28 August 2023


Sherwood Coach Road Northeast of Birmingham, southeast of Manchester, in what was once known as Mercia, among the very strongest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in post-Roman England, Nottingham is known to the world for Torvil and Dean, England's fabulous ice-dancers who reached the very top of their art and sustained for years the imagery of their break-through Olympics performance to Ravel's erotic masterpiece Bolero. Nottingham is known to almost every English speaking schoolboy for quite a different reason. Out of Nottinghamshire came a story of Robin Hood and his merry band of thieves who, reliably, stole from the rich and gave to the poor, encountered frequently the Sheriff of Nottingham and sometimes made a fool of him. This view of the old Sherwood Coach Road [courtesy of All Trails] might easily have inhabited the minds of millions of English boys and girls.

The truly interesting thing about the stories of Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw, thief, archer, swordsman, born of the yoeman class or, perhaps, into the nobility, perhaps a crusader in the Holy Land once under King Richard Coeur de Lion. Robin is larger than life, his sources are ancient tales and ballads.

The first clear reference to "rhymes of Robin Hood" is from the alliterative poem Piers Plowman, thought to have been composed in the 1370s, followed shortly afterwards by a quotation of a later common proverb,[2] "many men speak of Robin Hood and never shot his bow",[3] in Friar Daw's Reply (c. 1402)[4] and a complaint in Dives and Pauper (1405-1410) that people would rather listen to "tales and songs of Robin Hood" than attend Mass.[5]

And there in the Wikipedia all this while is the point and shaft of this essay. The Tales of Robin Hood presented to or read to children older than six or so are a piece of our civilization represented as a form of truth, of the ambiguity of myth, as honored in concept, if not in meticulous fact. We are taught by these stories that our solemn heritage includes the occasional outlaw whom we honor, with whom we agree in details of a believable life, whose skills with arms are remarkable, whose charisma is indubitable and holds together during trying times a band of men, of petty thieves and rascals and skilled men no longer respected back in their villages or in Nottingham itself.

Little John, Maid Marion, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, Much (the miller's son), and Will Scarlet moved us too. And we learned to hate the Sheriff of Nottingham with a fearsome passion. It is a tale much wider than outlawry; it is a tale of rebellion, classic, yet without a plan, unless that would be to restore their leader to his full greatness—a greatness built of charismatic tests of valor and skill out there in Sherwood's darkly inpenetrable recesses.

You picked up the thread earlier. It is an analogy with strong resonance to the thousands of the enthrawled today and their families. It begins to explain the strength of their movement, the sturdy grounding in the mythos we share, the permission it gives to side with the outcast, even the outlaw. Each one usually graduated from high school, functionally illiterate, now enserfed by trenchant ignorance, road and alley smart, not street and avenue smart, and led by usurpers and scoundrels, hangers on, outlaws themselves in fact, racist politicians.



4 August 2023

Rabble & Deplorables

During her 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Hillary Clinton referred demeaningly to a poorly defined group of American working-class people whose politics ran orthogonal to her expressly east-coast Democratic neo-liberalism, papered over with her midwest deliberate innocence and Arkansan first-lady-ness. She called them "deplorables." The word usually means "those deserving of strong condemnation" and "of bad quality." In a stroke she alienated a large group of nominally Democratic voters who now either saw themselves (or their close associates) as political outsiders, non-conforming for their own "perverse"—against their "own" interests—selfish, immature, moronic political reasons.

That single comment and the (completely unusual and ill-timed) announcement by FBI Director James Comey that Hillary was under investigation for illegal conduct regarding her private email account while she was Secretary of State were sufficient to get Donald J. Trump elected. It is generally considered that Comey's stupidly indiscrete announcement was deliberate political sabotage, especially given the minor nature of the email situation and the fact that an investigation of Trump was not announced. Nevertheless, Clinton's standing in the polls had already suffered grievously from the "deplorables" comment. And, on reflection, the hypocrisy of pots and kettles yelling at one another was never pursued by the press.

Society here in the US and everywhere else is hierarchical along several dimensions. Class, and caste systems as in India, combine these dimensions into named and hierarchically ranked categorical categories with defined permissions, restrictions, benefits, and economic status, even including or excluding certain trades and other means of making a living. English society does as well, but calls them classes not castes, perhaps because religion is less involved. In the US there are semi-amorphous castes, which because the nation is so geographically large and citizens so numerous and the nature of economies so various that castes are only rarely and only recently identified, or barely alluded to. "Brahmins," like those in Boston, exist elsewhere, but are not called that or even defined the same way, yet they are society's top of the heap, wealthy, powerful politically, and usually well-educated.

"Rabble," and sometimes "Deplorables," are by definition at the bottom of the heap and much more complex than the "rabble in arms" that fought against the British and their mercenaries from Germany in the Revolutionary War. The "rabble" were poor, mostly illiterate, mostly unmannered, cognitively average or less, likely to be unhealthy, but also likely to be ambitious, after all they were immigrants or their descendants, seeking a better way of life, or relief from a horrid existence in the old world. "Deplorables" are a bit different.

Fast forward two hundred years where now we find descendants in lots of places, some in well set, most not and for all kinds of reasons not advanced (or recently derrogated) socially and politically because of

  • large-scale processes like "post-industrialization" or pandemic or post-slavery and broken treaty abuses, or by
  • medium scale situations like regional or local dislocations from weather, crime and corruption, racial or ethnic or religious confrontations, or because of
  • personal problems and failures at school or work, perhaps genetic or family issues like alcoholism, drug addiction, rape, incest, bullying, mendacity, and other deficits of neighborhood, parental, family, or self- control. Which are all very real and very likely to evolve into "deplorability" when the community does not or cannot care. Clinton was not thinking clearly or deeply about this.

    Becoming an "Untouchable" in India is a matter of being born to Dalit parents. In the US it is a matter centered around economics, but also conditioned by race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, education, neighbors, and, it is usually assumed to be also conditioned by family customs, mores, and adaptability. Children grow up to be functional adults or malfunctioning members of local, sometimes national, society at all economic levels, but the poorer, the worse it gets and the environment less conducive to clawing one's way out.

    Economic poverty constricts the kinds of behaviors that are commonly thought to be a part of a positive evolution into good citizenship, but there are various kinds of poverty, such as a poverty of security, of love and affection, of truthfulness, of intelligence, and of empathy. Bullied children often grow up to bully others, including their own children. The human experience is so rich, given the potentialities of the human brain, that many (most, in fact) societies have not managed to establish empirical descriptions of what causes a person to reach adulthood deranged in some way, such as without respect for the law, or the actual personhood of an entire gender, or reigns on his or her own narcissism. It is not unfathomable, but it is exceedingly complex. Perhaps a hundred years from now we humans with our AIs will be able to codify for practical use descriptions and ways for redirecting a troubled, damaged person toward more prosocial behavior.

