Tuesday, January 22, 2019

NO POST, BAD EYES

You might be interested to know that the Red Hat Catholic boys who came to Washington DC to demonstrate against abortion have now been shown on a vid confronting a small group of girls and chanting, "It's not rape if you enjoy it."  Many of the boys are prepubertal.

This was earlier than taunting Nathan Phillips.
https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/news/woman-posts-brief-video-covington-catholic-boys-harrassed-my-friends-and-i-mkdq5uqY0Ei4eAOfbGjyAQ/

Monday, January 21, 2019

CONFRONTING NATHAN PHILLIPS, TRIBAL ACTIVIST

This encounter between Nathan Phillips and Nick Sandmann on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr Day is so symmetrical and so recorded that it will be analyzed for many years.  Everyone will see it from a slightly different angle, partly because of expectations and partly because of the ranging camera finders in the hands of multiple people.

This is what I saw:  a smart aleck ignorant kid and an old Lakota/Omaha man who is singing with a hand drum heartbeat.  Beside him was a second tribal man who didn't fit the stereotype so well, but was also drumming and singing.  Other indigenous people had been drifting around but weren't close.  Instead crowded kids of various ages, almost all white boys, with an assortment of expressions on their face.  The littler ones tended to be caught up the excited grinning and bouncing, poking the closest other boys to share and get reassurance.  Some of the older boys looked troubled, maybe divided about whether to stay or leave.  A small blonde girl was mock-dancing in the second tier of kids.  (We only saw a glimpse.) A younger boy with African American features was pushed up towards the front.  My guess is he was adopted by rich whites and just beginning to figure out what that meant.

My guess is that Sandmann interpreted Nathan as a poor, defeated figure from the past who was safe for him to use to do his little standoff playing Kevin Costner.    He badly misread Nathan who is an experienced, eloquent man -- Sandman just made him famous.  The Lakota have been protesting and walking against pipelines, those iron snakes, for years now.  They've been jailed, gassed, damaged by various "non-lethal" means like water cannons and rubber bullets, which only made them more determined.  They are very sophisticated.  And more united than ever.  I expect Sandmann would not have confronted Russell Means, who was much bigger and fiercer.

from TWITTER:  Emily L. Hauser, A Chicago writer specializing in the Middle East
"A big part of toxic masculinity is teaching boys to bond over the shared humiliation of people they perceive to be vulnerable."

The most useful observation came from a body language expert looking at vids, offering interpretation by each second of the vid.  He noted the tongues sticking out, the eyes shifting focus, etc and concluded that Sandmann was conflicted about what he was doing.  I wish I could find that info online again.

As new vids get posted, the four hairy and haranguing black men assume more importance -- they were armed with long sticks as well as their "visual aids."  Their accusations were violent.  At one point as the boys began to chant their game "rahrah", one boy began to strip but didn't go all the way.  There was no sign of law enforcement or chaperones.

This was the twitter comment that rocked me, and I know it is valid:
Linda LaPointe, A Canadian legislator
"FWIW, had #NathanPhilips NOT maintained his dignity and grace in the face of white supremacy and violence, he would be in jail now, or dead. Even yelling back would have earned him a police interaction. This is what ws [white supremacy] looks like- white kids can do this (and they do it often)."

Another twitter factoid from Rob Major
"I found out that the Covington Arch-Diocese, as of 2009, had paid $80 Million to 235 victims of 35 of their pedophile priests.  I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools. Priests are the leaders, they set the tone. Kids know when their role models are frauds. We sure did."

The boys themselves, as interviewed, begin to show contempt for Sandmann.  One noted that he had paid an online academic service to write his essays for him. It would be interesting to see his school files.

The school itself is built like a fortress.  I don't like the looks of that principal.  The administrators I've had who were the worst came out of the athletic programs. This guy was supposed to have traveled with the boys, but I don't see any sign of him.  Must've had his own agenda.  

The boy's mother works for a big financial institution; his father seems to be invisible or nonexistent.  Nick did a good job of punishing "mom" with this stunt -- she'll be lucky to keep her job.  Knowing the dynamics of single-mom families, there is a lot of potential for a boy to both yearn for a father and hate him. They are vulnerable to the attractions of a non-typical father figure like Nathan.  If I wrote about it, that's where I'd go with the plot.
Many movies and books will come out of this. 

