not the clueless mob goon that he seemed.  He is capable of vengeance.  I wonder what has happened to that big portrait of Trump that was a sort of cult shrine.  Is it slashed?  Burned like a flag?  The new bubble includes that vengeance is sweet.  Parnas has no grasp of US law, but he understands age-old underworld rules.  Trump doesn't believe in rules.

The amount of collateral damage is unfathomable.  Famous names, each with their own bubble.  Trump is past pretty metaphors about bubbles.  He's operating with a bag over his head.  His legal team consists of fantasists, which is probably appropriate since he has no defense except mental illness.  I wouldn't be surprised if on Tuesday the Senate heard almost no evidence and declared him guilty anyway -- so long as the vote were secret. For them, full disclosure does not represent safety.  Neither would I be surprised if Trump went into a mental hospital next week.

When Brandy X Lee brought up group psychosis which is contagious, I googled (of course) and only got folie a deux.  But "cults" seems to be a good example and it's the one Parnas went for, which I suspect is the work of the lawyer.  There were moments when that quiet lawyer seemed to have his hand up Parnas' back, ventriloquist-style.  So far I have not been able to find any research about how to burst someone's bubble or how to disperse a cult, though we can all bring up many examples of them, most memorably the ones that ended in group suicide or death by authorities who find them dangerous.  Sports cults, scholar cults, music cults and so on are everywhere and usually unobjectionable.

I do not think Mafia, which seems to be Parnas' and Trump's basic pattern for life is a cult so much as an alternative government, which is probably the way they themselves see it as well.  Trump breaks the pattern because the network operates on honor and faithfulness, of which he has neither.  Parnas thought Trump was a true mob boss, but he was only -- as many point out -- only on Manhattan and only in the cement racket.  ("Endeavor", the PBS prequel to "Morse" has a vivid plot about consequences of that: structure failure.)  Parnas also says (rather naively) that he is working with two different national ethics and practices:  Ukraine, which operates on bribes and favoritism, and the US which theoretically resists both.  He appears to have been a portal for corruption, which is called the norm in that former USSR country.

So far Bannon has not been targeted.  He is the man described as watching with cold interest as the idealistic inhabitants of the Eco Bubble died for lack of oxygen.  It was the cement that was eating the oxygen chemically.  It's all so poetic and ironic.  Did you hear the distant sirens during the Maddow interview, just like the movies?  Surely there's an opera in the works somewhere.  Going mad is great plot fodder.  

I'm inclined to think that Trump's defense team may not stick.  They have until Tuesday to think it over and could even resign during the trial, right?  They are mostly old and have destroyed their careers.  None of them seem to really grasp what impeachment means.  It is NOT about breaking criminal law, but rather about the capability of leading a nation.  Trump thinks it is economics and that economics means oil.  "We have the oil!" he shouts.  And "if you impeach me, I will crash the stock market."

Erik Erikson wrote books about how whole countries become mirrors (not quite cults) of their leaders whether Gandhi or Luther.  (He never addressed MLK Jr. as far as I know.)  It has been suggested in other contexts that the reason Trump could so easily be swindled into office -- which surprised him as much as us -- is that we have adopted the same system-view, probably from watching too many TV crime shows with uncritical eyes.  Like Parnas, we fell for the faux glamour and the feeling that we are part of the gang, the anointed, the ones who really know.


The scariest aspect of this whole thing is that the world is participating in the hardships, the uncertainty, the dread.  The most cynical say "this bizarre, surreal affair called civilizational collapse is the story behind every headline, the truth inside every half-spun narrative, the great theme of all the endless dystopian news."  (@Umairh)  But maybe our bubble just popped.