    The "rabble" of 1776 probably contained persons who were irremediable, just as we have them today ... at all levels ... then and now. The Benedict Arnolds of the Revolutionary Epoch and the drunken louts in George Washington's bedraggled army were exemplars in their own age of persons gone crucially awry. The "deplorables" of our day are in the US Congress, and they are the hyper avaricious on Wall Street, the dishonest realtors, merchants, policemen, and city councilmen downtown They are the abusive, out-of-work parents in America's rust belts, teaching violence and racism to kids they do not love. And they are amateurish parents perpetuating negative behaviors because they do not know better in a society that prizes private individuality over social cohesion.

    It is easy to see some of the reasons these people have become who they are, and it is clear that those in authority over children are the most liable for the derangements that happen, those distortions of worldview, of practical understanding of what society is, and of self-esteem and self-control. But it is not as easy to accept their right to abuse their vote on what course our nation should take in the future. The deplorables among the well-heeled, especially those already elected to serve in government, especially the conniving liars, the cheats, misanthropes, misogynists, predators, narcissists. They are—and always have been—the burden we clumsily bear for the lack of a humane and reliable system for providing all children respectful help and for providing our society with better standards of behavior.



    10 July 2023

    "Man Child"

    The July 3rd edition of The New Yorker has a book review, "How to Raise a Man Child" by Alexandra Schwartz, of Heidi Julavits's book Directions to Myself (Penquin Random House). I read it at breakfast this morning and again online afterward, changing my mind about it completely. I will research Julavits a bit before I get a Kindle of it. It is a medium length book review, and if you are a parent or were a child you should read it, the review,—now.

    I am and was, and I am a person in this epoch wherein lots of males of the species are (probably) hopelessly bereft and now acting out in society a drama meant to erase the "humiliating" present and revert to a past they wish to recapture, or at-last-capture for themselves. These times are fraught with malimagination!

    With that point of view provided, I will try to keep my comments short. The one part that made me wince was the "slut" aftermath where one parent is ready to take action, while the other "prefers a wait-and-see approach." The outcome also made me wince, proving that parenting is a very inexact science and art and craft, which made me think about our society in general again, not to mention our histories.

    I also harkened back to a childhood situation where my parents were probably in disagreement about the best course to take and how I felt about it. Truthfully, I think I was "unmoved" and felt like I was me, on my own, learning more about them than about me, or how to be.



    8 July 2023


    Binary these days is in the news as an assertion or statement that some people are not strictly gender binary, not simply either femme or homme, but in some ways have characteristics, physical and/or psycho-social, usually ascribed only to hommes or only to femmes. So in other words, challenging the idea that such a characteristic is exclusive to one gender or another. Many things we think about as being discretely this or that are not, but in actual scientific fact lie on a continuum of possibilities, some rare, some more common than spoken of.

    My idea of a dwelling is an apartment or house, but not a yurt or cave or palace. It is easy see such an idea as having values beyond mere architecture. With people there are tell-tale features that recommend assigning the whole person to one or the other of homme or femme, but in actual contemporary society we also recognize "features," "dispositions," and "behaviors" that are assumed to be grounded in physio-chemical reality or in psychological preference or necessity. And so, we now are being asked fairly politely to consider "dichotomous" as one kind or version of "polychotomous," not simply either this or that, but shades and variations between that to this. In order to prod the majority into this new conceptual territory, parties are asking us to see our languages as a mirror of and in terms of the modern world's emerging understanding of reality. It is a request to fix a problem in language the kind of which we have not taken in hundreds of years, i.e., toward clarity and respectful regularity.

    Pronouns are the linguistic equivalents of avatars, that is, they stand in place of nouns/names for persons. Here is is list of pronouns for persons the subject of the sentence, i.e., the person "being" or "acting" in some way:

    LanguageThe person speakingThe person spoken toThe person spoken of The persons speakingThe persons spoken toThe persons spoken of

    Russianyavы/tыon,ona,ono (mui)oni

    One thing that stands out preliminarily is that pronouns are either for singular persons (or things) or plural. Already on this table you can see the English is the simplest collection of nominative pronouns, but English still discriminates the gender of persons spoken of, as do the four others of these main European languages. All but English discriminate formal from familiar singular "you," German carries this into the plural, French discriminates gender in "they," and Spanish discrimates gender in all plural forms. In other words, in just the Nominative (Subjective) case, it is already complicated.

    The people who do not want to use "he" or "she" pronouns in English have proposed adding "they" to the singular "spoken of" (3rd person) pronouns. This is on the principle (paradigm) set by the use of the word "you" for both singular and plural persons. It is already in limited general use, including one of the IMDB actor biography descriptions in the essay preceding this one [scroll down]. Adding "they" to the 3rd person singular is not simplifying. Removing "he, she, it" and replacing them with "they" would be. But obviously some people, considering themselves to be binary, would prefer in English to be referred to as "he" or "she," (and objects referred to as "it") . It is all the more interesting when you consider Salvor Hardin and Gaal Dornick in the video version of Foundation are she and they respectively, but when Asimov wrote of them they were both male.

    It is clear enough to me that the other languages shown are considerably less likely to accommodate non-binary people in their grammatic lexicons. Consider the nuance that the formal-informal pronouns give to all the other languages! Consider the concept of human beings being on a continuum rather than one or the other of genders. Then consider how alienating it is for non-binary people to be thought of as confined to the most common denominator characteristics of binary genders.

    English rarely uses the "we" in the singular, but does have it for socially important people like kings and queens. English could go to "we, you, they, / we, you, they" quite easily, or at least without inviting as much as a civil war among the Americans, Canadians, English, Australians, New Zealanders, and billions of others. And considering that being the lingua franca of our world currently, lots of people with other first-languages, would approve quickly and happily!

    I will not answer the question of whether a speaker or writer must inquire of a person their preference, leaving it to "discovery" to solve that issue. The IMDB scribes seem to have this "solved" so far. They are in a good position to propagate the "they"-practice. Meanwhile we rest our heads to consider the option of using just three distinct words ("we, you, they") for all situations. "Jackie hit they then ran away from they as one, then some, of they in the room laughed, but we did not."



    3 July 2023

    The Sweep of History
    ~650 words

    Imagine a pendulum. It hangs from a point in a gravity well. It has a certain mass, 90% of which is within the last 10% of its length. Its length is undefined. The lowest part is a broom of 500 resilient fibers. The pendulum is propelled by the weight of water, replenished by an as-yet undefined, but ~perpetual~ stream. It is the iconic broom that performs the sweep of history.

    This is the flash of my imagination as I repeat the first season of "Foundation", the cinematic descendant of Isaac Asimov's sweep-of-history science fiction series Foundation and its parallel series Robots. I am anticipating the second season will arrive on Apple TV on July 14th. IMDB provides a bit more information and context.

    The "sweep of history" usually means a "kinetic," panoramic, observation of vast measures of times past, usually as if within the privileged vision something will appear to the viewer as key, essential, repetitive, analogous, poignant, instructive, paradigmatic, poetic, but which otherwise in a welter of characters and details is too difficult to discern. My strange fantasy was that history is also the constant and repetitive process of sweeping away the present, then the year, the epoch, and the contexts that may or may not appear in the sweep. Asimov also assumed a process of change.