Much of what I read is looking for analytical theories with real grip and usefulness.  One person I don't read -- because I watch the vids on YouTube -- is Sam Vaknin, who has developed greatly since his early curmudgeonly baiting and defiance.  Now I'm working my way through the YouTube series,  THE SAM VAKNIN INTERVIEWS in which his foil is Richard Grannon, Spartan Life Coach.  It's all a bit "cute" and not always useful, but occasionally really insightful. Especially considering how often I cross trails with male narcissists who fit Vaknin's pattern.  Most of them never achieve the humour and forgiveness of the present Vaknin.

He has a new theory now.  Remarking on how difficult it is for a therapist to "help" a narcissist as opposed to a trauma victim or a borderline personality, it dawns on him that narcissism develops as a self-defense against abuse, which includes actually being damaged, or being put down and insulted, or even being oppressed by people trying to control everything.  This, he claims, causes the person to stop developing on the one hand and remain a child, while splitting off a protective identity of importance and defence in a kind of binary split-person dissociation.  The therapist must activate the child and treat that aspect until it can feel safe and begin to develop.


The other line of thought I'm following is that of Lakoff and Johnson, which is the intelligence of "feeling" and symbolism.  The payoff here is in thinking about Nathan Phillips, who is aware of what an "Indian" stands for in the American mind.  I'm not quite sure that he grasps what looking poor conveys to a moneyed and entitled American -- both a threat and a permission to attack, because of the conviction that wealth equals virtue but poverty means failure.  This not-quite-hidden assumption is what leads to violence, historically and today in a public square.  Whoever did a "cleanup" of his image, has made Americans able to approve of him.  Now he's safer.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A RUINED CHAPEL

The little old church was so small and shabby that it usually escaped notice from the outside.  It was raining and a leaky roof was gradually turning one wall to a deeper color as it grew wet.  Probably the building had been a small chapel attached to a larger building, maybe a university or a major downtown church, but times had changed and now it was not-quite-derelict.  It had a dome, some of the chandeliers (rather strangely designed) had survived with functional if mismatched bulbs, but some previous installation of the Stations of the Cross was now only twelve nails evenly spaced between the side windows.  Only the round Rose Window at the front was stained glass, though it was missing a few panes or parts of panes.

When the door at the back burst open, gusting wet cool air came in accompanying a tall figure, a hatless man in a Navy pea-coat.  The woman, no longer young and no longer robust, sat at one side of the remaining pews -- about half were missing.  She wore a black academic robe, as though dressed for preaching but without a neckband collar or tabs.  She sat sideways with her feet drawn up under the old silk robe that had rotted under the arms. Her knees under under her chin.  She seemed to feel at home.

The man stood for a moment.  It was dark outside and he was waiting to be able to see again.  It was a while before he realized the woman was there. He noted that she had a child's haircut, a bowl cut, but her hair was gray.  His own hair was also gray and long, confined in a queue. His jaw was the usual stubble.  When he walked down the aisle his boots rang on the stone floor.

"Hello," the woman said mildly.  She was not afraid or angry or even welcoming.  "Can I help you?"  Standard politeness for "what do you want?

The man's hat turned out to be in his hand and now he beat it against his leg to knock water out of it.  "Don't want anything.  Just getting out of the rain."  He looked at the front of the room, which was still an elevated platform, noting that there was no furniture. no altar, no symbol on the wall except for that Rose window way up high.

"They took everything with them," she said.  "Altar, candles, the works."  

He saw that she was holding a book.  "What are you reading?" he asked, to be polite though it was a little nosy.  Still, people who were reading usually told the name of their book.  Anyway this was confusing and he needed clues.

She paused, considering the answer to be private and too intimate to tell, but recognized his confusion.  "Prayers for those who are grieving."

He backed off.  "Are you the clergy here?"

"Sort of."

"Are you preparing for services for someone who died?'

Without looking at the book, she said, "Who are you but a drop in the ocean, a grain of sand, a mote wavering in a sunbeam?"

"What kind of church is this?"

"Is it possible to have a church without a congregation?  Is it possible to have a sacred place without singing?"

He laughed.  "You sound like a poet."

"You know poets?"

"I AM a poet!"  They both laughed, she stood up to shake his hand and he saw she had bare feet.  "Why are you barefoot?"

"I like feeling the stone."

They both sat on the edge of the platform, plain wood now that the carpet had been ripped off.

She pulled the old torn silk around her.  "The secular and the sacred have almost merged now.  It was just a convenient idea anyway."  

"May I smoke?"

"Filthy habit.  Go ahead.  I don't believe in taboos."
He fished in his pockets for cigarette makings and shook out a bit of tobacco, explaining, "It's my own mix.  That's why I roll 'em."  He lit it with a wooden kitchen match.  "Only carry a few of these at a time.  They light too easily now and I don't want a conflagration in my pocket."