    The central character in the Foundation series is Hari Seldon, who is Isaac Asimov, who began and published the first of the Foundation series in 1942. Hari is the point where the sweep is hinged. He is a psycho-historian, blending data with historical analysis, psychology, sociology, statististics, anthropology, and with exacting mathematical logic. Hari Seldon creates a science of understanding the sweep of history, of trillions of human beings now scattered across the galaxy, governed by an Emperor on a planet called Trantor.

    And so it seems, Asimov believed Hari Seldon's complex statistics predict a future at this multi-thousand-year stage of human expansion with very little evolution of the human being and the logically and historically simplest form of governance, monarchy. And, his science predicts—as science does—that the empire must fall, that the "dark age" will last 30,000 years, but that it can be contained to a mere 1,000 years, if the science of psychohistory is perfected and enabled by a colony of his students and their families.

    I am sure that someone has examined both of Asimov's Foundation and Robot series in terms of WWII and the Great Depression and the local politics of New York City, which is the seed idea of Trantor. The story is about people, though, and how they act, despite there being a science of how large numbers of people will act, given probable contexts. The robot influence in the original stories was fantasy, but in the contemporary online Apple TV drama "Foundation" robots and amazing technology are strangely prescient as AI is now an emerging factor in the complexity of our own on-going history. It is not unusual for fans of Asimov to attribute to him a unique genius.

    Two very appealing characters in the opening of the story are beautifully cast Gaal (Gail) Dornick and Salvor Hardin, both surprisingly and very effectively different from the white male originals in Asimov's books. Robyn Asimov, Isaac's daughter, is part of the company producing this event. Old fans and new will be reoriented. It is moving!

    Then, as it happens, National Geographic History Magazine this month has articles about Uruk of Gilgamesh's time and other city-states in ancient Sumer, and the story of the Great Sphinx of Giza, and the Etruscan monarchy of Rome, and the collapse of the Maya, and the battles of Gettysburg. It's a sweep of history in which Cleopatra of Egypt is well short of halfway back from now to Gilgamesh! It is breath-taking and thought provoking!



    2 June 2023


    There is a very interesting article in the New York Review of Books June 8, 2023 issue, "Unwanted Thoughts", which seems topical these days as the Florida MAGA legislature and governor now Florida's second candidate for President of the United States are trying to keep certain thoughts from the young and impressionable under their sway. When I was young and impressionable we did not have such a guide to what we really needed to read. It existed, but it was secret and eventually formally "suppressed" in 1966, by which time it was already too late, as I was already Operations Officer on a ship in the Tonkin Gulf part of the Vietnam War.

    If there is one constant theme of human history is that we often have misgivings about what is going on in the heads of other human beings. We are pretty good at projecting thoughts into the heads of dogs, cats, horses, wolves, bears, beavers, but when it comes to humans we know one inevitable truth, we can never be sure what's going on in there. The essential factor of life—competition—does not resolve this problem. Worse, it exacerbates it.

    To be sure, you were pretty sure what was going on in the head of the character played by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, in fact the entire movie was about the ability of determined POWs to cover up their thoughts. It was their sworn duty to escape, if possible, but there were other considerations, too. They knew more or less what was in the heads of the Germans.

    The title of this essay is "Misgivings," one se word, apparently brought into the English language in the years around 1600, clearly a combination of "mis," meaning "badly or wrongly" and the word "give, from the German "geben" and middle English meaning "suggest or pose," as in the expression "I never give up," or "I don't give a shit!" And, then "misgivings" evolved to mean "feelings of mistrust or apprehension or failed confidence."

    Interestingly, "misgivings" seems to begin with the idea of initial trust, which is then dashed and reversed in some way. We should wonder, perhaps, if we have misgivings about what we are told by a candidate for office, did we first trust that the candidate was on the up and up and then gave evidence of not being trustworthy? Or, was it some candidates from long ago that broke that trust and we now are skeptical of them all?

    Having spent a lot of time and words on the concept of the root metaphors of "competition" and "cooperation," how does this question fit in? Doesn't it mean that we approach the hidden mind in the Other guy with an initial sense of trust, that is, on the Cooperation side of the equation, and not with knee-jerk apprehension quickly decaying into defensive anxiety and distrust? The question is worth considering, given that the negative answer predicates a sustained hostility among us, feeding on itself and us.

    The Index of Prohibited Books assembled by the Roman Catholic Church did incalculable damage to Western Civilization during the roughly five hundred years it existed. Young impressionable thinkers were not moved by books that some priest thought potentially damaging and heritical, and so these people ignorant of those speculations did not carry those ideas forward. And, or but, the Index ultimately failed, except to teach us that efforts like that ultimately destroy themselves. You would think that a Harvard & Yale dude like DeSantis would have figured that out. That opens a new question about learning, authority, and ego doesn't it!



    17 May 2023

    Roots of Fascism
    ~1200 words

    Today on MSNBC on Nicolle Wallace's Deadline White House, Matthew Dowd made a bulls-eye comment in a discussion of the primary election votes of erday. This followed a really interesting discussion of AI (artificial intelligence) as it has and will affect politics, particularly American politics. The AI discussion was anxiously fearful of the possibility that AI could totally upset our belief systems, because AI has already the ability to counterfeit voice and image and do it to very malign purposes.

    As the second hour began, Charles Blow, NYTimes columnist had just set the primary vote discussion off onthe road of America in a civil war of policy without (yet) the war itself. Dowd quickly responded: saying at one point: remember, a third of this country has always been against change. A third of the colonials were for the British monarchy and opposed the American Revolution, a third of the country was for a continuation of human slavery, a third of the country, opposed women's suffrage, a third opposed the civil rights movement. Dowd thus agreeing with Blow, but giving the concept about two and half more centuries of fermentation.

    The key points are that our culture's confidence in traditional belief systems is about to come crumbling down at the same time that what we believe is again and always contested, this time with political survival itself literally as the motive. The people in the minority are resisting change with all their might, very likely to be using the one, AI, to promote the other, our pre-modern, pre-reform, "traditional" culture. As one iDn the AI discussion put it, Trump stands to gain the least, because he has been counterfeiting facts all along. The third and guiding piece of this essay is a review article in The New York Review of Books of May 11, 2023, in which Jacqueline Rose reviews the London winter presentation of the play Good by C.P. Taylor, in her article "Fascism Plucking the Strings." The play is about how a good man gets inveigled into the horrific fascism of the Third Reich.

    We have been discussing Change Aversion. It focuses us on things that are naturally changing, like communications technologies and infrastructure and, therefore, Facebook and other social media, their owners like Zuckerberg, and the disingenuous testimony before a Congress that barely understands that Facebook is not simply an advertising platform company. Now, drowning in details of the changing landscape, we are learning that drowning is relative to one's environment and one's place in it. We are learning that good people exist in a culture that presents opportunities for change faster than many such individuals on their own can adjust their belief systems to the forseen and unforseen consequences of introducing status quo "disrupting" changes, stimulating quests for the time of steampunk or neo-Victorianism or the (McCarthy) 1950's.

    My own thoughts go back to my early teen years when I bought the book by Hans Kohn, The Mind of Germany, such was my curiosity even back then living in the fluid culture of the nation's capital, albeit on the south and west side of the Potomac River. It leaped out at me that Kohn and virtually everyone else were ignoring the fact that two European countries less than fifty years old, Germany and Italy, were ancient cultures but had only one and half generations as united with their fellow German and fellow Italian subcultures before WWI. For different reasons neither had very calm understanding of themselves, their national economies, and the swift changes in communications taking place after WWI and up to the point where both of these arriviste nations plunged into WWII.

    Neither Germany nor Italy had sufficient experience dealing with divergent options to be decided and taken by a single government. The fact that during the time they needed to be working out how they would approach one another within the country there were new alternative methodologies made available, pointedly Marxist communism and various kinds of socialism, alongside the heavy monarchy of the Hohenzollerns and Kaiser Wilhelm II (Bill). And, there was the United States offering to provide wide open vistas where one could breathe free. A huge number of pre- and immediately post-unification Germans settled in Texas at the invitation of railroad and other kinds of companies with the express purpose to form another country in North America between the USA and Mexico, just like Europe was divided into puzzle pieces. Italians settled everywhere too, but found solace and help in the big cities, where they now confronted Irish, Portuguese, and the already in place English, Scots, and Dutch.

    The immigrants came as human beings alone, as individuals, and as families and sought safety, security, food, shelter, and a sense of the existing culture where they settled, its belief systems and communications systems. In the play Good the main character, Halder, is converted ...

    Hitler was elected to the chancellery in 1933. This is a play, the careful dating tells us from the outset, that will explore the power of fascism to pluck the strings of the unconscious. By his own account, Halder had trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Nazism appears to have cured him, forcing him to recognize at last the ugly truth that has been staring him in the face, when he arrives at Auschwitz and hears real music seemingly for the first time. (from the NYRB review article by J. Rose)

    So, what is it in the "unconscious" that fascism plucks? In fictional Halder's case it is a preexisting complicity with German (and British and American) beliefs about disease, deformity, and insanity among them, the them being the unified state now the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler, beliefs which led where possible to euthanasia, "modern" psychiatry, and therefore, toward ideas about purity of race with all the icons of that in music and pageant. The playwright takes the most obvious path, but take a little step back to wonder why others might have succumbed is available and required and already alluded to above. Insecurities of many kinds, the traditions of Prussian militarism, of Protestant protest, cultural isolation, misogyny, Arianism the failures of the Weimar government, the Great Depression are all part of the conscious and subconscious.

    Complicit self-knowledge is the understanding that "but for a stroke of fate, there go I," pennyless, starving, surrounded by noisy neighbors and strange smells, everything disorienting, even me; where is something to hold onto? If the handles are nice, comfortable, above board, does it matter they are attached to something that could be malignant, but exciting to be a part of?

    The roots of fascism are many and context dependent. Some are rhizomorphic and others mycological, some inherent traditional, others symbiotic, and when someone sees a way to use those roots to claim power, you have fascism. Societies usually contain the both, the leaders and their followers, the fodder for nourishing their ambitions and to be workers for their goals. When you accellerate and amplify communications the creating bonds process takes very little time. Inherent in the process is a reworking of belief systems and the permission-giving vocabularies. And, clearly we are there watching it happen under our noses.



    12 April 2023

    Books and Tenure
    ~950 words

    The Florida Governor and the Florida Legislature are on a crusade about books they think children should not know about. In Texas the Texas Senate has jusecided that academic tenure in Texas state higher education institutions be abolished. I have been to Florida a couple times and enjoyed the sultry, if not exactly libidinous, climate. I lived in Texas for five years, learning the relationship of men and women to their religions, their politics, and to their local societies. I spent most of my career in higher education and concerned directly with discussions about the strengths, weaknesses, and purposes of tenure. aam a citizen of the greater culture of America and have been surprised at the licence some authors have taken on subjects dealing with deity, anatomy, physiology, gender, sexuality, politics, history, and even physics. Society has the job of constantly readjusting to what should no longer be considered sacred, religious, private, and profane. When New Yorker Magazine began using fuck as an acceptable word in our society lots of people were shocked ... and then moved on for fuck sake! Could it be that society does not understand that the conscious mind is informed not just by empirical experience, but also by such things and events as internal states and hormones and psychological traumas.

    A culture is mainly about what is considered reasonable for people to do, to behave, to discuss peer to peer, to discuss with kids in the various stages of childhood, and what can be counted on as —at least for the time— things agreed upon. I have read Lady Chatterly's Lover and wondered what the fuss was all about. I grew up in a primary and high school system where the word "horny" was never mentioned by any teacher, as if it were a private condition of mind affecting people in such various ways as to be undefinable and certainly off-color. I have had continuous experience with that condition of mind for over seventy years! Everyone I know has had bitter and sweet experience of it. Why all the prudery? Well, because some people want it private, so all of us have to protect their eyes and ears from reality. Well, No!

    Tenure is a "guarantee" that disputes about differing opinions about anything cannot be used to fire or dismiss a tenured person from their job as teacher, instructor, professor, a job that quite often encounters disputed subjects. The idea is an outgrowth of the general understanding that the more powerful of the disputants or the powerful within the governing hierarchy have and will use power asymmetrically against disputants.

    Tenure is not flawless. Harvard University whose motto is "Veritas" (Truth), removed tenured members of its faculty during the McCarthy era for "sympathetic" treatments of socialist and communist theories and practices. Every college and university contains faculty members whose best days are not yet realized or are way behind them. In fact, tenure applies to those years of a educator's career after having proved something that would suggest there is more to come. In the sciences and engineering many faculty do their best work early in their careers and get better at teaching it later on. In the humanities and social sciences most faculty do their best work after considerable "seasoning" and extensive research. In Texas, especially at UT-Austin as the flagship campus, the reputation of the faculty in some areas is in the very highest echelon nationwide. The attempt to obliterate tenure will destroy Texas as a place to get a valuable education or to work. The point of the Texas Senate is to make it easier for political points of view extant in Texas to remove voices they do not like, so not only in the social sciences where WOKE is awakening, but collaterally when faculty speak in public on their own time.

    The Index Librorum Prohibitorum no longer exists (1966). But, the impulse to save the minds of the young and foolish and curious and capable from ideas and expressions favoring things that do not fit or comport with dogma continues, despite the fact in that in Florida and everywhere else, the general rule is that if you prohibit something you draw attention to it and create curiosity. The Governor of Florida clearly does not understand this, nor does he understand that taking on Mickey Mouse is a losing strategy. Yet, he and hundreds like him are willing to do the work of censorship, knowing that their stuggle against certain thoughts is a fool's mission.