"Will you tell me a poem?" she asked.  The smoke curled up in the dome.  The end ember glowed.

"We thought the cosmos had no edge.
We were right and now you know.

We thought we were the only ones.
We were wrong and now you know.

We thought time began with the first word.
We stopped asking and now you know.

We stopped thinking.
Because now we know.

"Is that your poem?" she asked.  "Do you consider yourself bitter?"

"No."

"Which?"

"Both."  The cigarette didn't smell entirely like tobacco.

"You should write a poem about a conflagration in your pocket."

"You should write one about your feet on stone."

They laughed.  She rubbed her feet together.  "They do get a little chilly."

A sudden commotion up high. In through a hole in the Rose Window flew a bird.  It was not a dove or even a pigeon.  Bigger than those, it was a barn owl who was accustomed to living here on a ledge high under the dome. Its wings were wide and white. It's beak was not for pecking -- it was a hook for rending.

________________________________________________________________


This is a story written after reading Lakoff and Johnson all evening.  The principle is that one needs a context (the old chapel) to keep in place the many symbols that are everywhere.  These two people have an internal context, that of being poets, but from different natures.  What they share is their emphasis on responding to the sensory (rain, stone floor, lack of furniture, disrepair) which is not conventional, but gives them something shared until something happens or something comes from outside.  It's not that skillfully written (esp. the "poem") but -- come on!  It only was an hour's work, but a writer could open it up into quite a suggestive story about the two people interacting.  The roof could cave in, the building could catch fire.  I thought about adding a fire station just across the street, so that the yowl of the siren overwhelmed everything else.  Rose Windows have quite a suggestive history.

Or you could make this a story inside a story by revealing that this story is being discussed in a classroom or a literary sort of bar near a university, so the symbolism of owls and Stations of the Cross could be brought up. Or one could discuss the relationship between poets and priests.  This is an opening.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

BROOKS SEEKS HOPE

Some people have "wolf teeth", almost fangs.  My UU minister had them and hated them.  But when he became rich enough to have them made "normal", he lost his seeming edge and bite that had made him more than just a nice guy who went along.  David Brooks has baby teeth where his fangs ought to be, and it makes him seem a lot nicer and more innocent than he really is.

No, I'm wrong.  Watching vids, I see that his fangs are in place as normal, but the incisors next to his two front teeth (Bucky Beaver) are unusually small, giving him the look of a child with new adult teeth.  It's a point of hinged time, taking a new direction.  Apt.  Brooks is leading the culture into a new point of view that's actually very old.

Watch him in the last half of this vid clip.  (Ignore the first minute which is a silly disorganized and incoherent hostess.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNeaXnZsbac
What Brooks is really saying is that he's discovered the humanities: art, story, empathy and all that.  He had been a head-tripper at U of C when a young man, as I became as an old woman.  His joke about the school is the one where it's "a Baptist school where atheist professors teach Jewish students about St. Thomas Aquinas".  This is a Div School joke.  Today's university is more likely to be a legacy student in the Business School studying discredited economics, while pretending to be socially sophisticated.

In the end he changed, which he explains in this vid:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ev_MXxcfG4U

It was an experience of a group so emotionally open and inclusive that he thought, "Why have I been living the way I have when I could be living the way these people are?"  He describes it as recognition that all people have "desiring hearts" that long for fusion with others through intimacy, at the same time they have souls that yearn for good.  This leads to "radical mutuality."  

in turn this leads to the idea that "people on the marginal edges of society find a better way to live and other people copy them."  As a journalist and a perpetual student, he offers some sensational examples which he has acquired through an organization called "THE WEAVE: SOCIAL FABRIC PROJECT.
https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/weave-the-social-fabric-initiative/

I was wondering how Brooks found all these groups with their founding stories and detailed "structure" of how to operate.  I run across such groups every now and then, but in my experience with them -- which is all more than twenty years in the past -- they are generally time-limited and powered by one charismatic individual.  "The Weave" was his guide.  But because Brooks doesn't have time to invite people over for dinner, much less go to their houses, I wonder about his judgement. How does he know this stuff will work?

Brooks, like both Shields and Judy Woodruff on PBS, is irritatingly middle class.  He doesn't allow for people like me who never have formal dinners -- just walk around with a bowl of something so as not to interfere with writing.  I subscribe to the historic Blackfeet practice of keeping something on the "fire" (in the fridge) and dipping into it when needed.  Canned goods and sandwiches make it easy.  But Brooks is talking about Aspen, for goodness sake.  They are not only middle-class, but high end, the class that loves to travel to fine places and sit together exclaiming over "defiance of evil," defined as isolation and suicide, or maybe the culture's distrust of institutions and neighbors.

"Tribal" thinking based on hatred refers to stigma, the diminishment of people not as "good" (rich) as us.  I think his idea that "people on the marginal edges of society find a better way to live and other people copy them." is a valid premise for a bad reason: the real margins are constantly dying -- not from suicide or drug use, but from poverty and being shut out of the safety nets.  (The ones Trump and the Repubs are quickly eliminating.) They're just gone, those most marginal of marginals.

Two groups I've followed closely for the last twenty years,  but the one that originally kicked off my interest in the U of C and highest learning is ironically the one that let me down.  The UU's are NOT on the margin.  They thought they were pioneers of thought, but they turn out to be the ragged edge of Enlightenment as it now makes room for the return of the Whole Human in relationship, alongside strict scientific logic and proof.  It's not evil, but its focus is too tight.

In 1975 the PNWD of the UUA offered a Leadership School that wove together theology, organizational design, history, and personal devotion.  It broke me open the way that Brooks was broken open by people who hug.  This is apart from my first real participation in the middle class.  (Undergrad years at NU were in the higher middle class, but I was in theatre, which is different -- as close to classless as we could get. On purpose.)  

U of C Div School would have been a mistake except for Richard Stern, who was an elite Manhattan product and not at all a hugger, but somehow interested in the "others" and their stories.  The mistake became clear when I was actually serving congregations, all of whom were middle class.  Hear the distaste?  They were stuck.  Leadership School was soon merchandized into a tool for growth and an effort to make the institution of the UUA stop shrinking while keeping "Others" out so nothing would change.  No Mexicans. No one from Alabama.  Some nice token blacks.  Hear my exasperated contempt for this?  I try not to admit it.  They expect only to dish it out and will not respond well.

The two groups I have really watched for decades cannot be joined by me.  I have no provenance for an indigenous heritage, though I am deeply committed to the land on or off the rez.  The other one is a gathering of boys who have AIDS.  I don't qualify for them either.  But I'm far more aware of who they are than they think.  Not as a label, but as unique individuals.  Both groups are in process, dynamic, moving, exploring.  That's what makes them so fascinating.

Brooks talks about the technology of intimacy -- he means something roughly like organizational design.  Not lovers but family.  He speaks in a voice that sometimes shakes.  He says, "we'll walk this thing together."  In another place he realizes that a conversation can be "four jungles into the weeds."  But it's still attempting to defy evil. walking together while we talk.

Friday, January 18, 2019

DARK

I'm on Twitter and risk my eyes there too often because if I wade through a lot of nonsense, there are valuable insights.  The ones I like the best are the ones with which I agree.  For instance, James Gleick -- a respected science writer -- says:  "Trump is inadvertently sharing more about his dark fantasies than anyone wanted to know."

He is reacting to Daniel Dale, a Toronto journalist, who remarks:  "Experts on human trafficking say Trump’s tales about women being bound, gagged and stuffed in airless vans to be brought in from Mexico do not resemble any reality…"

We're already aware that this big lump of a boy-man gets his information from the most sensational and opportunistic medias.  He posts to Twitter all the time, but I have no fantasies about him reading the comments or responses.  He imagines he is devastatingly powerful and doesn't want interference with that notion.  It's rather clear that Putin has replaced Fred in Trump's mind.  At first Trump didn't know he was owned, even though he's mafia born and bred.  He was a fish not recognizing water.  The moment of truth was probably Helsinki if I'm accurately reading the body language in the photo of the two men emerging from a private frank talk.  Putin grins like the cat that ate the canary, Trump looks like one mauled and chewed little bird.  His shoulders slump, his head hangs.

I've hinted that when Putin is through with Trump, he'll simply rub him out, the way he has so many others, but the truth is that Trump is so obviously a blind child who doesn't realize that Manhattan is neither the Vatican nor Moscow, that his limitations are known to everyone by now:  there will be no need.  He is a weak reed who cannot even deliver on a set-up that should have sent all the marbles into his corner.

So now I wonder whether Putin, like May, is going to be confronted with his limitations and whether disrupting the world order (destroying NATO, for instance) might not throw him into the bonfire of his own vanities.  Once it was all based on the atomic bomb, but now that is a trivial lever in a world where the whole planet is turning against human beings with no button to push, no red emergency phone, no bombers in the air -- just human refusal to see and understand that we're using up all the water, that the ocean is awash with plastic, that the tiny trajectories of our lives are swept away by aeons of cosmic inevitability.  I've never seen any indication that Putin can operate a computer or understand how the internet works.