    In eighth grade in Mr. Hudson's Health class, we had one day of sex education, complete with "Denoyer & Geppert maps" of the human anatomy. One of the kids went home and told his father; father called the School Board; they cancelled sex education for many years on the spot. Mr. Hudson conducted the rest of the semester as a practicum in telling stories about our sports adventures. In other words, censorship does work! In social studies we never mentioned or in any way acknowledged that although we lived in the post-Brown v. Education world there were no Negro kids among us or that Hoffman-Boston School was all they had in our tiny county, once the SW, trans-Potomac part of the District of Columbia until 1861.

    As political strategies by the Republican Party, anti-tenure, and book-banning are dangerous in the short run to the young and curious and to educators, but almost certainly self-destructive. We live in a much more tolerant society now than when I was growing up and, presumably, now as the Boom Generation of Republican political operatives is trying to save us from ourselves by imposing their worldviews on us, clearly has learned nothing.



    12 April 2023

    Guns, Abortion, Vaccine, Putin
    ~1350 words

    The top four discrete issues at least until April 2025, are listed in the title of this essay. In one sense, which I will explore here now, they are proxy issues for the Republicans and for the rest of us they are what they seem to be: very serious problems. Ovnerarching all of this are the political, economic, and social oppression of our nation's citizens by institutional racism and the not quite invisible caste system it contributes to. The caste system has been with us since the beginning. It did not originate here, but it has prospered and will be discussed more fully in essays to come.

    Guns are first on the list, particularly AR-15's, the reason mass shootings are so horendous, and maybe why there are so many. It is a weapon of war, dned to destroy a target. In Uvalde, TX, the AR-15 shooter beheaded one or more children with this weapon. Legions of men and boys and some women have been convinced that traditional game hunting with lesser weapons is a right and, therefore, the right of Americans to own and use guns should not ever (again) be infringed. That is part of how we got here.

    The far right, some considerable number the descendants of slaveholders and white people under their leadership see guns as a way of defending themselves against the central government. Government has traditionally been critical of human slavery and the way of life it spawned among White people. The Civil War reduced them to a caste of bitter, revengeful, insurgent partisans, continuing through no fewer than ten generations. Among the Founders of the nation they insisted on the 2nd Amendment, pretending that it was manly for defense against unruly natives. But, they have been arming themselves ever since, preparing for civil war since the last one was concluded at Appamattox Courthouse. And with this overarching and inevitable goal they do not really care how many children are shot up in their schools, malls, and churches. The media should tell the country that the AR-15 is sold more or less freely in America because its owners intend to use it against the nation itself.

    Abortion is a medical term for ending a pregnancy. For most of us abortion is a method of birth control when all else fails. At a higher level of consideration it is the essential human right we believe all women have to control their body and its health and their standard of living. The rest of us do not believe that a human being exists at the moment of conception, nor does it exist until it can be born and survive by normal means, i.e., parents or other humans attending to its feeding and health.

    There are many in our society that believe that a human egg and human spermatazoan are alive and must be considered potential human beings, but clearly at the moment of conception. They consider, in theory, that that life is person with human rights. There are those on the Far Right, however, that see that issue as a wedge to be used to upset and demolish the political equality achieved by women, given that women could and already do perceive liberal politics to favor them. Some believe that women are, and always have been, inferior to men, human, but specifically designed ONLY for reproduction, certainly not for social policy or the heavy and ponderous lifting assigned to males of the species. The media mention this, but too abstractly. There needs to be an understanding that carrying a pregnancy and then caring for a child intensely for, say, two years, does not in and of itself render a woman incapable of thought, reason, or excellence in any way.

    Vaccines are pharmaceuticals, injected to bring an human animal's natural immune system up to speed with respect to a dangerous invasion of viruses or bacteria. They are the product of scientific thinking and processes tempered by legal restrictions designed to avoid mistakes, greed, hubris, and all the things that can go wrong. The rest of us believe the pharmaceutical and medical communities are honest and dedicated and so we trust them. Vaccines are a matter of public health.

    There are people, though, who do not understand anything about science, how conclusions are reached, how the human immune system works, and they have less respect and trust for vaccines. On the Far Right, however, there are people who distrust government, given that human nature is what it is, and given that they believe they are self-reliant. Others among them hate government, particularly our Constitutional government, which is the descendant survivor of the government that won the Civil War. They see the ignorance about science, particularly medical sciences, as a wedge to use to damage all forms of administrative controls carried out by our government. The media are able to occasionally discuss the good work of pharmaceutical industries and medicine, but not the bad, if any, because Big Pharma supports the electronic media. That's a problem!

    Vladimir Putin is the latest dictator of Russia, a man of slightly better than average intellect, but of horrifying moral character. He is waging a war of extermination against Ukraine, and we--NATO--are helping the Ukrainians fight back, because we understand from history and from espionage that, if we do not, Ukraine will fall and so then will other nations that Putin wants to incorporate into his empire. Our intelligence systems tell us that Russia is going to implode in some way because of Putin's war. Our intelligence also tells us that Ukraine cannot fight endlessly, nor can we engage directly with the Russians, because as unhinged morally as Putin is, he well might go suicidal on us and employ nuclear weapons against NATO, which includes us. We are in a terrible situation that is frightening and very dangerous, but the vast majority of us believe we have taken the correct and safest pathway forward, that Putin will perish, that Russia will recede from Ukraine, that we will have reduced the power of Russia such that in a reasonable time it can be disarmed of most (90%) of its nuclear weapons ... and us ours.

    There are those who envy the agility of dictators, even given the hazard of one-person deciding the course of a nation's development and course in history as it is made. They believe that all dictators have advisors whose voices are heard and do influence the course of events, and naturally, they believe that they, themselves, are in positions now (or soon) to be an advisor to a dictator in their city, state, or even in Washington, DC. Their activitys within the Constitutional order we have are not to preserve and protect, but instead to use the protections of the Constitution to defeat it!

    The media are better at describing the abstract problems of dictatorships than the realities. In some ways, media descriptions of how parts of the US government works end up describing the idiosyncracies of elected and appointed officials, and in so doing the media must avoid libel and shaming officials, even the President, when they make mistakes. Editors have to make the decision whether or not to publish or broadcast issues that fall into the category of "life in the big city." If they miss too many of these, the problem has already escalated, as we now know.

    I am fairly certain, that since we have been timid about calling things the way they really are, there will be serious outbreaks of armed conflict in the US before the next 24 months have elapsed. Right now there are individual men out there with AK-15's doing their own worst, most of these are mentally disturbed individuals, but there will be organized insurgencies, and we must contain and destroy them. Notice I did not say "fix them." The gaunlet has been thrown to the floor. The Far Right knows that its days are numbered, unless they can frighten all of the rest of us into silence and inaction. We have lots to do among ourselves to assure that does not happen.



    1 April 2023

    Ears of the Wolf
    ~1100 words

    The objective of MAGAism is to (in the vernacular) "burn it to the ground!" The target is the government of the United States of America, including the Constitution of 1787, all treaties with foreign countries and entities, presumably suspending Common Law and all US Statutes, and removing all the liberal organstions and people who have so grievously destroyed their imagined world. It is a war against liberal democracy first imagined in the Enlightenment.

    The enterprise and objectives of the MAGA Movement are much too deep and broad to be realized, but apparently they believe that they can bring the nation to its knees and demand a return those "days of greatness" they remember in the first six decades of the 20th century, before the Civil Rights Act and all the "PC BS" that hasand evolving into a situation where their voices will no longer be heard. Put another way: they are up to Here with taking orders from or even being courteous to people of color, non-Christians, and perverts of the LGTBQX communities. To paraphrase Isabel Wilkerson, the social order in which they felt sufficient control of their own lives is being overturned ... and they are not going to take it lying down.

    In April of 1820, two full generations before the onset of the American Civil War, Thomas Jefferson, who died on July 4th, 1926, wrote to a friend about the Missouri Compromise, which brought Missouri into the nation as a slave state in exchange for bringing in Maine as a free state. He wrote:

    ... I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other. [Here is the complete document.]

    Jefferson never emancipated his slaves, such were the "practicable" circumstances of his chronically mismanaged Montecello, and despite the several children he fathered with his slave, Sally Hemmings, his deceased wife's half-sister. The "reproach" Jefferson meant was the "disappointment" that slavery was now being introduced further into the nation, ... although he supported the Missouri solution. The "bagatelle," a small thing of little consequence, but only if it could have included emancipation and returning those people to Africa, which he pioously hoped for, but it did not. And then the "wolf by the ear" is the perfectly vicious paradox that continuation of slavery "assures" self-preservation while emancipation is the first step toward Justice. So, for the next forty years the open question was what will be chosen?

    We know and in 45 years they came to know that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation meant that their hold on self-preservation was all but gone. In fact, anti-bellum America was gone, and in its place the carpet-baggers gave the war-defeated slavers and their slaveless neighbors also many reasons to resist by the means left to them as their rights as American citizens were easily restored. Reconstruction was imposed, but decayed and abandoned fecklessly under the constant intimidation by the people who saw their entire culture and world view going aglimmering.

    From 1880 to 1965 those holding the wolf's ears take on a guilty smirk, Blacks no longer enslaved, but still in the grip of a mass of people whose aim was to restore their birthright as the highest caste of those now living in the former slave states. The process involved their religion, their schools and universities, again, and the fundamental institutions of local, state, and federal government, the weaponized psychology of the rape of white women, (nevermind the two centuries of white rape of black women), the systematic assembly of a grip on the wolf that defied the irresolute disgust of the descendants of the abolitionists.

    Brown v. Board of Education and ten years later the Civil Rights Act were the second emancipation and, governors Faubus and Wallace reacted. They tried to prove that the grip could be regained again. Then Reagan noticed that the Democrats under Johnson were telling the Dixiecrats that regaining the grip wasn't going to happen again, so he overtook and absorbed the Dixiecrats, who had spun a story about states rights from ragged pieces of the ante-bellum compromise they imposed on the yankees and abolitionists in Philadelphia, who (thinking ahead to one version or another of manifest destiny) wanted only one nation to be made from the 13 colonies. The first compromise was to create a union from among such parts as idealists might find hope, but realists and slaveholders knew to be a cause they might lose and so must always prepare to defend. They needed the 2nd Amendment for that.

    Along comes a man from Queens, son of a wheeler-dealer, schooled in the craft of quiet and non-so-quiet intimidation, a hyper-narcissistic scofflaw, who notices that Reagan's work was not for nothing and that the election of Barack Obama was just the wake-up slap in the face of people who are now known as MAGA Republicans ... a slap that requires redress. That and the careful understanding by years and years of plain old Republicans that the Electoral College, which slave-owners understood to be one of their protections provided by the Founders, could be won, even though Republicans cannot win the popular vote, given their Reagan inheritance of resolute "victims of the Emancipation."

    We continuously put off armed conflict, hoping that magical thinking will produce peace and prosperity as it seemed to for many years. There was nothing magical about it for Blacks and then for Browns and Jews and Irish and Italians, Poles, and Chinese, Japanese, Muslims and others. Some with medical degrees and fancy educations or nothing but boundless enthusiasm arrived to savor the promises of the American kind of Liberty. With a dwindling base of support the Reaganite Trumpists have now doubled down, armed to the teeth, and threaten that MAGA nightmare of burning it to the ground ... as if they had no other choice, ... such as accepting the truth that all human beings are accorded equality under the law, that this birthright is everyone's birthright, that there are no favored castes in America, or should not be!



    26 March 2023

    Our Fascists
    ~1200 words

    Donald J. Trump discovered something that Americans have been doing for about 400 years. His father, Fred Trump, showed young Donald a few things about human nature that would make it possible to take good advantage of situations which are full of known and unknown unknowns—mainly people. One of the things learned seems a little minor until you realize that it may lie at the heart of things. People are not as resolute as they believe themselves to be. People pride themselves on being able to act or not act successfully in situations with changing circumstances, such as one would encounter out hunting and gathering for, say, ,,sindred and eighty thousand years. Donald knows that people a) have trouble understanding that they have more than the one or the other option in all kinds of situations, and b) that means people will very often choose a bad option over a worse one.

    One has to wonder what Donald said to Kevin McCarthy when Kevin went down to Mar-a-Lago around the end of February 2021, when Donald was no longer President, when Donald could still hear Kevin's words in Congress two days after the January 6th Insurrection, when McConnell in the Senate also charged the President with misconduct, albeit softly. Trump told Kevin what his choices were: "my way or the highway," in effect. His way was more than slightly bad, but tolerable (up to a point)— fealty to Trump as the One Person who could actually lead the mass of people everyone knows as discontents. Kevin's only alternative, as Donald told him, was to take that lonely road against Trump and those other myriad supporters who were just standing back and standing by.

    Civilizations have had discontented and malcontented people since before there was anything really civilized about them. We are all human beings with a chance at life, but we are not equally likely to be successful. There are lumps to be taken, and given that people have a hard time counting their options over This v. That, some people choose incorrectly and take the wrong tack and then lose again, and they become discontents. Freud wrote a memorable piece on this subject. Freudian analysis is nowadays more than slightly ignored and superceded, but the essential argument, shorn of its excessive posits of immutable characterists of human beings, shows the way to understand the essential bind that society puts on individuals.

    If we are all somewhat discontented and some are outright malcontents, then the hard time we typically have understanding our options gives the Discontent Thesis a lot of power. So, for instance, human slavery is morally reprehensible, of course, but it is one fairly simple answer to the insistent question of how to apply labor to tasks conceived as absolutely necessary. Necessity is relative to the worldview and, therefore, the world-script. In societies experiencing various kinds of scarcity the world-script is likely to be harder on some than on others, given the bind between the society and its individuals.

    Humanity "reconciles" the bind individuals experience in society by organizing society as a reflection of winners and losers, the contented and the discontents, reminding everyone that the reflection is scalar, that is, no one wins all the time or loses all the time, so chieftans and matriarchs ascend to leadership for basically limited periods, reigns and terms of office the end of which people can imagine as tolerable, although this sometimes turns out to be excruciating rather than tolerable. In this form of leadership the expression given above so nonchalantly (or offhandedly) obtains. We are always dealing with "my way or the highway." It is just a matter of what the leaders' ways are and how many potholes are in our individual highways, both of which are known unknowns, which means to the casual thinker, listening to a relatively more successful person, that either the unknowable unknowns are superficial and not to be worried about, or they will become known in the fullness of time.