But Gleick and Dale, almost acting as therapists, have pointed to Trump's own inescapable internal horror films.  The only reason Trump hasn't run screaming mad in the night is that he has a fantasy that he can be a super-hero who socks the threat in the throat -- when in fact he only has a check book and the stupidity of all the people who fail to see it's only a book of IOU's.  I suspect Putin has seen the real horror of life and accepts it as a norm.  No fantasies as protection against the possibilities of a terrible fate.

The only thing more ridiculous than Trump throwing rolls of paper towels at flood victims (so far) was mocking state dinners with a table of fast food flanked by elaborate candleabras.  Reworking his grinning "host" image with the monster from Pan's Labyrinth was very apt, the staring eyes literally in thehands of a child-imagined monster.

This quote is from M.M. Owen in Aeon.  "On the right, there is the attempt to preserve the old tribal markers of people and place, despite them being, at the deepest level, basically imaginary. On the left, identity is framed as at once gravely determined, tying you to entire human histories of either victimhood or guilt – and also so self-determined and infinitely flexible as to be almost meaningless. Whatever your affiliation, we are consumed with thinking about our identity, and everyone is confused."  He's talking about Erikson, who was a fatherless German psychoanalyst who believed that people like Luther or Gandhi were exemplifiers of their time and place. 

So is Trump an exemplification of our times?  (Is Putin the same except in a different place?)  Insurgencies and new dictators abound.  It's possible to make a pretty good case that life is following art is following life is following nightmare is following living horror.  A story that imagined putting children "on ice" in cages would have been considered preposterous until we all saw it on television.  Such stories have made the reports seem preposterous, even as we're looking at them.  The ability of a computer/TV screen to be hoaxed by CGI-altering images has convinced us even more that there is no reality -- not really.  

All of this atrocity and preposterousness can only be dealt with as circus.  Except the circus doesn't normally include real and lethal events (Two children dead so far while incarcerated in the US.  Many more deaths on the way north.  At least one adult forced to return home has been murdered.)

Various challengers say to Trump, "We're killing children!" and his answer is "So does everyone else."  It's a child's morality.  The trouble is it's true. Reformers hope that putting photos of the most desperately starved children on the news will motivate us to do something about it.  It only throws the real story into the Halloween category.  "A warning, some people may find these photos hard to watch" means in reality "call the kids that want to test their thrill-meter once more."  Writers, esp for television shows, are challenged to think up the most ghastly stuff.  How can we not-quite-kill James Bond one more sexual and deviant time?

At least it relieves the boredom.  For a while.  The shine has been off sex for quite a while.  It takes a lot of energy and stagecraft or it's not "real".  Violence is the backup.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

GERRYMANDERING SEX

Families have always been the most basic unit of social organization, which is one reason we are now so exposed to disorder.  Families have always been in tension several ways: between love (for partner, children and extended family) and sex (simple conjugation, lust) because "tension" comes from contradiction and the struggle for either reconciliation or finding a way to avoid trouble.

Also, tension abides between the individual (often lust but possibly love) and the community (same).  The need for reconciliation is what creates narrative, because all of these are time-arts -- or time-sciences.  One thing triggers another.  Each small thing is part of the story.

Given this, one answer that develops in every culture is that of established boundaries of behavior.  In some situations, more reproduction is most important.  In another, it is the support of the new person who arrives.  In one situation it is important NOT to have a child -- in another one is pressed by economics or something else (what?) to have a child.  

Cultures are created by genomics pressed against environment: we do what will let us survive -- or we don't.  Because of human memory and imagination, it is possible to defend one's identity even when out of step or disobedient enough to be killed, and then the identity goes on in story.  Or it can go the other way, so the community erases your identity, but you go on living.  Stories like The Handmaid's Tale" make a whole group one's identity for the sake of the community.

When I was raised, during and directly after WWII, the rules were very clear and conveyed to me in the strongest terms.  Do not get pregnant.  If you are married, you must get pregnant by your legal spouse.  If you do get pregnant out of wedlock, you must bear the child but then you must give it away and keep the whole thing secret.  If the child is faulty, best to let it die.  If it is born dead or dies shortly after, best to deny it ever existed.

Ignore all feelings of your body or desire for well-being because your "job" in life is to fulfill these rules for everyone's sake.