    The North American colonies of Great Britain were immediately immersed in slavery and its associated tendrils. Slavery was an old, but rarely thought to be a venerable practice, rather, among those most directly involved in the capture, transportation, sale, ownership, and direct work-product benefits, as well as the owners and workers in mills, factories, and sales enterprises, the complicity was sufficiently dilute to be tolerable in the larger picture of self-esteem in society marked by success differentials and, inevitably, by discontent and malcontented people. Needless to say, perhaps, all of that drew from the pre-Columbian experience of sharply stratified societies, mercantile capitalism rising to take over the economies of the colonizing societies, plagues, and almost intolerable successions of leaders, whose positions no longer gave any attention to what hoi polloi might be thinking, except that they were presumably dangerous and had, therefore, to be kept at bay.

    There were no "fascists" in 1776. The term had not yet been invented. The fasces bundle of sticks with an axe was an ancient symbol of authority in ancient Roma. It represents the coming together of the people (sticks) with a stong and convincing leader (axe). There were, as discussed already, though, systems of societal organization that could be, and in small polities were essentially fascist. The leading individuals promoting (or at least not against human slavery) conducted themselves as men (usually) giving free people and slaves their choice "my way or ... else."

    In the United States during the first half of the 19th c. the opinions about slavery hardened on both sides into dogmatic assertions about reality itself. As most of the former colonies were Christian of one kind or another, the argument of the pro-slavery factions, north and south, had to engage in moral legerdemain one piece of which was the redefining of enslaved persons of African heritage as not quite fully human. In a set of doctrines that frequently used the religious shepherd-sheep metaphor, the dogma quickly became embedded, creating a "reality" where the axe of the emerging fasces was relieved of many inhibitions. This "reality" scaled down to individual plantation owners and slave "overseers." These people did not evaporate with the Emancipation, rather they persuaded the anti-slavery people that their options were to put up with them and their dogmas in order to preserve the "Union," ... or else!

    America has never been able to wrestle its way out of the bargain, the option to tempt fate and NOT put up with the centuries old ugly reality created by human slavery. There are immigrant cultures added into this stew the traditions of which are closer to incipient fascism than to evolution into democratic pluralism. It is difficult to paint this picture without offending huge swaths of the current population of the nation. The solution is not evident. The evidence of the problem is hidden by glosses by the media (or simple ignorance) and by politicians whose bargain is usually to put up with the rancid on the promise that it could be cleaned up. This is a false choice. There are many ways to wear away at the White Christian Fascist social doctrine. Most of us believe, somewhat irresolutely, though, that we are now doing that. Go to Florida to see it being done in reverse!



    3 February 2023

    ~600 words

    February's issue of Scientific American has, tucked into the waning pages, in a section called "Mind Matters" edited by Daisy Yuhas, an article titled "Collaboration's Dark Side" by Margarita Leib, an assistant professor of Social Psycholcy at Tilburg University in The Netherlands. If you are interested further, you could Google this university, which is listed as #535 globally, which ain't bad. UCLA is ranked #14, USC #50. UVa #71, Penn St.#80.

    The thesis of the study performed by professor Leib is given in the subtitle: that "Working together can make it more tempting for groups to lie and cheat." Tempting?! Maybe it would be better to say "working together can make it seem easier to lie and cheat." My point is: as described, one member of a collaboration cheats, the ot&her member suspects it and then cheats. At that point the collaborative has cheated, but crucially, neither member is absolutely sure after just one instance. Objectively, the group has cheated, but is it because they are in a group or in a group collaborating? Is the author of this research trying to discourage collaboration or to warn us about the product of collaborations? Is there really evidence proffered that tells us why the collaboration is instrumental or associated with the dishonesty? And where is the "temptation" and how is it related to collaboration?

    Groups are collections, collaborations are agreements within those collections, namely, to work for a common purpose. I guess I should say, at this point, that my interest in this article and the research it describes is that democracy is founded on the idea of collaboration within its representative bodies and indeed every part of the organization we call government, its executive, its agencies, its legislatures. This is where I think Leib has misjudged the complexity of her study and, therefore, its implications.

    I have no doubt that collaborative groups sometimes produce lies and cheating, AND that the same people working independently might not have cheated or lied at all, or equally, might have done so more vigorously. These last two cases are not described in the research plan. It is hardly worth discussing further without a serious attempt to distill from the group dynamics the causative factor(s) at play, those elements or nuances of human social behavior that are crucially present in groups and not in independent work.

    Leib suggests that participants may become incredulous about the reports from members of the group and may therefore impute dishonesty. Their next step is to decide whether or not to be dishonest as well. She provided incentives for participation that could be abused to amplify the rewards, but she did not say what risks, if any, exist in the scenarios. Indeed she does not even hazard to say her research indicated that the "groupiness" or the "collaborativeness" was the causal part of the decisions to be dishonest; only that she observed it in these scenarios.

    Perhaps (my thought) it is due to the supposed violation of trust within the collaborative. Moreover, if she had aduced a reason for putatively honest people to become dishonest in her laboratory, she is obliged to distinguish such a dynamic in groups from the same outcome among independent work. Until she does this I think we must assume that the germ of dishonesty is within us as individuals, that collaborating itself does not impugn our honesty, it may often do exactly the opposite. Should I believe that the propinquity inherent to groups may amplify distrust or grievance-based reasons for dishonesty? Then what about the dishonesty understood to exist, for instance, by independent persons called "federal income tax payers!"

    Risks and rewards seem far more important to the issue than collectivity or collaboration.

    It is important to be very clear and forthright about the freedom we get from collaborating to survive in an agnostic universe.



    31 January 2023

    ~750 words

    Last Saturday we girded ourselves for three and half hours of cinematic entertainment, because the new Avatar movie is just over three hours long. Before we got to the feature movie itself, "Avatar: The Way of Water," the huge sound system was full of crashes and rumbles and terrible noises scoring the previews, which were universally unpalatable to a person of my numbers. We had chosen the 3-D version at home on the internet, rather than plain or IMax. I thought to myself: 'I like this system. It is simple and efficient!' The parking lot was crammed but we found a space, entered the theater, and found our seats. Then this movie began and swiftly recounted some of the elements of the first Avatar movie, which except for Colonel whatever his name was had been my favorite lyric movie of all time.

    Of course we had been living our lives here in California as dozens of innocent people were mowed down during the preceding week by gunmen for reasons that have escaped the cops and the media so far. The cops, by the way, those in Memphis were the perps, raging against a defenseless man, whom they might have known as a public voice against the sort of moral corruption that these very cops embraced fully and murderously that day when they beat him to a fatal pulp.

    Sometime midweek, I think, Nicolle Wallace at MSNBC had gotten an interesting conversation going about the forty (40) mass shootings in America in the first 25 days of the year. Nicolle's panel basically agreed that America was awash in violence as no other modern country has been. France in her late 18th century revolution was torn apart by violence, but then was whipped into a similacrum of order by victorious arms for a few short years by Napoleon. Nicolle's group groped in the dark of our national ethos for an explanation of it all. The Tennessee cops gave the mass shootings a different cast, but no less harrowing. After all, these were five black male cops, distilling the awful truth of how broken policing is. Still, Nicolle and company did not see the foundation of all this horror.

    "Avatar: The Way of Water" is possibly the most violent movie I have ever endured. One night later I had a brief REM incident in which I (or my dream avatar) beat the skull of an acquaintance, definite identity unknown, until it fractured and crumbled like a cake thrown to the floor. I woke up immediately. I have never had serious dreams, much less nightmares, but here it was. I walked around the room for a few moments and considered what had just happened in my gourd. If dreams are a way of solving knotty problems in real life, then I had been taught by a movie that my own species was the problem, and not only that, but how to deal with it. Worse yet, the movie taught youngsters that disobedience was normal and the comeuppance negligible, unless you died.

    Admittedly, I am at an impressionable age again, but the vividness of this experience has me wondering. It has me wishing I could be a panelist on Nicolle's news analysis show and have the opportunity to bring up the undeniable ambience of violence we have throughout our increasingly and vividly high-tech culture. I don't know the line-up Paramount has for NBC television, but if there is one show where violence is the way to solve problems and differences of such things as world-views, then that one show needs to be cleaned up. NBC is no angel network: they kept Donald on his show for years!

    Violence sells drama, even though it is not the paradigm (yet) of the kinds of conflict humans encounter among themselves. The Republican Party disagrees with this, but see, they are looking to jack up voter's emotions, flooding their conscious and nighttime thoughts with hyperactive violence, making it almost impossible for the weak to notice that there is no logic to it at all!

    Back in the day, we had the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters, the NARTB. This semi-voluntary association censored drama on radio and television. They may have overdone it, because what we have now replacing it is absolute chaos, dollar chaos by the billions.

    My number is approaching, I know not how fast or soon, but I can say without reservation that I am glad we have kept our species on this single planet, hopefully to mature, wise-up, and to conduct ourselves peacefully, sometimes with empathy and honest love.



    8 January 2023

    Growing Up
    ~1000 words

    Okay, so now the US House of Representatives is going to pretend to govern, being led by the most radical branch of the majority and "led" by the least competent leader in anyone's memory, incompetent because, if Kevin had any leadership skills to begin with, he gave away the rules and tools that leaders over many decades there in the House had accumulated to themselves to keep order, guide the imaginations of their fellow Representatives, and to assure that competent and, frankly, sane people are stationed in the committees and subcommittees to keep order and discipline. I am reminded of my own early days as a Naval officer, dependent on rank to achieve de jure supervision, but on reputation for de facto leadership, in the sense of commanding the respect of my fellow officers and the men of the ships in which I served. It ot easy to be a leader, as Donald and Kevin have found out.

    I now have time to write, and so with years of musing to myself about what I would write had I the time, I did. I have six novels and these essays and I have the luxury of multiple working hypotheses with which to observe and to explore. So I read until my old eyes water from the baby blue type color on grey background. I have subscribed to Scientific American for most of the past 60+ years and now, just as they have magnificent writing and subject selection, it is almost impossible for me to get through a major issue, like the last which has the Human Metabolism advertised on the cover, but has, finally, an explanation of the confusion about quantum mechanics in it.

    Now, in Sierra magazine's Winter edition the type face is still 8 or 9 pt and hard to read, but there is an article about Octavia E. Butler and her trials and tribulations as a science fiction writer, written by Lynell George, which has in it a sentence that stopped me at breakfast this morning and threw me back to the 11th grade, then college, then the past few years.

    "The whole thing is about how easy it is to feel superior to people in the past."

    Butler was a black woman who died in 2006, but whose novel Kindred was well-written, but Doubleday and others did not know what it was. It was breakthrough science fiction and about people enslaved in the State of Maryland before the Civil War, and it was about the tendency to disparage them for putting up with slavery, for being slaves, but Octavia Butler needed to honor them for staying alive so that she could be born.

    The study of History by the young is full of maxims and excuses about "dates, names, and places" all of which reduce to a dusty film over their eyes and imaginations, reducing the meaning of any of that to virtual irrelevance. Wannabe leaders try sometimes to salvage some of the greatness and sport it around themselves, but real leaders honor the distillate from those lives and emulate. Students become historians when they honor not only Peter the Great, but Natalya Naryshkina, his mother.

    So, these essays are, if I am to be true to my work, flawed for not telling the story of Kevin of Bakersfield like I would tell the story of Kenny Rogers of Bakersfield, who was a year and a half older than I when he died in 2020. People love and loved these men. People who will rarely get noticed by historians, except by the relatively new breed of "Social Historians," who will reduce them to stats, or the "Oral Historians," whose work, for instance, on real and mythological women in WWII aircraft-building jobs, "Rosie the Riveter," brings life to the people who vote for or listened to the Bakersfield men.

    The whole thing is about growing up. It is a species survival skill to successfully rebel from one's parents without breaching the honor due them. Moses got that from his god on the mountain where the stone tablets were. I think that much of modern history, under the Idea of Progress and its technological manifestations, is a story of millions of small breaches, imagining the past without cell phones as irremediably quaint or stupid. Currently the more obvious breach is bearing false witness, lying, in other words. It is impossible to bear true faith, honor, and allegiance in such a swamp of self-indulgent deception.

    But, the lesson for today is to understand these people, trapped in probably endless cycles of self-deception, perhaps guilty of the dishonor they perpetrate, perhaps too far deceived to recognize reality. Dogma is the familiar word for settling for a pat answer. In science they are called paradigms, and at worst they are considered incontrovertible, but at best are subjected to rigorous experimentation. The Roman Catholic Church history on this is not favorable.

    Dogmas and paradigms are based on analogy. Paradigm means "side by side comparison," which is how analogy works. This begins to explain why and how dogma believers and scientists in the confines of a paradigm are so truculently affixed to their beliefs. Everything the human brain knows, but particularly the things that seem to have a logic or rules of behavior or predictability, and a personal value, are the result of mental association and thus provide the stuff of analogy, an understanding of similarity and proportionality. As mental circuitry is established by association repetition, kindled, the concept becomes self-contained.

    The study of this is virtually endless, but the goal is already present and clear. To undo a dogma requires that the false analogy is made plain and a substitute value and evidence is introduced, so it is not enough to say someone is misguided and wrong in their dogmatic thinking. They have to be jostled into seeing and favoring, honoring, an alternate version of whatever they are thinking about. If they like the Flat Earth idea, they need to be shown that the attention they get for liking it is the reason, but that there is no evidence for it. If it is slavery in antebellum Maryland, then it needs what Octavia Butler gave it when she honored those enslaved.



    2022 Essays