An alternative is to live through a man but outside marriage, or through men as a whore.  Whoring is not about the use of the body but about not being human anymore, an economic necessity.  But there are higher forms of using the body this way if you can find them.  Do not have children.

Same sex people can explore this option more easily than hetero couples but the price -- as always when crossing a border -- is secrecy.  A boundary which in one culture will simply get one killed and is a sharp line, can become a rather wide country where a person can dwell.  It has a double-boundary, one when you cross into the forbidden and one when you go further to the unforgivable.

Much of this is situational.  You'll find out through consequences and watching the others, because there will be others.

But the world changes.  Legal abortion and effective contraception have changed the rules, which the gerrymanderers do not like, so they try to force old consequences to return.  They will go so far as murder.  That's another legal border that wavers, thins and thickens.

Legality is always in competition or collusion with natural consequences.  The laws on marriage are disregarded by many and ignored in complexity by those who blindly marry or divorce.  These laws are the work of the States and the reservations, which are quasi states.  Paperwork like "licenses" (which are sometimes presented as permissions that preserve legality) for birth, marriage, and death are meant to manage "ownership" of property and "responsibility" for children.  They are monetary matters, but also useful in managing propriety, acceptable to conventions.

Some legality can be taken to one of several kinds of court:  the Rule of Law, which is written down but still negotiable; or tort law, which is about matters that must be argued; or delineated by the context like marine law or tax law.  Law on a reservation is likely to contain fossils from earlier and offensive times.

How are we to understand how to frame up new principles and Rules of Law for today's living ways.  We want survival for individuals, but can we find and enforce that edge?  Some communities find their lives so impossible that they become emigrants and disrupt the new places that they are considered immigrants.  Though they are individuals, they become a group.

Two social forces try to manage groups with rules and sometimes force that may be secret.  One is the government and the other is religious.  When conservative "Christians" were numerous enough to make the US act like a theocracy (the two forces merged), the rules were in one place but now there is too much variety.

One of the purposes of family and many mechanisms of the whole (school, church) is to make constructive adults out of children.  With so much chaos, both economic and cultural, this isn't happening.  We are stockpiling children in warehouses not equipped for making children human, much less adult.  They do their best by helping each other but it is not enough.  They age quickly and as they age they changing voting.  So it is noted that many of the people who voted for Brexit are dead.  (The old are likely to want to preserve the past.)  But many of the people who have come of age since the last vote are now old enough and much more oriented to a future with Europe.  This does not usually work in favor of the conservatives.


What principles must we make real?  Individuals must not be invaded or forced.  Communities must find ways towards unity -- something besides opposing others.  Many boundaries will have to be erased.  Others need to be invented.  "Escape" alternatives need to be arranged.  A grand and embracing narrative about what it is to be human, what it is to live on a planet like this one even if it changes, and what to do with a new infant, both inside while gestating and outside learning to walk and talk, building an inner architecture of hope and laughter.

NIGHTMARES ARE INSIDE YOU

I'm on Twitter and risk my eyes there too often because if I wade through a lot of nonsense, there are valuable insights.  The ones I like the best are the ones with which I agree.  For instance, James Gleick -- a respected science writer -- says:  "Trump is inadvertently sharing more about his dark fantasies than anyone wanted to know."

He is reacting to Daniel Dale, a Toronto journalist, who remarks:  "Experts on human trafficking say Trump’s tales about women being bound, gagged and stuffed in airless vans to be brought in from Mexico do not resemble any reality…"

We're already aware that this big lump of a boy-man gets his information from the most sensational and opportunistic medias.  He posts to Twitter all the time, but I have no fantasies about him reading the comments or responses.  He imagines he is devastatingly powerful and doesn't want interference with that fantasy.  It's rather clear that Putin has replaced Fred in Trump's mind.  At first Trump didn't know he was owned, even though he's mafia born and bred.  He was a fish not recognizing water.  The moment of realization was probably Helsinki if I'm accurately reading the body language in the photo of the two men emerging from a private frank talk.  Putin grins like the cat that ate the canary, Trump looks like one mauled and chewed little bird.  His shoulders slump, his head hangs. His face despairs.

I've hinted that when Putin is through with Trump, he'll simply rub him out, the way he has so many others, but the truth is that Trump is so obviously a blind child who doesn't realize that Manhattan is neither the Vatican nor Moscow, that his limitations are known to everyone by now --  there will be no need.  He is a weak reed who cannot even deliver on a set-up that should send all the marbles into his corner. (We have the bribe map now.)

So now I wonder whether Putin, like May, is going to be confronted by his own people with his limitations and whether disrupting the world order (destroying NATO, for instance) might not throw him into the bonfire of his own vanities.  Once it was all based on the atomic bomb, but now that is a trivial lever in a world where the whole planet is turning against human beings with no button to push, no red emergency phone, no bombers in the air -- just human refusal to see and understand that we're using up all the water, that the ocean is awash with plastic, that the tiny trajectories of our lives are swept away by aeons of cosmic inevitability.  I've never seen any indication that Putin can operate a computer or understand how the internet works. He's aging, already out of date.

But Gleick and Dale, almost acting as therapists, have pointed to Trump's own inescapable internal horror films.  The only reason he hasn't run screaming mad into the night is fantasy that he can be a super-hero who socks the threat in the throat when in fact he only has a check book and until now the stupidity of all the people who fail to see it's only a book of IOU's.  I suspect Putin has seen the real horror of life -- banal as it may be -- and accepts it as a norm.  No fantasies as protection against the possibilities of a terrible fate.

The only thing more ridiculous than Trump throwing rolls of paper towels at flood victims was mocking state dinners with a table of cooling fast food flanked by elaborate candleabras.  Reworking his grinning "host" image with the monster from Pan's Labyrinth was very apt, the staring eyes-literally-in-hands of a child-imagined monster.

This quote is from M.M. Owen in Aeon.  "On the right, there is the attempt to preserve the old tribal markers of people and place, despite them being, at the deepest level, basically imaginary. On the left, identity is framed as at once gravely determined, tying you to entire human histories of either victimhood or guilt – and also so self-determined and infinitely flexible as to be almost meaningless. Whatever your affiliation, we are consumed with thinking about our identity, and everyone is confused."  He's talking about Erikson, who was a fatherless German psychoanalyst who believed that people like Luther or Gandhi were exemplifiers of their time and place.

So is Trump an exemplification of our times?  (Is Putin the same except in a different place?)  Insurgencies and new dictators abound.  It's possible to make a pretty good case that life is following art is following life is following nightmare is following living horror.  A story that imagined putting children "on ice" in cages would have been considered preposterous until we all saw it on television.  Such stories have made the reports seem preposterous, even as we're looking at them. 

The ability of a computer/TV screen to be hoaxed by CGI-altering images has convinced us even more that there is no reality -- not really.  All of this atrocity and preposterousness can only be dealt with as circus.  Except the circus doesn't normally include real and lethal events (Two children dead so far while incarcerated.  Many more deaths on the way north.)  

Various challengers say to Trump, "We're killing children!" and his answer is "So does everyone else."  It's a child's morality.  The trouble is it's true. Reformers hope that putting photos of desperately starved children on the news will motivate us to do something about it.  It only throws the real story into the Halloween category.  "A warning, some people may find these photos hard to watch" means "call the kids that want to test their thrill-meter once more."  Writers, esp for television shows, are challenged to think up the most ghastly stuff, so they compete.  How can we not-quite-kill James Bond one more sexual and deviant time?


At least it relieves the boredom.  For a while.  The shine has been off sex for quite a while.  It takes a lot of energy and stagecraft now or it's not "real".  Violence has replaced sex, even if Trump's violence is in his head or on paper.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

WAIT, WAIT! GENOME?

Are you factoring in the accumulating evidence?

The great preponderance of the genome is directions for making MOLECULES that create and operate the body.  We share the great preponderance of these genes with all preceding life because every new mutation or development includes what has gone before.  Have you read "Your Inner Fish"?

Whatever the proven genome may be at the moment, the environment can mute or unmute genes via a process called "methylation."  The methyl molecule adds itself to a gene because of environmental influences.  The earliest discoveries were due to food -- the period of starvation induced on the Dutch during WWII silenced certain genes for the next three generations and crossed gender lines.  This is called the epigenome. 

In another example a woman was discovered to have two completely different genomes in her body evidently because at a very early stage of gestation, her twin died (it was only a few cells at the time) and then mixed with the surviving fetus.  Such mixtures are called chimeras after a legendary composite animal that combined lion/goat/dragon.

Women who have had babies show that they have cells in their bodies with the baby's completely different genomes that evidently slipped through the umbilical cord and survived in the mother.

Did you know that sections of genes or individuals can move up and down the chromosomes, sliding along the helixes?  This is a chief means of new mutations and variation -- which is the definition of mutation -- which is the basis of evolution (not powerfulness) because it creates a range of characteristics, some of which fit the situation better than others so that those survive but the "others" do not.  The fittingness is the determinant.

So a rather blunt experiment done by scientists was simply counting the transpositions in eight different species.  "Using a bioinformatics comparative genomics approach, we performed analysis of species-specific mobile elements (SS-MEs) in eight primate genomes, which include human, chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, green monkey, crab-eating macaque, rhesus monkey, and baboon. These species have good representations for the top two primate families, Hominidae (great apes) and the Cercopithecidae (old world monkeys), for which draft genome sequences are available."  The result was that the crab-eating macaque had the fewest transpositions and was the least developed species and the humans had the most transportations.  Thus one could deduce that mutations created by sliding genes are the key to becoming higher animals.  https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2019/01/14/520387

Moving to the point of view of genomics, both through history and across continents, we find ourselves in quite different worlds where all the creatures that we learned about before we had words, expressing their identities by pointing in picture books and imitating the sounds we think they make -- we find their labels are unknown again.  If the species are not what we learned, if the world can be so transformed by new knowledge, how do we know how to act towards them?

At "23andMe". a genome-analyzing business, the questions are more personal.  Sibs turn out to have different fathers.  In a world where the Rule of Law controls ownership and inheritance and is based on genetic relationship, usually descent, the supposed accuracy of the evidence sometimes overwhelms family assumptions that have been convenient or even cherished.  At Ancestry.com and other such businesses, special units have to be set up to help people handle the shock of reality.  Elizabeth Warren's political difficulties with her sentimental belief of Native American heritage are mild compared to people who discover their "family" is not their family. The story about the three identical pretty girls, triplets who turned out to have shared the same conception egg but have totally different heritages according to the tests, was highly entertaining.  Persons who sent samples to different companies and got quite different percentages had discovered that interpreting DNA is more an art than a science.

Legally, money and other entitlements can come or go. Fathers who used to be able to escape paying for a child's upbringing used to be able to claim that the woman had had many unions and it might not have been his contribution that started this baby.  Not any more.  One begins to understand why anal rape has become popular -- the fertility is not the kind that starts human gestation.
Measuring genetic linkage is done by "centimorgans", a unit of measurement based on genes shared.  Siblings normally share about 2,600 centimorgans of DNA, while half-siblings share 1,800.  That's only a premise and doesn't allow for mutations after birth-determined genes.

What do you say over the breakfast table?  What if a father knows he had a son with someone other than a legal wife, and the son was raised in that family but is told as a teenager who his "real" father is.  There is no word for this, not even a German composite like "doppelganger".  The realignment of one's identity narrative is major, possibly redemptive if it adds the right kind of parent, especially if the third figure is similar and supportive.  Our social ways of thinking about all this are as difficult to understand as when a gestating egg becomes a legal "person" or when a brain-destroyed person is actually dead.  What are the principles for thinking about this stuff?

The explanations for much of this stretch back in time through war, crime, generosity ("I have twins, please take one baby."), political deception ("Oh, your baby died. Also, we have sterilized you."), simple mistakes ("We'd better start marking these baby-mother  pairs with bracelets."), and surprise throw-backs when previously suppressed genes become dominant. ("Why is this baby BLACK?")   In my family it was red hair that suddenly appeared.

Since our society is so managed by stigma, which is mostly a matter of money and appearance, genetics deals a different hand of cards to everyone regardless of what they deserve. A chance moment deals the cards.  The suites of mix and match then depend upon the tension between genes and environment, which play off each other, producing quite different results.  Excellent genes still can be a death sentence.  Faulty or stigmatized genes can be rescued and even valorized by environment, either accidentally or on purpose.

We expect least that DNA is wandering molecules that can detach from any creature, as in the evidence in a rape kit or evidence left at a murder scene.  One person was convicted because the DNA of his cat had transferred to him and then to his victim.  Free-floating DNA is found in the sea, which is approximately where it evolved itself in the beginning.  They say that any two people who are physically intimate for whatever reason (caretaking, lovers) will soon share the tiny parasites in our guts and under our folds, each of which invisible beasts has independent microgenomes.

The impossibly long genomic threads of descent through animals might address history and give us evidence of appearance or qualities.  What if Elizabeth I was not the daughter of Henry VIII?  What if we had her genome and knew why she herself had no descendants?  Or that she wasn't "properly" female.  Such outrageousness can give us an appetite for revelations, which is probably as much a problem as taking genomes for granted.

If someone managed to find genetic evidence of Jesus, would he have triple helixes in all chromosomes and would the third one glow in the dark?  Tri-somal conceptions -- humans with three wound-together helixes of genes -- cannot live.  You've got to pay attention and you might not like the evidence.  You might realize you made some of it up.